Links 12/16/14

To Spur Adoptions, an Oakland Cafe Puts Cats Among the Patrons New York Times

What did the Romans ever do for us? They left a warning about the virtual water trade Raw Story (Margarita). Important. First heard about this at the Milken conference in 2008, with no reference to the Romans.

Death on the Internet: The Rise of Livestreaming Funerals Atlantic

Is Bitcoin the worst USD investment of 2014? MacroBusiness

The Guerrilla Tactics of The Racket, and How It Almost Upended Journalism Wired

What’s on your surgeon’s playlist? Science Daily (Chuck L). What is with these fluff BMJ pieces? Or does the BMJ do tongue in cheek pieces routinely and I’m late to be clued in?

Sydney Terrorist Aftermath. Sadly, this will probably be one of the best things ever to happen to Tony Abbott. He can use this as an excuse for all sorts of bad stuff he wanted to do anyway.

Uber offers free rides in Sydney after criticism of price surge amid siege Reuters

#illridewithyou: hashtag offers solidarity with Sydney’s Muslims after siege Guardian. Lambert already linked to this, but it still illustrates how has managed to maintain a sense of community in the face of a continuing neoliberal/neocon onslaught.

Anti-Islam ‘Pegida’ march in German city of Dresden BBC

Strikes across Belgium cause transport chaos BBC. Note: protests in Europe finally getting coverage. Large protests in Portugal and Spain a few years back were given short shrift by the media. But these also look to have been designed to cause serious knock-on effects. Protestors finally realizing that the way to get attention isn’t just to turn out but to target key infrastructure.

Greece warned against ‘suicidal’ debt move Financial Times

Democracy is at issue in Israel’s election Financial Times (David L)

Closed for Risky Business: Stop Supporting Toxic Tarsands Toronto Media Co-op. Martha r: “Disruption.”


Rouble tumbles on fears for Russian economy Financial Times

Ruble Slips Back After Initial Rebound Wall Street Journal

It Didn’T Work: Russian Ruble Collapses After Late-Night Rate Hike Business Insider

The ruble’s collapse is disastrous for Putin – and bad for you too Fortune

Why the Ruble Fell as Oil Rose Bloomberg


Pakistan Taliban ‘kill 100’ in assault on Peshawar school BBC (furzy mouse)

Guantanamo 9/11 hearing canceled, Army spokesman says Reuters (EM)

Emerging Markets Freakout

Why 1998 Was Different, and Same, to Emerging-Market Crisis Now Bloomberg

Emerging Market Oil Importers Are Suddenly Under a Cloud Wall Street Journal

CIA Torture Report

C.I.A., on Path to Torture, Chose Haste Over Analysis New York Times

The Charmed Life of a CIA Torturer: How Fate Diverged for Matthew Zirbel, aka CIA Officer 1, and Gul Rahman Intercept

Conversation with a CIA Interrogator CounterPunch

The Supreme Court just made it easier for police to search your car Vox

Why big spending on political campaigns makes racial inequality worse Washington Post

U.S. taxpayers help fund oil-train boom amid safety concerns Reuters (EM)

Hannity favorite ‘Witness 40′ in Wilson grand jury is a liar and convicted felon: report Raw Story (furzy mouse)

Texas lawmakers put new gun rights laws in their sights | Reuters. EM: “Legalizing public masturbation, Ammosexual-style.”

Fare dodger banned from City posts Financial Times. Flagged by Lambert but a classic of its sort. So if you cheat outside of your day job, you’ll get busted by the banking authorities. But cheat as part of your day job? It’s why you were hired.

Bankers, like alcoholics, must first admit they have a problem Financial Times (David L). They won’t and don’t have a problem unless the rest of us succeed in inflicting real costs on them.

Whither Oil?

Saudi Arabia is playing chicken with its oil Reuters. As we suggested early on.

Oil price fall threatens $1tn of projects Financial Times

Why Big Oil Needs a Bailout in New OPEC Price War Fiscal Times

Oil spill: As the oil price plunges, gloom and ill-will, oddly, abound Economist

Keystone XL pipeline may no longer make economic sense, experts say Los Angeles Times (martha r)

Big Trouble for the Bakken Oil Field: Has the Bust Begun? Steve St. Angelo, SRSrocco Report (Brian C). Important. While this is posted on a goldbug site, the hard asset pitch is very short and at the end of a long and persuasive-looking, chock-full-of-data analysis of the underlying productivity of the Bakken oil field. If this assessment is correct, or even directionally correct, a lot of conventional thinking about Bakken and the outlook for US energy production needs serious revision.

Fed Plans To Have Cheap Oil, Higher Inflation, Rate Hikes, Cake Dealbreaker

Treasury Department Seeking Survival Kits For Bank Employees Washington Free Beacon (furzy mouse)

Fallout for the S.E.C. and the Justice Dept. From the Insider Trading Ruling New York Times

Class Warfare

Wealth inequality has widened along racial, ethnic lines since end of Great Recession Pew Research (martha r)

As Robots Grow Smarter, American Workers Struggle to Keep Up New York Times. David L: “Concern about technology — the printing press, the steam engine or the computer — supplanting humans is not new. But this time may be different.”

Economic Recovery Spreads to the Middle Class New York Times

Following Christie, Kansas Gov Proposes to Use State Pension Money to Pay for Tax Cuts David Sirota, International Business Times

Antidote du jour. Josh’s new cats have grown up:

Josh burmese links

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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  1. dearieme

    “What is with these fluff BMJ pieces?” When I used to see the BMJ, I’d often see some tongue-in-cheek fluff shortly before Christmas. Doctors often have a sense of humour, albeit usually primitive.

  2. Carla

    At $52 apiece, those Treasury Dept. survival kits sound like quite a bargain. Perhaps some Treasury entrepreneur could make a nice profit by ordering extras and selling them to the rest of the rubes: the general public.

    1. diptherio

      Yeah, this is pork if I ever saw it.

      Can’t wait to hear what the official explanation for this is…if they ever deign to provide one. My guess is someone at Treasury is dating a prepper and trying to make a good impression.

  3. Katniss Everdeen

    RE: What did the Romans ever do for us? They left a warning about the virtual water trade Raw Story

    More important and interesting than it may sound at first, especially given the persistent drought in the American west, which is leaving some Americans without running water and indoor plumbing as a result of dry wells.

    Concern is growing over the “export” of the Colorado River through the export of alfalfa grown in areas of the west in need of significant irrigation:

    “Glennon crunched some numbers and figured that in 2012, roughly 50 billion gallons of western water—enough to supply the annual household needs of half a million families—were exported to China. Not literally bottled up and shipped, but embedded in alfalfa crops grown with irrigation water. And that’s just to China, which still trails Japan and the United Arab Emirates as a top destination for American alfalfa.”

    And all made possible through the miracle of globalization and the “staggering” trade imbalances produced:

    “As a result, “it costs less today to ship a ton of alfalfa from Long Beach to Beijing than it does to ship it from the Imperial Valley in California to the Central Valley,” explains Glennon.”

    And then there’s the fracked shale oil which we hope to export…….

        1. Peter Pan

          Just like with the NYT, you have to go to second to the last paragraph to discover that Salon’s title of the article is kind of a scam.

  4. John Merryman

    Not that I’m in banking, though various relatives have been , over the centuries, but I think the whole underlaying premise needs to be examined. What powers the process is public assumptions of their right to compound interest and no one wants to point out that doesn’t necessarily come automatically and often requires forms of unsustainable and ecologically harmful growth and when that doesn’t work, forms of implicit ponzi schemes become the norm and so the whole model eventually has to adopt essentially corrupt proctices to deliver what is expected.
    It was one thing when banks effectively issued and maintained their own currencies, but what we have now is where the public is responsible for maintaining the currency, while the banks still harvest the rewards. Naturally it will blow up. Either we go back to private currencies, or we move onto a public banking system, where profits go back into the communities generating them. Government used to be private, but no one wants to go back to monarchies, since they lost sight of their public function. A public backing system would have to work like democracy, with local, regional and national systems, working together and balancing each other’s functions.
    The fact is that money is a form of contract, not a commodity and as such it functions as a public utility. We own our houses, cars and businesses, but the roads connecting them are public and no one cries socialism over that. Money is a medium, just like roads.
    Just a thought for the morning.

    1. NOTaREALmerican

      Re: A public backing system would have to work like democracy, with local, regional and national systems, working together and balancing each other’s functions.

      In case you didn’t notice democracy doesn’t work in a country like the US. And public banking wouldn’t work for the same reason. The “Progressives” and “Conservatives” talk allot about of wanting democracy but they really want centralized control so that the “correct people” make the important decisions. The ONLY thing the “Progressives” and “Conservatives” disagree about is who are the “correct people”.

      Public banking would be owned by the same people who own the politicians now.

      1. John Merryman

        Some form of top down executive ordering function is going to exist in any society. Too much and you have North Korea. Too little and you have Somalia. Nature doesn’t really care about our preferences and ideals. Complex entities survive for as long as the forces holding them together are greater than those pulling them apart.
        Our problem is that money is fundamentally a contract which we think of as a commodity. The other side of every asset is an obligation, but we think the value should somehow be integral to the note. Thus the disparagement of “fiat money,” which is actually based on public debt and as such is very viable, as long as it is within the means of the public to support.
        Any society has some form of organic to institutional contract on which members can count on one another, in order to exist. When the powers that be insert a form of notational, quantified system, it both allows a larger economic process to exist, than one based on personal trust and allows the value generated by that community to be siphoned off, ie. taxed.
        Now if people were to be taught and fully understand the tradeoffs involved in such a system, they wouldn’t necessarily reject it, but they would be far more careful how much they take it for granted and are willing to use in in situations where it could be bypassed. Local communities could have their own indigenous currencies, voucher systems, or simple community connectivity. Such economic relations as child and elder care, primary education and other basic services could go back to being functionally organic and not need to be exactly quantified. A degree of obligational fuzziness binds people together.
        As it is, we are reaching the point where the foundations of this system have been undermined in order to put ever more value at the top and it will fall over, because it is top heavy. So if we can start now to educate people how the system functions, then when society starts putting itself back together, there will be much less opportunity to take advantage of an educated public.

        1. James

          Good points John. But don’t underestimate the messiness or the pain of the transition. A whole lot of the current 7.2B are going to have to “find other accommodations” in the process. Won’t be easy!

      2. hunkerdown

        NARA, not to invoke the true Scotsman’s fallacy, but if you feel the need to promote the lies that a talent show of liars a) has anything to do with democracy when the people’s will isn’t binding b) was ever intended to work for us, whose payroll are you on?

      1. John Merryman

        An enormous, enormous, enormous paper bubble. At some point it simply will pop and at which point, will have consumed every possible resource on which those perpetrating it will have to fall back on. At which point, the financiers will lose control and the baton will pass to those security elements they put in place. Then they will find it is not healthy to have made yourself disposable, when those holding the keys were chosen for their lack of empathy. Then we will have show trials of various current Masters of the Universe.
        As a society, there will be that brief window between when we are staring into the totalitarian abyss and actually falling into it. Here is a fairly brief essay I wrote on the nature of reality and where it seems headed;

  5. Ben Johannson

    My understanding is tha Russia allows conversion of domestic deposits into USD. That needs to stop immediately. Until it does these rate hikes are going to be seen as acts of desperation, increasing stampede out of the rouble.

    Put banks into receivership, push losses off on foreigners and when the dust clears return them to normal operations with a new restriction: if they can’t get USD on the fx markets, don’t come to the central bank asking for them.

    Anyone have an in with the Kremlin? I sent an email to the President’s office but my opinion isn’t worth a damn. I really don’t want to see Russians go through a repeat of 1998.

    1. Jim Haygood

      ‘My understanding is that Russia allows conversion of domestic deposits into USD. That needs to stop immediately.’

      From the central bank’s point of view, yes. Rate hikes rarely work to defend a collapsing currency, when the underlying cause is likely capital flight.

      For ordinary citizens (not the oligarchs, who already have houses and bank accounts in London), capital controls are harsh medicine. Foreign study or travel becomes difficult or impossible. Supplies of newest-model computers, phones, and even spare parts for old equipment dry up.

      Some US economists take a remarkably nonchalant attitude toward capital controls, never actually having had to live under them.

      1. Ben Johannson

        No one is talking about capital controls, this is an issue of currency sovereignty. Russians need to be stopped from converting the roubles in their accounts to USD and the country as a whole should be de-dollarized. There is no good reason for Russia to allow financial control of domestic policy by foreign investors and governments.

        It would help for someone to tell Putin this; so far his government has acted stupidly in its response.

        1. bob

          “There is no good reason for Russia to allow financial control of domestic policy by foreign investors”

          Foreign investors? A russian oligarchs best friend is his dollars, or pounds. Do you really think they’re gonna let a guy like putin be in charge of their capitol?

          They know exactly what kind of guy he is, one in the same.

          If he stopped “allowing” the conversion, which isn’t really accurate anyway, he’d piss all his buddies off.

          1. Ben Johannson

            Orlov is correct: the Russian central bank is an enormous part of the problem in refusing to move toward greater financial independence for the country and Putin himself appears captivated by Washington Consensus thinking. Unless this changes it’s 1998 all over again.

            1) stop convertibility

            2) raise taxes to reduce quantity of roubles and engineer a revaluation.

            3) denominate oil transactions in roubles.

    2. ohmyheck

      I don’t have an in, but this guy does. And what he has to say is utterly fascinating! The video is is not too long, but there is a translation in the comments, for those who prefer reading.
      The information is brilliant. The last 5 minutes is hair-raising.

      Evgeny Fedorov – a deputy in the Russian parliament, and coordinator of the People’s Liberation Movement.

      “Central Bankers suppressing Russian economy”

      (There are more videos as well)

  6. russell1200

    Sigh, I like a good Roman-U.S. apocalyptic story as well as anyone, but it would help if you the author even knew the first item on the subject.

    Yes, you could say the virtual water trade collapsed, leaving the Western Roman empire (the Eastern half stuck around until 1453) short of “virtual” water. Some would call this virtual water food, but I understand the point.

    The Virtual water trade collapsed when the Vandals conquered North Africa (in the area of Today’s Tunisia) which as the chart somehow misses, was the big food producer for THE city of Rome. Or, like most folks, you could say that Rome fell when they were conquered.

    I have seen this same “meme” flouted along with the idea that Rome’s transportation network was the bottleneck for its industry, and when transportation system collapsed (see Vandals above, and add some various Goths, Angles, etc.), its industry collapsed with it. Again, you could say that. Or you could just say they were conquered.

    You can argue as to why they were conquered, and many do, but when it is put in that context it is very hard to say that it was problems with virtual water or industrial transport that did them in. You could say that AFTER they collapsed, the loss of the industry and food supplies caused a population crash, but I don’t think normal folks are too surprised to hear that large migratory invasions (the migratory part is important) lead to a population crash.

    1. Ed

      The current historical consensus about the collapse of centralized Roman government in the Western provinces is that it was mostly an internal matter. The overhead of maintaining what had become a rather Soviet style system greatly exceeded its benefits and was too much for a pre-industrial economy to bear.

      The historical myths in this area are particularly thick. First of all, the fifth century collapse was simply not that bad. It was particularly bad in northwest Europe, where the most backward and expendable Roman provinces were, and as this area dominated the world in the two centuries after the industrial revolution, we tend to view the transition from the classical world from this angle. Second, the role played by Germanic tribes was not that important. The Roman Empire after Sulla marched on Rome was a military dictatorship, and after Theodosius the army relied mostly on German recruits, with entire tribes in the fifth century recruited into the army en masse and retaining their tribal structures. As government had to be simplified, the tribes were simply handed control over entire provinces (generally by agreement).

      Third, the Mediterranean reached a sort of population bottleneck in the second century AD, and was reduced through a series of plagues, with the economy shrinking. Its been hard for nineteenth and twentieth century peoples to comprehend what living in a shrinking or steady state economy looks like. The baths were among the first to go, but the useful aqueducts were among the last. Rome itself remained a major city until the middle of the sixth century when the aqueducts were cut during a war between the Eastern Romans/ Byzantines (using mostly Hunnic soldiers) and the Goths.

      The main myth of the fall of the Roman Empire is that it is some sort of warning for the present. Actually, as Tainter pointed out, the elites of the time managed the retreat from the population and technological bottleneck of the second century AD to a simpler, lower population society quite well; the less essential infrastructure was reduced gradually over a period of centuries and alot of the classical civilization was preserved. Present industrial civilization and its problems are much greater by several orders of magnitude, the elites are much less capable than the soldiers and bureaucrats who ran the Roman Empire, and things are simply more likely than not to suddenly go splat.

      1. DJG

        Two intriguing points above about Rome and the continuity of Roman institutions. (The Roman Catholic church even still maintains Roman management structures.) An excellent point is that much of northern European scholarship is filtered through English biases: The English preferred their Greeks dead and didn’t recognize the Italians as heirs to the “noble” Romans. So you get nonsense about discontinuities that are necessary to English ideas about themselves. As a further example of adaptation to the realities after the collapse of the Western Empire, I’d point to the founding of Venice around 600 CE, its rapid rise, and its institutional continuity till the late 1700s. Further, we keep making discoveries about the efficiency of Greek and Roman industry that are tantalizing, everything from poultry farming around Rome, to networks of roads, to brick-and-tile factories in Umbria, to the Antikythera mechanism and its uses.

          1. James Levy

            Well, fascinating to a point. There was a complete collapse of that tantalizing advanced industry between 400 and 650, a massive shrinkage in long-distance trade, a fall-off in population and in acreage planted, and an astounding loss of literacy and books per capita in Western Europe. No amount of “late antiquity” cultural continuity can remove these material facts. The problems seem to be not the barbarians per se, who often tried hard to maintain Roman systems after the centralized Imperial government collapsed, but their intermural fighting, a lack of skilled tradesman to carry on craft traditions, a flight from the towns because of incessant raiding and endemic disease, some kind of climate shift in the 6th century, and the Plague of Justinian, which was as bad as the Black Death but hit a more vulnerable epoch. No serious scholar can or I hope would maintain that Western Europe was as wealthy or advanced in the 7th century as it had been in the 2nd. There was a material regression and a loss of knowledge and skills. The group most effected was the literate urban class, who outside of a few places in Italy were largely annihilated in the transition to the early Feudal era.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          That the Catholic church maintain Roman management structure is an interesting lesson.

          Some patrician Roman families were able to preserve themselves through that new power center, so that their DNA, like the DNA of Confucius and the DNA of a prophet, the DNA of old feudal Japan, the samurai and their lords, lives still.

          And that is something to consider when one compares Money Creation. When new money is exclusive for the People to spend, that People Power.

          That’s because Money = Power, so we are talking about People Money.

          Imagine Rome had a system where the Emperor could print as much money as he desired and, Heaven forbid, when some new slick force took over that structure. It would be terrible for that structure to be fallen into the hands of these really greedy charmers.

          Compared to the alternative, compared to the right way of going about this. If new money was only for the People to spend, these sweet talkers could charm their way to the control of the imperial government, but the People would still own the source of real power – money.

          The lesson here is this, without implying anything at all about the Church or religion – we are talking about a general lesson, trying to foresee possible negative consequences, which might not have occurred before: A structure, a system that relies on virtuous men or women to run it is not virtuous at all.

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Rome itself remained a major city until the middle of the sixth century when the aqueducts were cut during a war between the Eastern Romans/ Byzantines (using mostly Hunnic soldiers) and the Goths.

        And lucky for those Romans who earlier had relocated to Constantinople.

        Also something happened around the sixth century, or perhaps not too long after or too soon before – a new force, a new messenger brought by a new messenger, from out of the desert in the east that the Second, Third and, even today, the Fourth Rome have had to get along with, though little known by those benighted Anglo-Saxon tribes up north.

    2. juliania

      I thought it was the elites went bonkers. (Pertinent to today.) Everything was served up in leadinfused pots and bowls and beakers, so it was Vincent van Gogh on steroids. Trickle down rot. Of course, that was oldschool history in very old schools that didn’t teach economics, so I’m probably way off base.

  7. Uahsenaa

    The scotus decision is considerably less doom and gloom than vox and other outlets have made it out to be. They made it easier to, N.B., pull you over not search your vehicle, and only in situations where the application of a particular statute is markedly ambiguous. This is not a new concern; there are a number of cases over the past hundred years or so that deal with this problem. The officer searched the vehicle, again N.B., because the defendant consented to the search, even though he was under no legal obligation to do so. I see this as an object lesson in knowing what your rights are and not a woe-is-us story of the deterioration of civil liberties.

    1. Jim Haygood

      Okay, try this on for size. Did you know that if you ‘like’ a Facebook post of someone who’s suspected of a crime (even if you know nothing about it), you can be arrested for the thoughtcrime of ‘conspiracy’?

      The most recent Crew Cut raid took place this past June, just after dawn. Helicopters circled low over the Grant and Manhattanville housing projects in West Harlem. Hundreds of officers swarmed into the buildings as members of the press, tipped off beforehand, watched from the wings. In all, 103 defendants, many between the ages of 15 and 20, were indicted. (The word “Facebook” appears more than three hundred times in these indictments.)

      Affiliation with a crew, even a tangential one, can be a deciding factor in getting locked up. “I find it disturbing and scary,” says Christian Bolden, a professor of criminology at Loyola University. “In many states, if police see you together with someone three times — and this can be in real life or in a picture they find online — that is enough to prove conspiracy.

      *sound of donors’ photos with Cheney being flushed down the toilet*

      1. Katniss Everdeen

        Must have “only” been one of those “situations where the application of a particular statute is markedly ambiguous.”

        In the land of the free and home of the brave, you just gotta live with “marked ambiguity.” You’d have to ask Scalia since he channels the “founding fathers,” but I think I heard somewhere that the framers felt that “marked ambiguity” is the price we pay for a free society.

        PS. What does N.B. stand for?

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        What happens when you ‘+’ someone’s comments, and that someone later got into trouble, three times in a blog?

        1. James

          You would be downgraded to dogfood immediately and be sold marked “for pensioners or homeless consumption” only.

      3. Uahsenaa

        I would agree that this is dumb, but it’s also not analogous to the case underlying the scotus decision.

        It’s not entirely clear why I’m getting hammered for this opinion, but let me abundantly clear, especially to Katniss (since I think we’re ultimately of the same mind on this): the police could already pull you over on the thinnest of pretexts, often mostly made up, so this decision changes very little with regard to under what circumstances you might be pulled over or detained. What is more important is for people to be aware of what they are and are not obligated to do when placed in those situations, namely provide the required ID (in some states) but otherwise say nothing and consent to nothing, no matter how the police try to intimidate you, and they will.

        This case changes nothing with regard to searches and seizures, which, I assume, is what people actually worry about and what got the defendant in trouble. There would have been no case if he simply hadn’t consented to the search.

  8. Banger

    According to a story in the WaPost 59% of Americans back torture as a reasonable reply to 9/11. Never mind that we don’t know who caused 9/11 since there was no forensic based investigation of the events–all the American public needs is someone to point fingers at the “usual suspects” and voila, there is the enemy and torture is justified. And why not–torture is glorified in most American action films. Torture is to me, the most immoral act a human being can commit.

    This attitude, after 9/11, infected all security agencies in particular the police who have used the pro-security mood of the country to kill people without thought and they are almost always cleared by a Grand Jury not matter how egregious their crime. I’m certain that if the police break down my door and kill me they will never suffer any consequences.

    1. Jim Haygood

      A Danish sociologist of Hitler’s day called this attitude “the disinterested disposition to punish.”

      Of course, it’s totally different when we do it. *wink*

    2. James

      9-11: The gift that keeps on giving, and giving… Immoral or otherwise, we ‘Muricans do seem to love us some torture. Decadence will do that to you.

    3. fresno dan

      By comparison, a number of American officers who employed what was essentially waterboarding on Philippine insurgents at the start of the 20th century were hit with court-martials. Most were acquitted by military courts that found the torture justified under the circumstances. But President Theodore Roosevelt made his opinion known by writing a single word on the papers reporting the acquittal of 1st Lt. Edwin Hickman.


      In a private letter, Roosevelt said that the Filipinos had long employed the “water care” and that it did not generally inflict lasting damage. He also wrote, “Torture is not a thing that we can tolerate.”

      One Philippines case—in which a Catholic priest died after being waterboarded three times—did not even go to trial, despite Judge Advocate General George Davis’ contention that it quite possibly constituted a “felonious homicide.”

      “A resort to torture to obtain either confession or information from a prison of war… is a violation of the laws of war and as such is triable,” Davis said in reviewing the case.

      The U.S. Justice Department nonetheless declined to charge the officer who oversaw the torture, a captain named Brownell. Another American officer, Capt. Edwin Glenn, was convicted of cruelty in a non-fatal turn-of-the-century case in the Philippines. He was admonished and fined $50, but allowed to remain in the Army. He is said to have gone on to become a major general.

      One of the most disconcerting things is that I am being disabused of my naiveté about how virtuous this country ever was. Since we have always done torture, and it appears we will always torture, maybe we can in the future at least dispense with all the hoary admonitions to get involved in things because of our great moral standing in the world…

      Nah, we’ll continue to be as hypocritical as ever.

      1. dearieme

        Don’t forget the Concentration Camps run by the USA in the Philippines. Though, to be fair, the meaning has changed since those days, thanks to Hitler.

        It was another stupid and wicked war to no good end.

    4. NOTaREALmerican

      Re: According to a story in the WaPost 59% of Americans back torture as a reasonable reply to 9/11.

      What is of more interest to me is: what percentage of “Progressives” want the increase the power of the government knowing that “59% of Americans back torture as a reasonable reply to 9/11”?

    5. Jackrabbit

      Links the other day included: American’s Are Deeply Divided About Torture The headline is misleading – the article describes an academic study which showed that:

      The public has seldom been supportive of torture, even when presented with “ticking time bomb” scenarios where the intelligence is described as vital to stopping an impending terrorist attack. When asked about actual torture practices such as waterboarding or sexual humiliation, public support mostly collapses.

      Popularity (“everyone agrees . . .”) is classic marketing / propaganda appeal to group dynamics and herd behavior. And as Yves has pointed out time and time again, polls are notoriously unreliable unless great care is taken.

      Lets stop blaming the American people. We see this time after time. It is reminiscent of the polling BS we have witnessed wrt climate change. If you ask someone (mis)leading questions like “Would you give up your job to halt climate change” then you will get a predictable response.

      H O P

  9. Fool

    I remember reading somewhere something along the lines of Marc Rich mentioning that water would be the next oil. In any case, this must have made the mouths at the Milken conference water (pun intended).

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Actually no. The point at the Milken conference panel was that you needed to look at water-food-energy issues on an integrated. Using food to make fuel (ethanol) is really stupid except in some very selected cases where the energy output is really high relative to the cost of the alternative use of the land for food production. Cane sugar in Brazil is about the only prudent way to produce ethanol.

  10. fresno dan

    From the Slate link in the above article:
    Beginning this week, however, Washington will host a very different conversation about generic drugs, as independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (chairman of the Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging) and Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings (the ranking Democratic member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform) open a set of hearings into the rapid increase in generic drug prices in recent years. Drugs previously available at pennies per pill now cost hundreds of dollars per bottle. And not just esoteric, small-market drugs, either: the antibiotic doxycycline, a workhorse drug for common infections from sinusitis to pneumonia, cost $20 per 500-count bottle last October. Last month, the average price for the same supply was $1,849. For a drug initially approved by the FDA in 1967, the price hike seems mystifying.

    What explains the sudden spike in generic drug prices? To answer that question, it’s important to understand how generic drugs emerged as a private sector solution to the public health problem of pharmaceutical access, and why our assumptions about the competitive nature of the generic drug sector may be unfounded. It turns out we may have put too much faith in the competitive nature of the generic drug sector, and that thanks to a largely invisible group of middlemen, it isn’t nearly the free market that we imagined

    1. Carla

      “$20 per 500-count bottle last October. Last month, the average price for the same supply was $1,849.”

      Unclear whether you mean that the price increase was from Oct. 2013 to Nov. 2014, or in one month (10/14 to 11/14). It may not matter, but in terms of Obamacare’s effect(s) on drug pricing, it could.

    2. cwaltz

      The idea of using a “free market” for something like health care is ridiculous. The reality is that if we use a free market system we risk having companies not make some medications and vaccines because it isn’t as profitable for them as others. It totally neglects concepts like opportunity cost for businesses. It also neglects the fact that in the “free market” that companies can and do price fix anything and everything from wages to prices(which means the market is not really “free” as much as it is fixed to screw workers and consumers if it benefits businesses and allows them to maximize profits.)

  11. Jef

    “As Robots Grow Smarter, American Workers Struggle to Keep Up”

    As the education system devolves into a robot training program, billions are spent on ensuring robots are better educated than humans. What could go wrong?

    1. Jef

      “supplanting humans is not new. But this time may be different.”

      Those technologies were introduced during a period of cheap almost free energy and phenomenal growth. Energy is now and forever going to be more expensive and growth has reach its limit.

      Also those technologies were designed to be used by humans to increase productivity. Robots are designed specifically to remove the human altogether.

      Yes it is very different this time.

      1. davidgmills

        Energy is not going to be expensive in the future if we use thorium, the safe, cheap abundant nuclear power we could have had if we had decided not to use uranium, a fuel that could be used for energy and bombs. Thorium should have been our nuclear power of choice and we should have developed liquid fluoride thorium reactors, which we did in a successful pilot at oak Ridge in the 1960’s. Liquid fuel reactors don’t melt down, because they are in a melted state and with molten salts, they can operate at normal atmospheric pressure, not the 150 atmospheres of pressure in our present reactors. And they are not water cooled. A vast difference in how they operate. We have enough thorium to last for the next thousand years at present energy levels.

        I used to hate the thought of nuclear power until I learned of this process. Now I am just pissed that we didn’t develop it. No telling how much destruction from our energy wars we could have avoided.

        1. LucyLulu

          One reason thorium was never developed was because all the kinks were never worked out. There was never an actual reactor burning thorium at Oak Ridge, only one that simulated thorium using a uranium mixture. I believe thorium burned too hot for the vessels at the time to withstand. Last I heard a working thorium reactor still had yet to come online, at least as a molten salt reactor. IIRC, India has a working prototype using solid thorium and China is doing the most research into developing thorium as a fuel source.

          It’s a great idea though and will be a major improvement over existing technologies in terms of safety, reduced waste through higher burnup rates, and being too hazardous to convert to weapons material.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Robot teachers for robot students!!!

      “We don’t mix with dirty, disgusting humans. We are clean, run on renewable energy and excrete little, unlike you animals. We are…superior.”

    3. cwaltz

      Robots are better educated? Did I miss the evolution of robotics or do they still require programmers to actually input data and coding to function? If so I imagine we can still score this as humans-1 robots-0.

      I guess I don’t freak out as much about automation since from what I’ve seen of robots in my life pretty much suggests they’ve got a long way to go. The only problem I’ve seen with automation is that businesses have used them more to replace then as an adjunct. It’s meant longer wait times as one person struggles to fix multiple problems with the robotic kiosks or worse customer service as human beings suggest that you be forced to use the technology(last night went out to eat and the waitress wanted us to use the crappy tableside kiosk to settle our bill) to make their overworked lives a little easier.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      We’ve explained this repeatedly and the overwhelming majority of readers know how to do this already.

      Google the headline and access the article from the Google search page.

  12. flora

    re: Kansas Gov Proposes…

    There is nothing conservative about Brownback or Christie. They are radicals. They are willing to destroy financial stability, contract law and property rights of Main St businesses in order to curry favor with their financial backers, no matter how much they destroy in the process, in my opinion.

    from, “10 conservative principles”:
    “4) Fourth, conservatives are guided by their principle of prudence. Burke agrees with Plato that in the statesman, prudence is chief among virtues. Any public measure ought to be judged by its probable long-run consequences, not merely by temporary advantage or popularity. Liberals and radicals, the conservative says, are imprudent: for they dash at their objectives without giving much heed to the risk of new abuses worse than the evils they hope to sweep away. “

    1. fresno dan

      Your absolutely right – Its one of those things that drive me bonkers.
      The fact is, the “principals” of the parties are just advertising slogans, disinformation, agitprop, propaganda, or at BEST, a guide to their REAL beliefs, ….which is always the exact opposite of the principals they most vociferously espouse….
      “I believe in the free market”
      I most assuredly do not believe in free markets, as it may reduce the wealth of rich people who bribe me by funding my campaigns, and also may somehow inadvertently help poor people, who are poor because God hates them, and they don’t use the free enterprise system to advance themselves and give money to my campaign….

  13. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Ruble tumbles on fears for Russian economy.

    We also produce a lot of oil, mostly for domestic consumption, but I believe a lot of petroleum byproducts are exported and their prices are likely to follow the same route.

    The only difference I see is the Ruble is not the global reserve imperial currency (if the Russians or the Japanese or the Chinese had trillions of our money, they could make it pretend to be one, for a short time). We truly are exceptional and only exceptional money theories apply to us. Not everyone else can do what we can do – that’s the privilege of being a hegemon.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      And I don’t know how useful the fund that was setup a few months by Russia and other members of BRIC to fund projects using non-dollar money will be, nor if the Russians will be able to get any dollar-money from another fund set up, at round the same time, to defend themselves in a currency crisis such as this one.

    2. James

      We truly are exceptional and only exceptional money theories apply to us. Not everyone else can do what we can do – that’s the privilege of being a hegemon.

      Actually, you’ve nailed it. Those are no more than beliefs, and as such, they exist moment by moment. But until they turn into rejected beliefs, they’re powerful all the same.

  14. Working Class Nero

    Growing epidemic of media crapification:

    First there was Sabrina Rubin Ederly’s now infamous clusterfake where she told a fantastic tale of frat boy gang rape at U- Va that turns out to be invented out of whole cloth by the supposed victim in order to “catfish” a love interest into jealousy. Authorities are now on the lookout for the suspected rapist, who also happens to be Jan Brady’s ex-boyfriend, the ever-elusive George Glass.

    Now joining the FOBAR (Faked-Out Beyond All Repair) hall of shame is New York Magazine’s Jessica Pressler who earlier this week reported on a high school student, Mohammed Islam, who supposedly made nearly $72 million dollars on the stock market. The title of the piece was, “Because a Stuyvesant Senior Made Millions Picking Stocks. His Hedge Fund Opens As Soon As He Turns 18”

    Seems the IRS decided they wanted a piece of that action and as a result the story fell apart quite quickly.

    1. cwaltz

      Pushing the envelope on what “whole cloth” means I see.

      The fact that a rape victim didn’t get the details of her rape down does not mean she invented the rape.

      1. Working Class Nero

        The fact that a rape victim didn’t get the details of her rape down does not mean she invented the rape.

        Sure, anyone could get a few details wrong. But the fact that a rape “survivor” actually invented her rapist, naming him Haven (wtf?), and then “catfished” three phone numbers from an internet site that allowed her friends to text with this imaginary love interest (mostly before but some communication even after the supposed rape), and allowed her to respond as if from a telephone but actually from a tablet or computer, and using these same tools to send send her friends a supposed picture of “Haven” that was actually a picture of some dude she went to high school with but has nothing to do with anything, all this with the obvious intention of creating jealousy in some dude she had a crush on — all this DOES mean she invented the rape out of whole cloth.

        Two reporters named Shapiro, one from the Washington Post, the other from the Washington Times, are all over this.

        And just like in the case of the high school millionaire, the fault lies with the original reporters of these stories and not with the young people who grew up with a culture that respects good fake and clever trolls.

        1. EmilianoZ

          Being raped makes a woman more attractive?! Wouldn’t it be easier and more effective for her to simulate a relationship with some hot guy rather than a rape if her goal is to make some guy feel jealous?

          1. Working Class Nero

            She tried that but her crush just kept LJBF’ing her. So she escalated to five way mouth rape in order to make him feel guilty. Only a year or so later did the full on Rolling Stone version of the rape appear.

  15. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    The Supreme Court…search your car.

    Maybe time to go back to the horse for transportation and its stomach as a luggage compartment.

    Perhaps the Mexican drug lords are already doing it with herds of cattle…returning Monarch butterflies (hey, that’s what science is for, looking for new ways).

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      A good dog (you may even tag it with a tracking device) will travel thousands of miles to go home.

      That means safe delivery directly from south of the border to your comfortable in New York, Chicago or anywhere in North America, basically, after you drop your pet off at the starting point.

      “Patrol men, and women, look out for, and prepare to search, long-distance travelling animals!”

      1. Jim Haygood

        If i were to + your post, we could both be arrested for conspiracy.

        I am shocked — shocked — that speculation about law-breaking is going on here.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      In that case, we might have reached our pinnacle rather early, as they have found drainage system in Mohenjo Daro, and as I learned recently, bronze pipes in another UNESCO World Heritage site, Yin Xu, the ruins of the Shang dynasty capital in ancient China.

  16. Garrett Pace

    I was very interested to learn that the Romans had a sewer goddess, Venus Cloacina. I don’t know if there’s anything taken more for granted than the lines that bring clean water into our homes, and the other lines that take dirty water away.

    I’m sure many Romans took clean water and sewers for granted just as we almost all do today, but seeing the sewers given a divine personification and a measure of devotional respect is rather gratifying.!a-deity-worthy-of-respect/c1pus

    Also, just like today the sewers were reliant on water lines flowing into communities – clean water came in and took the filth away. Functioning sewers might be the pinnacle of civilization.

    One of my life goals is to get one of those sewer goddess coins.

    1. bob

      It took another two millennia for most to realize the value of both water pipes and sewer pipes.

      It’s amazing how many people take them for granted. A friends wife, with a new child, on learning that the water was off due to a main break, said “that’s fine, my fridge makes water”.

      It’s the base of modern civilization and completely forgotten. Hospitals, for one, are completely dependent on both. No water? No sewer? No hospital.

      It’s also worth noting that most water supplies aren’t even designed to bring water to households. The tougher design constraint is for fire prevention. Using them to deliver water for people is just an easy add-on.

  17. Garrett Pace

    American workers losing out to robots

    At the same time, the American work force has gained skills at a slower rate than in the past — and at a slower rate than in many other countries. Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 are among the most skilled in the world, according to a recent report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Younger Americans are closer to average among the residents of rich countries, and below average by some measures.

    At first I thought YIPE and then I thought duh, people of other nations are more modern now, too. Americans aren’t automatically the best at everything.

  18. Propertius

    Just FYI, open carry is legal in a surprising number of states – including Maine and New York (see I’m not sure that I’d characterize bringing Texas carry law into agreement with Maine or New York should really be characterized as “legalizing public masturbation”. Unless, of course, public masturbation is legal in Maine and New York (you and Lambert would know more about that than I), in which case I stand corrected.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      You need to Google further on New York State open carry laws.

      The attitude in NYS towards gun ownership is restrictive. The local authority does not have to give them out to anyone and can impose all sorts of conditions. They are valid ONLY in that jurisdiction. Other jurisdictions in state may or may not honor them. NY does not recognize open carry permits from other states.

      NYC is “no issue”. Simply not permitted here. Other jurisdictions in state have that option but I have no idea how many others follow NYC.

      Details here:

  19. gordon

    “Saudi Playing Chicken With Its Oil”

    At least now Russia is admitted as one of the Saudis’ targets, along with Iran and US shale producers. Some kind of progress, I suppose.

  20. participant-observer-observed

    Re: economic injustice-racial injustice nexus awakening:

    This video is not listed on The Real News Network Youtube video feed (but is on their homepage), so not easy to find through web search, but was referenced in the BAR report:

    “Aside from relatives of police murder victims, the speakers list at Saturday’s “Justice for All” event in Washington, DC, was dominated by conservative, Black establishment figures. “We came with the genuine intention to see whose voices they would elevate,” said Erika Totten, part of a youthful contingent of Ferguson activists that briefly took to the stage. “We kept being dismissed, so I said, ‘Stand behind me and follow me. We’re gonna shut it down, like we always do.’” Totten was interview by The Real News Network.

    Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, the noted whistleblower and activist with Hands Up Coalition DC, said the Sharpton rally was an attempt to co-opt the growing movement. “The Obama administration has used a surrogate, Rev. Al Sharpton, to help corral that kind of energy and those kinds of issues back into the political system where those kinds of passions can die an unnatural death.””

  21. hunkerdown

    Justice Cedes on Risen Subpoena (CNN)

    They only dropped the demand for particular information that might identify the confidential informant. But that’s a pretty big climb-down — gotta wonder what DoJ got out of it. Maybe the NSA has already slipped them some anonymous tips.

  22. anonymous123

    Re: the cat cafe in Oakland, my husband went a few weeks ago and had a great time. Not only is it good stress relief, but hopefully some animals find homes as well.

  23. LucyLulu

    Rohit Molpani of Medicins Sans Frontieres blasts co-panelists from GSK, Janssen, Merck, (and Anthony Fauci), calling bullshit on their claim to practicing social responsibility, and on how their companies own the international patent system that has stifled research and innovation and caused the ebola and similar crises he deals with, along with impending antibiotic crisis. He also says the upcoming TPP pact will further deepen the problem. Nothing not reported here but from an unexpected front, and the targets were ultra special. Molpani may have gotten his last invitation unfortunately however.

    Discussion Ebola Vaccine Research
    Starting at 1:32:20 for `~4:00

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