Links 7/27/15

Aah, THAT’S the spot! Ingenious baby elephant picks up a piece of bark and uses it to scratch the top of its itchy trunk Daily Mail

How Trees Calm Us Down The New Yorker

A cellular puzzle: The weird and wonderful architecture of RNA Nature

Strengthening US economy bolsters case for rate rise FT

Measuring unemployment Econbrowser

The F story about the Great Inflation Mainly Macro

This is the GOP’s plan to strip the New York Fed of a crucial role in policymaking Business Insider

Goodbye Wall Street, Hello Silicon Valley WSJ

REMITTANCES EXPLAINED: How funds are transferred across borders, and why digital is poised to disrupt this century-old industry Business Insider

For Ransom, Bitcoin Replaces the Bag of Bills NYT. Prosecution futures…

China’s Elegant, Flawed, Grand Strategy The Diplomat

How China and Russia Are Running Rings Around Washington’s Designs to Control the Planet Pepe Escobar, Alternet

Why the Economy Will Be Every Country’s Weapon of Choice CFR


Greece poised for troika talks amid bourse shutdown Ekathimerini

Greece debt crisis: Humbled Athens starts talks on bailout with hated ‘troika’ Independent

Debt conundrum to keep Greek banks in months-long freeze Reuters

Austerity is bad but bankruptcy is ‘much worse,’ says Greece’s top spokesman, Lefteris Kretsos CBC. Five reasons why the deal went down the way it did from Kretsos:

“First, we don’t have an efficient and effective public administration to deal with emergencies. Secondly, the Greek people were not informed about what a transition to a new currency means. Thirdly, we did not have enough reserves in our banks to sustain them. And finally, we did not have support from other economic blocs or countries that could sustain Greece in the midterm or in the case of going back” to the country’s previous currency, the drachma.

Covering Greece: When It’s Not Just A Story, It’s Personal NPR

The Greek Warrior The New Yorker. Who’s got the movie rights?

Italy’s Pier Carlo Padoan calls for ‘political union’ to save euro FT

Is the Ugly German Back? Flames of Hate Haunt a Nation Der Spiegel

Puerto Rico can fix debt problems without default: economists Reuters


Turkey continues to hit ISIL in Syria, strikes PKK militants in north Iraq Hurriyet Daily News

U.S.-Turkey deal aims to create ‘safe zone’ in northwest Syria WaPo

Turkey calls Nato talks on IS and PKK BBC

Turkey’s War On Kurds Realigns Syrian Kurds With Their Government Moon of Alabama

Turkey policeman killed in Istanbul clashes Al Arabiya

Black Injustice Tipping Point

Exclusive: Feds Regularly Monitored Black Lives Matter Since Ferguson The Intercept

Attorney General Lynch: Sandra Bland’s death highlights black Americans’ concerns about police WaPo. “The Justice Department has yet to open any independent investigation.”

‘I’m No Longer Afraid’: 35 Women Tell Their Stories About Being Assaulted by Bill Cosby, and the Culture That Wouldn’t Listen New York Magazine

Spelman College Cuts Ties With Bill Cosby Jezebel


Trump tops CNN poll of 2016 Republicans, says he leads ‘movement’ Reuters

If You Don’t Click on This Classy Post, You Are a Loser and a Moron Mother Jones. Or a Queens-born casino operator.

Christie’s sleeper scandal: A whistleblower prosecutor claims Gov protected criminal pals | Editorial Star-Ledger

Attorney General Loretta Lynch faces potential minefield with Hillary Clinton email investigation ABC

Hillary Clinton aides’ Wall Street links raise economic policy doubts Guardian (Re Silc). Doubts for whom?

Hillary Clinton unveils climate change policy Los Angeles Times

Sanders defends record on guns, ‘Black Lives Matter’ The Hill

Three times as much agribusiness money, on average, for House members voting to bar GMO labeling Center for Responsive Politics

Secret deal between Canada’s spies and border guards raises concerns The Star

A Terrorism Case in Britain Ends in Acquittal, but No One Can Say Why NYT

Wretched Excess Watch

French Protesters Try to Derail Beach Takeover by Saudi King and His Massive Entourage Vice. “Besides closing a tunnel that allows access to the beach, protesters object to the fact that workers at the [King’s] villa have poured a slab of concrete in the sand and plan to install an elevator from the estate to the beach.”

Stay classy, Salman!

Class Warfare

DOL Decision Could Mean the End of Wage Theft Through “Independent Contractor” Misclassification In These Times

Proof of a ‘Gig Economy’ Revolution Is Hard to Find WSJ

Human Capital and Industrialization: Evidence from the Age of Enlightenment NEBR

Long-Run Consequences of Labor Coercion: Evidence from Russian Serfdom (PDF) Johannes C. Buggle and Steven Nafziger

Palm-Oil Migrant Workers Tell of Abuses on Malaysian Plantations WSJ

Uber, Airbnb And The Conflict Between Policy’s Ratchet Effect And Tech’s Accelerating Speed Techcrunch. We actually have a shorter name for “policy’s ratchet effect”: The law.

Mammoths killed by abrupt climate change Science Daily

The placebo effect IS real – even when patients know the treatment they are getting is fake Daily Mail

Here’s what your stolen identity goes for on the internet’s black market Quartz

An easy formula can calculate the true cost of a distraction Business Insider

Antidote du jour, more from the Bear Cam at Brooks Falls, Katmai National Park, Alaska:


A family outing!

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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About Lambert Strether

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


  1. abynormal

    interesting comment on Sanders & Guns: “You can hunt with an AK-47, despite what you think the majority of AK-47’s aren’t scary assault rifles and function no differently than any other semi-auto rifle.
    How does registering a firearm stop a murder before it happens?
    Private sales are a constitutional right, you cannot dictate what we do with our property or who we sell it to for that matter.
    You have no constitutional right to own or operate a vehicle, you do however have a constitutional right to own and operate a firearm. That’s the difference between owning a car and owning a firearm.
    You have no right to dictate our firearms furniture or what type of firearms we’re allowed to own. If you feel otherwise then you have no place in our society.”

    Furnishing was not a priority in the Citadel. Shelves, stools, tables… There was a rumor among the novices that priests towards the top of the hierarchy had golden furniture, but there was no sign of it here. The room was as severe as anything in the novices’ quarters although it had, perhaps, a more opulent severity; it wasn’t the forced bareness of poverty, but the starkness of intent. T.Prattchet

  2. petal

    When I click on the link for the NPR agribusiness article, it takes me to the covering Greece when it’s personal article. The only article matching the agribusiness one I found at

  3. abynormal

    The original Scotland Yard police station is to be turned into a new five-star luxury London hotel with rooms costing up to 10,000 pounds ($15,521.00) a night under a 110-million-pound ($170.73-million) deal involving Galliard Homes and Dubai-based developer Yusuffali Kader.^gdnnews

    James Bond is a total concept put together by Ian Fleming. He was white and Scottish. Period. That is who James Bond is, was, but now (they are) suggesting that the next James Bond should be Idris Elba, a black Briton, rather than a white from Scotland. But that’s not who James Bond is. Rush Limbaugh

    Top O the Day to All the Naked

    1. craazyman

      It’s a moot point. They’ve all been downhill since Sean Connery.

      He was one tough SOB. Wow. I can’t even imagine being that tough. It seems cruel and stupid, to be that tough. It seems like you’re some kind of deranged animal attacking and killing whoever your master tells you to. If you’re at the stage of consciousness where you trust your master and impose a villanous mask upon the “other”, then you imagine yourself poised in a stance of heroic grandeur. Sometimes the other is villainous. But if your James Bond you’re not the one who decides. You do what they tell you. To me, that’s an astonishment. Why people would think that’s cool. I don’t think Shakespeare would have written a character as flat as that. But then again, if he needed the money, who knows. In the meantime, nobody was as good as Sean Connery. If your a man you have to be tough, regardless, because things come at you so fast and there’s so many fkking asswholes out there, after a while you lose the ability to even discriminate and if you take a beating once, twice, maybe three or four times, you don’t forget. Women don’t understand that. They just don’t. They think you can reason and talk it out. they don’t understand you usually can’t. Unless they’ve had their lights punched out. Every man knows this but can’t ever say it in a way that conveys the existential truth. So take that to heart, women of the peanut gallery. Jim Morrison said it best in Riders on the Storm. Anyway, a black James Bond. What’s next a Polynesian Santa Claus? hahahhahahaha. Why not? When the handouts come, who cares whose hand it is? Nobody really.

  4. Eric Patton

    I would be remiss if I did not point this out. The US Congress has yet to approve Obama’s deal with Iran. However, that’s not stopping Germany:

    With the ink barely dry on the recently-negotiated nuclear program agreement with Iran, [German Minister for Economic Affairs] Gabriel was already bound for Tehran in the company of a high-level business delegation.

    Apparently, it’s even a bit much for many Germans themselves:

    Gabriel’s trip to Iran was so sudden and his related objectives so obvious that even a number of media outlets, which otherwise regularly beat the drum for a more aggressive German participation in world affairs, felt compelled to comment critically on the expedition.

    But that’s just because they want a moral German foreign policy, right? Um, no:

    The Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper called it “embarrassing” and warned: “Now the impression has been given that Germany is mainly concerned about its business interests. Arriving late is stupid, but sometimes flying off too early is a lot more stupid.”

    Just in case you missed the point the first time, this is about money and power — and good optics:

    The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung also referred to Gabriel’s trip as “quick off the mark, if not over-hasty.” The paper’s columnist wrote that it might perhaps “help German industry to once again secure a foothold in this market after the long years of sanctions.” It was, however, “an ambiguous signal” in relation to German foreign policy, according to FAZ.

    The German business community and many in government are chomping at the bit at get access to Iranian resources and markets. While Obama must go slowly, the Germans know a good thing when they see it, and they react accordingly. You truly have to admire them. They are good strategists and they know how to get results.

    At least the US has nothing to worry about from all this, right? Not exactly…

    As in the past, the renewed grandstanding of German imperialism on the world stage will exacerbate tensions with the US. Although not openly discussed in public, the rush of German businesses to stake claims in Iran is driven by an attempt to forestall potential American competition, which will be excluded from the country prior to the US Congress’s vote on the nuclear program agreement. An Iran dominated by German imperialism or German-led European imperialism would also be a direct geo-strategic challenge to US imperialism, which has concluded the nuclear deal primarily in order to defend its own hegemony in the region.

  5. Skippy

    Is it me or does the whole Greece thingy remind anyone of the Korean DMZ JSA table flag saga.

    During one of the initial negotiations of the armistice, the UNC side went into the truce tents one night and sawed down the chair legs of the KPA/CPV delegation. The next day, when the KPA/CPV delegates arrived, they were forced to sit lower than their UNC counterparts and lost face, so they quickly left the meeting. At a later meeting, the UNC delegation brought a flag into the truce tent and set it up on the meeting table. Again, the KPA/CPV delegation left after losing face, but showed up at the next meeting with a flag that was larger than the UNC flag. At the following meeting, the UNC delegation brought in a slightly larger flag. This kept up until a special meeting was called just to discuss the size of the flags, as they had grown too large to fit within the tents. The size of the flags within the meeting building have stayed about the same since then, with only minor changes. The KPA flag is wider than the UNC flag, but the UNC flag is longer. The KPA flag has thicker fringe around the edges of the flag, but the UNC’s trim is longer. The truck at the top of the KPA flagpole is taller than the UNC truck, but the UNC’s is wider. The KPA flag has a three tiered base while the UNC flag only has two tiers, but each of the tiers on the UNC base is taller than any of the tiers on the KPA flag.

    Skippy…. mean while the whole area is chocker block with land minds and everyone is armed to the teeth, all whilst the civilian populations languish.

    1. JTMcPhee

      What humans do…

      I spent some time, decades ago, on a sailboat cruise with a German particle physicist, who related an adventure in competitive science from his days at CERN. It seems two big-ego fellas, heading multi-million grant-funded teams, were competing to be the first to announce evidence of some obscure pion or meson. One seemed ahead in the race, until problems started popping up with the rather delicate and high-powered measuring apparatus. Being a suspicious fellow, the leading egghead set up a ‘nanny-cam’ to monitor the area in the wee hours. Sure enough, the other Top Scientist was recorded, sneaking into the lab and urinating on the equipment. It would have been a brave move, if the detector had been powered up…

      Boys and their toys…

  6. rusti

    Hillary’s climate policy is good for a guffaw. We’ll install a crapload of solar panels! Primary voters dig that, right?

    Then on her campaign web page, relegated to the very bottom after all the phony economic populism is a short paragraph that tells us that there are over 700 home installations of solar panels per day in the US. Presumably, because she made some noise about how Republicans don’t listen to scientists, extrapolating this number must mean smooth sailing on the catastrophic climate disaster front! I’m relieved.

    1. JCC

      Sounds like a classic example of a politician jumping in front of the parade in hopes of taking credit for leading it.

  7. Ignim Brites

    Re: Turkey calls Nato talks on IS and PKK — Nato is going to be backdoor through which US gets dragged back into the middle east.

    1. Michael

      The US will be dragged back into the Middle East like Hugh Grant gets dragged into the back seat of his own car.

    2. diptherio

      Wait a minute…we left the Middle East??? When did that happen? Must have missed it…also, I think you’re getting the power relations in NATO twisted—they work for us, not the other way around…

    3. Jim Haygood

      From the WaPo article:

      Turkey and the United States have agreed on the outlines of a de facto “safe zone” along the Turkey-Syria border that is expected to significantly increase the scope and pace of the U.S.-led air war against the Islamic State in northern Syria.

      The agreement includes a plan to drive the Islamic State out of a 68-mile-long area west of the Euphrates River and reaching into the province of Aleppo that would then come under the control of the Syrian opposition.

      This hits all the right notes that give Americans a warm feeling of specialness: ‘air war;’ ‘Syrian moderates;’ ‘ISIS-free zone;’ ‘NATO summit.’

      Like so many Americans, I feel rather lost and out of sorts when there’s not a war to cheer on. Now I can put them little USA car window flags back on the Hupmobile.

      Naturally, the concept of consulting Kongress is not even contemplated, with the Constitution safely locked away in a cabinet in Philadelphia where it can’t hurt anybody anymore. Colorful new plastic shovels and pails for their sandbox should keep these harmless creatures pacified.

      1. barris

        Well, the whole story is neatly summarised by Moon of Alabama, who points out for those who simply can’t read between the lines that the Turk “offensive” that is allegedly directed against ISIS is in fact largely aimed at Kurdish positions on either side of Turkish/Syrian/Iraqi borderlands. In Erdogan’s view, the PKK and YPG are really the “threats against Turkish national security”, not ISIS. And somehow, the bloody Yanks have signed on, yet again, in pursuit of their delusionary “war on terror”, not seemingly aware of blowback potential of being seen as “stabbing in the back” the Americans’ ostensible Kurdish “allies”.
        Oh, and poodle Cameron announced “enhanced bombing campaigns” in Libya and Syria, also. What a bloody shower, all predicted to go tits-up…just pathetic…”Western leadership” indeed.

  8. Kurt Sperry

    Link for “Three times as much agribusiness money, on average, for House members voting to bar GMO labeling NPR”, points instead to “Covering Greece: When It’s Not Just A Story, It’s Personal”

  9. Ulysses

    From the linked piece on persistent economic effects of serfdom in European Russia:

    “An alternative measure of economic well-being at the local level
    is night-time luminosity, as measured by satellite pictures of the earth over a series of nights.”

    This is simply brilliant! I always suspected that people were far wealthier in the Bronx than in the wilds of Greenwich, CT, and this shrewd study confirms that my suspicions were correct!! In fact tomorrow I will propose trading an apartment over a bar on E. Tremont for a modest 9 bedroom shack in Greenwich. After all, the latter only has a couple of stables and three tennis courts– none of which produce anything like the brilliant night-time luminosity that one gets from the White Castles, Walgreens, and police cruiser flashing lights available on E. Tremont all night long!!

    The arrogance of social scientists, who insist on distorting reality to support their theories, never ceases to amaze.

  10. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    How trees calm us down.

    We are the masters of the universe.

    Sometimes, when a tree blocks that million-dollar view of one’s multi-million dollar home, one feels calmer after it’s chopped down.

    One also feels calmer when trees are removed from one’s field, so more GM soy can be planted to feed the world.

    1. subgenius

      In classical Chinese medicine the wood element (essentially plant growth and characteristics like bending in the wind without breaking) pertains to the liver and gallbladder.

      Gallbladder issues were what Ulrich noted…the more recent cardio-metabolic issues are related to the Chinese concept of liver as blood “store” and cleanser.

      All that is old is new again…

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef


        Traditional Chinese music is based a pentatonic scale vs. the 7 note per octave Western scale.

        The five notes correspond to the 5 phases.

        One can get different kinds of Chinese music to improve one’s health according the Five Phase Theory, e.g. music that corresponds to the wood element and it will be good, as you say, for the liver, etc.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Thanks for that correction.

            Perhaps it’s easier if I just quote from Wiki:

            Most Chinese music uses a pentatonic scale, with the intervals (in terms of lǜ) almost the same as those of the major pentatonic scale. The notes of this scale are called gōng 宫, shāng 商, jué 角, zhǐ 徵 and yǔ 羽. By starting from a different point of this sequence, a scale (named after its starting note) with a different interval sequence is created, similar to the construction of modes in modern Western music.

          2. John Zelnicker

            A, B, C, D, E, F, G looks like seven different notes to me. Can’t seem to find the H note on my piano.

    2. Gio Bruno

      …when the urban streetscape can be so brutally ugly, it’s no surprise that a living tree can bring a certain calm. Unfortunately, the average lifespan of an urban street tree is about 8 years.

  11. spooz

    Regarding The Hill’s story “Sanders Defends Record on Guns”, the piece spins anti-Bernie to me, (“defensive tone”, “raising his voice” “interrupting the host”), and never actually describes Bernie’s views on guns, which reflect the views of the majority of Americans. Responding to host Todd’s questioning of Sanders “pro-NRA” viewpoint (not in the clip), Sanders responded:

    Chuck, that’s not what I said. I come from a state that has virtually no gun control. And I voted to ban certain types of assault weapons. And I voted to close the gun show loophole. And I voted for instant background checks. And what I said is that as a nation we can’t continue screaming at each other or else, we have to find common ground.

    On the race/inequality issue, I feel this story does a fairer job of describing Bernie’s response:

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Cats are tool users too, per this syllogism.

      A. Many of us humans are tools.

      B. Cats use humans.

      C. Therefore, cats are tool-users.

        1. Clive

          Being relatively new to cats (we were always a “dog” family growing up) I’ve been amazed at how good they are at instructing/directing humans. My mother-in-law’s cat can tell me to do the following and make it quite clear that is what they expect to be done, regardless of my opinions in the matter:

          * Put me on the upstairs bay window windowsill, moving the blind out my way
          * Put me on the lounge window windowsill, making sure I am behind the curtain
          * Open the back door and leave it open so I can sit on the step
          * Food — cheesy biscuits, not “wet” food
          * Cream, to be licked off your fingertip
          * Leave that dish of yoghurt for me to lick when you’ve finished
          * More food / fresh food, what is down is stale
          * Different food, I don’t like what you’ve put down for me
          * Give me your chair, that is the one I want to sit in (even if other perfectly good alternative chairs are available)
          * Open the garage, I want to sit on top of the door
          * Come out in the garden with me, I want some company
          * Leave me alone in the garden, I’m hunting and you are cramping my style

          … and it’s not even my bloody cat.

          Dogs (certainly dogs I’ve known) are way, way dimmer than every cat I’ve ever come across. They’ll be told what to do by you, but are not nearly so good at saying what they want you to do.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      A point reinforced by the Time with its recent story on Thai fishing fleets. That makes it sound like Thailand is the only endpoint of the “cargo,” taking Malaysia out of the spotlight, but it’s not. Earlier coverage showed definitely the trail from Myanmar, through Thailand, to Malaysia, and through Malaysia to points South and West.

  12. curlydan

    Tangentially, about trees and their powers:
    Zen Master Seung Sahn said, “If you have a question, ask a tree. The tree will give you a good answer.” I’ve tried it. It works, especially for tough questions.

    1. subgenius

      Meditating with trees is an interesting experience – old redwoods, sequoias, oaks, and yew trees work best. They run very slow, but very strong. And are far less dangerous than meditating with fire (which is very interesting, but can really mess you up…)

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Currency backed by gold-colored redwood trees.

          That’s a golden standard.

        2. tegnost

          If you like the dawn redwood definitely check out the bald cyprus, a deciduous cedar. This photo i found captures the fall colors well.

  13. annie

    from personal observation over far more than 8 years i say that street trees in nyc and brooklyn last far more than 8 years. what’s the source of that observation?

  14. Oregoncharles

    The Escobar article: disappointing. Too much hand-waving, too many weasel words or vague connections.

    Construction of major new infrastructure across Eurasia is important; it’s also inevitable. And most of it crosses areas of severe ethnic conflict in Central Asia. Rail and pipelines are extremely vulnerable, as Lawrence of Arabia demonstrated 100 years ago.

    The potential alternatives to the dollar as international currency and to the IMF and World Bank are also important, but still only potential. Are those meetings a sign that the US under Obama is losing control of world events (and an explanation of the US hostility to Russia)? Yes, but as victories they’re very overblown.

    And annoyingly, he keeps forgetting that 2/5’s of BRICS is outside Eurasia.

    Time will tell.

  15. different clue

    From the article on Germany it appears that a socio-psychologically unstable German population is further destabilizing itself “over” the refugees. If that is so, then there may be great merit in Ian Welsh’s suggestion to Greece that Greece totally open its borders to all possible Afro-Asian refugees and immediately send them over its own border into Europe.
    And promise to keep sending as many thousands per day as is logistically possible until Germany forgive and annuls the entirety of the Greek debt.

    Or until Germany (and other parts of Europe) catch fire and self-destruct from refugee tensions, if EuroGermany remain too proud to do what Greece requests in order to “make it stop”.

    1. Andrew Foland

      In the field of aviation security, the kevlar lining trick is well-known and was demonstrated in practice decades ago by the FAA. The problem isn’t technical, it’s political: nobody wants to pay for it.

  16. optimader

    Well yes, of course cost, but thats the value parsing of any dead weight safety related innovation.

    The twist here is the shear thickening intermediate material layer

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