Links 11/8/14

Why did the cat sit in the circle? No idea, say dumbfounded vets, but this is one trick that even the stupidest pet can pull off Daily Mail (Kevin Drum via JT Faraday)

Snow artist has the Alps as his canvas GrindTV (Jeff W)

Remains of missing Frenchman identified in Alaska Reuters. EM: “Sad, but he died doing what he loved, among some of the most spectacular scenery on Earth.”

Danish ship fuel supplier OW Bunker goes bankrupt BBC

In Praise of Global Imbalances Project Syndicate (David L)

BEIJING: On eve of summit, Japan and China pull back from the brink McClatchy. Um, when cats are fighting in a bag, if you open the bag, they stop for a second and look up, surprised. Summits produce a similar effect.

As US and China meet at APEC summit, a drama involving billions in trade Christian Science Monitor (furzy mouse)

Mexico scraps high-speed rail project won by China over corruption worries McClatchy. There has to be more to this story. Corruption is a feature, not a bug, in Mexico even more than in the US. So the Chinese must not have been bribing the right people.

China, Europe, and optimal currency zones Michael Pettis

G20 experts to act on corporations internal loans that help cut tax Guardian

Greed is no longer good for millennials Financial Times

Fitch: Russian Central Bank Move Partly Eases Reserve, Oil Risks Reuters

Rouble’s fall threatens to reshuffle Russia’s banks Financial Times


Ukraine Accuses Russia of Invading DS Wright, Firedoglake

US, NATO say no evidence of new ‘Russian invasion’ of Ukraine RT


Going against Netanyahu, 84 percent of US Jews favor Iran nuclear deal Christian Science Monitor (furzy mouse)

Pentagon Team To Learn How To Commit War Crimes Moon of Alabama

F.B.I. Is Investigating Retired U.S. Diplomat, a Pakistan Expert, Officials Say New York Times

Al-Qaeda’s Heirs Bloomberg (furzy mouse)

Five reasons Obama wants Congressional backing for ISIS war Chicago Sun-Times

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

Facebook Conducted ‘Psychological Experiment’ On Users To Manipulate US Election Turnout Addicting Info (EM)

How journalists can protect their digital information Columbia Journalism Review. The paucity of good ideas, let alone concrete measures, is troubling.


Supreme Court agrees to hear new challenge to Obamacare Christian Science Monitor (furzy mouse)

Republicans to Begin Chipping Away at Obamacare US News. The immediate target looks pretty trivial.

Election Wrap

More Bad News for Dems: Total Total Total 2014 Spending Favored Them (Slightly) Angry Bear. Translation: the Dems needed to put a lot more lipstick on this pig than they did.

Green money loses battle of billionaires Financial Times

Neo- Confederates Emboldened Daily Kos. The only basis for Dem hopefulness in 2016 is that the Republicans managed to leash and collar the real crazies for the six months before the mid-terms, and got generally less extreme candidates on the ballots. If the radicals take the fore again, they might manage to make the feckless Dems look like the better of crappy options.

Obama picks low-profile Attorney-General Financial Times. More on this shortly. Note that one of her first acts as the Attorney for the Eastern District of NY was to shut down the criminal investigation of AIG Financial Products. So “low profile” apparently = “little to no interest in getting headlines by busting bad guys” which is what real prosecutors like to to.

Nation’s first soda tax is passed USA Today

30 Years of Conservative Nonsense, An Explainer Vanity Fair. Not exactly right on Obamacare, but correct that the conservative scare memes were often off base or greatly exaggerated.

Detroit breaks new ground in bankruptcy settlements Reuters (EM)

whither Markets?

US earnings boost masks revenue fears Financial Times

Oil price drop could have perverse braking effect on economy Reuters

Shale Drillers Idle Rigs From Texas to Utah Amid Oil Rout Bloomberg. As we predicted.

Why Oil Prices May Shoot Back Up Bloomberg

Class Warfare

Inequality is world leaders’ biggest worry: WEF CNBC. Puhleeze. I’ll believe their concern when they start advocating highly progressive taxes in all advanced economies, including high taxes on estates exceeding, say, $5 or $10 million dollars, with no sneaky ways to get more money to heirs without tripping those taxes like the use of trusts.

Making money in an age of machines Financial Times. All of this depersonalization will increase anti-depressant sales. I like my interactions, even if minimal, with support staff, like the checkout people at stores and the employees at my gym. Even in big anonymous NYC you come to know each others’ habits in places you frequent.

Understanding and Overcoming America’s Plutocracy Jeffrey Sachs, Huffington Post (RR)

Bloomberg Philanthropies Launches New Initiative to Help High-Achieving, Low- and Moderate- Income Students Apply to and Enroll in Top Colleges and Universities Bloomberg Philanthropies. This is good but shame on those top colleges. It used to be possible for poor and lower-middle income students to attend and graduate debt-free, between scholarships and work-study (which yes was a big charge on their time that children of more affluent parents did not bear, but it sure beat student loans. Plus recruiters and graduate schools gave extra points to kids who did work-study. They knew those students had to be super disciplined and organized).

U.S. labor market tightens, but wages still anemic Reuters. EM: “Translation: ‘We’re losing average-wage with every new McCrapJob created, but we hope to make it up on volume’.”

The hidden truth about job growth, lost amidst the statistical noise & optimists’ hopes Fabius Maximus. This is a great chart series. Circulate widely.

Antidote du jour (furzy mouse):

fox and chicken links

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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  1. dearieme

    “This young graduate is a “millennial”, one of the generation born between the early 1980s and the late 1990s. Now they are aged between 18 and 33 years, in the early part of their career”: at last, at last, I know what a millennial is.

    On t’other hand, it’s such a boring idea that I’ll presumably forget it in no time.

    1. cwaltz

      My definition of millennial is the only generation more screwed than Gen X because by the time they came of age the PTB plain ol stopped pretending the system we are using was meant to be fair. Redistribution left up to the robber barons is soooo much fairer than when the guvmint does it dontcha know.

  2. Doug Terpstra

    Let me guess, the antidote was a pre-election photo op. The poultry just didn’t buy it this time.

      1. Doug Terpstra

        Yup, the one in the right is a strutting cock, who Taibbi just skewered. He’s now headed for the rotisserie.

    1. jgordon

      Oh, and here I was thinking it was an allegory for the government’s relationship with the people. Sure will suck for that chicken when fox misses a couple of meals.

  3. NotAStatsGuy

    Question on wage & job growth:

    In my company, I have older employees that have been with the company for 20+ years. They are now retiring. They are paid commensurate with the skills and seniority they have accumulated through the years. When one retires, it seems the reportable statistical impact is:

    1. One person leaves the workforce, which I think helps the unemployment rate percent.
    2. When I hire their replacement, conceivably one person is added to the workforce (either directly by being hired of of unemployment of leaving a job at creates another vacancy to be filled).
    3. Total wages paid probably go down, as the replacement will probably not have the experience or require the same compensation as the previous employee. Also, I’m motivated to hire at the lower end of the wage band for this position, to leave room for growth in future years through raises.

    At the national scale, if my process/place in the hiring cycle is similar to other firms, the retiring of the boomers will lead to:

    1) a lower unemployment rate for a period (not do to job growth, but due to people leaving the workforce) and
    2) lower wages paid because of changes in experience and seniority.

    It seems like we may have go through a period of stagnant wage growth due to a resetting a wage levels.

    Interested in anyone else’s thoughts on this. As the name suggests, I’m not a stats guy.

    In response to the anemic wage growth link.


    1. Ed

      I’m sceptical that these older employees are being replaced like everyone says they are, and anyway there is hard data showing that the current group of older employees is not exiting the work force in large numbers -the older age groups are the only ones showing increasing labor participation rates- though I suppose they will leave the labor force when they die eventually.

    2. neo-realist

      In some cases when an older employee, or any aged employee leaves is that the responsibilities of that person’s job may be split between other employees, in accordance with the lean and mean working model that many companies are increasingly adopting of doing more work with fewer employees.

    3. afisher

      When I retired, I thought the same as you did. That did not happen – they merely gave an individual ( who didn’t have qualifying credentials) my job and kept their other position within the company as well.

      It was interesting – as there was a pretty large turnover that happened after I retired. The new management did a terrible training job and to counter the training incompetence they hired more incompetent individuals and said that each individual would have a year to become competent in only one task, not the entire job.

    4. GuyFawkesLives

      Oh, hey that’s what happened to me, only I didn’t “retire” I was laid off. And then sociopathic management was able to hire 20 somethings at 1/3 the cost. 20 somethings are happily working 60+ hour work weeks for $30,000. It’s disgusting.

  4. efschumacher

    In the Vanity Fair article about Republican persiflage I disagree with the statement that the Iraq War “cost America 2 trillion dollars”. It really depends how you define “America”. Most of the cost was (past and future) transfers from the US taxpayer to the military and infrastructure-building contractors, for rockets and tanks to destroy buildings, for concrete, plumbing and electrics to rebuild them, and on in a repetitive sequence.

    Now you might argue that putting that $2T into, for example building out infrastructure, implementing energy conservation, and an endless list of measures to improve the people’s security, would have been a more responsible use of taxpayer wherewithal. But most of that $2T does go to benefit Americans. Just, not many of ’em.

      1. Banger

        Great point–the strange thing about this war is how far and wide the money was distributed. To put it as simply and brutally as possible, there is no more something called “the national interest” if is rather the interest of various networks. It all works like organized crime (because it is) so that Mafia organizations that came from Russia or Calabria have networks that span the globe. This is also true of networks within the military and the intel/covert agencies (and there are many of them within the government each with their own operatives in particular places.

        1. Paul Tioxon

          It is not that the power networks operate like the mafia, organized crime, but the criminals operate like the state. I know the temptation to denigrate the state, corporations, capitalism is always the first thing comes to mind. The state comes first and criminal activity which is endemic since Cain killed Abel, is following the cultural lead through socialization. Even the corporation is given a slice of the state franchise of sovereignty to a degree. As bureaucracy became such a powerful tool of social organizations, from the strong central state to the large scale business enterprise, it did not escape notice of criminals who were being hunted by various modernizing police agencies and fought back by emulating the state, corporations and created their own formal organizational structures. Once powerful enough, they are kept in line, much as within any hegemony, because it is receiving benefits in excess than if they conducted business their way, on their terms all of the time is a chaotic manner. Weaker criminal organization that can not produce a strong centralized command and control structure are hunted out of existence for the all of the grief they cause they general populace. Left wing groups, unions, and all other manner of radical political change proponents are systematically destroyed, while narcotics, guns from Russia and China are more easily found in the cities than supermarkets. Not to mention widespread book making, loan sharking and sex trafficking massage parlors that dot the commercial avenues of America. Criminals follow the organization lead of the business world and government.

          1. Jim


            Taken your analysis, what is your way out in terms of political vision and organizing strategy?

    1. Kurt Sperry

      A great deal of wealth was destroyed in Iraq. Wars are entropic, highly so. Wealth is closely related to order.

      In any case it seems obscene to argue the economic utility of industrial murder.

      1. Propertius

        It might be obscene, but there’s certainly ample historical precedent. One need look no further than Cicero’s objection to Caesar’s campaign in Britain. He didn’t object on moral grounds, but rather because there wasn’t enough in Britain worth stealing and because he considered the Britons too dimwitted to make good slaves.

        1. Kurt Sperry

          I don’t object to obscenity in the cause of peace if wars can be prevented arguing against their economic utility–and those arguments will I’m sure find copious emiprical support. There is still a chilling moral indifference implicit in such calculations and they remain obscene. Any reckoning of Iraq that ignores or sets aside the unimaginably vast and needless death and misery it caused is to me ghoulish. If the war had returned a ten-fold profit it would have been no more morally justifiable.

        2. efschumacher

          Well when you consider that the Celtic people’s, including the Britons, were never able to mount an effective defense against, the Romans, the Angles/Saxons, the Normans or the modern corporations you might have a point about their (our) dimwittedness.

          We still haven’t learned effective communal defense against the violence and repression model.

      2. Doug Terpstra

        Obscene is right, Kurt. I suspect efschumacher was played the role of amoral calculating psychopath mainly for effect. I supposed one could further speculate on the kill rate, or dollars per murder and then calculate the exponential growth in the terrorist base for its effect on imperial GDP. Brilliant criminal insanity.

      3. grizziz

        Your poetic usage of the terms wealth and entropy obfuscate your rebuttal of efshumacher who is staking his claim on the terms cost and benefit. Even if it is not your personal preference to argue for or against the funding of war, efschumacher does mention that there could be a utility calculation between building bombs or bridges.
        There are many historical precedents, including wars which argue for a budget for a ‘defense’. There are many recent examples of the USA using its defense on offense which is an awful predicament, but still needs to be faced and not dismissed as obscene. If the Republicans are able use your disgust to minimize your participation in the debate, they are more likely to succeed in funding their corporate sponsors in the military industrial complex. If successful, the benefits accrue to the MLC and the costs to taxpayers.

        1. Kurt Sperry

          The argument that war is less economically stimulative than required infrastructure investment is in my opinion so self evident as to be trivial. My somewhat metaphorical uses of the terms wealth and entropy are based on the obvious, that wars inherently push order into disorder and by so doing are economically destructive on net–even if some small group benefits.

            1. Kurt Sperry

              As ever, follow the money. I assume the benefactors of military spending are closer to the heart of the state than whomever might benefit from a more rational set of priorities.

              1. efschumacher

                Which is, in fact, part of what I was trying to argue.

                To Yves rebuttal I ought to correct that my “beneficiary Americans” are really a global stateless elite. And, the idea that capital is perfectly fungible and without any duty to the social context that generated it, is to me another of those obscenities.

    2. optimader

      “It really depends how you define “America”. ”
      It really depends on how you define “Cost”. The cost is well beyond the Treasure we threw in a hole in the desert. IMO US$2TT is a very optimistically light estimate.

      This number does not include “legacy” cost for stewarding the wounded human carnage (as well the incalculable lost opportunity of the destroyed potentialities of ALL the people killed and wounded ) and the unremediatable pollution of Iraq with depleted uranium dust that will haunt that geography and it’s population into the future.
      ‘Costs of War’ Project

      PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Ten years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003, researchers have released the first comprehensive analysis of direct and indirect human and economic costs of the war that followed. According to the report, the war has killed at least 190,000 people, including men and women in uniform, contractors, and civilians and will cost the United States $2.2 trillion — a figure that far exceeds the initial 2002 estimates by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget of $50 to $60 billion.

      The report was released by the Costs of War project, based at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies. Catherine Lutz, the Thomas J. Watson Jr. Family Professor of Anthropology and International Studies at Brown University, co-directs the project with Neta C. Crawford, professor of political science at Boston University.

      Among the group’s main findings:
      •More than 70 percent of those who died of direct war violence in Iraq have been civilians — an estimated 134,000. This number does not account for indirect deaths due to increased vulnerability to disease or injury as a result of war-degraded conditions. That number is estimated to be several times higher.
      •The Iraq War will ultimately cost U.S. taxpayers at least $2.2 trillion. Because the Iraq war appropriations were funded by borrowing, cumulative interest through 2053 could amount to more than $3.9 trillion…..

    1. Kurt Sperry

      The vibe in Iceland is not one of any panic or the sort of human degradation that results from poverty that can all too easily be seen in the US, or even in Paris or London. They are managing their affairs far more rationally than most of our own governments. It’s like a miniature Alaska, except with smart people. I think they’ll do fine as long as they keep their currency.

      1. sd

        Unfortunately an increasing number of the intelligentsia are bailing and moving out of the country. I think 6,000 have moved to Norway since the collapse. Nurses and doctors in particular are taking jobs elsewhere. Without the tourism, Iceland would be seriously fubar.

        1. Kurt Sperry

          I don’t think that a small percentage of the nation’s medical professionals leaving for higher pay in the petro-fueled Norwegian economy is really either a surprise or an augury of doom. And it’s a small place–even Reykjavik hardly seems more like a city than a town, if I were born and raised there I’d probably want to work abroad some just to broaden my experiential horizons. Throw in a job offer plus some extra money as a bonus, Norwegian not being too different from Icelandic and it’s “sure, why not?”.

            1. Kurt Sperry

              If all that needs to be done to fix the situation is to give some doctors a pay raise then the situation hardly appears catastrophic. As crises go, that’s a pretty easy one.

  5. Bridget

    My guess is that the Supreme Court and the Republican congress are going to deliver the old one-two punch to Obamacare. All Congress can on its own is force Obama to veto a series of popular amendments. They have no way to force Obama to the table. But if the Supreme Court guts the subsidies, Obama will have no choice but to agree to pretty much any changes that Congress wants in order to salvage Obamacare. This is going to be fun.

    1. sd

      Kabuki. Obama Care is Romney Care. Republicans got exactly what they wanted including a Republican President with. (D) after his name so they can look like they are doing something. Bush v Gore pretty much proved the Supreme Court has no interest in law when it handed down a decision without Precedence.

      1. Doris

        “Obama Care is Romney Care.” No, it is not. RC cost less and the freaking website worked. It was thrown out in favor of a stinking disaster that is far from over in MA. We must all “reapply” starting 11/15.

        1. afisher

          DAMN! How inconvenient to demand folks to dare to consider it they want to change from their current policy. How totally irresponsible to actually make an individual think! That surely isn’t the America you voted for…having the opportunity to chose!

        2. Brooklin Bridge

          Romney care may have gone off more smoothly, but it was the same basic raw give-away to private insurance companies. And it proved beyond all doubt that those insurance companies would raise prices rapaciously year after year regardless of how many fish the government forced and crammed into the shooting barrel.

      2. trish

        I find it hard to believe the Republicans really have any intention of eliminating this massive handout to their friends in the insurance industry.

        They’ll put on a good show for their far less important constituency who have been duped into believing that obamacare is socialism! .

        they’ll eliminate little things that offend their corporate buddies like a tax on medical devices and pull the lost revenue from somewhere in the budget, likely from something that actually benefits the public, the poor…gut subsidies, perhaps…Obama will go along with it all, playing the hapless progressive against the evil Rs…

        1. Propertius

          I think they’ll keep the mandate but privatize more of the administration in order to “get the government out of healthcare”. They’ll probably also loosen the standards for acceptable plans (thereby making the plans worth even less) in the name of “choice”.

        2. Doug Terpstra

          Spot-on. ObamneyCare is the insurance racket’s pet bill, privatized death-panel gatekeepers, and all talk of repeal is nothing but red-meat theater for TP rubes. Any GOP changes to ObamneyCare will only make it worse, not repeal it.

        3. James

          And they’ll effective frame their lack of willingness to repeal it as a D obstructionism problem, thereby allowing their idiot followers to continue railing about the “evil D socialists,” rather than realizing it’s their own party doing it to them. Another reason to eliminate the Ds so that all this good cop bad cop nonsense can stop. Honestly, its hard to imagine how Americans can be so damn gullible regarding fairly simple issues and transparently obvious motives. The socialism boogeyman in particular has proven to be amazingly resilient.

  6. optimader
    Occupation, the gift that keeps giving

    Do you know how many letters denouncing Jews the police receive every day?” Catherine Deneuve asks her Jewish husband in François Truffaut’s film The Last Metro, set in Occupied France in 1942. “Give me a number.”

    “I have no idea. 300?” her husband replies.

    “Fifteen hundred! Fifteen hundred letters a day saying ‘My boss is a Jew,’ ‘My neighbor is a Jew,’ ‘My brother-in-law is a Jew.’ ”

    La DelationLaurent Joly’s 2012 book, La délation dans la France des années noires (Denunciation in France During the Dark Years), quotes from some of the millions of denunciations sent to France’s Occupation authorities between 1940 and 1944. Many were anonymous, composed with letters cut from a newspaper, while others were written on letterhead and signed, but all aimed to destroy someone—a boss, a neighbor, a relative, a rival.

    Not all were written. One day in March 1943, “Eugénie D.” (seven decades on, French law protects the identities of many of those studied by Joly), who worked for the Occupation authorities and consorted with German soldiers, was walking home when René J. shouted at her: “Whore!” Eugénie turned round and hissed: “Now you’ll find out what a whore does.” A few moments later she returned with two German military policemen, who arrested René. A military court judged his remark an insult to the German Army and deported him to Mauthausen, where he died a month later. After the Liberation, a relative of René denounced Eugénie for “horizontal collaboration,” and a French court sentenced her to five years’ hard labor.

    It’s easy to forget the wounds inflicted by foreign military occupation, whether in Europe after 1939 or in Iraq after 2003, especially when the occupied country is deeply divided—a circumstance that often encourages some of the vanquished to seek revenge on their domestic enemies through cooperation with the victors. We can multiply the denunciations of René and Eugénie by hundreds or thousands, each one resulting in the death, imprisonment, or humiliation of a French man or woman.

    The legacy of hurt and hatred that such behavior creates takes generations to dissipate. Even today, in every French town or village, everyone knows which side their neighbors, or their neighbor’s parents or grandparents, supported during the Occupation. They also now know who denounced whom.

    When Joly’s book appeared, French television screened a documentary that focused on a few of the cases he documented. One of those featured in the program was the sister of “Annette,” a young woman denounced anonymously in 1942 for being Jewish. She was arrested and deported to Auschwitz, where she was killed. Her sister discovered the truth only much later: Annette had been denounced by a doctor because his son had fallen in love and wanted to marry her. To avoid having a Jewish daughter-in-law, the doctor wrote his denunciation on his personal letterhead. His son, Annette’s fiancé, pined until the Liberation allowed him to try to find her—but a German bullet killed him first. So the doctor prompted the death of his own son as well as of the woman who was to be his daughter-in-law. Seventy years later, Annette’s sister (now in her 80s) told Joly that discovering the truth “was like a knife to my heart. And it’s still there.”

    As I watched and listened to Annette’s story, I learned something that I—born and raised in a country that was never occupied—had overlooked. Long after the foreign troops go home, the harm and mischief that they do, or that they permit or encourage others to do, live on. Nothing, no one, will ever be the same again. The knife is still there.

    1. Jagger

      ——The legacy of hurt and hatred that such behavior creates takes generations to dissipate.—–

      And now the Jews do the same to the Palestinians. So who will the Palestinians take out their hurt and hatred on for generations?

  7. rich

    Saturday, November 8, 2014
    The Sore is Private Equity

    Carlyle co-founder David Rubenstein told fellow billionaire Ron Baron at an investor conference:

    “In other words, if you have a sore … you eventually figure out how to live with the problem.”

    “It’s an illness we’ve been suffering from,” he continued. “If we could get rid of this sore, could get rid of this problem, I think the economy would do better.”

    Rubenstein referred to dysfunction in Washington, but his words equally apply to private equity. The rise of private equity corresponds with the decimation of America’s middle class. Many believe the relation is not just correlation. but cause and effect. Ironically, Carlyle Group is investing in companies that sell to China’s rising middle class

    Since 2000 PEU greed and leverage spread to other public and nonpublic companies.

    By manipulating debt and equity companies dressed up earnings per share,

    ensuring executives got their absurd executive incentive compensation.

    Every industry expects Washington to provide preferred legislation, backstop their failures and enhance their profits. Washington in turn expects donations, which the big money boys provide. Mr. Rubenstein is correct about the sore and he is one infectious agent.

  8. Howard Beale IV


    Notably, there is no judicial oversight of eavesdropping conducted by GCHQ or other British security agencies; their surveillance operations are signed off by a senior politician in government, usually the Foreign or Home Secretary.

  9. fresno dan
    I walked up to the east entrance of City Hall and tagged the words “N.Y.P.D. Get Your Hands Off Me” on a gatepost in red paint. The surveillance video shows me doing this, 20 feet from the police officer manning the gate. I moved closer, within 10 feet of him, and tagged it again. I could see him inside watching video monitors that corresponded to the different cameras.
    I woke up the next morning and Fox News was reporting that unknown suspects had vandalized City Hall. I went back to the entrance and handed the guard my driver’s license and a letter explaining what I’d done. Several police officers were speaking in hushed tones near the gates, which had been washed clean. I was expecting them to recognize me from eyewitness descriptions and the still shots taken from the surveillance cameras and immediately take me into custody. Instead, the guard politely handed me back my license, explained that I didn’t have an appointment, and turned me away
    Two months later I arrived at Manhattan Criminal Court at 9:00 a.m. and stood in a line of people that stretched out to the street. I found my way to the courtroom and watched cases being called until around noon, when my attorney beckoned me into the hallway and confirmed what had been written on the assistant state attorney’s file at arraignment. “The district attorney’s office is playing hardball. They are seeking a guilty plea against you and requesting jail time if you don’t take it.”

    “But it’s a first-time misdemeanor, that ridiculous—”

    “I know, but they aren’t budging. Your only chance at avoiding the consequences of a guilty conviction is going to trial.”

    Seven subsequent months of visits offered snaking lines, courtrooms packed with misdemeanor offenders, assistant state attorneys threatening jail time, and the steady issuing of fees, fines, and surcharges.

    In the end I was found guilty of nine criminal charges. The prosecutor asked for 15 days of community service as punishment. My attorney requested time served. The judge—in an unusual move that showed how much the case bothered him—went over the prosecutor’s head and ordered three years of probation, a $1000 fine, a $250 surcharge, a $50 surcharge, 30 days of community service, and a special condition allowing police and probation officers to enter and search my residence anytime without a warrant.

    9 criminal charges for two acts of graffiti as a political point.
    What does the above prove? In my view, it proves that the legal system has degenerated into a system designed to perpetuate itself, and that it will crush any individual, ESPECIALLY if that individual was once part of that system and understands how it accomplishes its oppression, and that threatens or exposes its behavior.
    The state doesn’t have to oppress everyone to accomplish its goals….

    1. Banger

      I am sorry you had to go through all that. If you’re going to sabotage the State well….but don’t get caught! I don’t think symbolic protest is a good idea–giving the state more money in fines and pain for you doesn’t make sense to me. Back in the days when the Republic wasn’t completely dead it made a certain kind of sense but today it isn’t going to do much.

      Why are they reacting to such an extreme? First, the State is made up of individuals with varying agendas and personality types. If you want to “advance” within a corrupt and authoritarian system as ours is you want to make sure that if you err you err on the side of drawing clear “them” and “us” lines so that everyone knows that you’re serious. “Them” who hold “us” in contempt must be crushed even killed. The more the State degenerates into this Hell of hatred and evil the more police, judges, bureaucrats will find new ways to do nasty stuff. Those that aren’t inherently nasty will see their nasty colleagues getting ahead, getting invited to the rich oligarch parties–you know the drill. The judge you describe has inhaled the notion that he/she is the State and your desecration of the most important symbol of the state, the repressive apparatus, is likely to be viewed as a personal assault.

      I was part of a group whose motto was “smash the state” back in the day but we didn’t really know what we were doing nor did we know that whatever evil shit the FBI and the police were doing back then was child’s play compared to what they’re doing now.

    2. wbgonne

      Solitary acts of civil disobedience, while noble, do not give the protester much leverage in the criminal justice system. The criminal justice system, however, is overstretched and is easily overwhelmed by large numbers of people demanding jury trials.

      1. Kurt Sperry

        Would large or even medium scale civil disobedience resulting in mass incarcerations be sustainable? I suppose you could empty enough prison places with drug law and other reforms like the recent California referendum law, but having a large public gulag system of imprisoned nonviolent political dissidents? When the US is as oppressive as China or Russia it will lose whatever claim it possesses to world leadership. The US would never be taken seriously again internationally, and there would eventually be serious international political, cultural, trade and even military repercussions.

        One guy getting jailed for spray painting political graffiti and refusing to cop a plea or pay is probably nothing, a hundred would be a small problem, ten thousand, a big problem and a million would be I’m guessing catastrophic.

  10. susan the other

    Thanks for the link to Project Syndicate. About ‘Are Imbalances Good?’ – it begs the question. The question being, Is capitalism fatally flawed? Nobody ever asks. Because everybody knows the answer is yes. The article kicks up enough dust to cover all tracks and concludes that today, after the Great Debacle, the US is the only economy left standing that can “absorb” infrastructure investment and thereby continue to keep the capitalist oxymoron of the free-flow of capital alive for another decade of theft from the poor and the environment.
    BUT over to the side menu there was an article by one Michael Spence on the growth needed to prevent catastrophic climate change. Better to invest now than later. The take away for me from Spence’s pro environmentally-friendly growth position was this: “Depleting natural resources is destructive underinvestment.” Indeed it is. And intentionally so because theft has been the capitalist paradigm for 10,000 years. The structural change we need is a mental one that recognizes how expensive “profit” is and adjust accordingly. Michael Spence is a new voice for me. He sounds as sensible as Steve Keen.

    1. not_me

      The structural change we need is a mental one that recognizes how expensive “profit” is and adjust accordingly.

      According to that greatly ignored (though revered by many) Book, profit is good, profit taking is bad.

      Usury is a form of profit taking as is dividends but if we were to use common stock as private money then we could have profit without profit taking since common stock as private money requires neither interest nor dividends; instead the profits can accumulate in the share price times the number of shares.

      So there’s really no need for ANY government involvement in private money creation unless the objective is just to change who does the stealing.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        The tried and true method of valuing stock is a dividend discount model. Anything else is rank speculation (and investing in stock these days is pretty much rank speculation). Companies that accumulated cash like Microsoft used to engage in special dividends if they didn’t want to commit to paying regular dividends. Now they buy back stock to manipulate the price and boost executive pay. You are telling me that that is a more ethical solution?

        1. not_me

          IF stock buybacks are NOT financed with government subsidized credit, then I see nothing inherently wrong with them except since the purpose of a common stock company is to consolidate capital and not dissipate it, then they are stupid and the management should be fired for incompetence. But if they ARE financed with government subsidized credit, then the share price is being subsidized by government.

          However, the lovely boom-bust cycle caused or at least greatly exacerbated by government subsidized credit creation creates a “dearth of investment opportunities” (Keynes?) during the bust so that even stock buybacks can look attractive.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            For the most part, companies are issuing bonds, and hence not using bank credit. However, the nature of diffused shareholding among public companies means they cannot be fired. So most public companies are being slowly liquidated so that the executives can pay themselves better.

        2. not_me

          The tried and true method of valuing stock is a dividend discount model. Yves Smith

          Then some sort of government subsidy is going on, I’d bet, since dividends are dumb in that they disperse capital when the purpose of a common stock company is to consolidate capital for economies of scale. And I’d bet that the subsidy is government subsidized credit creation for so-called “creditworthy” companies.

  11. amateur socialist

    I added a comment to that Angry Bear story where I divided the (estimated) budgets for those Senate races by estimated turnout I found here. Some genuinely eye popping numbers folks. Alaska with 300K votes cast turned out to cost about $180/per. Tiny New Hampshire was about $90 a vote. And this was just for down ballot Senate races.

    Imagine what might have been done with that money if it could have been transferred directly to voters instead of media conglomerates? Imagine how this distorts the market for actual marketers trying to sell trucks, toothpaste and toilet paper.

      1. amateur socialist

        It does make one wonder how things might have gone if the fearless leaders at the DNC could have just made a simple announcement: “We could have spent $x/voter bothering you with calls and endlessly repeating ads on your TVs or online but decided to bribe voters directly…..”

        I’m no fan of Scott Brown but I would have considering giving him my vote for $90 cash. Considering the alternative.

    1. amateur socialist

      Steve Roth over there isn’t as lazy as me so he actually applied the spreadsheet to the budgets. You can find out how much your vote cost here

  12. pdooley

    “Note that one of her first acts as the Attorney for the Eastern District of NY was to shut down the criminal investigation of AIG Financial Products. ”

    Lambert– please provide more detail. I couldn’t find reference to this in the Google machine.

  13. Anonymous123

    Thanks for posting the link about the nation’s first soda tax. We were really proud that our Measure D passed here in Berkeley! Robert Reich even did a PSA in support of it when “Big Soda” started spending an exorbitant amount of money to defeat the measure ($2.3M for our little local election!). It was interesting, the lengths the American Berverage Association went to…they took out giant billboard size ads in the Bart stations and plastered the walls with their propaganda (par for the course), but also had a staffer MOVE here so they could establish residency and sue the city for trying to put the measure on the ballot (!!!). But our soda tax passed, with 75% of the vote. A clear and resounding message for the ABA to go drown in their sugary syrup.

    Another interesting measure on the ballot in Berkeley that didn’t get much attention was Measure P: Constitutional Amendment to Eliminate Corporate Personhood. I’m no expert in how the legal system works, so I don’t know whether it was largely a symbolic measure, or if it could actually get taken up by higher courts…but it seemed important and we also overwhelmingly passed this Measure.

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