Links 3/15/15 (Ides of March)

Starving Sea Lions Washing Ashore by the Hundreds in California New York Times (Chuck L) :-(

Witness the final walk of a dog and know all you need to know of dignity in death… and life Independent (Chuck L)

Hoot! Owl cafés are the latest craze in Tokyo, Japan (Video) TreeHugger

Cafe in London for Petting Owls (photos) Awesomely Cute (Nikki)

Lack of snow forces Iditarod start north EarthSky (furzy mouse)

Dwarf Satellite Galaxies Orbit Milky Way University of Cambridge (Nikki)

In Historic Turn, CO2 Emissions Flatline in 2014, Even as Global Economy Grows Forbes (furzy mouse)

Sensing threat, utilities put squeeze on solar-roof industry Washington Post (Swedish Lex)

10 stunning images show the beauty hidden in pi Washington Post (Nikki)

Breakthrough Molecular 3D Printer Can Print Billions of Possible Compounds 3DPrint (furzy mouse)

Exclusive: IBM looking at adopting bitcoin technology for major currencies Reuters (furzy mouse). The US and ECB have gone to considerable lengths to get at what they call “terrorist financing”. This looks like IBM is about to go into the money-laundering business in a big way now that the officialdom is cracking down on major banks. IBM is talking to central bankers about their project, but I don’t see how they resolve this issue without reporting, which would increase costs and would likely offset, if not negate, the theoretical cost advantage.

How Long Before Cash is Banned? Michael Shedlock

‘Belle de Jour’ sues ex-boyfriend for saying she wasn’t a prostitute Independent (Chuck L)


Greek finance minister says some election vows can be put off France24. Yannis Koutsomitis tweets: no uproar from Syriza party members.

Technical talks to resume with lenders ekathimerini

Schulz: Greek ruling coalition ‘a mistake’ DW

Angela Merkel’s office denies ‘private feud’ between Greece and Germany Guardian


US Intel Stands Pat on MH-17 Shoot-down Robert Parry

Hawks In House Call On White House To Send Arms To Ukraine DSWright, Firedoglake


US shuts down Saudi embassy amid security fears BBC

C.I.A. Funds Found Their Way Into Qaeda Coffers New York Times

Atrocities Committed by U.S.-Trained Iraqi Forces — Again Intercept

Neocons Probably Going Wobbly On Bombing Iran Moon of Alabama

White House Issues Saturday Night Iran Deal Warning To Senate Huffington Post (furzy mouse)

One of Our Major Newspapers Says: What the Hell, Why Not Start Another Unwinnable War? Atlantic. Well, it was only an op-ed…

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

Prototype Quadrator with Machine Gun You Tube (LR)

US Senate committee advances cyber-surveillance bill Guardian (furzy mouse)

New Zealand Used NSA System to Target Officials, Anti-Corruption Campaigner Intercept

More Democrats Going Own Way: Away From Obama New York Times

Jeb Bush Email Trove Reveals Predictable Trail Of Access and Favors For Top Donors Alternet

How to Execute People in the 21st Century Atlantic (Dr. Kevin). The guillotine looks better and better!

Getting It Wrong on Trade: TPP Is Not Good for Workers Beat the Press

NY Assembly votes to help farmers fight GMO seed lawsuits Associated Press (furzy mouse)

Heat wave sets new temperature records across California Los Angeles Times

Black Injustice Tipping Point

Selma, Obama and the Colonization of Black Resistance Counterpunch

Funeral of Tony Terrell Robinson sees Madison community cry for change Guardian

The Ellen Pao trial is not about women lacking confidence Business Insider

S.E.C. Wants the Sinners to Own Up Gretchen Morgenson, New York Times

Taub and the world’s triple crisis Asia Times (Ruben)

Class Warfare

All You Need to Know About Income Inequality, in One Comparison New York Times (LR)

The rise of luxury toilet paper Washington Post (Dr. Kevin)

The New Silicon Valley Movement That is Taking on the Tech Giants Nation (Nikki)

New York: Conspicuous Construction New York Review of Books

NYU Graduate Students Win Historic Victory American Prospect

Workers Behind Ruthless and Effective Grassroots Campaigns Are Now on Trial for Racketeering Nation (Nikki)

Antidote du jour:

cougar-photos-8 links

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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    1. charger01

      Today’s antidote looks like a big furry razor blade. One of the few critters in North America that you should fear on a hike.

        1. optimader

          My nephew in Fairbanks has onee too when he and his buddies are fishing/camping, but his laser pointer is attached to a large caliber long gun. More practically, a backup .357 magnum chambered revolver w/ a conventional fiber optic sight . In his world a grizzly bear can do 30 yards in a moment.. three strides.
          If I were hiking or mountain biking in bone fide wilderness terrain I would feel irresponsible doing so without the latter.

          1. Eclair

            Question for your nephew: why does he consider that wilderness as “his” world?

            I’m sure the white euro-settlers had the same attitude towards the indigenous peoples they encountered in “their” territories.

            We blunder into the worlds of others and believe that ‘they’ must die if they object to us being there. Bear, wildcats, Lakota, Maori …. let’s kill ’em all.

            1. JTMcPhee

              …but it has to be! Those you name stand in the way of PROGRESS!!! and PROFIT!!! It’s just clearing the fields for more productive plantations. Right? (Snark)

            2. Jagger

              I have to agree with Optimadar. In my day, I have run into a few bears in the wilderness. I left them alone and they left me alone. However, if a bear decided I was on the menu, if only one of us was going to walk away alive, I would do whatever was necessary to ensure it was me that walked away. Just like any other animal in the wild.

            3. Synapsid


              I suspect that optimader was referring his nephew’s world as the one he lives in.

              Still, I agree with your point. When I worked in NW Alaska we always had a pump-action 12 gauge with us, loaded with 000 buckshot, and we hoped we’d never have to use it because the bear lived there and we didn’t. We were visitors and the bear had every right to object to our presence if it felt so inclined. We carried the gun because it would have been irresponsible–indeed, suicidal–not to be able to protect ourselves if we had to. The Inuit we lived with were armed for the same reason.

            4. optimader

              The Sanctimony looks fresh today! I’ll have that with a side order of Projection.
              Did I say he is hunter Eclair? Have you ever been to a really wild place? No, I mean really wild where you are a menu option?

              What do you actually know about the Lakota?

              1. Eclair

                Whoa, defensive much, optimader?
                As for knowing about the Lakota Nation, you might want to check out Battle of the Hundred in the Hand, and the Massacre at Wounded Knee. Also, to enlarge your knowledge of the Arapahoe and Cheyenne Nations, look up the Massacre at Sand Creek. This is how white europeans, arrogant in their belief that they were masters of the world, went about their extermination of the indigenous peoples that had lived in harmony in these territories for tens of thousands of years. The indigenous world view? Humans ‘shared’ the space with their four-footed, crawling, winged and rooted relatives.

                Of course, the indigenous peoples didn’t have the ‘smarts’ to build nuclear weapons, or machines big enough to strip the tops off mountains, or invent internal combustion engines that spew carbon into the atmosphere. Or to destroy every ‘really wild place’ on the planet.

                1. craazyman

                  sounds like somebody wants to be dinner!

                  faaaaak. I’d be packin some major league firearms if I was wanderiing around where beasts like that are hungry.. Every other month you hear about some hiker or biker attacked by a mountain lion or a bear. It’s safer to send a drone in with a camera and do your hiking or biking on a ttreadmill or Exer-cycle while you watch nature on a big screen. Then you can have a beer in civilization after a long day in the wilderness, rather than pitch camp and boil water while the beasts circle in the dark.

                  If I knew they were sprintting at me because they’re happy to see me, I’d hold my fire, of course. IIt’s very hard to tell, even for a zoologist.

                  1. optimader

                    sounds like somebody wants to be dinner!
                    No kidding

                    If I knew they were sprintting at me because they’re happy to see me,I’d hold my fire, of course
                    Craazyman, you had better be quick at assessing why they’re happy to see you

                    It’s safer to send a drone in with a camera and do your hiking or biking on a ttreadmill or Exer-cycle while you watch nature on a big screen.

                    You may have a franchise there for motivating the urban gymrat, a twist on Warren Miller for in front of those stair thingies. Short of an Omnimax though, where you’ll always fall short is in the northern lights and stargazing dept.
                    On the subject of getting gnawed on by a jealous furry fishing buddy downstream, that’s part of why I dig Iceland, nothing there that will eat you AND you can get comfortably numb with impunity while stargazing later.

                2. optimader

                  Well, no Ecair I think I’m just being polite.
                  OK then, in lieu of a trivial exchange i’ll reduce it for you.
                  No my nephew is not a hunter;
                  No he is not of “white European decent” (Rhetorical question is that really relevant to you?, really?)

                  As for the Lakota Nation.
                  No I didn’t ask you to rattle off a novel title, I was just curious if you knew anything interesting about the Lakotas as I’m supporting the efforts of a friend making a documentary about an Oglala Lakota medicine man, Sidney Has No Horses.


                  1. craazyman

                    what does he need horses for if he’s medicine man? doesn’t he have a car? or does he walk everywhere.

                    And somebody’s nephew can’t be of European descent at this point because you can’t fall from Europe to the U.S. unless you’re thousands of miles up in space. If they were of American descent it would make sense. They could be born on a mountain and come down and live in town.

                    You guys are both talking nonsense. Why do I even waste my time typing at either of you. It makes no sense, to me anyway.

                    If a beast were running at me i’d open fire like a machine gunner. i don’t care how cute it is. So would a Sioux Indian. Just cause they’re an Indian doesn’t mean their drunk or stupid. They’d open fire too. Or they’d use a bow and arrow. Or a spear with feathers. Me, personally, I’d use the gun.

    1. Ben Johannson

      I was most shocked that people take time to photo themselves with a dying pup and/or use it as a prop for kid pics. Many Americans have become as sociopathic as their squillionaire overlords, demonstrated by their lack of respect for another living thing.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        It’s always puzzling to me that a Western journalist can go into a famine stricken area and do a report about people dying and somehow he/she can escape it when done with reporting, and the locals continue to die where they are.

        Or a Western volunteer in the Third World and if a war or disease breaks out, he/she will be evacuated while the unfortunate natives try their best to stay alive.

        You look and wonder, aren’t they also living beings, if not exceptional?

        1. different clue

          If the Deciders decide that anyone who goes to report on famine or volunteer to do something helpful against it should have to stay there, starve and die, then people will quite rationally stop going there to report and stop going there to volunteer.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            It’s more about the people left behind than the reporter, who is mentioned here to contrast.

            Why can’t we get more than just the reporter out?

      2. diptherio

        It’s monkey-see-monkey-do: the elites all act like heartless sociopaths, so if you want to be an elite (and really, who doesn’t?) you’ll do the same. I’ve heard that torturing animals increases a child’s chance of growing up to become a CEO by 200%!

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Or getting good grades early on and being identified as ‘superior’ by teachers, parents and others.

          That doesn’t make them more likely future CEOs, but it does put an invisible wall between them and other kids.

    2. Synapsid

      Hi rjs.

      I just replied to your second point yesterday.

      The whole thing is an interesting ball of wax right now, isn’t it?

    3. bruno marr

      Well, as the headline intimated, it’s both environmental conditions and overfishing. When the environmental conditions (warmer waters) diminish fish stocks, any commercial fishing is overfishing. The collapse of the sea lion population may be a preview of what to expect for Homo sapiens.

    4. tyaresun

      Global warming has been given as a cause many times. The mothers have to go farther in search of food, the pups become impatient and go out into the sea on their own, and end up on seashores of Southern California.

      And yes, I have seen many folks taking selfies with these starving pups. I think they don’t know that these pups are starving and abandoned.

      1. optimader

        Im guessing your probably right, more ignorant than craven. Don’t know what they’re looking at,

  1. milesc

    Re Exclusive: IBM looking at adopting bitcoin technology for major currencies — presumably, IBM has in mind a centralised network of trusted verifiers; blacklists, whitelists and transaction tracking, all using a permanent, public record that can be analysed in real-time, may in fact be more effective than existing measures (which rely very heavily on reporting). Stability and security might be an issue — there is a reason Bitcoin was designed as a distributed system.

    1. Inverness

      Absolutely. There is a sinister side to the glorification and objectification of cute, exotic animals. While perhaps less serious, I’m also troubled by these cat cafés popping up in North American cities. Cats are moody creatures that do not necessarily want to socialize with ogling humans.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Profiting from suffering.

      Without suffering, there are no saviors.

      If the focus is on saviors, there will always be suffering, like the last few thousand years. It sets up a feature, rather than just a bug, in the system to perpetuate suffering, even with the most-noble-intentioned idealists.

      Instead, if the focus is on suffering, we soon realize the contrast between help coming from within and without. The only way is to empower ourselves, and not to yearn for some omnipotent being or entity from some magical place. This is our only hope, in all spheres of our lives.

  2. Paul Tioxon

    I’m not sure most people, here included even know how to make a bitcoin. You have to solve a long involved equation, which uses a lot of computing power and electricity to run the computer non stop, to produce bitcoins. IBM, with its super-computers, can make more bitcoins than anyone, if it decided to place enough computational power in the service of bitcoin making. All of the other stuff, is secondary to actually being able to issue a currency in volume from your own globally scaled means of production.

    1. Llewelyn Moss

      You’d think after Mt Gox went bankrupt with 650,000 missing Bitcoins, people would have learned a lesson. “We’re sorry, your Bitcoins have been deleted. It’s a Bit of flustercluck. Have nice day.”

      I say we go back to a seashell currency system. I trust Mollusks to create money more than I trust IBM. Wampum rocks.

      1. milesc

        Mt Gox was a disaster for those involved, but important to remember the trading was all off-blockchain. It represents nothing more than growing pains (of which there have been many, and no doubt there are more). Fundamentally, people need to understand that Bitcoin transactions themselves, whilst secure, are irreversible. If you send your bitcoins to someone else, you have to trust them absolutely. Slowly but surely, services (exchanges and the like) are adapting — because users demand it. We are starting to see multi-signature addresses being used, bona fide insurance policies in place, and various proof of solvency schemes (at least one service lets you check in near real-time, which is incredible when you think about it — show me an FI or corporate that can even do this, not to mention we’re talking about > 100% reserve). Obviously still a long way to go before Grandma and Grandpa can safely using Bitcoin (although there are some very good, very secure wallets available — Airbitz on iOS and Android, for example).

    2. Maren

      You can’t actually “make” a bitcoin. The limit of 21 million bitcoins is hard-wired into the protocol – it’s true that someone with major processing power could technically mine more coins. But the more processing power poured into the mining the more dispersed the process becomes – and the longer it take for anyone to get one. It essentially flatlines until everyone is mining for the last 10 or so.
      Some more info on the controlled supply of bitcoin here:

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Why spend all the computational power for coins?

        Can we use it for something better?

        1. milesc

          There is an alternative crypto coin that attempts this — look up Folding Coin.

          It’s important to remember the reason so-called “miners” are encouraged to expend computational power “mining” bitcoins: it is that proof of work that enables the distributed system (i.e. all the nodes in the network) to determine which blockchain is the correct blockchain. “Miners” are effectively rewarded not only for verifying and processing transactions, but also securing the network against attack (since any attacker would have to work harder than the rest of the network). This is how Satoshi was able to solve (or address sufficiently) the Byzantine General’s problem.

      2. Paul Tioxon

        Okay wiki genius, if you can’t make a bitcoin, where do they come from. Duh, the answer is they are made. Ebay sells many products for the production of bitcoins and other e-currencies. They sell the equipment so you can make them!! The fact that there is not an infinite supply is irrelevant. You can have a finite supply of bitcoins, but as they increase in value, you would have a 1/100 or 1/1000 or 1/1,000,000,000,000,000,000 of a bit coin. The point remains, that for even a well organized IT expert, the costs for electricity for running the constantly running computers wipes out a lot of the value. IBM has massive computational power and scale. Why would they do it? Who cares? The news items announces their entry into bitcoins in some capacity, so they are doing it on their own for their own reasons. And as the manufacturer of super computing equipment, such as Deep Blue, they may see some advantage or interest. Certainly, a currency that is made by using computers to solve a complex equation puts IBM in a unique position, one that I see, but who knows what they really want to do with bitcoin? Maybe an empirical test to the theoretical limits of bitcoin for the Federal Reserve?

        1. susan the other

          IBM wants to insinuate itself into the upper level of banking, something like the BIS, and do those settlements quicker and with fewer employees. The fact that everyone “mines” their own bitcoins is just a distraction. It is done to imply that bitcoin is actually backed by some produced “value”. But it is not. It is merely backed by people who are digitally sophisticated, for now, unfortunately. Bitcoin is even more fiat than fiat. It is certainly more fiat than gold is fiat – and gold, like all things valued by humans, is nothing more than fiat. Bitcoin is just a way of demonstrating this basic fact and easing everyone into accepting digital money created as necessity demands. Which might be a good thing – but the whole PR crap surrounding it needs to be sanitized and scoured to the bone, either now or in the near future. Bitcoin as it is today is just a headfake.

          1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

            I think it’s a bit more nuanced than that. The banks were spitting mad when they learned that NSA had penetrated SWIFT, not just to snoop around, but they blocked a transfer to someone they didn’t like. And the “attack surface area” of their sprawling legacy processes means ever-rising fraud costs. So IBM wants a private version of Bitcoin for interbank transfers, definitely a club that operates like interbank forex (EBS), not for you and me to get better faster services at lower cost, but rather a way for them to take cost out of their internal processes. Would be fully-compliant with AML etc.

  3. mad as hell.

    Witness the final walk of a dog and know all you need to know of dignity in death… and life Independent (Chuck L)

    I was struck by the tenderness and the magestry of the black lab’s final walk. Then I was hit between the eyes with this line.

    “Destiny of faith” is not a term that enjoys much currency in our human world. Try saying it to the trivial-minded gasbags and laddish swindlers who govern us, who run down our institutions, fondle small boys, lie about what they know, think destiny is five thousand smackers a day and a motor yacht, and don’t know when it’s time to quit.

    1. sleepy

      I was touched by that article as well. I have a 17 yr. old cat, and I know that his time will come soon too.

      I was reminded of this, the last resting place for what was considered the oldest wild black bear in the US, who died of old age in northern Minnesota a couple of years ago at the age of 40:

      The world’s oldest-known wild bear has died of old age in northern Minnesota, quietly coming to her final resting place in a shady spot that a bear would find as a good place for a nap, a leading state researcher said Tuesday. Noyce said this is the first bear in the DNR’s study to die of old age. She estimates that the bear died sometime in July. “She was just lying in a wooded spot, next to a little bit of a low area, a shady area. It was a kind of place a bear would lay down and take a midday nap.”

    1. steviefinn

      A similar use of ‘ Our ‘ from those who wont be fighting it, as with Jim Haygood’s ‘ We ‘.

    2. neo-realist

      The author has been a bomb iranchik neo con going back awhile. Probably a slow newsday at the WA post.

  4. Brad

    Prototype Quadrator with Machine Gun You Tube (LR)
    This link is an ad for the Call of Duty games not a real piece of hardware, yet.

    1. craazyboy

      Yes, artful video deception. In cyberspace there is no gravity. But in reality that size quad can probably only lift a payload of maybe up to 3-4 lbs. The machine gun and 100 rounds of ammo would have to weigh that, otherwise no liftoff. Even if it were a real engineered plastic machine gun (instead of a cheap light plastic mockup he probably used), last I heard bullets are still lead, copper and powder.

      But I’m sure he’s getting airplay at Homeland Security.

  5. Katniss Everdeen

    RE: How Long Before Cash is Banned? Michael Shedlock

    I’m not as sure as Mish is that businesses request cash primarily so that they can evade high taxes. I like Mish, but sometimes his hatred for all things government gets in the way of rational analysis.

    Perhaps businesses request cash to “evade” the exorbitant fees credit card companies charge the merchants for the “privilege” of accepting their cards. The gal who cuts my hair recently requested cash for this very reason and she let all of her clients know. She’ll take a card for merchandise or service, but she adds the “fee” to the bill.

    So, the service or product is CHEAPER when paid for in cash. Interesting, albeit prehistoric, concept.

    If cash ever goes away, I’m sure the need to tax and control all transactions will be part, but not all of the reason.

    1. Ned Ludd

      Gas stations used to list two prices (decades ago) – one for cash and a more expensive price if you paid by credit card. Visa and MasterCard threatened to cut off these stores and any other merchants who passed along transaction fees to the customer.

      I don’t know if anything has changed, recently. There was some push back from the large retail giants, but I do not know what came of it.

      1. craazyboy

        My Arco gas station has two tier pricing and the automated pump even knows how to do it. If you feed it cash into the bill changer, you get the lower price. Credit card, the higher price.

        Not so at my Shell station that I go to when I want to use the coin op car wash. They have a talking gas pump that cheerfully tells me about the convenience store specials going on inside the store. It also has a sign informing me I can follow my gas pump on twitter, and for more in depth goings on, my gas pump has a Facebook page. I kid you not.

        1. diptherio

          Like, each individual gas pump has it’s own social media accounts? Wow. I’d have thought Arco would make them all share one account. I wonder what a gas pump tweets about?

          @pump3: can’t stand the way 2’s hose hangs all twisty, wish I could move to another island. #worksux

          @pump3: some d-bag just drove off w/out disconnecting, gave him a nasty look. Don’t think he noticed…#somepeople

          I dunno–something like that.

          1. craazyboy

            Actually, you made it sound more interesting than what it is. The dummies at the Shell station probably do only have one Twitter account and one Facebook account for the entire station – making Borg chatter about the convenience store specials and posting pics of candy bars.

            AI gas pumps posting sit com stuff – or even philosophical deliberations would be more interesting. Not to mention a new War of the Worlds hoax possibility – cyberspace version – where one gas pump reports on a space alien demanding to be taken to our leader – and the gas pump directs the space alien to the store cashier lady. As the space aliens approach more and more gas pumps around Earth, demanding to be taken to our leader, then are directed to the cashier lady at those gas stations, the space aliens finally conclude – much like they did in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that the dominant life form on Earth is the car – that the Earth is governed by Democracy!

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          The credit card merchant fees are ~3% for small merchants (like me when you guys use credit cards for the fundraiser). Gas station chains presumably get better rates but I don’t know how much better. So up to a point, this is incentivizing the customer to help the gas station save the merchant fees.

      2. diptherio

        Around the Seattle-Bellingham area about 8 years ago I was surprised to see “cash-only” gas stations that charged a few cents less per gallon, but only took the green stuff. Don’t know if they’re still around, but I would imagine so. IIRC, the stores didn’t take CC for any purchases at all, so maybe not much leverage from the card servicers.

        When I waited tables at a small, family-run joint (four of us on waitstaff), I made it a point of talking to our regular customers about the different fees for CC processing. I told everyone: we prefer cash; next best is debit card (lower fees, although no insurance for the customer); then a standard credit card. I asked a good many people to kindly save their “rewards” cards for use at some corporate behemoth, since the card companies pay for your rewards by charging the merchants a higher fee. Most people were pretty understanding.

        1. Wendy

          Good strategy. I actually like to pay cash at restaurants always, for multiple purposes: avoid card fees to the merchant; avoid tips being withheld by the restaurant from the server; and avoid data collection on my dining habits, which seem like something that could one day be used against me.

          I also use cash at liquor stores, mostly for the data reason.

          1. Ned Ludd

            I pay with cash at restaurants so my credit card never leaves my sight. Unfortunately, thanks to innovation, now “Credit Cards Can Be Read Through Clothes And Wallets”.

            RFID-enabled credit card data can be easily, cheaply, and undetectably stolen and used for fraudulent transactions. With a Vivotech RFID credit card reader she bought on eBay for $50, Paget wirelessly read a volunteer’s credit card onstage and obtained the card’s number and expiration date, along with the one-time CVV number used by contactless cards to authenticate payments. A second later, she used a $300 card-magnetizing tool to encode that data onto a blank card. And then, with a Square attachment for the iPhone that allows anyone to swipe a card and receive payments, she paid herself $15 of the volunteer’s money with the counterfeit card she’d just created.

            1. Gaianne


              Good catch!

              I am under the impression that fully enclosing the card in a metal box may be sufficient shielding–certainly it would help if the box could be grounded. But obviously, the wiser thing is never to get one in the first place.


      3. optimader

        “Visa and MasterCard threatened to cut off these stores and any other merchants who passed along transaction fees to the customer”
        I would be interested in seeing that go to court. My sense is the CC company would (should) be crushed.

        1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

          LOL “court” LOL, Visa is owned by 22,000 of the institutions that write our laws for us

        2. Ned Ludd

          Merchants agree to terms set by the credit card companies. I found a 1977 paper on “Retail Credit, Credit Cards and Price Discrimination” that mentions the “contractual prohibition of discounts to cash customers.”

          I also recall cash-only gas stations outside of Seattle, which diptherio mentioned. I have no idea if they are still around. At the time, avoiding credit cards altogether seemed to be the only way for merchants to avoid the credit card companies’ contractual stipulations.

        3. Vatch

          There was a lawsuit about this, and businesses are now allowed to impose a surcharge for using a credit card, or provide a discount for using cash in most U.S. states.

          Ten states have laws that limit or prevent credit card surcharges: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma and Texas. Many of these states make cash discounts legal, allowing customers to not only use their credit cards without a surcharge but to also save money by using cash.

          But I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t know the details.

          1. optimader

            Thanks Vatch, Ill read these this week. now allowed to impose a surcharge for using a credit card,
            makes sense, but not being allowed to offer a discount? Not sure how that could be illegal, assuming a retailer can give a product away or offer discounts for any other arbitrary reason? (Happy hour, 10% off Tuesday, etc)

      4. Carla

        Two-tier pricing is common at Ohio and California gas stations. Perhaps this is “regulated” by the states?

    2. lyman alpha blob

      There are a number of mom and pops in my area with signs at the cash register that they will not accept a card payment for purchases under $5. It’s not because they’re avoiding taxes – the transaction fees eat up any profit margin on tiny purchases like that. But because they’re not ruthless conglomerates they don’t necessarily enforce that policy all the time.

    3. GuyFawkesLives

      What your hairdresser knows is that all cash sales can be hidden from the tax man. She may have told you it was to by-pass the credit card fees, but seriously, talk to a plumber, an electrician, a mechanic…..and ask them what the price is for cash. They will all tell you the price is WITHOUT sales tax. I use cash all the time to save money for me and allow them to hide the transaction.

      1. optimader

        I use cash all the time to..and allow them to hide the transaction..
        That philosophy worked pretty well in Greece!.. oh.. wait..
        People that run their businesses legitimately or are mere employees are subsidizing those that cheat, how is that socially responsible?
        If everyone paid their taxes they might have a more sober perspective on how these monies are spent and who they elect to spend it?

        1. John Jones

          Do you imply that is the reason for Greece’s predicament? If there was zero tax evasion by small business in Greece something that does not exist in any country. Would they have no crisis?

      2. bob

        Thar’s for tax avoidance.

        Money laundering is also done by cash only businesses. That’s where instead of never putting the money into the register and not recording the sale, they put extra money (presumably illegal in origin) into the till. Fake sales. But, once the money is “taxed” at the register, its clean. A pizza shop throws a few extra hundred in the till at night and claims they sold 10 more pizzas than they did. It bumps sales, and profits, which are then “clean”.

        Tax avoidance and money laundering are almost opposite. The benefits of cash are much more about money laundering than tax avoidance, from the view of the business owner. From the view of a server, it’s all about tax avoidance.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          There are businesses in NYC that are clearly money laundering operations. No way can they pay their rents. One type is stores that sell cheap jewelry. I’ve never seen any that have customers in them. And they are almost always in pretty high traffic locations.

          1. Ned Ludd

            I once stopped by an independent car wash. There were five guys working, and they all seemed surprised when I asked for a car wash.

            One guy searched around in their car wash bay (which was packed and being used for storage) to see if he could find any buckets or a hose. I suggested maybe skipping the car wash, but he was insistent. He found rags and a bucket, and he covered my car in soapy water. But he couldn’t find a hose, so he wasn’t able to rinse it off.

            I paid and thanked him and was so glad to leave! This was the 1990’s, and the office walls were lined with pagers for sale. I figured they might be selling something besides car washes (and in addition to the pagers). It did not occur to me that they might be laundering money, though they clearly were not cleaning cars for a living.

            1. bob

              That was the breaking bad scheme, although they still operated the car wash.

              That show did a great job of demonstrating how it can be done. Using the chicken joint chain to distribute the meth, and probably to launder the money.

              The “laundering” can also happen though high rent. Buy the building with one LLC, operate the chicken joint under another LLC, and make sure the chicken joint pays high rent. The building owners llc ends up with the “legal” money. Both the owner of the chicken joint LLC and the Building LLC can be the same person, or not.

              In breaking bad, the villian had an entire supply chain. He could over-invoice the store from his chicken supply LLC, and make the money come clean out of that, or any other number of companies under his control.

              The IRS doesn’t get too picky about a business that pays too much in taxes. They do look, but not too hard.

              1. Ned Ludd

                At least Walt knew how to wash a car!

                At the time, I thought the car wash that I encountered was just an excuse to have a lot of phone lines and pagers to conduct their actual business. I didn’t understand the particulars of money laundering, until I saw Breaking Bad.

                Years later, I was relieved to visit my old neighborhood and see that the “Cᴀʀ Wᴀsʜ & Pᴀgᴇʀs!” store was gone. It was close to where I had lived, and I became a bit more anxious around it (especially when walking or on bicycle),

          2. trinity river

            Please make this explicit for me. Exactly how does the money laundering work. Does the hair dresser/other cash business process their checks through the “junk jewelry” store by charging a percentage? I have noticed over the years that cash business owners have arrangements with the car dealer, and invest in gold, real estate and collectibles.

            1. bob

              Money laundering is defined as disguising the source of income.

              Say you made a few million selling crack. You go out, buy a few burger joints and add a few thousand of that ill-gotten money into the till of the burger joint every day. Instead of “crack” profits, you turn it into burger profits.

              Lottery tickets are also another way to do it these days. They pay out about 50% of the value in. You go out, but a bunch of lottery tickets and claim your winnings, never mentining that you spent twice your winnings on the tickets themselves. It’s now “legal”, winnings.

              Lottery tickets have a long history of being used this way. Mobsters have a history of paying 70-80% of the value, in cash, not reported to anyone, if you have a winning ticket. They take the ticket down to the state office and get a check from the state. This allows the real “winner” to not get taxed on his winnings, and the mob to get nice clean, legal cash from the state.

              In short, the way you “launder” money is to get it taxed. Put it into a legal business, and pay taxes on it.

              With tax evasion, it’s the opposite.

            2. Ned Ludd

              I think you are mixing two different things:

              1) Some small business owners – plumbers, landscapers, hairdressers, etc. – often get paid in cash. Some under-report their income to lower their income tax.

              2) Some small business owners sell illegal drugs and cannot report their income to the government without getting arrested. They also cannot deposit this money into a bank without getting reported.

              Hence, they create a legitimate business (a coffee shop, a jewelry shop, a nail salon, etc) and stick the illegal income from their drug business into the till of their legitimate business. They have to pay more in taxes, but now the income looks legitimate.

              1. Yves Smith Post author

                My point was that there are businesses that exist for the sole purpose of laundering money for third parties. Hence the jewelry stores (and another is pizza joints that aren’t doing remotely enough business for their location, as in they can’t be making enough to pay the rent).

                1. bob

                  They can also end up operating at a loss (before the laundered money comes in), and are effectively paying people to buy pizza.

                  That’s not good for the guy down the block trying to sell pizza. He might actually want to make money selling pizza.

                2. Ned Ludd

                  Your observation is causing all sorts of bells to go off for me. There is a run-down restaurant that I occasionally pass, located on a main suburban arterial that is lined with popular restaurants and other commercial activity.

                  This restaurant never has any cars in the parking lot, for either lunch or dinner; but the “OPEN” sign continues to glow in the window. The food is awful, and they act perturbed if you stop by and try to order something.

                  Every year I wonder why it hasn’t closed yet…

                3. trinity river

                  Yves, does the hairdresser pay the jeweler a percentage to cash the checks that s/he can’t put into their own checking account. IOW, how does the hairdresser cash the checks that can’t be put into an account.

                  The small cash businesses I am thinking about are not running a separate business since they don’t have time or energy or inclination. I have seen a dry cleaning owner pull out $150,000-$500,000/yr out of a small shop, then claim $12,000 on his taxes. Yet he is spending too many hours right there in the shop to be able to run another operation.

                  If the cash business person has a small acct with the bank, it doesn’t seem likely that the bank would cash $100,000 or more in small checks for the person.

                  1. bob

                    “I have seen a dry cleaning owner pull out $150,000-$500,000/yr out of a small shop, then claim $12,000 on his taxes”

                    That sounds like tax avoidance. He is under-reporting revenue so that he doesn’t have to pay income tax on it.

                    When you do that, you have trouble spending the money. It’s undeclared income, just like the drug dealer. You can’t deposit that much cash into an account at a bank without a lot of questions.

                    You end up with lots of cash to secure/hide. You can’t open a bank account without lots of questions on where all the cash came from.

                    Most people with too much cash end up 1) laundering it, so that they can put it in a bank or investment account. or 2) buying high value goods in private party sales, and securing them in their house or a safe deposit box.

                  2. Ned Ludd

                    If Katniss’ hairdresser is evading taxes, then she is not money laundering, She is doing the opposite of money laundering. She is taking legitimate business income and making it “dirty” by not reporting it.

                    It sounds like the dry cleaning owner may be doing the same thing.

          3. bob

            Yeah, the whole rock, or pardon, semi-precious stone, world is made for money laundering. Hard to value, and largely a cash business. The original JPM had a huge “gem” collection that he “donated” to the NY museum of natural history. I bet he got to set the price on the stones, and the tax writeoff. He was also able to take a ton of rocks off the market, effectively forever.

            Any that he still held onto went up in value considerably. Win-Win-Win.

    4. shinola

      FWIW, I was employed by the KC Fed (telecom analyst) in the late 70’s – early 80’s. During new employee orientation where the Fed’s basic structure & functions were explained to us, the VP of our dept. flatly stated it was one of the Fed’s goals to eliminate cash by 2020. The reason given at that time was to reduce/eliminate the billion$ in daily “float”, unprocessed checks & yet-to-be reported (or unreported) cash transactions. This, of course, would be done in the name of improving accuracy & efficiency.

      With the vast increase in computing power & the advent of the interwebs over the last few decades, this goal appears to be within reach. Not only can the float be nearly eliminated, but every monetary transaction could be tracked in real or near-real time; not just amounts & flows but in minute detail such as who, where, when & what payments were made for.

      Just something to keep in mind when you use your debit card.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        I refuse to use a debit card or even carry one because my bank does not offer ones that are PIN protected. No way am I carrying a card where if someone steals my wallet, they can drain my bank account (my bank has given me an ATM card which I can use only at ATMs, and not for purchases, instead). With credit cards, your loss exposure is capped at $50 a card (and in practice, I’ve never paid a dime). And I have read of cases where debit cards have been used to steal from bank accounts, and the banks take the position that this is not their problem.

        1. neo-realist

          From personal experience—working in a bank and having a fraudulent purchase made on my card—if you report the theft within a reasonable amount of time and the bank investigates it, you can get your money back upon conclusion of the investigation. If the amount is relatively small, you can get your money back very quickly. They don’t want to lose accounts, so they will follow up the fraud if you report it.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            I have read credible reports (forget what site, but at least Consumerist-level) that say the reverse, people losing $1000 to $3000 and the bank saying, basically, “Too bad”.

            And was your case a debit card? Credit cards, as I stressed, are completely different. They are subject to Visa/Mastercard merchant rules, and those are consistent, max $50 a card. How debit card losses are handled are up to the bank.

            If it was a mere “fraudulent purchase” the card was presumably still in your possession so no one had actually swiped it. I am talking about someone getting your card via loss or theft of your wallet. If someone has your card, you can’t readily prove you did not make the purchase, and the bank’s attitude is “screw you” Even if you try going to a police station once you are aware of a theft to make a police report, that’s usually at least a half an hour after it happened. I once had a credit card stolen where someone made $1500 worth of purchases within 15 minutes of getting the card.

            1. MartyH

              Gang, I have had my Debit Card compromised at least twice. In both cases, the bank (Well Fargo) reinstated my balances and gave me zero lip about it.

              It probably helps that I opened the corporate account with them. (Duh). <wink> Not that we carry that big a balance.

            2. Ned Ludd

              My parents considered getting a debit card from a local bank. If they lost the card, they would have to report the loss within 24 hours, or else they would be liable for withdrawals. This would protect them in a situation like yours, but they still felt it left them too vulnerable.

            3. Carla

              I’m with Yves on this. I’ve never had a debit card and see no reason to ever get one. Pay the credit card off every month, and what’s the difference? Other than much less risk for ME.

      2. bob

        A lot of that “float” ended up as equity. I’ve always thought that, especially the 1990’s stock boom, was Foutune 500 companies finally linking their accounting systems close enough so that they could claim what used to be “float” as equity.

    5. SoCal Rhino

      My marketing prof led a study that led to gas chain offering cash only but at a lower price to drive foot traffic to their convenience store, their actual profit generator. Was a large chain, I think it was Arco. Offered this as example that anything can be de-commodified if you pay attention to your clients and let that drive a differentiated service. in no way tax avoidance, the stores took credit cards.

    6. different clue

      If any government shows signs of moving to ban cash, lots of people within that government’s jurisdiction will start hoarding as much cash as possible to prepare for the coming cash-based black markets.

  6. Jim Haygood

    James Fallows’ shadow boxing with Joshua Muravchik over his ‘War with Iran is probably our best option’ editorial is one of those ‘only in America’ phenomena, where one has to pretend not so see the blindingly obvious.

    Muravchik is a prominent neocon affiliated with Winep, an Israeli front group. His editorial interlocks with AIPAC’s annual conference earlier this month, which has been advocating an attack on Iran for 15 years now. It follows Netanyahu’s address to Congress, which advocated the same thing.

    But Fallows is obliged to pretend that he’s just debating with another concerned American over what’s best for America. The most noxious part of Muravchik’s essay is not his advocacy of another useless war; it’s his cozy use of ‘we’ in ‘we can strike as often as necessary.’ What is this ‘we’ shit, from somebody working for foreign country?

    1. Cynthia

      These war hawks should invest their own children into these wars; these wars create more and more so-called terrorists to face in the future. Maybe Israel should fight their own wars as well, seeing as how all these enemies of theirs are supposedly ours.

  7. Ned Ludd

    Syriza’s General Secretary endorsed Yanis Varoufakis’ statement that: “we suspend or we delay the implementation of our [election] promises…”

    I remember Obama supporters telling people to wait & wait & wait for him to deliver on his progressive campaign promises. Later, they shifted tactics and recast his neoliberal policies (like the ACA) as monumental progressive accomplishments.

    Luckily for Syriza, the left loves to be taken for a ride on the hope & change bus.

    We continue to hope…and will continue to work towards ensuring… these very basic promises we’ve made…”

    1. John Merryman

      While I long ago understood people like Obama and the Clintons were fake populists all along, I do think that in some instances there is a much deeper physical dynamic at work here and people like Varoufakis’ are the equivalent of political short sellers who don’t really appreciate the power of those they are confronting and get caught in the equivalent of a short squeeze and are forced to buy into what they thought was wrong.

      On a physical level, there is a convective cycle of expanding energy and contracting form, which is elemental. Energy pushes out and form is the shape resulting from it peaking. Think of social energy as expansion and civic form as consolidation and the extent to which these define the original meaning of liberal and conservative.
      As the feedback loops magnify this process, it reaches the stage in which nothing can escape that gravitational vortex and you just have to wait until it goes supernova. Given the various political, international, environmental, economic waves building, we are getting to that point and its difficult to really do much beyond the obvious and immediate helping of those around you, than sit back and watch.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        I have the distinction of being the one amongst my peers who realized it first, how I do remember the excitement of that election, Oh the Promise! Oh the Change! But they day I saw he had put Timmy Geithner in at Treasury, the guy who was asleep at the switch at the NY Fed, I already knew the fix was in, and told everybody so. I was excoriated at the time

        1. optimader

          Timmy Geithner in at Treasury, the guy who was asleep at the switch at the NY Fed, I already knew the fix was in
          Yep that was the Rubicon, hell TG couldn’t even do his personal income taxes on the level. THEN when busted, as I recall he hid behind statutory limits on the clawback.

    2. John Merryman

      While I long ago understood people like Obama and the Clintons were fake populists all along, I do think that in some instances there is a much deeper physical dynamic at work here and people like Varoufakis’ are the equivalent of political short sellers who don’t really appreciate the power of those they are confronting and get caught in the equivalent of a short squeeze and are forced to buy into what they thought was wrong.

      On a physical level, there is a convective cycle of expanding energy and contracting form, which is elemental. Energy pushes out and form is the shape resulting from it peaking. Think of social energy as expansion and civic form as consolidation and the extent to which these define the original meaning of liberal and conservative.
      As the feedback loops magnify this process, it reaches the stage in which nothing can escape that gravitational vortex and you just have to wait until it goes supernova. Given the various political, international, environmental, economic waves building, we are getting to that point and its difficult to really do much beyond the obvious and immediate helping of those around you, than sit back and watch.

      This hit the duplicate wall, so trying a repost…

    3. generic

      How is that anything new? Why do you think 40% of Syrizia opposed the agreement?

      I still consider comparisons with Obama or Blair to be highly misplaced. The ECB is holding a gun to their head and while they have been giving ground they haven’t capitulated yet. From the other link

      An ECB official told Kathimerini that Greece’s funding difficulties will only last until August, which means the pressure on the government to carry out reforms must be exercised now.

      So if they can survive until then more options will open up again. Compare that to the Obama time table that had “once the Republicans find their inner socialist” as a date for all the good things.

  8. Torsten

    in re utilities put squeeze on solar-roof industry , a consortium of strange bedfellows, including conservative Christians, tea-party libertarians, assorted greens, and Florida’s stunted solar industry have launched a ballot initiative for a constitutional amendment to de-monopolize electric power generation, intending an end-run around the state’s four power companies and the state’s captured regulatory commission. Under the initiative, “persons” (in the legal sense of the term) will be allowed to sell electricity (think solar and wind) to adjacent “persons”.

    It will be interesting to watch this unfold. Last November Gov. Scott had to paint himself green all over to defeat Charlie Crist while Florida voters approved a similarly “green” Amendment 1 that attempts to force the governor and Florida’s neanderthal legislature to spend ~ $700 million per annum on water conservation projects.

    1. alex morfesis

      gov dred scott captured by special interests…even him…(snarkistani)

      but…follow the money on that “green” initiative…buying scrub land from large developers who could never sell nor build on it due to swiftmud regs is not conservation…its called the election card cash back plan with no blackout dates…and transfers the requirement to keep the property secure to the state while keeping the good buildable land in the hands of the development and having taxpayers subsidize “green space” in the middle of a development…follow the money

    2. bob

      Solar set-ups these days are much more about the paper. The company who “sells” you the equipment actually finances it. They make their money off the financing. More loans being bought and sold, completely secured by solar equipment stuck to a house roof.

      Car sales model with a different product.

      1. trinity river

        Scary, bob. So how does the guarantee that your rooftop solar system will be maintained for 20 years. Has the installer/finance company bought insurance from AIG?

      2. Jeremy Grimm

        I noticed the prominence of the financing literature and what to me seemed like relatively high costs for solar. Your comment confirms my vague suspicions about something smelling a little fishy about the solar industry.

        Just out of curiosity — how well do solar installations stand up against hail? Isn’t a higher incidence of large hail one of the expected changes in future weather? When I lived in Texas in the 1980’s I saw a few cars that looked as if someone had gone over them with the rounded end of a ball-peen hammer.

  9. kj1313

    One of the comments on WP’S article said it best, they would never have an op ed in favor of killing redheads but that makes as much sense as this opinion piece.

  10. ChuckO

    The YouTube video of the quadcopter with a machine gun would seem to be a promotional video for the game Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, and as such, fake. Note the tee shirt worn by the guy in the video. It has the word “Tacitus” on the front. That’s the name of a weapons company in the game. Also notice the phony Russian accent used by the actor, and at the end, the actor says that the drone will be in the game. It wouldn’t surprise me if the DoD is working on such a weapon, but this particular video isn’t a demonstration of it.

  11. jgordon

    In Historic Turn, CO2 Emissions Flatline in 2014, Even as Global Economy Grows

    The producers of the above theory are the same sort of geniuses who can’t figure out why retail sales are collapsing despite the economic numbers looking so hot. It’s all highly dependent on what the definition of “is” is, or in this case “growth”. The Archdruid has a magnificent post elucidating the nonsensical absurdity of such abstractions this week here.

    Incidentally certain mushroom species have a way of turning off the abstraction layer that separates the physical reality of our world from our subjective perception of it. Probably economists would find their cognitive functions particular enhanced by investing this facet of certain mushroom species, and thus shed the plethora of fallacious abstractions that perniciously distort their thinking as well as make them total bummers to be around.

  12. Jef

    About the 3D printing BS. Compounding has been automated for decades there is nothing extraordinary about it.

    Again the implication is that 3D printers can “create” something out of nothing. 3D printers are just a machine that takes what ever ingredients you put in them and puts them together very carefully and accurately.

    I could design a 3D printer that prints gold coins and get rich right? Just imagine how much those toner cartridges would cost though.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      We tend to be too delusional with each new discovery…reminds one of the quackery involving radioactive substances…or the Tulip mania…or Bayer marketing Heroin in the 19th century as a legal drug when it was first synthesized…the Internal Combustion Engine…suburban sprawl. DDT…the Green Revolution….antibiotic wonder drugs…GM foods…the smartphone..bitcoins….etc..

      1. optimader

        I wonder if it is theoretically possible to print A 3D machine with one? Self-replication.
        If it were possible to reduce reproduction time? Evolution

    2. hunkerdown

      The media industry actually used 3-D printing as a scare tactic, because, get this, what if people could print their own replacement plastics for their gadgets ZOMG Holy lost rental stream Batman!

      Fascinating bit from this article: “In the third situation, the basis for its holding, the [Federal 3rd Circuit] court stated that replacing a series of spent parts to enable a patented object to carry out any function different from the original intended use is considered permissible repair.” Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. v. R & D Tool & Engineering Co., 291 F.3d at 786. No wonder the USA wants these “fwee twade” pacts so badly — any resolution consistent with present patent law and jurisprudence will simply have to favor the consumer at least sometimes!

  13. Zap frazz

    In its How-to, The Atlantic shows you how to circumscribe discourse, how to think and think and say, hmmm, and stop there so you don’t get into trouble.

    Glavlit specialist Matt Ford tells you it’s all driven by “the constant search for a humane means of taking a human life,” which evidently, is running out of steam independently of any outside force, due to certain techical feasibility issues related to eyeballs popping out of heads and people tortured to death. Lots of hand-wringing, then Ford gets to the problem: state executioners “run the risk that the death penalty itself will be seen [as backward and flawed].”

    What’s he doing here? He’s trying to make delegitimation of the death penalty into a spontaneous phenomenon. He mentions Europe’s poison embargo in passing, but not what’s behind it. He doesn’t dare mention one particular thing: The Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR. All last year, treaty bodies and special procedures have been gonging on the USG to join the civilized world. All the damning evidence amassed will climax in direct peer pressure by Charter Bodies this spring.

    Now, the USG doesn’t give a shit who or how it kills. The USG does not give a shit what Americans think. But they are very sensitive to being seen by the international community as a savage bunch of ugga-bugga cavemen. The USG is going to abolish the death penalty. But they are going to make absolutely sure that the public doesn’t know about the external pressure to do so.

    The perception of absolute state autonomy is vital to US totalitarianism. Accordingly, the outside world’s moral and legal code is the public’s best weapon against this regime.

  14. HBE

    I am quite perturbed (had to share), I was just reading yesterdays postings, my Cell Phone (Sony experia z3) was sitting near me on the desk no browsers were open or any programs and it was in the idle mode. Suddenly I hear a mans voice (in a mildly excited tone) come from it, he says “that’s very interesting” and nothing else. WTH was that? I cant find any info on what this could be anywhere.

    1. craazyman

      If it happens again, be sure to ask him what he’s talking about. Maybe it is!

      Several years ago I was driving my car and heard an electronic “beep” every 45 seconds or so. No idea what is was. It started to freak me out a little, since these can be a symptom of harassment from disembodied spirits.

      I parked the car in the driveway and turned off the engine. Then it beeped again. That freaked me out. So I got out of the car andl went in the house. THEN IT BEEPED AGAIN!! I started panicking. It beeped every 45 seconds for about 5 minutes and I thought about going to the emergency room and telling them “I think I’m being attacked by demons”. I knew what they’d probably do, so I decided not to do that and wait it out. So I went dowstairs and layed down in a bedroom. I was in a state of extreme anxiety since I had no idea how to fight back. All I could think of was “so this is how people lose their minds. this is really really fast.”

      Somehow, downstairs, the beeping stopped. Man I was relieved. Oh man. To this day I have no idea what it was.– although in hindsight I wonder if it was my cell phone’s low batttery warning. For some reason that didn’t occurr to me. I don’t eve remember if I had it in my pocket. I’m just glad it wasn’t a smart phone that started talking to me.

      It could be an advertisement of some kind. I’ve noticed I’ll be reading away on my laptop and the computer beeps and then I notice a little news flash pops up on the screen with some utterly inane headline announcemet. I have no idea how to turn it off or how it ever got turned on.

      1. craazyboy

        Holy Anxiety craazyman! That sounds terrible. They have those female smartphone voices too – so no way to tell if it’s a dangerous disembodied female spirit stalking you and your $1000 shoes, or just your smartphone trying to sell you something. (shoes? – Google is on to you).

        Shit. What if Google sells your data to disembodied female spirits?

        If I were you, I’d toss the smartphone and the $1000 shoes in a dumpster – probably at least few blocks away from where I lived.

        1. craazyman

          It was even worse than the first one. The first one, I was downstairs in that same bedroom reading a book about demons. It scared me out of my mind. I’d try to sleep and just lay there in the dark. If I turned to one side, I thought for sure they’d materialize on the other side and stare at me. So I’d roll over, but of course they’d just change sides. If one of them had grabbed me by the foot I would have jumped 3 feet off the bed. Then I’d say “Fucck it” and turn on the light and read more. I might as well finish the book, I thought, since I was already too scared to sleep.

          Then, about midnight, out the window (it was summer) I heard this animal barking noise, loud as hell, way louder than a dog, go “whaaaannkkkkkk” “whaaaaaannk”. It did this every 15 or 20 seconds. This is suburbia, with a few patches of woods. So you don’t expect stuff like that. I though, “Oh man, they must have penetrated my consciousness, sensing my thoughts intruding into their realm and they’re trying to scare me now”. They were succeeding. Then it kept getting closer. whaaaaaak, wahhaaaaank, I kid you not. I’m not making this up. I came into the yard of the house! I was downstairs, terrified. Then I looked up at the window, about ground level, I was down below ground level. and I saw a big brown thing stand there for a few seconds. Holy F8ukking Shlt!! I kid you not, this happened. Then it went away. Oh man, I don’t know how John Keel did it. I really don’t. He must have been totally nuts. (OK, it was probably a deer but the timing was suspicious to say the least. it may have been a deer taken over by the demons, just to mess with me and laugh at me. I hope they thought it was funny).

          $1000 shoes would solve all these problems. They won’t mess with a dude who wears $1000 shoes. I’d just be sure to keep the shoes out in the room, on display, sort of like a copy of The Bible — just to let them know who they’re messing with.

          1. craazyboy

            I guess demons are different from disembodied female spirits – even if they do make loud wanker noises. (deers don’t. They hardly make any noise at all) Usually they have really big feet, so $1000 human shoes would look like instruments of torture to them. Maybe they might decide to find an easier mark somewhere else.

            Yeah, John Keel has been through a lot. Anyone that has seen UFOs, yeti and the Mothman has got to need a constant IV drip of some powerful seditives. But at least he’s still a guy – they haven’t taken over his mind yet.

            1. craazyman

              actually, he may not be a guy anymore. He was last seen in human form in July 2009. Maybe he’s busy now comparing notes with John Mack or Charles Forte.

        2. jonboinAR

          Just break down, go ahead and date your smart phone, and be done with it. I’ll bet it’s real good at talking dirty (not that I’ve tried it, mind you. I just watched the movie with the impossibly sexy SJ’s voice). If you start now, with any luck it will be several years before it (he, she?) gets smart enough to cheat on you (not that I’m taking my own advice, mind you).

  15. wbgonne

    That’s a fine essay you linked to. We are living in a fantasy world where our fantasies are colliding with external reality at an accelerating rate. Either we awaken quickly or we will destroy ourselves in service to our fantasies.

    1. jgordon

      All I can think of is that I still can’t believe I make weird typos, and can’t even notice them when I reread my stuff. But anyway the Archdruid is always worth reading! On par with Masanobu Fukuoka (with the added bonus of still being alive and prolific), he provides unique insights about the nature of society at least once a week. I used to be a techno-utopian, singularity type, but thanks in part to the Archdruid I realized the absurdity–and more importantly the religious nature–of such beliefs.

  16. Mel

    “Getting It Wrong on Trade: TPP Is Not Good for Workers”

    Somebody in another forum commented that it was very unlikely that VietNam, say, could afford to pursue an effective suit through the ISDS. This article shows that that’s totally beside the point. It won’t be VietNam launching the suit. It will be an investor — a transnational corporation. The US and its states and municiplities will start losing ISDS suits the year after the ISDS becomes more cost-effective than lobbying.

  17. craazyboy

    “The rise of luxury toilet paper”

    “A roll of luxury toilet paper is stamped with gold in Germany. ”

    hahahaha. I guess gold bugs win this round. Upper middle class toilet paper would be a roll of Euros then?

    1. cnchal

      American luxury toilet paper is softer, thicker and gold-free.

      The jokes write themselves, especially an hour after ingesting jgordon’s suggested meal for economists.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      It simply shows that there is enough money in the world already.

      The simple problem is it is too concentrated in a small group of people.

      1. craazyboy

        The way to do “trickle down economics” in Germany is to get a job at the waste treatment plant and pan for gold!

  18. Jess

    Interested to see what Richard Smith has to say about the Intercept article over New Zealand going after anti-corruption campaigners using the NSA.

  19. jrs

    The problem with luxury toilet paper is it’s almost never made with recycled paper (recycled toilet paper is not made from previously used *toilet* paper, but from other types of paper).

    So it seems pretty wasteful compared to ordinary toilet paper that is. And what is the effect on all whatever chemicals are used to scent toilet paper on the oceans and waterways? Or are consumers stupid idiots who can’t tell their ass from scented toilet paper? But it’s groath, groath is good!

    “”Even in a down market, people want a little bit of luxury,” Blah, blah marketing speak. But I’m sorry in what world is that insanity luxury. Not that I want to speculate on the conditions that would require softer toilet paper. Massive hemorrhoids? Uh I just don’t want to know … just don’t’ want to know …

    1. Fíréan

      “The problem with . . .”
      Get a bidet and WASH your dirty ass, soap and water, it’s the cleanest and most hygienic. Ordinary paper does not remove all the residue, it is only an illusion ( allusion ?) of luxury.

  20. hunkerdown


    GET /bitcoin_ledger/_changes?since=xxx&feed=continuous&style=all_docs&heartbeat=30000 HTTP/1.1
    Authorization: Bearer aW0gaW4gdXIgYmFzZSBsZWVjaGluZyB1ciBzZWtyaXR6Cg==

    HTTP/1.1 200 OK
    Date: Fri, 13 Mar 2015 21:20:03 GMT
    Transfer-Encoding: chunked

    *push*… that was easy!

    An ex-IBMer by the name of Damien Katz designed a distributed database system (CouchDB, for “cluster of unreliable commodity hardware”) with a simple, powerful, well-specified replication protocol and map-reduce indexing. IBM recently bought a company that developed this system into a proprietary cloud offering. Interestingly, a founding engineer from another company that had built a business on this system (Couchbase) recently presented his work on mobile cryptocurrency with the avant-garde twist of reputation-based valuation. It sounds to me a bit more like identity politics gone full charm bracelet than social capital of “Whuffie”, but I’m sure valuation’s just a policy matter mostly independent of mechanism.

    I mean, the NSA got their “in” into everything. Why shouldn’t Treasury get a bob at the apple too? It’s only Faaaair. Throwing a few anonymous tips to the IRS on leftist agitators now and again is just icing on the cake — no idea why they seem to have so much more tax trouble than God-fearing authoritarians. They must just be the Wrong Kind of People. And how about FBI? It’s becoming hard to find partners in fake plots these days so we gotta pry harder to find better dupes. DHS? We gotta keep a copy of everyone’s receipts in case they buy a pressure cooker whose serial number was found in the wrong place at the wrong time, oh the FBI veoted that one, how about just hydrogen peroxide then? Alright. And HHS wanted that list of Obamacare refuseniks to help out with rusty nail disposal and black mold spraying? Great. EPA, what did they want, oh they’re not gonna be around for much longer, who cares. Lung cancer, all very regrettable. Aaaanyway. Forestry? BLM? Census, you want any of this? Alright, great, let’s get started!

  21. different clue

    About electric utilities trying to puni-charge people right out of installing solar, I hope the legal and political countermeasures can work. But if they don’t, is there a way to sue the utilities over the aMOUNT of the “grid maintainance charge”? Because if you were on their grid in that $50-month grid punicharge for solar users jurisdiction and you used $49 worth of grid electricity, they wouldn’t bill you an extra $50 to maintain the grid. So perhaps they can be lawsuited into saying what your real pro-rated part of the grid maintainance cost really is?
    (I am on the utiligrid and one month I used so little electricity I fell below their minimum “electro-billability” level. So they had to charge me a “grid maintainance charge”. That came to about $10 or whatever it was. It sure wasn’t any $50).
    If nothing legal or political works, would some utilities punicharge less than $50/month? How much less would it have to be to where the homedweller could afford to put in solar and pay the punicharge just to make a statement? And by the way, it wouldn’t JUST be making a statement, because any electricurrent solar-generated would mean coal/gas/uranium not bought and paid for by the utility. So paying punicharge money to the utility might be a price worth paying to withHOLD your money FROM the very upstreamest first sellers of the raw fuel (coal/gas/oil/uranium).
    The Kochs haven’t completely thought this through. They sell oil/gas/coal to utilities who sell power to you.
    If you are not actually USing the Koch-fueled current that the utility offers, then the utility is not sending any of your bill-money to the Kochs. Unless the Kochs can demand and get a percent of the punicharge anti-solar fee.
    Under these present laws, can the utility punicharge you if you have a mini-solar system which charges batteries and/or special parallel-wired-up electro facilities within the house? If they can’t, then you could go 50% solar and feed all the solar into your own uses or batteries and none of it back into the utiligrid, and the punicharges would not be triggered.

    As to that nasty NY restaurant RICO suing those workers for effectively demanding more money ( or in some cases their own wage-thefted money) and better conditions, would anyone be willing to fund and support those targeted workers in counter-counter suing the restaurant right back? A good lawyer could think of something to counter-counter sue for if there was anything at all. And if the workers end up losing this battle of the lawsuits, do they have enough exposure and sympathy to be able to call for and get a successful extermicott against the restaurant in question? ( An “extermicott” is a “boycott” designed to exterminate the target from existence and wipe it off the face of the earth . . . . rather than change its behavior like a “boycott” would be for.)

  22. fresno dan

    Dean Baker brings up a point that never gets discussed. US businesses, from moving jobs overseas to importing foreign workers (i.e., immigration) to the US pretty much do everything possible to hire as few Americans as possible….yet the propaganda is that tax cuts and deregulating are necessary to “create” jobs.
    Really, isn’t time to point out how contrary that rationale for “pro-business” policies is to what businesses and their supports say???
    But the argument about the benefits to U.S. corporations is even more interesting. U.S. corporations like Apple, GE, and Merck have been telling us for decades in every way they can they are not in any meaningful sense “U.S.” corporations. They are corporations. They are interested in making profits. If this means shifting jobs overseas to take advantage of low cost labor, they will do that in a second. The same applies to environmental regulations. And, when it comes to paying taxes, if they can find a legal or semi-legal way to have their profits appear in an Irish or Cayman Islands subsidiary, they will do it, end of story.

    What part of getting kicked in the face do you not understand? We care about these companies if we own stock in them, otherwise there is no reason that we should prefer that Apple or GE make profits than Samsung or Toyota.

  23. ewmayer

    @jrs: ‘Even in a down market, people want a little bit of luxury.’

    I would phrase that as ‘Even in a crap economy…’

    And by way of conttinuing the thought: …there might also be a niche (snicker) here for Luxury TeePee printed with poop-evoking motivational phrases, like

    [square 1]They say opinions are like assholes – everybody’s got one.
    [square 2]And that is undeniably true. But…
    [square 3]As with assholes, some opinions are more full of shit than others.

    See – by the time you get to the end (giggle) of the extended metaphor, you’ve used a whole (lol, you said ‘hole’) three squares, and are likely still itching (titter) for additional inspirational nuggets (snort) of wisdom. But why stop at pithy phraseology? Heck, you could even do little mini-length crap-novellas in various WC-preferred literary genres, like suspense or – this one is bound to make a splash (hee, hee) – romance:

    [square 1]During the brief scuffle in the foyer, Julio’s shirt had lost several buttons. After making sure she was safe, he stopped to looked for them.
    [square 2]Despite the still-lingering fright at the just-passed danger, Dulcinea could not help but notice the rippling thews of his heaving chest,
    [square 3]and the tautness of his firm muscular backside straining against the fabric of his rough trousers as he bent down..
    [square 4][Continued on next roll.]

    This kind of stuff just is sure to just fly off the roll!

  24. ewmayer

    My TP printer apologizes – square 1 of Tormenta en el Corazon should read ‘stooped to look.’ All customer bearing a valid sales receipt may return the unused portion of the roll for a spell-checked replacement, free of charge.

    1. charger01

      Holy shite, Chris Hedges deadpan delivery is cathartic. I had the opportunity to listen to him live in my hometown a few weeks ago- the title of his speak should have been “it is worse that you can imagine”….
      The problem is- he left out the explicit adovcation for acts of civil disobedience. He mentioned his involvement with with breaking the rules to bring books into a prison, but sustained acts of civil disobedience are at the act of making institutions nervous. This is fine and dandy in theory- but if you want to be employed by anyone participating in those institutions, your going to be unemployed or a pariah rather quickly. That is, if your not abused by police during those acts as well. What a quandary.

  25. Morak

    Just another missive from the “Clown Car”.

    Republican senator and presidential maybe-hopeful Lindsey Graham stopped by the “politics and pies” forum in Concord, New Hampshire, today, where he announced that if he is elected president in 2016, his first act will be to deploy the military in Washington to force Congress to reverse cuts to the defense and intelligence budgets.

    Yes, you heard that right. Here are Graham’s exact words:

    And here’s the first thing I would do if I were president of the United
    States. I wouldn’t let Congress leave town until we fix this. I would
    literally use the military to keep them in if I had to. We’re not leaving
    town until we restore these defense cuts. We are not leaving town
    until we restore the intel cuts.
    Lindsey Graham: As president I would deploy the military against Congress

  26. valley gurl

    Re The New Silicon Valley Movement That Is Taking on the Tech Giants, to add more detail regarding “The Jungle” homeless encampment that was referenced, a timeline:

    2014 The reality that Silicon Valley’s Santa Clara County had 2014’s largest unsheltered Homeless population count in the Nation becomes International News and San Jose’s “The Jungle” Homeless Encampment also reaches the mainstream International News. Oddly, though I remember seeing various mainstream news links to that unsheltered homeless record, but today, I’m hard put to find (yeah, vanishing ‘researchable’ pixels, at least that “dead trees” news was far more tamper proof) any links to that record but this one:

    09/15/14 Tikkun[Daily] . org – Affordable Housing Rally, San Jose:

    Yes, it’s an oxymoron and a dream — affordable housing in San Jose, the city with the nation’s largest unsheltered homeless population. Four people died of exposure last winter, and so many more live crowded together in small apartments or vans.

    11/27/14 Thanksgiving! and the beginning of Non Stop Rain Storms in the California Bay Area

    12/01/14 Four days after Thanksgiving, amidst continuing Bay Area storms, bulldozing and arrest warning signs are posted as scheduled at “The Jungle” (could be a world record for the powers that penalize doing things as scheduled (and I’d love to know the non bleeding, at even the sniff of moisture, ink their printers are gifted with)):

    SFBay . ca – San Jose moves to close ‘The Jungle’

    12/01/14 New Storms are forecasted to continue to Thursday, December 4th , the day all of those homeless are required to be gone by.
    SFBay . ca – Fresh rainstorm could dump four inches on Bay Area

    12/04/14 Mission Accomplished In Record Time, Amidst – Unrelenting for the Homeless Attempting to “Move On”- Days of Storming Rain! Happy Hollowdaze!:

    theGuardian . com – Silicon Valley homeless booted from large encampment called the Jungle – Police order people living in flimsy tents and plywood shelters to clear out of largest US homeless camp or face arrest; social workers seek shelter for evacuees:

    “People drive by and look at us like we’re circus animals,” she said.

    from TheDailyMail . co . uk – The moment workers started destroying Silicon Valley homeless camp known as ‘The Jungle’ – just a stone’s throw from tech giant HQs:

    ‘This feels terrible,’ said Jenny Niklaus, HomeFirst’s chief executive officer, her voice breaking. ‘People are up to their calves in the mud dragging their stuff into the street.’

    I haven’t any fortitude left to add much further commentary regarding some of the above noted articles weasel word commentary on providing sheltered options after that bulldozing; though I will note that a Silicon Valley Armory which for years provided a number of beds in the QUITE COLD (doesn’t 32% at night qualify?) Holiday Season! was bulldozed and replaced with a Silicon Valley Bank (I believe it was in Sunnyvale (of Lockheed Parentage)), in a Valley where it has already been acknowledged shelters are far, far short of the exponentially increasing unsheltered population.

    The following link, re the now Internationally Infamous [Silicon Valley] Hotel 22 [bus line], might also give a clue about The Valley’s Unsheltered; many of whom were born – raised, worked and paid taxes for decades – here, with no “priors,” at least not before they were mowed into the ground:

    11/26/14 [The day before Thanksgiving!] The dark side of Silicon Valley – California’s booming tech industry has created the most extreme wealth disparity in America. Josie Ensor investigates the tale of two cities

    (I haven’t provided all links, as I didn’t want this to get snagged up in moderation, If any one can’t come up with a link to an article I referenced which they might be interested in I can provide the one that worked for me (today).

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      @valley gurl — I’m not sure what to make of your comment. The high cost of housing in the Bay Area, and in an increasing number of areas is all too evident. The low wages paid and the extremely low wages paid to all too many in our population in contrast with the unimaginable incomes for the Bay Area well-to-do are all too evident. The misery contrasted with the smug arrogance of the Bay Area well-to-do is all too evident. But what is the point of your comment?

      I recall descriptions of the Hoovervilles and government camps described in “Grapes of Wrath.” We have conditions today coming uncomfortably close to the conditions Steinbeck excoriated — but today’s Bushvilles and Obamavilles are hidden and less accepted than they were even in the depression.

      My sister works for social welfare in Upstate New York and told me about a section of the forest several miles North of town, near a creek, where a community of homeless have settled in. They’re left alone for the most part and they’re kept invisible up in the woods in the heartland of New York State. I recall the story about the man arrested in Florida for serving food to the homeless outside — where the food line could be seen.

      Would you agree that things seem almost or as bad as the depression but local governments have gone to lengths to keep the growing destitution hidden? Instead of looking for solutions — like the depression government camps — the Bushvilles and Obamavilles are bull-dozed and their inhabitants are sent scurrying — somewhere else, not here. Otherwise, how could a politician boast about the booming economy, and growing employment with camps of working poor visible in the background?

  27. valley gurl

    about my last comment above,… do I really need to request a concentration on that International time “stamp” and how stunningly quickly that “Jungle” was bulldozed over to remove any more, all in one place, photo opportunities [photo ops], despite the fact that some in the Valley had been quite busy replacing – known to be needed in abundance – sheltered bedding with a Bank.

    About the that “today” word:

    I can provide the one [HTML LINK] that worked for me (today)

    here today (and one is not even able to prove in retrospect it was there that day they linked), gone in less than, in (I’m pretty sure) way too many circumstances, 24 hours later.

  28. valley gurl

    (very sorry for the error, in my first comment above, had intended to write 32 degrees (Fahrenheit), not 32%, 32 degrees (Fahrenheit) as in deadly for some and cold as fuck for most when sleeping unsheltered outdoors (particularly on cement) sans totally unaffordable National Geographic [Style] Camping Equipment.)

  29. valley gurl


    Thanks for your very thoughtful response. I want to give your comment the thought it deserves (along with any source data I might be able to link to, if I feel the need and have to track it down), so if you don’t mind checking back, I’ll respond but it may take a bit, as I’ve already been putting off a rather large cooking chore, among other piling chores.

  30. valley gurl


    In response to your comment above, you noted (bolding mine):

    I’m not sure what to make of your comment. The high cost of housing in the Bay Area, and in an increasing number of areas is all too evident. The low wages paid and the extremely low wages paid to all too many in our population in contrast with the unimaginable incomes for the Bay Area well-to-do are all too evident. The misery contrasted with the smug arrogance of the Bay Area well-to-do is all too evident. But what is the point of your comment?

    First of all, and after the fact, I’ve realized (and, I could kick myself now for not doing so) I should have asked you what your initial reaction to my comment was in order to better understand your question; as, when I made my initial comment above, I felt and thought my intent was clear. In retrospect, I realize it was not.

    My comment was a gut felt knee jerk response as an over thirty year silicon valley resident who was horrified while following in ‘real time’ what was happening, from Thanksgiving on, at “The Jungle”.

    As far as subconscious thoughts which may have aided that knee jerk response: 1) the largest wealth producing areas seem to be the ones where it is a nightmare for most to live or keep up in; an inverse relationship of poverty and wealth. 2) a seeming horrid mainstream proclamation that everyone in Silicon Valley is either afloat in income, or, too dumb to have moved out before they fell through the cracks.

    You further noted:

    I recall descriptions of the Hoovervilles and government camps described in “Grapes of Wrath.” We have conditions today coming uncomfortably close to the conditions Steinbeck excoriated — but today’s Bushvilles and Obamavilles are hidden and less accepted than they were even in the depression.

    I wholeheartedly agree.

    Then you continued:

    My sister works for social welfare in Upstate New York and told me about a section of the forest several miles North of town, near a creek, where a community of homeless have settled in. They’re left alone for the most part and they’re kept invisible up in the woods in the heartland of New York State. I recall the story about the man arrested in Florida for serving food to the homeless outside — where the food line could be seen.

    yes, and the Appalachian Range Population, neglected for at least a century now, comes to mind also. Also, yeah those ghastly laws about feeding other humans, and it’s not only Florida with rules against feeding the homeless (let alone rules against: sitting; going to sleep; staying sheltered in one’s last “asset” – that Car Home). And, situations such as the one (about five years ago, plus minus, increasingly hard to keep track of dates, especially since the misery for the voiceless in the US has been going on for over two centuries and increasingly getting worse) where the man in Florida deliberately got himself arrested via a fake bank robbery, and then gently sat on that bank’s couch, waiting to be arrested in order to receive medical care he no longer could pay for, despite no criminal record; and on, and on, and on, ..I feel we are on the same page.

    Your last question was:

    Would you agree that things seem almost or as bad as the depression but local governments have gone to lengths to keep the growing destitution hidden? ….

    Yes, but I would also wholeheartedly add that the Financier Owned State and Federal US “Governments” are every bit as guilty of going to lengths to keep the growing destitution hidden, if not far more guilty.

    I hope I’ve explained myself much better Jeremy, as I wont be commenting on the site anymore due to dial up problems I’m having.

Comments are closed.