Links 1/26/15

Being Stung by the Gympie Gympie Tree Is the Worst Kind of Pain You Can Imagine Oddity Central (CL).

Marijuana’s Surprising Effects On Athletic Performance Business Insider

Potentially Historic Blizzard Taking Aim on New England Weather Underground

How Bernie Sanders, In New Role, Could Make Wall Streeters Very, Very Unhappy The American Prospect. Will Sanders introduce his own budget?

Currency Fight Hinders Talks on U.S.-Pacific Trade Deal WSJ

Anne Stausboll, Calpers CEO: the $300bn woman FT

Yamaguchi-gumi marks 100 years of crime Tokyo Reporter

Oil and the dollar will complicate the U.S. revival Bruegel

Nominate A Qualified Undersecretary Of Domestic Finance Now Simon Johnson, Baseline Scenario. Weiss supporters have “hurt and angry feelings.”

We Were Arrogant’: Interview with New York Times Editor Baquet Der Speigel. Baquet emits a steaming load of self-exculpatory bullshit:

SPIEGEL: One of your best reporters, James Risen, said in a speech that the mainstream “failed after 9/11.” Do you agree?

Baquet: Yes, absolutely. The mainstream press was not aggressive enough after 9/11, was not aggressive enough in asking questions about a decision to go to war in Iraq, was not aggresive [sic] enough in asking the hard questions about the War on Terror.

No. This non-apology apology is farcical. Disgraced Times stenographer Judy Miller was an “aggressive” disseminator of warmongering disinformation from the White House Iraq Group. The Grey Lady’s corrupt newsroom was the problem, not Basquet’s thrice-repeated failure to be “aggressive.”


Greece must bow to austerity or go bust, says EU Daily Telegraph. That was fast!

Greek elections – a solution doesn’t appear to be forthcoming Bill Mitchell. Hope is not a plan.

Why Greeks voted for Syriza: ‘We have nothing left to lose’ Guardian

Winning an Election Does Not Mean Winning Power Jacobin. Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias.

Greek leftists Syriza expect to form government by Wednesday Reuters

Will Syriza’s Tsipras turn out to be a Lula or a Chávez? FT. Or an Obama?

Samaras’s Undoing Came Fast After Praise From Merkel Bloomberg

‘We are going to destroy the Greek oligarchy system’ Channel 4 (video). Paul Mason interviews Yanis Varoufakis. The oligarchs won’t like that.

Who are the Radicals in Europe? Sparse Thoughts of a Gloomy European Economist

Zoning out The Economist


Mark Carney warns of liquidity storm as global currency system turns upside down Daily Telegraph

5 highlights from World Economic Forum in Davos USA Today. More interesting for what is not said.

Davos 2015: overriding pessimism over growing inequality Guardian

Davos elite: We are not the bad guys CNN

Davos’s Destructive Elites National Review

Syraqistan/Saudi Succession

A Saudi Palace Coup HuffPo

Syria’s President Speaks Foreign Affairs. Interview with Bashar Assad. Nice get.

For Saudis, Falling Demand for Oil Is the Biggest Concern Bloomberg

The Revolution that Wasn’t The New Enquiry

Class Warfare

Robert Reich on Redefining Full-Time Work, Obamacare, and Employer Benefits HBR

Rise in second jobs makes UK a nation of grafters FT

Former Mexican President Says Most Undocumented Immigrants Don’t Want To Become US Citizens International Business Times

Imperial Collapse Watch

Secrets of modern mercenaries: Inside the rise of private armies Salon

US Special Forces in Mariupol? Global Economic Analysis

Kennedy: Why audiences are falling silent at the end of ‘American Sniper’ Times Free-Press. “[A] nation’s awkward, belated way of saying: ‘Thank you for your service.'” And be sure to tip your server generously?

Ex-spies infiltrate Hollywood as espionage TV shows and movies multiply WaPo. Spook pr0n. Tell me it’s not a great country.

Sheldon Silver to Temporarily Relinquish Speaker Duties New York Times

Columbia Doctor, Player in Sheldon Silver Investigation, Is Leaving Post New York Times

Alberto Nisman shooting: Journalist Damian Pachter flees Argentina in fear for his life after breaking the story Independent

Alec Soth photographs an older, sadder and stranger America FT

The Mariner’s Rule The Archdruid Report

Bad Captains LRB. Of, for example, the Costa Concordia.

it’s the economists, stupid Must read.

Antidote du jour:


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About Lambert Strether

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


  1. Christopher D. Rogers

    Lambert Sir,

    Many thanks for posting the Channel 4 Yanis Varoufakis interview, and having listened intently to it, absolutely nothing of a radical anti-democratic slant was apparent in the answers Yanis gave to Mr. Mason, and this has been since the good Professor’s own conversion to championing the good of all people in Europe, and as it so happens in the USA.

    It is lamentable that less than 5 months away from an election in the UK, our own political masters, far from being democratic, or at least playing by rules of fair play, conspire to thwart TV debates featuring the leaders of all the UK’s main political groupings, and not just the three neoliberal crippled political machines that are Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, all of whom support austerity and attacks upon the weak to the benefit of a handful of corrupt non-taxpaying corporate institutions and their extremely wealth benefactors – the trades unions don’t get a look in.

    If the UK Labour Party had a leader who was both as honest and outspoken as Prof. Yanis, they too may have been on their way to capturing some 40% of the vote, instead under their insipid Blairesque leadership they espouse the economic policies of the Conservative Party, which is no fried of the UK population that I can assure you.

    For the record, and for the first time ever, I shall be casting a vote for the Green Party in the UK, and hope to persuade many others to follow my conversion in the weeks and months ahead. As stated on another thread, Syriza’s victory has galvanised me and offer hope, where once there was but despair. i only wish many more of my UK peers abandon the complicit legacy parties, anti-democratic to a bone, and embrace a new politics, one that favours the Commons and not the Manor House.

  2. financial matters

    Mark Carney warns of liquidity storm as global currency system turns upside down Daily Telegraph

    “The big question for us now is about liquidity cycles that come from fund managers that don’t have leverage. It’s $35 trillion of mutual funds that invest in relatively illiquid securities,” he said.”

    Illiquid or insolvent? An illiquid asset is one that has value but can take a while to turn into actual cash. It may take a while to sell your house even though it is fairly valued.

    Insolvent means it is falsely elevated by a debt level that cannot be reasonably supported and thus does not represent true value.

    Supporting insolvency (and fraud) has been our problem from the initial bailouts.

    1. Llewelyn Moss

      As far as we know, all the bad debt from the 2008 crisis just up and disappeared like a faart in the wind. Banksters got 100 cents on the dollar for all of it. And big bonuses were dished out from TARP money. No one took a loss on any of that bad debt. So whatever they did, they’ll just do it again. Pretty sure it is real magic.

      1. financial matters

        Some of it did for sure. But some of it is probably still sitting in that $35 trillion pile of mutual funds in the form of appreciated assets.

      2. Ed S.

        Not to be all nit-picky Llewelyn, but share owners in more than a few companies saw their investments go to money heaven — AIG, Bear, Citi (1 for 10 reverse split), Lehman, WaMu, etc.

        Now the leaders (aka Banksters) didn’t suffer that much, but a portfolio stuffed with any of the above (let alone the “AAA” tranches of some of the crap securities) suffered.

        1. Llewelyn Moss

          Ok, but the Fed bought up to $1.25 trillion MBS (mortgage-backed securities) by YE2009 (source wikipedia). And keep gobbling MBS in subsequent years. So what happened to all that worthless MBS crap? Did the Bernakster send it into outerspace? Or has the Fed been stealing from taxpayers to dissolve that debt? I’m guessing the later since the taxpayers always, always get screwed.

    1. Brooklin Bridge

      I’m on ground zero. No longer look forward to this sort of thing

      There was a wonderful cartoon some years ago which showed a dad looking ahead and a little dreamy after a storm with his hand reaching down and holding a little hand attached to a little arm coming up from the snow. The caption read, “When I was your age, it used to really snow.”

  3. Llewelyn Moss

    Ugh. 60 Minutes interview with Boner and McConnell
    They both said they are itching to pass the AUMF against ISIS (aka the brown enemy de jour). And they want to go kick Iran butt. And of course, the Peace Prize winner, who it turns out is Pretty Good At Killing People, will gladly sign up. Two major wars cooking at once. May I recommend you load up on MIC stocks. And play taps for what remains of the US taxpayer.

    Cue Major Kong Riding The Bomb into Oblivion.

    1. Jim Haygood

      All of this culminates in early March, as AIPAC kicks off its annual conference on March 1st, and Netanyahu harangues Congress to attack Iran on Israel’s behalf.

      War with Iran, using America’s dumb beasts heroes as proxies, has been a ceaseless neocon demand ever since the late Nineties. If you liked the Iraq war, you’ll really love it when we smash the Persians!

    2. craazyman

      Send in Kurtz! . . .

      “There were no practical hints to interrupt the magic current of phrases, unless a kind of note at the foot on the last page, scrawled evidently much later, in an unsteady hand, may be regarded as the exposition of a method. It was very simple, and at the end of that moving appeal to every altruistic sentiment it blazed at you, luminous and terrifying, like a flash of lightning in a serene sky: ‘Exterminate all the brutes!’”

      -Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

    3. ambrit

      The Great Game lives! Both will be proxy wars against the Russians. The trouble is, the previous GG imbroglio, against those wily Pathans, didn’t turn out so well. Neither did that Indochina business. Add to that; an American obsession with Persia will be a perfect opportunity for the Inscrutable Orientals, who have special and close ties to Persia already. Can we imagine Iranian Revolutionary Guards naval units operating out of Hainan? Under cover of course, in secret as it were. Deniable acts of “piracy” on the South China Sea. The Pentagon doesn’t ‘officially’ have a clue when it comes to irregular warfare. This situation is not like that Las Vegas ad. What happens in Persia will most definitely not stay in Persia.

    4. Yonatan

      Iran has given Russia access to the naval base at Bandar Abbas. Maybe the S-300s will make there way to Iran after all.

      1. James Levy

        If the men and a few women in the top echelons of the Pentagon have wargamed an invasion of Iran honestly, they must have come to the conclusion that it is a nightmare. It will take months to occupy the country (which is substantially mountainous and has several large cities), the population will be overwhelmingly hostile, the Republican Guards will disburse and take their guns and explosives with them, and the regular army will not simply melt away. We’re talking protracted war with casualties 5 times those in Iraq per month at the height of the fighting there, month after month, for years. The cost will be in the trillions, and the garrison will be at least half the army and Marine Corps combined (more if resistance picks up quickly behind the advancing American spearheads). They’d need near-genocidal tactics, worse than what the Soviets employed in Afghanistan (where a million people died) to terrorize the population into quiescence or force the remnants of the Iranian military out to try to protect the population from slaughter.

        Are they really ready to unleash such horror? If they do, we must do all in out power to resist this here.

        1. Yves Smith

          And that is before you add that on a first strike, the Iranians will close the Strait of Hormuz and torch Saudi refineries, which are well within a short strike of conventional missiles. Oil skyrockets, which tanks a weak global economy. Can’t hurt Mr. Market, now can we?

          1. vidimi

            shutting the straight of hormuz would be great if you’re a fracking company. that is, if any are still left standing then.

        2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          This is not 1941 anymore when the Brits (and the USSR) successfully invaded Persia.

          That’s more 6 scores ago.

        3. neo-realist

          They did wargame it and it would be hell for us:

          Take the GOP grandstanding with a grain of salt. They know that challenging the democratic party narrative on foreign policy by talking hawk is popular with the base.

          It will be sanctions all the time and if Iran develops Nukes, I believe we will take a MAD stance and still do sanctions.

    5. susan the other

      Is the (disappeared) report that the Mossad told Netanyahu that sanctioning Iran would be a huge mistake and would destroy all the progress that has been made with Iran (toward what exactly – getting control over Caspian oil?) just another fabrication? Obama refuses to meet with Netanyahu. And Israel’s president just declined to meet with Obama.

  4. Jim Haygood

    Robert Reich [HBR article] accurately summarizes how the US ended up with its dysfunctional system of employer-paid healthcare, now further entrenched by Obamacare:

    Many of the benefits that became part of the standard American labor contract date back to World War II and the days when about a third of our private sector workforce belonged to a union. Those benefits were included in contracts for two important reasons: first because there were price controls and the benefits were a way of circumventing the price controls, at least with regards to labor.

    The second reason had to do with taxes. It became a very attractive feature of labor contracts to provide these benefits, because many of these benefits were not taxed, as were regular salaries and wages. So that much of the benefit structure we have today is a legacy of the Second World War.

    All constituting a sad example of how the wartime command economy of 1941-46 warped the provision of health care in ways that a petrified political duopoly can’t fix, even when it’s wartime all the time.

    1. ambrit

      Would you agree then that we are very close to having a stealth command economy today? Indeed, given the complexity of modern economies, that it would be natural to have one? The fighting is, I think you might agree, about whos’ hand is on the controls.

      1. Jim Haygood

        During WW II, direct central control was exercised over materials supply, factory production, and consumer purchases (via rationing). A fashionable belief at the time was that the centrally-planned Soviet economy might actually be more efficient than the U.S. economy, not only in wartime, but in the long run. Thus the domino theory and all that.

        Not until 1991, when the Soviet Union disintegrated, did it become clear that the CIA had vastly overestimated Soviet GDP. Nevertheless, the illusion of central planning efficacy lives on in the U.S. at the Federal Reserve, which dictates interest rates in the world’s largest economy the way the commissars used to dictate grain quotas.

        1. ambrit

          I believe it was Robert Heinlein who mentioned in an essay that he sat down one day while on a trip to Russia and counted the supply trains transiting the main rail artery leading to Moscow. From this he calculated that Russia was much weaker than anyone had publically proclaimed.
          I would add the caveat that Russia started from near full agricultural feudalism in the 1890’s to putative first world industrialization in forty years or so. It took the Industrial Revolution in the West and the Meiji Restoration in Japan to achieve similar results.
          The old Soviet system, which Tito famously characterized as ‘State Socialism’, was corruption raddled and prone to spasms of self destruction. I suggest that this medley is the normal state of oligarchies everywhere. It is not so much a form as central planning as a form of distributed centers planning, and competing for the resources available.
          I’m in full agreement with you on one point; our present system in the West has become yet another iteration of the Soviet Maladaptation.

        2. craazyman

          That’s not central planning. It’s like an ATM machine that never runs out, no matter what you do — so you can live with no plans at all!

          It just looks the same! hahahah

          1. susan the other

            Good description. But the situation itself was created by the uncontrolled success of “free market” capitalism because it was in fact so aggressive. By its own nature it became an octopus of monopolies killing a functioning economy simply by eating it all up. Resources, labor, smaller businesses. The success of our economic system was its downfall. We could have used a healthy dose of central planning beginning c. 1920.

              1. ambrit

                I subscribe to the idea that poets show the world to us in more foundational ways than plain reporting. Craazy is a poet. He makes the unobvious connections. I never ignore him.

                1. Lambert Strether Post author

                  Yes. Quoting McLuhan from Understanding Media:

                  Art as radar acts as an ‘early alarm system,’ as it were, enabling us to discover social and psychic targets in lots of time to prepare to cope with them. This concept of the arts as prophetic contrasts with the popular idea of them as mere self-expression. If an art is an ‘early warning system,’ to use the phrase from World War II, when radar was new, art has the utmost relevance not only to media study but to the development of media controls.

          2. optimader

            “It’s like an ATM machine that never runs out”
            The machine just has to churn out more bills to buy a bottle of dark rum than it did last year. i’ll bet I haven’t used an ATM in +25years since may card went through the washer&dryer one too many times.

      2. McMike

        I would say that both the US is far more centrally planned, and the USSR far less, than popularly understood.

        The US is almost entirely rigged, channeled, locked in, subsidized, etc. Little happens by chance or without permission.

        Russia, meanwhile, seemed to entail mainly orders that were issued and promptly ignored in favor of doing as little as possible.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          I believe central planning is doable with a first-rate propaganda machine, which was too hard for the Bolsheviks to master.

          When propaganda is properly implemented (sex, drugs and rock and roll are essential), people will crave for new orders daily, far from ignoring them.

        2. Calgacus

          That’s what Galbraith says in his Predator State – he gets over 50% totting up all the centrally/governmentally planned in reality sectors.

    2. Katniss Everdeen

      “…… dysfunctional system of employer-paid healthcare, now further entrenched by Obamacare….”

      Enforcement of the “employer mandate” has been “deferred,” and some, like Robert Gibbs, speculate that it will NEVER be enforced. Instead of repealing the whole program, as they claimed they would do, the republican controlled congress is considering raising the number of hours worked before coverage must be provided from 28 to 40, with obvious implications for what has become a workforce of part-timers who only work 40 hours by holding multiple jobs.

      The dysfunction “entrenched” by Obamacare is that access to “healthcare” is always and everywhere metered and controlled by insurance companies.

      1. Jim Haygood

        Employer-furnished health coverage never offered portability, or any provision for those between jobs or who don’t work. Obamacare accepted this accidental design as a given, probably because third-party payers cross-subsidize Medicare and Medicaid through price discrimination. It’s a cockamamie system beyond the fertile imagination of Rube Goldberg.

        1. McMike

          I believe that one of the largest obstacles to innovation and small business creation in this country – not to mention artistic creativity and volunteerism – has been the linking of salaried jobs to insurance, and preferences given to groups over individuals (lower rates, better plans, no underwriting, and, until a few years ago: full tax deductibility only for groups).

          Only the Creator knows how many people suffered in crappy jobs rather than following their dreams and full potential, just to get access to their employer’s insurance deals.

          Good news is that the crapification of employer sponsored insurance, tax deductibility of premiums, and ACA preexisting closure is narrowing that gap.

          1. curlydan

            totally agree. the inefficiency of health care is a plague upon the economy–inefficient and inhibiting.

        2. McMike

          Obama basically left the entire house of card in place; his only change was adding more cards.

          Any other approach would have risked confronting the particularly American mess this was, and may have led to mass realization that we are idiots for swimming the opposite direction of every other developed and some not so developed nations.

  5. Bruce Post

    Bernie Sanders reminds me of an old Russian saying: “The dog barks, the wind blows.” It is somewhat akin to “barking at the moon.”

    Living in Vermont but having worked in Congress and for two presidential candidates (John B. Anderson and Hubert Humphrey) I find it a bit humorous to watch folks become enthralled — albeit fleetingly — with a quirky politician from Vermont. Remember Howard Dean? They make good copy for awhile, and then they exit stage-right.

    Sanders generally gets a pass when he runs up here. Afterall, how can you vote against Bernie, who exemplifies just how pure and courageous we Vermonters are? Yet, there are at least two Bernies: the stump speech progressive who gets softball questions tossed gently his way on the Thom Hartmann Show; and the thin-skinned Bernie, who does not like being questioned by Vermonters who are aggrieved by some of his positions.

    Up here, Bernie is a big supporter of industrial-scale wind turbines on our mountaintops. Ironically, some of these wind turbine entrepreneurs are financed by the hedge funds, private equity firms and international corporations Stump Speech Bernie likes to pillory. Sanders is also an in-state booster of that budget-busting boondoggle the screaming F35, which he, along with our other Vermont “progressive” politicians, wants to bring to Burlington International Airport, in the midst of a highly-urbanized environs. When the “little guys” that Bernie will no doubt champion in his Potemkin budget want to have a serious meeting about mountaintop wind or the F35, Bernie acts like a deer during hunting season: He heads deep into the woods and becomes difficult to track down.

    So, many Americans will find Bernie entertaining for a bit, but, like fiddleheads up here in the spring, he’ll eventually fade away.

    1. Slick

      I’ll trade ya’ one Thom Tillis and one Richard Burr for your Bernie Sanders. I’ll even throw in some gum.

      It’s all relative. From where I am sitting, with damage to our clean water funds/enforcement, terrible destruction in our environmental regulatory apparatus, reopening of logging in several of our forests, a band on DENR workers using the term “global warming” in any state communication or studies, mountain top wind mills don’t seem so bad.

      1. cwaltz

        I’ll trade him a Mark Warner who wants to cut Social Security to “save” it(because apparently we have trillions for banks, wars and overseas interference but don’t have enough to cover the promises we made to people as we became elderly.)

        1. Llewelyn Moss

          And of course that’s how they pay for Socialism For Banks (aka bailouts), Carpet Bombing of the World, etc.

          Boner and McConnell said on the 60 Minutes they have all sorts of Neoliberal scumbag programs they want to enact, but there will be no new taxes. So they will need to find creative ways to pay for them — aka Miserable Austerity. Since Obama is also a Neoliberal expect the sh1+ storm to be Biblical this year.

    2. Jack

      “Sanders is also an in-state booster of that budget-busting boondoggle the screaming F35, which he, along with our other Vermont “progressive” politicians, wants to bring to Burlington International Airport, in the midst of a highly-urbanized environs.”

      That’ll be fun. The piece of craps engine will catch fire mid-flight and it will crash into someones house, killing the entire family. This will also account for the vast majority of kills the F-35 will achieve over its entire service life. 1.5 trillion dollars well spent.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        $1.5 trillion?

        I understand some people insist that the government has enough money to spend already, and we should focus our energy on something other than arguing over whether the government can spend as much as it wants, in order to let it spend more.

        1. Jack

          Just because we have the money and can make more doesn’t mean we should waste it by throwing it into a blackhole of corruption.

  6. roadrider

    Re: Bernie Sanders’ new role

    The article salutes Patty Murray’s budget “deal” with Paul Ryan that sold out the long-term unemployed and gave Boehner an effective veto on passing an extension to federal emergency UI benefits. The Vichy Dems then wailed that the Republicans wouldn’t let them help the long-term unemployed. Yeah, sure.

  7. ohmyheck

    Regarding the “American Sniper” audience link, there is some very nice push-back in the comments.

    1. montanamaven

      Yes, the push back is well spoken and unusually polite for a newspaper’s comment section. I was struck by the idea of “silence”. Why the “silence’ at the end of the movie? Why do we have “moments of silence”? at sports and public events”? For the people of the countries we sought to overthrow, there are precious little moments or hours or even days or years of silence. But we seem very pleased with ourselves for taking “moments” of silence. Seems like easy patriotism to me. Much harder patriotism might be somebody voicing their first amendment right to criticize the Iraq war out loud in the movie aisle; to wonder why those young men and women needed to be saved by a sniper in the first place. I’m guessing that person would get the crap kicked out of him.

    2. Llewelyn Moss

      Starting to wonder if the timing of the release of American Sniper has to do with Obama’s request for congress to AUMF the War On ISIS. And Obama wants everyone waving Merican flags when he tells us he’ll be pissing another few Trillion down the Endless Pointless War Hole.

    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I haven’t seen the movie, and won’t get a chance until it’s available at the local library or on Neflix, but in general, people can be silent for many reason.

      You see silence before a memorial, say, of the victims of the Rape of Nanking, or say, a cenotaph of sufferers of the Great Financial Crisis.

      Wait, we don’t have one for the latter.


      Because a financial crime is less visible?

      Because when we say non-violence, we usually think of physical violence and not emotional or spiritual violence?

      What does it mean to nag constantly or to destroy another’s soul (by feeding him/her insipid movies or TV shows all the time)?

          1. ambrit

            It has been years since I read Lewis’ “Screwtape Letters.” Produced almost contemporarily with Tolkiens’ “Ring” cycle. Tolkien started a bit earlier but ended writing it just after Lewis’ Averno-Epistolary Apologia.
            Uncle Screwtape would appreciate the sentiment you highlight.
            There is a good scene in the film “The Devils Advocate” where the Devil says; “Vanity, definitely my favourite sin.”

  8. DJG

    Interesting that the But Brigade kept going on about how the murder of editors at Charlie Hebdo and the police officers was somehow the result of its extreme free speech, yet no one has noticed that American Sniper is all about those touchstones of U.S. culture–guns, violence, racism. But it’s entertainment. So it must be protected. The provocation is even more extreme and brutal. But it’s a Clint Eastwood production, and I’m sure there’s a patient female character who is just a-waiting for her lumbersexual man to calm down and go back to making his famous chili recipe instead of blowing up brown people. Or something.

    1. ambrit

      I remember Norman Spinrads’ book “A World Between” had overtly homosexual lumberman themes. “Let’s teach him to climb trees! Yeah.”
      My other suspicion is that the term is one of priapic omphalic meaning. “Let us adopt the posture and contemplate our navels.”

    2. Carolinian

      Care to produce even one example this inconsistency that you find so interesting? Who exactly are these people who condemned Charlie Hebdo while defending Eastwood?

  9. Ivy

    NYT has been devolving. Perhaps the next owners will return a smidgen of integrity, although that is doubtful.
    The news business seems to have its own supply/demand criteria regarding truth, or in the post-Colbert age, truthiness.

    Old Soviets had an expression to describe their two leading publications, Pravda and Izvestia. Pravda means truth and Izvestia means news. Soviets said that there was no Truth in the News and no News in the Truth.

    NYT is trying to come up with their own new take on that. Please feel free to riff on All the News That’s Fit to Print.

    1. jgordon

      Very-upper middle class people I know view the New York Times as gospel. I believe that the NYT functions as an organ that disseminates the attitudes and opinions of the elite technocrats down to the “liberal” managerial and professional technician class. Those in this (shrinking) group who perceive (incorrectly) that they benefit from the current status quo view the inane pablum served up by NYT as common-sensical and truthy. Of course those of us who’ve had the benefit of disillusionment can see it for the bullshit it is.

  10. vidimi

    re ex-spies infiltrating hollywood,

    this kind of thing has been going on for decades, but it’s reached some kind of fever pitch. just about every prime time drama sycophantically glorifies the military or intelligence agencies and often portrays civil liberties as standing in their way of keeping us safe.

    if the russkies were doing it we’d rightly call it out for naked propaganda. imagine, ex-fsb officers scripting drama about the fsb keeping mother russia safe…western culture doesn’t do self-awareness, though.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The key, and they have done a fantastic job, is to make the subjects crave for it themselves.

      ‘Sir, can we handle all the people volunteering for brain washing? Will demand exceed supply?’

      Outside, they chant: ‘We like our brains clean. We wash our brains.’

      Special detergent…or maybe special soap? How do they do it?

    2. Randy

      Maybe the uptick coincides with congress passing a law saying it’s ok to run propaganda in the USA to our own citizens. Sickening.

  11. jjmacjohnson

    Giving Wael Ghonim so much credit for the Egyptian revoultion is both a false sense of history and a rejection of the true folks on the ground who actually rose up. Typical elites not understanding uprisings and the way they work on a ground level.

  12. Kyle

    “The oligarchs won’t like that.”

    Then the only question left is whether of not Greece’s new guillotine manufacturing industry will be able to meet the necessary quotas. :)

  13. Yonatan

    “Alberto Nisman shooting: Journalist Damian Pachter flees Argentina in fear for his life after breaking the story ”
    in the Independent, whilst Haaretz states
    “Journalist Damian Pachter leaves Argentina after he was reportedly followed by unknown people, feeling as if his safety was at risk.”

    So that is the actual extent of the threats against him? A feeling.

    1. hunkerdown

      “It’s enough to play into the next Sony Pictures action film teaser campaign, isn’t it? Print it.”

  14. susan the other

    Orgtheory. It’s the economists stupid. An ode to the consequences of the avoidance of central planning. The history of fixit later. Besides, sociology always was co-opted by money. From the progressives of the Gilded Age till now. It isn’t just that economists were more successful politically – it’s more that sociology never existed to change the system, but always to augment the system. So for the last half of the 20th c. economix had no trouble appropriating the entire discussion by defining every aspect of sociology in dollar terms.

    1. DanB

      I was trained in sociology and then switched to policy analysis, which is essentially about cost-benefit analysis; and I find the piece narrow and anachronistic. It’s narrow because there are different traditions in sociology, for example, Erving Goffman is the most widely known and widely cited sociologist of the 20th century, yet he was trained in the so-called “qualitative” -and somewhat black sheep- perspective of symbolic interactionism. Anachronistic because public policy making is -as everyone here at NC knows- not about serving the public.

  15. McMike

    Pot and athletes.

    I was never one of those who could do anything after partaking except eat chips and watch TV. But I am acquainted with others who use it to enhance sports, sex, and even intellectual pursuits (really). Some folks were better at attenuating their buzz perhaps, but I think also they are just wired differently. In the end, all that use still tends to catch up with many, as their tolerance goes up and their vigilance goes down.

    That said, I am told that in the decades since I gave it up, hybrids have been developed that bred the lazy, stupid, and paranoid out of the stuff. Also, the medicinal market opened up strains that bring just mild euphoria, relaxation, and anxiety releases, without the more pronounced pyschotropic effects.

    1. optimader

      I think there is a range of behavioral results, as you would expect. Some people derive benefit, some should probably never touch it –True of any mind altering substance.

  16. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Immigrants not wanting to become US citizens?

    And bruising the American Exceptional Ego? Home sweet home? Home country, sweet home country?

    When we stop blowing up countries, militarily or financially (or environmentally) people can finally afford to stay home.

  17. Bart Fargo

    Re: Davos 2015: overriding pessimism over growing inequality

    “In a panel discussion on growth and stability on 24 January, senior editor at Fusion, Felix Salmon, said there was a consensus at this year’s WEF meeting in Davos that global inequality is getting worse. He said quantitative easing been expcted to result in the power of capital decreasing and that of labour increasing. ”

    Was that intended as some sort of joke? How exactly does putting billions more dollars in the hands of finance capitalists increase the wealth and power of labor? If the Davos crowd were really interested in tackling inequality they could start by addressing such baldfaced lies as QE being for the “little people”.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      What better place to address growing global wealth inequality than to move the Davos meeting to Dafur?

      For sure, they save 80% on their catered hors d’oeuvre.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Maybe more than 80%.

        And the natives can really use the money a meeting like that will bring in.

  18. ewmayer

    @Ben Johannson (sorry, inline commenting requires me to turn on more bandwidth-wasting page features than the many-user-shared WiFi connection I’m on will support just now):

    The Fed’s large-scale purchases were of government-backed MBS, the good stuff.

    If it was such “good stuff”, why are they still sitting on all of it despite having successfully (in the Iraq-War “mission accomplished” sense of the word) blown an “echo” housing bubble, as well as simultaneous ones in all manner of other risk assets, as well as driving normally conservative investors into a desperate scramble for any positive yield? Surely such favorable market conditions would make investors salivate to bid up such “good stuff”, no?

    Or did you mean “good stuff” only relative to $trillions of other “good MBS stuff” that was AAA-rated back in 2007 and shockingly turned out to be somewhat less than triple-A good? In other words “good” in the “might be worth more than zero if we ever tried to sell it, but we don’t want to risk ‘price discovery’ at this point, nor at any other in the foreseeable future where the chief architects of the scheme might still be around to be held accountable” sense?

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