2:00PM Water Cooler 12/18/14

By Lambert Strether of Corrente


Richard Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations [FT, “Cuba Detente Is the Latest Sign the Cold War Is Over”]. Wait, did I not get the memo on Russia?

“Our Man in Havana,” backgrounder on the secret negotiations [Foreign Affairs].

Cubans beware: “The only reason why the U.S. government has never fallen to a CIA coup is the lack of a U.S. embassy in Washington DC” [Moon of Alabama]. Bit of a high floater, there…

Thaw in relations won’t affect baseball right away [Bangor Daily News].

Rand Paul in favor [Politico].


Is Jebbie really more electable? [Talking Points Memo]. Ed Kilgore’s not reading the right blogs; he doesn’t mention Jebbie’s bankster connections.

Organizing in Iowa; Warren as “progressive talisman” [National Journal]. Says author, like Kerry in 2004. Ouch!

Clinton aide meets with PCCC’s Adam Green [Politico], although PCCC is not in the “draft Warren” camp. Green: “Our unique role is, we’re trying to impact the playing field.” Work on your clichés….

Clinton campaign to learn from 2008 mistakes [New York Times].

[S]trategists explained to donors over lunch and in presentations that Mrs. Clinton would need to run in 2016 the way she did after she began to struggle in the 2008 primary season.

By the time the [caucus-driven] delegate tallies favored Mr. Obama, Mrs. Clinton began to show a vulnerable, less scripted and entitled side. She adopted a message focused on lifting the middle class, and she connected with women and white working-class voters over kitchen table issues. She won primaries in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Given that Clinton won the popular vote in the primary, if all the votes are counted, as well as all the big states, that might even make sense. Of course, that “strategists explained to donors” gives one pause.

Black Injustice Tipping Point

Justice sues New York City over “deep-seated culture of violence” at Rikers [CBS].

De Blasio, at Rikers, announces end to solitary for teens [Capital New York]. What is this, visionary minimalism? Why not talk about about ending the war on drugs, reversing the militarization of the police, and (while we’re at it) real jobs for rural areas instead of prisons and casinos (and, to be fair, meth). For starters.

Witness index to Ferguson grand jury report [Another Word for It]. No, the Prosecutor’s version didn’t include one!


Proceso story: “Peña Nieto’s Own Federal Police Culpable in Ayotzinapa Massacre” [The Canal]. Widening fallout.

Op-ed: If we don’t want narco states to our south, why not legalize “certain controlled substances”? [Baltimore Sun].

Mexican President spent $590M on travel and expenses, including a new 787 [Telesur]. That seems like rather a lot.

Hong Kong

The positive side of the umbrella movement [EJI Insight]. This is important. At least for now, I think one of the main benefits of “movements” is what, for lack of a better word, I’d call social capital: Trusted allies and interlocutors, rather than “demands.”

Stats Watch

Jobless claims, week of December 13, 2014: “not signaling a significant shift, either higher or lower, for the December employment report” [Bloomberg].

Leading indicators, November 2014: “[C]ontinues to signal very strong near-term rates of growth” [Bloomberg]. “[A]gain the yield spread is the biggest positive for the index reflecting the Fed’s near zero rate policy. Manufacturing orders, based on the ISM, are another strong plus.” “Very healthy” and “supports hawks.”


How New York fractivists won their victory [The Albany Project]. Very detailed, very good.

Families flee out-of-control natural-gas leak at eastern Ohio fracking well [Columbus Dispatch]. Oddly, given oil prices, the company was trying to put the well back into production after it had been plugged.

Enbridge protester guily on pipeline sit [Battle Creek Enquirer].

Our Famously Free Press

“After Snowden,” guest lecture by Alan Rusbridger [University of Sheffield]. Red brick, what?

Boston Globe editor who broke story of ranting HBR prof’s $4 Chinese restaurant overcharge demoted, after marketing own T-shirt promoting same [Talking Points Memo].

Class Warfare

Pew study on the wealth gap with handy chart [New York Times].


Syriza leader Tsipras promises to keep Greece in the Euro, keep “the budget balanced before debt costs,” end austerity, and initiate “a substantial and tough negotiation” on Greek debt [Reuters]. And square the circle! Sounds like pre-capitulation to me, although perhaps “he has to say that.” Comments from Greece followers welcome.

People who want an economy of genuine sharing are coming to recognize that they must embrace ownership [Shareable].

News of the Wired

  • Arctic warms twice as fast as world average [NPR]. Hence, warming Gulf of Maine?
  • Lancet study: Global life expectancy up six years [Globe and Mail].
  • NASA’s Kepler back in action, finds Neptune-sized exoplanet [Space.com].
  • Facebook to change its algorithm, and sites that depend on it for traffic will suffer [Felix Salmon, Nieman Labs].
  • The use of drones in East Ukraine [Conflict News]. Funding for some crowd-sourced!
  • Arab spring revival? [Politico]. Interesting, if true.
  • Frothing and stamping from the right on “The Interview” [Bloomberg]. Dunno. Guess I’m of two minds about going all in for a movie about blowing a foreign leader’s head into chunks. And I’m tired of Goebbelsian war propaganda, even if in the form of “light comedy.”
  • Liz McGrath reminds me of Jeff Koons, except with all the nice left out [Boing Boing].
  • Chinese banks offer iPhones, Mercedes cars to get deposits [Bloomberg]. “Meanwhile, households put 12.9 trillion yuan into high-yield trust products.” What could go wrong?
  • Six “Freedom Industries” [snicker] executives indicted for horrific West Virginia chemical spill [Los Angeles Times].
  • The tax lawyer who invented inversions [Businessweek].
  • Why is there so much bullshit? [Time]. Because you can order it online!
  • “The Year of Outrage,” all 365 days of it. And you can vote the day’s outrage up or down! [Slate]. This is a fun format. We should have one for finance…
  • Two words reshaping the world [Financial Times, “‘Fragmentation’ and ‘identity’ are reshaping the world”]. What, not “capital” Or, more politely, “markets”?

* * *

Readers, feel free to contact me with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, and (c) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi are deemed to be honorary plants! See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. And here’s today’s plant (MM):


Talk amongst yourselves!

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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. paulmeli

    “keep “the budget balanced before debt costs,” end austerity,…”

    Mutually exclusive unless Greece can run a trade surplus.

  2. barrisj

    For those readers who are following the Sony/”The Interview” story, Richard Brody, the New Yorker’s film critic, has an interesting POV on the whole kerfuffle:

    How “The Interview” Handled the Assassination of Kim Jong-Un

    (sorry for the inordinately long link…is TinyURL still functioning?)
    I can imagine the reaction of the US government if, oh, back in 2005 or so, an Italian or French film director decided to do a flick on the assassination of George W Bush, using the same logic as is presented in “The Interview”, including the premise of “a clear and present danger” justifying the killing of Kim Jung-un. The US reaction would go well beyond hacking into the production company’s electronic files, rather a direct presentation to the film director’s government to quash the movie ASAP, or else. But “The Interview” does raise interesting questions, particularly making a film (or writing a fictional account of an actual living person by name) where “bad things” happen to this character/personage).

    1. Jess

      Actually, there was such a film. From Wiki:

      “Death of a President is a 2006 British high concept mockumentary political thriller film about the fictional assassination of George W. Bush, the 43rd U.S. President, on 19 October 2007 in Chicago, Illinois. The film is presented as a future history mockumentary and uses actors, archival video footage as well as computer-generated special effects to present the hypothetical aftermath the event had on civil liberties, racial profiling, journalistic sensationalism and foreign policy.”

      1. Jason Ispwitch

        Unless I’m grossly misremembering, the film about Bush didn’t actively call for his assassination, but showed us a near future where he was assassinated, and what it would be like. It focused on consequences while commenting on domestic politics. The Interview appears to be a virtual celebration of the idea of both assassinating North Korea’s dictator-king.

    2. jrs

      So it’s a ticking nuke bomb. Hollywood and the CIA (but I repeat myself) really need to get some new plots, instead of making the same old sequel all the time.

    3. diptherio

      @VFXSoldier on the twitter just posted a link to this story on the Sony hack from November:

      The hackers who took down Sony Pictures’ computer systems yesterday say that they are working for “equality” and suggest that their attack was assisted or carried out by Sony employees. In an email responding to inquiries from The Verge, a person identifying as one of the hackers writes, “We Want equality [sic]. Sony doesn’t. It’s an upward battle.” The hackers’ goals remain unclear, but they used the attack yesterday to specifically call out Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton, referring to him as a “criminal” in a tweet.

      The hackers claim to have taken sensitive internal data from Sony. In an email from an address associated with the hack, a hacker who identified as “lena” was vague about how the attack was carried out. “Sony doesn’t lock their doors, physically, so we worked with other staff with similar interests to get in,” lena writes. “Im sorry I can’t say more, safety for our team is important [sic].” The email address in question is an open account, which allows anyone to send mail from it without entering a password. That means it’s possible the message was sent by someone with no relation to the attack itself. Still, because the address was included in the initial .zip file and lena identified as part of the group behind the attack, the message raises real questions about the political motives behind Sony’s recent troubles. The account has also sent similar messages to other outlets, suggesting a consistent voice.


      So, uh…as Ned Ludd was saying earlier, the evidence for NK being behind the hack seems a bit…contrived.

    4. dearieme

      The Beeb is about to broadcast a “book at bedtime” on the assassination of Thatcher. That’s a fictional assassination, not the actual assassination attempt that she survived.

      God, they can be low at times.

  3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Cuba and celebrating the coming new year.

    As we get ready to close the book on 2014, we reflect on another successful of neoliberalism.

    Ukraine – in the bag.
    Russia – neoliberalism is on the verge of returning there 10 fold.
    Cuba – say hi to our newest chain gang member.
    Syria – application is in and good news should be forthcoming.

    1. James

      Don’t think that beef’s quite ready for consumption yet, there Prime.

      Ukraine: Still a mess that could go either way, but which Russia will likely wisely kick to the curb, if nothing else as an object lesson in the foolhardiness of US Neoliberalism.

      Russia: A stalwart holdout in the resistance and an object lesson to Muricans about how it is still possible to resist the Neoliberal “allure” of free money/credit, cheap imported consumer goods, and no jobs provided by an oligarchic elite, who then unabashedly pose as their saviours.
      2015’s not even here yet, but the dance card is full already. It’s gonna be one for the books alright, but here’s my insider tip for the day. Rumors of Russia’s imminent demise have been greatly exaggerated! Write it down!

  4. Vatch

    “Arctic warms twice as fast as world average [NPR]. Hence, warming Gulf of Maine?”: Near the beginning of the SF novel “The Engines of God”, by Jack McDevitt, there’s a scene during a hurricane in Maine in the year 2202.

  5. David Lentini

    Time for Poop!

    Does this mean that next year we’ll have “Brown Tuesday” after “Cyber Monday” or “Brown Wendesdady” before “Black Friday”.

    Of course, in America every day is Bullshit Day!

  6. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Meanwhile, on Wall Street, blue chips up nearly 300 points, as the rich enjoy the Fed’s smooth chamber music, drowning down and out cries for help up and down Main Street.

    ‘Son, it’s important you cultivate a taste for elegant music.’

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Can someone please shut the dang door?

      I really want to soak in this fine 370+ boudoir music? It’s ‘comfortable’ here, ain’t it? Oops, isn’t it?

      1. Paul Niemi

        A neat way to close Guantanamo Bay, perhaps. . . We can just give it back, now that we are all amigos with Raul.

  7. diptherio

    Re: Owning is the New Sharing

    The shine came off the “sharing economy” pretty quick. However, the success of Uber and AirBnB are a proof-of-concept for systems that could easily be created with community/cooperative/user ownership. I keep thinking that municipalities could easily set up their own versions of Uber for their cities, with any monetary benefit going to the community rather than wherever Uber keeps it.

    I’m just hoping we can keep this internet thing going long enough for the real transformational potential of enterprises like the ones in the article to be realized.

    1. hunkerdown

      A few years ago in the Detroit metro area, there used to be free air for one’s tires at gas stations. Then, some vandal came around and cut off the heads of the air hoses, and not long thereafter they all went to coin-operated pumps which strangely were always in perfect repair.

      I’d expect a similar salting of the commons by whiny, self-righteous rentiers, if the state of play of municipal Internet is any sign.

      1. James

        I noticed the coin operated pumps as well as soon I bought a TPS equipped car, which also conveniently chimes incessantly the instant any one of my tires falls out of near perfect synch with the others. And of course new car dealers are already recommending/selling nitrogen only servicing on your tires, obviating the need for even that. Not to mention cold weather and altitude issues (I live at 7,200′), which both affect TP as well. By design? I’m sure, as was the tightening of oil change and service intervals to 3000 miles some time back in spite of BETTER oil and engine technologies. The old saw about “pretty soon they’ll charge us for the very air we breathe,” is not far off at all. We passed the ‘water for sale’ barrier 25 years ago, and we already sell oxygen for seniors and such now. Not hard to imagine crossing the ‘clean air for sale’ barrier any time now in many areas of the world, especially as many are already donning particulate masks on particularly hazy days in those same areas.

    2. DJG

      The sharing economy is another name for piecework or moonlighting. The place that I stayed at through AirBnB was pretty much a boarding house for grad students, with someone sleeping behind some Japanese-style shoji screens in the living room, too. Uber is moonlighting, using one’s car to make a little cash. I suppose that we can now think of someone’s living room as excess industrial capacity, now that we’ve exported the factories.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Well, that Boston Globe editor was trying to make a few bucks and who can blame him/her?

        It would be funny if your Uber driver shows up with an idle Presidential limousine, complete with secret service agents.

        ‘Is there an extra charge for that?’

        ‘No, but if you and your mistress want some privacy in the back without these agents, I will have to charge more.’

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          ‘My Uber ride this morning was on a school bus. To be honest, I didn’t enjoy my fellow riders that much.’

  8. different clue

    Moon of Alabama is mistaken. The US has indeed slowly fallen to a rolling “Insider Coup”. The Kennedy/King/Kennedy/etc. assassinations were visible milestones of that coup in “rolling rollout”. Gatekeeper Leftists don’t want for themselves, eachother, or any else to think about that.

    1. James

      And 9-11 was its confirmation. JFK was the Crucifiction/Passion Play (the father), RFK and MLK were the echos/affirmations (the son and the holy ghost), and 9-11 was the Second Coming in all it’s glory. Has modern history entered a new epoch? Look around and decide for yourself.

    2. Demeter

      I concur. I grew up expecting assassination around every corner, thanks to the CIA, the BFEE and the Mafia. I was a traumatized third grader.

  9. Jim Haygood

    MarketWatch beards Jebbie:

    Florida Gov. Jeb Bush condemned Obama’s move as a sellout to the Castro brothers who have ruled Cuba since Fidel Castro took power in 1961.

    It is a hypocritical stance that pretends to defend the people of Cuba — those people who were dancing in the streets at the news — but in fact is pandering to a narrow wedge of aging Cuban-American voters who nurse a hatred of the Castro regime.

    Above all, it is a maladroit political move, as polling indicates that even a majority of Cuban-Americans in Florida are open to resumption of diplomatic relations with Cuba, while an overwhelming majority of Latinos nationwide favor the move.



    But the McKinley wing of the Republican party lives on …

  10. DJG

    Syriza, Tsipras, and the euro. Years ago, Luigi Barzini wrote an essay mentioning Italian enthusiasm for supranational organizations. The Italians were eager to form the EEC. They were big fans of the formation of the European Union. But the Italians kept ignoring the central purpose of the EU, which is to control the rivalry between the French and the Germans. The Italians thought that the regulations handed down could be used to control their own elites, keeping the communists in line, since they kept getting 32 percent of the vote. The Greeks thought that the EU would prevent their elites from resorting to further undemocratic means (the coup, the junta, the colonels) and somehow manage the inefficiencies of the Greek state. For the Greeks, the euro still seems to represent a chance to control the elites and to control finances. The good old weak drachma didn’t do that. For the Italians, the euro was their sacrifice for European harmony. The good old weak lira, constantly going up and down against the dollar, mainly down, kept the Italian economy buzzing along. Why the third largest economy of Europe should be going through such travails can only be a result of sacrificing the lira. At least the Italians have a large enough economy that leaving the euro is a possibility (although the maladroit Grillo is the wrong one to lead the campaign). Isn’t Tsipras in a dilemma? What would be left of Greece on exiting the euro now the austerity has wrecked the country? It is the debt and the troika that are crushing the Greeks. The euro is a symbol (whereas in Italy it may be the culprit.)

    1. NOTaREALmerican

      It’s funny how the “Progressive” misread what “da people” want when “da people” support something politically. This goes for supporting (what is called) “Balance Budgets” or “Austerity” too. “Da people” don’t want real Austerity; what they want is some way to control the corrupting effect of society of those leaching off of government. They want some way to control their government as they know that voting doesn’t really matter when the government exists simply to distribute loot to cronies. All you can do is try to starve-them-out (“Austerity”).

      (Golly, sure would be nice if we had some torture “austerity” wouldn’t it?)

      1. hunkerdown

        I think that would be within the capabilities of any one or group who can get a hedge fund manager into an unmarked windowless van without calling attention to themselves.

        And, ah, voting in a “representative” “democracy” never mattered. That’s just a convenient Real American fiction that supposedly distinguished the US from the British Empire. If Americans want to have genuine, tangible power in their society, they’re going to have to wipe the shoe polish off their tongues and start making decisions for themselves without asking their “betters” for permission. Vested authority is the problem, not a component of any solution.

      2. OIFVet

        Utter nonsense. What part of the deficit is due to social spending, and what part is due to military spending? What part is due to the special privileges of the rich and corporations, such as bailouts on the public dime and special tax breaks/regulation exemptions? Why do we need to spend so much on the military if not to protect the very interests of those who control the government? Their interests are not OUR interests, yet it is you and me who bear the costs. Those costs also include poverty caused by government policies such as “free trade” which artificially keeps wages down even as productivity keeps increasing. Your defense of austerity is so misguided that it borders on frightening.

        1. jrs

          I think they were perhaps referencing European politics judging from what the thread is about.

          I mean in the U.S. it’s near impossible even to tell what da people want, the representative democracy so poorly represents them. And it’s not so easy to starve say the military, the banksters, or whatever, through austerity as they can always create money. This is not a good thing, sociopaths with the ability to pour money into whatever sociopaths want. Not a good thing, but they can.

          1. OIFVet

            They were, but that only makes the ignorance of the unREAL one stand out that much more. Europeans on the whole love their social democratic welfare state, and are none too happy about its steady dismantling under the German neoliberal/neocolonial diktats. Unlike USians, the Europeans don’t tend to think about welfare recipients as “lazy moochers sucking on the government teat”, unless it concerns foreigners coming from Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Yet unREAL is engaging in the time honored American tradition of blaming the victims and evoking the proverbial Cadillac-driving welfare queen, thus projecting American views onto distant Europeans whose very culture tends to reject such rot. It’s beyond asinine.

            1. different clue

              What is the German leadership’s motive for this? Do they think that if non-German Europe spends less of its own money on taxes for social benefits and infrastructure . . . . that non-German Europe will spend more of its own money on German exports? Is that the belief and the motive?

              1. OIFVet

                I think that it is single-minded belief in neoliberal tenets, as codified by the Stability and Growth Pact, which is then used by the bureaucrats of the European Commission (dominated by Germany of course) as a lever to control member states. It is quite telling that the main backers of the Pact, France and Germany, have failed time and again to meet the prescribed limit of 3% annual budget deficit and 60% debt/GDP ratio, yet have been quick to threaten other member states, most notably Greece and Portugal (see Stability and Growth Pact). Notice from the graph that most of the member states who are currently in compliance with the Pact are also EU’s poorest members (the Baltics, Bulgaria, and Romania), who were subjected to savage austerity measures while far richer members are free to flaunt the Pact. It’s a double standard that punishes the poor and benefits the rich by providing them with a steady supply of cheap migrant labor. It may sound paranoid but frankly I view today’s Germany as a malevolent Fourth Reich, using its economic dominance to accomplish what the panzer divisions of the Third Reich could not: colonize Europe.

    2. John Jones

      The E.U rules and the Euro were also a culprit for Greece. Since joining Greece has become deindustrialized and bled money through trade imbalances.

      If they want to control their elites they need to do it themselves with there own laws. Not external ones.
      Greece as a state achieved much more on its own and especially without the E.U ans Euro

      1. OIFVet

        The loss of sovereignty is a feature, not a bug. The sovereignty is voluntarily squandered by the local compradors in return for some vague promises of Euroatlantic values and prosperity (for whom???). Then the Eurocrats in Brussels can go to work creating the capitalist version of the centrally planned economy. They only need some countries as export markets for the Euro north, source of cheap labor unencumbered by old borders, and source of grains/cereals. That, and a sunny holiday destination where desperate locals are eager to please the condescending “guests”. Accordingly the productive capacities of certain countries are stripped, and sold off, with a side of self-righteous hectoring about the virtuous, hardworking North that the southern colony ought to emulate. It is my fondest dream that the EU should fall apart.

  11. jo6pac

    “Mexican President spent $590M on travel and expenses, including a new 787 [Telesur]. That seems like rather a lot.”

    I would say that’s about right because every time the plane landed he and wife bought a new mcmansion for retirement.

  12. alex morfesis

    in re: greece…

    “Tax evasion would, according to SYRIZA, be battled by establishing a transparent, digital database of everyone’s personal property”


    looks like some of the 20,000 cuban “advisors” in venezuela are now going to go to greece to form some classic “commiteys” if alex Tsipouro (tsipouro is greek rotgut) from skreemzyra can fool enough of the people on election day…

    nothing in his proposals that I can see call for fixing the giant property records problem in greece that the 400 families running the show don’t want fixed…all one needs to do to steal a property in greece is to get moe larry and curly off the chair in the kafenio and they sign affidavits claiming you rode your donkey thru property “x” for ten years and poof like magic (hey maybe that’s where the robosigners got the idea…hmmmm…) and for another small donation, one gets a judge to rubber stamp an order (yup, greece is where those merz people must have gotten the idea) giving any olde bloke adverse possession and ownership…there have been hundreds of millions handed off to fix the problem for almost 20 years and nothing…nada…zip has been properly done…oh yeah…they once asked people to send in paperwork for any “claims” they may have had…no evidence required…just fill out this form and say it is yours…and after a while…in those vacant properties that no one sent in any paperwork in…like from australia…poof…someone will have a friend suggest you fill out a claim form for those “unwanted” properties…


    a cross between Lebanon and zimbabwe…that is how I describe the land of my ancestors…

    is there anyway I can get the illegal conversion of the ionian islands republic by the brits in the 1860’s overturned so I too can start my only little fiefdumb too…

    1. John Jones

      Hypothetically lets say this is true

      Do you think if it fixes this that the crisis will be solved?

  13. hunkerdown

    Vatch, I believe you were asking about the current capabilities of robots and by just how much they can displace humans in production? Product designer and Xbox hacker emeritus Andrew “bunnie” Huang just posted a chapter he wrote for a book on the Maker movement, which speaks to it:

    As menial as these duties may seem, in reality, the simplest tasks for humans are incredibly challenging for a robot. Any child can dig into a mixed box of toys and pick out a red 2×1 Lego brick, but to date, no robot exists that can perform this task as quickly or as flexibly as a human. For example, the KIVA Systems mobile-robotic fulfillment system for warehouse automation still requires humans to pick items out of self-moving shelves, and FANUC pick/pack/pal robots can deal with arbitrarily oriented goods, but only when they are homogeneous and laid out flat. The challenge of reaching into a box of random parts and producing the correct one, while being programmed via a simple voice command, is a topic of cutting-edge research.

    1. Vatch

      No, it wasn’t me, unless it was a long time ago, but thanks for the interesting quote. I remember reading about a robot a decade or so ago that was trying to stack some items. It tried to start with the top of the stack, rather than the bottom, because it didn’t understand gravity. It did not have much success.

      Several people were discussing robots a couple of days ago here:


      And CWaltz mentioned robots yesterday:


  14. jrs

    Ok was this actually said with a straight face? What a straight man that Obama is, plays high comedy oh so seriously.

    All buddy buddy with the Bushes: “Obama added that the “great thing about democracy” is that “anybody can run, even the son of and brother of former presidents.” ”

    Yes, yes, there are a lot of words one could use for that …democracy would not be the first one that would come to mind. Wait let me inspect your cheek Obama, I think a tongue got stuck in there. They think it’s FUNNY see … the people’s lack of control over “their” so called representative government. It’s funny.

    And people believed that joker was a savior. And people still believe? The jokes on you and they are laughing.

    Let’s do it again in 2016. Once more with feeling.

    1. OIFVet

      Michelle Obama in 2020!!! Chelsea in 2032 and Malia in 2040!!! Let’s face it, deep down Americans did not so much object to aristocracy as they did to the person of King George III. Just look at all the love for fair Prince William and Princess Kate. Before long the homegrown aristocracy will be codified too, you better believe it…

      1. James

        I’d focus less on who’s ostensibly running it now, than helping to plan for what’s next. The good news is that the hard work is already being done for you. The current state of affairs is already collapsing as we speak. The hard part is that you young’ns will have to decide what’s next. Start focusing on that now and don’t waste your time on right now or projecting it into the future. Your future won’t be our future, it will be yours alone.

  15. Lovely

    Uber halts Portland, OR operations on Dec. 21 for a 3 month hiatus to work towards Portland City operational approval:


    I tried to submit a link a day or so ago that outlined how talks between Portland and Uber originally broke down.


    I wrote a bunch more stuff in the other submission, but the key take aways about the Portland taxi system, only 460 cab permits, when comparable cities have 7,000 permits! The other take away about the jobs generated by the current taxi system was around net average $6.25 a hour. That’s less than minimum wage in Oregon. Still not sure how this is legal. I’m guessing that maybe the net included deductions from earnings for fees paid by drivers to the taxi cab companies for driving a permitted car. I read on a blog, Portland Mercury, that those fees run about $450 a week. The cab company earned about $47,000 a year PER CAR based on those rental fees paid by the drivers who rented those cars. Check the comment from poster ujfoyt here:


  16. OIFVet

    Warzone cat. War zones are the same regardless whether they are in Iraq or Ukraine. Soldiers seek the comfort of companionship of local stray cats and dogs. They have helped many a soldier get through yet another day at war…

    1. James

      Very nice! Our animal friends no nothing of our insane human predilection for war, and thank god for that!

  17. Marianne Jones

    Good although late link submission on the Sony hack… This link breaks down exactly what data was released and when. One item caught my eye, that in addition to Sony Pictures US data, the hackers also lifted Sony Japan data, specifically AXN / Sky Japan client information. Possibly more. Apparently the hackers lifted 100TB (!!!) worth of data. God knows what all is in a stash that size.


    So with Sony Japan ensnared in the leak, local Japan data privacy laws kick in. Check out this rather old link from late November. Sony Japan executives could be on the hook for penalties, even jail time. How fun!


  18. jgordon

    If I added presentation and my name on a plant photo as if I were submitting it for a competition, would you all publish it like that–or do the photos you use absolutely have to look like cellphone snapshots?

  19. Sam Kanu

    …Richard Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations [FT, “Cuba Detente Is the Latest Sign the Cold War Is Over”]. Wait, did I not get the memo on Russia?…

    re: the link/quote above: if the US is hell bent on a new cold war. then obviously it would not want Cuba as a chink in it’s armour so close to home. I think that’s why the carrot is being held out t Cuba.

    The same theme is true of that recent “trade and environment” deal recently announced with China. The US does not want China to get too close to Russia, so thus has created this framework to incentive Chinese to not stray too far. And that came very soon after China had signed a deal with Russia for gas supply.

    So this Cuba is only more confirmation of the cold war really.

    Anyone who thinks Obama did this gesture to Cuba for altruistic reasons is really naive.

    What’s interesting is the Cuban-American lobby is goiing bananas about this thing, Clearly they have not looked at the geopolitical angle and realised what’s really going on here. The military state in the US has no problem throwing domestic dissenters out the window the when it comes to stuff like this…

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