Links 9/20/14

Passing On The Smart Set (Bob H)

Ebola Worst-Case Scenario Has More Than 500,000 Cases Bloomberg

Bitcoin slumps amid Apple Pay competition, Alibaba IPO buzz, and lingering regulatory doubts Pando

More Problems Found at Leaky New Mexico Nuclear Waste Dump Gawker

US Power Plants World’s Worst Polluters: Report Outlook (JB)

Deep Inside the Wild World of China’s Fracking Boom Mother Jones (frosty zoom)

Goldman admits cultivating ties with Libya fund Financial Times. Of course, the confession comes late on a Friday.

A new attempt to “domesticate” the Left in Greece failed evolution

U.S. court tosses Argentina, Citigroup appeal in bond case Reuters


Breaking Down the Scottish Independence Vote by Class Lines Real News Network

The executives who made it their business to speak out on Scotland Telegraph

Scottish Hangover Foreign Policy

Does Scotland’s No Really Mean No? Bloomberg

What next for the United Kingdom? Pieria


Ukraine deal with pro-Russian rebels at Minsk talks

Ukraine: What Putin Has Won New York Review of Books. Notice the personalization.

Exxon Halts Oil Drilling in Waters of Russia New York Times


Richard Clarke’s Hair Is On Fire Again Bloomberg (ka)

CIA Anti-Syria Program Finances Wahhabi Headchoppers Moon of Alabama (Chuck L)

FBI: Bombing ISIS Will Only STRENGHTEN Them George Washington

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

License plate scanner networks capture movements Associated Press (David L)

Text-Inspectors London Review of Books. On Greenwald’s new book on Snowden.

Noam Chomsky: Why Americans Know So Much About Sports But So Little About World Affairs Alternet (RR)

Water’s edge: the crisis of rising sea levels Reuters

Californian town runs out of water Financial Times

How the People’s Climate March Became a Corporate PR Campaign Counterpunch. :-(

Household Net Worth Has Rebounded Floyd Norris, New York Times

How Insurers Are Finding Ways to Shift Costs to the Sick New York Times. From midweek. Note we took note of this issue weeks ago, but good to see in-depth reporting.

It wasn’t QE that caused a collateral scarcity this summer Izabella Kaminska, FT Alphaville

Hedge funds: California calls time Financial Times. More hand-wriging over CalPERS’ exit.

Academic Fraud and the Ponzi Scheme of “Higher Learning” Counterpunch. Jamie Galbraith anticipated some important related developments in his book The Predator State. While college (at least once upon a time) produced graduates with general skills, advanced degrees produce graduates with much more highly specialized skills. Their employment options are narrower and their economic fall is generally further if they can’t find work that uses those skills (which has been happening to law school grads). Yet as the credentialing of college became more common, more people saw getting a graduate degree as a way to further differentiate themselves. From a societal standpoint, even before you factor in the ridiculous escalation of education costs, producing this many highly specialized graduates is a questionable investment.

Class Warfare

College Debt Leaves Generation X Grads Less Wealthy Than Parents Bloomberg. Quelle surprise!

Kalamazoo County Michigan…People and Offices to Write to Protest the Stealing of a Home Angry Bear. Please send a note.

The political economy of a universal basic income Steve Waldman. You should read everything Waldman writes if you don’t already.

Why Central Banks Should Give Money Directly to the People Foreign Affairs (furzy mouse)

The Next Crisis – Part one Golem XIV. Important

Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit David Graeber, The Baffler. Today’s must read.

Antidote du jour. A blue lobster from my vacation. It lives at the Coast Guard aquarium in Boothbay Harbor. They had two at the aquarium but this one was better lit:

blue lobster links

One of our many nice sunsets:


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      1. hunkerdown

        Almost no stock device will allow this at present. Unrooted Android, in general, doesn’t allow users to access much layer 2 configuration except for which network to join, and iOS 8’s random-MAC-for-scanning feature isn’t out there just yet.

        1. J.

          So turn off your phone’s wifi when you aren’t at home. The Llama android app will take care of it automatically for you based on what cell towers you are close to.

  1. scott

    The UK de-industrialized and financialized their economy a few decades before the US did. They showed us how to privatize everything for maximum wealth extraction. The results will be the same, though. Massive inequality.
    Just like our current US administration, the promises will not be kept. Scotland’s oil will still be used to prop up the Ponzi scheme in the City.

    1. trish

      Not sure they showed us how to privatize, though they had more public to privatize.

      Seems our very own Milton Friedman began the movement in Chile after the CIA-supported coup.

      1. OIFVet

        Technically it started in Indonesia. Don’t forget that Maggie and Augusto were BFFs though. Maggie admired him, and vice versa. So while she couldn’t just kill dissenters like he did, her tactics in breaking the miners were quite brutal too. Which does explain the massive joy that greeted her passing.

      1. hunkerdown

        At some point it’s just going to be too ridiculous to actually honor and respect these claims of exclusion with a straight face, and we’ll have to start over.

    2. hh

      i dunno… couldn’t scotland’s independence have put the oil in greater danger of being exploited? Balkanization and oil are two things that should always be eyebrow-raising… as if the scots have no elites themselves… maybe im crazy

      1. hunkerdown

        It’s not whether you have elites, so much as whether you can get a leash around them without them helping you. Small polities are generally much more accountable. (ObScotJoke) Besides, you don’t screw with people who eat sheep offal and consider your feelings on the matter a source of amusement at best.

    1. pretzelattack

      whatever happened to that lambert streither series on philip bobbitt–people like him supposedly provide intellectual cover for blatant ripoffs like this-the market state! it’s new, it’s shiny, it’s the future!

  2. trish

    re How the People’s Climate March Became a Corporate PR Campaign

    This reminds me of the banksters hedging their bets by spreading their campaign funding around. Get a talon into this- but of course! What a canny move! A great marketing opportunity, great PR! Co-opt the “enemy,” network a bit with those who might be useful, and again, the PR!

    And more substantively effectively channel away the energy, frustration, anger. Co-opt, neuter it, and shift the conversation toward the “center” (just like left became right, right became crazy right, real left became extremist).
    “The strategic decision was made to have a big march and get as many mainstream groups on board as possible.” “mainstream” groups. Says it all. keep those “radicals,” those “extremists,” those with the “overheated rhetoric” marginalized.

    And it can become theirs, these masters of the universe, because by right everything is theirs. And what fun for them. Try out a protest. feel good. then go for brunch and drinks and talk business.

    1. wbgonne

      I think this MoveOn-ization of the AGW resistance movement results from a Democratic White House, especially one as confounding as Obama’s, bulwarked by the American fetish for dividing the world into good guys (Democrats) and bad guys (Republicans). What we can’t grasp is that there are no good guys anymore, not anywhere is the mainstream political system. The failure to comprehend that is our central political error and the reason the American remain impotent. The Left was doing a lot better under Bush and the GOP. Another reason to hope HerTurn Hillary flops again.

      1. Brindle

        Although I don’t think I could ever vote for Rand Paul, the political system might function in a less pernicious manner if he was president rather than HRC.
        The Dems in the role of the so-called “opposition party” appear to be a better check on continuing rightward movement than when they control the WhiteHouse.

      2. trish

        “bulwarked by the American fetish for dividing the world into good guys (Democrats) and bad guys (Republicans).” A fetish? seems more a very successful tactic to me. The Obama team took the ball handed to them by democrats who early in his admin couldn’t seem to divorce their adoration of Obama (the cult of Obama?) from his actions, his early betrayals of his hopeandchange platform, and ran with it. And the trusty MSM, the beltway commentariat helped with that…

        1. Carolinian

          A successful electoral tactic among those who tend to divide the world into good versus evil, i.e. most liberals. Of course the big advantage of this point of view is that it preempts the notion that you yourself might ever be evil.

          B at Moon of Alabama had an interesting post the other day comparing the moral (by their own reckoning) fundamentalists of ISIS with the judgmental Protestants who founded this country. He seemed to be suggesting that R2P and other aspects of America’s zeal to run the world is a hangover from our early moralism. But obviously it’s a stance that Obama and many of his followers are perfectly comfortable with. In his sententious speeches he is always giving us instruction.

      3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        “What we can’t grasp is that there are no good guys anymore, not anywhere is the mainstream political system…”

        The beginning of self-empowerment.

        “Every one has Buddha Nature.”

        You are the hero (savior, messiah, etc) you have been yearning and seeking after.
        Within, not without. And it doesn’t matter if you can only start from small places…humble beginnings.

        The People…no more trickle down from Big Business or Big Government…but trickle up from the Little People to Big Military and Big Money (they take whatever we feel like giving them).

      4. jrs

        The last protest they carried Obama symbols (the horizon in the circle from forward). And knowing what Obama is to the environment (certain after BP), one was left to wonder: wtf is this? Is this some kind of sarcasm and send-up of the Obama brand? (if so it’s too subtle by far, don’t do that kind of sarcasm that 1 in 1000 will get if your trying to communicate something at a protest, duh). An appeal to Obama’s better nature? (I think it may have been that, only drone murderer has no better nature, especially politically). Or some kind of Obama campaign in which you make yourself look like completely ignorant dupes who know utterly nothing of nothing (such as any of Obama’s actual actions)?

        Btw: anyone in New York: FLOOD WALL STREET! The flood wall street protest next week, dress in or paint yourself blue and flood wall street.

        Move-On where are they? They protested the attempt at a war with Syria last year. And such protest seemed to me the beginning of waking up in the Move On type dems (too little too late, but something). They were actual shocked O was pulling another Bush and said they couldn’t believe (oh you better believe it) But what about THIS years war with Syria? Are they protesting that? Or did the O dreamers, suffering from narcolepsy, go back to sleep?

  3. ex-PFC Chuck

    The Golem XIV piece on “The Next Crisis” Part I is also a Must Read. Subsequent part will likely be as well.

    1. fresnodan

      I agree
      The green bars are debt as percentage of GDP before the bank bail outs and the blue bars are after. These are official Eurostat figures. Notice Ireland. Its debt to GDP was down at 27%. The ONLY thing that altered between 2007 and 2010 was the bank bails outs. Ireland’s ENTIRE debt problem is due to bailing out private banks and their bond holders. Britain’s debt almost doubled and again the ONLY thing that happened was bailing out the banks. The government claims that UK public debt was out of control due to spending on public services is just WRONG. UK government debt against GDP had not gone up in 7 years. Then when we bailed out the banks it nearly doubled. That is the fact as opposed to the propaganda of what happened and why.

      It is astounding logic….or more accurately, the lack of logic, that there is not enough public money for public purposes, but the amount of money that can be used to bail out private bankers and their financiers is apparently unlimited. Free enterprise – profits for the connected, losses for everybody else…

      I think it is worth remembering how many financial crises we have had since the economy became globally interconnected and since we began the deregulation of finance and the roll back of all Great Depression safeguards under Reagan and Clinton. It’s also worth noticing that the causes and pattern of the various crises have an unpleasant ring of familiarity about them – as in – the bank lobbyists making sure nothing gets learned and nothing gets changed.

    2. Ulysses

      The linked piece by Golem XIV does a good job of capturing the vague sense many of us share that we are living in times that may produce radical paradigm shifts.

      Here’s another voice in this growing chorus, from a piece by Lorenzo Del Savio and Matteo Mameli:

      “The representative structures of contemporary democracies are under attack on two opposite fronts. One front finds its motivation in a desire to resist the effects that increasing economic inequalities are having on the distribution of political power, effects that are taking contemporary societies further and further away from the ideal of political equality. This is a proposal to cure the diseased state of democracy by making contemporary democracies more genuinely democratic. The other front proposes to cure democracy by making contemporary democracies less democratic. The proposal is to replace elected bodies with an efficient technocracy. Because of the distribution of real power in contemporary societies, this technocracy cannot be anything but an oligarchy-controlled technocracy, which would inevitably exacerbate the concentration of political power that the anti-oligarchic attacks on electoral-representative structures are trying to oppose.

      Some might take this diagnosis as indicating that the critiques of electoral-representative structures coming from these two different perspectives counterbalance each other, and that it is thereby important to hold the center by defending and protecting electoral-representative structures. We disagree. We think that the existence and strength of the two kinds of attacks show that the electoral-representative structures have become irremediably obsolete. Even if they played a positive role in the past history of democracy, they are now chronically malfunctioning and are destined to disappear as a result of technological change and globalization. The fight between the two opposite proposals will be crucial for determining the future of democracy and ultimately the future of humanity.”

      There is no magic solution to repair our broken political systems. I can understand the appeal of pushing to “get money out of politics,” or other reformist ideas, but they won’t work if they are merely narrow, legalistic changes that leave unchallenged the radical power of the kleptocrats to deny true sovereignty to any but themselves.

      As things stand the kleptocrats can as easily control systems with a veneer of democratic accountability as they can puppet military dictatorships. The crucial problem is this: an infinitesimally small fraction of the people currently living on our planet have any meaningful say in how the resources of our planet are treated.

      We cannot move them with any sort of appeal to reason, or basic human decency. Their interests are fundamentally different from ours, and our interests will continue to be ignored as long as they remain in power. We can dream and imagine a better future, but if our dream doesn’t include a plan for toppling the kleptocrats from their perch, it is worthless.

      1. sd

        Alas, as history has shown over and over again, the only way to topple kleptocrats (aka sociopaths) is via a revolution where their head sits on the chopping block. And even then, sociopaths just don’t understand why everyone is being so mean to them because really, it is someone else’s fault that they are there. They were forced to steal, their greed is not their own, it was thrust on them, all said with a perfectly straight face.

  4. sevenleagueboots

    David Graeber is back spewing irrelevant useless churn. It worked to well with Debt… , why not?
    A stuffed shirt grandstander without any original contributions, fittingly abandons economics to
    pursue the failure of capitalism vis a vie Flash Gordon. The chumps will eat it up.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        What are some of the most popular Earth destinations with space-alien-tourists who vacation on our planet?

        Physics labs? ‘Oh, look, so cute!’

        Wall Street? ‘See that wall, son? The Earthlings keep their lunatics inside within that wall.’

        Universities? ‘This is where humanoids confuse learning with getting certified to become a wage slave…when they are lucky. Others go straight to debt hell.’

    1. Banger

      You give no particulars–Graeber has written an important piece that resonates with me and addresses the virtual stagnation of our culture largely ignored by those engrossed in the fake-field of “economics.”

      1. susan the other

        I agree. I think Graeber covered it all. I thought Graeber left nothing to say except speculation on what future generations will come to tell us. It’s the end of an era and we must wait to see what emerges. From our most precious underfunded resource: lunatic visionaries.

      2. Some Guy

        I like Graeber, and ‘Debt’, but on this one I think he missed something big, the role played by our inability to find a better energy source that oil in the stagnation of technological progress.

        In the last few decades anything that takes a lot of energy (flying cars, high speed travel, space exploration, middle class affluence, etc.) has stagnated while progress has concentrated in areas which use relatively less energy – small things like microchips and medical devices.

        If we had an energy source as much better than oil as oil was vs. what came before, who knows what we might have done, but we don’t.

    2. Alejandro

      Your comment reads more like vacuous projection than refutation. From my POV, Graebers’ Debt was the seminal debunking of the myth of barter. Without this myth, “market fundamentalism” has no foundation. Under this distorted cognition, “markets” are not a “space” for “exchange” but have been a method of defining and re-defining social obligations and relationships, and NOT for the better.

    3. jrs

      The biggest failure of capitalism is what it does to human hopes, human desires and the human spirit and I don’t just mean super grandiose hopes or anything (basically the alienation of the worker spending his life in meaningless work he has no control of). This is like true even when it doesn’t produce rampant poverty in that particular society (ie when there’s a social safety net). Sure rampant poverty ups the level of suffering and social pathology. And granted it’s hard for an American to even conceive of a real safety net, when they think of Canada with universal healthcare and a few more weeks vacation maybe better pensions, instead of countries with ACTUAL serious worker protections (protections from firings, protections to work part time etc.) but regardless. Love me, love me, I’m not a liberal.

    4. Jeremy Grimm

      David Graber’s essay gave form and voice to feelings and vague thoughts that have troubled me since I left school many decades ago. I felt that science in had reached the edge of a new age of discoveries. So near and suddenly stalled. I wasn’t expecting Star Trek. I did hope that we might learn the secrets of materials and structures, unravel the mysteries of protein structures, create wondrous new vegetables and fruits with new flavors, discover the workings of smell and taste, discover the deeper patterns of chemistry … I could go on.

      I recall hearing people say “We can put man on the moon but we can’t …” I don’t hear this expression any more. Now, we can’t even come up with a decent health care system. Put a man on the moon? I’m not confident we can still do that.

      I feel an impotent spectator to the dismantling of our society, our culture, our science, and our relations with others even our families. Politics holds no promise. Marching and civil disobedience seem pointless and ill-considered in this age of brutal order. Unions are a ghost. All paths to change that avoid sabotage, and wildcats, and violence have been blocked by our short-sighted rulers. The government armed the police with all the weapons necessary to support an insurrection [– remember where revolutionaries get their weapons in countries without a second amendment]. Our Reichstag moment has passed, but where would Brecht flee in today’s world?

      1. paul

        They’re not short sighted, this is long term planning.
        They see furtheer than us because thay stand on the shoulders of everyone else.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          On our shoulders…that’s a nice one.

          Most of the time, though, we don’t co-exist on the same planet with them.

          There are two heavenly bodies we are talking about here.

          One is our ‘short-sighted’ rulers – the government arming the police.

          The other is the LIttle People.

          Now, like Galileo, or inspired by Galileo, we must ask this question:

          Do the short-sighted rulers revolve around us, or do we revolve around the short-sighted rulers?

          That is, is the government at the center of our political universe or are we the Little People at the center of it?

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Jeremy, don’t give up on politics.

        That will be their victory.

        The Golem link mentions, when the next crisis comes, it will be responded with a political solution, not an economic one.

      3. Ed

        George W Bush asked NASA to go back to the moon and NASA said that they needed a couple of decades to figure out how to do it.

        When you think for awhile about this, its really disturbing.

      4. Foy

        Yes as Graber says we are dying under a bureaucratic paper mountain in every aspect of life. But I also think the problems he describes are a function of a once off period in human history coming to end (extremely cheap energy due to fossil fuels). I think it’s no coincidence that the ‘good times’ Graber describes were just before the first oil shock in the 70s. Ever since then the squeeze has been on.

        Classical economics says that economic growth is just a combination of Capital and Labour and that energy is just a substitutable input or externality eg the Solow Residual (another classical theory dying a horrible death) which works when energy costs are negligible. But energy is not substitutable and we have been slowly finding that out that there are no perfect substitutes, just ever more expensive ones, in which case classical economic growth theories break down. Exponential growth (3% GDP growth anyone) requires exponential energy and exponential resources just like any other natural system.

        The cheap energy that has fuelled growth for the last 150 years is coming to end. In the 1930s 1 barrel of oil could get 100 barrels out of the ground. In the 70s it was about 30:1. The new shale oil deposits are operating around 5:1 to 3:1 ie to get 3 barrels of oil you have to expend 1 barrel to extract them. Every barrel that goes towards extraction is a barrel that is not available to the rest of the economy for a specific amount of GDP and so the rest slowly get squeezed.

        The 70s marked the end of cheap energy and every facet of life since then has been getting squeezed as energy the main driver of growth (energy) has become ever more expensive. And a lot the sad symptoms Graber describes are ways that capitalism has tried to delay the inevitable and now we are seriously experiencing the convulsions of failure of growth based on cheap energy. For a long time now I’ve thought that the 1960s were the pinnacle of humanity from a lifestyle, free time, education, vocation, housing and financial security perspective…and those days are way over.

        1. jrs

          Yea but you could just as well say it’s the decline of unions. it’s not that the end of cheap oil isn’t there, it’s just that I absolutely DO NOT accept that it’s the only thing that determines how what wealth exists in a society is distributed. I think it’s nonsense bordering on apologetics in fact. If there were strong contervailing forces the wealth wouldn’t be so narrowly held (in fact it isn’t in other countries! I mean come on U.S. and the U.K. have some of the highest inequality in the world.). Though a few Nordic countries have oil, high equality or inequality is not just due to oil.

          1. Foy

            I didn’t mean say cheap oil was the only thing that determines how wealth is distributed, far from it. Wealth could have been distributed completely differently and I believe the decline of unions has increased inequality. What I’m saying is that because energy was getting more expensive since the 1970s it squeezed growth and so the natural reaction of capitalism is find a way to maintain its profits, and off shoring jobs and pushing people into debt to maintain lifestyle when incomes were being squeezed was the way that capitalism managed the problem. Economic growth requires cheap energy and as it gets ever more expensive everything else gets squeezed and TPTB will ensure its not them.

      5. Benedict@Large

        I suspect that if a president today set the goal of going BACK to the moon in ten years, we probably couldn’t do it. Not without billions of dollars of bribes to our ruling elites, at least.

    5. Darren Kenworthy

      About 1/5th of the way into the article he is tempted to get it right:

      “In fact, even as those dreams were being outlined, the material base for their achievement was beginning to be whittled away.”

      Had he interpreted “material base” literally he might have averted the unsightly spectacle of a grown man complaining that Capitalism stole his Jet-pack.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Must be that zero-percent interest financing they got.

      “$3,000 down, you can leave the prison now. The rest is financed 0%, zero coupon, all due after you die, but hopefully they don’t remember it then.”

  5. diptherio

    Keeping the lifeboats in good working order:

    Video: Multi-Stakeholder Co-ops ~address the problem of misaligned incentives by giving workers, consumers, and community members a voice in governance. I think this is the way the co-op movement needs to go if we really want to get beyond capitalism, rather than just providing a marginal alternative.

    1st Annual NYC Cooperatives Conference ~report with videos

    Africa’s first alternative currency helps fight poverty in Kenya ~CS Monitor

    For a year now, more than 180 local businesses in what is called the “Bangladesh” slum near the coastal Kenyan city of Mombasa have used their own colorful currency alongside the Kenya shilling.

    It is called “Bangla-Pesa.” It is slightly larger than a dollar, comes in 5s, 10s, and 20s, and is helping to stimulate trade in one of Kenya’s most neglected places by its use in businesses, churches, and schools.


    Bangla-Pesa works by allowing barter between small business owners. Since Bangla-Pesa is accepted only in “Bangladesh,” the cash stays in the community, allowing people to save their Kenyan shillings for bigger purchases.

    For example, a motorcycle taxi driver may have the capacity for 20 trips a day but only takes five. At the same time, a fish vendor throws out 20 percent of her stock. With Bangla-Pesa, the fish vendor can buy a ride to the market instead of walking; the taxi driver can buy the excess fish, or something else.

    And last but not least–cooperation is an evolved trait. Group selection, anyone?

    Human Fairness Evolved to Favor Long-Term Cooperation

  6. Banger

    Test–sorry my comment is not showing up in any way as either being moderated or not. So just checking to see if I can make a comment–having connections problems on my end.

      1. EmilianoZ

        Guys, before doing those testings, try cleaning up your cache and reloading NC. It works for me. The problem is that you have to do that every time you post.

    1. Banger

      I’m going to divide up my post into sections–for some reason I can’t post it no matter how hard I try:

      Part 1:

      Today’s must read is a must read. Graeber, who I like very much and disagree with quite a lot although we are both sympathetic to anarchism wrote an excellent if meandering article (I like meandering). Why do we seem stuck not just politically (this is stunningly obvious) but socially and technologically? Graeber’s answer is that the place that ought to be the source of innovation and fresh thinking is growing very stale. In my view academia has become regressive force–my critique would be even more radical than Graeber but here is his main point:

      My own knowledge comes from universities, both in the United States and Britain. In both countries, the last thirty years have seen a veritable explosion of the proportion of working hours spent on administrative tasks at the expense of pretty much everything else. In my own university, for instance, we have more administrators than faculty members, and the faculty members, too, are expected to spend at least as much time on administration as on teaching and research combined. The same is true, more or less, at universities worldwide.

      The growth of administrative work has directly resulted from introducing corporate management techniques. Invariably, these are justified as ways of increasing efficiency and introducing competition at every level. What they end up meaning in practice is that everyone winds up spending most of their time trying to sell things: grant proposals; book proposals; assessments of students’ jobs and grant applications; assessments of our colleagues; prospectuses for new interdisciplinary majors; institutes; conference workshops; universities themselves (which have now become brands to be marketed to prospective students or contributors); and so on.

    2. Banger

      Graeber comment Part 2

      And more….

      There was a time when academia was society’s refuge for the eccentric, brilliant, and impractical. No longer. It is now the domain of professional self-marketers. As a result, in one of the most bizarre fits of social self-destructiveness in history, we seem to have decided we have no place for our eccentric, brilliant, and impractical citizens. Most languish in their mothers’ basements, at best making the occasional, acute intervention on the Internet.

      I think Graeber is exaggerating a little about the progressive nature of academia but certainly in the post-WWII era in the U.S. up until around the time that society began, in my view, to devolve (1980) I think that may have been true.

      More generally our society has, in every way I can think of, become a matter of entrenched structures that are created to stifle change. All public and private institutions of any size that I can think of don’t innovate other than in trying to manipulate people into buying usually useless things.

      And so a timid, bureaucratic spirit suffuses every aspect of cultural life. It comes festooned in a language of creativity, initiative, and entrepreneurialism. But the language is meaningless. Those thinkers most likely to make a conceptual breakthrough are the least likely to receive funding, and, if breakthroughs occur, they are not likely to find anyone willing to follow up on their most daring implications.

      1. Banger

        Graeber Comment Part 3

        It seems there is something in my comment that the site will not take.

        So let me just conclude with some quotes that might work.

        What sort of society are we creating?

        The final victory over the Soviet Union did not lead to the domination of the market, but, in fact, cemented the dominance of conservative managerial elites, corporate bureaucrats who use the pretext of short-term, competitive, bottom-line thinking to squelch anything likely to have revolutionary implications of any kind.

    3. Banger

      Graeber Part 4

      Graeber then meanders into incoherence but I hope he has started a discussion and I hope his insights can foster a discussion not just here but elsewhere on the implications of what he is writing. The failure of our civilization is the failure to even attempt to follow the vision of the visionaries–whether that vision is wrong or right for us–who knows–but we have opted, instead, for the dominance of anti-convivial policies, and obsession with “safety” and “security” and the cultural devastation that results from the worship of celebrity and wealth as the final goals of any life.

      I see very little positive and forward looking arguments. We either grouse about our lack of progress (the main activity of the left) or we settle for the trivial, or the world of gaming, porn, silly gadgets, trinkets, and anything that is as radically superficial as possible to escape whatever one can define as our “higher” nature. Instead of imagining how things could be we take meds–instead of going to the source of pain–we take analgesics. Instead of questioning the power we turn on the propaganda organs that pretend to be “fair and balanced.”

      At the end of his life George Carlin threw up his hands–he saw what we were doing and decided to be amused rather than hurt by it. He raked us over the coals to great applause–but did anybody really listen?

  7. brooklinite8

    Hello Every one,
    Finally I am glad that I won’t be driving a car. I am sad that I couldn’t make a conscious decision of not driving myself inherently as it is bad for more things than good for less things. I feel bad for some one who has no way around this. Also I was flying from florida recently and there was Department of Homeland Security at the TSA pre check giving you swabs of wet patch, asking you to wipe your both hands and give it back to them. When I asked why would they do that? The answer was ebola. This is in Tampa Airport. I forgot to asked my swabs back after the test was complete. Now they have my DNA, Finger prints, My ip addresses, Where I live and How many diseases I have and what is my future. How much data do these guys need? Do they really think they can stop some one from committing a crime? Redefining the laws of nature and human feelings will lead to protests and wars, not to mention suppression of authoritative question skills.

    1. abynormal

      “Do they really think they can stop some one from committing a crime?”
      No…but they’ll create and appoint crime(s) with a wider field. Gird Your Loins!

    2. Antifa

      Actually, solving crimes by DNA found at the scene is just about the easiest approach. British police, for example, have access to a huge collection of DNA records on UK citizens, and they routinely solve robberies, burglaries, assaults and homicides by gathering up DNA evidence at the scene, pulling identities from the computer, and then calling the suspect and asking them to pop around to the local precinct to be arrested by appointment.

      You cannot walk through a room without leaving behind some DNA evidence that you were there. In criminal cases, proving that you were there is most of the case, most of the time.

      It’s all sounds rather civilized, but in the long run it’s inhumanly oppressive. You literally can’t spit in the gutter and not get caught. You can’t break into a business and do a proper bit o’ safecracking without getting a call two days later from the men in blue. Pulling off the perfect crime in England nowadays requires a ballet of genetic precautions, beginning with a HazMat suit. There’s no more Agatha Christie whodunnit when who done it is very easily found by swabbing the doorknob or the windowsill.

      1. abynormal

        “The secret of DNA’s success is that it carries information like that of a computer program, but far more advanced. Since experience shows that intelligence is the only presently acting cause of information, we can infer that intelligence is the best explanation for the information in DNA.” Jonathan Wells
        (relying on the blokes to sophocles out intelligence from the start, yikes)

    3. Yves Smith Post author

      I am pretty sure you aren’t at risk over the swabbing.

      The TSA only looks at your drivers’ license or passport when you go through the first part of security. They don’t scan it or retain your flight info.

      When they do that wipe stuff (I get patdowns all the time, I don’t like those backscatter machines), they put it into another machine that goes beep and then they send you on. No recording of your personal details at that point.

      Now if they scanned your ID and then scanned the swipe, and then tagged it with an ID and were keeping a huge pile of those swipes, I might be worried. But pay attention next time you have a blood test and look at how much time it takes for the tech to record info to make sure they don’t have the wrong blood sample associated with the wrong patient. It’s a lot of work and I can’t imagine the TSA doing it given the volume of people going through airports.

  8. abynormal

    im inspired to paint that majestic sunset…Thanks for Sharing
    (if i paint the blue lobster…friends will figure im chasing a job at Cartoon Network:-/)

    “A gene can be either dominant or recessive, depending on which type of gene it is.”
    Dave Barry (too funnee)

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Speaking of genes, if rich cats only breed with rich cats, and poor cats only breed with poor cats, after how many generations will they become two separate species?

  9. cnchal

    Terrorology. New word of the day from Noam Chomsky

    . . . or in the emerging discipline of terrorology — a new category of “experts” can be established who can be trusted to provide the approved opinions that the media cannot express directly without abandoning the pretense of objectivity that serves to legitimate their propaganda function. I’ve documented many examples, as have others.

    The last paragraph of the article:

    QUESTION: You have said that most intellectuals end up obfuscating reality. Do they understand the reality they are obfuscating? Do they understand the social processes they mystify?

    CHOMSKY: Most people are not liars. They can’t tolerate too much cognitive dissonance. I don’t want to deny that there are outright liars, just brazen propagandists. You can find them in journalism and in the academic professions as well. But I don’t think that’s the norm. The norm is obedience, adoption of uncritical attitudes, taking the easy path of self-deception. I think there’s also a selective process in the academic professions and journalism. That is, people who are independent minded and cannot be trusted to be obedient don’t make it, by and large. They’re often filtered out along the way.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I agree that art is not about how many you pay for the painting on the wall, but how you live your life creatively.

      Ask questions, critical questions, yourself…even the most stupid ones.

      Don’t leave thinking to ‘thinkers.’ You will be ‘induced to think’ that there are many, many thinkers (their names appear in bookstores, on TV, in libraries), but you are not one.

    2. Banger

      While Chomsky makes, as usual, excellent points and is one of the premier political commentators in the world–he succumbs to what he criticizes he makes assumptions to his own kind of leftist pov about all kinds of alternate views of reality. In fact, we all tend to do that–to narrow our perception so that our overall world-view is not upset.

    3. Brindle

      Chomsky could also be describing political figures here:
      “That is, people who are independent minded and cannot be trusted to be obedient don’t make it, by and large. They’re often filtered out along the way.”

      Obama was vetted and found to be obedient way back in his law school days at Harvard. His possible ascension to high political office was seen as a safe outcome by TPTB back in the 90′s.

    4. jrs

      People don’t think about politics because they can’t do much about it and it’s fricken depressing!!! I mean the state of the world IS depressing, and the inability to do much about it is depressing. Efficacy is a basic human striving, but people often don’t get it at work, with so many people working jobs below even what they have done before or were trained for, much less so what they CAN do, and so little room for advancement and then just the usual powerlessness over the bureaucracy and average employee can feel – one’s job can make one feel one lacks efficacy. And then one turns to politics where they feel even less able to do stuff. Too much of it and your courting REAL depression (or dysthymia anyway, I don’t mean one is going to throw themselves off a bridge or anything, just that you start feel bad a lot).

      I recommend doing stuff that makes one feel they have power, a hobby is good (learn an instrument or a language etc.), and IF one engages in politics then in a way that doesn’t make one feel completely powerless (even something that is in fact largely meaningless, a protest that doesn’t do much, is ok if you think your playing a long game, where every little bit counts – and frankly I can’t see how social change is likely to be anything other than a long game of many pieces but one needs to know their personal limits). The modern habit of debating politics on the web doesn’t even accomplish that and so the despair and powerlessness are probably even greater.

      Of course there’s also feeling both guilty and near powerless from politics (my tax dollars are going to Operation Syrianarchy, I think it’s deeply wrong, and I don’t think I can do much about it unless I was wiling to live below minimum wage and thereby not pay taxes … but I should do the living below minimum wage… but of course I’m not going to – guilt trip etc.). Guilt paralyzes action, but guilt will follow if we take their sins (the powers that be) on ourselves and think if only I could have done something else maybe they wouldn’t have behaved horribly.

      1. Carla

        But here’s the thing, jrs: what is worth spending our time on? Yes, politics is depressing as hell and action intended to reform the political sphere for the better can seem masochistic. Yet it’s worth remembering that it took American women 72 years of relentless, concerted effort to win the franchise. I guess it’s up to each of us to decide whether to be depressed or inspired by their example.

        In the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, I believe a better world is possible. That’s what gets me up in the morning: the challenge to contribute what I can to changing the rules.

        Thank you jrs for all of your comments on NC. I have learned from them and from Yves, Lambert, Dave Dayen, and all of the “commentariat” — with special call-outs to Banger, Susan the Other, Moneta, and abynormal among many others.

    1. cnchal

      Thanks for the link. Found this article about Shark Tank

      And of course Shark Tank does effectively represent the modern American Dream: flipping an incredibly stupid idea into a huge amount of money and then running swiftly away.

      1. jrs

        Oh heavens shark tank. Whereby people become convinced that coming up with some unique idea is the key to wealth (or even earning a living) even though ideas are really in most cases worth NOTHING, only implementations are. And so they sit on the sofa trying to come up with ideas as the plan for their life (that’s not a stereotype, that’s people I know). Heaven help us.

      2. jrs

        Although if you have a address, why wouldn’t you use that rather than gmail. At least they pretend to fight the NSA, whereas google is the State Dept says Assange. Friends don’t let friends use google. That’s assuming you don’t have a VPN or an email address you pay for that at least guarantees privacy from marketers if not the NSA.

      3. paul

        They’ve got that sort of thing here, Dragon’s Den. A gong show for the aspirational. Just a lot crueller and I don’t think the hosts are covert hitmen.

  10. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    I agree that art is not about how much you pay of the painting on the wall, but living your life creatively.

    Ask questions, critical questions, yourself…even the most stupid ones.

    Don’t leave thinking to ‘thinkers.’ You will be ‘induced to think’ that there many, many thinkers (whose names appear in bookstores, on TV and in libraries) out there, but you’re not one.

  11. Paul Niemi

    The Carney piece on Bitcoin slumping implies the problem is uncertainty about clearing. I have recently been reading the Wray book on MMT, in which he says what drives demand for a currency is the sovereign’s acceptance of the currency for payment of taxes. When there is enough currency for everybody to pay their taxes, then quantities above that may or may not lead to inflation, depending on several other factors. The question of what factors support the value of a currency, after it has been obtained as financial assets, seems open to me. I would point out that not only is Bitcoin not redeemable for payment of taxes directly, nor is it redeemable for reserves that I know, but in addition it does not represent someone’s debt. As the work to obtain the Bitcoins has already been done, it is a memento of that, but since this does not represent a debt, no one has any liabilities in the background that Bitcoins must be used to extinguish. I would further say that the debt backing ordinary currencies represents the expectation that work will be done in the future for the redemption of each currency unit, and that expectation is important in supporting the value of the currency day to day.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The value of a currency.

      Do we make a distinction between the domestic value of a currency and its international value?

      If so, what drives its international value?

      1. Paul Niemi

        It would seem we do to the extent that certain foreign countries have a fixed exchange rate, pegging the value of their currency to ours. If one assumes that a substantial portion of the value of a currency is the expectation that future work will be done en route to its redemption, then it becomes more clear why different individuals value the same money differently. For example, I have noticed that people on fixed incomes will often pay full price for items they are used to getting, when something just as good is on sale nearby for a substantial discount. We often attribute this to preferences, but I think it depends on contingencies. Persons who do not ordinarily worry about their basic necessities may value money less, and pay full price, even though the quantity of money they have is limited, while persons who face uncertainty in having the funds to meet future contingencies will value money relatively more and search for bargains. It would be the same for the foreign value of a currency, reflecting the desire of foreigners to be able to meet contingencies by holding another nation’s currency. If they were certain of all domestic needs being met, there would not be reason to accumulate the foreign currency as financial assets to as great an extent.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          That others peg their currencies to ours may explain, to some extent, the international value of our money.

          Ours is the global reserve currency.

          What about the international value of the currency of a small country? What drives that?

          1. Paul Niemi

            How about, let’s say there is no such thing as a currency that is in short supply, and that our point of reference is the dollar, and that the small country’s foreign exchange resource is in a bank that has an account at the Fed so that clearing can take place. Then consider the effect of productivity, which reflects the real interest rate. Productivity is an aggregation of many factors, but what is the most variable of them? Certainly productivity is negatively affected by corruption, for example. To continue along the lines of what I have been saying, then corruption can negatively affect the quality of the loans which generated the currency in the small country. If the loans are no good, then the currency is undermined. . . I think I just said honesty drives the international value of a country’s currency. If that is terribly wrong, then I’ll just have to go back and keep reading. And I really think best in the morning; shouldn’t try it in the afternoon.

    2. Johann Sebastian Schminson

      Payment of taxes with “legal tender” is the key to a currency’s forced legitimacy, within the issuing state.

      As for supporting the “value” of that currency, any historical chart of the dollar’s value will show that the trend — the only trend — is one of decline. That’s why distribution trumps quantity. A dollar is much more valuable to one who has few than to one who has more than they can ever use. In this situation, currency is a measure of power.

      As an aside, I wonder why serial numbers are still being printed on our currency. I’m sure the electronic dollars that are created and traded as the real thing do not have serial numbers associated with them. Kind of difficult to account for some”thing” that cannot be accounted for.

      1. Robert Dudek

        People write this stuff over and over (about taxes) but I don’t buy it. Legal tender has the force of government behind it in general, taxes being a subset of that. I.e. it is not taxes that legitimate a currency, but the legal tender laws themselves.

        1. Alejandro

          The “legal tender laws” do ‘legitimate’, but its taxes that drive demand. Otherwise, there’s no practical enforceability.

        2. Oregoncharles

          It seems to be an article of faith with the MMT crowd. It seems to me to be a failure of nerve – they aren’t ready to say that taxes aren’t necessary.
          They may be useful for social/economic engineering, but that’s another issue.

          1. Alejandro

            Taxes have been a reality for a very long time. Pigeonholing is not going to change this. You may have a point about “social/economic engineering” but it seems to me that this is more about accountability than it is about taxes. Often lost in these debates is the purpose of governance. Is it a collective effort to solve collective problems or is it enforcing a power structure and how is accountability embedded in either?

            1. Robert Dudek

              Pre fiat tax functons are not relevant to a fiat system. We can issue as much or as little currency as we like and force its use if necessary.

          2. Lambert Strether

            It might seem to be… But it isn’t. See link and quote below.

            And just to pre-empt, I’m not getting into the semantic gutter on whether “engineering” is “necessary” or not. If I’m crossing a bridge or taking an airplane, I’d say it is. YMMV.

        3. Calgacus

          Yes, but legal tender laws don’t really mean anything without taxation. That is the universal experience. Legal tender laws are just an oddity of some European derived jurisdictions. Most of the world through most of history has never had legal tender laws. Because they don’t really mean anything, and they have never worked to support a currency anywhere – except for the state’s money being legal tender for PUBLIC debts, debts to the state, e.g. taxes.

          “Legal tender” just means that something has to be accepted as payment if there has already been an agreement to sell. You can’t buy something that the seller hasn’t agreed to sell. Taxation is the government selling you the permission to perform the taxed activity – which could be “breathing”. It is making you an offer you can’t refuse. That is what always drives money – that you can buy something with it, something that people want. Legal tender laws just amount to the state’s pious wishes that someone would sell something for state money. Wishes without actions don’t work.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Can you comment on these two situations: 1.individual (exclude those who don’t have to pay taxes) must pay taxes with the dollar and 2. countries (exclude those who produce oil) must pay for oil with the US dollar?

            Do you think the ‘international value’ (Johann wrote ‘forced legitimacy’ but we have always read here ‘value’) of the dollar depends on:
            1. PetroDollar agreement (an offer you can’t refuse)
            2. Global Reserve Currency status
            3. Others, like we sell wheat, soy, etc and buy junk (that is, buying and selling) – this #3 factor is the only factor for all nations except us???

            Can we similarly say that the ‘domestic value’ of the dollar depends on
            1. Taxation (an offer you can’t refuse).
            2. Other factors, like people buying and selling stuff, and for convenience sake (and in capitalism, convenience has value – one might get a price for it), we need something that is commonly accepted among neighbors, business associates, and others.???

            1. Calgacus

              Look at my explanation below to Robert. We use US dollars as a means of settlement, and therefore a measurement of, private debts because of its stability. Because taxes are as certain as death. Basically, foreign demand for a dollar is driven by domestic demand, which is ultimately driven by domestic taxation. The wisdom of the government, which must manage, cannot NOT economically manage the society, largely determines domestic prosperity and ability to produce tradeable, exportable goods. Foreign demand for domestic currency is partly driven by demand for such goods, just as demand for dollars by people who are NOT taxed is driven by demand for dollars by those who are taxed. It is also greatly driven by foreign desires for investment in the country, an even greater remove from the ultimate demand driver.

              The petrodollar agreement of paying for oil in dollars doesn’t do much. It just helps stabilize an already stable situation of high demand for the dollar as a reserve. Oil states saving dollars, using dollars as reserves does actively support the value of the dollar. Basically, nothing succeeds like success. The dollar is the best reserve currency because it is widely held, liquid and there is no reason to think its domestic value will plummet soon. There are other reserve currencies. The pound was the global reserve currency before WWII and with the yen, the Canadian dollar and a few more, is held as a reserve in significant amounts. Both the US and the UK were mercantilist export champs before their currency ascendancy, and this made their currency scarce and valuable. But once they succeeded at this game, the sane thing to do was to exploit the advantage – to everyone’s benefit.

              More to say, but I don’t disagree with much of what you said.

          2. Robert Dudek

            Sorry I don’t buy any of this. This isn’t how taxes work in a fiat system .neither does it describe what happens when I go into a store and buy something. Taxes don’t give me permission to do anything.

            1. Calgacus

              Robert Dudek: No, that is how taxes work in a “fiat” system, and how it works when you go into a store. You pay money and you get something, or have a service performed. I don’t see how you can disagree about that! There isn’t any kind of (state) money other than “fiat” money, and never has been.

              You are right that you should look at taxes in a more general context, but the “legal tender” explanation just doesn’t work. The more general context is that a person paying a tax should be understood as him buying something from the state, for his immediate, personal gain. A property tax, for instance, is just a rental payment to the state, the purchase of a lease. If taxes are enforced by imprisonment, they should be seen as buying permissions to do or have whatever is being taxed, and not be put in jail. When there was a “gold standard” people could buy gold from the state with their valuable fiat money. And you can still buy lots of stuff from the state, or go somewhere where a fee is charged by the state. The desire for these non-monetary things is what drives the demand for the money which you can use to pay for it.

              Similarly, one should understand government spending as selling to the state. Government spending is sometimes called “real taxation” or taxation in real terms. Ancient taxation-in-kind is a kind of government spending, not monetary taxation.

              Modern developed country governments run at least 20-25% of their total economy, with spending and taxation at least thereabouts. If they stopped taxing, but kept spending at that level, there would very soon be very major inflation, because the basic demand for the currency would have been removed. The rising tide of base money would be quickly augmented, leveraged into even much more bank money, too, speeding the inflation.

        4. Johann Sebastian Schminson

          The currency/tax payment aspect aside, I’d like someone to give me a cogent argument as to why, in light of our purely fiat/governmentally-controlled monetary system, anyone is required to pay taxes in the first place.

          1. Lambert Strether

            “Why We Pay Federal Income Taxes.” As an interested layperson, I liked this:

            This brings us to why the federal government collects taxes. It does so in order to reduce the amount of money flowing through the economy. Paying federal income taxes destroys money.

            The beauty of the tax system is when the economy is expanding than household and business income increases, which in turn means the amount of tax revenue increases, even as tax rates stay the same. That higher tax revenue reduces the amount of money flowing through the economy that could potentially stoke inflation.

            Conversely, when the economy is shrinking then tax revenues decrease, allowing more money to stay in the economy, which helps protect against an overall decline in prices. When there is an overall decline in prices it is called deflation.

            Federal income taxes are like a governor on a car that keeps it from driving too fast. Taxes help reduce inflation risk by preventing the money supply from growing too quickly when the nation is running close to its productive capacity.

          2. Paul Niemi

            It’s a legitimate question. Let’s assume the inflation resulting from printing fiat, which is tantamount to a form of taxation, was adjusted for in every wage and price. There would then be no counterbalance to the growth of government, no incentive to keep government in check. In pretty short order, government would outgrow the private sector, until everybody not in prison would be working for the government. It would be a dictatorship. Taxes are the price we pay for our freedom. Oh, and taxpayers make lawmakers accountable by throwing the bums out on election day.

          3. Calgacus

            The point is, the question is wrong. The right question is, “Why would anybody want to have dollars, if you can’t get anything from the guy who issued dollars?”

            Kind of like, there is a real demand for McDonald’s coupons for Chicken McNuggets. Because you can get McNuggets for them. But if McDonald’s started issuing coupons for Dodo McNuggets, and told customers who wanted them redeemed, “What kind of an idiot are you, don’t you know Dodos are extinct?” the coupons wouldn’t be very valuable, and McDs might soon become a McDodo.

            Robert Dudek – selling bonds does not do the same thing, does not drive currency, although the insanestream erects Gothic cathedrals of fake erudition on this idea. It is absurd, because bonds and currency are the same thing. It is like saying the demand for ones is driven by the demand for hundreds. This idea inflicted on so many innocent victims in colleges, and now worse, in high schools across the land is so absurd it actually is in Lewis Carroll. Somebody should take a vorpal sword to it.

  12. Carolinian

    Not related to today’s Links but there was some discussion in these comments awhile back about the behavior or misbehavior of cyclists. So this is bad.

    Clearly as an answer to our energy woes, bicycles have, as the docs like to say, side effects. And hard to defend my fellow two wheelers on this one. IMO when there is a pedestrian/cyclist encounter the cyclist is always at fault. The pedestrian is no more likely to see or hear you than the motorist is. Bikes need their own lanes, or bikes need to start acting differently.

    1. paul

      When I was a youngster I seemed to remember it was compulsory to have a bell
      syd barrett did
      Probably a bit too girly to go with all the spandex, mirror shades and heart rate monitors.

      1. Invy

        It’s not too girly, I just happen to have a voice and don’t need to clutter the handlebar… I use spandex with the pad because it is far more comfortable on a 30+ mile ride! I use the heart rate monitor because I like to quantify my improvements. I wear the 9 dollar Home Depot shades because I don’t want the sun in my damn eyes for hours out of the day…

        Right now everyone is relying on witnesses which “heard” something then saw the aftermath. No one knows what happened. Did the pedestrian step out of no where? Was the cyclist going past the speed limit?… There are reckless cyclists, and they should be dealt with, but we can’t assume this for every cyclist that has a collision.

    2. paul

      in other bicycle based rock; ladies and gentlemen,I give you hawkwind:
      here! now! forever!
      I read this essay by Alfred Jarrey called, “How to Construct a Time Machine”, and I noticed something which I don’t think anyone else has thought of because I’ve never seen any criticism of the piece to suggest this. I seemed to suss out immediately that what he was describing was his bicycle. He did have that turn of mind. He was the kind of bloke who’d think it was a good joke to write this very informed sounding piece, full of really good physics (and it has got some proper physics in it), describing how to build a time machine, which is actually about how to build a bicycle, buried under this smoke-screen of physics that sounds authentic. Jarrey got into doing this thing called ‘Petaphysics’, which is a sort of French joke science. A lot of notable French intellectuals formed an academy around the basic idea of coming up with theories to explain the exceptions to the Laws of the Universe, people like Ionesco the playwright. The College of Metaphysics. I thought it was a great idea for a song. At that time there were a lot of songs about space travel, and it was the time when NASA was actually, really doing it. They’d put a man on the moon and were planning to put parking lots and hamburger stalls and everything up there. I thought that it was about time to come up with a song that actually sent this all up, which was ‘Silver Machine’. ‘Silver Machine’ was just to say, I’ve got a silver bicycle, and nobody got it. I didn’t think they would. I thought that what they would think we were singing about some sort of cosmic space travel machine. I did actually have a silver racing bike when I was a boy. I’ve got one now, in fact. – Robert Calver

  13. Doug

    There is the beginning of an antidote to the Graeber piece, however small in scope it may be at the moment: Hieroglyph

    In the 60s a lot of human capital (and money) went into putting people on the moon, and a lot of good stuff came out of that. A political decision was then made that if there was that much capital running around, it should go into defense (because THEY were about to attack us, whoever THEY were), and we needed to be much more “efficient” (meaning fee generating?) about how we were “investing” (meaning gambling with) “our” capital, leading to financialization, since you really need an MBA to understand which new technologies will actually work.

    New technologies aren’t guaranteed to make things better, but they may make it easier to make things better.

    I find it easier to do my job if I think I’m working towards building something great. The stories in Hieroglyph and the ongoing work of that project can provide some inspiration.

    They won’t deliver a flying car, but they can keep people from giving up on them.

  14. RWood

    Re: Kalamazoo County, Michigan and tax seizure:
    I wrote, critical of not contacting the owner directly and received this reply:

    I sent her 7 notices by first class mail……certified mail, personal visit etc.
    Not paying your bills for three years generally has consequences.
    Thanks for contacting me.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      How did the banks ever come into this if she paid all cash (presumably when buying, and not paying off a mortgage)?

      1. tswkr

        It’s delinquent property taxes, so the banks shouldn’t have been involved. It sounds like she is stating that she didn’t receive proper notice due to the notices being sent to a bank or addressed to a bank. If so, she could try to make the case under 211.78a and 211.78b

        Property tax act:

        Reading up on Michigan’s property tax law, the homeowner has 21 days to redeem after the County records a Forfeiture judgment. Searching the public records reveals a notice on 4/11/2013 ( I would link, but due to privacy concerns, I’ll just advise anyone who wants to see to google ‘Kalamazoo County Recorder’, click on ‘Deeds Search’ and search the name in the story under ‘Public Login’). It looks like the County later recorded the judgment on 5/29/2014.

        A common misconception is that people can own their property outright in the United States. You are always just effectively renting it from the government and property taxes will always be the first lien.

  15. Jim Haygood

    ‘Support for ISIS increased after U.S. airstrikes began in Iraq’ — FBI director James Comey

    When I went to the doctor as a kid, it didn’t matter what the complaint was … earache, abrasion, cold, cough … the doc’s prescription was always the same: a shot of penicillin.

    Bombing is America’s foreign policy penicillin. Are mean people doing bad things somewhere in the world? Bomb them till they stop, Daddy!

    Invariably the justification for American bombing is couched in platitudes about ‘responsibility.’ But it’s actually narcissistic and infantile to imagine that the world can be remade in America’s image, using large explosions to frog-march the victims beneficiaries toward ‘democracy.’

    1. Eureka Springs

      What if the powers that be just went over to Iraq or Syria and told every terrorist, I mean citizen we will print out and give each and every one of you 10k if you allow a few pipelines?

      Trillions saved, no war, no terror, the vast majority would LOVE the USA. And somehow I rather suspect the rich would still be rich…. trickle up and all that.

      As an audio aside, Jim… Wanted to recommend this to you and other aficionados. I’m still on the trial version but it will likely be best 75.00 I ever spend for such dramatic improvement.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        “…we will print out and give each and every one of you 10k if you allow a few pipelines?”

        What, and set a precedent?

        On second thought, it’s easier to buy love with money than bombs. Besides, we can always print more of it cost-free. It makes you wonder why we don’t do it.

        Instead of ‘economic stimulus spending,’ we also implement ‘peace stimulus spending.’

        1. paul

          But that would transfer money to humans rather than corporations and that is not what a modern government does.
          Airstrikes are just way of disposing of inventory, saving on warehousing costs and clearing shelf space for this seasons lines.

  16. diptherio

    Al Jazeera English has been Fox-ified:

    Sarah Kendzior ‏@sarahkendzior
    Writing for AJ English has been great. I will always be grateful to them for running work on poverty, race, and other controversial topics.

    But there are new rules. We’re discouraged from researching content of our op-eds. Op-eds should be counterintuitive “hot takes” ala Slate.

    Just what we need: fewer facts!

  17. JGordon

    No significant comments on ebola yet? Not to mention none on nuclear power or climate change. It’s pretty interesting to me how people prioritize near-irrelevant political crap over threats that could wipe out most or all of humanity. Ah well, people are weird.

    That was 500,000 cases by January by the way. Which I suppose assumes a steady exponential growth curve. If you extend that curve just a few months beyond that, well then most everyone either has ebola or has died from it already. The potential for that to actually happen is pretty good, considering the rapid mutation rate of the virus, conflicting elite interests, sheer human stupidity, etc. So I would recommend stocking your bunker with barrels of fruit juice and hemoglobin supplements. If you’re already going to get it, might as well try to live through it I say.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Thanks for commenting on Ebola.

      We are gratefully we no longer live on Pangea. The redoubtable Atlantic Wall gives one a false sense of security, I guess.

      1. JGordon

        That is a perfect demonstration of a combination of unpleasant traits: ignorance, complacency, normalcy bias, short-sightedness, etc.

        Just to shake you out of your complacency a bit, if it’s even possible, have a look at this doctor who was treating ebola patients in West Africa, and then returned back to the US… to put himself in quarantine. You know, just because no one else thought to do it.

        You have to admit, in all likelihood, we’re screwed.

        1. JGordon

          Oh my bad. I misunderstood your comment a bit; the grammar thew me off a bit. Not that I’m the best at catching my own mistakes either. Sorry!

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            I meant ‘grateful,’ not ‘gratefully.’ Often, what I write makes no sense to me either.

    2. Antifa

      It is sobering to ponder that the quarantine of an entire nation state in order to contain a plague has not happened for nearly a thousand years. We truly live in interesting times, as the old Chinese curse goes.

      The 30,000 health workers who will be going door to door in Sierra Leone this weekend WILL NOT be entering any of them to see things for themselves. They will simply ask if anyone is ill, or has been exposed, and will try to educate the residents about how ebola is spread. This means, inevitably, that people who believe ebola is something created and spread by Western governments and the masked health workers going door to door spreading lies about ebola can say, “We’re all fine here.” even if someone is dying in the other room. So the discovery process is flawed. There are big holes in the net.

      But then, asking these 30,000 to actually enter the hundreds of homes they will each be visiting is pretty close to suicidal. The odds of these individuals staying clean through so many interior home visits are slim, given the minimal protections that are the rule in Africa. And it’s also quite normal for people to hide a sick relative in the jungle out of mistrust of the Western medical teams and hospitals, so even if they were entering homes it is no guarantee they will actually find the infected.

      On the receiving end, requiring people to stay in their homes, in close contact, for three days is going to produce a lot of exposure to one another, and the resulting new infections may outweigh any benefit the government hopes to gain by this brief quarantine. They could mail a bar of soap and a pamphlet to every citizen and accomplish as much.

      1. Jagger

        I heard yesterday that 7 of those surveyors/health workers have already been lynched by locals and their bodies found in a ditch. It is a risky job.

      2. LucyLulu

        While the ebola epidemic in Africa is truly tragic and poses a serious threat to the continent, it is not so contagious or difficult to quarantine in a society with advanced health and communication infrastructure. It isn’t transmitted by airborne particles but requires contact between open wounds or mucus membranes and the bodily fluids of a contagious person. Ignorance and mistrust of authority is common in some of the affected places and the sick are treated by villagers and cared for by family members who may have quaint ideas about causes and cures for diseases. It is similar to the AIDS virus in means of transmission, and likewise, AIDS has had a far more devastating impact in Africa. Universal precautions became the de facto standard in Western medical facilities after the emergence of AIDS in the 1980’s. I don’t know what the risk is for each exposure though, and fluke accidents are possibilities, as well as sexual transmission. AIDS has a low risk of infection/exposure, hepatitis has one much higher, for example. New designs have made accidental needle-sticks of healthcare workers ever less likely. Education of signs and symptoms as well as how to prevent transmission is the key, and more difficult in jungle villages without CNN and smartphones.

        I saw an interview of a veterinary investigator from the CDC share the tale of tracking three ebola cases about 5 (i think) years ago in the US back to their source. They had contact with prairie dogs purchased as pets from an exotic pet dealer in Illinois, who IIRC had obtained some other rodent from Africa. The cases were geographically separated and diagnosed independently before the link was found. None were transmitted from human-to-human.

        That’s not to say there is no risk. We need to take precautions, especially with those travelling in nations where ebola has been seen, and monitor the situation. We’ve sent 3000 troops, mostly to help set up needed infrastructure and provide guidance, but there won’t be a quick eradication with so many infected. Ebola has a high rate of mortality, even with advanced treatment. However, the flu is almost guaranteed to cause far more deaths in the U.S. and EU by January, due to sheer numbers who will be infected because of airborne transmission (and lack of sick leave or fear of using it).

    3. Marianne Jones

      This article sums my opinions on Ebola nicely and echoes many of my complaints about Western media being overly dismissive towards the African victims. European and Americans would struggle in similar ways if faced with a disease that starts off mimicking other diseases and is most contagious in death. What human doesn’t have a funeral of some type for their dead?

      Even the recent murder of Guinea health teams and the journalists isn’t out of character for Europeans and American and is understandable in historical context. The 1918 influenza hit later in the year in Alaska. Warnings were carried to all parts but in most cases, the warnings came too late, with one exception. The Shishmaref village posted armed guards to keep people out in time. The barricade was effective, I presume in part because the people were willing to kill anybody attempting to enter the town.

      Due to military blockade efforts, a handful of Pacific islands also escaped influenza by maintaining exclusionary policies. As follows:

      The people of 1918 were willing to kill to maintain a barricade. Why is it so shocking that Africans might also be willing to do so when faced with such a lethal disease?

  18. financial matters

    JD Alt has an interesting post which ties in well with the recent CFR report to get more money to mainstreet..

    BANK of the COMMONS
    September 18, 2014

    “”The selfish gene is drawn to collude with the authority to enclose portions of the Commons for its own exclusive benefit

    This disparity (inequality), ultimately, can have no other result than the decline and collapse of the society itself

    What comes immediately to mind is a “Bank of the Commons” (BOC)—a new wing of the Federal Reserve—which is specifically empowered with the task of enabling and funding local cooperative projects. “”

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I chose not to cross post it because it has significant problems. First, he is wrong about the Tragedy of the Commons. While it does happen, it is simply not a widespread result or inevitable as he implies. See Elinor Olstrom for a historically grounded and more accurate take. I don’t like amplifying simplified-to-the-point-of-being-in-large-measure-wrong theories.

      Second is he wants to house his new vehicle in the Fed. The Fed???? The Fed is just about the least democratically major institution we have, and it’s run by monetary economists who have little interaction with and care even less about real economy businesses.

      1. financial matters

        It would be great if we had the political will to get something accomplished like FDRs Reconstruction Finance Corporation but right now the Fed seems like the only institution that can get things done. It does theoretically come under Congress and works closely with Treasury.

        They disbursed money easily to the banks, AIG etc. With the political backing of the CFR it seems that they could re-orient their energies toward main street.

        1. alex morfesis

          they already have a requirement to focus on main street called the community reinvestment act and despite attempts by too big to care financial institutions, it is NOT some funding program for local poverty programs…the problem is most folks don’t realize anyone….NAY…EVERYONE, can walk into any institution and demand a seat at the table…but what usually happens is some captured nonprofit steps in the way and acts as though there is some special queue that you have to fall into…nope…no such thing…the game is to reduce the perceived need for funding…one of the games currently is to fall back into what was an old game…

          “no one wants to borrow money”…

          nonsense…the requirement of the CRA was developed in response to what was a properly perceived problem with ERISA…that funding would be pulled out of local communities and bounced to s&p/moodies “approved” investments…in effect funding NYSE and other wall street backed firms by forcing out everyone else…under the “armor” of prudent investing…

          but the bankers got ahead of the law and for many years cut off its enforcement by funding “goofball” organizations who asked for economically unsustainable programs…

          ie- please sir…these poor people, they can’t possibly ever get on their feet, couldnt you make loans available to them at 500 basis points below prime…

          (lucky for us)…I mean…well…we could do that…since you insist…but since we have to “subsidize” the annual carrying costs, instead of providing the billions of dollars in loans needed by the local markets to sustain employment and prevent the rust belt…well we will just have to cut back those loans and help build those factories in china instead….since you “insist”…

          now stand a little to the left so our corporate photographer can take a picture of me handing you this big five thousand dollar comedy sized check so we look like we are doing our part to to keep the chinese communist party in power…I mean…doing our part for the little peeple…

          so…just look up the woodstock institute…read some of there information….never mind that they will try to steer you to do it “the old fashioned way”…the rules don’t require you standing in the special queue…as long as you don’t act like a charter member of the tin foil hat brigade…they will not be able to deny you a seat at the table…

          the rules are already there…they are just not being enforced since the bankers have gamed the public requirements…they get basically youth groups to send in letters to be placed in their public files…the unwashed making economic decisions for entire communities…by saying…yup…that too big to care institution is doing alright by me…cause I got this big five thousand dollar check with twenty strings attached that the bank spent 20 grand to photograph and celebrate…beats actually sustaining a community based on its actual needs…

  19. susan the other

    Not the USA. We are the very incarnation of a 3-penny opera. Our democracy has gone on a long hiatus. Maybe underneath it all is more good basic research than we know. They just discovered the Higgs Boson in the EU. That was pretty cool, if it is verified. I think we have done more good basic research than Graeber gives us credit for. It will be a question, politically, of how to put it all into action. I think it is obvious that progress follows technology which follows science. So maybe the stage is set. That’s how I like to think about it. But Graeber made the case for a very neglected population, (due to politix) here in the US especially; and certainly world wide.

    1. paul

      Well they might have found something, but after laying out all that dough, they were obliged to.
      Lachrymose scientists on the evening news about something or other. The humanity!
      Big science is just as bent as big everything else.

  20. Trust and Believe

    License-plate readers for the crooked gang-banger mental defectives of the LA Sheriffs, because…

    “At some point, you have to trust and believe that the agencies that you utilize for law enforcement are doing what’s right and what’s best for the community, and they’re not targeting your community,” Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Sgt. John Gaw said,

    Gaw could not be reached for comment because he was being anally raped by his white supremacist colleagues.

    1. Johann Sebastian Schminson

      Isn’t that what Big Brother’s function was — doing what’s best for your community?

      The Sgt. might make a move in a positive direction, if only semantically, by referring to “our” community, instead of “your” community.

      Trust and believe they’re doing what’s right? Based on what?

      Trust and Believe has it right — mental defectives.

  21. Oregoncharles

    Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit” –

    The Law of Diminishing Returns – and of diminishing resources.

    Still, very interesting; I’ll have finish reading it later.

    It’s about decadence. This, too, shall pass.

  22. anonymous123

    Re: How Insurers Are Finding Ways to Shift Costs to the Sick (New York Times), this article and the study that supports it are a bit irresponsibly executed. While their conclusions may be correct in both cases, I take issue with the methodology and the strength with which the conclusions were put forward.

    First of all, the study from AJMC (on which the Times article was based) reviewed six formularies. SIX? There are hundreds of formularies across several hundred insurers–different for each line of business (commercial, managed Medicare, managed Medicaid, health exchange). For example, Aetna has dozens of different formularies just for its commercial business. SIX is not a representative sample. It’s disappointing that reputable journal like AJMC is publishing a study whose methodology is clearly dubious. (For point of reference, there are two main managed care journals–AJMC, and JMCP). Again, I’m not saying the conclusion is wrong or the trend they’ve identified is incorrect–simply that the methodology is garbage.

    Second, the Times article confounds several issues. It correctly discussed Part D plans, but then spends a portion of the article referencing health exchange plans, while the study from AJMC has nothing to do with health exchanges. The AJMC study looked at Commercial and Medicare Part D plans. Thus, the study is about “apples” and the NYT article spends at least some time talking about “oranges.” While some of the concepts are translatable (differential cost-sharing impacts patient behavior), the article will create more hype about the health exchanges, when the issue identified (non-prefferred tiers for generics) actually pertains in this case more to Medicare Part D plans, for which this structure is evidently now common (based on another study cited in the article, published at Kaiser Family Foundation).

    I know this is a bit picky of a critique, but this industry is so complex that it’s easy for journalists to mischaracterize data and risk drawing incorrect conclusions.

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