Links 2/23/15

Embracing Stone Age Couple Found in Greek Cave National Geographic

Hotel Now Charging Patrons For Looking At Items In Minibar The Onion

All Late-Filed Taxes Now Nondischargeable?! Credit Slips

Rent walkouts point to strains in U.S. farm economy Reuters

Throw the Truth Out the Door: President Obama Has to Pass a Trade Deal CEPR. A bit stale but still very true.

Trend in Temp Workers may not be Temporary Economic Populist

Utah found a brilliantly effective solution for homelessness Business Insider

‘I am not a martyr’, says LuxLeaks whistleblower facing jail FT

An Economic Agenda for America: A Conversation with Bernie Sanders YouTube


Greece says eurozone deal won time as cash bled from banks Ekathimerini

Greece rejigs reforms as clock ticks on loan deal AFP

Bailout monitors to review Greek government’s reform list Peter Spiegel, FT

The skirmish is over — let the Greek debt battle begin Wolfgang Munchau, FT

From Greek warriors to battered soldiers waving the white flag – in a week Observer

Greak Leader Tsipras Can Expect More Humble Pie Online WSJ. Humble pie for somebody else, too, I think.

Greece draws up €7.3bn tax hit list aimed at oligarchs and criminals – report Guardian (furzy mouse)

Greek Productive Recon. Minister Says Privatizations Will Not Go Ahead Greek Reporter. Excepting Piraeus, surely.

50 Shades of Greece Automatic Earth

In Greece, Focus on Justice New York Times (jackrabbit)

What Would Happen if Greece Leaves the Euro Zone? Der Spiegel. Yes, there was a contingency plan.

Big Brother Is Watching You Watch

Edward Snowden documentary Citizenfour wins Oscar Guardian. Greenwald on stage The Citizenfour team; so blogging is not dead just because Andy Sullivan stopped doing it.

US homeland security funding deadline looms FT. Ah, so that’s why that Mall of America thing (and oopsie).

Australia’s prime minister has announced a huge national security crackdown Reuters

Comodo ships Adware Privdog worse than Superfish Hanno’s Blog. So here we have the CEO of a Certificate Authority (CA), Comodo, who is also the CEO of Privdog, whose product subverts the certificate authority system. Oh, and Comodo ships that very product with its software. These bottom feeders make Bill Gates look like St. Francis of Assisi. How deep does the rot in the software industry go, anyhow?

Windows SSL Interception Gone Wild. Facebook. Sorry about that, but the author, Matt Richard, is a Threats Researcher on the Facebook Security Team, and they post on Facebook.

How ‘Defensive Architecture’ Is Ruining Our Cities Gizmodo

Black Injustice Tipping Point

Malcolm X’s legacy survives 50 years after his assassination Reuters

Malcolm X assassination: 50 years on, mystery still clouds details of the case Guardian

Las Vegas shooting: Not road rage, but cautionary vigilante tale? Christian Science Monitor

CBS staffers dispute Bill O’Reilly’s ‘war zone’ story CNN Money


The Hot New Statistic Oil Traders Are Watching Is 71 Years Old Bloomberg

Will America’s shale boomtowns bust? A report from the heart of North Dakota’s fracking country Fortune

Amid controversy, oil trains quietly rerouted through Virginia towns Reuters

Fresh leak at Fukushima No. 1 highlights Tepco’s struggle to decommission plant Japan Times

Israel snaps up 14 F-35 stealth fighters Times of Israel. Price: $2.82 billion of, money being fungible, our money.


Turkish military enters Syria to evacuate soldiers, relocate tomb Reuters

Syria tomb operation: A change in Turkey’s policy? Al Jazeera

Putin’s European Fifth Column Project Syndicate. Oligarchs buying newspapers. Oh, wait. Russian oligarchs.

How Line is turning Instagram into an ecommerce app in Thailand Tech in Asia

When Great Minds Don’t Think Alike New York Times

Punching up Stumbling and Mumbling

Algorithm Aversion: People Erroneously Avoid Algorithms after Seeing Them Err SSRN

Helicopter money and the government of central bank nightmares Mainly Macro

Is human capital really capital? Noahpinion

Social structures as entities Understanding Society

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See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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About Lambert Strether

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


  1. AllanW

    Comment on the Stumbling and Mumbling post about recent trends in identity ‘politics’;

    “until we get those with a narcissistic personality disorder to understand and accept their diagnosis the rest of us will constantly be faced with their unreasonable demands.”

  2. BillK

    Comodo offers an excellent free firewall that I have used for years. Privdog is an optional install that can be rejected. Many free software packages now offer optional addons that earn a bit of money for the producer.
    Privdog can be uninstalled if you don’t like it.

    The bad software packages are those that install extra addons without asking permission first. Even some big ‘reputable’ companies do this.

    1. Jef

      We have reached the point where all the “new and exciting technologies” are simply solving the problems that the past “new and exciting technologies” created.

      Sustainable self perpetuating business model?

  3. Swedish Lex

    From the article in Der Spiegel:

    “Success depends largely on Tsipras making concessions. To be sure, he may well be granted interest rate relief or be allowed to improve social conditions in Greece. But he would also have to agree to continued austerity and to implement the reforms demanded by his country’s creditors”

    I suppose that Der Spiegel must be German and that the Pope probably is catholic.

  4. beene


    Would someone explain to me why anyone would use paypal? When there are so many credit cards that do not charge fees.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Because I don’t want to have to manage my own fundraising site. I’ve been through three solutions for the problem of running a fundraiser and then depositing the contributions into a bank, and PayPal is the only one left standing. The other two are out of the business.

      1. beene

        Lambert, thanks for reply.

        I like others need and mailing address.

        Thanks for adding so much to this site.

    2. bruno marr

      Re PayPal:

      I believe if you use a checking account to transfer PayPal funds there is no charge. The extra charge is only for transfer/payment using a credit card. (Unless, of course, Paypal has decided unilaterally to charge for all transfers now.)

    3. Yves Smith

      Did you look at Ebay and see how many Ebay merchants, many of whom process FAR more transactions than we to, have ONLY Paypal accounts? Like virtually all of them save ones that seem to have a physical store too?

      You just don’t “get” a Mastercard or Visa (or Amex) merchant account. You have to commit to pay a large minimum amount in monthly fees. It makes no sense at the level of transactions and amount of $ we take in, and even less sor for Lambert.

      Moreover, you CAN use a credit card on Paypal. They try to route you to linking to your bank account, but you are not required to do that. You seem to have such Paypay aversion that you have not looked at how it operates.

      I’m not wild about Paypal either and I avoid making payments over it (credit card merchant rules give you way way better protection, you should always use a credit card whenever you can). But it is pretty much the only remotely sensible option for taking small to moderately large payments.

      1. hafta

        Possibly worth considering Stripe, which seems to be a popular drop-in payment service among developers. Doesn’t require a merchant account. I haven’t used it personally except as a merchant but it’s been seamless on a couple of web purchases.

        Here’s a discussion on hacker news following their last funding:

      2. beene

        Yves, I did spend a lot of time on Ebay till they went to forcing payments with Paypal.

        It offers rarely beat Amazon; should Amazon take a similar route with there credit card I would no longer do business with Amazon.

        The only thing I miss on Ebay is old car parts, which I rarely need any more.

  5. craazyboy

    “Is human capital really capital?”

    Guess I must weigh in on this one. I’d say yes, because 35% of Americans would like to spin off 30%.

    But the article delves boldly into the example of chain saw enhanced limbs – which open the door to the entire realm of steam punk. Lot’s of food for thought there. See novel “Perdido Street Station” by China Mieville for more possibilities in steam punk enhanced humans.

  6. Integer Owl

    On the Reuters article: Australia’s prime minister has announced a huge national security crackdown.
    Thankfully both sides of the debate are getting some airtime down here. I think a significant amount of the electorate just don’t take anything Abbott says seriously anymore. That’s not to say he can’t do any damage in the remainder of his (perhaps to be cut short) term as pm, in fact I’m sure he’ll be trying his best, thankfully his best is still pretty incompetent. Here is a link to a global research article that I found today, along the same lines with some different details, seems pretty much on point to me.
    Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott and the Islamic State: The Case for Removing the “Fantasist-in-Chief”

    I also just had a look at the Fukushima link, bad news, however once I finished reading it I couldn’t help but notice this (quite vitriolic, imo) article, also at Japan Post.
    Why are Americans such cowards?

    1. Katniss Everdeen

      Wow, EXCELLENT article!

      And after reading today’s link on Bill O’Reilly, it’s completely unsurprising that one has to go to Japan to find a spade actually being called a spade.

      1. Integer Owl

        It’s nice to see Bill O’Reilly getting called out. Don’t see much of him here, but he has managed to induce a visceral sense of loathing in me each time I have had the misfortune. I did enjoy seeing Colbert thoroughly outwit him though.

    2. nycTerrierist

      Agreed, brilliant piece by Rall.
      Setting the record straight. How refreshing.
      Deserves the widest possible platform. With a megaphone.

      1. Integer Owl

        Not an answer to your question, but this is the best site covering Fukushima I’ve found. There are some articles about the west coast of the US there.

      2. GuyFawkesLives

        Up here in the Pacific Northwest, we have not had ANY information about the radioactivity in the rain here. I’m surprised we are not glowing by now.

      3. craazyman

        I thought it never rained in California . . .

        Play it boys! . . . .

        Got on board a westbound seven forty seven
        Didn’t think before deciding what to do
        All that talk of opportunities, TV breaks and movies
        Rang true, sure rang true

        Seems it never rains in Southern California
        Seems I’ve often heard that kind of talk before
        It never rains in California, but girl, don’t they warn ya
        It pours, man, it pours
        – Albert Hammond – It Never Rains In Southern California Lyrics

  7. Brooklin Bridge

    Embracing Stone Age Couple found in Greek Cave (from 5,800 years ago), Some 31 percent of the skeletons showed evidence of blunt cranial trauma, probably inflicted by rocks, stones, or clubs. : one theory quietly posited was that German bankers would descend on the region from time to time.

    1. Jagger

      I just started reading the Icelandic sagas about Vikings in Iceland I believe around 1100AD. My general impression is those people were certainly willing to kill each other on a fairly regular basis both as individuals and in small groups,. They didn’t have guns in those days but they made do with rocks, hatchets, axes, swords, spears, bows and arrows-basically whatever was most handy. And high population density wasn’t a factor. With first impression, it seems most conflicts were primarly over resources (theft) and sometimes over positions of authority. It seems to be a human nature thing.

          1. norm de plume

            Those three explanations are not mutually exclusive.

            I think those 31% were stone age elites, who took the lion’s share of all the best stuff.

            There’s only 1% of them left but they have become pretty good at making sure they’re not the ones who get their heads staved in.

      1. dingusansich

        Think The Sopranos in horns. A word of advice: Do not dis an Icelandic saga protagonist. Unless you want to see what your eye looks like outside its socket. It’s Clockwork Orange without the Beethoven. Excellent metalwork, though.

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Death is death.

        Being killed by an axe is a lot more gruesome than by a bullet.

        Still, how one dies matters. Some would prefer not be hanged. Some, the body whole. Any beheading always gets attention.

        1. hunkerdown

          I learned recently that it’s not an exceedingly rare phenomenon for organ transplant recipients to reexperience the final traumas of donors who died violently. Also, I vaguely remember reading long ago that some ancients or other believed that the outcome of one’s next incarnation would be significantly affected by the circumstances surrounding one’s death.

          Being killed by starvation is pretty horrible, too.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            That’s interesting about organ transplant recipients.

            Amazing how the worlds are connected.

            1. hunkerdown

              For avoidance of doubt, I use “reexperience” in the literary sense, as “recall immersively”, as in nightmares or flashbacks.

    1. Chris in Paris

      This has happened to me…I think (I mean I know) that they’re counting on people not paying attention or in too much of a hurry to ask for it to be taken off the bill.

    2. Jagger

      I don’t see how anyone can conclude movement of merchandise is equivalent to sale of merchandise. I can’t imagine how they could win that argument. But then I can’t understand how Trackphone managed to continue charging my 85 year old mother for 12 months after phone service was ended. And after three phone calls by me complaining about charging for non-service and their promise to stop and refund the charges. Finally I had her just cancel her credit card. She still hasn’t received her money back. Lesson learned for my mother, never ever allow a company to automatically deduct charges from your bank account-write a check every month. I just love 21st century capitalism.

    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Who thinks of this stuff?

      My guess is some tourist checking out the love-for-sale zone in Amsterdam or the Reeperbahn in Hamburg.

      1. craazyboy

        Not so. They don’t charge for looking. In Amsterdam. You just walk past the display window and you can look all you want for free!

        Unfortunately, I’ve heard they are not as hot as they were in the old days.

        There is probably some economic explanation for that, but I don’t know what it is.

        Maybe they will import Greek women? Helen of Troy was pretty hot!

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          You are correct; I was just mentioned the possibility how the creative writer might have gotten his/her inspiration.

        2. hunkerdown

          Ah, ah, that’s Ukraine’s designated export. That said, the OSCE could easily traffic a few back with them on the sly.

  8. Katniss Everdeen

    Paul Craig Roberts on “Financial Repression”:

    “FINANCIALIZATION OF THE ECONOMY by the Big Banks. – What that means is that they are converting the entirety of the economic surplus to paying interest on debt. They are draining the economy of all vitality! There is nothing left for the expansion of consumer demand, business investment and old age pensions. It expropriates the economic surplus that is created beyond the maintenance of the current living standard into interest on debt.

    OFF-SHORING OF MIDDLE CLASS JOBS by Corporations & Wall Street – What the Corporations and Wall Street have achieved by off-shoring manufacturing jobs and tradable professional job skills such as software engineering & information technology. What they have done by moving these offshore is to recreate the labor market conditions and wage exploitation of the late 19th century.”

    1. Integer Owl

      She is a real piece of work. Currently the foreign affairs minister in Aus.

      Recently, in what I would call political theatre of the most insincere kind, she has been trying to convince Australia that she in fact does have a heart, and has been making a point of letting everyone know how she been trying to secure the release of two Aus. citizens facing the death penalty in Indonesia. It’s actually become quite a circus

      Of course, Australia is strongly against the death penalty, as am I, but to hear her pretending to care about anything but her own career, or imposing neoliberal policies on Aus., is quite hard to stomach.

      Unfortunately, in the final analysis of this case, it was actually the Australian Federal Police who turned them in (9 people in total) to the Indonesian authorities, who had no idea of what was going on and only arrested them as they were awaiting their flight back to Aus.. Had the AFP waited and apprehended them in Aus. there would be no death penalty.

      To conclude, I am certain that the emoji stunt was just a cynical exercise to endear herself to younger voters. Fail!

    2. Integer Owl

      She is an idiot of the highest order, though, just to be clear. I think Abbott makes sure that the average of his, and his main advisor, Peta Credlin’s, intelligence, is not surpassed by any of his cabinet. While Credlin is smart, and evil, the Abbott IQ really lowers the average, so it’s a pretty intellectually lightweight bunch.

      1. bruno marr

        The intelligence level of ANY bureaucracy is determined by the person at the top. Loyalty always preempts smarts.

  9. Larry B.

    Don’t know why anybody would threaten to attack malls, I mean, who goes to the mall anymore? If they were to invade a mall they would likely find that they’re the only ones there.

    Either that or it’s a false flag operation, the most likely perpetrator is not DHS, but rather Amazon.

    1. fresno dan

      I am sure the Amazon drone program is a DHS operation to introduce drone activity over America – though if you don’t join Amazon Prime than Amazon gets as a benefit to incinerate you…

    2. Iolair

      For the insurance money……

      The following snip is from (conspiracy theorist) Benjamin Fulford’s post today. When the ownership of the malls is consistent, I think you have to pay attention.

      “Instead they have been reduced to making threats against Western shopping malls using the terror group “Al Shabaab” that staged the recent attack on the Westfield Shopping Center in Nairobi, Kenya. The Westfield shopping center was owned by Frank Lowy, an Australian Jew who is a close associate of Larry Silverstein of World Trade Center 911 fame. Silverstein and Lowy have made a fortune on “terrorist insurance” after 911 and after the Westfield incident.

      Now this al- “Sham” baab is threatening the Westfield shopping center in London also owned by Lowy. The other mall they are threatening is the Mall of America owned by the Iranian Jewish Ghermezian family in Canada.

      Needless to say, with shopping malls suffering from the weak economy and competition from online retailing, from the owner’s point of view it would be a great time for “terrorist” insurance fraud.

      Mall doing poorly? Just “pull it”.

      1. Katniss Everdeen

        And, correct me if I’m wrong, but it isn’t Chubb or AIG or The Hartford on the hook for “terrorism insurance.” It’s–you guessed it–the TAXPAYER who is providing the payout.

        Heard on CNBS recently from a “hospitality” industry bigwig–the industry couldn’t “grow” its inventory of luxury hotels (and thus their “profits”) without government-sponsored, taxpayer-funded “terrorism insurance.” The “banks,” with uncharacteristic prudence, wouldn’t “lend” without such guarantees. Congress recently renewed the “program.”

        So glad we taxpayers could oblige. god knows how we would survive without an ever-increasing number of luxury hotel rooms (that we can’t afford to stay in, but can afford to replace/insure) and the “jobs” that go with them.

        Since when did “conspiracies” become as plain as the nose on your face?

      2. skippy

        Isn’t Westfield just a tax haven dressed up as a mall?

        Skippy…. maybe they should have clarified… attack tax havens….

      3. Integer Owl

        Frank Lowy, founder of the Lowy Institute. They (the Lowy Institute) have been making an effort to beat on the war drum here in Aus. on the MSM, using euphamisms for increasing (offensive) military spending and foreign involvement such as “Australia needs to become a bigger nation”. I wouldn’t put anything past him and his group of psuedo-intellectual scumbag cronies.

  10. zephyrum

    The first line in the “algorithms” article:

    Research shows that evidence-based algorithms more accurately predict the future than do human forecasters.

    No need to read further. I have no doubt this is occasionally true for specific cases; but in general it is absolutely false. The authors are economists, which is entirely explanatory of their myopic viewpoint.

    1. James Levy

      But who selects what evidence is to be fed into the algorithm? Based on which human-generated criteria? Isn’t that person the real source of the prediction? The algorithm itself is mute and powerless without human input. Leave it to an economist to miss the bigger picture.

      1. hunkerdown

        Are there any actors somehow connected to the algorithm outside the study? Say, are there unconscious biases in the algorithm that match with conscious or unconscious biases in the system under study? Such as that the vast majority of financial flows are driven by actors that share the algorithm’s class interests, or more pointedly, its class identity?

    2. lolcar

      Not so fast there. Human cognition comes with so many unconscious biases baked in that I for one am not surprised that straight application of a formula work better in most cases. The example that comes to mind at the moment is wine-making. Apparently a simple formula incorporating rainfall and temperature at various key stages of the grapes growth outperforms wine-making experts in predicting great vintages.

    3. direction

      I am so sorry to be someone who reads at night on the left coast because most of you have already gone to bed over there on the other side of the continent and I don’t get to share in the cheeky dialogue very often, but I wanted to post this additional scholarly article in response to “algorithm aversion” and hopefully someone will see it, because I thought it was hilarious when I found it. It’s called “Convergence of the Guesstimation Algorithm.” A Romanian scholar studying algorithms, specifically in relation to economic theory, came up with this “proof,” and I dedicate this one to Craazyman:

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      It seems to have been taken about 10,000 years ago.

      That, of course, would make it the oldest extant photograph.

  11. ep3

    Yves, so much wrong and right with this article (meaning what’s wrong and right with our country).

    First, every cut to Nasa’s budget to me means one less kid gaining an interest in science and deciding to go into commercial banking. Then, of course, the Liar in Chief bragging about investing in science and nasa while actually cutting their budgets. In the discussion about the Pluto mission Horizons, it takes forever to get off the ground due to costs. Then, as the project is under way, the scientists are paying more attention to cost than to anything else. This makes me think of our school systems; educators are expected to educate under a crushing budget. From there, the article takes on the typical “america is the best, above the rest; but we share the information”. Why can’t space exploration be an international venture? Are there no chinese engineers available to work on science projects, especially since we don’t educate our children to be scientists, we make them into wall street bankers and french fry servers? Maybe the chinese would be interested in contributing engineering or money to make the project better. I suspect though that the reasons are for profit reasons; allowing US companies access to the technology and discovery first, so that they can profit from it.
    Further Yves, I have started following SpaceX and Nasa’s new SLS (space launch system). Neither rocket system is as powerful as the Saturn 5, yet none of the Saturn 5 technology was shared with either system. Why does NASA need to spend billions of dollars to invent new launch rockets when they already have all the data on the Saturn 5? Why can’t we sell some of that information to SpaceX to help that company along?
    Finally, I want to rebut the “lack of funding”. For the Voyager missions, they launched in 1977 and arrived at Jupiter in 1979. Yet it takes Juno 5 years to get the same distance? My theory is that scientists started reading the writing on the walls that funding was being cut. So instead of spending the money on rocket fuel and racing these instruments to their targets as fast as possible, decisions were made to shift funding from extra fuel to extending the mission. In other words, say it costs $50 million in rocket fuel to get to Jupiter in 2 years. Well, if the craft arrives quickly, that means the project ends quickly. So if say it took 5 years to coast, that $50 million can be used to keep scientists employed longer on a project, as well as extending the project 3 years beyond.

    1. hunkerdown

      “Make it bigger and faster”. Americans. *rolls eyes*

      1. How does proven, well-characterized technology translate into excludable, saleable IP assets?
      1a. Why are you so arrogant as to think that SpaceX and NASA are interested in the mission for its own sake?
      2. How is steering that impressionable youngster into their own future disemployment and penury by pouring star culture (in any sense) and competition down their throats serving that youngster’s, humanity’s, or Earth’s interests?
      3. If you were truly a lover of science and not just a brand champion of Progress, wouldn’t you take the time to familiarize yourself with the missions, as well as with the art of piloting spacecraft, and understand that pushing a billard ball along the table with your fingers into the pocket is not how billiards is played?

    2. Integer Owl

      If I remember correctly, the rocket systems used in the past by the US have been built by Russia.

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