Links 10/20/14

Elephants, the weathermen of the animal kingdom: Mammals can spot storms from 150 miles away Daily Mail

Humble spud poised to launch a world food revolution Guardian. Non-GMO potatoes developed that can be watered with diluted sea water (!).

A Rate Cap for All Consumer Loans Times Editorial Board, New York Times

Big banks giving up on their global ambitions FT

As IPO markets stumble, private equity buyers prepare to swoop Reuters. European focus.

Heavy borrowing to buy equities adds investors’ anxieties to skittish market FT

When a Stock Market Theory Is Contagious Robert Shiller, New York Times

Backlog of backlogs: 990,399 people wait to appeal Social Security benefits WaPo. Why, it’s almost like they want to deny claims!

Big Brother Is Watching You Watch

By still failing to act, Michael Heyward allows the cancer inside Whisper to grow Pando

White House fights ACLU suit over database of ‘suspicious’ acts San Francisco Chronicle

Top Justice Deputy Cole Ready to Leave Post With Holder Bloomberg


Texas Hospital Apologizes for ‘Mistakes’ in Ebola Treatment in Full-Page Ad NBC. Can’t Burson Marsteller do better than “mistakes were made”? Say, have any executives resigned to spend more time with their families?

First round of Ebola contacts to resume their lives Fort Worth Star Telegram 

Wanted: Ebola screeners at JFK for $19 an hour New York Post. Good jobs at good wages! Note that Angel (!) Staffing, Inc., is a government contractor, hiring for government agencies.

What’s Ebola? Mumbai Takes Crash Course as Virus Spreads Bloomberg

Weak Health Protocol May Be to Blame for U.S. Ebola Cases Bloomberg. CDC went with WHO, not Médecins Sans Frontières.

Ebola: A Crisis in Global Health Leadership Lancet [PDF].

Bitter defeat for EU opponents in the European Parliament Deutsche Welle

Deadly Ukraine Crash: German Intelligence Claims Pro-Russian Separatists Downed MH17 Der Spiegel

Hong Kong

26 Arrested, 60 Injured in Weekend of Violent Clashes in Hong Kong Vice

The Hong Kong Protesters Who Won’t Negotiate The Atlantic. Mong Kok.

Fears over ‘radicals’ as protest violence increases, but sources say Beijing won’t be embarrassed into action South China Morning Post

CY Leung: ‘Foreign forces’ at work in HK protests ChannelNewsAsia

Lingnan University’s president-elect struggles to shed ties with CY Leung Education Post. The guy who will run this week’s proposed meeting between protesters and the Hong Kong government.

China is again slowly turning in on itself LA Times

Saudi Arabia Warns Against Incursions as Houthis Seize Post Bloomberg

How will Saudi Arabia respond to lower oil prices? Econbrowser

Class Warfare

Move over Rich Kids of Instagram: The annual Far Hills horse race where 32,000 of New Jersey’s elite binge on premium booze, swill bubbly from the bottle and slurp liquor from ice luges as they party like proles one hedonistic day each year Daily Mail

Are Poor People Consuming More than They Used To? Six Graphs Asymptosis (KF).

Poor kids who do everything right don’t do better than rich kids who do everything wrong WaPo

Imperial Collapse Watch

Reflections on the new US Army #Operating Concept Medium. Guess what word they’re redefining: “Win.”

Suppression of debate in NZ – Rod Oram’s Sunday Star-Times column for October 19th, 2014 Facebook (RS). Odger cull! Let’s not forget that NZ is one of the “Five Eyes,” and so may be more central than may appear at first sight…

Dalai Lama goes off on one about sales calls Daily Mash

Poached Eggs And The New Corporate Toast Media Post

An ill-defined concept Le Monde Diplomatique. “Youth culture.”

Antidote du jour:


See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. James Levy

    Here’s a question related to Ebola that has been troubling me: is there any deep reason why Jenner and Pasteur had such brilliant success against smallpox and rabies, while we seem to be stumped by things like Ebola? I mean, nobody on the planet had the faintest clue what viruses were, or that they even existed, when Pasteur took on and largely beat rabies. And in Jenner’s time the association of bacteria with disease was not understood (it wouldn’t even be theorized for decades). Could it be that they were just “lucky”? How could they have just stumbled onto diseases that were “easy” to prevent? Might it be that there is something wrong with our approach, because our knowledge of the pathogens and ability to dissect and manipulate them is a million times greater than theirs was, yet we don’t seem twice as capable or clever. What gives?

    1. DJG

      Interesting comment. First, there has been a tradition of medical doctors who actually knew something. I ran across an article about a medieval Italian doctor who was remarkably modern in his thinking–not just blood letting and leeches. I’m reminded of Paracelsus, too. Jenner was part of a long history of trying to deal with smallpox. Supposedly, he understood that exposure to cowpox helped to build immunity among dairy maids and farmers (presumably). Jenner’s early vaccines weren’t completely benign, though. I’m less familiar with Pasteur–but he was remarkably disciplined and willing to go his own way. I’m reminded of polio, though, which is somewhat like Ebola, a virulent disease, somewhat easy to pass along, a disease that arose because of crowding. Sabin and Salk didn’t chance on their successes–they knew that they were dealing with a killer. Another disease of crowding and urbanization is tuberculosis–which may be worth thinking about, too, as it is still hard to control.

      1. James Levy

        The thing is, I don’t think those men chanced on their successes either–certainly Ehrlich didn’t, as he ground it out until he found an arsenide that would kill the syphilis and not the host. But that just makes our own lack of success more puzzling, as we have knowledge and abilities (DNA sequencing and splicing, electron microscopes, computers, compounds we can build from the atom up) so far above what those men had they might as well have been using stone axes. It couldn’t have all been luck on their part. We have to be seeing or doing something wrong.

      2. bruno marr

        Jenner did not develop a vaccine for smallpox. He understood a correlation as you described for cowpox, but his “vaccine” was to expose folks to a small amount of active smallpox (not knowing much about virus) in a controlled medical environment and allow their bodies to develop immunity. In some cases that immunity didn’t occur and they died!

        Doing that with Ebola would be unthinkable.

    2. Garrett Pace

      Maybe – or maybe it’s selection bias. We remember him because he addressed a more easily solved challenge. If Pasteur had taken on cancer would we read about him today?

      1. DJG

        Infectious diseases were barely controlled in the 19th century, so Pasteur was at the forefront of the problem. And there’s this description from Wikipedia: In the 1800s Ignaz Semmelweis noticed that women giving birth at home had a much lower incidence of childbed fever than those giving birth in the doctor’s maternity ward. His investigation discovered that washing hands with an antiseptic solution before a delivery reduced childbed fever fatalities by 90%.[13] Publication of his findings was not well received by the medical profession. The idea conflicted both with the existing medical concepts and with the image doctors had of themselves.[14] The scorn and ridicule of doctors was so extreme that Semmelweis moved from Vienna and was eventually committed to a mental asylum where he died.

      2. James Levy

        But what is so “easy” about coming up with a vaccine against rabies when you don’t even know what causes rabies? And cancer is not one disease, with one cause, the way Ebola hemorrhagic fever is. My guess is that those men were simply more insightful and open than our highly trained experts are, the way Einstein and Maxwell were. We are producing more thoroughly and rigorously trained, and mathematically adept physicists today than ever, and in much greater numbers than 50 years ago. But that doesn’t mean we are getting much greater physics out of them, any more than the fact that our art schools produce more graduates every year than Florence had people in the Renaissance, yet we aren’t necessarily getting lots of great artists. I’m more and more convinced that we are training people all wrong–too much information, too much specialization, and too little time for independent creative thought. In other words, we can churn out technical experts, but not creative scientists. Hell, the top universities are filled with “brilliant” Economists who don’t know shit about the real world and its problems–perhaps the same disorder is infecting the sciences?

        1. nobody

          Peter Higgs, the British physicist who gave his name to the Higgs boson, believes no university would employ him in today’s academic system because he would not be considered “productive” enough.

          The emeritus professor at Edinburgh University, who says he has never sent an email, browsed the internet or even made a mobile phone call, published fewer than 10 papers after his groundbreaking work, which identified the mechanism by which subatomic material acquires mass, was published in 1964.

          He doubts a similar breakthrough could be achieved in today’s academic culture, because of the expectations on academics to collaborate and keep churning out papers. He said: “It’s difficult to imagine how I would ever have enough peace and quiet in the present sort of climate to do what I did in 1964.”

    3. Ed

      Everything you say is correct. Low hanging fruit, yes they got lucky, and yes modern medicine and modern research is f—– up.

    4. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Maybe it’s Nature humbling us…each scientific discovery is unique.

      Maybe it’s like, even though we have taken a few more college courses, and we think we know a lot more now about a lot of things, but it still takes a long to know if an acquaintance is genuine or fake.

    5. Chris in Paris

      I teach regulations and clinical research to biotech researchers. My sense that creativity and deep reflection is drowned out by the drumbeat of the pressure to publish and eventually find a way to make a living. One exception was the army absolutely researcher devoted to his work on malaria (to the point of endangering his own health). Big advances require grinding it out and support.

    1. gonzomarx

      I also would like to see more pictures of our leaders in their true form!
      Is it Merkel or Queen Liz?

      1. ambrit

        It’s Evo, the head of Galapagos “Mammal Enlightenment” who indoctrinated Darwin when the good doctor visited the Islands. (They live a long time compared to us.)

  2. diptherio

    Unsure what to make of Shiller’s piece. Obviously, the economic fundamentals in our economy right now are in the toilet, so there’s good reason for consumer confidence to be down. And it’s a commonplace nowadays to point out that the stock-market has become entirely divorced from the real economy…still, I wonder if this statement is actually true:

    Fundamentally, stock markets are driven by popular narratives, which don’t need basis in solid fact.

    But at some point, every business has to sell something to somebody to make a profit and pay dividends, right? I mean, everybody can’t keep running on borrowed QE cash forever, can they? He’s obviously trying to counteract the “secular stagnation” narrative, but my question is how much of the current stock market downturn is due to narrative and how much to the zombie economy?

    1. voislav

      The recent stock market performance has a lot to do with share buybacks. I heard somewhere recently that about 50% of profits in the last 10 years have gone into stock buybacks, about 40% into divident payments and only 10% into capital investments. Stock buybacks increase the share value even with stagnating or deteriorating revenue, so they’ve been used to mask lack of performance through per-share-earnings.

      This article has a handy chart showing the disconnect between the corporate debt and profits. It’s relatively dated (2010), but there is no reason that the trend hasn’t continued. It shows a situation similar to the housing, the rise in value (stock price) has been mostly fueled by taking on debt. The markets are stalling because we are reaching the point of diminishing returns, the stocks are so pumped up by debt that it takes a lot more liquidity to move the price further up.

      1. John Zelnicker

        You are correct about the use of profits. See Michael Hudson’s interview above posted earlier today for more information on how and why the stock market has become so disconnected from the real economy. This process has been going on for more than ten years and my belief is that there is not much room left for it to continue.

    2. not_me

      But at some point, every business has to sell something to somebody to make a profit and pay dividends, right? dipthero

      Except for the “pay dividends” part because the common stock of a company is ITSELF a form of money. In fact, paying dividends is stupid since the purpose of a common stock company is to consolidate assets for economies of scale, not dissipate them. In lieu of dividends, those who desire fiat can simply sell some of their shares.

      1. Vatch

        When people sell shares, a broker gets a portion of the proceeds. When people get dividends, nothing goes to the middleman.

        1. not_me

          Dividends remind me of the Huns (Mongols? both?) who used to drain the blood of the horses they rode for food so I suppose small dividends would not hurt much but then why sully the reputation of the stock you might want to sell in the future for just a small dividend? Amazon, for instance, could surely pay dividends but that would just indicate that the company was dissolving itself or at least giving up on growth or was suffering muddled thinking and none of those possibilities would help the company’s stock price, I’d bet.

          Dividends are dumb and a strong, confident company might buy back its shares at the going market price (or slightly below it to avoid a positive feedback loop?) without brokerage fees as a customer service since a stock that is easy to re-sell is a strong selling point in the first place. Of course, leveraged buyouts are a desecration unto Abba :) since they burden the company with debt or if the company is taking on government-subsidized debt the remaining stockholders are being subsidized by government.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            If the corporation has more money than is needed for growth (50%, 10% or 1%, depending on the industry), it should give the excess money to shareholders, pay them dividends

            No use shoving it down to ‘growth’ by force, if it is not natural.

            1. not_me

              I said nothing about force. As for growth necessarily being unnatural, it’s been said an elephant never forgets, ie. his memory continues to grow. Is that unnatural?

            2. not_me

              OK. Ignore my immediate comment above, I’ve misconstrued you. I apologize.

              But no, if a company has spare cash, it should be able to earn more for its share owners with it than they each could individually and if not one should sell all his shares and buy something else.

              1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                Not a problem.

                If someone doesn’t like dividends, he/she can reinvest directly with the company again, or reinvest in another faster growing company, or in another sector (to diversify).

                1. not_me

                  If someone doesn’t like dividends, he/she can reinvest directly with the company again, … MLTPB

                  That still leaves the problem of other stock owners who don’t reinvest.

                  Dividend paying companies are either dumb or some looting scam such as a private/public partnership, I’d bet. I’ll have neither.

                  1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                    If they don’t want dividends, they can reinvest in the same corporation or other companies.

                    And if the company has more cash than what they know what to do in the area of competency, they should give the money back to shareholders. It’s not important not to invest in areas they are not competent, just for the sake of growth.

                    1. Vatch

                      Excellent point about reinvestment. Many companies have dividend reinvestment programs. Such companies give their shareholders a reasonable choice. If a company doesn’t pay dividends, the shareholders can only make money if they sell when the stock price has risen. As we all know, stock prices can go down, and sometimes they stay down for a long time.

                      As I mentioned elsewhere, if a company doesn’t pay dividends, the top executives have more money available to loot.

                    2. not_me

                      And if the company has more cash than what they know what to do in the area of competency, MLTPB

                      Then the company should hire someone who can invest that cash profitably. Or should every dividend receiver hire his own investment adviser? That defeats the whole idea of economies of scale. And if the company can’t or won’t hire someone competent, then one should sell the stock and buy a company that can and will hire someone competent.

                      And what? A company should pay dividends so the recipients can potentially invest in its competitors?! So then why should I invest in a suicidal company?

                    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                      Investing money is an individual matter.

                      What is your time horizon? What is your goal? How much diversification do you want?

                      Everyone’s needs are different. Let each decide.

          2. Vatch

            If dividends aren’t paid, it’s possible that all of a company’s profits are being diverted to executive bonuses and “incentives”. Of course I agree that a portion of a company’s earnings should be reserved for investment, but I would not trust a corporation that does not pay dividends. It’s either in trouble, or the executives are cheating the stockholders.

    3. Carla

      “But at some point, every business has to sell something to somebody to make a profit and pay dividends, right?”

      Not Amazon.

  3. James

    The Reflections on the new US Army #Operating Concept article closes with the line: And if the US Army ever stops believing that it can and will win, then God help us all…

    Juxtaposed neatly below that over his picture is a quote from Bruce Lee: To me, defeat in anything is merely temporary. Defeat simply tells me that something is wrong in my doing; it is a path leading to success and truth.”

    The first line is nothing but standard boilerplate drivel, asserting the the usual divine right to victory if we only believe.

    A classic “Aha!” moment opportunity there in the second for military strategists if they’re only wise enough to seize it. Is “something wrong in my doing”, indeed! That realization might then prompt them to focus a little more on the truth of things and let the success part take care of itself. Bruce Lee was wise enough to grasp those essential truths. The US military? Not so much.

    1. Jim S

      This article: No, no, no, no, NO! The essayist is too close to the establishment and has drank too much of the kool-aid to call things as they are, if he can even see clearly. Chuck L can check me on this if I’m wrong.

      James, re: winning. I submit that the redefinition of “win” has much to do with the fact that after almost a decade and a half of tilting at windmills the Army leadership can no longer reconcile that what they’ve told the rank and file they’re doing (fighting terrorism) is at odds with what the Army has actually been doing (securing the petro-dollar). Maybe General Hardnuts has some inkling that the reason he isn’t allowed to go out and burn the poppy fields outside his perimeter is because the CIA is managing the heroin trade, but he doesn’t dare ask about it. Better to turn around and preach to his colonels how they aren’t doing enough to teach the fellahin that it’s better to grow wheat and sunflowers. Keep them too busy to think about it. If one of them started asking questions, it would be embarrassing–might give his boss the impression that he can’t keep control of his people.

      Even the British Empire was more honest with its soldiers about what they were really doing in Afghanistan, in India, in Burma, in Malaya.

      Re: complexity. Again, the essayist doesn’t question the assumption that the world is more complex. No, the Army is more complex, and it’s self-inflicted. Right now the Army is in love with complexity theory. It didn’t worked out so well for the Israeli Army (Combat Studies Institute), but the US Army and US Air Force still bought that snake oil. Rather than the world becoming complex, the Army has merely forgotten how to be simple.

      1. James Levy

        The staggering lack of imagination on the part of the average British officer and man was of enormous value in running the empire. The key in good times to gaining authority and keeping it is to waltz in and act as if your presence is the most natural thing in the world and then start issuing simple, practical orders. The whole pernicious concept of “force protection” means that US officers and men are overly concerned with not getting shot. In the macho culture that you often run into in the Middle East this is not going to impress the locals, nor does the relatively short terms of service which don’t allow the soldiers to learn the local language and the “lay of the land”. The US military is an imperial constabulary pretending it is a force of citizen-soldiers who fight and then go home. The big lie is that these soldiers can join up and not expect to spend their careers overseas. This tension is doing extreme damage to the ability of the Army to do the job it is actually charged with, not the one it pretends it exists to do.

    2. James

      Actually, what I was getting at, is that the Army, and the US military in general, has simply lost sight of what “the truth” is; as in, what are we doing here and why are we doing it? And even more importantly, is it even legitimate in the first place? For all the marketing hype invested in the “Army of One,” the concept was always flawed at its very core, as the “Army of One”, the individual, never possessed any true autonomy past the basic premise of “kill that/those people and do it now.” For the Army – any Army – to truly act with right mind and right purpose, they must truly trust in the autonomy of its individual actors/agents, and further, the Army itself must embrace right purpose at the strategic level, regardless of political influence. How far are we, the US, from premise now? Light years of evolution. Light years!

  4. Larry Headlund

    From A Ill-defined concept:

    Sociologist Olivier Galland’s reference to a massive increase in youth (3) was partly based on demographics — in France, the 15-24 age band has grown from 6 million in 1954, to 8 million in 1968, and nearly 10 million today.
    Let us look at those numbers with respect to total population:
    1954: 6 million/43 million -> 14 %
    1968: 8 million/50 million -> 16 %
    2014: 10 million/64 million ->15 1/2 %

    Doesn’t seem like such a massive increase now.

  5. Working Class Nero

    The guy who wrote the article Poor kids who do everything right don’t do better than rich kids who do everything wrong has trouble reading charts because the one he uses to “prove” his point actually shows the complete opposite: that poor kids who do everything right end up in a much better position than rich kids who do everything wrong.

    The chart is useful in that it uses the social economic measurement of quintiles. We must assume by poor kids he means people who start in the bottom quintile and for rich he means people from the top quintile. If you take the percentage that end up in each quintile and multiply by the number of quintiles moved (5 for going from bottom to top or vice versa, 1 for staying in your quintile) you get the poor kids moving up 212 social economic points while the rich kids moved down 234 points. So the rich kids were more socially mobile than the poor kids. This may seem confusing because often social mobility is seen as a good thing but for rich people social mobility is a disaster because once you are in the top quintile the only place to move is down. So rich kids were punished more for doing everything wrong more than poor kids were rewarded for doing everything right. Advantage: poor kids.

    But that may be confusing to some (since the rich kids got a higher score) so let’s look at it another way. Let’s look at the final social economic position of each group. Again, we give 5 points for being in the top quintile and 1 for being in the bottom. Looked at this way, the “good” poor kid’s social economic “score” is 312 while the “bad” rich kid’s only reach 266. Remember using this system, at birth the poor kids only had 100 social economic points (100% at the lowest quintile) while the rich were starting with a score of 500 (100% in the top quintile). So this is a substantial difference in outcomes and totally at odds with the article’s conclusions.

    Of course all this study looked at was education level. Being a “college grad” nowadays isn’t all that much of an achievement. In fact I would have expected that being wealthy would have counted for much more social economic stability. Apparently not though.

    1. Goyo Marquez

      So… if we think of it as a 400m, one time around the track, race;
      – The rich kid started his race at the 300m mark and and was passed by a couple guys who started at the 200m mark.
      – The poor kid started at the starting line, passed a kid who started at the 100m mark and a kid who started at the 200m mark but still came in behind the rich kid, who started at the 300m mark.

      So then the outcome isn’t about talent or hard work but about where you start the race?

      1. Working Class Nero

        The key to understanding this phenomenon is to allow movement in both the positive and negative directions–so a foot race is not a good model, because it is typically unidirectional. For example imagine a five story building. One hundred kids of the same age are born on the ground floor (first for Americans) and another hundred of the same age are born on the fourth floor (fifth for Americans). The goal of the game is to end up on the highest floor possible. What this table says is that if the 100 poor kids on the bottom floor end up going to college and the hundred kids on the top floor drop out of high school, then when they all hit the age of 40, the kids who started out on the bottom floor will end up living on average on a higher floor than the kids who started on the top floor.

        For American football fans it can be explained like this. The poor team gets the ball inside their own 20 yard line (they have more than 80 yards to go to get a touchdown) while in a parallel game, the rich kids get the ball in the red zone (inside their opponents 20 yard line) and so they have less than 20 yards to go to get a touchdown. If the poor team goes to college and the rich team drops out of high school then after their drives, on average, the poor team will have better field position by a decent margin than the rich team does, who for the most part lost a just lost bunch of yardage while the poor kids were gaining lots of yardage.

        But even in your footrace model — according to the study — the college educated poor kids who had much further to run on average ended up in front of the high school drop out rich kids despite the huge head starts in life their wealth gave them.

        1. cwaltz

          I actually think it’s a pretty good analogy since life, also is unidirectional. You don’t get time back. You don’t get do-overs. You just have to keep moving forward.

          I do think that you should have emphasized the words, who had much farther to run on average. Essentially being rich means you don’t have to start at the beginning like everyone else. That’s a major advantage.

  6. Yonatan

    Deadly Ukraine Crash: German Intelligence Claims Pro-Russian Separatists Downed MH17

    The article claims this is based on “ample evidence to back up his case, including satellite images and diverse photo evidence”. So, the Google Earth imagery and the photographs provided by Ukraine is all they have got to back up their pre-determined conclusion. Show us the real data; the military satellite data, the data from the experimental satellite that just happened to be in the right place, the AWACs radar traces, the radio transcripts confiscated by the Ukrainians, etc, etc.

    1. James

      Hard to believe the US wouldn’t have provided it immediately in the aftermath had they had it as well. Alas, all that talk about “smoking guns” was just so much just so much subterfuge. Anyone with a brain has long since connected the dots.

      1. Vatch

        As far as I know, neither Russia nor the United States has provided detailed evidence of what happened. Both countries want to keep their satellite capabilities a secret. The result is that people tend to believe what they want to believe, based on their preconceived opinions, and both Russia and the United States can make claims that implicate the other side, thereby strengthening their domestic “us versus them” political bases.

        Although I strongly believe that Ukraine has legitimate grievances against Russia going back centuries, but especially dating to the 1930s, I have no way at this time to formulate any sort of reasonable opinion about what happened to flight MH17.

        1. James

          Seriously? This one and this one convinced me well beyond a shadow of a doubt. In all honesty, this one isn’t even close. The US sponsored Ukraine west’s fingerprints are all over this. And their silence in the aftermath once the truth began to come out? As I said, this one’s not even close.

        1. ambrit

          “I taut I taw a puddy cat! I did! I did taw a puddy cat!”
          Gives a whole new meaning to “Down the Tubes,” don’t it.

  7. vlade

    Re Ebola:
    – screeners. Of course, the risk you run as a screener is that you die, and in the process infect your family and friends. One can argue that fireman etc. also run the risk of death, but they don’t run the risk of killing everyone and anyone around them. Hospital staff do risk that, but in general I’d expect they have more training and tools than JFK screeners will have
    – CDC going WHO – of course, because WHO has sooooo much more experience with Ebola than MsF (not). Aaargh. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. MsF has been at forefront of Ebola fight for a very long time, it’s worthwhile listening to their experience.

    On ISIS. I heard from a well connected source in Iraq that a very large part of the ISIS leadership comes from Chechen wars (most specifically the second Chechen war). She also claimed that ISIS was in it predominantly for the oil (with the brutality being basically a well calculated “don’t-mess-with-us” message), which is why it hasn’t attacked Baghdad, even though she believes they could capture it if wanted but too much hassle than worth it.

      1. susan the other

        Interesting about ISIS. I think that means the Saudis were in on the second Chechen war too. Which was years before this latest Saudi interest in Syria re a pipeline. So then maybe the whole Middle East War is a new imperialist oil play that encompasses a very large part of oil territory (like all of it) and the stuff we are being fed about Syria is just some lesser nonsense. It’s a big deal, not just some disagreement about a pipeline. I’d like to know the geographic significance of Aleppo because it was where the Germans wanted to run an oil train into Europe. Since time will tell, and apparently, according to Panetta, we have 30 years for it all to pan out (which prolly means 50 years), we might eventually know what happened. But I’m still insulted. First they tell me I’m a citizen with undeniable rights in a democracy and then they refuse to tell me what they are doing in my name.

  8. Brindle

    Thought I’d throw in a two brief film reviews of current top box office movies I saw: “Gone Girl” and “Fury”.

    Gone Girl stars Ben Affleck and British actress Rosamund Pike. It’s a psychological thriller that ends in a farce. Very entertaining and excellent supporting cast. Pike is likely Oscar nom.

    Fury is a WWII flick starring Brad Pitt as a “chewing nails” tank commander. This flick celebrates war as the ultimate pathway to manhood and brotherhood. I found it offensive, especially what would most accurately described as a rape of a German woman by a member of the tank crew, but is framed as “consensual”—ugly.

    So Gone Girl—yes, go see it …….Fury—no, save your money and your brain.

    1. ambrit

      The spate of superhero and war films are ‘business as usual” for Hollywood. Just watch closely a few of the WW2 and McCarthy Era propaganda films to discern the methodology. Is the public being conditioned to expect a “Leader” to solve all our problems for us? Can this be a usual response to distressing times? The Cynic in me wants to scream out, “My Furher!”
      Peter Sellers in “Dr. Strangelove”:

      1. hunkerdown

        Steven Allen, a UK professor of film studies, noted “a shift in the late twentieth century to narratives that highlight subjection, endurance and willed-acquiescence”, away from narratives including self-definition and autonomy.

        I’ve observed that similar “pro-social” postscripts and “very special” storylines made their way into television of the period as well. We’re not being manipulated, perhaps, so much as being trained on models that work against most people’s individual interests for no good benefit.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          A similar story in China.

          From the China turning in on itself link:

          “Now, China is again slowly turning in on itself. New party slogans stress “traditional” culture and values. The language of Confucianism is increasingly being invoked to legitimize a new dynasty of red emperors.”


          Know one’s place in the society.

          Respect those above you – elders, officials, bosses, the authority and above all, the emperor.

        2. Brindle

          The WWII film “Fury” definitely fits the narrative of “subjection, endurance and willed-acquiescence”—the highest morality is to die for and with your “band of brothers, other goals such as raising a family or just seeing your family are not given much consideration.

  9. James

    Say what you will about James Howard Kunstler, but he can sure turn a mean phrase when he sets his mind to it:

    Did a few loose strands of Ebola seep into the organs and tissues of global finance last week? The US equity markets sure enough puked, the Nikkei bled out through its eyeballs, all the collagen melted out of Greek bonds, and treasuries bloated up grotesquely on a putrid stream of terrified “liquidity” that led two Federal Reserve proctologists to maunder about the possibility of a QE-4 laxative, out of which, in due time, will surely gush explosive bloody fluxes of deeper financial sickness.

    1. Paul Niemi

      I think the idea that a certain amount of inflation is a good thing started with Lord Keynes. Somehow inflation is supposed to facilitate investment, but moreover it is argued that some inflation is necessary to keep wages from falling in legacy industries, as new technology enables greater productivity in competing businesses. I would point out that the dollar has declined in value by perhaps 85 percent in my lifetime, and there has not been one jot, or tittle, or comma of evidence that the inflation has had any desirable effect whatsoever.

      1. reslez

        Some inflation is perfectly fine as long as wages keep pace. Of course, this has not been true for a generation. From the perspective of our pig elite, their wealth has increased by leaps and bounds so it is not so troublesome for them. What they dislike is high inflation because debts owed to them are paid off too easily (with inflated currency, again assuming wages have kept pace to some extent). Bearing in mind that hyperinflation and high levels of inflation are things of a different nature. One does not shrug into the other.

        Deflation is undesirable for everybody — even bondholders ought to feel conflicted over it. Why would you invest in economic activity when your money is worth more under a mattress? Hence collapse.

        1. Paul Niemi

          You are saying that some inflation is fine, but no amount of deflation is fine. Isn’t the one as undesirable as the other? I am simply saying the assumption that inflation is a good thing should have no basis in common knowledge, because there appears to be no evidence for it, just the word of economists. According to one economist I have been reading, the consensus among economists is that there are few tangible, harmful effects of inflation up to 40 percent per year. It just upsets people’s sensibilities. I happen to think that is wrong.

        2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          There is no one inflation.

          We have food inflation.

          We have health care inflation.

          We have energy inflation.

          We have financial asset inflation.

          We have real estate inflation.

          We have wage inflation.

          If you are a worker, all inflations should be seen as relative to your wage inflation.

          You subtract, for example, food inflation from wage inflation.

          That is, wage inflation is the negative portion of your, in this case, relative food inflation.

          So, if crappy T-shirts are deflating at 1% per year, and your income is deflating at 5% per year, that’s a relative T-shirt inflation, yes, inflation, relatively speaking, of 4% per year.

      2. James Levy

        Actually, the idea is older. People understood that falling prices usually led to serious trouble in the later 1600s when you had deflation after the inflation of the 1500s. Both caused trouble, but deflation tended to lead to unemployment and starvation. The post-1873 deflation was also seen as bad for business and investment, although it was (temporarily) good for the British working class (unimpeded free trade and deflation led to rising standards of living, but discouraged investment in new plant and equipment that came back to haunt the British after 1905).

    2. reslez

      Mish gets a lot about deflation right, but the most important thing wrong. He writes as though deflation happens in a glass jar like an anniversary clock, with the larger world unaffected by its motion. Not so. The society in which deflation occurs does not stand still. Workers do not smile away wage decreases and job losses. In the real world, high unemployment and knife edge starvation make people restive. They protest, they riot, the level of crime rises. People die from lack of health care they can’t afford. Weakened families split apart. Decreased economic activity causes decay in the industrial base and worker skills. The world under any level of deflation looks a lot different than the world under inflation. Do workers enjoy lower prices? Maybe they would if so much else were not going wrong.

      1. susan the other

        This makes good sense to me. The part about inflation I don’t like is that rich people drive it for their own self interests and the middle class tags along – as in irrational exuberance – only to get crushed when one of the rich guys loses his nerve and starts a bear market. That’s the part that is very disconcerting. Nobody can trust the US economy, unless they are rich enough to be immune from loss, or well-connected enough to get out before everyone else. In other words, inflation crashes. Isn’t it pure irony that deflation is the cure for inflation and inflation for deflation? Can’t we think up something better?

      2. TedWa

        Why would wages fall? Who would stand for that? I can understand the job loss as companies can’t pay their debts in higher value dollars. Why would there be starvation? You mean worse than now? Aren’t the 99% in a deflationary environment right now? Why would health care be more expensive? That makes no sense. As a matter of fact, I think you’re blowing it way out of proportion. In the Great Depression the prices of everything fell 30% or more. The people that had jobs did better than in the prior inflationary period – they could afford things, things were much cheaper. Are you talking bread lines? We’d have bread lines right now if it weren’t for food stamps. Nothing you’ve said makes any sense. I’ll go read the Mish article, but if there were deflation, it would affect the 1%, 90% (guesstimates) while the 99% it would affect 10%. I just don’t see it

        1. not_me

          The people that had jobs did better …. TedWa

          25% did not and that’s when it should have dawned on rigid thinkers that maybe their pet theory that the economy automatically adjusts to a shrinking money supply was bogus. Those who complain about bank-induced increases in the money supply during booms should also complain about bank-induced decreases in the rate of the growth of the money supply during the busts since a usury-based money supply must expand ever faster just to avoid unavoidable loan defaults.

          But the Austrian Economists, and Mish is one, believe that a population that was DRIVEN into debt by the government-subsidized credit cartel must nevertheless suffer so “the malinvestments are purged”; that being unjust is somehow just and even kind.

        2. proximity1

          RE: “Why would wages fall? Who would stand for that?”

          The employee who, in a depressed economy, finds that his employer either can’t or simply won’t continue to pay the same wage that he (the employee) had been used to getting—and who understands that, e.g.,

          — maybe there’s no labor union, no collective bargaining pressure on the employer and, thus, nothing to prevent that employer from unilaterally lowering the offered wage.

          –maybe he has a family to support, or a mortgage to pay, and there aren’t any other jobs on offer which pay as much or more than the new reduced wage his employer is now proposing

          –maybe selling the house and moving to a better employment environment isn’t practical since the housing market is also depressed.

          — maybe renting the house couldn’t bring in enough to cover expenses and actually represent a net improvement in the situation, assuming, of course, that there were renters ready to rent the place.

          RE: “but if there were deflation, it would affect the 1%”…

          The point is how they’d be affected by deflation. Few people in the 1% really have to work full-time just to supply the basic necessities of life. Instead, they work for satisfactions which are far higher up on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs– artistic satisfaction, sense of purpose, public recognition/esteem, etc. If they had to, they could take a few years or decades off work and still live quite comfortably. The people who work just to earn enough to supply their basic needs don’t have that luxury.

  10. Furzy Mouse

    Speaking of surveillance, a WASPY, NYC friend of mine, who is now a Tibetan Buddhist monk, has been stopped and “reported” several times to Homeland and the police when wearing his Buddhist monk robes on the street, while on his way to give a talk. Wow, talk about suspicious! He jokes about it…

    1. DJG

      Who can tell the difference between a Buddhist and a Muslim? And that off-the-shoulder look in the orange-saffron robes sure could be sexual-predator-ish. They’re all furriners, anyhow.

  11. ambrit

    Re. the ACLU case in California:
    The big warning sign I saw was the statement; “The database has been compiled from reports by state and local police and private citizens…” Private citizens??? Don’t you mean “Informers?” A later statement that “The FBI screens the reports…” suggests that everything’s jake for those of us who would consider ourselves fine and upstanding Citizens. That is not the case though. Nowhere in this piece does it specifically say that the initial reports deemed ‘unactionable’ are destroyed. Reading elsewhere one becomes aware that there is a magical fairytale tech kingdom in the Northwest where every electronic communication goes to live forever. The governments contention is deliberately wrong footed. These kinds of surveillances should be prohibited, not just managed.
    I will argue that there is a significant difference between a normal State and a Police State. That difference is Fear. Fearful people make fear based decisions. Once there, the State has us by the b—s. I for one would prefer to keep the Hands of the State from my reproductive organs rather than find out how much ‘squeezing’ I can take.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      ‘Total Information Capture’ – from the Englehardt interview.

      Total information capture is All Knowing.

      All Knowing is not too far from All Powerful, especially given the limitless money the state possesses.

      I want to the say this is a new religion with the state as the new deity, but I have seen this religion somewhere before.

      1. ambrit

        Dear MLTPB;
        I think you might be thinking of Absolutism, as in Caesar Obama Augustus, First Citizen and Princeps.
        When thinking of our POTUS, it helps to imagine Peter Sellers in the role. That restores a semblance of sanity.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          When one is fearful, one can’t think too clear.

          And the All-Powerful, All-Knowing omnipotent State-God is to be feared…He (State-God) wants you to fear.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Perhaps God-fearing posters are right – this State-God is not merely a creation of the prideful human mind.

            Perhaps this State-God is real…and blasphemous to suggest we created Him.

            1. ambrit

              One can always take a crypto Calvinist view of the matter. Some people are predestined to salvation. The outward sign of this grace is wealth. The State-God is engendered by wealth. Like Enkidu in the Summerian tale, the State God is encompassed and tamed by the Temple Prostitute. So, the Elect partake of the essence of the Temple Prostitute and become Prostitutes themselves. I would have never guessed that, for the wealthy, the Wheel of Fate is a big Circle Jerk.
              I must rest. This contemplation of the Divine is tiring, and somewhat depressing.

  12. Eeyores enigma

    We, by that I mean a couple bright eyed, enthusiastic university “kids” and I have experimented with “brackish” water from the relatively nearby tidal backwaters. There is a whole host of beneficial minerals and organic mater in the soup we scooped up and irrigated with and many plants responded magnificently to but…Salts will accumulate. They will accumulate and there is no easy, meaning affordable way of addressing that issue and still retain all the other benefits going in. Eliminating excess salts in the soil is also very difficult and expensive.

    I would say once every 3 to 5 years it could be used beneficially in moderation. It certainly is not a breakthrough option for agriculture by any stretch.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      We need to come up with salt-eating bacteria.

      Not sure what a lot of salt eating bacteria will do to the world aside from eating salt, but first, let’s just concentrate on coming up with salt-eating bacteria.

      1. Eeyores enigma

        Don’t worry I did detect the sarc watermark when I held you comment up to the light but…

        Wouldn’t it be more expedient to let loose the human eating bacteria?

  13. Jack Parsons

    About elephants and distant storms: storms smell different. I’m going to speculate with no information that most land mammals can smell distant storms but are not intelligent enough to care or be able to act on the information. We are so blind to smells.

  14. Chauncey Gardiner

    Thank you for the link to the FT article about the stock market’s present vulnerability. Thankfully, this is the 27th anniversary of the formation of the Plunge Protection Team by Saint Ronnie on the day after the “Black Monday Crash” of October 19, 1987. One might have almost thought that “market correction” was premeditated. In any event, over the ensuing years this PPT group appears to have morphed into a powerful and complex HFT-Derivatives trading hybrid of the Treasury-Fed-Primary Dealer-Wall Street network that uses Public Money, including the Exchange Stabilization Fund (ESF), to support Financial Markets.

    Although I don’t personally recall any political candidate at any level of government publicly announcing their support of these mechanisms to generate and concentrate wealth as a plank in their own campaigns or their party’s platform, nor any public debate or even discussion about this matter, I guess it’s just assumed this is a most constructive use of Public Money because… Well, because… Markets… and because… Citizens United.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      …most constructive use of Public Money…

      More evidence we have enough public money, but sadly, not used (distributed) wisely.

      And of course, we know we have enough private money too (just not distributed to do the most good).

      ‘Not quantity of money, but quality use of money.’

  15. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    From China turning in on itself –

    “To a new leader worried about maintaining one-party rule in a nation with a history of revolution, and where just 1% of the population controls one-third of the wealth, this is not just an image problem. It is a latent threat to the stability of his regime.”

    That 1% and 1/3 wealth, that’s no different from the rest of the world. In fact, the global 1% control 39% of global wealth, per a CNBC article from 2013 (Google it).

    Not why China, alone among all the nations, should worry herself about it…

    We don’t worry about it here.

    Perhaps this ‘39% wealth concentration is no problem’ thinking is part of that ‘foreign forces’ that so concern the Hong Kong CEO.

    1. ambrit

      One must hope that there are some old guard party faithful left in positions of influence. I’ll bet that something like this was exactly what Mao most feared would occur after his leaving the scene. If the Chinese economy does collapse, the emergence of a “Gang of Four (Hundred Million)” is probable. How will to world react to a civil war in its’ largest country and economy?

  16. afisher

    Backlog of SSDI – it is a feature created by the GOP who are demanding smaller federal workers and then when the staff can not keep up with demand – then blame the agency of incompetence and demand that the process be privatized.

    We have seen this time and time again – and some seem to fall for it every time.

    Remember the whine re: deportation delay – knowing that there are insufficient lawyers and courts to handle the number of ICE arrests. I expected King to demand that people be deported based on calf size.

    1. TedWa

      And it’ll happen much more quickly because the banks now have all appraisers across the country in their employ. Thanks to A Cuomo the independent appraisal profession is all but gone.

  17. ewmayer

    Re. inflation:

    I believe one big reason inflation is so beloved by pols and policymakers is that it is a wonderful way to maintain the illusion of progress. My real purchasing power keeps dropping, but look – I got a raise last year! The real economy is in the long-term-shitter, but look! Nominal GDP grew last year.

  18. not_me

    re A Rate Cap for All Consumer Loans:

    The question one should ask is why people would be so desperate as to pay such rates? The answer is, at least partly:
    1) Asset ownership has been unjustly concentrated.
    2) Productivity gains have not been justly shared with workers.

    And the culprit? ans: Government-subsidized private credit creation whereby the rich and other so-called creditworthy are allowed to dilute the purchasing power of the poor and other non or less so-called creditworthy.

    Btw, usury is ANY positive interest rate, not just high rates. But how can we have profitable lending without collecting any interest? It’s easy: Just require slightly more collateral than the value of the loan then, if the borrower defaults, the lender makes a profit by selling the collateral. Non-defaulters get their collateral back interest-free. How’s that for a system where only the guilty suffer? Where loans are interest-free if one has collateral, including, I suppose, one’s own labor?

    Not that I would outlaw usury but I point out to those who take Dante and certain religious texts seriously that an acceptable alternative to usury exists.

  19. Glenn Condell

    An Australian giant is dead. Gough Whitlam, who like Roosevelt came from a relatively privileged background to spend his life in progressive politics, led the Labour Party to victory in 1972 after 23 years of conservative rule. Our cultural renaissance flows from this watershed – free education, single-payer universal health care, indigenous reconciliation and land rights, an end to Vietnam entanglement, diplomatic relations with China, Racial Discrimination Act, Aust Film Commission, family law reform, end of the death penalty.. and so on. All that and a famous wit to boot.


    Obit from Julia Gillard:

    1. skippy

      Yet the vulgarians are not through…

      “I remember my mother was ironing… and started crying. I thought I wonder why?

      I have to let you in on a secret, she wasn’t crying out of sadness when she heard the Whitlam Government had been dismissed. She was crying out of joy.”

      Christopher Pyne remembers EG Whitlam, approximately half an hour ago in Parliament.

      skippy… Cheers Glen

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