Links 3/27/15

Facebook AI Software Learns and Answers Questions MIT Technology Review (David L)

World Health Organization: GM-Crop Herbicide a Probable Carcinogen Triple Crisis. This story is not going away.

Two New Independent Reports on the Death of Dan Markingson, But Now What Will Happen? Health Care Renewal. A casualty of an Astra-Zeneca drug trial.

Rio Tinto, Chinese Steel dismiss Andrew Forrest’s cartel proposal as unworkable nonsense Sydney Morning Herald (EM)

Australia: one of the worst housing bubbles ever MacroBusiness

China Is “One of Most Unequal Countries in the World,” IMF Paper Says WSJ Economics

Japan’s Zero Inflation Is a Setback for Abenomics Wall Street Journal

How did the ECB save the Eurozone without spending a single euro? VoxEU

A New Irish Rebellion, This Time Against Water Fees New York Times

Frances Stonor Saunders on MI5 and the Hobsbawm File London Review of Books (Balaji)


Greece Hammers Out Policies to Satisfy Creditors Wall Street Journal

Charting Greece’s Draining Coffers Bloomberg

Here Are the Most Important Dates Ahead in the Greek Crisis Bloomberg


Russia faces ‘hostile forces’, says Putin Financial Times


The Wahhabis’ War On Yemen Moon of Alabama. Important.

A Policy Puzzle of U.S. Goals and Alliances in the Middle East New York Times

Saudi battle for Yemen exposes fragility of global oil supply Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Telegraph. Notice the comparison to the US departure from Saigon.

Why the U.S. Will Fail by Winning in Mosul (and Tikrit) Peter Van Buren, Firedoglake

Iraq crisis: Tikrit push ‘no longer led by Shia militias’ BBC

Argentine court dismisses Cristina Fernandez case BBC

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

Passphrases That You Can Memorize — But That Even the NSA Can’t Guess Intercept (Chuck L)

Inquiry Launched into New Zealand Mass Surveillance Intercept

Imperial Collapse Watch

How the US Government and US Military Became Murder, Inc Counterpunch (Gabriel)

US drug agents ‘went to sex parties funded by cartels’ – report BBC

DOJ Pissed Away $2.1 Million on Drones that Don’t Work Marcy Wheeler. IMHO, the % failure rate is way more impressive than the dollar amounts.

Proof that Russia and Iran Want War: Look How Close They Put Their Countries To Our Military Bases! George Washington

Always Remember, the NY Times Pushed, Hard, for War in Iraq Ian Welsh

Obama touts consumer watchdog’s plans to regulate payday loans Reuters. EM: “‘If you lend out money, you have to first make sure that the borrower can afford to pay it back,” Obama said. [Cough – Student loans – cough].”

Kentucky’s New Heroin Law Marks A ‘Culture Shift’ Huffington Post

California bill that would allow assisted suicide passes Senate panel Reuters (EM)

S.F. jail inmates forced to fight, public defender says SFGate (EM)

Dismal Scientists

Bank of England guru: We’re crowdsourcing economics New Scientist (Dr. Kevin)

As Dollar Heats Up Overseas, U.S. Manufacturers Feel a Chill New York Times

Class Warfare

Is this the start of the revolution, Russell? Millionaire comedian Brand outlines vision for new chain of businesses boasting their own currency the day after being voted one of the world’s greatest thinkers Daily Mail (Li)

House Rich, Land Poor Bloomberg

Guess Which Ultra Liberal State Is About to Become a Hellish Place for People to Work in? Alternet

Antidote du jour (Rick):

Pelican Landing links

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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  1. Ned Ludd

    Lies and Deceptions on the Left, from yesterday’s Links, reads like a Mad Libs on leftist perfidy.

    _____ is a party led by affluent upwardly mobile professionals, academics and intellectuals. They rule over (but in the name of) the impoverished working and salaried lower middle class, but in the interests of the _____ bankers.

    They prioritize membership in the _____ over an independent national economic policy. They abide by NATO, by backing the Kiev junta in the Ukraine, _____ sanctions on Russia, NATO intervention in Syria/Iraq and maintain a loud silence on US military threats to Venezuela!

    1. lakewoebegoner

      While not a fan and despite all the flaws of Rand Paul-ism, my hunch is that Rand’s brand of politics is going to outlast whatever pathetic hulk remains of the current ‘professional left.’

      1. Ned Ludd

        The professional left gets a boost whenever people in the establishment want to prevent hoi polloi from gravitating to anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist politics. For example, Daily Kos’sCrashing the Gate” persona shepherded disaffected liberals back into the party, at a time when many former supporters were becoming radicalized against the Bush-appeasing, warmongering Democrats,

        People are useful to corporate elites when they feign left and then govern to the right (see the story in the Links on Vermont). Liberals and social democrats also redefine the left, to argue for “socialism-to-save-capitalism”.

        Another way to think about this is that socialism is usually considered the alternative to “capitalism.” Not so here. In the case of the financial crisis, socialist policies were understood as the alternative to the collapse of capitalism, and in the case of Detroit, the alternative to the collapse of a major private industry that was temporarily unable to access credit due to the aforementioned near-collapse of capitalism. This has been, at least in the Obama administration’s estimation, socialism-to-save-capitalism, which rather distinguishes it from the project of more traditional socialists.

          1. Ned Ludd

            My above comment was first shown as a reply, then a separate comment, now it seems to be a reply again (to correct one of my earlier comments, which is in moderation). I miss the simple reliability of cork bulletin boards.

            1. craazyman

              yeah but then we’d all have to come over and read them in person in your kitchen

              holy fukkkn A would that be a scene or what?

              Hell is enlarging itself to receive an entire generation of worthless financial parasites. This is the cause of global warming. It is anthropocentric or whatever that word is they use, but it’s not from CO2. It’s from CO1 — Contemptibly Onanistic wealth creation, the #1 sin of our time, and the fires that will receive you are building in height and heat. Many of whom post right here in the peanut gallery are probably sinners, I myself am concerned about my own inclusion in that category. This is why one needs a pair of Edward Green shoes, to dull the pain of guilt and fear. If you can distract yourself enough, you can almost forget about it and revel in the transitory balm of the 10 bagger. That’s the goal, the 10-bagger. Say you take a modest sum — say $500,000 (that’s a comma not a period) and it goes up 10 times. That’s enough money now to breath a bit and live like a genteman in a place where civilization is admired and the cultivation of cultured air of sophistication is something considered a social grace by individuals who possess discrimination in the perception of elegance. I thought I’d have at least that much by now but all the Doom & Gloom Yves posts here twisted my mind and I went short! I lost all my money. It may be that’s the only thing that saves me from hell, but all you fukkkers, especially all you rich finance industry millionaire liberals who pretend your progressives, you have no hope at all.

              1. ambrit

                Most Esteemed craazyman:
                Have a “craazyman cocktail” bro! At least you had some money to lose in the first place. At this pace, you run the risk of being our neo-modern version of Henry James! (I might be confusing him with his brother, William. The one who wrote that wonderful memoir; “The Varieties of Economic Experience.”)
                Didn’t someone once post a picture of the formal entrance to the Stock Exchange with Dante’s famous inscription, “Abandon All Hope, You Who Enter Here” ‘carved above it? (If they didn’t, someone should.)
                Let us consider all of the possible torments available in the Infernal Regions for corrupt financial types. I for one, woke up one morning with the very creepy idea of being tortured in H— by a “Chastisement Algorithm.” It bombarded the sinner with the absolute worst pain, which caused the sinners nervous system to shut down from overload. The Algo then shuts off, just long enough to allow the sinners nervous system to recover from the overload, and then repeats the procedure. Do this hundreds of times a minute, and you too can revel in the degradation of “front running” the Tortures of the D—-d! I’m sure the NC Commentariat can beat my humble essay in fiendishness with ease!
                I remain,
                Your Humble Twitchy Avernal Cicerone,

              2. craazyboy

                Unfortunately, Wall Street believes in disembodied spirits and will engage in Satanic Rituals, ensuring they can capture another new body in Upper Manhattan and continue Satan’s work here.

  2. rich

    U.S. Interest in Protecting Fran

    Why would the United States Justice Department assert “state secrets” in a civil defamation lawsuit against UANI, a nonprofit issue group? Because United Against Nuclear Iran is not a nonprofit issue group. It’s a federal corporate, economic and political lever.

    Frances Fragos Townsend helped found and runs UANI. Consider a few of her many appointments:

    Ms. Townsend chairs the Board of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance and is a member of the Board of the Bipartisan Policy Council. She is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission.

    Ms. Townsend spent 13 years at the U.S. Department of Justice under the administrations of President George H. W. Bush, President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush. Ms. Townsend is a Director and chairs the compensation committees of three private company Boards and serves as Director of two public companies.

      1. hunkerdown

        “Deep state” implies a formality that isn’t necessarily in evidence. The shadow-elite theory is congruent with that most of the decisions about our daily lives and fortunes are made at tony cocktail parties then (re)enacted officially.

        1. different clue

          Perhaps we could call it the Inner Party, in honor of George Orwell.
          Or perhaps we could call it the Inner Class.

  3. Ben Johannson

    Re Japan: it should be obvious to all QE is insufficient to the task of generating inflation. Loading up the banking system with reserves is a one-off price-adjustment rather than a continual rise in the general price level and will be no different for the ECB’s current program. Once the economy adjusts to devaluation in FX markets the process is over; in a demand-scarce world the answer is not to try and grab it from someone else.

    1. Jim Haygood

      As a thought experiment, what if Paul Volcker, instead of announcing his ‘Saturday night special’ rate hike shock, instead had proclaimed a QE program to radically expand the monetary base? ‘I’m buying real estate with nothing down, and so should you,’ Volcker could have added to egg on the frenzy.

      In this hypothetical case, I presume that the dollar’s collapse would have accelerated, and inflation might have surged to 30 to 40%.

      Same mechanism, different results in Japan 35 years on. Extremes of collective psychology can produce euphoric bubbles, but also long periods when nothing works to jolt an economy recovering from a free-money addiction from its malaise. QE methadone just don’t light up the synapses like Vitamin H.

      1. Ben Johannson

        In this hypothetical case, I presume that the dollar’s collapse would have accelerated, and inflation might have surged to 30 to 40%

        That statement is why critical thinking is important. You’ve made an assumption based on monetarist theory rather than looking at the observed data and proprosing an explanation. Hence your argument isn’t hypothetical at all — to arrive at your conclusion requires we dump the data and go with unsupported reasoning.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          It is still hypothetical, if you’re saying he assumes a monetarist theory explanation.


    2. Ben Johannson

      To put it another way Japan and the EMU are attempting to export their deflation to the United States while importing our inflation by making their goods less expensive for us and ours more expensive for their consumers.

    3. curlydan

      But it does help the stock market. The Nikkei chart in the WSJ article sure looked good, kind of like what’s happened to the S&P just faster. And Japan’s CB now holds assets worth 66% of Japan’s GDP…holy crap!

  4. Jim Haygood

    ‘The chances for the Saudis to win in a fight against Yemen are very low.’ — Moon of Alabama

    Say it ain’t so! After spending trillions on U.S. high-tech weaponry, the Saudis can’t prevail against indigenous hill tribes (also armed with ‘inherited’ U.S. high-tech weaponry)? Reminds me of another exceptional country that couldn’t prevail against ‘cave dwellers’ in Afghanistan after fourteen years of trying.

    In the unimaginable event that coddled Saudis are dispatched to the Yemen front, the convoy of lacquered Bentleys and gold-plated Rolls Royces traversing the desert would resemble General Gallieni’s fleet of Parisian taxicabs, transporting the Seventh Division to the Battle of the Marne. En garde, alors!

    1. frosty zoom

      don’t forget those afghani ‘cave-dwellers’ were using exceptionally made u.s. armaments!

      1. Jim Haygood

        Mere youngsters, my man. As Wikipedia dryly notes in its article on the AK-47, ‘the United States also purchased the [Kalashnikov-derived] Type 56 from China to give to the mujahideen guerrillas during the Soviet war in Afghanistan.’ Old al-Qaeda vets still sing the praises of Soviet weaponry.

        Will our new generation of Isis lads rave about the M16 in their dotage? I, for one, seriously doubt it.

        1. frosty zoom

          mere sarcasm, my man.

          maybe the u.s. should leave F-35s everywhere it abandons.

          that’ll show ’em!

          1. fresno dan

            “cave dwellers”
            my theory is pajamas….black pajamas. Until we invest in state of the art black cotton pajamas, we are doomed to fail….

            1. hunkerdown

              But the Tipper types kept whining about yoga pants in public, and that’s why the terrorists have won.

        2. optimader

          The AK 47 attribute is simplicity and reliability, accuracy was the last consideration. I tis actually a mediocre weapon in the hands of a well trained marksman.

          The deal was, the SU military leadership knew they had a vast, uneducated (illiterate) conscript army that would be hopeless to train up. Textbook conscript cannon fodder. Rather than attempting to train up they built down instead.
          The AK-47 is a great example of that.
          Kalashnikov’s Ten design considerations were: reliability, simplicity, reliability, minimize parts, reliability, loose tolerances, reliability, reliability, reliability, accuracy. The notion of its attributes as a weapon are largely misunderstood.
          It’s great attribute is that someone with no training can pick it up out of the mud point it in the general direction of a target and shoot w/o too much to figure out..

          The fire selector is a metaphor for the expected shooter originally envisioned.
          Fire selector[edit]
          The prototype of the AK-47, had a separate fire selector and safety.[37] These were later combined in the production version to simplify the design. The fire selector is a large lever located on the right side of the rifle, …. It is operated by the shooter’s right fore-fingers and it has 3 settings: safe (up), full-auto (center), and semi-auto (down).[38] The reason for this is, under stress a soldier will push the selector lever down with considerable force bypassing the full-auto stage and setting the rifle to semi-auto.[38] To set the AK-47 to full-auto requires the deliberate action of centering the selector lever.[38] Some AK-type rifles also have a more traditional selector lever on the left side of the receiver just above the pistol grip.[38] This lever is operated by the shooter’s right thumb and has three settings: safe (forward), full-auto (center), and semi-auto (backward).[38]

          The fire selector is specifically designed inhibit an untrained (panic prone shooter) from slamming the selector down in to full auto and immediately emptying the clip to no effect.. The barrel wiggles around elastically when shot so it is inaccurate. But again, Kalashnikov designed for a shooter w/ no marksmanship skills,
          It was designed for an untrained shooters to use at close range. Accuracy of a very average handgun.

          1. skippy

            In my experience its the ammo wrt the AK-47 that is the most dynamic, that little steel pin core has a mind of its own. Seen it pierce both sides of 3.5X3.5 .3570 steel tubing w/ clean entry – exit and still have considerable kinetic energy.

            Skippy…. you’ll get that when your manually operating pop up targets down range, one even made it through the little 10X5 aperture in my bunker for said steel tubing to exit, and managed to kiss 3 walls before putting a warm kiss on my forearm.

          2. Lexington

            The AK 47 attribute is simplicity and reliability, accuracy was the last consideration. I tis actually a mediocre weapon in the hands of a well trained marksman.

            Off topic, but since you bring it up a “well-trained marksman” (i.e. a sniper) would not be using an assault rifle of any kind to begin with. The universally acknowledged virtues of the AK-47 are robustness, reliability, and good penetrating / stopping power. The fact that it has been produced in so many variants over the years (both licensed and unlicensed), probably more than any other firearm, is a testament to the extent that these qualities are appreciated by those in the line of fire. It must equally be acknowledged that the quality of different versions can vary very widely. Even some experienced American troops in Vietnam preferred to use captured AK-47s instead of the lighter and more compact but much more temperamental M-16.

            The deal was, the SU military leadership knew they had a vast, uneducated (illiterate) conscript army that would be hopeless to train up. Textbook conscript cannon fodder.

            The vast majority of the Soviet population was not illiterate, and in any case formal education has little to do with trainability – how many mujaheddin do you think finished high school, never mind post secondary education?

            For that matter the US had a conscript army until 1975. There used to be a running joke that you knew a weapon was American if it had step by step instructions for using it printed on the side (as was the case for example with the M72 LAW).

            The fire selector is specifically designed inhibit an untrained (panic prone shooter) from slamming the selector down in to full auto and immediately emptying the clip to no effect..

            This is the kind of common sense feature that reflects sound design principles rather than being a reflection on the presumed ability of the user. Combat is one of the most stressful activities known to man, for which no amount of training is truly adequate preparation. Human engineering that to the maximum extent possible makes allowance for the fact the weapon operator will likely be experiencing extreme stress is therefore extremely desirable.

            1. optimader

              Marksman is an entry level training qualification, not the pool that pool that “nippers are culled from. BTW, never say never. Survivors work w/ the tools available.

              The biggest issue when the M16 was deployed was fouling. It was deployed with

              Even some experienced American troops in Vietnam preferred to use captured AK-47s instead of the lighter and more compact but much more temperamental M-16.

              The reliability criticism of the M16 when it was first deployed primarily due to Pentagon value analysts in the McNamara cabal making a switch to a cheaper cartridge (propellant ( ball powder vs stick powder). The former being cheap, dirtier. The M16 was designed specifically for the later. That as well as originally requisitioning them with out chrome overlay barrels (again, cheaper). Neither of these were systemic design deficiencies of the M16.

              The M16 was lighter, more accurate and the ammunition had a great weight and form factor advantage , something like a 3:1 advantage as I recall.

              Suffice it to say Kalashnikov has tacitly conceded that advantage of a more compact cartridge with AR74 by designing it around a smaller cartridge (5.45×39mm cartridge, replacing the 7.62×39mm). Similarly that decision was made when moving from the M1 to M16 (5.56×45mm NATO replacing the 7.62×33mm).

              The vast majority of the Soviet population was not illiterate, and in any case formal education has little to do with trainability – how many mujaheddin do you think finished high school, never mind post secondary education?

              I wont go down the deerpath of parsing what “literacy” means, suffice it to say, The SU traded second option (first to the Hermitage Museum) for the Romonov art collection to Armand Hammer in exchange for his monopoly on building pencil factories in the SU in later 1920’s. As public policy, they were basically starting from ground zero after the revolution.
              The SU enlisted something like what 38MM civilians into the Red Army? My comment on training/literacy of rank&file Red Army soldiers ( not officers) is not my opinion but that related to me first hand from WWII survivors of Hungarian, Polish and Russian and US extraction with direct interaction – consistently.
              You make my point exactly, w/ the Mujahidin, the AK47 is a well suited weapon for someone to just pickup and use w/o and formal weapons training. It’s success is grounded in its accuracy. More so that is a simple rifle that a shitpot of has been produced.

              (The fire selector switch )This is the kind of common sense feature that reflects sound design principles rather than being a reflection on the presumed ability of the user.
              Again you make my point.

              Personally , if I were dragged out of the armchair and had to take up arms in a shooting war, I would surely rather have the most modern variant of an M16 w/ a scope and all the 5.56×45mm NATO rounds I can carry rather than a similarly equipped and provisioned most modern variant of an AK47. (No opinion about the AK74, it presumably has parity or possibly even superiority to an M16, it’s a newer design.)

              1. skippy

                You can get an upper reviver which is easily swapped for the 7.62mm, you can have the best of both systems as need dictates.

                I’m more of an H&K – FLN et al sort if need dictated, more robust if you end up using it as a cudgel or getting bashed about.

                But I’d never leave without my hand crafted Kukri made out of old rail iron w/ all the little knifes. Original multi tool, to which I added a suture kit, wooden grip is said to be made of a tree that has coagulant property’s.

                Skippy… numerous perfict scores w/ M-16 on half silhouette targets at max effective range w/ open sights e.g. not a big fan of toilet paper tubes for anything within 400m – 600m. Completely screws with your periphery vision and a whole list of other bolt on mania problems.

                PS. sigh….

                Family friends moved to CO. Springs for work, 3 times a week the lady’s after dropping kids off to school go to the range for a cuppa and some pop pop w/ hand guns that are bedazzled and have custom nail polish paint jobs. Whats the world coming too…. groan….

                1. Optimader

                  But I’d never leave without my hand crafted Kukri made out of old rail iron w/ all the little knifes
                  That would be class locomotive steel aisi a-551 6-7% carbon. Dont enter a serious kitchen without it .Holds a razor edge

          3. JTMcPhee

            This is one of those toilet-paper-over-the-top-or-out-the-bottom things. Nooooo problem finding thousands of highly partisan views on the “virtues,” vel non, of “AK-47, the REAL weapon of mass destruction,” One little example, in the car-magazine prose that is so common in these articles: “AK-47 Accuracy and Reliability,” no problem diving into youtube to find endless videos showing what the Game has done to what used to be beautiful cities and relatively peaceful coexistence, and how “modern” weapons are actually used. I’m sick of war porn myself, I’ll leave it to anyone with curiosity or a scholarly or prurient interest to check “iraq syria combat” results in youtube’s search.

            Opti may have shootin’ experience, I don’t know. I did do the Vietnam thing, albeit from the helicopter’s perspective, and the notion that US troops are disciplined steely-eyed controlled-rage killers who aim their shots and don’t “panic and go full auto” is incomplete at best, both from recent video evidence and my little experience in a much earlier proof that the Brass, and way down the roster too, of the world’s greatest biggest fattest most bureaucratized arrogant top-heavy corrupt fraud-driven lying military machine have no clue what a sensible “mission” is, what “defense” is, and how to deal with “cave dwellers in black pajamas who want imperial troopers that explode their families and homes and kill their wedding parties and water buffalo to just leave them alone!” in what in the bloodless language of geopolitics is called “4th gen warfare.” Sending Troops out to hold Khe Sanh at all costs or patrol the mean streets of Fallujah and kick in doors in Kandahar and do that stuff in Somalia and Lebanon and Grenada and et cetera is not any kind of “sensible mission.”

            Even the M-4 “America Exceptional First” folks would mostly, I think, agree that the AK is a lot straighter shooter than the “very average handgun,” which won’t give 5″ shot groups at 50 yards, let alone 100. A very large number of US service people and a very much larger number of people wielding AKs on both sides of “fraternal conflicts” are dead and dismembered and damaged thanks to bullet strikes from 7.62×39 rounds that leave the barrel at 2,350 feet per second and per the author cited above, “effective” at killing a “silhouette target” (human) at over 450 yards. The difference between a “group” of hits of 5″ at 100 yards and 3″ is immaterial to the human body shattered by either 5.56 or 7.62 rounds. How too much of our idiot human population views the matter [“ballistic gel” is supposed to simulate how human bodies shatter and bleed, for projectile development and “lethality improvement” (sic)]:, and for real pessimists who think they are going to somehow survive the Collapse and “take over,” there’s this:

            This and all the other arguments about the relative merits of weapon systems and war fighting prowess of US or THEM are just more evidence, if needed, that the human species, or way too many of us, is, like, totally F__Ked, in my very lonely and very humble experience. “This is your rifle,” chants the drill sergeant, “and this is your gun” (pointing to the penis of the recruit who fell in, not knowing the Deep Difference that All True Warriors Know From Birth. “Your rifle’s for fighting, your gun is for fun.” Something that too many GIs understand, more’s the pity, the same way ISIS and Boko Haram and so many others understand…

            And The US and all the other bit and main players in the Game just keep making more of them, the assault rifles and all the rest, and the anomic monsters that use them…

            1. optimader

              Presumably you are lucky to be around to post on a blog.
              notion that US troops are disciplined steely-eyed controlled-rage killers who aim their shots and don’t “panic and go full auto” is incomplete at best,

              I may have not been clear but I did not intend to imply US troops are disciplined steely-eyed controlled-rage killers I did mean to imply on average thay had RELATIVELY better training at the grunt level. Kalashnikov used his experience w/ the Red Army to design a simple rifle for the demographic that would be using it.
              As far as the fire selector, I was pointing that out as a design attribute. Nonlinear thinking on the part of Kalashnikovs. It is human nature to panic, more so w/ less training (conditioning).

    2. frosty zoom

      i wonder if spy satellites would see that convoy.

      more likely they be poor shia conscripts in canadian made armoured vehicles, fighting under duress of being accused of blasphemouswitchcraftofthesatanickind and having their day in the courtyard.

      this world is trembling under such rampant hiccupocrisy.

    3. craazyboy

      I think it’s more likely the wimpy Saudies will outsource the actual soldiering duties to whatever tough mercenaries they can find in the region – and arm them with the good US weaponry. Assuming they agree to give it back, of course.

    4. Pepsi

      Worth mentioning that Saudi thinks so little of its own forces that Pakistani Special Forces guard the king.

      Saudi has a pretty good ballistic missile force and its air force is well equipped, but other pilots say they’re just terrible.

      They spend lots of money to no great effect, kind of like American forces, but with more pronounced incompetence.

    5. optimader

      Saudi Arabia supplied aircraft during the gulf war, from what I hear not so much thepilots to fly them. They were poorly trained/disciplined.

      1. skippy

        When so many kids on the block have super or hyper cars… BSD inflate-ers get harder to come by….

  5. diptherio

    Re DEA agents attending sex parties:

    One section of the report details that DEA agents attended sex parties with prostitutes in a foreign county.

    The report did not disclose where the parties took place, but a federal law enforcement official told the Associated Press the parties occurred in Colombia.

    According to the report, the parties were held at government-leased quarters where agents’ phones and laptops were present.

    So not only did they attend, but it sounds like they may have been the organizers–how else did they end up in “government-leased quarters”?

    1. Katniss Everdeen

      One DEA official told investigators: “Prostitution is considered part of the local culture and is tolerated in certain areas called ‘tolerance zones’.”

      Oh, local “culture.” They’re called “tolerance zones.” Never mind then.

      1. craazyboy

        Sometimes furriners call them “Red Zones” – a sort of commune where sex and money is freely exchanged. But we could think of it as a very small Red State with an “Enterprise Zone” – not that much different, really.

    2. Romancing the Loan

      I once worked at a law firm with a former ATF agent who told me I should never go into any federal law enforcement agency because everyone is horribly unhappy there, and particularly cited a “wheels up, rings off” policy of constant adultery/prostitutes for virtually every male agent whenever they were traveling.

    3. optimader

      Good, they should do more of that!
      Maybe they will be more sedentary during their working hours. I kinda thought GBjr might have made better decisions if he had been getting more sex during the day..

  6. fresno dan

    But Rognlie’s third point is perhaps the most interesting. Economists combine a lot of different things into “capital,” such as machines, buildings and land. Rognlie points out that almost all of the increase in the value of capital over Piketty’s timeline comes from land, instead of from other forms of capital. In other words, it’s landlords, not corporate overlords, who are sucking up the wealth in the economy. It’s a dramatic, startling insight that was somehow overlooked before Rognlie came along.
    Maybe not. Urban economists believe that as density increases, productivity increases. This is what is known as an “agglomeration economy.” But as it becomes more valuable for people to work and live near each other, the value of central locations — of land — goes up. Landlords, who are producing no more than they used to, but who were sitting on advantageous locations, reap huge benefits.

    In general, this will mean cities tend to be too small — the incentive to cluster together for higher productivity is choked off by the high price of land. The drain of urban income to landlords will tend to increase as the economy grows and the productivity advantage of cities increases. To see this in action today, just look at San Francisco, where the soaring price of land, and the accompanying surge in rent, has absorbed much of the wealth created by the new tech boom. Of course, this has been heavily exacerbated by the city’s refusal to allow more housing construction, which may be a reflection of the political power of landlords.

    Forgive me, but I forget the moniker of the commenter who always makes that point here. As usual, first on NC!

    1. craazyboy

      ” Of course, this has been heavily exacerbated by the city’s refusal to allow more housing construction, which may be a reflection of the political power of landlords.”

      Also too, CA has always been a little skittish about building tall skyscrapers on top of the San Andreas fault.

    2. skippy

      If you look at Calif over the last 50 years the amount of land released for development is mind boggling, yet, prices went up anyway.

      Skippy… land bugs seemingly have the same problem that bimetallism bugs suffer…. every problem set can be reduced to one object and the control over it.

      1. optimader

        It is mind boggling if for no other reason than much (most) of it just really really wants to be desert

    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The author of the link offers a ‘description’ of what is, with his mentioning of the ‘agglomeration economy.’

      Did he/she or anyone familiar that concept go a step further, by realizing, if that is the case, that a land owner can make more money by doing any more, than previously, it (marginal profit gain without marginal productivity gain) argues for ‘land is theft?’

    4. Jess

      As someone who has spent the past 15 years fighting alongside fellow activists local over-development (with astonishing success, I might add), I always laugh at the “we should build more in California” folks. More choking traffic. More over-crowded schools. More diminished quality of life. And, of course, more water, appearing by magic. Gubernatorial candidate-to-be, our current Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsome, wants to enact mandatory residential water rationing so that we can “continue to accommodate population growth”.

      News flash: Not everybody who wants to live here, can live here. That goes for my local city, the state, and the nation itself. There are limits, and we have reached them. The working-age population of the nation already exceeds the number of jobs, even if we brought back all the out-sourced manufacturing and service/support jobs.

      1. jrs

        I often think this is blaming the wrong thing or maybe putting the horse before the cart. Is development the real cause or is immigration? Is it really a case of “if you build it they will come”? Or is it a case of: there is immigration if no new housing is built everyone lives in their mom’s’ basement forever.

        So what do you need to be to be able to “can live here”: oh right like everything else in this country rich. Have worked in wallstreet or be a silicon valley magnate cooperating with the NSA or something, or at least have chosen your parents well. And the thing is the people in the U.S. mostly don’t even want to live in California, probably mostly because it costs too much. A few do who move to California, and many people do because they are natives, but net U.S. migration is OUT of California, except immigrants from other countries, which is the real reason the population increases.

  7. craazyboy

    “Japan’s Zero Inflation Is a Setback for Abenomics Wall Street Journal ”

    Fortunately for the US, Bernankenomics was a howling success, indicating that the wisdom of “targeting inflation” as something economically meaningful, and deserving of being a nations one and only economic policy tool is validated – even tho Abe didn’t do it right, or maybe not enough of it.

    That said, Draghi really shouldn’t try it. These other folks just mess things up.

    We hope Ms. Yellen will not forget Bernankenomics . Asian inflation is looking a tad weak in the US too.

  8. Mark Alexander

    Re: Hellish Place for People to Work In:

    It’s clear that the Progressive Party here in Vermont made a big mistake in supporting Shumlin. This is another example of what happens when we say, “But at least he’s better than the Republicans.”

    I’m not so sure I trust that so-called Vermont “progressive”, Bernie Sanders, either. He talks a good talk sometimes, but then things like his support for bringing the F-35 to Burlington don’t sound terribly “progressive”, let alone “socialist”. See this.

      1. Lee

        A current post a Daily Kos entitled “Why TPP is a Game Changer” begins:

        “In February 2008, with only two candidates left in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, Barack Obama distributed a flier to Ohio voters denouncing Hillary Clinton’s support of NAFTA. The pamphlet was deceptive, not because the accusations he leveled against Clinton were untrue, but because it sent a message to workers that the young senator was a strong supporter of union labor and that he was a vigilant crusader against unfair trade practices.”

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      “Raising taxes on the rich wouldn’t merely assist in bringing health insurance to Vermont’s workforce, it would also eliminate the need for Shumlin’s inevitable layoffs.”

      Some people object to that, out of concern that taxation will destroy money, thus not desirable these disinflationary/deflationary days.

      Perhaps, only federal taxation and not state/local taxation on the rich.

      “Nonetheless, because of his party, and the national perception of Vermont as a liberal state, he has received a fraction of the headlines anti-worker GOP politicians have…”

      Sheep’s clothing – this year’s fashionable wear. In fact, good for all seasons, always.

      “I am a sheep. Vote for me.”

    2. petal

      Last year, Bernie Sanders gave a speech where I work and it was so rah-rah military/aggression I got up and left. I do not trust the guy as far as I can throw him. He’s not what people are saying he is(or what he may call himself-socialist/progressive/whatever)-not by a long shot.

  9. NotSoSure

    Facebook AI software. Nothing to be worried about. I actually did my research on such Question Answering systems. At the end the technology is simply pattern matching based on key words or English sentence structure matching. Now if their system can take the Chinese/other language synopsis of LOTR and answers questions in English, then I would start getting worried.

    1. tyaresun

      Did you read the synopsis of ‘LOTR’? I would sue these idiots if I were running the Tolkien estate.

      Did you read the questions and answers? If these are the leading minds of AI, just shoot me.

  10. Jim Haygood

    Hans-Werner Sinn, on the advisory council of the German Economics Ministry, goes Andrew Mellon (‘liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate farmers …’) one better:

    For countries like Greece, Portugal, or Spain, regaining competitiveness would require them to lower the prices of their own products relative to the rest of the eurozone by about 30%, compared to the beginning of the crisis.

    Italy probably needs to reduce its relative prices by 10-15%. But Portugal and Italy have so far failed to deliver any such “real depreciation,” while relative prices in Greece and Spain have fallen by only 8% and 6%, respectively.

    One can only hope that … the southern countries stay the course of austerity. This is their last chance.

    Austerity macht frei, as it were.

    If no blood appears, you are not squeezing the stone hard enough.

    1. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

      I bet the Germans won’t be reducing the price of industrial machinery or automobiles anytime soon.

      1. Jim Haygood

        ‘Germany would have to inflate by a good 4% … for about 10 years to bring the eurozone back into balance. At that point, Germany’s price level would be about 50% higher than it is today.’ — Hans-Werner Sinn

        We’ll raise our prices 50%, you cut yours by 30%, and we’ll all live happily ever after!

    2. Mel

      Any blood you see will be your own. China finds itself in a position where its big importing trade partner is going broke. Sinn wants to go there on purpose. Farther and faster since we can argue that that’s Germany’s situation already.

  11. Katniss Everdeen

    RE: Why the U.S. Will Fail by Winning in Mosul (and Tikrit) Peter Van Buren, Firedoglake

    Via his [Petraeus] own military muscle and the skillful use of American reconstruction money, Petraeus tried to foster a governing structure that integrated Kurdish parties without alienating Sunni Arab constituencies.

    “…his own ‘military muscle and the ‘skillful’ use of American reconstruction money…”????? I guess he means that Halliiburton-built police station where the second floor toilets flushed sewage onto the people on the first floor.

    Sounds to me like Mr. Van Buren is suffering from a serious man-crush.

    “Ooooh, General, you are so big and strong and your military MUSCLES are so bulgy and ripply…..”


    1. Oregoncharles

      Bloodstone is green jasper (opaque agate) with red laced through it. I have a piece I picked up on the Oregon beach.

  12. craazyboy

    “DOJ Pissed Away $2.1 Million on Drones that Don’t Work”

    hahaha. I spent $0 reading on the internet what small drones can do. Your tax dollars at work. Ya, the battery life is short, they are hard to fly, and the suckers are complicated.

  13. JCC

    I just finished reading the Russell Brand article and I found the comments extremely interesting. Most went on and on about his “hypocrisy”; no one seemed to mention the fact that it takes money to create a new system.

    No one seems to notice the various individuals and groups that go on and on about democracy while sucking money out of the public in order to keep them well subjugated. Where is Russell’s money supposed to come from, the people that are broke? Critical thinking at its finest.

    1. diptherio

      Russel has a great quote about that, something like: “When I talked about inequality and I didn’t have any money, people said I was just jealous. Now I’ve got something and I talk about this stuff and they say I’m a hypocrite. I’m beginning to think that certain people just don’t want to talk about it at all…”

  14. B. Examiner

    “I think it’s amazing that Kentucky has finally joined the 21st century and allowed for some real solid evidence-based interventions that will help to combat this epidemic,” Merrick said. from Kentucky’s New Heroin Law Marks A ‘Culture Shift’

    Or maybe they just read and finally understood the spirit of:

    Give strong drink to him who is perishing,
    And wine to him whose life is bitter.
    Let him drink and forget his poverty
    And remember his trouble no more.

    Open your mouth for the mute,
    For the rights of all the unfortunate.
    Open your mouth, judge righteously,
    And defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.
    from a document written (by a woman) around the 10 Century BC

    Btw, the implication is that if we eliminate much poverty then we shall eliminate much drug use too.

    1. diptherio

      That’s in the Bible if I’m not mistaken. Tell me more about the woman who wrote it. I haven’t heard that before. Harold Bloom’s The Book of J makes the case that the strand of narrative in the first few books of the old testament that philologists call “J” was written by a woman. Is this the same woman you’ve got in mind?

  15. Pepsi

    Frances Stonor Saunders wrote an excellent book called The Cultural Cold War, about the CIA’s influence on the arts. They sent massive cascades of money through the ford foundation to purge the idea that art was a political act. And instead they replaced it with the dreadful dreary ‘art is the pure subjectivity of its creator and thats it’ ethos that’s resulted in Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons. Really great book.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      To be pro-active, one has to wonder what art forms are they deploying today.

      Rave parties? Hollywood movies? Country music? Hip Hop? Classical ? (Western classical, instead of, say, folk music, to cut off connections to the indigenous cultures’ traditions)? All to create a tableau rasa for proper imperial sensibility cultivation.

      1. Pepsi

        That’s a good question. Since they’ve ruined art for generations I think they’ve moved on to movies.

        1. hunkerdown

          Right, the next best medium to pretend is not a political act. Zero Dark Thirty, U-571, etc.

  16. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Australia’s housing (one of the worst ever) bubble.

    I wonder if the same math is at work over there – a million dollars for a 3 bedroom in a working class neighborhood can work out nicely, when you can squeeze 5 (dragon-son) or more expecting mothers, paying $5000 a month, into the motel.

    1. gordon

      Alan Kohler, a well-known Australian financial commentator, posted a terrifying graph on his website, showing that the time needed by an average-wage earner to pay for a median-price capital city house in Australia is now higher than it has ever been:

  17. fresno dan

    S.F. jail inmates forced to fight, public defender says SFGate (EM)

    Uh, prisons are run by the government….and by the law enforcement aspect of government. Doesn’t give me a lot of confidence that they are adequately selected, trained, overseen and supervised – but I get the distinct impression that the government thinks thats a feature, not a bug…

  18. Howard Beale IV

    Two New Independent Reports on the Death of Dan Markingson, But Now What Will Happen?

    The University of Minnesota is now suspending all post-marketing psychiatric drug trials per the Star Tribune.

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