Links 2/19/15

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

White Trash Gothic Michael Lind. FWIW, I never understood the enthusiasm for To Kill a Mockingbird.

‘Game of Thrones’ Monopoly Will Make Fans Fight For The Iron Throne, Too Inquisitur (furzy mouse). This tells me the GoT brand getting awfully close to its sell-by date.

Transient star grazing our solar system ‘just left,’ cosmically speaking CNET (Stephen M)

New AIDS drug shields monkeys: study Agence France-Presse

My taxes go where? How countries spend your money BBC (furzy mouse)

Thailand To Give Chinese Tourists Etiquette Manuals Inquisitur (furzy mouse)

Prostitutes drop allegations against Strauss-Kahn in pimping trial France24 (Nikki). The case was always seen as weak. For all his considerable faults (he was known for zeroing in on pretty women and pursuing them very aggressively, in addition to his use of prostitutes), there evidence that DSK had procured the talent for the orgies, um, sex parties, was thin. And why should he have? He was a busy guy and it’s not unreasonable to assume friends with similar tastes or people wanting to curry favor did the organizing.

Argentina Nisman Death: Hundreds of Thousands Rally BBC (Ryan R)


Greece gets lifeline as ECB agrees €3.3bn extra emergency funds Guardian

PM Tsipras declares war at home on Greece’s ‘oligarchs’ Reuters (Stephen M)

Grèce : le mauvais plan de Bruxelles Libération (Swedish Lex). Paywalled, but the critical part is the opening bit outside the paywall.

Leaked documents reveal what Greece had say at the Eurogroup negotiations Business Insider (Stephen M). We posted a link to the documents yesterday. This has some additional commentary.

Yanis Varoufakis: How I became an erratic Marxist Guardian

Cyprus: an island in search of a saga to learn from Sigrún Davíðsdóttir, A Fistful of Euros. This is very important if you care at all about the Greece saga. We covered the deliberate destruction of the Cyprus banking sector by the Troika at the time, but this post gives a terrific summary of what happened, including the fact that the Troika had its plan not to support the banks in mind six months in advance of pulling the plug, in the form of telling Cyprus it was removing the ELA unless it accepted terms. The government had been fooled into accepting measures it did not understand how they would be used against depositholders. And in a worrisome precedent for Greece, one reason it was handled so harshly was it had pissed off the Troika.


Rout has Ukraine pleading for peacekeepers Washington Post. I hate to say it, but this is almost comical. This is a novel strategy for dealing with an encirclement. I don’t recall the US asking for peacekeepers during the Battle of the Bulge. The US backed a lousy horse.

Fulfilled Mission; You Can’t Always Get What You Want; Watching Ice Melt at 33 Degrees Michael Shedlock

Ukrainian soldiers share horrors of Debaltseve battle after stinging defeat Guardian


Fight to the Death for Mosul Patrick Cockburn, Counterpunch

US ‘war on those perverting Islam’ BBC

Imperial Collapse Watch

Lockheed aims to slash cost of F35 jets Financial Times. Lambert: “BWA-HA-HA-HA!!! If it cost half what it costs now, it would still be a pig of an aircraft.”

Bush attacks Obama on Russia and Iran Financial Times. More warmongering.

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

FAA’s Caution Not the Only Obstacle for Drone Delivery MIT Technology Review (David L)

Hundreds of South Carolina Inmates Sent to Solitary Confinement Over Facebook Electronic Frontier Foundation

Google warns of US government ‘hacking any facility’ in the world Guardian

Did the GOP Just Give Away $130 Billion of Public Property? Nation (Stephen M)

Hillary Clinton Actively Seeking Elizabeth Warren’s Counsel on Economic Policy Daily Kos (furzy mouse). Lordie. The blind leading the blind. Warren knows a great deal about banking regs and is arguably the top US academic on bankruptcy, but the economy???? More like Clinton is trying to get messaging tips.

States with Weak Gun Laws and Higher Gun Ownership Lead Nation in Gun Deaths, New Data for 2013 Confirms Violence Policy Center (furzy mouse)

Guns really do change the way you think Mother Nature Network (furzy mouse). Maybe we should stop demonizing gun ownership (except for practical uses like hunting) and realize it’s a mass Darwin Award process.

Fed officials worried about hiking rates too soon: minutes Business Insider (Stephen M)

Researcher at San Francisco Fed warns of Excessive Easy Monetary Policy Angry Bear (furzy mouse)

Class Warfare

The Cost of a Decline in Unions New York Times (furzy mouse)

What pushes scientists to lie? The disturbing but familiar story of Haruko Obokata Guardian (YY). Today’s must read. Buried in the middle is the most distressing part: how little scientific research is verified (“replicated”) and how many studies supporting the use of drugs are garbage (one effort to replicate cancer drug efficacy showed an 89% failure rate). This confirms my general, skeptical view of Western medicine. As a colleague who worked for the NIH and later in Big Pharma in a senior role put it: “Medicine is a medieval art.”

Antidote du jour:

cute lizard links

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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    1. diptherio

      Swords, boobs, dragons…what’s not to like?

      Seriously though–there is already a perfectly good (nay, excellent) GoT boardgame from FantasyFlight that is way more fun than any re-branded Monopoly could ever be. Recommended for any gamers out there.

  1. Ruben

    Scientific experiment to prove dishonesty in banking culture.

    Business culture and dishonesty in the banking industry
    Alain Cohn, Ernst Fehr & Michel Andre Marechal
    Department of Economics, University of Zurich, Switzerland
    Trust in others’ honesty is a key component of the long-term performance of firms, industries, and even whole countries (1-4). However, in recent years, numerous scandals involving fraud have undermined confidence in the financial industry (5-7). Contemporary commentators have attributed these scandals to the financial sector’s business culture (8-10), but no scientific evidence supports this claim. Here we show that employees of a large, international bank behave, on average, honestly in a control condition. However, when their professional identity as bank employees is rendered salient, a significant proportion of them become dishonest. This effect is specific of bank employees because control experiments with employees from other industries and with students show that they do not become more dishonest when their professional identity or bank-related items are rendered salient. Our results thus suggest that the prevailing business culture in the banking industry weakens and undermines the honesty norm, implying that measures to re-establish an honest culture are very important.

    Nature VOL 516 | 4 DECEMBER 2014, p: 86-89.

  2. freddie the rainbow-colored frog

    My taxes go where? How countries spend your money BBC
    MMTers could hold festival over the title alone

  3. lolcar

    If we were serious about advancing the boundaries of medical science where experimental data is often messy and vulnerable to let’s say “optimistic interpretation”, we’d have independent researchers perform all experiments simultaneously in tandem and confirm that everything was reproducible before we took it further. It might even save money in the long run – more time and money is probably wasted bringing worthless drugs to market than would be doing all basic research in triplicate. The biggest problem would be cultural – science would have to be a one hundred percent collaborative effort, instead of an individual quest to design your own unique research project and find something patentable or worthy of tenure before you’re kicked out on your ass.

    1. Paper Mac

      Uh, you’re describing a multi-center trial. This is the standard for large pharmaceutical trials. Having nominally independent researchers perform experiments in tandem at multiple centers is more or less the norm. That doesn’t stop fraud from happening. Money Finds A Way..

      1. lolcar

        There is a lot of basic research carried out though before there’s even a sniff of big money involvement and it seems that a large percentage of it – particularly in the biological sciences – is not reproducible, so essentially worthless. A lot of wasted effort would be avoided if the multi-centre trial was the standard procedure for all research rather than something that happened after the money gets involved and you’re ready for Phase III trials. It would however mean a radical reinvention of what it means to be a scientist and a massive increase in at least the “obvious” cost of doing research – which makes it a bit of a pipe dream.

        1. Paper Mac

          This makes no sense. Nominally independent researchers in multicenter trials are known to engage in routine fabrication of data. The multi-center design does nothing in and of itself to prevent fraud. If you required basic research to be done in a multi-center fashion, the most basic experiments would be so onerous and expensive that no one would bother doing so in the jurisidiction with that requirement.

          1. lolcar

            I don’t conceive this as a fraud prevention mechanism rather as a way to ensure that whatever enters the scientific corpus as an established fact really has been so established. I’m not sure that it would be too onerous and expensive. If no research project proceeded beyond its initial stages and nothing was published before it was proved to be reproducible, I think you might save money in the long-run. Speaking in specifics rather than generalities, I think you might end up with more rather than less useful data, if you had two Ph.D students attempting the same Ph.D project at different institutions. Of course, the whole raison d’etre of a Ph.D is to independently discover something novel, which poses a bit of a problem if you still conceive of scientific research as an individual pursuit and you’re trying to work out how to assign credit for whatever discoveries are made during the project.

        2. Praedor

          Problems are rife: scientists may use the wrong strain of mice or wrong strain of cells to do initial research on. Until very recently research using cell cultures was totally bogus because the cell lines people were using turned out to not be the strains they were supposed to be. Somewhere in the earlier steps of creating various cell strains mistakes were made, there were contaminations or misidentifications such that cell lines used by EVERYONE were…mislabeled. No wonder drugs tested on “ovarian” cells in the lab turned out to be totally useless when it got to animal research (nonhuman or human) – the drug was tested on a totally different and irrelevant cell line! This MASSIVE very real problem has only been recently addressed and some labs are still resistant to doing what is absolutely necessary to verify that the cells they THINK they’re working with are actually what they are. As for mouse and rat strains…their genetic background matters a great deal. The purity of strains, produced by many many many iterations of backcrossing (incest) resulted in genetically uniform strains but many have unusual biological traits as a result: susceptibilities or resistances to certain diseases, unusual biochemical variations in how this or that drug or chemical is metabolized, how they respond to environmental chemcials or forces, etc.

          Finally, I do not trust any scientist’s research who’s paycheck depends upon him or her getting a certain positive set of results (corporate scientists working for big pharma, for instance). ALL biomedical research should be required to be able to be INDEPENDENTLY replicated before it is accepted as valid.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Its massive scale of cell line contaminatin reminds one of the same with the real estate title registry.

          2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Your comment about paycheck dependence is a great one as it brings up a more general question relating to the quote: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

            Are all paid-jobs compromised?

            Is that a foundational problem with capitalism or any system with paid workers?

        1. Paper Mac

          Yeah, it certainly smooths the path when your regulatory agency is a haven for former industry execs, and your scientific committees can be freely misled about the material they’re meant to assess and sign off on.

    2. Integer Owl

      Yes. As far as an indicator for the end of humanity, I think the death of the true scientific method is a pretty good indicator. If it becomes totally corrupted by money, to the point where all scientific honesty is compromised, or even marginalised, in the name of profit, not only is it an indictment on anyone professing to seek universal knowledge, the human race is left essentially fighting blind with the universal truths, which will not be overcome. While medical science is certainly complicated, short of striving for infinite lifespans there is enough knowledge at the moment to launch well-targeted attacks on almost all ailments facing the human race. This is also valid for all environmental concerns. It is all about honesty and the right intentions. The people who could do this work are ready and waiting for the opportunity.

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        The corruption of science is one of those points where the greed and short sightedness of the masters is so blatantly self defeating. Buffoons. They not only have their hand in the cookie jar, but their feet and heads and everything else they can cram in.

        If large scale and totally unnecessary human suffering weren’t the predictable and logical outcome, it would be hilarious.

      2. NoFreeWill

        There are no “universal” truths, even 2+2=4 wasn’t true before the invention of mathematics because it requires a being to know it. And science has never been pure like you would like, although I agree that the current state of it is more corrupt than in the recent past.

        1. Integer Owl

          2+2=4 is hardly the sort of thing I’m talking about.

          I tend to think theories such as Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity and Maxwell’s equations on electricity and magnetism point to the types of Universal truths I was talking about. Note that I wrote ‘point to’, as I do concede that like all science, it is possible they may be improved upon in the future.
          I’m not sure where you are coming to this from. Perhaps you know significantly more than I do on these topics, and if so I would love to hear more details on your point of view.

  4. Jim Haygood

    From the BBC article on Argentina:

    ‘Hundreds of thousands of people have taken part in a march in the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires, to mark one month since the death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman. The protest was called by federal prosecutors and attended by Mr Nisman’s family and opposition politicians.’

    To understand the remarkable phenomenon of prosecutors calling for public support, some background is needed. From The Economist, June 2013:

    A few months ago President Cristina Kirchner rolled out six bills to “democratise” the judiciary. The proposals were incendiary: the two most controversial would limit the use of injunctions against the state and force 12 of the 19 judicial magistrates charged with appointing judges to affiliate with political parties and run for public election.

    In April [2013] she managed to push all six bills through Congress. But on June 11th her luck ran out when a federal judge heeded the appeals filed by the opposition and various NGOs, and ruled the election of magistrates unconstitutional.

    The government quickly appealed the case to the Supreme Court, which after only a few days of deliberation seconded the federal court’s ruling in a vote of 6-1. The president’s allies called the ruling “unserious”, “medieval” and “corporate”.

    The Widow K’s contempt was made clear a couple of weeks ago, when a court hearing on the brief prepared by the late prosecutor Nisman was denounced by her spokesman as a ‘judicial coup,’ condemning the process before any decision is reached.

    Throngs turned out in the summer rain because they do not want to see their country sliding back into dictatorship and executive murder as its public institutions are destroyed.

    1. David

      Kirchner uses the constitutional process to pass bills requiring judges to run for election. The judges, surprisingly, decide that they don’t want to be accountable to the public and reject the new law.

      Why can’t the judges answer to the public? Congress seems to agree with Kirchner that the judges should be accountable.

      Are the prosecutors elected or are they appointed by these same judges?

      The more I hear about Kirchner, the more I like her.

      1. bruno marr

        Well, just the opposite has occurred in California. Elected state judges have been excoriated by unelected federal judges for ignoring severe prosecutorial misconduct in state court. It turns out the elected judges didn’t call “bullshit” on widespread misconduct by DA’s in drug-related cases, because, um, they didn’t want to appear to the electorate as “soft on crime”. (Prosecutorial misconduct is a crime.) Kamala Harris, CA AG was chagrined and ordered “changes”.

        As my lawyer friends say; there ain’t no Justice, there’s just the Law. (Smirk)

    2. I.G.I.

      The Argentinian government is on the West official enemy list – not on top as the Russian, the Venezuelan or the Iranian, but still high enough to warrant articles in the corporate press that depict them consistently in negative light.

  5. N

    Regarding “What Pushes Scientists to Lie” : Nature has been publishing a series of articles on experimental design,
    the replication vs. reproducibility problem:
    I believe one (which is not on this list) I submitted not long ago, and it was posted by Lambert. Its discussion
    excellent, in part due to a specific example of a dilemma in medical treatment caused by choice of which experimental results to trust– those based on replication or those based on reproducibility.

  6. Paper Mac

    ‘This confirms my general, skeptical view of Western medicine. As a colleague who worked for the NIH and later in Big Pharma in a senior role put it: “Medicine is a medieval art.”’

    There are a couple of issues here. Firstly, the RIKEN fraud is not a particularly good example of pernicious scientific fraud in general. The initial claim was outrageous (the notion that a dish of differentiated cells could, by treatment with acid, dedifferentiate to an induced stem-like state was totally absurd to anyone who had forgotten a dish of cells in an incubator for a day or two, causing the medium to acidify), was immediately suspected as being fraudulent, and was dealt with fairly promptly as far as these things go. Moreover, significant personal repercussions were experienced by all of the scientific personnel involved- indeed, a colleague and inspiration, Yoshiki Sasai, took his own life as a result of the duplicity of the young woman involved. Sasai was probably as close as anyone was going to get to getting retinas growing in 3d culture from stem cells- with his loss it becomes much more likely that a potentially long-term viable biotechnology is lost forever (as we have perhaps 30 years of “Big Science” level energy flows left).

    Secondly, you are correct that much of the biomedical literature is fraudulent in some way. This is widely recognised within the field- John Ioannidis has done good work here, which has been widely accepted by the community, on the high rates of unreproducible results. I work in the field, am trained as a pharmacologist, and share some of your skepticism, but I do so from the privileged position of someone who gets to see all kinds of data that never gets published. I get and don’t mind “Western medicine is fraudulent and medieval” as a general criticism, but on a policy or individual health level, it’s not super useful.

    I think a slightly more nuanced assessment might lead to a productive conversation about the limits of science. It’s clear the low hanging fruit have been picked, the 20-30 years of fossil fuel burning we have left before a civilisational catastrophe is baked into the cake isn’t going to give us full control over cellular function or immortality or mass produced organs. What we need to do is to critically assess the extant literature, deeply pick the brains of those of us in the field with informal, unpublished knowledge about what works, what’s well-supported by evidence, and what’s garbage, and to decide what technologies are long-term viable in a low-energy future.

    That reality is going to look a lot more like Ibn Sina’s clinic than any biopunk future, but there’s a very small window in which we can assemble some of the tools that will work well in a low-energy future (eg algal production of common childhood vaccines- could plausibly be done without fossil inputs) and make the miserable lives we’ve guaranteed our descendants through our profligacy a little brighter. A cynical, “it’s all bunk” attitude precludes the cold-eyed assessment required here, unfortunately.

    1. mark

      “That reality is going to look a lot more like Ibn Sina’s clinic than any biopunk future, but there’s a very small window in which we can assemble some of the tools that will work well in a low-energy future (e.g. algal production of common childhood vaccines- could plausibly be done without fossil inputs)”

      this is interesting, can you elaborate?

      1. Paper Mac

        Sure, I assume you’re referring to algal production of vaccines, yes? If you have an institutional library subscription, try here:

        Algae are extremely well characterised and understood systems for the manufacture of recombinant proteins. This stuff is being rolled out by pharma right now. If assiduous care is taken to develop genuinely renewable feeds into this process, my guess is there’s no reason it couldn’t be conducted on a 14th or 15th century industrial/energy base, at least on a small scale, so it’d be a tremendously robust contribution to the human technological suite.

  7. kj1313

    Not surprised by the gun study changing the way one thinks. I think this applies to the fetishism of some gun owners.

    1. Milton

      Can someone tell me if insurance policies reflect this known fact with higher rates or are there laws put in place, especially in the South, that require insurance companies to not inquire about gun ownership in a home or business.

      1. ambrit

        Well, as for “especially in the South,” you did notice that two of the five highest per capita gun death states were in the northern part of the country: Alaska and Wyoming? Don’t forget, the national insurance companies will often ‘arrange’ that laws that limit their profit be ‘modified’ by state legislatures.

  8. Ed

    “What pushes scientists to lie? The disturbing but familiar story of Haruko Obokata”

    Scott Adams made the argument recently, it was linked on this site, that this is a big part of what is driving climate change denial. Scientists have been caught essentially lying about so much other stuff (Adams also cited nutrition) that there are people who won’t believe anything they say, that if they are told there is a scientific consensus that pollution is changing the climate they will be less likely to believe it. Both Adams and I think pollution is changing the climate but this is a problem.

    1. lolcar

      The big, controversial claims that make it into the public eye ARE tested for reproducibility and if they’re fraudulent generally discovered pretty quickly. If this is what is driving denialism, it’s a shame, because it should rather be taken I think as a sign of the strength of the scientific method. If only fraudsters in the financial, political, and economic arenas were taken down as quickly as Haruko Okobata.

    2. Foy

      Well here’s another example that just came out that wont help such matters: “Cholesterol in the diet: The long slide from Public Menace to No Appreciable Effect”

      My mum grew up on a farm with chooks and I remember as a kid in the late 70s when TPTB in Australia said eggs and the like were bad for your heart, she said ‘well that’s stupid’, and kept feeding us good wholesome eggs. She took great delight today in reading that the whole dietary cholesterol thing has been overturned…

      I wonder who was trying to kill the egg business back in 70s… those corn/high fructose guys come to mind…

  9. Carolinian

    Re Michael Lind and Harper Lee: while Lind is undoubtedly making many valid points about the divide and conquer tactics of the Southern ruling class (and the Northern ruling class as well although he doesn’t talk about that), it’s a bit silly to suggest this has anything to do with Harper Lee’s novel. The reason the genre is called Southern Gothic is that it isn’t meant to be strictly realistic. The Southern locale provides a distant and exotic background for allegorical tales in the case of Williams or moral fables as in the case of Mockingbird. The Lee book provides further distancing by being set decades earlier than the 1950s when it was written.

    Which is to say Lind is offering a valid social critique but being a bit of a pedant. Doubtless he also spends his off hours combing through Shakespeare and carping that Henry V, for example, is a whitewash of the bloody monarch. If one doesn’t like the Lee book as literature then fair enough but I’m sure we can expand our consciousness enough not to condemn all writers for their class circumstances or judge their works strictly on that basis.

    1. MikeNY

      I agree Lind’s essay is a bit over-determined, as the lit-crit folks say. TKAM has an admittedly fairly simple moral thrust, but one which was, and still is, very important to hear — particularly for children, IMO.

      I met Lind and had dinner with him once in NYC, and I was impressed with his obviously great intelligence.

    2. nihil obstet

      Doubtless he also spends his off hours combing through Shakespeare and carping that Henry V, for example, is a whitewash of the bloody monarch.

      Actually, if Lind spends hours combing through Henry V, he knows that Shakespeare includes scenes that show Henry V as a war criminal. Older productions (I’m looking at you, Laurence Olivier) tend to leave out the threats (“nice city you got there. Be a shame if some out of control soldiers got to it”), the illegality of the cause, and the orders to slaughter the prisoners, which appalled his own men.

      Pointing out that a work is a piece of simplistic propaganda doesn’t imply that you view all works as simplistic propaganda.

      1. Vatch

        Act 3, Scene 3, King Henry threatens mayhem against the French:

        If not, why, in a moment look to see
        The blind and bloody soldier with foul hand
        Desire the locks of your shrill-shrieking daughters,
        Your fathers taken by the silver beards
        And their most reverend heads dashed to the walls,
        Your naked infants spitted upon pikes
        Whiles the mad mothers with their howls confused
        Do break the clouds, as did the wives of Jewry
        At Herod’s bloody-hunting slaughtermen.
        What say you? Will you yield and this avoid
        Or, guilty in defense, be thus destroyed?

        1. William C

          HV can be played as a very anti-war play. We had a production at our local theatre where HV was played as Tony Blair and the war as the Iraq war. It was played as very pointed criticism.

      2. Carolinian

        My point is simply that the facts of the Battle of Agincourt are somewhat at odds with the version presented in Shakespeare’s play. Lind’s criticism of Harper Lee seems to be that the story is bogus on a literal level. Obviously Harper Lee is no Shakespeare and isn’t offering up those kind of psychological subtleties. But all art is propaganda on some level. To say that Henry V should be viewed as an antiwar play is a bit of a stretch.

  10. MikeNY

    A note of appreciation for Nicholas Kristoff. I admire him increasingly. Several of his thoughtful and compassionate columns have impressed me over the last few weeks, including today’s, the one on transgender people, and the ones on how to increase empathy. He and his wife Sheryl WuDunn are on a bit of a crusade to improve working women’s circumstances worldwide. I read his columns with great interest.

    1. hilarious

      Kristof showed how much of a fool he is when he shilled for the Kony 2012 fiasco. As the other person pointed out, he shilled for an aggressive war against Libya. The country used to be in the top five un human development index, now it is destroyed and at the bottom. Tens of thousands have died.

      He hasn’t issued an apology. He should be rounded up and tried for advocating genocide.

  11. Uahsenaa

    Re: Kristof’s hand-wringing
    Union members are more than aware of the corruption in their own organizations. I recall my father, a UAW steward, saying something to the effect of, “sure, they’re corrupt, but I’d take their corruption any day over the alternative,” namely what neoliberals have sewn since the ’80s (and earlier, I suppose). What my father and his compatriots seemed to understand that educated elites, a category I am now regularly associated with, much to my chagrin, do not is that management is already fighting a class war and that for every union stooge making $400,000 dollars there are hundreds of corporate shills making double, triple, even ten times that. The “corrupt union boss” is the welfare queen of the moneyed class, a convenient stereotype used to paint immorality onto vast swaths of people who suffer for the misdeeds of the very people who create the rhetorical type in the first place.
    I too am a union member, and I’m proud of how we have forced the university to actually implement its social justice concerns rather than just send out memos about them. Kristof is a fair weather friend, and I fully expect him to jump ship at some point.

  12. ProNewerDeal

    Sep. 11 terrorist Moussaui testified in a US court that a faction of powerful Saudi royals, funded the Sep 11 attack, including
    1) the current newly enthroned Saudi king
    2) the Billionaire investor who is the #2 owner of NewsCorp/Fox News (the Australian Murdoch being the largest owner)
    3) ex-Ambassador to the US, Prince Bandar “Bush”

    ex-Senator Graham is alleging Saudi involvement, and that the 28 redacted pages of the Sep 11 Congressional report are related to Saudis’ involvement in the Sep. 11 attack.

    a good 2 paragraphs overview here:

    Why is this not the newsstory of the year? US BigMedia & BigPolitrickian seem to be ignoring this story. I repeat, ignoring, as opposed to disputing Moussaui’s claims. The 2003 Iraq War was justified on Sep. 11 attack based on Bush 43’s lying claims of Iraqi involvement. Now there is possibly valid claims of this faction of Saudis’ Actual Terrorist Responsibility and the US BigX do not care? What the hell am I missing here? Perhaps I am not sufficiently cynical about Modern ‘Merica, or am underestimating the severity of the Modern American Idiocracy?

    1. Call me Al

      “Maria, why did you not accept my invitation to see my horses in person? Do you know what I spent to put this set together? I was only kidding when I suggested that I would take you as my wife. I would take you, but not as my wife. That would be haram, you are, after all, an infidel, and clearly not of my horse and person owning class”

  13. Integer Owl

    Nothing to do with any links here.
    Just had the pleasure of dealing with some obviously drug-addicted US tourists messing with me.
    No they didn’t get anything. Pussies.
    I have the utmost respect for Yves, Lambert, and the regulars here, however it is not particularly endearing for a nation trying to undermine all that is good in the world to have their tourists fucking with me.
    I’ll do my bit but please stand up and get rid of this bullshit that the US is trying to pull over all other western nations.
    Yes I know that they are not representative of the whole.
    I will accept if this post gets me banned from this site. I will continue reading, though, as it is the best site in the world as far as I’m concerned.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Many of us are deeply distressed by what the US has become. I’m sorry you were harassed by Americans. Bad enough the tennis shoes, fanny packs, and not being embarrassed about not speaking the local language.

      1. Integer Owl

        Sorry for the over-simplistic post, still feeling the adrenaline. I do know that this has nothing to do with the bigger picture, and is really just a chance encounter.
        I do understand that the majority of US citizens, whether they know it or not, are against what is being done in the name of the US.
        I’m actually quite suprised you let this post go online, and I respect you guys all the more for it
        Thanks again for all the incredibly dedicated work you and Lambert have been doing. I want to echo the sentiment that it seems like you guys have been working too hard for any two human beings. Please don’t feel like you owe your readers more than you can comfortably manage, this is such a great resource that I’m sure many would agree with me when I say you deserve to treat yourselves to some relaxing down-time.

      2. optimader

        Other than for a short list of the most incredible polyglots, if “speaking the local language” is a new standard, foreign travel will be rolled back a few centuries.

        In my observation traveling it comes down to considerate people vs inconsiderate people, and that behavioral distinction is probably pretty consistent whether at home or abroad and hardly just applies to Americans.
        Americans can be bad, but as much as anything, ignorant tourists are a function of exchange rate and disposable income.
        So too bad Integer Owl had a bad experience. Conflating IO’s “some obviously drug-addicted US tourists” to bashing all US tourists ” with tennis shoes and fanny packs” is so much generalization.

        Try navigating through crowds Chinese in Florence, Russians in London, Brits w/ snowboards on any N.American ski slopes, Aussies of Scots in bars anywhere (ok I still get a kick out their enthusiasm) –more generally package tourists groups of ANY ethnicity disgorged into a small European city and get back to me that one is worse that the next.

        Tennis shoes and fanny packs? -Not so relevant Dressing inappropriately for a local context/venue?-relevant.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          *Groan* Please reread what I wrote. I said: “not being embarrassed about not speaking the local language”. Americans abroad (and I’ve seen this repeatedly) will walk up to people in foreign countries and start speaking English to them, as if of course they MUST speak English and MUST accommodate the foreigner.

          Tourists are at best guests and at worst aliens. They need to respect the local culture, which includes some sort of ritual apology (body language, halting effort to use local tongue).

          As to the fanny packs and gym shoes, those tend to go with Americans being overweight (dunno why but I see a correlation when I see packs of American tourist, although obviously some trim ones dress the same way too) when in most countries, people dress better than Americans do (just go on the streets of poorer countries like Thailand). So our “normal” standard of attire is also not respectful by local standards.

          1. Optimader

            Groan, dont travel in novice tour groups? Go hike the Appian way.
            I have never felt embarassed about trying to converse in english with a local in a nonenglish as a first languge locale.,
            you’ll be suprised how many people actually do speak some english if you dont start out as a congenitally antagonistic dick.
            Worst case is if english doesnt work then i might try hack spanish german japanese or more likely hunt up another candidate (usually a younger person ) because more often than not youll find someone that wants to practice english.
            In my experince most local people are friendly and want to help.

            fanny packs and tennis shoes? Pretty ubiqutous.
            As far as asthetic affronts go, my vote is for incredibly bad BO (including perfume) when im trapped on an aircraft or some other form of public transpo.

            1. Lambert Strether

              The canonical text here is, of course, from David Sedaris in Me Talk Pretty One Day:

              THERE ARE, I HAVE NOTICED, two basic types of French spoken by Americans vacationing in Paris: the Hard Kind and the Easy Kind. The Hard Kind involves the conjugation of wily verbs and the science of placing them alongside various other words in order to form such sentences as “I go him say good afternoon” and “No, not to him I no go it him say now.”

              The second, less complicated form of French amounts to screaming English at the top of your lungs, much the same way you’d shout at a deaf person or the dog you thought you could train to stay off the sofa. Doubt and hesitation are completely unnecessary, as Easy French is rooted in the premise that, if properly packed, the rest of the world could fit within the confines of Reno, Nevada. The speaker carries no pocket dictionary and never suffers the humiliation that inevitably comes with pointing to the menu and ordering the day of the week. With Easy French, eating out involves a simple “BRING ME A STEAK.”

              Like so much well-seen humor, this passage has the merit of being true.

              1. Optimader

                Thats a fun book, i have i signed copy from him when he did a show in chicago. There is a great archived terry gross interview of him relating this and other stories.

                Yes, hacking at local language is (should be) part of the fun, if your trying to ellicit information of some complexity or importance, best find someone that can interact in English. If you are not fluent. Try traveling around iceland speaking the native tounge, it even banboozles Danes.
                My point is tourist groups of any flag are going to have their % of socially autistic people. currently it is popular to spank the chinese because they tend to travel in package tours. At one time that applied to the japanese. Albeit a smaller traveling population.
                The farther you are from tourist destinations, the inverse square rule applies. The likelyhood of being exposed to fried dough w/ powdered sugar munchers.
                Your impressions are formed by the people/place your willing to be exposed to. America has asshat tourists that aggregate in tourist destinations but so does every country that had a travrling population.
                Next time take a bike trip in Thailand.

          2. Lambert Strether

            I don’t understand why anybody would make no effort to at least practice a little of the language. The small interaction makes the locals happy, and their happiness returns to you. It’s not only fun, it’s pragmatic.

            Same thing with clothes: Bangkok is not only a very stylish city (not all are), it’s an intensely status conscious society. So if you dress well, you get better treatment on every level. Again, it’s pragmatic.

            When I see an over-muscled and heavily tattooed Westerner trundling about an upscale mall in a wife-beater T, medals stuck in his chest hair, with camo shorts and cheap flip flops,* I just shake my head. Not only is he being offensive by exposing way too much flesh, he’s getting worse service, doesn’t know it, and (from my perspective) worst of all, he’s bringing down the curve for the rest of us.

            Of course, the thrust of our foreign policy for at least a generation has been to make the world safe for this guy, although he probably attributes his safety to being “jacked.”

            NOTE * To be fair to Americans, there are other nationalities that have adopted this costume, at least in part.

            1. vidimi

              yeah, it’s hard to tell germans and americans apart when travelling if you can’t hear them speak.

              tangent: most, if not all, of the people who find the french to be rude are the folks who barge into a store, cafe or restaurant, or directly accost strangers and start asking questions. if your opening gambit is not a simple “bonjour/bonsoir”, it is you who is rude and will be rightfully ignored.

              1. Integer Owl

                Well I’m sure this thread is dead, however I thought I might as well post this. Tonight, I had the priveledge of meeting a bunch of Irish assholes at my local pub. Perhaps I attract this sort of thing, or perhaps I just don’t back down in the face of poor behaviour, I guess it is dependent on how one looks at the world.

                After some interesting to and fro, I was challenged to a fight. Interestingly, it was from the weakest specimen of the group, obviously with something to prove to his peers. Turned out he backed down, after some incredibly long and nonsensical lawyer-style arguments from one of the females in the group of why I was wrong, after which I quickly returned the conversation into a reality-based dialogue.

                In any case, it did make me think of people like Diesel Boom and Shoe Balls, obviously not up for the nitty-gritty of reality, and with something to prove in terms of their manhood. I can’t imagine these types of guys have ever satisfied themselves that they would not succumb to the will of any greater power put in front of them.

                It is probably underestimated how much ego is playing a role in the Greek negotiations. When people have nothing but status, or the power of their friends, to hang their hat on, it seems they become increasingly more desperate to find some sort of tangible evidence that their will or strength can have some sort of effect on others.

  14. vidimi


    The German press claims that the ECB wants Greece to implement capital controls. In German:

    That’s a good thing, right? Greece can stabilize its banks and begin plans on bringing back the drachma, as a safety net in case it’s ever needed.

    But putting two and two together with the Cyprus story from the links, I think I see what’s really going on in here. If I were a Greek depositor, I would run for the hills.

  15. Mike

    RE: Did the GOP Just Give Away $130 Billion of Public Property?

    It would be nice to know what the US got in return for this property.

    1. Vatch

      If you wish to protest this giveaway, here’s a site that enables you to do so (organized by the Center for Biological Diversity):

      If you want to submit your comments separately, here’s the contact information for the Secretary of Agriculture (the U.S. Forest Service is part of the Department of Agriculture) and the Secretary of the Interior:

      Tom Vilsack, Secretary
      U.S. Department of Agriculture
      Phone:(202) 720-3631

      Secretary Sally Jewell
      U.S. Department of Interior
      Phone:(202) 208-3100

  16. Andrew Watts

    RE: Fight to the Death for Mosul

    Patrick Cockburn is the only western journalist worth listening to when it comes to the Islamic State. Reading the articles from the Atlantic and Juan Cole post yesterday was a waste of time. I would’ve written a reply about both of them but I was sputtering with rage at the vast reservoir of ignorance and the general inability of those authors to view reality for what it is.

    The alleged attack on Mosul isn’t happening anytime soon despite what anybody says. This might even be a good thing. While the civilian population is under the constant and brutal control of the Islamic State perhaps the memories of the previous Iraqi Army occupation will begin to fade and the sectarian rift can begin to heal. When even nominal Sunni supporters are fleeing their rule there is a reason for hope.

    “Despite Mr Abadi’s declaration that the Iraqi army will recapture Mosul this year, such an assault appears to be well beyond the strength of the Baghdad government, if it relies on its own regular army. This is now said to number 12 brigades with a nominal strength of 48,000 that might be made battle-worthy when aided by US advisers.”

    Awww, I got the number of Iraqi Army brigades wrong. This means that even if they did have sixteen brigades none of them are at full fighting strength. At least I managed to guess the correct number of total soldiers on the low estimate. Yay me!

    1. James Levy

      The Americans supposedly left behind an army of 200,000 properly equipped troops in 2011. It’s comical how the US generals all ran to FOX News and said that all was terrific when they left, but somehow Maliki undid everything they had done in less than three years. That everyone nods and takes such nonsense as gospel shows what dupes so many of us have become.

      Conventional military forces everywhere seem to have become less effective. In Nigeria, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, even the last Israeli invasion of Lebanon, all seem to point to a crisis in old-fashioned soldiering. The regular army of Ukraine seems to be distinguishing itself by its stunning inability to fight. Perhaps the spread of materialism and individualism really does undermine the ability of communities to find dedicated and self-sacrificing individuals ready to aggressively close with the enemy and defeat them?

      1. Jagger

        People don’t stand, fight and die unless they believe in what and who they are fighting for. They also have to believe they have a chance of winning. If they have no faith in their leadership or political state, they won’t fight. Mussolini’s army and the French Republic’s army in WW2 are good example of soldiers unwilling to fight and die because the state and leadership was rotten. The South Vietnamese army is another good example. The US army was heading in that direction towards the end of the Vietnam War.

        Although I would think the Iraqi army would fight simply because it is clear ISIS is a take no prisoners army-sort of like the SS vs the Reds in WW2. But if the officers run first, the men are right behind them. Although I imagine at some point, the Iraqi army or shiite militia will stand and fight because ISIS is a scorched earth, take no prisoners, extremist force. the Shiites will fight, with or without our help, because they have no choice.

      2. Lexington

        The regular army of Ukraine seems to be distinguishing itself by its stunning inability to fight. Perhaps the spread of materialism and individualism really does undermine the ability of communities to find dedicated and self-sacrificing individuals ready to aggressively close with the enemy and defeat them?

        In the case of the Ukraine the country didn’t have much of an army at the outset of the crisis. The Ukrainian government is bankrupt and its armed forces have been rusting away for years. It is hardly surprising their performance has been underwhelming. Much of the effective resistance to Russian aggression has been mounted by volunteer forces that were formed outside of the country’s formal military organization.

        Of course it wasn’t that long ago that Russia’s army was in much the same shape, having been defeated in Afghanistan (or at least the Red Army was, which was its predecessor organization) and being fought to a stalemate (politically a defeat) by vastly inferior insurgents during the first Chechen war.

        I’m not prepared to write off the Ukrainian military since under wartime pressure military organizations that aren’t defeated outright tend to improve – the Red Army’s performance during the invasion of the Soviet Union is a case in point. However the Ukraine is smaller country with fewer resources so even with all other things being equal it is at a considerable disadvantage.

      3. Andrew Watts

        It’s comical how the US generals all ran to FOX News and said that all was terrific when they left, but somehow Maliki undid everything they had done in less than three years.

        By blaming Maliki the political classes are absolved of their collective failure. When I was reading about the Chinese civil war looking for parallels to the present Syrian conflict what leaped out of the pages was the American insistence that there was an alternative. This wholly democratic force would serve as an alternative political choice between the dictatorship of Chiang Kai-shek and the communists. It’s safe to say that similar delusional thinking is playing out with “moderate” rebels because most Americans can’t imagine or accept anything less than unequivocal victory.

        Perhaps the spread of materialism and individualism really does undermine the ability of communities to find dedicated and self-sacrificing individuals ready to aggressively close with the enemy and defeat them?

        I don’t know, the culture of narcissism might have something to do with it. The British didn’t fare any better during the American War of Independence even while they were willing to lose men and material. When irregular forces are able to operate freely across a vast geographical area it’s hard for concentrated conventional forces to engage and defeat them. Particularly when the place of battle isn’t their choice of location or timing beforehand.

        Speaking of that and the Revolutionary War, the Kurdish PKK/YPG have taken a hill outside Kobani in the Islamic State’s capital province of Raqqa. It looks like they’ve dug in and if they have artillery and/or air support IS is going to learn what the Battle of Bunker Hill feels like when they attack it.

        1. ambrit

          If the IS leaders don’t mind taking casualties, it’ll end up like Breeds Hill; a costly victory. The real value of the Battle of Bunker Hill was the psychological effect it had on General Howe. He became ‘gun shy’ after the heavy casualties suffered in Boston. He subsequently hang back and dawdled at times when he should have pressured Washington mercilessly. It has been said that Howe lost the war, rather than the Americans winning it. That all sprang from the Battle of Bunker Hill.
          What the leaders of IS do about this development will determine if IS becomes a true undeclared ‘State” or sinks back into insurgency.

  17. Katniss Everdeen

    RE: Guns really do change the way you think Mother Nature Network (furzy mouse)

    “…..a gun may falsely empower its possessor to overreact…….”

    A lesson with concrete, real-world consequences that modern american cowboys and cowgirls would do well to heed, with emphasis on the word FALSELY. Unlike this now deceased Las Vegas nurse and mother who was described as “the most giving person one could ever know” on the GoFundMe page set up to raise funds for her FUNERAL.

    It would appear, she and her son felt “empowered” to go out and play real-life “Law and Order,” when a less “empowered” action would probably have been to go inside and lock the door. Did I mention that had she been less “empowered,” she’d probably be alive today?

    “But the fatal shooting turned out to be a two-way shootout, provoked by a separate encounter with unidentified assailants, after Tammy Meyers roused her son, Brandon, from bed to grab his gun and go looking for the driver she had encountered earlier, Steiber said.

    1. steviefinn

      One of the things I am very grateful for, in this here British isles, is that the various nutjobs, psychos & basically ordinary people under extreme stress that I have come across over the last 57 years, have not had access to firearms.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        I believe they have been all, or some of them, sent overseas to assist in various imperial adventures…with even fancier toys.

        It’s not too different from sending convicts to Australia way back then.

        1. ambrit

          Oh my. Forgive me for observing that this would be the origin of the “best and brightest” that guide our fortunes today.

      2. Antifa

        You can’t be giving guns to the Brits, no sir. We let ’em have guns a few centuries back and whaddid they do? Why, those arrogant beefeaters wouldn’t permit the sun go down, anywhere in their empire! That’s a bit much, wouldn’t you say? Besides, arming the British ain’t safe for the foxes.

        Their government’s aware of the problem. Since 1947, Whitehall has occasionally conducted small experiments at a restricted base near Dover where they give regular British lads free access to all the guns they want. Sadly, the results are always the same. No sooner do these schoolboys learn how to lock and load than they start shouting “Remember Dunkirk!” (whoever he is) and “Bloody Huns!” They dig slit trenches even though there’s a perfectly good water closet right in their barracks. They march back and forth in khaki shorts during all the daylight hours. They spend their evenings reciting every stanza Rudyard Kipling ever wrote. They go on and on about “the colonies.”

        Yes, guns have a profound effect on the British male.

        The only remedy is to ship these lads off to the nearest SAS training facility, where they are promptly disarmed by a bearded sergeant major, who informs them that their guns will be returned only when they can each do 150 pushups in under a minute using only one arm. It isn’t long before they all wash out of the program and happily return to their civilian lives of potatoes and beef, boiling hot tea and crumpets. (A crumpet is a small brass instrument what’s been left in the motorway overnight. Yet it still plays a key part in the daily tea ceremony.)

    2. Jack

      “The blade itself incites to deeds of violence.” – Homer

      This just in, an ancient writer understood an issue we’re still struggling with today. Next up, Thucydides explains the fundamental unsustainability and injustice of empire, Trajan demonstrates how government investment in the public sphere saves economies and a multitude of late Republic Roman authors clearly show how modern American politics operates.

  18. Jef

    “…..a gun may falsely empower its possessor to overreact…….”

    Great amounts of wealth may falsely empower its possessor to overreact…….and the outcome has killed millions more people than those with guns.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      A fleet of drones may also falsely empower the owner.

      A nuclear bomb is even more effective at making the possessor feel good…

  19. ChrisFromGeorgia

    At the rate things are going in Ukraine, by the time the neo-cons have convinced Obama to cave and send in arms Kiev will already be controlled by the rebels. I guess they’ll have to just settle for retaking Poland … or arming Lithuania to the teeth.

    I know it is a horrible thing but I will feel some schadenfreude watching the neo-cons squirm like worms on a hook as Putin masterfully outplays them.

    1. bruno marr

      Have you looked at a map of Ukraine? There is a lot of terrain between Kiev and the eastern rebels. It appears the separatists will be happy with getting to Mariopol.

      1. sid_finster

        Or the Poroshenko government will fall, one way or another.

        Even the sorry-ass NYT was reporting drunken Ukrainian soldiers fresh escaped their fate, violent and put of control.

  20. OIFVet

    Did German intelligence services listen in on US politicians, diplomats, and military during the Munich conference? Das Bild published and account of what was said behind closed doors gathering of the US delegation, see the translation here. It is hardly a surprise that US diplomats have potty mouths and denigrate their supposed Euro allies, that McCain is stuck in the 1960’s, and that US elites are borderline insane.

    What is interesting is that this account confirms the cynical US position that Ukraine is not capable of winning the war, but we should arm them to “let the sanctions against Russia” take effect. So let’s fight Putin to the last Ukrainian! It is insane to think the sanctions will result in a regime change or Russia backing down, this would be a first in the history of sanctions as far as I am aware. It is downright evil to use Ukrainians as US cannon fodder.

    Then there is the obvious conclusion that NATO is, first and foremost, a US tool of control over Europeans, and an offensive threat to Russia regardless of the self-righteous insistence that it is a purely defensive alliance. Most of all though, if this account is indeed correct it could only have come from German intelligence listening in on its US allies. And the fact that they chose to leak it to the German press raises some curious thoughts about the state of the relationship between Germany and the US. Or it could be a Merkel domestic image builder to show her as standing up to US insanity re Ukraine, conveniently overlooking her track record over the past year. In any case, a rather interesting read.

    1. William C

      Does it have to be German intelligence? Here in the UK we have a press who are perfectly capable of doing their own bugging.

    2. vidimi

      spot on observation. nato is no alliance; it is european suzerainty to america and a sword of damocles hanging over the world

    3. VietnamVet

      Joe Biden (VP) and John Brennan (CIA) visited Kiev after the Putsch. They could have pushed for reconciliation and federation but instead green-lighted a neo-Nazi anti-terrorism campaign in the East that forced the ethnic Russians to fight back to protect their homes and families. Ukraine joins Libya, Iraq and Syria as a partitioned failed state.

      Greece cannot pay back its debts; another failed state about to be sold out. This is the end game of capitalism. This is chaos on purpose. The only thing that can satisfy the oligarchs’ greed is more pillage and plunder.

      There will be blowback.

  21. Robert Consoli

    Re: the ridiculous To Kill a Mockingbird,
    I once heard a Civil Rights lawyer say that if there was an attorney like Atticus Finch anywhere in the entire south that he’d never heard of him.

  22. Propertius

    States with higher levels of gun ownership will experience more gun deaths for the same reason that New York experiences more subway deaths than Cheyenne, Wyoming. But is that really the appropriate metric?

    May I suggest one of the following
    1) Do areas with higher gun ownership experience higher overall levels of violent deaths?

    In some cases, the answer is probably yes. States with high levels of gun ownership seem to have really high levels of violent crime. The District of Columbia is obviously an outlier in this case. One must wonder, however, why Maine (which allows open carry) has a drastically lower level of violent crime than, say, Texas (which does not), or why Vermont (which has always had very lax firearm regulation) has such a low rate of violence.. Perhaps those ferocious pistol-packin’ Yankees are acting as a deterrent. ;-) More seriously, the primary issue here is one of correlation vs. causation. Are people who live in areas where violent crime is common more likely to insist on arming themselves and therefore more likely to elect governments which will relax firearm regulation?

    2) Does relaxing firearm law correlate with an increase in violence.

    Here, things are a bit more cloudy. Gun enthusiasts are quite fond of citing the post-“shall issue” decline in violent crime in Florida as proof that widespread firearm ownership reduces violence. I’m not going to rehash that argument, because I think it’s flawed. Nearly everything I’ve seen written about this decline suffers from glaring confirmation bias and tends to ignore other, external factors which might have contributed to the drop in crime (demographic changes, a shift in illegal drug smuggling from Florida to the border areas of Texas and Arizona, etc.).

    Still, it’s pretty hard to imagine any studies being worse from a methodological standpoint than the two pieces cited in today’s links. If they were any worse, they’d be published in a medical journal.

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