Links 2/12/15

Australia’s Oldest Man Knits Tiny Sweaters For Penguins Injured In Oil Spills Huffington Post (YY). Cute overdose!

Three ways cats can control our minds BBC (furzy mouse)

Brains Make Decisions the Way Alan Turing Cracked Codes Smithsonian

Apple CEO Tim Cook said something that would make statisticians cringe Business Insider

Study ties more deaths, types of disease, to smoking Associated Press

Measles is Just the Beginning Medium (bob)

Google and other tech day cares have low vaccination rates Business Insider

The U.S. government is poised to withdraw longstanding warnings about cholesterol Washington Post (furzy mouse)

China Will Pay Most for Qualcomm Fine Bloomberg (furzy mouse)

Life after Anwar New Mandala


The (almost) agreed eurogroup statement on Greece Financial Times. Note that Varoufakis tartly disputed the FT account on Twitter

Germany faces impossible choice as Greek austerity revolt spreads Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Telegraph (Chuck L)

Pablo Iglesias: If the Greek olive branch is rejected, Europe may fall Guardian

Greece, euro zone fail to agree on debt, to try again on Monday Reuters

The historical and cultural differences that divide Europe’s union Financial Times. Swedish Lex: “Regurgitating the same empty phrases like your average religious fanatic and never, ever, learning anything. Stark’s views echo those of Schäuble & pals, which shows what common sense is up against in Europe. Overwhelming national pomposity and self-aggradizement. Note how he underlines the superb qualities of anything “German” (forget Europe). Rings bells?”

German trade unions: SYRIZA win ‘a chance for change’ Green Left Weekly (martha r)

Greece Fails to Rattle Currency Traders Bloomberg

Asylum Seekers Flood Into Hungary Atlantic (furzy mouse)

Sweden Cuts Main Rate Into Negative Territory Wall Street Journal

Miami mechanic is Mr Fix-it for Russian cars in Cuba Reuters. EM: “Fascinating glimpse into “the ultimate recycling economy”


In Ukraine, It’s Putin’s Game New York Times. Notice the deliberate ignoring of the fact that this is a civil war?

Checkpoint Charlie is back: Ukraine starts building a new Berlin Wall Sovereign Man

NYT Whites Out Ukraine’s Brown Shirts Consortiumnews

Checkpoint Charlie is back: Ukraine starts building a new Berlin Wall Sovereign Man (Chuck L)

‘No good news’ as Ukraine peace talks drag on Agence France-Presse. Poroshenko calls proposed terms “unacceptable”. But at 4:45 AM EST We get: Leaders Agree on Ukraine Cease-Fire Deal Wall Street Journal and BBC has a breaking news tweet (I have yet to see the related story): “IMF to extend $17.5bn loan to #Ukraine – to reach $40bn with other pledges, #IMF chief Christine Lagarde says.”

The west needs to rescue the Ukrainian economy Financial Times. Hun? America never fixes anything it breaks, although Ukraine was a mess before we made it worse.

ISIS: A Black Hole in the Heart of the Middle-East – Genesis of a Western Intelligence Failure Sic Semper Tyrannis


Al Qaeda’s Bookkeeper Spills the Beans RINF. Chuck L: “This piece contains extensive excerpts from the deposition of Zacarias Moussaoui for the civil trial underway relating to 9/11. He implicates several high-ranking members of the Saudi royal family and provides what seems to me as a plausible explanation of why they financially supported al Qaeda in the late ’90s.”

Saudis Fret Over Iranian Front Emerging From Yemen Chaos Bloomberg

Saudi Arabia Is Building a 600-Mile Wall Along the Iraq Border Gizmodo (Stephen M). Previously reported, but so ludicrous as to be worth mentioning again.

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

With the help of Pinterest, Twitter, and others, a new Facebook platform wants to keep the web secure PandoDaily (furzy mouse). Given the “man in the middle” problem, I don’t see how this can be done.

ACLU sues Border Patrol for records on ‘roving patrols’ Reuters (EM)

Congress, Don’t Be Fooled; Obama Still Believes in Unlimited War New York Times

New Book Showcases FBI Efforts to Sabotage the US Left TruthOut (RR)

Austerity Is ‘Complete Horsesh*t’: Ivy League Prof Dismantles the Conservative Lie Alternet

Obama Administration Plans to Aggressively Target Wildlife Trafficking New York Times

Has Detroit Found An Answer To The Publicly Financed Stadium Scam? Deadspin (Stephen M)

Montana Taliban: Republican lawmaker wants to arrest and jail women for wearing yoga pants Raw Story (furzy mouse)

Chapel Hill killings reverberate around the world Charlotte Observer


Markets chart of the day, February 11 Business Insider. Furzy mouse: “US crude oil inventories are at their highest level in at least 80 years.”

Methane emissions from natural gas industry higher than previously thought PhysOrg (Robert M). You heard it here months ago!

Bank of America’s U.S. Deposit-Taking Unit Financed Tax Trades Wall Street Journal

Class Warfare

Congress and President Obama Cannot Sit Idly By While Companies Use H-1B Guestworkers to Replace American Workers Economic Policy Institute (Bob H)

At the Time Warner Center, an Enclave of Powerful Russians New York Times

US west coast ports face 4-day shutdown Financial Times

Antidote du jour:

sleeping cat and dog links

And a bonus video (Chuck L). Wow, is that bear a handsome specimen:

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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  1. diptherio

    I knew that “Montana Taliban” would show up eventually and I would be forced to defend the honor of my state. Here goes.

    The bill not only would make yoga pants illegal, it would also make being shirtless in public an offense for both men and women. Public exhibition of your speedo would also be prohibited…I assume the Olympics and all swimming events would have to be censored/banned as well.

    The main thing to keep in mind is that this bill has ZERO chance of passing. ZERO. Every legislative session, I would guess in most states, there are the totally whacko bills that never get anywhere. I’m pretty sure this kind of thing only makes the national news because city dwelling a-holes on the coasts think anybody in fly-over country is a know-nothing hick–look, they wanna ban yoga pants!!! It’s an easy headline, even if it is a complete non-story. Oooh, look, an up-tight Republican! Whodathunkit?

    But you want to know what’s really crazy? Arming Ukraine and starting WWIII, that’s what. But no, no, let’s spend all our time talking about some prude in Montana, that’s some real news….

    Hey Raw Story, you’re doing journalism wrong!

      1. diptherio

        Nothing’s ever black-and-white is it? Even the most poorly conceived legislation has its bright spots.

        The impetus for this ridiculousness was a “naked bike ride” that one of our local narcissistic personalities decided to organize after seeing a similar thing in Portland. Being somewhat familiar with the entities involved, I can say pretty confidently that the ride had less to do with free expression or being ok with bodies, than it was a way for the organizer(s) to get everybody in town to look at them. Provocation for the sake of provocation, if you ask me, because some people just gotta start some drama. I’m sure they’re just eating this new development up. “We really messed with those squares!”

        But this is going nowhere. Trying to tell Montanans, who often have a noticeable libertarian streak in them, that they can’t go bare-chested to the river is not going to fly outside of a very narrow band of folks. And for the record, it is currently completely legal for a woman to go about topless in public. One of my former housemates walked around for a day topless as some form of protest. The police did nothing…no one seemed to care too much. Of course, our actual lack of restrictive laws is less of a story than one legislator who wants to pass something crazy…typical.

        However…I have been a little put-off by the recent trend for yoga pants. I don’t want to be some leering creep, but I live in a college town and man, sometimes it gets hard…er…to not look. I do think they should be banned in middle and high school, as the young men there have a difficult enough time dealing with unwanted erections as it is, and students really need to be focusing on their studies, not their butts. But, of course, fashions come and go, as this one will too, eventually. I’m told that in olden times it was the dudes who were into wearing tight pants, so tight you could see the outline of their junk right through them. And let us not forget the mighty cod-piece.

        1. ambrit

          Heaven forfend that we forego propriety, and eschew the ‘Greek’ virtues.
          I’m in a small college town, and one does see all too much, both front and back vistas. Don’t fret the codpiece, worry about the camel toe. Prurience is its’ own reward? What’s more interesting is the legislative urge to establish an ‘ideal’ society. There’s your ‘junk’ for you.

        2. hunkerdown

          There was a time when evangelism was considered extremely impolite instead of being a social imperative. What happened?

    1. ProNewerDeal

      agree on the US BigMedia being incompetent in ignoring the highest-level importance of the USFG’s (US Federal Government) reckless warmongering on Ukraine, starting with the Nuland $5 Billion funding of the Ukrainian Coup, recklessly risking a potential nuclear war with Ukraine-bordering Russia.

      Second to this fiasco, a 2nd ignored/uncovered news event, has to be Saudi Sep. 11 attack criminal Moussaoui claiming that several powerful Saudis funded the Sep. 11 murderous attack, including ex-US Ambassador Bandar Bush, & the Billionaire investor, #2 owner of NewsCorp & Faux News, Al-Waleed bin Talal. The 2003 Iraq War was initially justified as Iraq & Pres. Saddam Hussein being responsible for Sep. 11, a Bush 43 massive lie that US BigMedia parroted. Now that there is evidence about these powerful Saudis were actually responsible for the Sep. 11 attack, & the US BigMedia is silent. Why is this not the screaming headline in all USian news outlets currently, & why isn’t there demand for Congressional Hearings & at least SOME US Congressional poli-trick-ians eager & willing to convene such Congressional Hearings to investigate Moussaoui’s claims?

      1. diptherio

        Hey, thanks for the link. As for me, I’m a freedom of clothing fundamentalist. I may not agree with your thong, but I will defend to the death your right to wear it!…well, maybe not death.

    2. craazyboy

      Yes, sounds a little too harsh. I think perhaps just a fine – scaled to body fat index. Starting at say $100 at 15% body fat and increasing at a rate of $20 per percent of body fat above 15%.

  2. Clive

    Re: Cats…

    We were always a “dog” family growing up so I came to “cats” later in life via my mother in law. So as a hopefully neutral observer, I have to say that I’ve never really bought into this “cats are only there to exploit us” meme. Having paid close attention to the cat-to-human relationship — and having had a hand in helping choose a new cat after the deaths of predecessors — my deduction is that it isn’t as simple as the cat merely assessing “what will get me the food?”. To cut a long story short, there is most certainly a “connection” there.

    The relationship between cats to humans is definitely not the same as dogs to humans. But that isn’t to say it is all one way.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Dog to doctor: I want a cosmetic surgery to make me look like a cat.

        Doctor: Can you meow like a cat?

        Dog: I will learn.

        Doctor: But you don’t have the personality.

        Dog: Never mind that. Humans these days value how you look on the outside mainly.

    1. Vince in MN

      “I have to say that I’ve never really bought into this “cats are only there to exploit us” meme.”

      Agree 100%. I have lived with cats all my life and I’m not seeing it. In my view the exploitation angle is just a projection of a human trait onto the furry little love bugs.

  3. Jim Haygood

    ‘The nation’s top nutrition advisory panel has decided to drop its caution about eating cholesterol-laden food, a move that could undo almost 40 years of government warnings about its consumption.’

    So the ‘cholesterol denialists’ won?

    1. ambrit

      Please forgive me for this one; Wall Street made me do it.
      You don’t seem to appreciate how hard it is to overthrow the “statins quo.”
      Yes, I have heard the one about pro-cholesterol lobbyists being investigated for making “fatty deposits” in lawmakers offshore bank accounts.
      This will be a gift that keeps on giving.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      “…David Allison, a public health professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “But in science, change is normal and expected.”

      That’s why scientific findings should be used as the last resort, on an absolute basis, and not just relatively (as in, we need to defend ourselves using science against science-derived modern technology – here, frankly, we don’t know all the unintended consequences… ‘change is normal and tomorrow there will be another best explanation’ – , whereas the former implies that, for example, we should not use scientific findings to alter plant genes or explode nuclear bombs).

    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      As with cholesterol, the dietary panel’s advice on these issues will be used by the federal bureaucrats to draft the new guidelines, which offer Americans clear instructions — and sometimes very specific, down-to-the-milligram prescriptions. But such precision can mask sometimes tumultuous debates about nutrition.

      This illustrates a very important point.

      Reality is complex, a continuum, with an infinite amount of shades.

      We often act as if it is black and white.

      And so, for example, to go to war with the duchy of Grand Fenwick or not? 51% of the imperial citizens are for and 49% against. The empire does not send 51 divisions to fight and 49 divisions to defend the duchy. It will be 100 divisions.

      The difference of one vote and instead of going to war against England, we go to war against Sri Lanka, for another hypothetical example.

      That’s how we smash through complex reality like a bull through a china shop. Quite fascinating.

        1. Vince in MN

          Yeah, it isn’t that common of a name I don’t think. I know three others, all from my local chess club. How’s that for unusual. Lots of Oles and Helgas here though, as you would expect ;-)

    4. Yves Smith Post author

      First, your body makes cholesterol. Cholesterol is a very important to brain function and tissue repair. And it appears to like making it even more from dietary carbs (the simple ones, like sugars) than dietary cholesterol.

      Second, the evidence that getting blood cholesterol levels down was good for your heart looks dubious for populations other than those with heart disease. This comment came from davidgmills. Note that I am not as keen about Atkins as he is, since it is hard to eat all that much in the way of vegetables on an Atkins diet (as in I regard it as only a weight loss diet, and it is effective because it puts your body in a ketogenic state, meaning it has to go after your body fat to make enough blood sugar for you to function, and your body turns fat into blood sugar inefficiently, so it expedites fat loss).

      I was talking to my brother (PhD in biochemistry as was my father) not too long ago about another PhD in biochemistry, Dr. Ray Peat. Peat did his dissertation on progesterone and had spent 40 years researching it. Progesterone is made from cholesterol and is the precursor of the hormones testosterone, estrogen and hydrocortisone. In other words, four of the body’s six major hormones are derived from cholesterol.

      Peat did some extensive research on the deaths of women, to find out what was the optimal cholesterol level for longevity. His conclusion was the number women needed for longevity was 270 (very high according to the AMA which wants it under 200). Peat found that low cholesterol did in fact decrease a woman’s chances of dying from a heart attack but caused a woman to die sooner from something else.

      My brother couldn’t believe what I was telling him about Peat’s research, but after checking out Peat’s articles and references, he concluded Peat was right. In fact, one of the things my brother found in his research was that LDL is very good at killing bacteria. My brother jokingly commented to me that in lowering one’s LDL that you don’t die of heart disease, you die of MRSA much sooner.

      So both my brother and I who were on statins got off of them. Plus my brother found a new meta study of 62,000 people showing they did no good for those who didn’t have cardiovascular disease, making the decision even easier.

      My dad, who taught medical students biochemstry for 40 years, found very few MD’s that knew enough biochemistry to give him any confidence in their ability to decide whether medications were justified. So I have always been very skeptical of what they recommend.

      As for your Atkins comment, I have been an Atkins dieter for about 18 years. My dad thought Atkins’ ideas made sense from a metabolic point of view which is why I started doing it and still do. Atkins was a cardiologist and he wasn’t nearling as concerned about cholesterol as he was about triglicerides and blood pressure.

      The other thing that is getting attention as a possible marker for heart disease is C reactive protein, which measures inflamation. Progesterone is great at reducing inflamation (remember it is the precursor of hydrocortisone) which is why I take it and I am a man.

      1. bruno marr

        Yves that was an excellent comment.

        As someone who has experienced the medical modifications attendant with “clogged arteries”, your comment reinforces the point of the “cholesterol article”. The issues are medically complex and most cardiologists (mine anyway) will tell you to moderate your diet and exercise (because it keeps your metabolism balanced). While you may not be a candidate for statins, many people are and their use is important (to my life, anyway). Are they over-prescribed? Depends on the doctor. My cardiologist has worked hard to find the lowest priced, lowest dosage that will keep me alive and kickin’ (new plumbing is more sensitive than original plumbing).

        The problem with medical science is that there are many types of humans; and performing long-term, non-pejorative testing directly on them is expensive and complex. The points you make about inflammation in the body contributing to heart disease is spot on. Oral disease, influenza, other body stressors all create a non-healthful reaction in the body and complicate heart disease.

        The end of the article is illuminating: pontification about the ideal diet for best health is not helpful. Having a smart, dedicated, concerned medical community (doctors, nurses, laboratories, nutritionists, etc.) attending to everyone is helpful; and the better way to create a healthy community.

        1. Wendy

          I am sure you have done your homework on statins, but since you don’t mention a prior MI…
          I wonder if you’ve heard of Dr Malcom Kendrick (UK; author of “Statin Nation” and “The Great Cholesterol Con”) and/or Dr David Newman (Mt Sinai, NY, USA), and their work exposing statins?
          You can check out a quick blurb and link to a 17-minute talk here. Even if you don’t change your mind, you’re better-informed. Can’t hurt, right?

          1. bruno marr

            I’m aware of the over prescription of statins. The Links article is pretty clear that using statins without appropriate indicators is not wise. (There are consequences to using statins.) However, many people die before any one person recognizes appropriate indicators. That’s why many men in their 50’s die of heart attacks. No obvious indicators, and the non-invasive medical tests (stress, cardiograms, nuclear-stress) aren’t definitive. Invasive angiograms are fairly definitive, but expensive and have potential lethal consequences.

            As the article indicates, our knowledge regarding heart disease and cholesterol is not perfect. Cardiologists have slowly begun to lower the “bad cholesterol” limit, especially for folks like me (below 70), as they’ve learned how quickly arteries become clogged. Most cardiologists recommend a diet lower in carbohydrates (because it can, in many people, encourage the body’s liver to create too much cholesterol) and an exercise regime that includes weight training (which encourages a better insulin balance in the body). In my case, I was doing all that. So the next phase was statins; which has provided me with attainment of the 70 target.

            But this is me, and not everyone. That’s why I suggested that a smarter, better coordinated health care system is the best solution the better health for everyone. Pontification about ideal diet, use or non-use of statins, is not healthy for the wider population. Better healthcare is.

      2. JerryDenim

        A very sensible and informed comment, except one thing- hasn’t it been proven an Atkin’s diet elevates a person’s C-reactive protein levels? I too believe a “white death” type of diet (white flour, sugar, heavily processed corn products) causing a generalized state of inflammation is a far greater threat to people’s hearts and health than saturated fat or cholesterol. My father died in 2012 at age 61 of a sudden heart attack. His cholesterol levels and his blood pressure was fine. He had a physical and an ECG three weeks before his sudden death and his doctor told him his heart was fine. His autopsy revealed chronic inflammation and hardening of his arteries along with 80 to 90% blockages. If his doctor would have ordered a check of his C-reactive protein levels I am sure they would have been off the charts. My father had a sweet tooth and ate a steady diet of processed junk. I told him his “white death” diet was awful for years before he died but he preferred to listen to his lousy doctors who told him he was fine as long as he avoided bacon.

  4. OIFVet

    Zombie Cat is back in the news due to a custody battle between the Humane Society and Bart’s owner. The Humane Society “decided not to return the cat to its owner after learning more about “circumstances leading up to his burial,” the agency said.” Some allege that the owner and the neighbor buried Bart knowing that he was still alive. Sick if true.

  5. Jim Haygood

    ‘[Obama] asserts that he already has sufficient congressional authority for an open-ended war with the Islamic State, also known as ISIL or ISIS. He bases this claim on an expansive reading of Congress’s 2001 resolution authorizing President George W. Bush to make war on Al Qaeda after the 9/11 attacks. As long as this resolution remains on the books, Mr. Obama claims, he can continue fighting, even if Congress never agrees to a new resolution.’ — NYT

    Recall that George W. Bush twisted the AUMF into authorizing torture, illegal spying, CIA renditions, and who knows what else that’s still classified. Now Hussein Obama, Satrap of Sana’a and Suzerain of Syraqistan, claims that the AUMF is still operative to launch a fresh war 14 years later.

    Together, the USA-Patriot Act and the AUMF put the US under de facto martial law. They don’t call it that, because it’s bad PR. But that’s what it is, when the exigencies of the national security state trump the constitution and the feeble oversight of a rubber-stamp parliament. There is only one War Party.

    1. Ulysses

      “Together, the USA-Patriot Act and the AUMF put the US under de facto martial law. They don’t call it that, because it’s bad PR. But that’s what it is, when the exigencies of the national security state trump the constitution and the feeble oversight of a rubber-stamp parliament. There is only one War Party.”

      Yes! And the beauty part is that anyone who gets any traction in criticizing this can be permanently silenced– as the indefinite detention without trial provisions, in the NDAA, strips us of any due process rights once the War Party alleges that we support, or associate with, or probably shared a glass of wine with, or any other tomfoolery concerning those it designates as “enemies” in our perpetual GWOT.

    2. Peter Pan

      The USA already has boots on the ground as advisers and special operations. Now the USA will have boots on the ground directly fighting ISIL. After that you all know what’s coming: SURGE !!

  6. OIFVet

    Re Minsk 2.0: much ado about nothing. It is almost a carbon copy of the previous agreement. Poroshenko can’t and won’t come to the table to talk federalization for the Donbass, to do so would be to invite a coup from the hardliners. The new agreement is simply an operational pause and the fighting will resume soon enough. The US saw to that by announcing the new IMF funding.

    1. ambrit

      Yes, I saw that too. All this for the Ukraine ‘adventure,’ and nothing for the cradle of democracy. There it is, in stark contrast. Something in the line of a Robert Mapplethorpe photograph is in order. How about a series, banknotes dipped in a glass of urine: “P— Mark,” “P— Euro,” “P— Pound,” P— Ruble,” and, tastefully shot through a Vaseline filter, “P— Dollar.” Can you imagine the uproar and controversy?

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        One senses that there is enough money, domestic and abroad, and we are not spending it where it’s needed.

      2. Integer Owl

        Pedantry alert. I think the photographer you are referring to is Andreas Serrano. Robert Mapplethorpe was also a controversial figure in photography, however in a very different way from Serrano.

    2. Jackrabbit

      I, too, am deeply skeptical.

      Its difficult to believe that we would have Minsk 2.0 at all if the Ukrainians had the upper hand. This is a face-saving measure in that it prevents the Ukrainians from suffering a(nother) military disaster.

      I don’t sense any real change in attitude so it is likely that the countdown to TINA! has simply been reset. Minsk is not a peace treaty nor is one contemplated (although they do allow for vague meetings and consultations). Violations of Minsk 2.0 will be blamed on Putin just as violations of Minsk 1.0 were – allowing for a stronger case to made made for sending arms to Ukraine.

      Ultimately, the only acceptable solution from the standpoint of USA is regime change in Russia.

      H O P

      1. ex-PFC Chuck

        Moon of Alabama begs to differ:

        The U.S. inserted itself into the negotiation via the International Monetary Fund which it controls. The IMF announced new $17 billion plan for Ukraine, over four years, two hours before the negotiations ended. That was the U.S. joker telling Poroshenko that he would get enough money to continue fighting and does not have to give up any position. Merkel and Hollande, who tired to wring more concessions out of Poroshenko, must have fumed at that news.

        1. ambrit

          If that checks out, then someone is actively sabotaging any sort of ‘peace’ deal in Ukraine. Let’s see if Hollande or Merkel or their proxies react to the IMF action.

          1. Grizziz

            per CNN its a $40 billion package that still awaits the approval of the full board of the IMF. As has been noted before in this blog, none of this money, even in the unlikely event that it gets approved, will remain in the Ukies hands.

    3. Vince in MN

      Exactly. Just a time out to regroup and get the newly arriving, ahem, “defensive” weapons on line.

    4. Jack

      Probably an attempt to give Kiev breathing room to cobble together a force to try and break the 5-10k trapped troops out of their cauldron.

  7. Paper Mac

    Re: the RINF article- I have to say, this is basically from someone who clearly has no idea what the actual intellectual climate among Muslim scholars in the Middle East is. It starts with this howler:

    “For whatever reason, Moussaoui was now being allowed, for the very first time, to testify, under oath (and he’s a fanatical Muslim who swore upon the Quran, so truthfulness was binding upon him as a Muslim, which he devoutly is),”

    Are you kidding me? Moussaoui is a terrorist, tehrefore a “fanatical Muslim”, therefore has a perfect exegetical knowledge of the Qur’an and of fiqh? The man was an accountant for God’s sake. He doesn’t know anything about Islam. Have you read Al Qaeda’s fatwas? They’re jokes- they’re barely able to ape the form of the classical legal opinion, much less present anything that the Saudi (or any other community’s) ulema would take seriously. But no! It gets better!

    “Q: What — what was bin Laden’s attitude towards the Saudi ulema [the religious scholars]?

    A: It was of complete reverence and obedience. [It was like a Roman Catholic’s attitude] toward the Pope. …”

    The author has bolded this as though it were anything other than an absurdity. The notion that OBL had any meaningful respect for any of the ulema is completely demolished by the fact that he found it necessary to issue his own legal opinions to justify his actions! The whole Qutbist/extreme Salafi viewpoint that OBL subscribed to was based entirely around the rejection of the classical tradition and its scholars! The few ulema that they do like and cite (eg ibn Taymiyah, ibn Jawziyyah, etc) they for the most part misunderstand, or worse, use material that the community of scholars has rejected as extremist. The entire analysis is bunk, since it relies credulously on passages like these:

    “Ulema, essentially they are the king maker. If — if the ulema say that you should not take power, you are not going to take power. And the ulema were important because they are the people who — who — who certify the Islamic legality of the jihad of Osama bin Laden.”

    Which scholars? Which opinions? Again, AQ wrote its own fatwas in house. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, probably among the most controversial of the major living ulema, who endorsed prayer for hizbollah, condemned 9/11 and urged Muslims to donate blood to the victims. bin Laden and AQ have never cared what the ulema thought for the same reason that Moussaoui has no idea what he’s talking about- they’re not interested in the details of the law or the theology or the spirituality of their religion, they’re on their own personal jihad to aggrandise their aggrieved little selves. These people are criminals. Stop treating them like theologians.

    1. James Levy

      I’m not sure how to react to your post. I’m more than willing to accept your premise that these people are no kind of scholars or theologians. But I’m not sure what that means in practice. The vast majority of American Protestants go to churches where their pastors are as ignorant of the vast bulk of Christian theology and exegesis as these clowns are. Their tinker-toy “fundamentalism” or “Biblical literalism” or whatever you want to call it is big on contextless quotes and small on understanding. But that is what, in many ways, Christianity IS in the United States. To say that Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson had “nothing to do with Christianity” the way that some people want to say OBL and Moussaoui have nothing to do with Islam (as your last sentence implies–it’s all about them) strikes me as just plain wrong. Robertson, Osteen, et al. represent how a great deal of the laity and clergy understand Christianity. The real question is, why have so many people bought into these brain-dead versions of religion and no longer have any truck with real religious scholars?

      1. ambrit

        “brain dead versions of religion” says it all. I’ve done plumbing work in several and various “Christian” churches. Except for one or two truly ascetic groups, most were almost Sybaritic in their treatment of the “Head Honchos.” I kid you not, one Pentacostal church had a Jacuzzi tub and steam in the walk-in shower for the top preacher. Thank Heaven we are but lowly and fallen. I’d hate to think we really were the “Crown of Creation.”

      2. JTFaraday

        Because religious scholars do real research, whereas said faithful are merely looking for a justificatory framework for things they already believe.

    2. ex-PFC Chuck

      Moussaoui’s explanation of why members of the Saudi royal family, and other wealthy, well-connected Saudis, contributed to al Qaeda is plausible because:
      1. It’s common knowledge that more than a few members of the family and wealthy classes are, shall we say, something less than scrupulously devout Moslems. Mousasaooui used terms such as: sodomite; apostate; drunkard; etc.
      2. It is common knowledge that the Wahabi flavor of Sunni Islam, which is the country’s state religion, is as extreme as it gets in the interpretation of the Koran. One tenet that they interpret more aggressively than any other version of Sunni Islam is the notion of jihad, i.e. defending the faith.
      3. The Ulema, that is the community of scholars and preachers who interpret the Koran and other sacred traditions and literature are very powerful in Saudi society. As I understand it their role comes very close to encompassing the functions of prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner of anyone in the country, including the well-connected and members of the royal family, who is deemed to have seriously violated the tenets of the religion.
      4. If a believer does not personally participate in jihad he should at a minimum support it financially to a degree commensurate with his ability to do so.
      5. Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda were perceived by the Ulema in Saudi Arabia as being legitimately doing jihad in a manner commensurate with the tenets of Wahabi Islam.
      6. In view of the above facts, the “less than scrupulous” Moslems of the royal family and wealthy elites contributed large amounts of money to al Qaeda in hopes of keeping in the relatively good graces of the Ulema. Some of those individuals likely occupied high positions in the Saudi government.

    1. Peter Pan

      The USA electrified the deer carcass (Ukraine). The bear (Russia) absorbs the shocks but is sufficiently persistent to prevail. Well, at least that’s my twisted interpretation of the video.

  8. Santi

    Re “empty phrases”, I think nothing more vogon-like than yesterday’s Moscovici’s statements about Greece talks (ny emphasis):

    “They (Greece) know the programme is our reference and framework. We have to see what kind of solutions we can decide inside this framework, not outside it,”

    First time I hear about talking about thinking outside the framework.

    1. diptherio

      On a related note, the Commons sphere has been buzzing over comments by the new Veep:

      Dragasakis, vice-president of the new Greek government said “a new paradigm that can combine advanced forms of democracy, social self-determination, social justice, on the solid basis of the common goods. Greece can turn… into a field of implementation of innovative ideas and policies…. Europe could rejuvenate through the symbiosis of different productive paradigms in its interior…”

      Greek-speaking friends can watch it here: (from minute 18:00 on):

      This perspective opens a very interesting possibility for the future of Europe and the world. Stay tuned to what is happening in Greece and around Podemos in Spain.

      Someone on the commons listserv I’m on wondered whether or not (in a fantasy, rational world) whether Greece could work out a deal whereby they agree to maintain important commons for international use in exchange for debt forgiveness.

        1. diptherio

          Like I said, in a fantasy world…
          OT, but I sent you an email response yesterday to your query about Rochester, ICYMI. Subject line was “Spreading the Cleveland Model”

        2. MartyH

          Lambert, the NeoLiberal track record of privatizing every Commons is pretty clear. Polanyi and others refer to it lovingly as “Primitive Accumulation” if I remember right (or was that Poppa Marx?).

  9. ohmyheck

    On a personal note, two things. First, my niece happens to work at the Google daycare center on the Mountain View campus and I visited her there at Christmas. Free food!
    Second, I was the bookkeeper for Vital Ground, the organization that produced the bear video. It was about a dozen years ago. Doug Seus is the guy at the end of the video and he and his bears live in their compound a few miles from where I live. Doug does great work for bears, both his trained ones and wild ones, despite having to put up with a whole lot of unending BS from the absolute knuckleheads that ran the VG board.

  10. vidimi

    seems like 50 shades fever has gripped the business world. hadley freeman has a pretty good review.Strip away all the sex and it’s all about money, money, and dubious merch

    Fashion labels ranging from the high-end Marc New York to Tesco’s Florence & Fred have launched ranges allegedly inspired by the book (and, to be fair, nothing says kinky quite like buying your knickers from the supermarket). B&Q sent a memo to its staff this week that mysteriously found its way to the national press, which warned that there would almost certainly be “increased demand of certain products and queries from customers [recreating] their own Fifty Shades experiences. We need to be prepared.”

    b&q is britain’s answer to home depot or other diy chains.

    It is absolutely right that this book should have provided a platform for such blatant self-promotion and shameless advertising, because the book itself is really about the erotics of capitalism. Anastasia endlessly obsesses over Christian’s wealth – “seriously, over-the-top Bill Gates-style wealthy” – and label names are listed with the deadening dedication of Patrick Bateman: Calvin Klein, Apple, Audi, Converse, Blackberry, Moët, Gucci, Cartier. This, it often feels, is what’s really supposed to turn the readers on, not the sex. Vague references to Christian’s conference calls about “futures markets” are given more space than the emotional lives of the main characters friends and family. “It’s all about the money,” Anastasia smirks to her flatmate when explaining Christian’s appeal.

    holy cow!

    1. hunkerdown

      “increased demand of certain products and queries from customers [recreating] their own Fifty Shades experiences. We need to be prepared.”

      Geez, even advanced sex ed has been privatized and you need to work at a hardware store to learn about it? Don’t we teach our children anything?

  11. MartyH

    Two quickies. First, in regard to “Congress and President Obama Cannot Sit Idly By While Companies Use H-1B Guestworkers to Replace American Workers” … don’t worry. They’re not sitting idly by. They’re stumping for Microsoft, Apple, IBM and others to get more H1-Bs and give away more US jobs. Follow the money. That Cringely rumor of a 26% cut in IBM jobs may have been wrong but they’ve been busy cutting a sizeable number of US jobs the past few weeks.

    Second, another correlation v causation case to report with smoking being blamed for breast and prostate cancer.

    1. Vatch

      Are you sure that this is a case of correlation being mistaken for causation? There are known carcinogens in tobacco smoke. If those chemicals stay in the lungs, they won’t cause other cancers (unless lung cancer metastasizes), but if they are absorbed into the bloodstream, it seems reasonable to postulate that other organs could develop cancers besides the lungs. For what it’s worth, here’s the preview and summary of the article:

    2. hunkerdown

      The 26% includes attrition driven by performance standards, which IBM has no incentive to count honestly.

      1. Vatch

        This may have been posted last Autumn, but it’s worth noticing again:

        IBM has initiated a new training program that will cut the pay of participating employees by 10%.

        A copy of the Sept. 12 memo, seen by Computerworld, was sent to IBM employees in its Global Technology Services strategic outsourcing group. The memo sent to affected employees begins by telling the worker that an assessment has revealed “that some managers and employees have not kept pace with acquiring the skills and expertise needed to address changing client needs, technology and market requirements.”

        It then tells the recipient that “you have been identified as one of these employees,” and says that from mid-October through the end of March, “you will dedicate up to one day per week,” or up to 23 working days total, “to focus on learning and development.”

        But IBM is coupling this training with a six month salary reduction. The key statement in the memo is this: “While you spend part of your workweek on learning and development activities, you will receive 90% of your current base salary.”

        Salary will be restored to the full rate effective April 1, 2015.

        Just in time for April Fool’s Day!

  12. sleepy

    Re: the Telegraph article on political threats to the ECB

    Great news that Podemos is leading the polls for Spain’s upcoming election at 28%, with much of that support seeming to come at the expense of Spain’s traditional “socialist” party which long ago sold out to the banksters.. I wonder though what tricks the European neolibs have up their sleeves to make sure they don’t win.

  13. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Australia’s oldest man…knits tiny sweaters (he learned after retirement).

    Very cute!

    And one reason for income guarantee instead of job guarantee.

    Receiving income for knitting at home for penguins because you have the passion for it. That can’t be a regular job on the Job Guarantee list, I don’t think – too irregular and not too much economic value, and how many of us would have thought of it beforehand to have it covered in JG, so the next time, it doesn’t have to be a retired person but a younger one.

  14. Jackrabbit

    Austerity Is ‘Complete Horsesh*t’: Ivy League Prof Dismantles the Conservative Lie Alternet

    Haven’t read the book but I wonder if the Professor has the guts to talk about the craven political maneuverings by which Obama imposed Austerity in the US during a time of extreme inequality. In the interview he seems to focus on the economics of Austerity.

    As NC readers will no doubt recall, the “Fiscal Cliff” give-away was followed by the “Sequester” whereby equal cuts were made to Domestic and Defense budgets. This piled travesty on top of travesty as the rich had got a tax cut in the middle of a war that they and theirs would not have to fight – helping to create the biggest inequality since the Gilded Age – and then wrecked the economy and bailed themselves out. the resulting Government deficit was then used as an excuse to cut social programs along with a bloated Defense budget that had to be cut anyway after the Iraq War.

    And the greedy, misguided neolib thinking just goes on and on: Yves has started a series about how they are now seeking tax cuts to stimulate an economy that is struggling because of the demand destruction caused by mismanagement and austerity.


    PS I think the ‘comfortable’, ‘well off’ upper middle classes are deluded. What appears to be a ‘War on the Middle Class’ is as much a war on THEM. Banana Republics only have two classes: the ultra rich ruling class and everybody else.

    H O P

  15. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Divided European Union…superb qualities of any German (rings bells?)

    An EU without Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and eventually France and Britain reminds one of a reconstructed 1,000 yr. empire, with the same superb feelings…

    And instead of uniting the continent, the project’s intended original purpose, it will turn out to have facilitated a renewed division and conflicts, if Grexit triggers the exodus.

    That’s ironic.

    1. sleepy

      Under your scenario, what does the future hold for Eastern Europe and the Baltic States, and how long would they tolerate it before they explode? And what then?

      When you throw in the Ukrainian Nato-Russian slow burn on the edge of that, it seems that things could get out of hand quickly at some point in the next few years.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Dark days ahead, although we do have the global reserve currency (good anywhere, don’t leave home without it), used often by economic hit men in the past, but can be deployed for good and we can print at will as well.

  16. Vatch

    Recently, there has been discussion of vaccine controversies here at NC. I just became aware of the new book Vaccine Nation: America’s Changing Relationship with Immunization, by Elaine Conis, published by the University of Chicago Press, February, 2015. I have not seen a copy of the book. There’s a short excerpt from the book at:

    Here is a rather disturbing excerpt from the excerpt:

    The initial hesitation to vaccinate children against mumps was further dismantled by concurrent discourse concerning a separate vaccine, against rubella (then commonly known as German measles). In the mid 1960s, rubella had joined polio and smallpox in the ranks of diseases actively instilling fear in parents, and particularly mothers. Rubella, a viral infection that typically caused rash and a fever, was harmless in children. But when pregnant women caught the infection, it posed a risk of harm to the fetus. A nationwide rubella epidemic in 1963 and 1964 resulted in a reported 30,000 fetal deaths and the birth of more than 20,000 children with severe handicaps.

  17. vidimi

    breaking: this looks very bad, reminiscent of the freedom ent. leak in vermont or the toxic sludge in hungary a few years back.

    More than 60,000 residents in north-eastern Spain have been told to stay indoors after an explosion at a chemical warehouse sent a dense orange cloud into the sky that hovered over their municipalities for hours.

  18. fresno dan

    Some comparisons between deductibles under bronze, silver, gold, platinum

    “Start with annual deductibles. For bronze plans in 2015, they’re enormous — $5,372, or about five times what the average person with employer-based individual coverage faced last year. More important, and potentially worrisome for the law’s defenders: Average deductibles for silver plans (the most popular type of exchange coverage) are about three times as high as on employer plans. Even gold plans have slightly higher average deductibles.”

  19. Attas

    P8_TA-PROV(2015)0031 US Senate report on the use of torture by the CIA [document page 187] is a resolution of the European Parliament. State-induced national ADD might have created the impression that US torture is water under the bridge. But the resolution includes an impressive litany of legal shit hitting the fan with much, much more to come. The torture cowards are not home free. Domestic revulsion is and always has been the least of their worries.

    Furthermore this is a classic example of ‘it’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.’ The torture itself was undertaken to obscure the original crime against humanity of 9/11: armed attack on the US civilian population. Framing Saddam would have taken the heat off 9/11 co-conspirators including the Saudis on Moussaoui’s list, as well as criminal officials Tom Wilshire, Richard Blee, Richard Myers, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Alfreda Frances Bikowsky, Michael Ann Casey, Spike Bowman, Eric Qualkenbush, Jay Frere, Henry Ensher, and Reggie Walton.

    To get them off the hook for any length of time will take a war. That’s why there’s ‘No good news’ on Ukraine peace.

  20. Danny

    Please, please don’t link to Business Insider when the original source is much better. I don’t think it has much to add to the vaccination story by Wired.

    FWIW, many of the “tech” workers at the firms mentioned aren’t in technical positions or and aren’t techie at all, rather support roles such as marketing, hr, and legal. When i worked at one of the companies mentioned most, if not all, the non-vaccine crowd i knew were in those support roles and lacked science degrees or job functions.

    What scares me most about the anti-vaccine attitude is that measles isn’t the worst disease we’ve previously eradicated from the US, and this attitude could ultimately undermine vaccination efforts for polio and help its return here. God forbid smallpox somehow return to the world. :-(

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I hate to sound churlish, but I’m sorry, that demand means fewer links. This is a free service to you and you get what you get. I sometimes go look at the original source but often don’t, and in any event, BI has syndication rights for many stories, so what you get at BI is identical to the original, and BI is a less awful site in terms of the how much memory it takes when you load it. Bloomberg and the Guardian have become virtually unusable after recent redesigns. I try to cite the original source, but if a reliable reader sends a good link and I am close to launch time, I’ll just add the link on their say-so. BI also often has much better headlines, so in many cases the BI variant will generate more actual reads (which BTW is a negative for me since people leave the site).

      More important, Links is an extremely costly exercise for me in terms of time and I really should not be doing it at all. As far as I am concerned, it has become a monster. I am chronically exhausted and have no life (and I don’t mean just no social life, I mean I reject pretty much all TV and radio requests, almost never go to conferences, and reject all meeting requests) because it is virtually impossible for me to do much in the way of original posting given the several hours a day it takes to do Links.

      So no complaints on this topic unless you are personally prepared to write a large check to us so we can do things differently.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Thank you, Yves and Lambert, for the hard work to put together the daily links.

        I am reminded of the surprise upon hearing meat-eating Buddhists the first time. Apparently, those of the Theravada belief (the Way of the Elders or something like that, and not, as the derisive name of Hinayana, the Way of the Small Vehicle) eat whatever they are given, out of gratitude, humbleness and non-discrimination of reality.

        “Here you go. Make the best, or something useful or uplifting, of it.”

      2. bruno marr

        Yves, seriously, working at that pace is not healthy; it’s a stressor and leads to heart disease. And other maladies. I would take less Links and more video commentary on Moyers or D-Now, in a flash.

        I’m sure you love what you do, but the world ain’t changin’ anytime soon.


        1. diptherio

          Perhaps we need to take up a donation so Yves could out-source the links. Don’t know how much that would take, but it might be worth trying to crowd-fund, to try to serve everyone’s needs in this situation. I’d definitely pitch in to keep the daily links going and cut Yves a little slack.

  21. Jill

    Infiltration: My answer to infiltration is to focus on doing needed work. For example, lawyers can help people who are being evicted/foreclosed. Gardeners can help grow food in community gardens. People who are willing to stay on the phone and listen to bad music for about 1/2 hour can appeal people’s medical claims for them. People who can cook can provide meals, etc. If you want to infiltrate, you’re still going to have to contribute labor! Let those bastards do some real work!

    If anyone feels too important to be giving of their labor then who needs them in the group at all? They can join the Democratic or Republican clubs and go golfing with the other “quality” individuals! I’m serious, labor sorts the wheat from the chaff. Beyond that, there is so much help that people need. Why not provide the help?

  22. cheale


    I have to say, as a long time regular reader of your site, that you could take one day a week off from NC. Maybe Sunday or another day that normally has less news, or just skip the links for that day and write an article (we can survive without links/watercooler for one day (Lambert might want a break as well!)). The alternative – already mentioned is to get someone to do some of the legwork, pull out the stuff that normally seems interesting – then you can check it over as well as skimming to see if there is more. I notice that the WC is more USA domestic issues orientated – maybe the links can concentrate on the outside USA stuff.

    If you are chronically exhausted you will have to stop sometime – your body will force you to.

    Too much time in front of the computer is bad for you anyway. And, a lot of news, will be the same from one day to the next – e.g. what has really changed in the Ukraine over the past few weeks – some things have but have the fundamentals really changed?

    This website is fantastic, but you will feel better and more alert and more incisive if you have a break once a week – and don’t use the computer that day, either. Btw, do you ever have a vacation? Your life is more important than the news/politics/economics etc.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Thanks but any changes have a revenue impact too, and we have trained readers to come here every day. And despite my “no life” complaint, I do work out regularly and at a high level, that’s one thing I insist on. I’ve been doing this for eight years now and happen to have an iron constitution. But it is frustrating when readers casually ask for more with no cognizance of what it takes to deliver what they get already.

      1. neo-realist

        You deliver plenty enough content on NC. I’m just sorry we haven’t seen you on TV in a while.

  23. JTFaraday

    re: Three ways cats can control our minds BBC

    …thereby proving, once and for all, that there is no such thing as harmless flirting.

  24. Kyle

    “Greece Fails to Rattle Currency Traders”

    Nothing to worry over Rachel Evans. Something similar was probably reported just prior to Sweden pulling it’s peg to the Euro causing currency markets to dance like a bead of water on a hot plate.

    And what is Sweden doing now? “Sweden Cuts Main Rate Into Negative Territory”” Perhaps Rachel would explain to us the unseeming popularity of the Krona. Hmmm, what say you Rachel?

    This message brought to you by the Neoliberals. The ideology that brings black swans to light.

  25. optimader

    In response to you fukushima questions..

    “How is it possible for the Japanese to be both “sophisticated customer” and “utterly out of their depth”? Seem like two rather contradictory assertions to me”.

    Sophisticated users are defined along the lines of being well trained in the theory, operation, maintenance (O&M) of a piece of equipment, system, plant etc..
    Consequently, sophisticated users are aware of the safe envelope of operation of said equipment, system, plant etc.

    That said, when equipment, systems, plants are subject to non-design conditions –those exceeding the specified normal range (plus safety factor) of expected conditions, and catastrophic failure occurs, sophisticated user may well be out of their depth to remediate the situation.

    IMO this is EXACTLY what occurred at Fukushima.

    In fact the Japanese SHUNNED international offers of assistance.

    An illustration of what you perceive as a contradictory assertions would be for example a trained crew licensed and certified to operate a commercial maritime vessel for hire that inexplicably grounds a cruise ship on a reef. The crew and cruise ship operating entity are by definition “sophisticated users” of vessels and are nonetheless most likely utterly out of their depth when it comes to remediating their wrecked vessel ad the consequent environmental damage.

    In the case of Fukushima, Tepco (the operator) and the relevant Japanese government agencies immediately and on an ongoing basis have proven to be utterly incompetent. Not only incompetent, IMO deceitful about the scope of the disaster and what their short and long term strategies consist of..

    “Moreover, there is still the matter of GE’s defective design and US political pressure on the Japanese. “

    Please explain what you mean by defective design. Do you mean a design that was internationally accepted technology at the time that was licensed for operation by the relevant Japanese authorities but was exposed to environmental conditions that exceeded it’s design basis, was operating on a beyond design life permit extension while being maintained by an operating company (Tepco) in a dodgy manner that had a ongoing pattern of falsifying records to mirepresent equipment condition to relevant authorites in Japan?

    Was the GE design the best design possible? Of course not, but the Japanese chose to not purchase the best available technology. Shold the plants operating permits have been extended? No, probably not, particularly in retrospect of the fact that O&M activities/documentation were falsified.

    Is GE or the operator as supervised by the Japanese licensing entities responsible for the ancillary emergency services infrastructure ? I think the latter is responsible for safe operation ultimately. Did GE withhold technology?

    Should the plants operating permits have been extended by the Japanese in light of ongoing falsified QC and maintenance activates?? Of course not.

    “it has all breeched?” You mean a containment vessel is not meant to contain all? So what’s the use, then?”

    Containment vessels are meant to contain but no engineered system is perfect when technical insults and bad decisions accumulate and overcome the system. But let’s be clear, you said:
    “the containment vessel of GE’s reactor failed to contain anything”
    That is absolutely not true.

    Out of curiosity which do you feel is safer:
    1.) A nuclear reactor in a containment vessel that may eventually crack(fail) and leak in the worst case when coolant starved BUT retains the melted “corium”, at least allowing the opportunity of time for a competent remediation effort to be mounted;
    2.) A nuclear reactor of the most primitive design (graphite pile) located in a sheet metal building that will burn uncontrollably when an operator decides he’s bored and starts twisting knobs?

    ” Kerry just sold a Westinghouse contract to the Bulgarian colony that is far more expensive than the Russian offer and does not include spent fuel disposal,”
    Oh no, even a Russian satellite state is under the Svengali control of the USG for utility power generation! I guess as a minimum Bulgaria Power needs a new purchasing agent?

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