Links 2/28/15

Leonard Nimoy, a pop culture force as Spock of ‘Star Trek,’ dies at 83 Washington Post. I watched the show it its original broadcast run.

Star Trek star Leonard Nimoy dies Financial Times. On the first page of the website and includes a tribute from Obama.

VIDEO: The Man Who Was Spock New York Times

The ‘unstealable’ bike to begin shipping in September Washington Post

Details of 50,000 Uber drivers breached Financial Times

Lying Pantsuit Lady Gaius Publius, Digsby

Obesity 2015 Lancet (furzy mouse). An in-depth report. A big issue is doctors being prejudiced against overweight patients and stigmatizing them.

Atheist US writer killed in Bangladesh: familiar attack on free expression? Christian Science Monitor (furzy mouse)

Who Would Retire To Bangkok? Huffington Post. I was there only briefly in 2000. The air was scary bad. Maybe the pollution has gotten better. But it did seem like an intriguing, sprawling and generally well run city. And there really are lots of very good doctors in Thailand; I heard that regularly in Sydney.

To fight homegrown jihadis, Germany takes lesson from battle with neo-Nazis Christian Science Monitor

The latest QE policy removes ECB ‘conditionality’ Warren Mosler


Greece runs out of funding options despite euro zone reprieve Reuters (furzy mouse). We picked up on this issue as soon as the memorandum was published, meaning a week ago. We pointed out that no way did they have until the end of April, and the time pressure would work to the negotiating disadvantage of the Greek government. But this has good detail on the very limited funding options available to the government.

Greece Stirs Doubt on Debt Owed IMF Wall Street Journal

What Greece Has to Do Now: Fix Its Economy Harvard Business Review. Notice hectoring by neoliberals.

Greece’s Pension System Isn’t That Generous After All WSJ Economics

Alexis, you can’t trust the euro-hyenas! unbalanced evolution


Panic in Ukraine Over Food, Empty Stores and Protests; Strategic Food Reserve Empty Michael Shedlock

Russian Opposition Member Boris Nemtsov Killed in Moscow Bloomberg

Spain holds suspected pro-Russia fighters on return from Ukraine Financial Times

Russian Liberals Won’t Lead the Revolution Leonid Bershidsky, Bloomberg Views


The War Nerd: Why did Mohammed Emwazi become Jihadi John? Pando (furzy mouse)

Yemen: Reuters Sells Unfounded Activist Claims As U.N. Expert Findings Moon of Alabama (jsn)

Imperial Collapse Watch

American Hegemony: Delivering “Unpredictable Instability” the World Over Marcy Wheeler


GOP states revisit Obamacare as Supreme Court weighs subsidies Washington Post

Congress Passes Stopgap Funding for Homeland Security Washington Post

GOP Lawmaker: Cancer Is “Fungus” & Can Be Flushed Out with Baking Soda! Daily Kos (furzy mouse). No wonder they don’t believe in health care….

Education Department Terminates Contracts With Debt Collectors Accused Of Wrongdoing Huffington Post. Only after having been called out repeatedly for NOT doing that.

Elizabeth Warren’s next target: Trade deals Politico. Notice the jabs at her, starting with the headline (anyone against “free trade” is a Luddite).

TTIP – Trade in Services and Investment BBC (gonzomarx). Leaked document.

Fatal shooting in Texas again raises Mexico’s ire over police killings McClatchy (furzy mouse)

Chris Christie Backed Law That Lets Him Divert ExxonMobil Settlement From Environmental Cleanup David Sirota, International Business Times

Exclusive: Chicago nears fiscal free fall with latest downgrade Reuters (furzy mouse)

Leading New Yorkers are losing their cool Financial Times


Here’s why the oil rig count doesn’t matter Business Insider. Readers may recall that we pointed this out some time ago….

NY regulator puts 3 European banks in FX probe France24 (Nikki). Lawsky strikes again!

Translating the Warren-Yellen Exchange Adam Levitin, Credit Slips

Dudley, top U.S. economists urge later Fed rate hike Reuters (furzy mouse)

Chicago PMI Crashes to 5 1/2 Year Low: Production, New Orders, Backlogs Suffer Double Digit Declines Michael Shedlock

When the commodity rents stop flowing… Izabella Kaminska, FT Alphaville

Antidote du jour (SRA):

panda in snow links

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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  1. tongorad

    I lived/worked in Thailand for 11 years. I think it’d would be a great place to retire. But Bangkok? There’s a lot more to Thailand than Bangkok. “Thailand begins where Bangkok ends,” as the saying goes.

    Good medical care is available pretty much everywhere. Western style medical facilities are certainly available in just about every major city. However, if I was having major surgery, I’d probably take a trip to Bangkok.

    I lived 150 kilometers outside of Bangkok, and my rent for a small bedroom house was 150 bucks a month. The 5 years I lived at that particular house, the rent never went up. Imagine that happening anywhere in the West.

    I love Thai food, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. No problem, Western/European food and restaurants were available whenever I needed my back-home food fix. The current US metropolis where I currently live has much less variety of eating options than the mid-sized city where I used to live in Thailand.

    “Furthermore, it’s now easy for a retiree to obtain a long-stay retirement visa in Thailand. Border runs are history.”

    Hmmm, well, maybe, but I wouldn’t bet on things not changing. Bureaucracy expansion and change is very much the norm in Thailand. In general, I think Thais prefer foreigners to visit and go home. But it’s certainly worth a try. Thailand can be a great place to live! I miss it terribly.

    1. diptherio

      I think Thais prefer foreigners to visit and go home

      We feel the same way here in Montana. As one tee-shirt puts it, “Montana sucks. Now go home and tell all your friends.”

      1. Propertius

        Here in Colorado the sentiment (loosely based on an early 70’s era folksong lyric) is: “Welcome to Colorado! Don’t forget to leave!”

    2. lord koos

      We spent the greater part of 2012 living in northern Thailand and I would go back to live if circumstances allowed. Not sure I would live in Bangkok (although it’s a wonderful city in many ways) as there are so many nicer places to live. Yes Thais would prefer you visit and then leave, however they do have retirement visas. Malaysia’s policies are much more relaxed that Thailand’s when it comes to foreign visitors being able to stay for longer periods, and their food is fantastic too. Just don’t try to score any pot there.

  2. Katniss Everdeen

    RE: The War Nerd: Why did Mohammed Emwazi become Jihadi John? Pando (furzy mouse)

    ” He’s not a victim, he’s not a hero, he’s just an ordinary dumb young man who translated his family history into a religious grudge—a common move—and rode it to cheap stardom making snuff videos, with a cheap dime-novel death coming up any day now.”

    Sounds a lot like current “american extraordinaire” Chris Kyle.

    Why would a rich, well-educated kid choose to cut off western heads instead of spending his life on rooftops “clean killing” muslims with a single shot? Being a sniper takes so much dedication, training and commitment. Beheading is just so barbaric.

    Hell, he coulda’ been a BANKER.

    It’s just plain INCOMPREHENSIBLE, I tell ya. Especially the “cheap stardom” and “cheap dime-novel death” parts.

    1. ambrit

      Dear Perplexed;
      “Cheap stardom” seems to be a common preoccupation these days. What does a well brought up young scion of success do for an encore? If one were to have been indoctrinated into one of the many “Death Cults” around today, something like the “cheap dime novel death” wouldn’t seem so bad. I mean, 72 virgins! (Why aren’t the Jihadi Women being offered “72 Big D—s” in paradise? Fair is fair, after all.)
      Where it concerns Kyle, well, he should be considered a Nasera Jihadi, shouldn’t he? What would be the response from the “Official Sources” if he had sat on some Western rooftops and practiced the “clean killing” of banksters with single shots? Ah, perspective is all.

        1. craazyboy

          It’s just a “romanticized” idea that goes way back to when Kings and Sultans rounded up all the cute 14 year olds and hide them away in the Royal Harem for future use. Usually along with a Royal Kama Sutra Trainer.

          Nothing to do with the modern day virgin at all, really.

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              In many ways, men, all of us, still desire that virginal experience; here, I mean anything that is experienced for the first time.

              ‘Sweetie, I am a physicist. I bet you have never been inside a largest hadron collider lab before. Is this your, er, first time?”

              ‘My dear, I work at the Senate. I bet you have never been in a powerful senator’s office before. Is this your, um, first time?’

              ‘My love, I am Romeo. I bet you have never seen a sunset from a cliff side 3 star Michelin molecular cuisine restaurant by the Mediterranean before. Is this your, er, first time?’

              And thus, we men impress.

              1. hunkerdown

                It’s simply a sublimation of the latent pedophilia and the fetishization of ignorance that seems to be an Anglo-Saxon thing. Why, you wouldn’t have to sand much off the corners to fit it into the conversion narrative box.


                1. optimader

                  A friend of mine told me the ultimate cocktail party closer joke if you need to end a conversation

                  A fellow come home after a hard day at his job as the local high school gym teacher and he sees his wife’s bags packed and at the door..she is crying.

                  Gym teacher: “whats wrong dear?”

                  Wife: “I am going home to Mother..My friends told me a terrible thing about you!” (sniff, sniff while dabbing away tears)

                  Gym teacher: “Terrible!? Why what ever did they tell you about me??”

                  Wife: “They all told me that you are a, a, a, Pedophile!” Waaaa…sniff sniff

                  Gym teacher: “A PEDOPHILE!!!… MY that’s a very big word for a 14yo”

              2. optimader

                ‘”My love, I am Romeo. I bet you have never seen a sunset from a cliff side 3 star Michelin molecular cuisine restaurant by the Mediterranean before. Is this your, er, first time?”’

                Sweetheart, you don’t want to make me get out of bed, go make some coffee and don’t skimp on the fkn beans! GRIND FOUR SCOOPS!
                The first time can be rough but best to set precedents upfront.

        2. ambrit

          Ah, but there you enlighten us to the homo-erotic side of martial culture. 300 Spartans and all those, er, camp followers. (The original version of “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” by T. E. Lawrence had passages about this. All cut from the later, ‘popularized’ versions.)

  3. Paper Mac

    The only “unstealable” bike is the one that’s worth less than the time required to steal it. Buying a really expensive, rare, eyecatching “unstealable” bike just ensures that thieves damage city property rather than locks. Stupid design.

    1. Ned Ludd

      I was a worker-owner at a co-op in a city with a lot of bike theft. There was a bike rack outside of our co-op, but it was not fastened to the concrete.

      One time, a pickup truck stopped in front of our store. The driver & passenger got out, picked up the bike rack, loaded it into their truck – with the bikes attached to it – and drove away.

      People also lost bikes when they locked them to tree trunks, which would be cut down to nick the bike.

    2. Antifa

      Agreed. I used to ride my bike all over NYC, and leave it securely locked for hours at a stretch in plain view of the passing public. Didn’t matter — the seat would get stolen, the front wheel would be stolen, the handlebars or brakes removed — even the “unbreakable” Kryptonite locks would be gone.

      If the crackheads couldn’t steal the bike because I’d put three or four locks on it, they’d kick in the spokes to bend them, or slash the tires, all to punish me for making their lives difficult. Same thinking as street people in certain NYC neighborhoods who will slash your car tires if you don’t leave your vehicle unlocked, with the alarm off, so that sex workers can use the back seat for customers after dark.

      It’s a question of who owns the streets. There is no un-stealable bike, just as there is no unbreakable padlock, no chain that can’t be cut, no safety from urban crime. What these folks are marketing is the magical promise that you will somehow be free forevermore from bicycle theft issues if you buy this bike.

      Fuhgeddaboudid. It doesn’t work like that in the real world..

      1. Carolinian

        Whoa. Isn’t NYC supposed to be like Disneyland now? Sounds like the crime there is still old school.

      2. diptherio

        If you want to ensure that your bike doesn’t get stolen better start working for world where people don’t feel the need to steal bicycles. Treat the disease, not the symptom, that’s what I say.

        1. tyaresun

          Yup, I do RAGBRAI every year and not a single bike stolen. 25000 bikes of all types lying around without a lock and not a single one gets stolen.

        2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          That’s a very good point.

          I would add, a world where

          1. people don’t feel the need to steal
          2. people don’t feel they have possessions to be stolen.

      3. bruno marr

        Agreed. There is no “unstealable” bike. Thieves are like crows: they’re not stupid and they work in groups. I had an expensive bike in a “secure” Bikestation building: key fob ID entry, video surveillance, membership payable via credit card, special locking racks. No luck. Bike parts vanished.

        Turns out Bikestation offered monthly membership where thieves could pool money for the initial membership fee in the name of someone else, gain entry, steal bike parts while pretending to attend to their own adjacent bicycle and be never again seen. The video surveillance? Insufficient video coverage (something the thieves probably deduced).

      4. Lambert Strether

        Again, we’re not thinking outside the box. You write:

        sex workers can use the back seat for customers after dark

        but you’re missing the opportunity to join the “sharing economy.” In fact, I smell business model!

      5. different clue

        If only there were a way to put very cheap but very convincing replicas of expensive bikes locked up here and there in bike theft zones. And cover every touchable surface of the decoy-bikes with poison ivy oil.

    3. Kurt Sperry

      The video and article linked to provide almost no useful detail of how the system is engineered. It looks to me like the weak link is what is really just a long seatpost, but we can’t see how it attaches at either end. With theft resistant designs it only takes one guy to figure out an effective countermeasure (see Kryptonite U- Locks) and the whole effort is wasted.

    4. fresno dan

      I got one of those long cable locks just because I was concerned that I would need plenty of length to reach around what might be available to secure it to. So I locked it to a lamppost but when I got back the front wheel had been stolen. (the replacement wheel was half the price of the bike)
      Its an internet bike so I’m not sure the wheel is a standard size that would fit well on a typical bike anyway…

      Well, now I thread the cable lock through both the wheels…..but why MY bike, no one else locks their front wheels….

      1. Paper Mac

        If it’s an older road bike, you’re looking for a 27″ wheel. A 700c will do in a pinch. A vintage 27″ wheel might cost you a small chunk, but it shouldn’t be too outrageous if you got to a local bike repair coop or similar.

    5. Lambert Strether

      These people should think outside the box. How about an armed drone with video that hovers over the bike, in your absence. There are two settings: Manual, where you fire it based on what you see in the video feed, using your iPhone’s iTrigger, and Automatic, where the drone fires itself (after a recorded warning) when a miscreant triggers the proximity feature. I smell business model!

      What could go wrong?

      1. ambrit

        You are not thinking this out far enough. What you’re really needing is an aerial drone that tases or ‘liquidates’ the perp while in the felonious act. This can be funded through DEA grants and an annual bicycle tax. (Bicycles not displaying the tax sticker will not be ‘protected.’ There, an exemplary public private partnership!)

        1. Lambert Strether

          Well, in Chicago, which I suppose at this point is Everywhere, we’d lease the rights to vaporize bike-stealing perps (modulo false positives) with drones to, say, Raytheon for 90 years.

          1. ambrit

            Not enough revenue. Dart the perps and then sell them for set periods of time, (perhaps a sliding scale based on the Blue Book value of the ‘conveyance of interest,’) to ADM or Cargill or DelMonte as ‘indentured’ labour. This will not only give cheap manpower to labour intensive industries, but will have the salutary effect of inculcating the proper servile attitudes in the laboring classes; just like in the neoliberal ‘Halcyon Days’ of the Robber Barons.
            Ultra public private partnership! A revenue stream and a reactionary social engineering program all in one package.

      2. Antifa

        Instant black market for stolen drones. Drone “chop-shops.”

        A car drives down the street putting out a short, powerful cell phone jamming signal. Every manually-flown drone falls from the sky or flies to a certain rooftop or through an apartment window and that’s the last time you see it. Autonomous drones still have to have some coded means of listening to their owner. Just hack into that like you would any computer or phone, and fly the drone to where you want. Same result — eBay will be full of generic drone parts for sale cheap.

        No, the only way drones will work to protect bikes is if they all have a preloaded database of facial recognition software listing registered bike owners for each city. Any “stranger” who goes near a protected bike will instantly be given the old “Pakistani wedding” treatment by an armed drone flying overhead. Sure, this will destroy the bike, the tree or telephone pole it’s leaning against — and any passersby up to fifteen meters — but the point is the bicycle will not be stolen. That’s what matters, right?

        This will soon be extended to protecting the bike and its owner once they are mobile, raining down missiles on any car or pedestrian straying into the bike lane. Just imagine — no one will ever need to lock their bike again. Just lean it up against any building or pole, press a button on your iPhone, and walk away. Leave it there all day and night. People will learn to give parked bicycles a very wide berth, and to run for their lives if a bicyclist comes pedalling around the corner. Just asking a bicyclist the time of day could be interpreted as a hijacking attempt when viewed through a drone camera from 3000 feet up, and prove lethal to everyone standing on the same corner, just waiting for the Walk signal to come around.

        Naturally, before very long Anonymous will declare war on these armed civilian drones, and begin launching “Hacker/Interceptor” drones to shoot them down. People will learn to stay away from windows to avoid stray bullets and shrapnel. The streets will be empty, other than protected bicyclists. YouTube will be full of stunning videos of drone dogfights at night over every American city, way better than the Northern Lights.

        I think you’re really onto something here, Lambert.

          1. craazyboy

            Yes! The hovering hunter-seeker poison tipped dart strikes Duke Leto in the throat and kills him! The people give up on bikes and breed giant GMO sandworms – which are harder to steal!

      3. craazyboy

        What could go wrong?

        The batteries go dead. Without any payload, you might get 10-15 minutes battery life. Armaments reduce battery life very significantly – maybe as low as 5 minutes with only a very small caliber gun. Bombs would have more bang for the buck – maybe a C4 & razor blade composite bomb? Dunno – we are still in the early stages of civilian drones.

        But you still can’t leave your bike parked anywhere for longer than 10 minutes. Really, it would be much cheaper and easier just to wire your bike with a bomb and a proximity fuse.

        1. hunkerdown

          I’ve often fantasized about building a high-voltage generator into a bicycle, but a) ventricular fibrillation is almost too good for bike thieves b) penalties for theft, rape and manslaughter being higher than penalties for defending oneself seems calculated to encourage said criminal behaviors, just not “too much” or “against the wrong people”.

      4. jgordon

        After recently having some of my camera equipment stolen by local drug addicts in my neighborhood I have to say that I like your idea quite a bit. That does raise some legal issues though. Would we need to get a special weapons permit to shoot people with drones who are trying to steal our stuff, or perhaps could the state be wise enough to allow a blanket license for specific models of armed drones to autonomously/remotely shoot people? Considering I live in Florida I bet we’ll be lucky enough to have the blanket model here. I can’t wait!

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Why not just a bike you can fold into a suitcase?

          If they can fit a nuclear bomb inside, this is entirely possible.

          We just need a creative entrepreneur and a team of origami artists and body contortion experts…a lot of them will work cheaply.

          Possible billion plus dollars at stake here.

          1. bruno marr

            …that was my solution. I have been riding a 20″ folding bike that weighs 23 lb’s and can be easily taken into a building, office, or the Surfliner train (Amtrak). Sometimes I leave it parked outside the grocery store with only the handle bars folded down; most folks think the bike is broken and leave it be.

            Thinking of getting a Tern 24″ wheel folding bike for better rolling performance. It’s about the same size as a 20″‘er and is only slightly heavier.

        2. Lambert Strether

          Let’s license pedestrians, and make them sign an agreement that they consent to be tased if they violate the territorial integrity of any bike, “integrity” to be defined by the bike owner, but no greater than (say) a radius of 100 yards.

      5. different clue

        I have a crappy looking bike which is “not worth stealing”. That’s how I solve the problem.

  4. Ned Ludd

    Google, Our Patron Saint of the Closed Web

    It started innocently enough

    Some time around 2008, ICANN determined we didn’t have enough domains. So they decided to open the floodgates on so-called “generic TLDs” or “gTLDs”. Stuff like .app, .ceo, .church, and so on.

    ICANN is a non-profit created in 1998 to privatize the management of Internet names and addresses. A comment at Hacker News summarizes how companies such as Google and Amazon will have exclusive control over some of the new Internet names being created by ICANN.

    [S]everal large companies, Google and Amazon most brazenly, shoved themselves through some loopholes and created a category that was never supposed to exist.

    The unfortunate fact is that the ICANN board is pretty spineless, and had no desire to restate the rules to prevent the private domination of generic terms (for example, Amazon wants to control the Chinese word for book, which is pretty aggressive for a company from Seattle when the Chinese invented moveable type). The board was so completely dedicated to moving forward that they endorsed the idea of the winner takes all auction and punted all of their responsibility for choosing which applicants would actually provide the most value to the world. Open small applicants have to win the auction using funds drawn from a business model of selling domains. These closed generic applicants can throw tens of millions of dollars at the auctions based upon the value of having a monopoly on a term like .app, .search or .secure.

  5. MartyH

    The Izabel Kaminskaya piece, “When the commodity rents stop flowing …” is very powerful. The judgement of “legal” as repressive and rentier-biased strikes a deep chord! The specific removes claims that such things don’t or can’t happen. It is a simple and strong repudiation of one of the key tenets of Neo-Classical Economics (IMHO).

    I have this on the short-list for my economic counter-parties.

  6. BDBlue

    On stigmatizing obesity as a physician, while I generally loath TEDtalks, I like this one by Dr. Peter Attia – here , in which he admits how harshly he judged an obese patient early in his career only to develop some of the same health problems despite doing everything “right”. He now questions what we’re told is “right”, but that’s not the focus of the talk.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      In general, we need more wisdom in the world, including physicians.

      Be wise, but don’t be a wise guy.

      Intelligence is not enough. Don’t overlook compassion.

  7. jgordon

    Chris Christie reminds me a lot of Baron Harkonnen. It’s stunning to me that some people are willing to support him.

    On that topic Americans seem to have an incredibly high tolerance for criminal, or worse–unethical, behavior in elites. I don’t really get it myself but it does tend to foster the feeling in me that Americans in general are too stupid to exist long term.

  8. D. Mathews

    WSJ: Doral Bank in Puerto Rico was closed by regulators Friday, with a botched announcement of its failure culminating years of turmoil that cost investors, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Marathon Asset Management, hundreds of millions of dollars. The failure of the bank, which had $5.9 billion in assets, was the largest in the U.S. since 2010.

  9. MikeNY

    Re: Dudley and the Fed.

    I can no longer even muster a sigh of despair. We are now within about 100 pts of S&P 2200, which Grantham et al flag as definitive two-sigma bubbleland. Obviously the Fed wants more. Grantham (as he is wont to do) may underestimate the vitality of the air(head) flow.

    1. James Levy

      The Fed and the PTB seem obsessed with proving two things: 1) the stock market contributes real financing for jobs, research, plant, equipment, and inventories and is NOT a casino; 2) if you pump up the asset prices of the rich, they are bound to spend and invest it in ways that significantly stimulate the larger economy. No matter how many times these assertions are debunked, every sinew is strained to prove them true. The entire system is committed to these dogmas and they can never be acknowledged as being false. If they have to create $20 trillion in liquidity out of nothing to cover up the fact that these dogmas are frauds, they will, and to hell with its effects on the rest of the economy and polity.

    2. curlydan

      yep. Time to prepare for negative rates. Soon banks will advertise, “Get -0.25% 12-month CD” with a granny and a friendly smile.

      1. trinity river

        We are already in negative return range for small savers and have been for years. Any return less that inflation is a negative return. This further accentuates the FED’s policy of moving money from the 99% to the 1%. This is especially painful for retires who can no longer save.

      1. BillC

        Ditto. I wonder if that’s a reliable indicator of who doesn’t watch US commercial TV? OTOH, I’d say both candidates advocate positions that are equally fatal to Life As We Know It.

  10. optimader

    Leonard Nimoy dies

    Kirk: [Explaining Spock’s odd behavior] Oh, him? He’s harmless. Back in the sixties, he was part of the free speech movement at Berkeley. I think he did a little too much LDS.

    Dr. Gillian Taylor: LDS?

    Scotty : Capt’in , I lost him , I cooouldn’t keep ‘em together this time

  11. nowhere

    Family Feud: The Tortured Relationship between Schäuble and Varoufakis – Spiegel

    It’s an imperative that is also a factor in the fight over Greek debts and Greek blame. Athens’ revolt is reminiscent of a teenager who doesn’t want to accept the limits to personal freedom that living in a mutually dependent collective necessitates — moreover, in a collective designed by his predecessors.

    The Greeks are nothing but wayward teenagers – leave the adult business to the Germans. smh

    The paternalism in the entire article is sad.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I hate to say it, but Google the title of the WSJ article in links about Greece’s likely default on its IMF loan coming due in March if you hit the paywall with the link and read it: Greece Stirs Doubt on Debt Owed IMF. You have this priceless quote:

      A senior adviser to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Thursday said Greece was prepared to ask for an extension on its IMF debt. “If we haven’t collected the 1.4 [billion euros] and, say, have collected 0.8 [billion euros] we will ask for an extension of two months,” said Greek Minister of State Alekos Flabouraris. “I don’t understand, what is the difficulty?”

      Now maybe the WSJ rang up every Greek official they could find to see who might say something stupid. But this is really stunning. IMF debt is considered to be senior and a default is a default. This “Oh, can we pay you later? It’s not convenient right now” isn’t how it is done. You have to negotiate a rescheduling.

      And there has been too much amateur hour stuff from the Greek government, like blustering that they had enough money to get through March (the IMF payment) and insinuating they could carry on beyond that, and then finding out that they in fact are short of funds. Oh, and the Defense Minister acting as if Greece would get money from Russia, and then having Varoufakis effectively deny that, and having the Minister himself climb down after the Eurozone and NATO got on Greece’s case.

      I am very sympathetic to what the government is trying to achieve, but too much of their conduct really is outside the pale, and I don’t mean the Varoufakis trying to break the frame stuff. They come off like they don’t know what they are doing. And they in fact may not since most if not all of the figures running the major offices have no previous experience heading or even being in a senior role in a government bureaucracy.

        1. EmilianoZ

          And yet, Syriza’s ratings are still soaring:

          A Metron Analysis poll published on Saturday showed popularity ratings for the prime minister’s radical left Syriza party at an all-time high…

          The approval is all the more extraordinary, given the policy U-turns the anti-austerity government has been forced to make – concessions that have sparked fierce opposition within the ranks of Syriza.

          Maybe the Greeks just love Varoufakis’ candor.

          On Friday, Varoufakis triggered uproar by declaring that the government was proud of the “degree of creative ambiguity” used in drafting reforms set as the condition of prolonging the country’s bailout program – initially due to expire yesterday – until June.

          As the German Bundestag prepared to vote through the extension, Varoufakis told a local television channel: “They asked for it. They said, ‘for us to pass it in our parliaments, our institutions, it’s better to leave it vague’.”

          LOL! I have to say I find it very refreshing! He’s definitely a keeper.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Actually, now that I have read the story, it has some important information in it. Last Friday’s memo was a diktat:

      Prior to the beginning of last Friday’s meeting, Dijsselbloem had telephoned with European leaders to consolidate support behind his compromise proposal. German Chancellor Angela Merkel made it clear to Tsipras that there were no other alternatives. “It’s either that, or it’s over,” she said. And Tsipras relayed his decision to his finance minister: He had decided to give in. Thereafter, Varoufakis was largely uninvolved in the talks, sources say….

      Indeed, that was the moment that Varoufakis demonstrated that he is more of an intellectual than a political drone. He appeared to enjoy trying to transform defeat into victory using only the sheer power of words.

      Just a few steps away, Wolfgang Schäuble could be found sitting in the German delegation’s room. Visibly tired, he took pains not to come across as triumphant, even mentioning that Varoufakis would have difficulty explaining the result of the negotiations to voters back home.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Perhaps another translated version ‘It’s either that, or its over’ is, ‘Either you are with us, or you are against us.’

        1. docg

          “It’s either that, or it’s over”

          LOL! I love it. And exactly what do you mean by “it’s over,” Ms. Merkel? Because in the mythical realm of Euro NOTHING is ever over. For one simple reason that Yogi Berra could have told you: “It ain’t over until it’s over.” I.e., ALL over. Over not just for Greece, but for the Eurozone as well, and Europe with it. Nothing is ever over in the game of extend and pretend because for a default to occur would be a moment of Truth and the truth cannot be tolerated in this Alice in Wonderland environment.

          What a strange, fascinating, but also very amusing, game is being played here. Neither side wants Greece to default. Neither side could tolerate a Greek default. Yet all sorts of conditions are being placed on the Greek government, to do this and do that and don’t do this, and pay this when it comes due, etc. — or else.

          Sounds to me like Varoufakis is finally (finally!!!!) catching on. He’s been bragging lately about how he deliberately included ambiguous language in his recent letter of agreement (i.e. capitulation) with the Eumenides (aka “Institutions,” aka “Furies,” aka “the Troika”). Hey, why not? The Eumenides are, of course, upset over this. And they will certainly expect him to tighten things up. Which he will obediently do. Knowing full well that it doesn’t really matter, that there is no way Merkel or the IMF or anyone else is going to withhold funding from Greece, because that would lead to a default, which is precisely the one thing they do NOT want to see happen.

          So they will continue to play their little game of pseudo-chicken as long as they can possible extend the extend and pretend pretense — knowing full well, of course, that at some point it will have to blow up in their faces. Better “then” than “now,” right?

          Actually a Ponzi scheme can go on forever, so long as there is always new money coming in to cover it. And when the money runs out (as it did long ago) there is an infinite source of borrowed money available — as much as one would like. Until that moment of Truth arrives. As it did for Bernie Madoff. As it will for the Eumenides.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            It’s not that simple.

            The Anglo press messages that a default would be a disaster. But neither the US nor the UK is at the table.

            Germany and at least the Finns, maybe the Dutch too, think that letting Greece default or leave the Eurozone than giving it any more breaks. The Spanish are at least as hard core as the Germans. Each effectively has a veto when the Eurogroup votes to approve the release of funds (for the bailout, the money Greece would like to get to carry it through the next four months). And the IMF for other reasons is not disposed to cut Greece much slack either.

            Germany might have been persuaded that a disorderly Grexit would be a bad thing and the four months could serve to get Greece to prepare for a less messy outcome if it was not willing to shape up.

            The German/Finn/Spanish/Baltic/Slovakian view is it is better to cut Greece loose than give it a deal that all the periphery countries will then be able to demand. They think their losses will be less in that scenario.

            I don’t think they are right, but this is what they believe.

            1. docg

              Thanks, Yves. You have a point. It seems to me, however, that if the Eumenides ( ;-) ) didn’t fear a Greek default, they’d never have gone to all this trouble to negotiate this very shaky “compromise” with an extremely unreliable partner. As I see it, they fear that if Greece defaults other austerity-weary nations will default as well. The old Domino Theory. But who knows what’s actually on their minds. Things should be playing out in a very interesting manner over the next few weeks, so we’ll see.

  12. susan the other

    Mosler on the new policy in the ECB that national CBs can now buy up their own debt and so keep their borrowing costs down. But for Greece it seems too little too late. Greece has no operating funds because its busy paying off questionable bailout debt. So what good is this new reg if it is already too late? And did I hear Schaeuble correctly when he told a German audience that it would take 4 more months to iron out the process for Greece to “leave” the current program? Nothin’ on that in our press which is all about how Greece must stick with the program. Sounds like the EU is more lenient than we are giving it credit for being. Likewise no mention of Merkel’s and Hollande’s public statement that they want to “work with Russia.” If it weren’t for yesterday’s 2 posts (Helmer and Schwartz) I would still be thinking Greece was subtly blackmailing the EU. But Russia won’t loan Greece any money unless Greece leaves NATO (as some readers commented). And then just looking at the map of the eastern Mediterranean I see all sorts of things in a new light. Russia is approaching Egypt; is friends with the Palestinians; is a supporter of Lebanon; Syria; Cyprus; Turkey – interesting configuration. And Russia is not really commenting on what they will do for Greece because they think Syriza is a US client. Whatever we say about Israel, it is pretty clear that Israel is our one staunch ally, our outpost. Whether for good or bad.

    1. susan the other

      My point being that (always in the back of my mind) oil is our lifeblood because we have a gargantuan military to fund and that includes NATO. Money down a rat hole. Without access to sufficient sources of oil and natural gas we and NATO are a paper tiger. We will probably see just how important Greece is to us (that is to our MIC) soon.

      1. susan the other

        And just to continue my amazement, isn’t it interesting that only the UK and that sweaty chickenhawk David Cameron got all upset and pledged to send troops into Ukraine. Now? When it’s all over but the shoutin? Cameron could literally be a barometer of how farcical the old paradigm is becoming.

    2. Chauncey Gardiner

      Doesn’t appear to me to be “too little too late”. Based on Warren Mosler’s article, it appears that back in January the ECB gave QE powers to the EU members various national central banks carte blanche. This move, if I understand it correctly, seems to me to be a huge transfer of monetary powers back to the sovereign nations of the EU. If so, this could be huge.

      Mosler: “As part of this broad based fight to reverse the current deflationary forces, the national CB’s will now be buying their own nation’s debt, thereby, for all practical purposes, eliminating default risk. And with no mention of fiscal conditionality.

      Taken at its word, this means the latest QE policy has removed the ECB’s leverage over national government fiscal policy, as the ECB did not tie it’s securities purchases to fiscal compliance.

      Therefore Greece and Italy, the two members desiring fiscal expansion, are operationally free to do so without the threat of default driving up their interest rates. They may face EU penalties, etc. but those are a very different matter than the prior default risk.

      So the door is now open to anyone bold enough to step through. However they probably don’t know it and probably wouldn’t go there if they did…”

      … “Yanis Varoufakis, Yanis Varoufakis, please report to the nearest white courtesy telephone.”

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Not to Greece. The ECB in February barred the Greek banks from pledging Greek government securities with the ECB. Monetization of government debt has been barred as far as Greece is concerned. It’s actually also supposed to be verboten under some section of the Lisbon Treaty, so I don’t think Mosler’s reading is accurate. QE is purchases. so it would amount to monetization. By contrast, the ECB’s finesse so far has been to accept government bonds as collateral, which technically is not monetization, but it does suppress bond yields and thus allows those governments to fund cheaply.

  13. susan the other

    On Adam Levitin and the Liz and Janet exchange. Yes, that sounds right. And immediately following the testimony Janet did a PSA saying what a good civil servant Alvarez is/has been. Maybe it’s the first step to letting him go. Which still leaves me unsatisfied because if it is this choreographed what difference does it make whether Alvarez comes or goes? It’s like Liz warned Janet that she really has to cover her ass. Maybe this warning was timed to coincide with other measures the Fed has created to fudge any obligation it once had to the taxpayer. It is all way too opaque to even guess.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Except I knew before I wrote the post that a former senior financial regulator had also asked Yellen why she had not gotten rid of Alvarez, and Yellen stood up for him, saying, “He defends the institution.” So she’s not predisposed to get rid of him, and I can’t imagine her changing her views based on being shellacked by Warren. In fact, there’s a large literature that says most people tend to down on their prior beliefs even when presented with information that contradicts them. So there is good reason to believe she means her defense and is not making a ritual announcement.

      Moreover, in light of what Warren exposed. defending Alvarez IS tantamount to saying it’s OK to have a staffer defy the Fed board. Yellen can’t have it both ways on this, and it is important to call her out on it.

      1. James Levy

        Wouldn’t it be interesting to know against whom Yellen thinks Alvarez is defending the institution?

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          The Audit the Fed crowd, among others. The Fed submitted its own Audit the Fed language which it tried persuading Congress was similar to the version that Ron Paul and Alan Grayson were pushing. Everyone in Congress was inclined to go with the Fed version. Grayson spent 12 hours, staying up all night to go back to the statues that the new Fed version incorporated by reference (as well as tracking other complex drafting, there were a lot of paragraphs that you needed to refer to other sections to understand what they meant). It turns out that what the Fed was trying to sneak in was WORSE than existing law as far as transparency and accountability were concerned.

          That is the sort of “defending the institution” that Yellen wants to keep in place: dirty tricks to stymie Congressional oversight and public accountability.

  14. TomOfTheNorth

    Regarding the ‘Lying Pantsuit Lady’, hell yeah, let’s shoot all of the messengers: press agents, PR folks, spokespersons, actors portraying anything I personally disagree with. This is war and those tools of propaganda must be silenced! There’s no point in going after the root issues & problems and the bad actors driving them. The corporations own the legislative process so we won’t get any satisfaction going that route. We just need SOMEBODY to hammer on. I really want to see that guy who does the voice over for “Beef: it’s what’s for dinner” dragged through the streets. That spot is so insidious, it can actually make you feel hunger! That said, I really am having beef for dinner tonight but YOU shouldn’t and he shouldn’t be advocating it….

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      So I take it you are fine with Exxon’s oil industry propaganda. In fact you love propaganda and only want more. Gotcha.

      You really should, as Lambert says, get that knee seen to. Oh, and read another site.

      1. TomOfTheNorth

        Ouch! Obviously my snarky comment struck a nerve which, as a long time reader & fan of Naked Capitalism, was not my intention and I sincerely regret. As to the intent of my comment, it was not an endorsement of any big industry’s ongoing despoilment of our planet. Rather, I took issue with Hullabaloo conflating the aforementioned despoilment with the work in a promotional spot (propaganda IS an accurate word) by one Brooke Alexander, actress. Hullabaloo explicitly calls out & blames this actress for the ills of the petroleum industry. Hullabaloo does not name the senior executives & Boards of Directors of petroleum firms, nor legislators who accept contributions from and push legislation for these companies. No, Hullabaloo points us towards a scripted actress working on camera as someone warranting the same level of our ire as Tony Haywood and his ilk. I found that ridiculous.

    2. hunkerdown

      The corporate communications industry has no purpose but to communicate their externalities onto the heads of others — a world that banned professional orators would be a much saner, wiser place.

  15. joecostello

    “Here’s why the oil rig count doesn’t matter Business Insider. Readers may recall that we pointed this out some time ago….”

    I wouldnt bet on that

  16. OIFVet

    Poor Gary Shteyngart, I weep for thee.

    You might be wondering why I left my home and family and started watching Russian drag-queen parodies. I am the subject of an experiment. For the next week, I will subsist almost entirely on a diet of state-controlled Russian television, piped in from three Apple laptops onto three 55-inch Samsung monitors in a room at the Four Seasons Hotel in Manhattan. (If I have to imbibe the TV diet of the common Russian man, I will at least live in the style of one of his overlords.)

    This masochistic experiment led to a descend into madness, complete with PTSD, house visit by Gary’s psychiatrist, fear that he’s stuck in “that” Russia and won’t be able to leave, and vodka binges replacing the imminently reasonable starting menu of Wagyu beef and Clos Du Val pinot noir. Poor Gary.

    I hereby propose a similar experiment: for the next week, I will subsist almost entirely on a diet of non state-controlled US television, piped in from three Apple laptops onto three 55-inch Samsung monitors in a room at the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago. (If I have to imbibe the TV diet of the common American man, I will at least live in the style of one of his overlords.) Anyone willing to help finance this bold expedition into the unknown? If prior experience with American TV media is any guide, the resultant story will be just as gripping as Gary’s.

  17. Jeff W

    The first link “Leonard Nimoy, a pop culture force as Spock of ‘Star Trek,’ dies at 83” goes to an article called “12 fascinating optical illusions show how color can trick the eye.” (I’ve always thought that Adelson’s famed checker shadow illusion was particularly elegant.) The apparently intended link is here.

  18. Howard Beale IV

    Piketty Gets A Laugh At Mankiw’s Expense: emptywheel

    “We know something about billionaire consumption,” Piketty observed, “but it is hard to measure some of it. Some billionaires are consuming politicians, others consume reporters, and some consume academics.”

  19. DSP

    Perhaps a bitterly trenchant humorous statement could be started and ended with a “~” to save some reader -heartburn and wasted anger.

  20. Pepsi

    The politico piece really doesn’t shy away from the weasel words.

    Calling the arbitration tribunals provisions “wonky” and “obscure” is another way of their administration source saying “how dare she talk about this thing we don’t want to talk about.”

    Neoliberalism is as failed as an ideological or philosophical system in history, save maybe logical positivism. But mainstream journalists still treat it as if it was the only way, I don’t know if this is because of their positions as lapdogs to people in power, lack of understanding, I don’t know.

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