Links 3/21/15

Danny Schechter died on March 19. I knew Danny’s work and had met him a couple of times, most recently in the green room at RT in New York after a Boom/Bust segment. He seemed to be in good health so I was surprised as well as saddened by the news. Danny was a straight-talking, old school (as in real deal) liberal, for whom class struggle was part of the fabric of his early life. There are perilous few of his ilk left any more. He will be missed.

Real News ran one of his 2014 segments in memoriam: Activism In My DNA – Danny Schechter on Reality Asserts Itself (hat tip Nikki).

BTW, first day of spring and it is SNOWING in NYC. But it is an exceptionally pretty snow: big heavy wet flakes that are sticking on trees and staying because the air is still, so the city momentarily has a fairyland look.

Annoying, Well-Adjusted Friend Even Fucking Meditating Now Onion (David L)

End of days progressing nicely, says demon overlord Daily Mash

Eclipse puts Europe’s fears over solar power cut in the shade Financial Times (Scott)

COAL: When legally liable, companies don’t dispute global warming E&E

Arctic sea ice shrinks to lowest level on record Financial Times (David L)

The Bonobo Spring Revolution Counterpunch (furzy mouse). Not sure behavior translates as neatly across species as the authors suggest. For instance, consider all the men and once in a while women who kill spouses and lovers that leave them. Humans seem to be way more jealous and possessive than bonobos.

Here are all the new particles we might discover when the world’s largest atom smasher turns back on Business Insider (David L)

Wow, that was fast. UN Women cancels partnership with Uber Pando

New study points to link between weedkiller glyphosate and cancer Financial Times (David L). Holy moley, Monsanto is finally fingered in a big way. If the connection is shown to be tighter, Monsanto could be on the way to suffering the same fate as asbestos companies.But the evidence is deemed “thin”.

Japan Says It Could Join China-Led Development Bank Wall Street Journal

Cash Dinosaur: France Limits Cash Transactions to €1,000, Puts Restrictions on Gold; Bitcoin End Coming? Michael Shedlock (furzy mouse)

The State Against The Republic, by Thierry Meyssan Voltaire Network


Bond Markets Bet on Grexit Bloomberg

Angela Merkel Throws Greece a Lifeline John Cassisy, New Yorker. What is Cassidy smoking? Merkel EXPLICITLY rejected an idea that Cassidy flogs, that Greece could get the €1.8 billion at issue soon:

Mr Tsipras also attempted to win a commitment from EU leaders to allow a portion of the remaining €7.2bn — €1.8bn in profits on Greek bonds purchased by the ECB in 2010 — to be disbursed quickly if it implemented a portion of the required reforms.

Ms Merkel objected to the idea, however, and in her post-summit news conference said the profits would only be distributed when the entire package of reforms had been adopted.

And this report is consistent with the day-old FT quote above: Greek bailout summit ends in disarray Financial Times

Study finds Greek crisis policies created huge inequalities ekathimerini

It Really Looks Like Greeks Are Hiding Cash Under the Mattress Bloomberg

Attention turns to reforms list following talks in Brussels ekathimerini


Russia, Ukraine Seek Gas-Supply Deal Until Bill Dispute Settled Wall Street Journal

EU gets round its problem with extending sanctions on Russia Fortune

Ukraine’s Oligarchs Are at War (Again) Leonid Bershidsky, Bloomberg Views

Alberto Nisman, drugs, Hezbollah, and Iran Business Insider Business Insider (furzy mouse)


The Real Story Behind the Republicans’ Iran Letter Bill Moyers (furzy mouse)

Israel’s Victory of Fear Project Syndicate Project Syndicate (David L). Blistering.

It’s Official: The Pentagon Finally Admitted That Israel Has Nuclear Weapons, Too The Nation (furzy mouse)

Suicide bombings in Yemeni mosques kill more than 130 Japan Today (furzy mouse)

Imperial Collapse Watch

A Family Business of Perpetual War Robert Parry, Consortium News (furzy mouse). A must read.

Big Brother is Watching You Watch


The NSA’s new director still believes the best defense is a good offense. He’s wrong Pando

Why the Idea That a Big Cyber Attack Could Create a Huge Tech Armageddon Is Pure BS Alternet (YY)

OSHA investigator blows whistle on this own agency NBC Bay Area (Adrien). This is serious. You might write your Congresscritter.

WRITE TO SENATOR WYDEN AND TELL HIM TO OPPOSE FAST TRACK! CPA. Another petition, but it’s easy and productive. Please sign.

New Federal Rules Are Set for Fracking New York Times

Christie Administration Won’t Give Lawmaker Details On Exxon Settlement David Sirota, International Business Times

Prevent another crash, reform Wall Street Des Moines Register. From super dark horse Martin O’Malley.

Ohio man cleared of murder after 39 years in jail to get $1 million payment | Reuters (EM)

Fed whistleblower quits Wall Street, weighs book New York Post (Adrien)

Yield Curve, Futures, Suggest No Rate Hike Until December; GDP Forecast Halved Again to 0.3% Michael Shedlock (furzy mouse)

Class Warfare

As Gentrification Persists in San Francisco, Evictions Take New Forms Truthout (Nikki)

Serfdom Is Better Than What the West is Heading For Ian Welsh (Carol B)

Meet the 26-year-old who’s taking on Thomas Piketty’s ominous warnings about inequality Washington Post. *Sigh”. Tons of people pointed out that r>g was bollocks, including a particularly devastating and rigorous critique by Lance Taylor, Philip Arestis and Malcolm Sawyer, Amar Bhide, a group of young researchers in France, and a long list of “liberals” and leftists. Yet which critique does the Washington Post deign to notice? One from the right of center.

The 1 percent rigged everything: Why no one can end Ronald Reagan’s “dead wrong” voodoo economics Salon (YY)

Antidote du jour:

cat and toddler links

And a bonus video! Dancing peacock spiders (hat tip Chuck L):

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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    1. generic

      No, Juncker and Merkel are not on friendly terms. Merkel’s dominance of Europe is built on intergovernmental agreements and impossible conditions. In the crisis all governments extolled their own fiscal virtues while sucking up to those higher in the hierarchy. Similar to those abominable Big Brother like shows one after the next got voted out until only Merkel remained.
      Juncker on the other hand is a convinced federalist. Especially now that he is the head of what could be the government. Note his almost anachronistic calls for an EU army. Now that the ECB solved the state debt problem by pushing yields negative the dynamic has changed and he might see an opportunity to sabotage Merkel.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Yes, the EC has been consistently more friendly to Greece than the ECB, the IMF, or the Eurogroup. And the EC also seems the most worried about the damage that would be done by a Grexit.

        And it is the Troika (all of the EC, ECB and IMF) and then the Eurogroup that have to approve the release of any bailout funds.

        In fact, ironically, the release of this found money could lead the ECB and IMF to stick to their guns even more than before. They clearly wanted Greece to be under duress, and they can achieve that by being sticklers, which was their predisposition anyhow. It is already hard to see how any bailout deal gets done with Greece not having submitted anything detailed yet, particularly given how far apart they are.

        Greece might (by accident or design) be trying to get close to the deadline for the bailout deal of the end of April, assuming time pressure would work to their advantage (as in they believe they have to be given the dough, no one wants them to default). But with Greece having gotten a mini-lifeline, the Troika could simply extend the negotiating time frame to put the Greek government back in a budgetary sweatbox.

        1. generic

          Well, we know that:

          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.

          While the Greeks seem to believe that the balance of forces in Europe doesn’t dare to throw them out. And they may have a point since the ECB could have forced the introduction of capital controls at any point. Instead ELA has been increased week after week, even if only by the minimal amounts required. They did so again even though Greece did go against the letter of the memo by passing the humanitarian law and the installment plan over objections.

  1. Swedish Lex

    39 years in prison warrants 1 million USD.
    Barely 3 dollars per hour, as far as I can see.

    1. Llewelyn Moss

      Yeah but that is 3 dollars per hour for just sitting on his butt. No sweat, no foul. (/sarc)

      1. Swedish Lex

        Ask yourself, how much would you demand per hour to be in jail for the next 39 years.
        It is not the Club Med.

        1. Llewelyn Moss

          Exactly. I was being sarcastic. And honestly I wouldn’t go to jail voluntarily for 39 years for any sum of money. One Million is an insult.

        2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Going to a job one hates is, in some ways. like being in jail.

          You don’t want to be there, but you have to.

          And you keep praying someone above, a powerful one or an omnipotent being, will set you free, to go where you want to go, to be free again.

          1. Ned Ludd

            In county jails, people convicted of low-level offenses used to leave to work during the day, and then they would return at the end of the workday to spend the rest of their day (& night) in a jail cell.

            1. Vince in MN

              That was known as the Huber(sp) Law if memory serves, but perhaps that was only here in MN. In any case, that was before privitazation. And even if the county jails haven’t all been privatized as yet, I’m sure they run them like a business (hell, the the university is run like a corporation, so why not any other public institution). If they can claim that their product (jail cell) is in high demand, well then the tax payer gets to fork over more money for the escalating-in-value service (“to protect and to serve”), while some exceptional entrepreneurs make a profit .

              1. Ned Ludd

                I found some background on Henry Huber on an archived page from the Wisconsin Historical Society:

                A Progressive Republican, Huber was state assemblyman (1905-1906), state senator (1913-1924), and lieutenant governor (1925-1933). An ardent advocate of La Follette Progressivism, he served as executive secretary to R. M. La Follette, Sr. (q.v.), from 1903 to 1904, and during World War I, gave numerous speeches in the legislature defending La Follette’s position on the War. Huber gained nationwide attention as the author of the Huber Law of 1913, which allowed county prisoners to be employed during the day, and is also credited with introducing the first unemployment insurance bill in any American legislature.

    2. PeonInChief

      My father, who was a lawyer, said in the 1970s that a prisoner wrongfully convicted should receive a million a year for the first ten years. After ten years, he noted, the prisoner’s life had been ruined, and the prisoner should receive a million a year for the rest of his or her life. Adjusting for inflation, the million dollar payment is embarrassing and insulting.

    3. MIWill

      “We are still seeking that room, board and medical care expenses incurred by the state over the past 39 years be deducted from any payments made to Mr. Jackson, ” remarked a prosecution staff member who requested anonymity due to the fiction of this comment. “To receive this windfall sends the wrong message.”

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        Huh? Is your quote “We are still seeking that room, board and medical care expenses incurred by the state over the past 39 years be deducted from any payments made to Mr. Jackson, ” fictional? Or is the prosecutor’s office seeking deduction of “room, board and medical care expenses”? The way states calculate these costs the guy could end up with very little in his pocket and probably get stuck for income tax on the full million dollars.

        So — are the comments fictional? If so, I miss the point of your comment.

  2. tgs

    re: EU gets round its problem with extending sanctions on Russia Fortune

    Merkel’s achievement last night (with the support of the U.K., Poland and other more hawkish E.U. members such as the three Baltic states) has been to raise the bar for lifting the sanctions to a level that, almost certainly, neither Russia nor the Ukrainian rebels will ever accept.

    Kiev has recently made it clear that a political settlement based on Minsk II requires: a) their complete military control of the breakaway regions after which b) there are elections held under the auspices of Kiev and under their rules. In other words, Kiev is demanding the complete surrender of the forces they were unable to defeat on the battlefield as a precondition for a political settlement. A fantasy policy like that could only have originated in Washington.

    Washington has also made it clear that sanctions will remain in place as long as Russia continues to ‘occupy’ Crimea. Poroshenko recently requested that the ‘international community’ boycott the 2018 world cup (to be held in Russia) if any Russian forces remain on Ukrainian territory – Crimea included. Nuland is claiming that Crimea is living under a ‘reign of terror’.

    Putin has made it clear that he will defend Crimea at all costs.

    Merkel is making a terrible mistake as long as she appeases the policy makers in Washington who are recklessly pursuing policies based on fantasy.

    1. sid_finster

      Perhaps I give Angela too much credit, but I get the sense that she knows she’s been dragged into someone else’s fight.

      At the beginning, Germany and the other EUstates felt that they had no choice but to support Washington, well, because Washington.

      But Ukraine has not performed as promised, the war us nowhere near ended, the junta armies perform wretchedly against any enemy more capable than a statue, and it is getting harder and harder to make excuses for the junta’s atrocious human rights record. Still, Washington, Britain and Poland want to double down. This has the potential to get seriously ugly.

      Germany and France want off this ride, but have no idea how to do so without backtracking on their previous positions, and without making Washington even more furious.

  3. Mel

    “The Real Story Behind the Republicans’ Iran Letter”

    “would have punished violators of the sanctions against Iran with prison sentences of up to 20 years and extended the punishment to “a spouse and any relative, to the third degree” of the sanctions violator”

    Popehat says that it is not like that, but that no-one involved — no-one — seems to understand. The amendment was to expand the definition of what business was forbidden under the sanctions. It would have been forbidden to do business, not merely with one of the named Iranians, but with a selection of their relatives as well. But read Popehat to find out just how confused everybody got.

    1. afisher

      The link you provided is irrelevant? This legislation died – so all the article does is muddy the water.

      Now what was interesting and was not reported on was the Iran and Hezbollah were taken off the terrorist threat list that was created by GWB.

  4. ChrisFromGeorgia

    This is extremely disturbing – Microsoft, IBM, Apple and other tech giants now lobbying for the TPP:

    This is just rich, remember that many countries including Brazil moved to require that sensitive “cloud” data stay in-country due to the Snowden revelations. Note to self – up my blood pressure medication:

    Of particular concern for the software companies are measures in other countries that restrict them from sending data easily or that require them to host servers within those countries’ borders.

    While countries often frame those policies as security measures, they are in many cases “simply aimed at creating opportunities for domestic entities to the disadvantage of American developers of software and providers of data services,” the companies wrote.

    1. afisher

      And in concert, banks in Switzerland and Luxemborg are going to a Chinese banking consortium – so if you want to assure that corporate tax dollars are free – then TPP will more than allow for these corporations to end up paying no taxes anywhere.

      Next everyone with a modicum of wealth will become an LLC and do the same thing. Countries that rely on taxes will fail and the global plutocracy will be the ruler – all with no bloodshed and no voting.

      1. hunkerdown

        I’ve heard the conventional wisdom among webcomic artists is that an LLC is worth it if you’re pulling in more than $30k/yr.

        But, you know, we don’t *have* to take their money.

  5. DJG

    Ian Welsh on serfdom. Well, 60 years ago, Hannah Arendt pointed this out in The Human Condition. She asserted that the source of capital for early modern capitalism was confiscation of the church’s assets, followed by confiscation of the common land and the serfs’ economic assets (not to mention destruction of the guilds). I’d also argue that torture grew considerably in the 1500s and 1600s because of the Reformation. Both Catholics and Protestants at the time were great torturers and witch burners. In the U.S.A., because of romanticized views of Protestantism, there is some weird idea that only Catholics abused people. Yet witch burning went on in northern German and Scotland (and there are a number of famous cases in Sweden) as part of the establishment of Protestantism and further subjugation of women. Do people think that some Catholic bishop turned up in colonial Massachusetts to preside over the Salem witch trials? I’m always amused, too, by the idea that the serfs had too much free time because of the Catholic church cycle of festivals. Better to work on Sunday and Christmas? In short, Welsh is reminding us of an alternative view that should be made more visible once again.

    1. JTFaraday

      I spent a long time trying to figure out what special role(s) the reformation played in the transition to what we call modernity, and it came up a wash for me. Really, what I decided is that the best way to see it as a whole was as a form of pre-modern politics by other means in a time when forms of self seeking, including self governance, had to be justified in theological terms. So they did. Calvin said “our enemies torture heretics to keep them in line, so we have to too.” Although despite his reputation, his personal body count is not so high and he didn’t really like his governing role.

      Some people want to say that this effectively delayed secular modernity thereby producing the so-called religious wars, but I’m not so sure. I think the strongest candidate for a secular modern thinker in that renaissance/ early reformation period is actually Machiavelli, but such people don’t seem to want to admit him to their canon of would-be humanists because Machiavelli was none too peaceful himself. Instead, they want a nice Gospel Jesus budding humanist like Erasmus, who might have calmed the passions of a warrioring elite and stemmed the tide of war. Well, Erasmus had plenty of access to the courts of Europe and he was basically ineffective. Meanwhile, Machiavelli was a marginalized, effectively banished ex-bureaucrat. Reformation clerics went out amongst anyone who would listen and seized the day.

      In some ways, when Adam Smith came out and said self interest is a good thing, he was in fact doing a good thing to the extent that it made it less necessary to mask human motivation in theological terms rendered as absolutes. Some people had no interest in qualifying that, of course, turning the pursuit of self interest into a new absolute under the sign of “liberty,” effectively hijacking a term from newly burgeoning, but by no means fully articulated, secular political thought and turning it to their own ends. If a little of a good thing is a good thing, more of a good thing is always better.

      It should be noted, however, that the Salem witch trials effectively ended the old congregationalist orthodoxy in MA. They blew their wad in a massive delusional abuse of power and that was it. The Mathers, et al were removed from Harvard and had to found Yale in order to try to form a new basis for some kind of continuing influence. Harvard then freely liberalized without them. In some ways this mimics in miniature the more explosive process of change in Europe.

      I’m not so sure about the romanticization of serfdom either though. There’s a list of peasant rebellions as long as my arm, and they ransacked monasteries themselves. Why not? That’s where the important stuff is. Historian Georges Duby tracks their legal disenfranchisement in the eleventh century in part of what is today France in “The Three Orders: Feudal Society Imagined,” a really interesting if seriously pedantic work. One aspect of his thesis is that this disenfranchisement was a form of internal conquest and subjugation of a part of the population that itself once took part in external conquest during earlier periods of territorial expansion. A whole ideology was elaborated to justify and naturalize their subordination. In the end their sole purpose was to serve. Once their betters decided they had better use for their service than that of working the land they lived on, they were going to be forcibly redeployed because, as you say, they had no rights.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Thanks for that link.

          Why is it that they could do it – persist protests in the streets – in the 19th century, but we can’t now?

          Are we not as good as them?

          I suspect, among other things

          1 credit scores
          2 more entertaining circuses
          3 we are more ‘educated’ – we have learned to ‘think’ before we act
          4 we are more obese, more out of shape.
          5 abundance of non-nutritional hunger cures – that prevents the brain from acting rashly
          6 more abstract urban living. We don’t even slaughter our own turkeys
          7 faith in science/technology will bring a better tomorrow.
          8 What killed was visibly – industrial accidents, polluted air. Radioactive sushi doesn’t jump out at you. Slowly being boiled in global warming is not hard for distracted serfs to ignore.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Back then, protesting outside was closer to living inside that it is today.

            Today, we have indoor plumbing, heating, lighting, TV, etc…all the modern comforts.

            1. Ned Ludd

              Subsistence farmers also have more freedom to act independent of a government. When a city was taken over by protesters in China, a few years back, the national government blocked the roads to try and starve out the protesters. Local farmers kept the protesters supplied with food, which they smuggled in through their fields.

    1. Foy

      Hey Quixote. Rather than clicking on the FT links which often go to a pay walled article, I’ve found if I copy the FT link title that Yves provides and google it, it usually provides the same FT article but outside the pay wall/registration area. Worked perfectly for this one. It seems FT often run multiple copies of the same article.

  6. Katniss Everdeen

    RE: The 1 percent rigged everything: Why no one can end Ronald Reagan’s “dead wrong” voodoo economics Salon (YY)

    Regardless of how much they deny it, trickle-down enthusiasts understand full well that, in order for economic “growth” to occur, the masses must have money to spend. They just don’t want that spending to be in the form of “wages” which represent not only corporate overhead, but consumer money that comes with no strings attached and is, therefore, subject to more spending discretion.

    And so, while never mentioned as a tricke-down “enabler,” credit of all kinds, in larger and larger amounts, must be continuously extended to less and less credit worthy “borrowers.” And so, as the ‘trickle-down” experiment gets longer-in-the-tooth, we get not only mortgages and HELOCS with ever more ridiculous LTVs, but unrestrained student loans and subprime of every conceivable stripe.

    To keep the game going, the ever-increasing borrowing is sold as a “benefit” due to “low interest rates,” with the extra added bonus of making actual “saving” impossible and unproductive. It also facilitates the phenomenal increase in profits seen by the “financial industry” which can take a piece of every credit-driven purchase.

    Eventually the proles see EVER living WITHOUT debt as inconceivable, and the “trickle-down” myth lives to fight another day.

    This credit, which “spends” exactly like money, is a stealth substitute for wages, without which “trickle-down” would not even be able to keep up the appearance of being successful, and the “trickle-down” cheerleaders know it.

  7. Light a Candle

    Excellent investigative journalism by NBC (!) on the failure of OSHA to protect whistle blowers. Good video and great written piece too with excellent info-graphic clearly showing trends to shut down investigations.

    Yes, needs flagging to Congress “reps”.

  8. Jeremy Grimm

    @Alternet Cyber Doomsday — I read the article but came away without a clue just what cyber doomsday meant to the author of the piece, just as I have no idea what our Cyber Warriors are talking about using the same term. As for whether we face serious threats via the Internet, I think that’s becoming fairly apparent. The growing crime wave related to identity theft should be regarded as a major cyber threat to our Nation and its people. Unless something is done to change the ease with which criminals can tap into credit lines, bank accounts and investment accounts, I may not feel safe with any of these financial conveniences. With interest rates further trending down– a large chest of money and/or a bag of jewels or silver coins buried in a hidden place starts to seem safer and offers better gains than a bank. I could pay bills with a clutch of postal money orders. If more than a few people start thinking that way — isn’t that scary to somebody? Have things gotten so bad that the Credit Card companies, Banks and Investment companies no longer need us little guys and our piddly deposits?

    I can’t get the so-called Sapphire Worm out of my memory. A single UDP packet was sufficient to propagate itself and take over a very large number of the MS SQL server programs running on business servers around the world and it did the deed in something like 15 minutes. So is there a threat of cyber doomsday? I guess a lot depends on exactly what cyber doomsday means to you. The number of client side zero-day exploits seems legion based on the constant flow of critical patches coming out — and the NSA likes to hoard these things?

    It’s been a while since I looked at the I/O language standards for hard drives, and I don’t claim to be an expert. But unless I read the thing wrong there were I/O commands in the standard I looked at — the ATAPI 4 if I remember correctly, something my age and the distance of time makes increasingly problematic — that would lock a hard drive unless the drive received an I/O command with a password set earlier using another I/O command. If you have root on a machine you should be able to run I/O commands on that machine. I’m guessing an exploit of this sort is what’s behind the criminal cyber ransom trade. What prevents an enemy or a bad guy driven by meanness from locking hard drives and tossing the key into the bit-trash?

    Just how secure are our telephone company networks? I don’t know the answer. I have seen some of the code running on the large switching systems in telephone company network nodes and hubs. I find it hard to believe ATT and Lucent MTS coders writing the switching software are that much better than the guys knocking out Microsoft Operating systems. I don’t know particulars of any exploit but I sure thought I read somewhere about some SS7 exploits. [SS7 is an old protocol for sending information between phone company switches. Again as I recall, SS7 ran on a network outside the phone network channels and wasn’t that easy to get to, but it was possible to get to it.]

    What about the bank networks? When the big push for Y2K repairs came through just before the millennium there was a heavy demand for COBOL programmers to come in and make the repairs to ancient banking system code. Of course there weren’t enough domestic COBOL programmers around to do the job so the banks brought in a bunch of foreign contractors, many from Russia as I recall. I don’t believe bringing in a bunch of foreign contractors from a country rife at the time with organized crime (and now too I suppose) to fiddle with the bowels of ancient banking code is such a great idea but after 15 years I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop. Of course its common folk wisdom that banks don’t report cyber robberies for less than $10 million — bad for business.

    The robustness of our power grid should be plain enough from some of the massive outages in the past resulting from acts of god working on the fragility of the system. I cannot believe the power companies have suddenly made everything safe against network attacks when other organizations far more committed to and spending considerably more money protecting their networks — places like DoD facilities — continue to bleed PII, among other information.

    I haven’t even mentioned little problems with just where all our cool hardware comes from. It is possible to embed critters in hardware, not just through manipulating firmware, although that does seem to work nicely for the NSA. Are the Chinese and Taiwanese who build our stuff unable or too nice to play that same game at the factory?

    The Alternet article makes the point that NSA’s encroachments on the network and our Constitutional rights and liberties will do nothing to protect us from cyber Armageddon. OK — I buy that, but I never believed it to begin with. The NSA and Cyber Warfare guys have been crafting too many of the tools that turn up in the hands of the bad guys. However, I would appreciate a little more of the thought and arguments that might lead me to conclude there is no threat of cyber Armageddon, starting with some definition of exactly what that means to the author.

  9. Jeremy Grimm

    I feel very strongly about the importance of the Post Office — so please forgive me if I drag in a comment I made in yesterday’s post. Actually I’m repeating the email response I received from the post’s author.
    Email response which I promised to share from former Postmaster General Mark Jamison:

    “In the Senate the Homeland Security subcommittee chaired by Ron Johnson of Wisconsin has oversight. They’ve been working on a reform bill for years although it’s terrible. Carper of Delaware is the ranking Democrat and he has not been good.

    In the House the committee formerly chaired by Darryl Issa, Government Oversight has jurisdiction. Mark Meadows of North Carolina chairs the subcommittee.

    Perhaps the first place to start is with President Obama. Sad to say that the administration has been horrible on this issue. Former OMB director Peter Orszag wrote an op-ed in Bloomberg calling for privatization of the Postal Service.

    The mailing industry has a lobbying group called PostCom. Their members include printers, direct mailers, and companies like Pitney Bowes. This group has advocated for privileged rates.
    FedEx, UPS, and maybe worst of all Amazon have been doing their best to capture the Postal Service as well.

    You can find reporting on this at, the website I contribute to.
    People tend to think of the postal network as a victim of technology but as I point out in this piece this is much more about public goods. We are seeing our infrastructures transferred into corporate hands. We are seeing our schools and educational institutions turned into profit and rent seeking entities. It’s all part of the same problem.

    Raising awareness, not just in terms of postal infrastructure but on the broader threat is critical.

    Again thank you for taking the time to read the piece and for understanding how important this is.”

    1. Vatch

      please forgive me if I drag in a comment I made in yesterday’s post

      There’s nothing to forgive, and in fact, I thank you. I got off my butt (well, actually, I got onto my butt, since I sit while writing), and sent email letters about this to my Congressional Representative and my two Senators. I should have done this yesterday; better late than never.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        Thank you! For me the USPS has an iconic and symbolic meaning in addition to its current importance to me.

        Postmaster Jamison mentioned President Obama as the place to start (after Congressmen and Senators). I posted the following snail mail letter today:

        President Obama

        The letter regards the United States Postal Service (USPS).

        I voted for you in 2008 and cried when you were elected. I was very hopeful you might begin repairs to all the horrors instituted during the Bush Presidency and before.

        I voted for you again in 2012 but this time my vote was for the lesser of two Evils. Were you able to run for President in 2016, I would NOT vote for you.

        I hold faith that some feeling for our Nation might still smolder somewhere within you. I appeal to that feeling, if you still hold anything of our Nation dear.

        You may wonder why I would focus on the United States Postal Service. I am not and have never been affiliated with the USPS. To me the Postal Service is the Crown Jewel, the symbol, the icon of all public commons created at the founding of our Nation. As an American citizen, as America’s first citizen, how can you oversee the destruction of the first and foremost symbol and embodiment of the public goods created for all citizens by our Founders?

        Please do everything you can with your considerable powers to SAVE and RESTORE the USPS.

    2. Paul Tioxon

      The United States Postal Service is an original piece of the US Constitution and the Post Master General was a cabinet level official. That’s how important communication for the public was seen. The so called strict constructionists who see only the original intent of the Constitution, usually forget slavery and the US Postal Service as part of the original intent. That is hardly a logical rock upon which to build your legal theory, especially when we we fought the Civil War to change the Constitution and changed it again with the Postal Reform Act, the initial phase of privatizing what had been a part of the US Government’s stated mission for the people of the nation. I agree with all who see the communication function of the Postal Service as critical and inalienable. Without the ability to maintain relationships, there is no society. We live in a larger and more widely dispersed nation which absolutely relies on social programs as the instrument of creating and maintaining social relationships. Today, the instrumentality of the internet is a no brainer for the US Postal Service to offer. Like the abandoned trolley car and bus lines which became public authorities to continue to provide for the necessary transportation of a mass labor force, as email and other internet services become expensive, too expensive for many, the Post Office will offer email, bill pay and other commodity ecommerce services that will also be one day abandoned for more lucrative services by google etc, such as the internet of everything.

      The 1997 Hollywood movie, THE POSTMAN, shows a post civilization world where the hero, Keven Costner, becomes the US Postal Service post man, tying together the small remaining bands of villages with letters that he delivers. The obvious point of uniting a far flung population with some sort of universal communication service, sponsored by the government authorities, is a necessary if not sufficient part of makes the social order possible. Today, email could disappear and go away unless you join a social media service like facebook. The email is universal and facebook a private portion of the internet. But email does not make the money that staying on facebook all of the time does for the ads. Most email services have more and more ads and of course are mined for your interests. Not very private as the US Mail!!

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        Thank your for your support of the Post Office … [and no, for any who may wonder, I have no affiliation whatsoever with the USPS.]

        The movie “The Postman” came out to widespread critical declaim. It got a 9% positive from critics at rotten tomatoes. I watched the movie, several times now, completely unaware of its failure with the critics and horrible failure at the box office. I liked and was deeply moved when I first watched “The Postman.” I watched it again and I cried. I’m old and sentimental and grow more-so with my years.

        I love “It’s a Wonderful Life” and there isn’t a Frank Capra movie I’ve seen that I don’t like. One criticism of “The Postman” was that it was corny, jingoistic, and sentimental. Maybe I am too. Remembering the immortal words of a suite-mate from college, “I ain’t proud.” I am what I am — in the immortal words of Popeye the Sailor. In my opinion “The Postman” is greatly underrated, but more to the point, I believe in the fundamental importance of the USPS. I believe in the United States as a Nation, I believe in the Constitution, and I continue to salute the flag dropping “God” from the pledge, and I still believe in an element of the uniquely important contributions of our Founders — and NO it was NOT right that they made special accommodations for continuing to accept slavery.

        Is it jingoist to still believe in our Nation or believe in the Constitution? I do not believe so. I cannot believe otherwise.

        1. Jack

          For me, I find it rather hard to even see the flag behind the mountain of corpses. The ideal of the nation, maybe, but even there what the majority of the people of this country want, and what they have ever wanted, is very different from what the founders envisaged. The most I can say is that the United States and the Constitution formed a decent enough foundation, by 18th century standards, and a lot of work was (and remains) needed to make something truly worth a damn.

          But all in all I think asking if the flag is still worth saluting assumes it was ever worth saluting to begin with. And I think that’s like asking whether SPQR was ever worth saluting.

    1. craazyman

      Yes, he’ll be shooting at them.

      Why does that spider raise up his terrifying costume face? Who painted that face? What intelligence chose those colors and those lines? It wasn’t the spider. It’s quite astonishing, how thoughtfully and collorfully composed it is, as if it was made as the mask of a diety or a demon for a religious ritual in some “primitive” tribe in Africa. It really is very astonishing. But we’ve seen that thing before, we see it every day, in faces on the streets walking by, just in the energy boiling around the face, and we hardly pay it any mind.

      Somehow it runs the world. And so there’s the similarity you seek, that painted face each side raises up to use to terrify the other, and they don’t know why. And then they shoot at them, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. If the time increment is small enough, you see just the one face and then they call it “evil”. If the time interval is long enough, you see both faces, and they call it “war”. If you see it in your mind long enough, you see the forces that make the faces. Then you see the spider and you see the continuum of faces from plant to animal to man. Then you just say “faaak this is crazy shit”. Why would somebody make a world like this? Then you say fuck it. Whatever. What else is there to say.

      1. Louis

        Dyvekh Nawsha may be flying the Christian flag but that doesn’t automatically mean they’re any more humane than ISIS. Militias, in that part of the world, and general, aren’t exactly known to adhere to the Geneva Convention (to say the least).

        There’s a reason for laws proscribing fighting in a foreign military, yet this guy may get a free pass because of religious political correctness. Honestly, he should be treated no differently than Americans who sign on to fight with ISIS or Al-Qaeda–the risk of a creating a threat to the security of the United States isn’t insignificant, even if he’s fighting against ISIS.

  10. Oregoncharles – no, behavior doesn’t translate all that easily, which is why Block’s piece is basically poetry.
    Some human/bonobo basics: Human sexuality is unique, EXCEPT for bonobos – 70%, by one account. By most standards, that makes them, not chimps, our closest living relatives (Pithecanthropus? I’ve always wondered.) Unlike humans, chimps, or most mammals, bonobos are female-dominant. In detail: the females defuse conflict situations by offering to mate with obstreperous males. Somehow, they almost always get their way. Works for me, but hard to translate into human terms. (Well, we can sort of imagine)…. Sex is their social glue, as it is for humans, but without all the cultural manipulation. Big caveat: unlike chimps or humans, bonobos are RARE, with a very restricted range.

    Somehow, it’s hard to imagine extending this model to a group like IS, who are perfectly willing to PUBLICLY take women as sex slaves. Really horrifying PR that may ultimately do them in, but not just yet.

    Are bonobos a potential model for a very different society? Yes – but there’s a lot of translation involved. Block doesn’t even begin to attempt it. Be a really good premise for a science-fiction novel, or series. Preferably by Ursula LeGuin, though she’s probably too old now. Sort of a fusion of Left Hand of Darkness with The Dispossessed. Only with a lot of sex.

    1. Jack

      It’s already been done, as a thousand page epic in Japanese. Though it’s only one part of the story, the society conciously models their sexual customs on bonobos, the stress relief casual sex (including same-sex relations) provides having become a vital survival requirement. As is so often the case the book hasn’t been translated into English, but the anime adaption has.

      Don’t be fooled by the outlandish cartoon stylings, the story is extremely serious and bleak. In fact, looking back on it now I find I have no desire to go through it again, because it’s so brutal. One of those things you can appreciate but have no wish to ever return to. One thing that will probably always stay with me is the heavily implied fate of one character. Makes me feel hollow inside just thinking about it.

  11. Jack

    I took a look through the comments on the Bershidsky article. The degree of utter ignorance is breathtaking. Get a load of this gem:

    “After having read some desperate, full of invective comments of Putin’s bloodhounds one cannot resist the impression that the ruling (so far) from the Kremlin midget with the Napoleon complex is afraid of Kolomoisky more than of the now quite ferocious Ukrainian army (that could have been a bit better, at least on the strategic and tactical command level).”

    I honestly can’t tell if this is ironic trolling or not. The Ukrainian army just get its ass completely handed to it in the Debaltseve pocket, and this guy is claiming it’s now a ‘quite ferocious’ force? It wasn’t a particularly powerful force at the start of all this, when it had 40,000 adequately trained regulars. Now it’s taken massive losses, including essentially its entire air component, and is being forced to rely on volunteer neo-nazi thug battalions on the front-lines and waves of conscripts (and the latest conscription wave has largely refused to show up).

    I honestly have my doubts as to whether there are many paid Western shills whose job is to make comments like this, because our media is so garbage and has succeeded so thoroughly in the ‘Putin = Hitler’ meme that there are large numbers of people who genuinely believe this narrative and will happily spread the conventional ‘wisdom’ without prompting.

  12. low integer

    I was asked today by someone I talk to regularly: “Did [I] do anything last night?”. I replied: “No. I have been in stasis since I last talked to you.” Of course this was met with a blank stare. Sometimes I ponder whether the breakdown of effective use of language might be the precursor to many of the problems we face today. If thoughts cannot be expressed accurately, what is the point, eating aside, of opening one’s mouth?

    1. low integer

      I guess breathing and drinking are acceptable uses for mouths as well. I think that’s the first time I’ve ever written ‘mouths’, it seems incorrect, but upon checking the dictionary it is correct. Mouths!

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