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Links 12/26/14

It’s a Wonderful Life, Comrade Truthout (Michael C)

Spectacular real virgin births BBC (furzy mouse)

Mary’s Immaculate Deception Counterpunch (Chuck L)

The REAL Santa Claus Washington’s Blog

Unexpected Life Found In The Ocean’s Deepest Trench NPR

Down in one: Amazing pictures show the tussle between a hungry seal and octopus…but there can only be one winner Daily Mail (Chuck L). Warning: an anti-antidote.

How Laws Restricting Tech Actually Expose Us to Greater Harm Wired (Chuck L)

Ways to Avoid Email Tracking New York Times

Life choices ‘behind more than four in 10 cancers’ BBC. The scolding “choices” tone of the headline is troubling. As we have deserving and underserving poor, are we now going to have more and more emphasis on the deserving versus undeserving sick?

China to up financial support for companies “go global” Xinhua (Chuck L)

Causes and consequences of China’s contagious case of deflation Financial Times

How can Europe escape recession in 2015? Breugel

Ukraine/Russia

Moscow says rouble crisis is over Financial Times

Sony Gaslighting

The Interview officially stinks, but so do most holiday releases. But contrast it with:
North Korea farce packs US theatres Financial Times, the lead story at the FT website, which appears to be based on a single showing in Manhattan.

U.S. Puts New Focus on Fortifying Cyber Defenses Wall Street Journal. Am I being too cynical, or is this just too painfully obvious? It was just weird (and embarrassing) to see Obama go on (and on and on) about the Sony hack. And suddenly we have a motive!

Syraquistan

Here it is… The War Nerd Christmas Special! Pando

Islamic State failing to deliver promised ‘state’ Washington Post

The Torture Industry Counterpunch

Affordable Care Act’s Tax Effects Now Loom for Filers New York Times. Notice how not getting a refund does not get you out of owing the penalty. It accrues with interest.

Black Injustice Tipping Point

Train Takeover by Activists, Artists is New Take on Recent Protests The Loop. Intriguing tactically and as a sign of general tactical experimentation.

At Home and at Work, Black Police Officers Are on Defensive New York Times

In Aftermath of Executions of NYPD Officers, Police Crack Down on Extreme Anti-Cop Speech on Social Media Kevin Gosztola, Firedoglake

The landmine in labeling someone ‘black’ Washington Post. I didn’t have time to look at the experimental work closely, but the samples were small and don’t look to have been well controlled. Not saying the issue is not real, but I’m bothered by the sweeping claims made by the authors. First, there is well-tested evidence of bias against blacks when color words are absent. For instance, a well-controlled study sent out identical resumes, save the name of the applicant. Some had non-distinct first names, like Jennifer and Tom, while others had black first names, like Kinseha and Tyrone. It wan’t just that the non-distinct names got more positive responses. In many cases, the recruiter quit reading when they saw the black first name. Second, tests like the Harvard Implicit test show (not surprisingly) variation in individual responses despite the prevalence of bias against out groups. I’m bother by the less-than-careful writing (the language is consistent with a universal claim of bias) when understanding the dispersion of results is important too.

Tuesday’s Shooting in Missouri Reveals the Limitations of Police Dashboard Cameras New Republic. A sign of my naivete: I assumed, like Russian dashcams, that they’d be on all the time.

Saudi Arabia Seen by Former Adviser Assuming $80 Oil Bloomberg. You have to read this story. Look at how thin the evidence is. The source is just parroting where the fiscal break even is, when Moodays and others have pointed out the Saudis have enough in their sovereign wealth fund to run for several years at below this level. I don’t know why no one believes what the Saudis are saying. They will keep pumping until the higher-cost producers cry uncle and cut output. Where the dust settles remains to be seen.

US retailers may only just meet holiday sales forecasts Reuters versus Shoppers’ Late Rush Gives Hope to Retailers Wall Street Journal

Class Warfare

‘Some Sort of Hell’: How One of the Wealthiest Cities in America Treats Its Homeless Alternet

Rise in Loans Linked to Cars Is Hurting Poor New York Times

Cute-Christmas-Animals-50

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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166 comments

  1. Jim Haygood

    Boxing Day present from Uncle Vlad:

    Russia has adopted an updated version of its military doctrine, which reflects the emergence of new threats against its national security. NATO military buildup and American Prompt Global Strike concept are listed among them.

    The new doctrine was approved on Friday by President Vladimir Putin. The document points to the threat of destabilization of countries bordering Russia and its allies, and deployment of foreign troops as a threat to national security.

    http://rt.com/news/217823-putin-russian-military-doctrine/

    What’s it mean? Accelerated imperial decline for the US, as it hikes its value-subtraction military spending to confront its enemy du jour and bail out our new best friends, the Ukrainians. Chicken Kiev, comrades. It’s what’s for dinner. Bring your own vodka.

    1. Vatch

      Just as the U.S. created new threats or worsened existing ones by its invasion of Iraq (ISIL, for example), Russia did the same by seizing Crimea. Of course the Ukrainians are now interested in joining NATO: Russia is an existential threat to Ukraine. It’s easy to argue that it is not in Russia’s interest to seize more territory from Ukraine, but history is full of events in which countries harmed themselves with military adventures. In addition to the recent American adventure in Iraq, two examples are the aggressive wars of Justinian and Louis XIV. Both monarchs depleted their treasuries with their wars, leading to dire consequences in the next century.

      1. Doug Terpstra

        Except, of course, Russia did not actually “seize” Crimea. For the record, it was the US “that “seized” Ukraine in an explicitly ant-democratic coup, and Russia merely accepted the results of a remarkably peaceful and nearly unanimous referendum to re-admit Crimea into the RF. Your revisionism is admirably persistent.

        1. Vatch

          No, the U.S. did not “seize” Ukraine. Where were the American troops who “seized” the country? For that matter, where were the soldiers of any nation who “seized” Ukraine? There were hundreds of thousands of unarmed demonstrators against Yanukovych. Did they seize their own country?

          As for Crimea, Russian troops seized it in February, 2014. In March, they held an obviously fraudulent election, with a completely unbelievable 96% result in favor of joining Russia. I don’t believe the 2000 Presidential election results in Florida, and I don’t believe the 2014 Crimean referendum results.

          1. Doug Terpstra

            You may not be aware that the US often effects “regime change” thru the CIA, mercenaries, and other surrogates, in conjunction with econiomic (currency attacks and commodity dumps) and cyber warfare. Troops are often a last resort. It’s a fairly rutted route, as described by John Perkins in Confessions of an Economic Hitman. Also, though dated, a good place to start:

            http://www.huppi.com/kangaroo/CIAtimeline.html

            http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Covert_United_States_foreign_regime_change_actions

            1. Vatch

              I’ve read the book by Perkins, and I’ve recommended it to others. I don’t think there were mercenaries active in Ukraine in 2013 and early 2014. That probably changed after the eastern provinces declared autonomy.

              The U.S. has caused regime change (or attempted to do so) in many countries, but I just haven’t seen a similarity between those events and what happened in Ukraine. I’m not aware of any of the U.S. backed coups or revolutions that had massive popular anti-government demonstrations remotely similar to the Euromaidan events. Interestingly, what happened in Crimea does match some of the U.S. engineered regime changes, except that it was Russia doing the engineering, and not the U.S.

              I do acknowledge that after Yanukovych was ousted by the Ukrainians, the U.S. was heavily involved in forming the interim government, and remains heavily involved in the current government.

          2. Banger

            By your logic then the U.S. did not “seize” Iran in 1953, there were no troops there. It did not seize Guatamala in 1954, it did not seize the Congo in the early 60’s did not seize Chile in 1973 and any of a dozen more assassinations and coups engineered by the CIA and their associated contractors–worst of which was, of course the overthrow of the U.S. government in 1963. Are you living in a dream world?

            1. Vatch

              There were plenty of troops active in those coups. I’m not saying that the troops must be U.S. troops. Can you identify the troops who overthrew Yanukovych? I think it’s easier to identify his Berkut militia support than any troops opposed to him.

              1. Doug Terpstra

                Robert Parry and others have documented the extensive involvment of neo-Nazi militias, “stormtroopers”, the coup, including Right Sektor and Svoboda [Pravy Sektor and Swoboda], which were subsequently active in terrorist campaigns in Odessa and eastern Ukraine. This is almost textbook CIA subversion, as practiced in Latin American “dirty wars” and in other examples Banger cites. Russophobia is certainly understandable, but it can also lead to blind spots.

                http://spitfirelist.com/news/robert-parry-on-conscription-of-neo-nazis-in-ukraine-orwellian-coverage-by-u-s-media/

                https://consortiumnews.com/2014/04/16/ukraine-through-the-us-looking-glass/

                1. Vatch

                  Both of the articles that you cite are from late April, more than a month after Russia escalated the crisis by annexing Crimea, and encouraging the separatists in the eastern provinces.

                  Yes, some nationalists were part of the opposition to Yanukovych from November through February, but most of them were not neo-Nazis. The violence was started by Yanukovych’s Berkut militia on Nov. 30.

                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_the_Euromaidan

                  Eventually, the parliament and Yanukovych’s own party voted no confidence in him, although they were still a few votes short of what was needed to remove him from office when he fled the country.

                  1. Doug Terpstra

                    The timing of the articles has no bearing on the basic facts that militia forces were active agents in the coup. Many sources have documented those basic facts, as well as ongoing violence and credible threats against Yanukovich after a compromise agreement had been reached.

                    1. Vatch

                      Thank you for a stimulating discussion. Obviously we disagree about how significant the far right wingers were in the November through February time period.

                      I jumped into this thread because the opening message was about the supposed NATO threat to Russia. My point was that if the Russians were really so concerned about NATO, they should not have given the Ukrainians a strong reason to want to join NATO. That is, the Russians should not have seized Crimea. However radical the Ukrainians were before that seizure, after it occurred, they were definitely more radical. That was an easily predictable consequence, and it led to numerous tragedies.

                      Rather then seizing another country’s territory, Putin should have publicly demanded that Ukraine continue to honor their treaty commitments to allow the Russian navy to use their bases on Crimea. So long as Russia upheld their side of the agreement, it would have been very difficult for Ukraine to violate the treaty. And if the Ukrainians did commit a violation, Russia would have had international law on their side, along with moral justification for military intervention.

                    2. Doug Terpstra

                      Vatch, because you persistently and conspicuously ignore basic facts, it’s increasingly hard to believe your position is one of honest disagreement. The original crime was the US’s, to which Russia’s responses are imminently logical and in the explicitly-expressed interests of local populations. You also ignore the context of the “war” in Georgia, illegal missile deployments in Poland, the provocation of civil war in Syria (Russia’s ally), open threats by NATO commanders (and a senile US senator, R-AZ), and the most recent vote by the US Knesset to arm Ukraine’s certifiable lunatics with lethal weapons.

                      Just imagine the absurd scenario of Russia doing all of those things in Canada or Mexico and the US mafia not launching its nukes in self-righteous lunacy. Ukraine is the fulcrum of the pivot of a decrepit psychotic empire obsessed with world domination and you’re pointing fingers at its next intended victim. Be honest; are you paid to disinform?

                    3. OIFVet

                      I asked him that same question just last month. Must check Soros foundations’ payrolls to get a straight answer on that one, Doug. Perhaps it is just a case of virulent Russophobia served with a side dish of latent American exceptionalism. That comment of his above is a wonderful example of twisted cause an effect, plus a wishful view of Russia being reduced to being a meek supplicant (hence the latent Exceptionalism). And it is all served in such earnest way that one almost overlooks the very willful disinformation that flows from the dude. In effect, one is left to wonder whether Vatch is a modern day Simplicius Simplicissimus or a somewhat smooth disseminator of propaganda and disinformation.

                    4. Vatch

                      And so the name calling starts. I’m not the one who is ignoring basic facts. The U.S. did not start the trouble in Ukraine, Yanukovych did. The people of Ukraine responded, Yanukovych escalated with violence, and things got worse on both sides. The U.S. did not seize Crimea, Russia did. As I have clearly stated, if Russia were really concerned about the possibility of Ukraine joining NATO, they would not have militarily seized part of Ukraine. They still had full access to their bases there prior to their invasion.

              2. Banger

                Right-sector and neo-Nazi Bandera followers–the violent aspect of the coup involved those elements. Now, let’s be clear here, the old gov’t was clearly corrupt and weak–but that is the nature of the Ukraine reality—it is a deeply divided and artificial country like many others that experience instability. But that country is also, as Henry Kissinger and others have noted, within the Russian sphere of influence and neo-con elements within the foreign policy establishment want a Cold War 2 and have been trying to destroy Russia since the end of the Cold War 1. Crimea is strategically vital to Russia and the population there clearly wants to be part of Russia–certainly being part of the Ukraine is not a very good idea from any point of view. Considering the neocon faction within Washington, Russia has every reason to be concerned about its “near abroad” the West has shown its teeth too many times to Russia for that entity to not be concerned with its intentions. The U.S. policy has absolutely nothing to do with human rights or “freedom” and recent policies show that as much as they did during the Cold War 1.

                1. bruno marr

                  The prior discussion on Ukraine is why I love this website. Any place else on the ‘Net and Vatch gets name-called to death. Here he gets credible contradiction and a history lesson. Gotta luv it.

                  1. Banger

                    Indeed! If anyone wants to know how to manage a post-modern discussion just come here. Name calling does occur here but tends to be ignored.

              3. different clue

                Who were the hidden hand double-false-flag snipers who shot police and crowdmembers alike? And what agenda were they advancing?

                1. Vatch

                  Good question, and I certainly don’t have an answer. Mercenaries (on either side) and the Berkut special police would have had no qualms about shooting ordinary police officers along with protesters.

                  1. OIFVet

                    Oh, but you did have the answer in your earlier post: “Yanukovich escalated”. So what changed in the 20-odd minutes between that post and this one? It can’t be that you asked yourself ‘Cui bono’ since the answer to that question is clear enough: not Yanukovich. It couldn’t be that you remembered the tape of Paet and Ashton discussing the shootings, since Paet clearly stated the growing understanding that it wasn’t Yanukovich’s forces who did it. It couldn’t be the article in that Polish magazine that stated that right wing Ukrainians had been trained in Poland in the fall of 2013 in how to start riots, how to use sniper rifles, and other dark arts of the regime change crowd. What was a NATO member doing and thinking in providing such training to neo-nazis? Again, ‘Cui bono’?

                    You are full of crap is what it is. You go to great lengths to try to give your statements the appearance of informed conclusions by an impartial observer. They are anything but that — they ignore any fact that contradicts your /”Russia bad, US innocent” predetermined narrative.

      2. Jim Haygood

        ‘Russia is an existential threat to Ukraine.’

        Even if this is so, it is of no practical consequence to the US.

        The incorrigible yankee urge to forcibly intervene in every corner of the globe to correct the strategic and moral mistakes of others is worse than a crime; it is a blunder.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Plus Russia is not threatening the government in Kiev. Please. It was the government in Kiev (the defense minister, specifically) that gave a speech that announced a plan for what amounted to ethnic cleansing of ethnic Russians in the southeast, as in forced resettlement and allowing members of the army to confiscate their property. That and other things led to civil war. Russia happens to take interest int this since the clear intent of destabilizing Ukraine was to move Nato in, which puts Nato on Russia’s borders, an outcome it regards as an existential threat.

          You have to love the taking up of what Russians have felt since the outset of this conflict as a rationale.

          1. Vatch

            I deplore Mikhail Koval’s rhetoric as much as you do, but let’s get the timeline straight. My understanding is that he made his shamefully inflammatory comments in June, and he hasn’t been the Defense Minister since July 3. So this happened well after Russia escalated the tension and incited the rebels by annexing Crimea.

            1. Pepsi

              You consider this Russia “escalating tension” but don’t consider the initial coup some sort of escalation by the US? The seizure of Crimea was a reaction to the nationalist anti Russian rhetoric of coup forces.

              You seem to be thinking that since Putin isn’t a good guy, the ultra nationalist Ukrainians can’t be at fault, but this not the case.

              1. Vatch

                The ultra nationalist Ukrainians are at fault for many things, especially the terrorist fire in Odessa which killed many people. But most of the Ukrainians, including most of the people in the government, are not ultra-nationalists. Of course, many of them became more nationalistic after Putin annexed Crimea.

          2. Jim Haygood

            Here’s a statement from a real peace laureate, Mairead Maguire:

            NATO’s latest proposal of 4,000 soldiers, and a separate 10,000 strong British-led joint expeditionary force, is a highly aggressive and totally irresponsible move by the United States, United Kingdom and NATO. It breaches the 1997 agreement with Moscow under which NATO pledged not to base substantial numbers of soldiers in Eastern Europe on a permanent basis.

            NATO should have been disbanded when the Warsaw Pact disintegrated but it was not and is now controlled by the United States for its own agenda. Today NATO, instead of being abolished, is re-inventing itself in re-arming and militarising European states and justifying its new role by creating enemy images – be they Russians, IS (the Islamic State), and so on.

            http://www.globalresearch.ca/say-no-to-war-and-media-propaganda-nobel-peace-laureate-mairead-maguire/5401689

            ————

            With Ron Paul gone from the House, probably not even one of its 435 members will stand up to make this argument … just as no one in the Japanese parliament raised a peep when Japan moved on China in 1937. Crimea is our ‘Marco Polo Bridge’ incident.

    2. Doug Terpstra

      Not noted in the RT link, this updated doctrine comes on the heels of the US Knesset’s unanimous vote last week to supply lethal military aid to Ukraine, in addition to US violation of its ABM treaties.

    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I am sure Russia also has a defense plan, based on a great doctrine, for global-reserve-currency attacks.

      The other side can print as much as she wants, and with additional help from global financial corporations, what is Russia’s genius plan?

      1. ambrit

        China.
        In keeping with the times, a neo-Comintern.
        Both nations are struggling with the synthesis of State Socialism and Oligopolic Capitalism. It all fits; Thesis, Anti-Thesis, Synthesis.
        Great Googlie Mooglie! There’re going to be more than one NWO!
        Interesting times Comrades of Industry.

  2. David Lentini

    “Virgin” Birth Stories

    Someone should explain to the BBC that parthenogenesis is a form of asexual reproduction, which makes the idea of intercourse, and therefore a virgin, irrelevant, especially when offering reptiles as examples. That’s why the Chirstmas story is about a miracle and not biology.

    Apparently, Counterpunch could use the same advice on the definition of miracle and faith, which, again, is a major point of the Chrstmas story.

    So, is this a new feature of NC? Can we look forward to mocking stories about the major mystical stories of Judiaism, Islam, Hinduism, and all the other major religions and beliefs too? And what about gays and feminists? Will they get mocked as well?

    1. sd

      The article was written by the BBC, not NC. It was quite fascinating actually. How you interpreted it as mocking anyone’s religion is beyond me.

    2. John Zelnicker

      David – I have always found your comments here at NC to be smart, relevant and insightful. But, on the Virgin Births story from the BBC, you seem to be inserting your personal sensitivities about religion into a story that doesn’t mention religion. “Virgin Birth” is not a concept that applies only to Mary and Jesus, yet you seem to assume (without evidence) that an article using that term in a scientific setting is somehow mocking Christianity. Maybe it’s because I’m Jewish, but I just don’t see it, either.

      This is disappointing. I hope you will soon return to writing the smart, relevant and insightful comments that you usually post.

      1. David Lentini

        sd and John—I foundl the BBC story relevant to the issue of the virgin birth story, since it was published at Christmas time and referred more than once to “real virgin brith”. Well, “real” as opposed to what then in that context? Given the timing the story and NC’s decision to place it adjacent to the Counterpunch link, I decided to combine my comments into one post.

        I still say the reference to parthenogenesis as “virginal” is inappropriate, since parthenogenesis is a form of asexual reproduction. Just look up the definitions of the words “parthenogenesis” and “virgin”; I don’t see anything scientific in trying to link the two. And yes, I wholly agree it’s a fascinating biological phenominon. But trying to link it in a sophomoric way to “unreal” virgin births, especially at Christmas time, seems just is a bit more than silly to me.

        John, thank you for you kind words. I appreciate reading your comments too. I hope my additional thought will help you see my point better. My point wasn’t to imply that “virgin birth” applies only to Mary and Jesus, but rather to question the point of impling that parthenogenesis is the miracle of a true virgin birth made scientific or real. IMHO, it’s just poor science writing.

        1. sd

          I still don’t understand why you are taking it out on Naked Capitalsim when your beef is with the BBC for the choice of its title – a deliberately provocative title with sole purpose Of getting eyeballs/readers on what otherwise is basically an article about research on reproduction.

        1. Jack

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miraculous_births
          Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Zoroaster, Horus, Quetzalcoatl. Additionally Jesus being born of a virgin appears to be entirely a Catholic invention (they invented a lot of things…):

          “The Hebrew word alma actually translates as a young woman of childbearing age who had not yet given birth and who might or might not be a virgin, whereas the Hebrew betulah, used elsewhere in Isaiah, is the word that means “virgin.”

    3. John Zelnicker

      David – Now I’ve read the Counterpunch article and I see how sensitive you really are to any kind of story that does not provide the respect that you demand for your particular mythology. Lighten up.

      1. David Lentini

        John, I’d make the same post for a story that mocked any religion. I don’t see why NC would choose to link to such a post, since it’s nothing but intolerance from a different avenue and does nothing to advance the stated purpose of the ‘blog. This has nothing to do with my particular religious beliefs, which you apprently want to refer to as a mythology (why?). And I’ll be happy to demonstrate mposition as soon as NC starts linking to similar stories about the non-Christian religions.

        As for “lighten up”, I think there’s no place in NC for these sorts of stories. You can find them easily enough without NC pointing the way.

        1. Vatch

          The Counterpunch article is very humorous and worth reading. NC mocks people’s viewpoints on a regular basis, including a few of my own opinions. The superstitions of the economics profession are subject to merciless mockery, and rightly so. Why should religious superstitions be exempt from an occasional poke in the ribs?

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          So I take it you are in favor of teaching creationism too? After all, the idea that the universe resulted from a Big Bang or other scientific theory of origin is also contrary to Christian doctrine.

          As for the virgin birth, odds are good it was a mistranslation:

          http://www.gotquestions.org/virgin-or-young-woman.html

          We are opposed to fundamentalism of all sorts here. Poking fun at story that is not core to the behavioral proscriptions (love thy neighbor, etc.) of the clearly dominant set of religions in advanced economies is hardly going to lead to apostasy or corruption of youth.

          1. beene

            What we have to remember the winners rewrite history. The best example of this is the King James Bible…….50,000 know errors.

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              50, 000 known errors out of approx. 780,000 words.

              That’s about 6%, quantity-wise.

              Of course, just one word can result in 100% deterioration of quality.

          2. Synapsid

            Yves,

            “…the idea that the universe resulted from a Big Bang or other scientific theory of origin is also contrary to Christian doctrine.”

            In what way? I’m assuming that the doctrine is that God created the Universe. That’s fine, there’d be no argument there as far as the science goes; the Big Bang theory describes what happened then, after the Creation. There’s no mention of the Creation in the theory because such, lying outside the natural world, falls outside the capability of the natural sciences.

            We have a Universe. OK, what can we learn about it by STUDYING THAT UNIVERSE? That’s what the natural sciences are about. The present theory about the very earliest time since the beginning is the Big Bang theory. Note: “since the beginning”

            Alan Sandage, an astronomer, put it well when discussing how the sciences learn about the natural world. With reference to those approaches:

            “Can you go the other way, can you go back to before the Beginning? No you cannot. But it still remains a miracle: Why is there something, instead of nothing?”

            I capitalized “Beginning” because Sandage would have. He made clear that his beliefs were Christian.

            1. Jack

              Presupposition. He wants there to be a God, specifically his God, so the mysteries of the origin of the Big Bang provide an out for him. The actual appropriate response is ‘we don’t know, but will continue to try and find out’, not ‘here is an empty space I can shove my personal deity into’.

              And for the record, Quantum Mechanically speaking ‘nothing’ isn’t an absence, it is a property in and of itself. Things can in fact spring forth from nothing. Yeah, I know it makes ones head hurt, but the universe is under no obligation to make sense to anyone, it simply is. That we’ve been able to figure out as much of it as we have with ad-hoc brains that originally only had to govern tree climbing and poo throwing is pretty impressive.

              1. Synapsid

                Jack,

                Are you responding to my post?

                What I pointed out to Yves is that the natural sciences deal with the Universe, not why it exists. If the sciences claimed to explain why there was a creation, in terms of what we know of the Universe, then I believe there would be a conflict with Christian doctrine, but they don’t. Quantum fluctuations are a feature of the Universe; if our Universe is the result of a quantum fluctuation then the goalposts are pushed back to explaining the existence of quantum fluctuations.

                The natural sciences endeavor to find out what the rules are, not why those are the rules.

                1. Jack

                  Actually science does deal with why the rules exist. The study of the origin of things like the Fundamental Forces is precisely about why the universe has certain rules and not others. As for the Christian (or any other) creation account, it doesn’t just claim God started the universe, it makes very specific claims. I can actually see a certain logic to religious fundamentalism: sure, you can write off the embarrassing bits that don’t jive with observable reality, but once you start doing that you’ve breached the whole ‘infallible divine word’ thing. At that point it becomes a complete crapshoot as to what to take literally and what to interpret as parable or imaginative poetry. There are now something like 30,000 sects and branches of Christianity, which is exactly what opponents of the Reformation were afraid would happen. In the absence of a single, agreed upon and mandated doctrine the religion becomes whatever any specific church and even particular individual wants it to be.

                  1. different clue

                    Science deals with those things that scientific method can be used to measure and to test. For now there is no scientific test for the existence or non-existence of God.
                    So as of now, atheism is just as much a religion as monotheism or polytheism.

                    1. lambert strether

                      Surely you not saying “the set of all untestable beliefs” and “the set of all religious beliefs” are identical?

                      “_____ is just another religion” seems to give great comfort to the religious. I’ve never understood why.

                  2. Synapsid

                    Jack,

                    You’re talking about little why, within the Universe, and I referred to Big Why. Christian “doctrine” about the Creation would say the rules are what they are because God created them that way. The sciences are trying to learn what they are; that’s what I was saying to Yves. Anything we learn about the Universe by studying it tells us nothing about the Creation.

                    The natural sciences do not take the supernatural as an area of study.

                    1. lambert strether

                      As well as say “the supernatural as an area of study,” you might as well say “unicorns as an area of study.”

                      If you can study it, it’s natural (that is, a part of nature).

                    2. Jack

                      But if you say that science can’t analyze God because God exists outside the material universe, then that must also mean that philosophers and religion can’t say anything about God, including whether one exists at all. Every holy book ever written was written by people within our physical universe, and we simply have to take their word for it that they were divinely inspired. “That’s what faith is about”, but from my perspective I don’t understand why I should believe the claims of, say, an illiterate desert merchant but not the ramblings of a local drunk.

                      And in a more general sense there’s a big difference between merely establishing the existence (or possible existence) of a creator and making any kind of specific claims about that creator. No one, from Thomas Aquinas to that modern charlatan William Lane Craig, can make that leap. Even if you could prove there is *a* god you still have to set about proving it’s *your* god specifically. Given that we know, often in great detail, how religions form and how beliefs are transferred and changed between cultures, I think it’s abundantly clear that religion is inherently a man-made construct, regardless of whether divinity exists in some form or not.

              2. The Heretic

                I trust science in the realm of where they can conduct experiments or at least can observe phenomenon. However, there some in science, who disavaowing any religion (especially Christianity) and call it ridiculous, since there is no strong evidence to support the existance of a God. However, some of the ‘science’ based statements of some statements are even more ridiculous, because they make extravagebtly absurd interpretations of reality, instead of simply saying ‘we don’t know’. Hence in their quest to they continue to waste their time on string theory, or posit extravagantly absurd interpretation of observed quantum reality such as the ‘quantum multi-universe’.

                1. lambert strether

                  Exactly. String theory has clearly gone off the rails. Now there is a case of “____ is just another religion” for real! As it were….

                  1. juliania

                    Thing is, (and thank you for this very rational discussion) that we must consider what in its essence, reasoning actually is. It is all very well to say that it is the sine qua non (I hope I have that right) beyond which nothing makes sense, and that is the scientific attitude.

                    Yet, supposing that there is or might be a God, whose realm is beyond the reasonings which confine humanity, seems to me to make very much sense. For, if he were constrained by what constrains us, indeed, he would not be God; he would be limited to being humanly understood, and he would be the kind of limited god folk rightly scoff at.

                    I’m sure many here have read the little book called Flatland – if not, do find a copy. It describes humorously the concept of a being existing outside of the rational plane of being – closest thing to what I think of when I think of God in a rational way.

                    Not to denigrate rationality; it’s a very fine thing, a very fine thing. But it isn’t all there is.

                  2. ian

                    Worse, it’s become a ‘sand trap’ for aspiring physicists. It has done a huge amount of damage to the field.

          3. Jack

            ‘Mistranslation’.

            A mistake or knowing manipulation of phrasing to introduce an additional supernatural element? I know which direct cynicism points me…

          4. David Lentini

            Yves,

            Given that you and I have not met, and given that I have not discussed my religion and beliefs in this forum, or any forum that you would encounter, and given that I did not write anything in this thread to support any of your claims, I can only conclude that you chose to respond to my views with straw men, ad hominem attacks, and false attribution using epithets that you know will be inflammatory in this ‘blog. Well, it’s time to burn down your straw man army and fix your ignorance.

            For the record, I have degrees in chemistry from the University of Chicago and Harvard University, where I also studied mathematics and physics. I spent twenty years working as a patent attorney, doing much of my work in the pharmaceutical field. I understand the Big Bang, evolution, any many more scientific theories far better than the writers of the science stories you and Lambert often link to.

            I also recently returned to the Roman Catholic Church after a 30-year absence. During that time, and still today, I support gay marriage laws and access to abortion. I also support the Four Freedoms and the Economic Bill of Rights. I’ve nearly always voted Green or Democrat the past 30 years. Too bad you never bothered to ask me about my religion or politics.

            You claim that I must be in favor of teaching creationism, since, you also say, “the idea that the universe resulted from a Big Bang or other scientific theory of origin is also contrary to Christian doctrine.”

            This statement is false for at least two reasons.

            The first is your red herring based on a false attribution of Christian doctrine to the question of scientific theories of origin. The Catholic Church has always accepted the Big Bang and evolution as viable scientific theories of origin. Both Lamarck and Mendel were Catholics. (See more here.) Pope Francis recently affirmed this position publicly (here.) Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno recently won the Carl Sagan Medal from the American Astronomical Society. (See here.) I know many non-Catholic Christians who would disagree with your claim. So you’re just dead wrong here.

            As for me personally, I have no problem with both. Briefly, I’m comfortable that the Big Bang and evolution describe the “how”. They don’t describe the “why”. I have all of Darwin’s books, and read the Origin of Species while taking a class from Bill Wimsatt at Chicago. (See here.)

            You then assert a red herring based on another misattribution that there may be a “mistranslation” of the New Testament regarding Mary’s status as a virgin. Read your link again, Yves, the author puts no “odds” on any “mistranslation”. In fact, the article you cite makes it clear that the opposite is true:

            However, it is interesting to note, that in the 3rd century B.C., when a panel of Hebrew scholars and Jewish rabbis began the process of translating the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, they used the specific Greek word for virgin, “parthenos,” not the more generic Greek word for “young woman.” The Septuagint translators, 200+ years before the birth of Christ, and with no inherent belief in a “virgin birth,” translated “almah” in Isaiah 7:14 as “virgin,” not “young woman.” This gives evidence that “virgin” is a possible, even likely, meaning of the term.

            And even given the possibility of a debate, what’s that prove? All of the translations of the New Testament use the word “virgin”. In fact, the point of Mary being a virgin is central to the point of the New Testament—that Jesus is the Messiah.

            Next comes another red herring and ad hominem attack, with your claim that you’re “opposed to fundamentalism of all sorts here”. So, where is the “fundamentalism” and what’s that got to do with me, this thread, or the underlying post? Are you claiming that my complaint makes me a “fundamentalist”? Since you can’t define the term or point to anything I wrote, I can only conclude that to you a “fundamentalist” is anyone who complains about the crass ignorance you pass off as “humor”.

            Finally is yet another red herring, viz., that “Poking fun at story that is not core to the behavioral proscriptions (love thy neighbor, etc.) of the clearly dominant set of religions in advanced economies is hardly going to lead to apostasy or corruption of youth.” Strange that you should refer to “love thy neighbor”, which is from Jesus’s answer to the Pharisees in the Book of Matthew (see here). So, apparently you agree that the story of Jesus is a story that is “core to the behavioral proscriptions”. But Jesus’s power rests with his divinity. Somehow the story just won’t work as well if he’s the bastard of Mary and a Roman solider and Joesph a closeted homosexual.

            And no one but you has raised a claim that “poking fun … of the clearly dominant set of religions in advanced economies is hardly going to lead to apostasy or corruption of youth.”

            My issue is far simpler. A great many people look to the New Testament as a source of moral behavior. By your own admission you agree. In fact, the great social transformations of the U.S. out of the Gilded Age and into the Progressive and New Deal eras were driven in large part by the rise of the Social Gospel and Catholic Social Doctrine. The New Deal Democrat party, which so many of us—including you as I recall—miss so dearly, relied heavily on the blue collar Catholics in the Northeast and the Social Gospel Protestants in the South.

            Mocking one of the most important stories in the New Testament only demonstrates the intellectual bankruptcy and childishness of the Left. I’m sad to see you in that trap too, Yves.

            1. savedbyirony

              David, catholic social doctrine has many good points but its baked-in misogyny isn’t one of them, which comes in good part from such doctrines as “the virgin birth”, “original sin” and an all male-clergy (a.k.a. the ontological excuse). I simply ask you to consider how these doctrines, which have nothing to do with the acts of jesus and often outright lead people to behave contradictory to his examples, have thru history to the present served to boister up the hierarchy of the church against others acting in far more Gospel inspired behaviors. (an excellent example being the current attacks against religious sisters and their leadership council, the LCWR.)

              You may have already read the work of Raymond Brown but if you have not i highly recommend his multi-volumed work, “Jesus: A Marginal Jew”, a work admired by people as diverse as Benedict to Kung for its outstanding and painstaking biblical scholarship dealing with all four Gospels.

              1. savedbyirony

                Sorry, it’s late and the above work is by John Meier. R.Brown’s is “The Birth of the Messiah”. Both these scholars works are examplary volumes of specifically catholic historical and textual Biblical analysis.

                  1. Lambert Strether

                    That’s like saying phrenologists use reputable scholarship to further refine their understanding of the shape of the skull and human character and psychology.

                    No doubt there is highly elaborated discourse. There are many such, most long forgotten, some deservedly so. One thinks of the faith and “the faith” of the Aztecs, for example.

                    1. savedbyirony

                      plenty of the catholic clergy practice the proper professional methodologies and critical thinking/writing appropriate to their professions alongside of their vocations

            2. Yves Smith Post author

              The story of the virgin birth has nothing to do with the moral teachings of Christ, which came much later in his life. How you can use the later as a defense of the former?

              And we now find that contrary to your earlier claim that you’d be offended at any mild challenge to religious orthodoxy (and that piece in Counterpunch is lightweight), we now learn that this is personal because you are a practicing Roman Catholic. I wonder if you get so worked up when you hear people make jokes about jihadis and all 72 or however many virgins they supposedly get access to when they die (I suspect that is apocryphal).

              As to the other issues I raised, your reply is well into “the lady doth protest too much” terrain. If you argue for a literal reading of modern translations of the New Testament, and that it must not be questioned because that amounts to being sacrilegious, you must by the very same logic support creationism, which is based on a similar literal reading of Genesis. You don’t get to use your biography to wriggle out of the inconsistency of your position.

              And this is not an “ad hominem attack”. I told you what was logically consistent with your argument. It is not ad hominem to show where your reasoning leads.

              1. Jack

                The moral teachings of Christ aren’t the central point of the Jesus story though. The point is that he died for everyone’s sins and was then resurrected. Having him originate from a virgin birth simply adds another miraculous event to his life.

                If the chief selling point of Jesus was simply that he told people to be kind to each other he would be merely one of numerous humanitarian speakers in history. The supernatural parts are the very foundation of the entire religion, in all its many forms. They’re worshiping an aspect of God that sacrificed itself to wash away the burden of sin mankind took on in the Garden of Eden.

                1. Lambert Strether

                  That would be “is said to have died.” Let’s maintain some distance from outright proselytization, please. There are other blogs for that purpose I will be happy to recommend to you.

                  I will go to your church, I will sit, stand, and kneel as required, I will play my proper role in the liturgy, I will sing the hymns with spirit, I will listen to the sermon, I will drink the coffee afterwards, and I’ll engage in conversation and have discussion. I’ll even put money in the plate.

                  Just don’t accost me in the street and shove your pamphlet in my face. And this isn’t even the street; it’s someone else’s house. Keep your “god talk” for your own god’s house, not here.

                  1. Jack

                    I suppose I should clarify. I’m atheist, but was raised protestant. I’m not proselytizing, merely explaining the core belief of the religion. It isn’t about Jesus being a righteous man or noble teacher, it is ultimately about him supposedly saving everyone. Hence the ‘Our Lord and Savior’ thing.

                  1. Jack

                    I’m not an expert on Buddhism, but my understanding is that Gautama Buddha did make a number of supernatural claims, and that Buddhism as he taught it is centered around achieving Enlightenment so as to escape a cycle of reincarnation and achieve Nirvana. But he also said that if people didn’t like anything he said they could substitute their own ideas. Buddhism is more of a philosophy than a strict religion and many people have latched onto the concepts of meditation, introspection and the quest to achieve some form of contentment beyond mere base emotions, all separate from the metaphysical aspects. It can be mixed and matched with any other religion, or no religion at all.

          5. The Heretic

            This story is offensive to any Christian who believes in the divinity of Christ. Some are moderates, some might be fundamentalists. Mocking their beliefs will not get them to change, it only angers them, and convinces them of the depravity of the left wing mindset.

            I thought the goal of NC was to foster community, not to splinter it.

            1. lambert strether

              Sheesh. It’s a BBC headline. Nobody forced any reader to click through, titillating though the prospect of blasphemy may be.

              You’d think Yves had decided to repost the Collected Works of Aleister Crowley!

              Are commenters who have trouble with this link really recommending that NC never link to an article like this, or this [a touch NSFW]? If so, perhaps there is an Index Purgatorious of such material, to which one might refer?

              Lighten up!

            2. Lambert Strether

              And your view is that never linking to material that might offend some member of some religion, somewhere, for some reason, is a wise strategy for community building? What sort of community did you have in mind? Honestly, if a click-bait BBC headline brings a response like this, maybe we should bring some fire-breathing Unitarian-Universalists in here for a series of posts on theology, and then sit back… [Joke, I hasten to add]

            3. Yves Smith Post author

              Please explain the contraction between the accounts of Matthew and Luke since Matthew indicates that Christ was the son of Jacob:

              Matthew 1:16 And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.

              Luke is actually internally inconsistent. Luke 1:27 and 1:32 describe Jesus as being descended from the House of David.

              If the Bible is inconsistent on this issue, it is hardly heretical to take one of the sides supported by Scripture. Accordingly, you don’t have to believe in virgin birth to believe Christ is divine.

        3. lambert strether

          “stated purpose of the blog” So, you feel that religion has nothing to do with politics and power? Seems odd, given the dominant role of, and deference paid to, Christianists since at least 2000.

          The God(ess)(e)(s) Of Your Choice, If Any know that I wouldn’t want posts on that topic, but I must point out what I feel is a flaw in your assumptIons.

          1. juliania

            I support David’s main contention that educated individuals can and do find themselves within Christian doctrine. I am confounded at the intolerant ad hominem attacks here. It’s possible to do a little research and find that the points David is making are correct and consistent with his stance as a member of this community. I don’t have his credentials, but I did study and love ancient Greek and those philosophers and also had four years of Latin in high school. (Have to say I prefer Greek, David ;~) )

            On just one point, Yves, for Christianity to have thrived as a community faith, it’s consistency with Old Testament teachings was early on in its history discussed and debated, and not in the manner in which fundamentalist rightwing Christians choose to take everything described therein as literally the way things happened. Early teachers in the church were steeped in Greek and Latin philosophy. Martin Buber, himself a Jew, thought of the Old Testament prophets, Moses in particular, as describing the indescribable as they encountered God. (Goes with my upthread comment about ‘rational’ science.)

            I would add that what faith has to do with is not a rational explanation of things, science, but a moral exploration of relationships, con-science. With-science-ness if you like.

            I think it is just that you haven’t really looked into these matters that you take a very superficial viewpoint here, as so many do. It isn’t really your fault; culture is presently oriented that way. We just deeply love our faith, and we mean you no harm. Just sometimes we have to defend it, that’s all.

            1. Lambert Strether

              “I think it is just that you haven’t really looked into these matters”… Wait. Didn’t you say something about ad hominem? I’m saying:

              1) Religious people who clutch their pearls and head for the fainting couch over a BBC headline and a link they don’t have to click on should lighten up. That goes double for people who are members of a religion that is in all ways — culturally, politically, numerically — dominant, and in dominant the world’s dominant imperial power. It’s like watching an elephant panicking at the sight of a mouse, and it says a lot more about the elephant than the mouse.

              2) The NC comment section is not a platform for religious true believers to duke it out. Somewhere there is a venue for Catholics, Protestants, Hindus, Zoroastrians, Buddhist Nationalists, and Muslims to duke it out about The Godd(ess)(e)(s) Of Their Choice. This is not that venue.

              Economics, yeah. Politics, yeah. Not religion.

              UPDATE This is David’s central thesis:

              I think there’s no place in NC for these sorts of stories.

              First, that’s not David’s judgement to make. It’s Yves. It’s her house, not David’s.

              Second, what begins as a discussion of “a return to the Roman Catholic Church” morphs remarkably quickly into a call for one of the central functions of that church: censorship.

    4. craazyman

      ding ding ding! ding ding ding! ding ding ding!

      No it’s not a firetruck coming down the street, it’s a “Get a Life Alert!’ Ringing loudly for you boneheads. Get off the couch and stop typing! Grab a beer. Get out in the sun and walk around for God’s sakes. no pun intended

      Or better yet. Check out some comparative mythology and the virgin birth blooms into a radiant cross-cultural historical construct striding like a giant between the worlds of mythopoeticism and cultural psychoanalysis. of course, it’s easier to mock it than understand it. Also, there actually is some modest amount of historical suggestion that Jesus was the son of a Roman army archer (see Ian Wilson’s: Jesus the Evidence) But it was also something contemporary, at the time, Jewish Rabbis said to discredit Christianity. it’s hard to know. it’s also possible Jesus was half human ad half space alien. Although that would be controversial in proper academic circles. if somebody going to think about this, they probably should acquaint themselves with the basics of the topic. Getting angry at what people who don’t know much about the topic write is like getting angry at a poodle for barking too furiously.

      1. Antifa

        Anyone who hasn’t read last week’s Newsweek issue on historical Christianity can find plenty of scholarly mocking of it there. That Christian theology and scripture is one hell of a mess. The best thing that could happen to Christianity is for them to acknowledge the thousand threads of prior religious traditions woven into the origins of their world view. It would make them all better human beings.

        The several Religions of this world, as practiced by the man or woman in the street, are in dire need of some constant mocking, and of some historical context, if only to bring an end to this constant killing and making war over whose God is bigger ‘n who’s.

        1. jrs

          The wars are fought for economic reasons, dominance of resources, currencies, strategic areas, dominant economic ideology etc.. It’s the year 2014, the wars are not really about religion, except for Mammon of course.

          1. ogee

            I agree wars are fought over purely economic factors,but religion is one of the main cultural conditioners to create a world of people who are practiced at living for false ideologies and false promises. Religions ,in any dogmatic and personal sense ;ought to be abolished. Abolished until any of them, can ” do”, anything…. other than make promises. While corrupt governments oppress the populations before them, phony religions tender a pliant population. Fairy tales from childhood, and strong beliefs of those around you, can’t but help promote conformity, with no expectation of accountability.

            1. The Heretic

              I don’t think that Martin Luther King or Mohandas Gandhi would agree with you.

              Any idea that promotes group think while dehumanizing the other can result in conflict, exploitation, and war.

          2. Lambert Strether

            Way too simplistic. There was plenty of religious justification for World War I — or perhaps I should say justification by the religious — and on both sides of the trenches, too.

      2. ambrit

        I prefer Robert Graves’ “King Jesus.” that and a reread of “The White Goddess” would be instructive.

        1. craazyman

          I bet the reality is so far away from what anybody imagines as to be almost unbelievable — except for a very small group of enlightened personalities who dare to see things as they are..

          I can’t believe my Grievances didn’t get aired! They got eaten and never showed up!

          They were, and I abbreviate.

          1. Why is it so hard to get a 10-bagger/ It’s rediculous. It should be easy to get rich quick and lay around wasting time. That doesn’t thretten anybody so why is all organized against my modest ambitions. It’s like they hate me. What have I ever done tot them?

          .2. Xanax should be for sale over the counter like Red Wine. It rediculous to have to have a doctor perscription. WTF?

          3. Macro doomers & gloomers. If it was’t for you guys I’d be rich by now. I knew you were wrong. I knew it just from channeling and remote viewing the future back in 2009… But I let my self confidence falter in the face of your supposed erudition and mastery of the techinical minutae associated with central banking and other legalities. What a mistake that was

          4. Why are there so many channels on TV? It’s too confusing. There are hundreds. i can’t take it anymore and got rid of my TV. If there were 4 or 5 channels I’d buy one and watch it. Hopefully there’d be cowboy shows and westerns.. Those were my favorites. Also “Get Smart”

          5. Any temperature below 20 degrees and above 90 is ridiculous. You cann have snow and skiiing from 20 to 30 and surfing below 90. These are unnecessary temperatures. Crapification when they decided on climate! That was a long time ago.

        2. McKillop

          Graves, with another person whose name I forget, also wrote :The Nazarene Gospels Restored” which is interesting and, I’d guess, the ‘biblical’ source of his”King Jesus”. He was certainly an author whose work deserves the respect of many readings, no matter how little time is available(as one comment griped, its author perhaps not thinking of reading great minds repeatedly.
          Margaret Lawrence, a contemporary novelist from Canada, also wrote and interesting story concerning a form of parthenogenesis (a false pregnancy that could be interpreted as symbolic rebirth of the character, Rachel Cameron. If my memory serves a movie entitled “Rachel, Rachel” came of the novel, which was called “A Jest of God”
          As well, in Playboy there was a story concerning a woman who, in choosing to abort, caused the spectacular comet Kohoutek (?) to fizzle rather than fill the night sky as a harbinger of the Second Coming.
          I think I’m in crazzyman’s caucus especially when I read that a story on Counterpunch is decried as blasphemy or anything else but a so so story and the other reference is fodder from the MSM.

        3. Jack

          Graves is respected as a poet and for his translations, but his ideas about history, especially the notion of some sort of mythical proto-goddess and matriarchal religion have gotten a cool reception among historians, archaeologists and anthropologists. I for one prefer my history to be based on convincing evidence, and not idealism.

  3. MK

    What was the point of Counterpunch’s “Imacculate Deception” story? To blaspheme and mock Christian beliefs. Point made–and a reader lost. Blasphemy and mockery are not moral values of any religion.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      As a religion that has burned people at the stake (among other things) and been the excuse for lots of bloody wars, having Christians take Christianity less seriously (and literally) is an entirely good thing. You can believe that the precepts Christ offered are good guides for living and strive to adhere to them without taking texts that were codified long after Christ died at face value. It’s not hard to imagine that Christ would be appalled at what the organized Christian religions have done in his name.

      1. savedbyirony

        Could the “Jesus” of the Gospels be a catholic in “good standing”? not a chance.
        Could even the “Christ” of the catholic mythology be a RCC in good standing? -most likely, not a chance.
        Grand Inquisitors understand the need for “Virgin” births (misunderstood and indoctrinated), fear science and make/put martyrs to useful purposes.

        (i don’t think taking scriptural and spiritual writings as literal/scientific writings are properly understood moral virtues of any religions (faiths), either.)

      2. juliania

        Somehow my earlier comment didn’t pass muster, but no, Yves, the Christian faith is more than the description you are giving of it here. Just as this democracy is being trashed by those who loudly proclaim themselves as adherents to its founding principles but are not, so too those ‘christians’ who would appall Christ would also appall his sincere followers in the faith. This is not the forum to discuss that, nor should it be the place to mock any holy feast.

        As a Christian I don’t want to mock the faith of any of the world’s great religions. Nor to disparage those who cannot believe. We share much in common and that is very important in this time of superficial condemnation. Christ went to the heart of the matter, it is true. And yes, he died. Wouldn’t even that man who died, whose words you honor, be sad to see his mother mocked? As he died, he gave his mother to the disciple whom he loved; and he gave his disciple to her. That speaks of family and of the respect for family extending beyond his mortal passing. These were some of his last words among the many recorded by that and the other disciples – we cannot just separate out the parts we want to show respect for – it all coheres. Please do not disparage what you clearly do not understand.

        I’m sad for these links, as is MK. I realize this is way too late to be posting, but it has stayed on my mind today – I celebrate Russian Christmas, by the way, which is the same (almost) as Twelfth Night. Merry Christmas to all, whatever your belief.

    2. Banger

      As someone who appreciates the virtues of religion I’ve got to say that it’s time we stop pussyfooting around the issue–we need to confront religious beliefs and attitudes directly and critically because they are vitally important. I have seen broken people healed through Christianity–specifically I’m thinking about a friend of mine who has about as serious a drug problem as anyone–how he managed to stay alive is hard to imagine and Jesus saved him–but he didn’t stay stuck in the narrow Evangelical movement and realized that spirituality is much deeper and he studied Yogic and Buddhist ideas and is working to expand the views of his contacts in his own Southern Baptists church–it’s really fascinating to watch.

      Just as English teachers tend to ruin poetry for us, so the pastors and priests tend to destroy the fundamentals of what religion could be if it weren’t seen as just another way to gain power. Religions are actually poetic stories to help us see reality as more multi-dimensional than the narrow spectrum we generally believe is reality. As such it should answer to rational inquiry and not be afraid of tough questions–that’s what I hate most about religious people–they won’t deal with tough questions.

      1. ogee

        I agree,
        We need to stop supporting flawed logic, and wrong assumptions.
        I hope your friend well in his struggle with substance abuse,but “jesus” didn’t do it. How do I know? Because jesus is dead. He was crucified after he pissed of the powers that were in his area and time. He was a fanatic. He was a believer,maybe.
        But we know that the entire story of the Christian religion is a “story”, not supported by historical fact. The jewish religion, and the Islamic religion , as well.You might even throw Hinduism in there too.
        Aside from the cultural signifigance and lessons that are good to learn in any society. The idea that these stories are at all true is a hindrance to the evolution of the cultural elevation of mankind. These stories have billions of people” stuck in the mud” of ignorance. There are Christians bombing the shit out of innocent families in their homes, while we have “good muslims”, gunning down schoolchildren, and hindu dads setting their daughters on fire…. because they can….Even the jewish religion is blighted by the actions of some of its “faithful”, who call themselves,”Isreali’s”….oppressing their neighbors…etc.
        I’ve got no problem with anyone using any crutch they like for self betterment…. More power to ya. But the reality is children need to be taught that ALL religions with a dogmatic principle and a personal diety…. are BULLSHIT. Pure and simple.
        People can feel whatever they want, but NO religion has EVER been true. If my friend wants to be a jedi knight, and is a good person, I don’t need to worry why. I like that people strive to be better. To strive for “the good”….is not to make up “the truth”.

        1. The Heretic

          The problem is that many beleivers are complacent and want to believe whatever the leader tells them to believe, instead of pondering and experiencing the precepts of their religion. A Muslim who understood his Koran would never bomb innocents, a good Christian who understood his Bible would never blindly go to war for the sake of ‘promoting freedom’.

          The problem is not that people have religion, but they do not contemplate their religion.

          1. Jack

            Every branch of a religion claims it is the ‘true’ version of that religion. You say anyone who has read the Koran would know that bombing innocents is wrong, but I’m sure I could find plenty of Wahhabists who would point to passages of the Koran to justify their violent actions. There are clean shaven, drinking and partying young men in Dubai who consider themselves just as authentically Muslim as any bearded, illiterate herder with 8 wives in the Pakistani tribal-lands. And I don’t see any reason to say they’re wrong, either.

            Considering Jesus told people to do things like give up all their worldly belongings and follow him by your logic the only ‘true’ Christians would be preaching hobos who live entirely off the charity of others. People are who they are for a variety of reasons, and can and do play pick and choose with their holy books of choice to make their religion conform to their way of life and preexisting worldview. And even people who genuinely do review their texts in an attempt to be ‘true’ followers often arrive at very different places from each other.

    3. lambert strether

      But if the writers don’t share your beliefs, I don’t see how they’re blaspheming. Who said you, or anybody, get to define what’s holy for everyone else?

  4. tongorad

    The “It’s a Wonderful Life, Comrade,” piece is interesting, particularly in the revelation that the FBI used “analytical tools” produced by Any Rand. A bit of our cold war past, or…?

    I am sad to report that Ayn Rand “novels” are being taught, as literature, by the English dept at the public high school where I work at. Yes, that’s right, Rand alongside Dickens and Twain (granted, I live in Texas). Also, quite often Ayn Rand pamphlets & brochures are placed in teacher’s mailboxes. The most recent one was for an essay contest that offered cash prizes.

    Ayn Rand’s influence: from providing Cold War ideological toolboxes to the FBI, to present-day adoration and elevation in our public schools. Now that’s…progress. I see the PTB rather cartoonishly, brazenly and crudely organized against the interests of workers…is it just me, or?

  5. Richard

    In PA it’s possible to be too poor for Obamacare and too rich for Medicaid. Are you subject to the tax penalty if you fall into this group?

    1. Eureka Springs

      Whether one willingly enters the ACA maze or not we are all just rats in their cage. This quote alone made me laugh and scream.

      But be prepared to hit redial. John Koskinen, the Internal Revenue Service commissioner, admitted in a recent speech that because of budget constraints, the agency may be equipped to answer just over half of the phone calls it receives. Many will get a “courtesy disconnect.”

      1. John Zelnicker

        The IRS is being forced to reduce staffing by 13,000 people this fiscal year. Congress is doing great at creating jobs, aren’t they?

        The IRS has also stopped giving any kind of tax advice to callers, so even if your call is answered, you may not get much information.

        And the IRS cannot pursue any collection activities for unpaid ACA penalties, other than sending letters and capturing current and future refunds. Also, they can only add interest, no other non-payment penalties.

        1. ProNewerDeal

          Any idea on how the “interest” is calculated? At the CPI rate?

          Interesting quote from the linked NYT article:

          “But the I.R.S. can deduct the penalty from any refund due. And if a taxpayer isn’t owed a refund — and fails to pay the penalty — the amount will accrue interest and roll over into the following tax years. The I.R.S. could continue to deduct the growing amount from any refunds due for 10 years, which is how long the agency is allowed to collect payments.”

          So if I am understanding this correctly, let’s say Joe Public is subject to the mandate for 2014, but doesn’t do enough withholding during 2014 such that they need to pay money to the IRS when filing taxes say in Mar 2015 (as opposed to receiving a refund). Likewise from 2015-2022 Joe owes money when filing taxes, but Joe obtains health insurance in Jan 2015 & holds it continuously for the next ~10 yrs. But then in 2023 ta year, Joe is owed a refund, the IRS will garnish the refund from the ancient 2014 Individual Mandate, plus whatever bogus interest charges, presumably calculated in an opaque nonclear matter.

          Sadly it seems Joe is better going with “The Known Known” (no Donald Dumsfield just in case) and paying the Mandate Fee in Mar 2015, as opposed to The Known Unknown of this opaque tax refund eviscerator over the next 10 yrs.

          Big 1-finger salute to 0bama for this abomination, additional source of stress. Second, F the 0bot Lawrence O’Donnell, who I recall an 0bot I know cited a video clip where “the Individual Mandate is optional, & anyone who criticizes it a R with 0bama Derangement Syndrome” or whatever such lies. Third, F the R Team, for their BS kayfabe about killing the Individual Mandate (I presume they will not actually do so when controlling Congress in 2015).

          Big props to Yves/Lambert/Naked Capitalism for following the “ACA ClusterF”, “beat” in a thorough honest ways, since this ACA that affects we 99% USians, yet the BigMedia seems to ignore important news like this.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            FWIW, the IRS interest charges are not opaque:

            Question: What kinds of interest and penalties will I be charged for filing and paying my taxes late?
            Answer:

            Interest is compounded daily and charged on any unpaid tax from the due date of the return (without regard to any extension of time to file) until the date of payment.

            The interest rate is the federal short-term rate plus 3 percent. That rate is determined every three months.

            For current interest rates, go to News Release and Fact Sheet Archive and find the most recent Internal Revenue release entitled Quarterly Interest Rates or alternatively, search “quarterly interest rates” on our website, http://www.irs.gov

            http://www.irs.gov/Help-&-Resources/Tools-&-FAQs/FAQs-for-Individuals/Frequently-Asked-Tax-Questions-&-Answers/IRS-Procedures/Collection-Procedural-Questions/Collection-Procedural-Questions-3

            1. ProNewerDeal

              Thanks Yves for explaining this “federal short-term rate plus 3 percent”.

              At least currently, it would seem a decent “heuristic”/”rule of thumb”, for a hypothetical individual Joe facing the 2014 Indvidual Mandate, to take the Known Known & pay the 2014 Indvidual Mandate Fee with the tax return in ~Mar 2015.

              Even if the “federal short-term rate” were 0%, the 3% dwarfs the emergency fund rate available. The last time I checked, the best emergency fund savings choice was the I Bond type of US Savings Bond (better than Rewards Checking, CD, etc), which is tied to CPI, & currently yielding 1.48% . (Note, the I Bond must be held at least for 13 months, so it is not truly a pure emergency fund type of savings, but can be used as such if one “prepays” their emergency fund)

              http://www.mymoneyblog.com/category/savings-bonds

              1. different clue

                And remember, this interest penalty ( and any teeth added to collect it with) will be retained, entrenched and enhanced by the incoming Republicans. Its a key part of the Heritage Plan, which Obama will be very well paid for having ploughed the ground and built the stub for.

        2. ProNewerDeal

          To the extent that the D Team is a Lesser Evil than the R Team (put aside Glen Ford’s compelling argument for Ds = More Effective Evil)…

          I wonder if these ACA tax burden faced for the first 2 times in Mar 2015 & Mar 2016, that will sufficiently anger enough “independent voters” & 2014 nonvoters; say 2+% of the 2016 voting population, to change their behavior to vote against the D Team in disgust in Nov 2016.

          There is
          1 The Individual Mandate, whether in the same year, or Suprising Future Year Refund Eater

          2 Individuals who could not Nostradamus their future year income correctly, especially hourly workers who do not know the amount of hrs they will have from 1 week to the next, say in Dec 2013 a single individual guesstimated their 2014 year income would be $20K, but then in Jan 2015 realize their 2014 income actually was $30K. Now they will owe the IRS a check that depletes their emergency fund, or worse that they do not have, & thus then have the stress & cost of having to owe $ to the IRS.

          3 Individuals that didn’t face #1 or #2, but found that the ACA’s incremental complexity on tax filing them to spend 20+ hours of extra time &/or $ in filing their tax paperwork. For instance, a previously self-filer using a tax CD software, “throwing up their hands” and paying an tax preparer/accountant/para-accountant.

          Could it be that Neoliberal Extremist 0bama Reagan Jr is purposefully making the Fed Gov services worse & compliance more ornerous & arbitrary, as to justify the Reaganesque “Government Sux” rhetoric?

    2. John Zelnicker

      No, you are not. There are affordability and hardship exceptions available, and several others. Some can only be granted by going through the Healthcare.gov website, others can be claimed on a tax return.

  6. Scaredy Cops

    Re Firedoglake, pigs don’t like the law. This is state and federal common law:

    “Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law”

    Killing pigs is recourse to rebellion and it is going to continue until you prosecute and punish all the killer pigs. It’s the government, after all, that routinized extrajudicial killing at home and abroad. Killing pigs is high-value targeting operations in defense of the public.

  7. Winston Smith

    Re: It’s a Wonderful Life, Comrade

    And if anything, its portrayal of a villainous banker has been vindicated a thousand fold as in the last seven years we’ve seen fraudulent mortgages and subsequent foreclosures, bankers unrepentant after an unprecedented taxpayer bailout and unpunished after a mindboggling spree of bad calls, profligacy and corkscrew investments that raked in billions while others suffered the consequences.

    True, but what a strange universe where George Bailey had to worry about going to jail for making an honest mistake. I’ve always wondered how realistic It’s a Wonderful Life was in that regard even in its time.

    Of course today George Bailey could steal $100 million with no fear of prosecution as long as he took his loot in the form of fees and profits on $3 billion in fraudulent loans. Strangely, the 30 fold amplification of damage needed to obscure the embezzlement is reeked on the stooge borrowers who received the loans, the sucker pension funds who bought the fraudulent mortgage backed securities, and every victim of the GFC, but the banker is made less a criminal according to Obama and his DOJ. It’s a wonderful life.

    1. Winston Smith

      WREAKED! I noticed “reeked” in time to edit, but I wasn’t allowed to make the change. Something about other comments having been posted.

  8. Jackrabbit

    Yesterday, NYTimes had a major, front page story about the drop in the price of oil. It starts as follows:

    A plunge in oil prices has sent tremors through the global political and economic order, setting off an abrupt shift in fortunes that has bolstered the interests of the United States and pushed several big oil-exporting nations — particularly those hostile to the West, like Russia, Iran and Venezuela — to the brink of financial crisis.

    The article goes on to draw parallels between the fall of the Soviet Union and Putin’s current predicament. Oil prices also dropped before the Soviet Union collapsed.

    What’s interesting – and disturbing – is that this article, which appears to ‘connect the dots’, leaves out crucial information. It doesn’t mention:

    a) the ‘hit’ that the US economy will take (but does mention the benefit to the Chinese economy)

    b) the derivatives bailout that Sen. Elisabeth Warren railed against before the passage of the ‘Crominbus’ legislation

    c) China’s proposed Swaps – which could significantly diminish the pressures the oil price drop on Russia and possibly other countries (the rationale for adding the derivatives provisions was Bank exposure to falling oil prices via derivatives)

    Furthermore, the article does a disservice to the ‘Times’ readership by associating the view that the US and Saudi Arabia may be colluding with America’s enemies (especially Putin’s Russia):

    Hard-hit anti-American oil producers have blamed foreign machinations for their woes, suggesting that Washington, in cahoots with Saudi Arabia, has deliberately driven down prices.

    This view is particularly strong in Russia, where former K.G.B. agents close to Mr. Putin have long believed that Washington engineered the collapse of the Soviet Union by getting Saudi Arabia to increase oil output, driving down prices and thus starving Moscow of revenue.

    In fact, some INDEPENDENT analysts have reached a similar conclusion mostly because the Saudis have driven prices down so quickly and beyond the point necessary to stop the drilling of new fracking wells. But the alternative explanation that the ‘Times’ gives for how the oil price dropped so quickly is severely wanting:

    In many ways, the recent price fall really is the United States’ work, flowing to a large extent from a surge in American oil production through the development of alternative sources like shale.

    But WHY NOW? Why did the Saudis wait so long to address the threat from fracking? The fracking industry is now fully developed and more efficient practices are being developed every day. High priced oil has also spured development of alternative energy technology like solar/wind/etc. We are to believe that with all their money and paranoia about remaining ‘on top’, they didn’t see the calamity bearing down on them until only months ago? JUST at the beginning of the new Cold War?

    =

    Lastly, many skeptics will not forget the many counter-factural narratives of the recent past. A sampling:

    – They hate us for our freedoms. (after 9-11)

    – Iraqi WMDs (also: they will welcome us and Iraqi oil revenue will pay for reconstruction)

    – Change you can believe in (end of wars / transparency / closing Guantanamo / etc.)

    – Global warming is a hoax.

    – TARP made money. (after bailouts and backdoor bailouts)

    – Radiation is good for you. (after the Fukushima meltdown)

    =
    =
    =
    H O P

    1. Jackrabbit

      The ‘Times’ article also notes:

      Russia’s troubles have so far shown no sign of pushing Mr. Putin toward a more conciliatory position on Ukraine, and some analysts believe they could make Moscow even more pugnacious and prone to lashing out.

      No doubt any rising tensions will be blamed on Putin. The US and our EU/Ukrainian allies would never provoke or otherwise give Russa cause to “lash out” would they?!?!

      Today we hear that Ukraine has again shut off electricity to Crimea.

    2. trinity river

      Jackrabbit, I was disturbed by the NYT article too. Thanks for bringing it up.

      But WHY NOW? Why did the Saudis wait so long to address the threat from fracking?
      I have no inside information, but maybe, just maybe . . .since the US is going back into Iraq to fight ISIS. ISIS is and has been supported by Saudi Arabia.

      This is a Sunni-Shi’a conflict. Why was the U.S. ever involved? Oh, yes, oil. Now our native oil industry is being hurt.

      1. Jackrabbit

        It’s not ISIS. KSA officially says that they are threatened by ISIS. If so, they should be happy that US would counter ISIS. And if they are happy with US as protector, why would they ‘attack’ US fracking so vociferously?

        Things are not as they appear so think twice about anything you hear in MSM. Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the US do not want to appear to be working together. That would inflame too many critics of each regime. Instead they push the Middle East in CHAOS narrative. The ‘story’ of the oil price drop is that it is simply one of market dynamics but the timing of the Saudi action stinks.

        And if the US was unhappy AT ALL with the attack on the US fracking industry, we would’ve heard about it loud and clear. Example: have they forcefully criticized the death sentences of the 200+ people in Egypt who supported the Muslim Brotherhood?? Nope. Just a blurb on the back pages of MSM. Despite the fact that US backed, democratically elected MB was overthrown in a coup. The Saudi’s were unhappy with MB populism.

        1. Doug Terpstra

          After Iraq’s WMDs, the multiple al-Queda enmity-alliance switcheroos, the humanitarian war in Libya, gun-running in Benghazi and Mexico, chemical warfare in Syria, the dire threat of US-armed ISIS (with fizzled response), Israeli self-defense, Russian “aggression”, new revelations of torture, and so on, I think profound skepticism must be the default response to ANY official statements especially from close US cronies.

          Taking Saudi statements at face value, that the oil dumping is simply the usual forces of monopolistic, predatory market-rigging and price fixing seems a bit naive in context. When taken together with the separate but parallel FX attacks (a la Soros and Goldman) on the ruble, the emergency derivatives backstopping by taxpayers, and the deafening silence of Obama to dumping, the official narrative is once again HIGHLY suspect.

          1. James Levy

            What amazes me is that the Petro-State Republicans have remained silent while their big-money sponsors, donors, and voters are getting slaughtered. Dozens of firms and thousands of high-paying jobs are at stake from the action of those filthy AYE-rab foreigners yet silence from the Republicans of Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and the Dakotas. How that’s being orchestrated (and how the Power Elite are keeping them from exploiting this as another Obama “betrayal”) would be sweet to know.

            1. lord koos

              I believe that the oil price crash was engineered with the approval of the USA (if not actually instigated by it) and congress knows it. There are just too many pluses for the US, in spite of damaging domestic oil producers. It hurts Russia and Venezuela while giving American consumers more spending money (in theory anyway).

            2. fresno dan

              Yeah, but you gotta put money in perspective:
              big money
              bigger money
              biggest money
              ginormous money
              squilliionaire money
              geopolitical action….to get arms makers money…

              I do love Doug’s comment:
              “Taking Saudi statements at face value, that the oil dumping is simply the usual forces of monopolistic, predatory market-rigging and price fixing seems a bit naive in context.”

              I can hear the Saudi press shill now: Really, truly, sincerely, I tell you esteemed press people we are just greedy, money grubbing monopolists trying to rig the “free” (OW!!! I hurt myself laughing) oil market – we never ever do anything related to politics! Where is da money is all we care about!!!!

            3. Yves Smith Post author

              A reader a few days ago said the thing the CIA was most afraid of was the House of Saud. The silence confirms that view, that the big oil players know they can’t push them around.

              1. Jackrabbit

                @Yves

                The comment was that the CIA feared the END of the House of Saud. This was a minor correction to Fiver who had said that “there is simply no way the Saudis are acting alone in this, for the simple reason that the Royals retain their thrones at the whim of US power.”.

                Republicans and the big oil companies don’t say anything because they know the score and they are on board with the strategy for regime change in Russia.

                In the same comment referenced above, Fiver says: “The Saudis have played the ‘bad guy’ many times before, and every time handsomely rewarded. This is a US/Saudi squeeze play aimed at buckling Russia, Iran or both.”

                1. Doug Terpstra

                  Well, if the CIA said something, we can take it as gospel, because we know they would never prevaricate, fabricate, dissemble, disinform, misdirect, or tell even the smallest of white lies.

                  I recall Nancy Pelosi once saying publicly that the CIA lied, and the official uproar, echoed far and wide, caused her to issue an immediate retraction and contrite apology. How ridiculous: the agency whose entire consitution is dedicated to deception, violence, murder, and brutal sadism has as it’s motto the words of Jesus Christ: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” The quinessential Orwellian farce

                  1. Jackrabbit

                    Click the link(s) to read the comment. Its not the CIA saying this in any official or even nearly official way.

                2. Yves Smith Post author

                  Work through the logic. The US is not on top here, despite appearances. The US fear of what might happen if the House of Saud were to go poof puts the House of Saud in charge. The US has to support them not matter what. Look at how we said not a peep about all the Saudis among the 19 (or was it 20?) 9/11 suspects, and how the ONLY exception to the total airspace lockdown was to whisk members of the Royal Family to safer quarters.

                  1. Jackrabbit

                    @Yves

                    I think what Fiver means is that the US, as a global military power, is the senior partner. I think what is meant by the concerns/fearing about the end of the House of Saud is the chaos that might come from a revolution to topple them (and wasn’t that what al Queda was?) AND ending of what has been a very productive partnership.

                    Both KSA and USA have a strategic interest in the petro-dollar. But are they colluding to drop the price of oil to spur regime change in Russia (and elsewhere) or is the oil price drop simply market dynamics as MSM tells us?

                    This is an important question because if it ever comes to a military confrontation, the US wants to appear righteous and for all the blame to fall on Putin. What they DON’T want is anti-war protests, second-guessing by friends and allies, and for SCO/BRICs and other countries to rally behind Putin.

    3. Banger

      The Saudis have an interest in keeping a certain kind of NWO in place with them as a central component. It seems they do have the power to radically change oil prices. This also illustrates the fact that factions in Washington are international in nature and their interests are very far away from anything we might call the “national interest” even if you figure that national interest is the interests of arrangements of American oligarchs. The Bush crime family is an example of a deeply connected faction very much involved with the Saudis and others.

      I think, also, there that facitons against alternative energy are also forming a tighter alliance and the Saudis are at the center of that as well. The whole Saudi/CIA connection is fascinating. JFK, for example, was very much against the Saudi Kingdom and understood what a negative influence they had and would have in the ME. Indeed, the Saudis are, perhaps, the main cause of trouble in the region perhaps more even than Israel.

    4. Synapsid

      Jackrabbit,

      Help me out here, OK? This seems to be the tenor of many of the comments following yours:

      Saudi production was not cut, and has been pretty much the same for months (except for a series of small cuts), while US production is at near-record levels, so Saudi Arabia is guilty of dumping oil on the global market.

      Have I got that right? Would you say that follows from your post?

      1. Jackrabbit

        No. Saudi’s pumping at the same level for months doesn’t follow from my comment and I don’t read the comments that follow, mine like that either.

        At this point all the oil producers are pumping more oil trying to reduce the drop in oil revenues that the falling price of oil has created for them. I don’t know exactly what the Saudi’s are pumping today, but it is clear that the Saudi’s started this price war and have ignored pleas to end it. They have said that they want to regain market share that has been lost to non-OPEC producers (mostly frackers). They are the traditional ‘swing’ producer that determines the price of oil because they are the largest producer and pump at the lowest cost.

        Hope that helps.

        1. Synapsid

          Jackrabbit,

          Thanks.

          What I see is no great change in Saudi production since June, and their refusal to act as swing producer–which doesn’t surprise me considering what happened to them in the 1980s when they did cut production and no one else did. In other words, I don’t see that they’ve done anything; by way of contrast, US production really has climbed and that has left more crude oil in the global market because the US is buying less. I don’t see how this translates into Saudi Arabia causing a price war.

          The Saudis see things going their way with regard to Iran, Russia, and LTO (from the shales) in the US, so they aren’t interfering. Why would they? I don’t see that that means they started the current situation that they benefit from, just that they’re sitting back and letting it continue.

          1. Jackrabbit

            Its more complicated than that. Neither US nor Russia are members of OPEC. Saudi Arabia is. By turning its back on OPEC member pleas to work with other members to stabilize prices, Saudi Arabia has guaranteed that prices will free fall.

            1. Synapsid

              Jackrabbit,

              Sure. Saudi Arabia told the rest of OPEC that they weren’t going to do all the work anymore, and some members are going to have to leave OPEC as a result; Indonesia did some years ago and others will now, I expect. I’m surprised the Saudis put up for so long with other members producing flat out while the Saudis changed their production in order to regulate prices. This time around a situation arose that put the Saudis in a position to just sit tight and let a shakeout work to their advantage. It makes sense to me and I’m no admirer of the House of Saud.

              As you say, there’s more than one dimension to the current oil scene. US LTO production, based on interest rates near zero causing investors to put money into anything (like the shales) that looked like it would offer a yield, and on banks lending easy, has led to a $550 billion overhang of junk bonds and loans that the shale industry is not going to be able to pay off, and there’s another shakeout coming as a result–but for the world market that unsustainable production has left more oil available than there would have been, at a time when economies are picking up slowly. That’s the setup that the Saudis are taking advantage of.

              Thanks for the discussion, J. On to 27 December.

  9. Benedict@Large

    Life choices ‘behind more than four in 10 cancers’ (BBC)

    I’ve been seeing this meme pop up a number of times lately, curiously now in the BBC, where the fight to privatize the NHS continues. Eventually of course most all cancers will be said to emanate from lifestyle choices, and we’ll be well on our way to the deserving and undeserving sick, with all cancers falling into the latter. This will work well to keep insurance prices down and extend the now useless contribution health insurers make to the health are delivery system, which was and continues to be the sole rationale for ObamaCare.

    Of course there will be lots of dead bodies lying around, but chances are they were older and less capable of hard work, so of no matter to the neoliberal machine.

    1. cwaltz

      What’s even more annoying is that the medical community will give advice like “eggs are a large source of cholesterol, eat sparingly,” only to retract their advice several years down the line, “whoopsie, so sorry, we got that wrong.” So why again am I to believe that what they are calling cause is essentially correct rather than just another risk factor for someone with the wrong genes who was predisposed to begin with? I tend to take the medical community’s statements like these with a grain of salt.

      1. lord koos

        Remember the famous baseball player who in spite of a lifetime of alcohol abuse, jumped to the front of the line for a liver transplant? I just depends on where you are located in the social strata.

      2. jrs

        “So why again am I to believe that what they are calling cause is essentially correct rather than just another risk factor for someone with the wrong genes who was predisposed to begin with?”

        I suppose that is what can be called a cause in a multi-casual model.

        1. cwaltz

          That’s the thing even if you eat, right, exercise, never smoke, etc, etc it’s entirely possible that your genes will betray you. We know today that things like stress or even exposure to a virus can trigger problems. I think that’s why this whole entire “cancer is caused by lifestyle choices is egregious.” There are people out there who don’t smoke their entire lives and contract cancer so although smoking is a risk factor it isn’t actually the cause of cancer.

          Interestingly enough as early as 2006, Japanese scientists studied the group of cancer patients that never smoked and found that family history is a strong risk factor and that cancer could indeed be inheritable.

          http://www.lung-cancer.com/nonsmoker.html

    2. James Levy

      What I would like to see acknowledged is that the human body is not like any simple system; curing a disease or safely relieving symptoms is not like making bronze or gunpowder–throw in three or four ingredients and out it comes. Our bodies, the bacteria and viruses in and around it, our environment, and our mental state all interact with thousands of chemicals and other substances (pollen, dust, smoke, humidity, etc.) in myriad ways. The medical community would be a lot better off if they made peace with this complexity up front and didn’t try to use tinker-toy models of reality and causality when trying to deal with disease.

  10. Ditti

    Re sick, life choices etc

    I’ve see the exact arguments made here and defended in your comment section

    It’s spun forge left but once you accept the pov as fact there is no telling who will use it

    That’s why I think it is critical to rely in science rather than statements like you can avoid cancer by avoiding stress

    What poor person has the means to avoid stress?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      You are missing the pejorative element in the framing. It is one thing to say “Taking better care of yourself is worth doing, you’ll be healthier” versus “poor choices” which implies that the person has freedom of choice (which they may not because they are low income and/or time stressed or already on medications that produce bad side effects like Prozac-induced weight gain) and that those choices are bad.

    2. Banger

      Indeed. I think most thinking people understand that 80% of all disease (I think it is more) is caused by stress–yet it is precisely stress that the oligarchs want to increase on all of us so that we stay weak and supine. It is exactly in their interest, or what they see as their interest, to make life miserable for the rest of us. Not every oligarch, of course, but the preponderance of them. They cloak this POV in their fantastic ideologies which are as bizarre as they are nasty.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Speak for yourself. Some of us eat stress for breakfast and are very healthy. Not that I think most people are wired that way, but I am very leery of reductivist explanations. If I were to look for big categories, it would be highly processed only technically food that a lot of people wind up eating (like hydrogenated fats and high fructose corn syrup) and all the various toxins (plastics, stuff in the air, stuff in the water….).

        1. optimader

          “Some of us eat stress for breakfast and are very healthy. ”
          Until you’re not…if it is indeed stress.
          What constitutes stress is of course very subjective. Being put in front of a piano at Carnegie Hall would probably be very stressful for someone ill prepared and a pleasure for a skilled and confident piano player..

        2. jonboinAR

          To emphasize something you just said, if you read ingredient labels in the supermarket faithfully, avoiding anything that includes hydrogenated oils or high fructose corn syrup, I understand that with that simple discipline alone you’ll go a LONG ways toward protecting your health. It eliminates about 80% of the selection in the store. Those remaining are not necessarily those that market themselves as healthy, but they are there and a person gets used to just buying those.

  11. David Lentini

    Agreed. This is all about justifying hiking insurance rates and cutting coverage on a basis of “moral lapse” in the guise of making a “choice”.

    Of course, they folks who tout their superiority are the same how make the choice to cut care, allow inappropriate advertising and subsidize poor diets.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Agreed, and I would just add that a civilized, robust society is one where if an individual made a lazy choice, he/she would still be safe.

      For example, if I forgot to look at it carefully and just picked an apple, in a ‘civilized’ society, that apple would be organic (because what else would it be).

      And so, we have a collective duty to build a society like that.

    2. jrs

      I think it’s useful to know when something can reduce the incidence of diseases etc..

      Yea, the linked article wasn’t at all a good article, and wouldn’t tell anyone anything they didn’t know, and merely urges new years resolutions (ah yes where are the studies showing they work? I’ve never heard anyone with any training think they do FWIW). But it doesn’t mean health information that comes out that shows lifestyle influences isn’t valuable.

      1. cwaltz

        I don’t think anyone is saying don’t try to exercise, eat right, or avoid things like highly processed food. We’re objecting to idea that not doing those things are a wholesale cause of your cancer. It’s great advice to exercise but if you do so you can still get cancer. The fact you do decreases your risk, it doesn’t eliminate it. It comes off as entirely false to suggest that lifestyle choices are “behind cancer” when the reality is that even people who make good lifestyle choices can end up with cancer.The medical community would be better served to just advise people to live healthier lives rather than saying people with cancer caused the disease by making bad choices(not always true.)

  12. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    US retailers may just meet expectations.

    Now, from a different angle: Nature may just survive another annual war with human consumers.

    Unless one is specially trained, most human readers take the point of view of the author, and involuntarily enlist in the aggression against non-humans.

  13. fresno dan

    Tuesday’s Shooting in Missouri Reveals the Limitations of Police Dashboard Cameras New Republic. A sign of my naivete: I assumed, like Russian dashcams, that they’d be on all the time.

    I’m not gonna say I told you so…..Well, that’s baloney – I am gonna say I told ya so….

    fresno dan

    December 17, 2014 at 11:41 am

    http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/12/oakland-cops-disciplined-24-times-for-failing-to-turn-on-body-worn-cameras/

    All the youngin’s that read NC are too young to remember Rose Mary Woods, but I suspect these cameras will be remarkably unreliable electronic devices….

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rose_Mary_Woods

    1. optimader

      Until the sentencing guidelines for disabled chest/dash cams are aligned with those for 1st degree murder/manslaughter, don’t be holding your breathe on them recording anything so incriminating. It’s unreasonable to think otherwise.

    1. jrs

      The TPP push.

      ” and test his premise that Washington can still find common ground on major initiatives.”

      on major initiatives no one wants, but that’s all we ever get I guess. The food was terrible, but there wasn’t enough of it.

      “It also will test his willingness to buck his own party in pursuit of a legacy-burnishing achievement”

      oh they aren’t even pretending anymore on the meaning of legacy are they? Legacy = cash out. I mean otherwise more impoverishment through a trade deal not to mention the selling out of sovereignty isn’t much of a legacy.

      “There’s no doubt that some manufacturing moved offshore in the wake of China entering the [World Trade Organization] and as a consequence of NAFTA,”

      We outsourced some folks.

      ““Now, more of those jobs were lost because of automation and capital investment, but there’s a narrative there that makes for some tough politics.””

      Also of course subsidized via tax credits.

  14. UPR 1-pagers?

    Universal Periodic Review of the US is in March. Curious whether some subset of NC subversives might want to pile on. The drill is, mapping US state predation to human rights chapter and verse, and communicating with Human Rights Council member nations to help them bone up for optimal needling. (Sadly, the DPRK is not on deck for this one, they’re like the Andrew Dice Clay of human rights. Like, take CIA war-dog rape in Afghanistan, they would hit that out of the park.) It’s all fair game, including the economic, social, and cultural rights that the US acknowledges out of our earshot in Geneva. If anyone is interested, we could go offline, with maybe a thread here or elsewhere for updates and admin.

  15. Jack

    Of course The Interview is terrible; it’s a Seth Rogen stoner comedy, it was doomed to be awful. While all the people seeing it out of ‘patriotism’ is depressing (really, the CIA was just proven to be utter liars and yet so many people believe the government when it says North Korea is behind the hack?), I’m more worried about American Sniper. Simply that it exists.

    Basically I don’t see movies in theaters or watch TV, so I didn’t even know it existed, but I went to see The Hobbit and saw a big dumb cardboard display for American Sniper at the theater. A biopic of a man whose sole claim to fame is that he single-handedly murdered hundreds of people. If he’s the same sniper I once heard on an NPR interview, and I think he is, he was about the dumbest, most shallow person you could imagine, totally convinced that every single person he killed was a ‘terrorist’ and deserved it. American war culture is breathtaking. All you have to do is detach yourself from it for a little while and then step back and examine it from a distance, and how screwed up it all is is shocking.

    1. barrisj

      Too right…who exactly are these dull tools rushing to see “Interview” as a demonstration of their “patriotism”? I mean, seriously, this whole business is a Terry Gilliam send-up morphing into real life. Seth Rogers? James Franco? Guardians of “our freedoms”? We are all living in an alternate universe, for feck’s sake!
      And, “American Sniper”? Bloody hell, a piece a shite killer gets some fame? So many young minds exposed to the likes of “Call of Duty”, amongst other “Kill the feckers” videos…does anyone wonder why the dreck emanating from the Hollywood studios these days are being produced with heavy Pentagon and CIA “input” and “consultation”? Throw in the ubiquitous “Salute to Our Heroes”/giant Murkan Flag rituals at football matches, the sheeple can be sold on virtually ANYTHING that the US government and its handmaidens in Infotainment can promulgate as “reality”, especially if it’s well salted with doses of “freedom” and its corollary, “protecting our freedoms”. No easier path to totalitarianism has existed as there exists in the good ol’ USA today, full stop.

      1. optimader

        “who exactly are these dull tools rushing to see “Interview” as a demonstration of their “patriotism”?”
        People bereft of alternatives uses for their time and money.

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