Links 12/22/15

What’s that blooming smell?! Huge plant that stinks of rotting flesh is set to flower for the first time in a DECADE Daily Mail

TPP Ratification Process Grinding To A Halt As Canada Launches ‘Widespread Consultations’ On The Deal Tech Dirt. Worthwhile Canadian initiative!

One of the Biggest Objections to the TPP Just Went Up In Smoke Foreign Policy. Philip Morris lost the ISDS case it court-shopped in Singapore. But the headline is deceptive, not supported by the story.

California Pension Won’t Force Wall Street To Disclose All Fees Charged To Retirees David Sirota, International Business Times. With shout-out to Yves.

Oracle settles with FTC over Java’s “deceptive” security patching Ars Technica. Why can’t we just say “fraudulent”?

‘Somebody Intervened in Washington’ Pro Publica. How Obama let big oil drill in the Alaska wilderness.

Dubai oil benchmark under growing scrutiny FT. A phishing equilibrium.

Kansas is now the 5th state where lottery prizes may have been fixed AP. Another phishing equilibrium.

Former Libor Trader Tom Hayes Gets Prison Sentence Cut to 11 Years WSJ. Executives skate. Mission accomplished!

SEC to Retrench on SAC’s Cohen WSJ. Ditto.

Toshiba Plans to Cut 7,800 Jobs as It Warns of Huge Loss NYT


A Special Relationship Harpers

Seymour Hersh’s bizarre new conspiracy theory about the US and Syria, explained Max Fisher, Vox

How Criticism Of Hersh’s New Piece Fails To Understand What Really Happened Moon of Alabama

The West in the Arab world, between ennui and ecstasy Arabist

Police: Woman Chants “ISIS is good, ISIS is great” During Sex WDJT

The world of threats to the US is an illusion Boston Globe.

Big Brother Is Watching You Watch

A Proposal for Dealing with Terrorist Videos on the Internet Lauren Weinstein

Tor Project: The super secure anonymity network that will definitely keep you safe (as long as hackers don’t break the rules) Pando

Israeli company’s product can (allegedly) pwn any nearby mobile phone Boing Boing

Sanrio probes reported ‘Hello Kitty’ hack exposing 3.3 million users Reuters

The decline of Europe is a global concern FT

Will Spain’s Bernie Sanders be a power Broker in wake of Elections? Informed Comment

Return of the Lula Foreign Policy


China Economic Blueprint Prepares for Slowdown WSJ

China Leaders Flag More Stimulus After Top Economic Meeting Bloomberg

China power audit: The hard and the soft BBC

Shenzhen: Where China’s economic boom began CNN. Along with the recent landslide that buried an entire industrial park.

Fearing pollution, Chinese families build ‘bubbles’ at home Reuters


The Great Republican Revolt The Atlantic

Edward Snowden: Clinton’s Call for a ‘Manhattan-Like Project’ Is Terrifying Rolling Stone

Why Political Data Is a Complete Mess Advertising Age. Like all data.

Health Care

Medicare Drug Spending Dashboard CMS

Linda Peeno – The Confession of a Managed Care Medical Director (video) C-SPAN

Class Warfare

Video And Transcript: NPR’s Interview With President Obama NPR. Readers took a jaundiced view…

Economic opportunity may have a significant effect on health behaviors and risks Eurekalert

I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave Mother Jones

Amazon workers stage pre-Christmas strike in Germany CNN

My Dad’s yellowing reports on work could apply today FT

An economist’s dreams of a fairer gig economy FT

The Effects of Minimum Wages on Employment Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco

What are the factors behind high economic rents? Washington Center for Equitable Growth

The Origins of Totalitarianism Part 1: Introduction Emptywheel

Meet the Scientist Who Injected Himself with 3.5 Million-Year-Old Bacteria Vice (CL).

Antidote du jour (Furzy Mouse):

furzy links elephant

Elephant eating Furzy’s jack fruit!

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. MikeNY

    Re: World of Threats.

    Make war abroad so you don’t have revolution at home. Who said that? Machiavelli?

    1. James Levy

      Back when I was studying International Relations/International Political Economy this issue reared its head from time to time–it was a big hobby horse of German sociologists studying pre-1914 Germany. The problem is finding the connections between foreign and domestic policy. We all know it exists, but the bureaucracies tend to be distinct and leave a documentary record that fails to illuminate the connections. You see it from time to time in the correspondence of Teddy Roosevelt and his clique of Republican Imperialists before he became President, but once he hits the White House things change and his policies are confused. The classic example of a misguided approach to this issue is the Czar’s minister who told him that what the Empire needed was a short, victorious war to stem the tide of revolutionary agitation–that was in 1904 during the crisis with Japan over the Manchurian railways (and we know how that one turned out).

      Most statesman used to understand that wars are tricky and even if you wind up winning them they don’t go the way you want them to and often create messy side effects. The ability post-1945 to displace war to faraway places and fight hapless opponents while avoiding serious wars that could go disastrously wrong has change all that (along with the fact that modern politicians rarely have any military experience and overwhelmingly study law or economics, not history). And even as late as 1905 you could extract yourself from a losing war without anyone blathering about unconditional surrender or regime change. When you think of the laundry list of conditions George Bush set out in 2003 to impose on Iraq, you can see how far we have come from any rational sense of what war can and cannot accomplish. So believing it can preempt revolution at home may be a cute idea, but, in practice, I wouldn’t be happy with the odds.

      1. MikeNY

        Thanks, James. I found my source: it is Simone Weil’s Lectures on Philosophy, where she is indeed discussing Machiavelli. FWIW, I think it is a true intuition: what unites the people at home like a dangerous, common, (and preferably, but not necessarily, external) ‘enemy’?

        1. Paul Tioxon

          Evil brings men together.
          Aristotle, Rhetoric

          DAESH has brought the USA, Russia, France, the UK, Iran on board to slaughter them. And not just in Syria, everywhere.

    2. Jef

      “Make war abroad so you don’t have revolution at home.” That may have been more relevant in the past but now that is simply a possible side bene.

      I forget who said it but someone pointed out that the belief that corporations have a mandate to increase profits was wrong. The mandate is to create customers. Minor distinction but accurate. Now apply that to the MIC.

    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      You look at the money source for each – making war abroad and revolution prevention – and it’s likely the same.

      One version is global chaos-ism with domestic socialism.

    4. dcblogger

      Make war abroad so you don’t have revolution at home.
      because that worked so well for the Hapsburgs, and the Hohenzollerns, and the Romanovs.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        It did buy the Spanish monarchy a few hundred years when they discovered an ’empty” new world to conquer, to war on.

  2. Christopher Fay

    I linked through to the NPR interview and skipped the irrelevant part and went straight to the substantial comments. What I have read so far does not support the Prezzie, and in extension that would include the interlocutor, and are decidedly opposed to Prezzie’s opinions and analysis.

    1. Brindle

      Obama’s disdain for blue collar workers come to the surface here. So the often physically hard and mind numbing factory work was a “bargain”. He’s victim blaming:

      —-But I do think that when you combine that demographic change with all the economic stresses that people have been going through because of the financial crisis, because of technology, because of globalization, the fact that wages and incomes have been flatlining for some time, and that particularly blue-collar men have had a lot of trouble in this new economy, where they are no longer getting the same bargain that they got when they were going to a factory and able to support their families on a single paycheck, you combine those things and it means that there is going to be potential anger, frustration, fear—

      1. Steven D.

        He acts like the death of the middle class was something that just happened, not something he is centrally involved in. If only those ignorant blue collars worshipped at the temple of globalization and corporate power they would see that it’s all good.

        1. wbgonne

          And I see that Hillary has now openly adopted Bill Clinton’s economics. That says a number of things at the level of the current nomination contest but it does much more than that. It signifies that the Democratic Party elites have no intention of returning to economic populism, that economic royalism is permanent as far as they are concerned. That is what Obama is saying in these comments. That economic features such as globalism, corporatism and the devastation of the middle class are fixed. They are unchangeable so they must be adapted to and endured.

          It is reminiscent of the elite Democrats’ approach to AGW: the economy demands that fossil fuels be burned so they will. Period. Therefore, adaptation is the recommended response even though, as with neoliberalism, adaptation cannot work and is just another way of telling people to endure their suffering.

          This strategy of planned defeatism requires the corporate media’s propagandizing: people must be indoctrinated into thinking that meaningful change is impossible. I’d argue that this in fact was Obama’s primary political mission and it seems he has largely succeeded. Largely, but not entirely. Hence, Bernie Sanders’ unlikely yet spirited challenge. But as one can see, with Hillary openly espousing neoliberalism and thereby fully joining with Obama, Sanders is effectively taking on the sitting president (the first black president, for that matter), the Clinton Machine, and the Democratic Establishment. That is a tall order.

          One other note: I have read discussions here recently about the possible merger of economic populists and certain identity-group organizations, specifically, BLM. I don’t think this is much of a problem from the perspective of the economic populists: the overwhelming majority of progressives are also strong on Equal Rights. The problem, IMO, is that identity-politics groups are often so focused on their specific isues that they resist joining with groups that they fear will dilute their power and focus. It would be a powerful movement indeed if the various identity-politics groups rejected the corporate Democrats and aligned with the economic populists. Will that happen? Beats me.

          1. Carolinian

            Good comment. And for those who think Trump supporters must all be stupid or racist one can simply point to Obama’s naked indifference to the working class. Elections are about economics and therefore something the comfortable upper middle and wealthy classes must always fear. They have the money. The lower orders they exploit have the votes. This doesn’t make Trump a good guy, but it does say he is succeeding so far by appealing to the ignored–an appeal that seems to be different from the sort of fake populism being constantly practiced by Fox news, Limbaugh etc. For example the new bromance between Trump and Putin is the sort of thinking outside the box you would never hear from the traditional right.

            1. wbgonne

              I agree that Trump has tapped into the vein of populism. That vein, of course, is quite wide and can include a lot of unpleasant stuff (including xenophobia). So Trump is a decidedly mixed bag for me. But he does hit some true points (more than Hillary anyway) and it is telling that the Elite Democrats’ response to the populism is to insult and demoralize the people who feel threatened and beat them down rather than attempt to help them. The Democrats have given up helping on the middle class; now they just try to manipulate the middle class into surrendering its vote so the Democratic elites can keep stuffing their faces at the trough.

            2. Ulysses

              “naked indifference to the working class.”

              This indifference, sadly, isn’t just limited to politicians. Many people, either as consumers or as corporate functionaries, simply don’t care to know how the other half lives.

              I found this chilling example of indifference in Mac McClelland’s Mother Jones piece linked above:

              “most people really don’t know how most internet goods get to them. The e-commerce specialist didn’t even know, and she was in charge of choosing the 3PL for her midsize online-retail company. “These decisions are made at a business level and are based on cost,” she says. “I never, ever thought about what they’re like and how they treat people. Fulfillment centers want to keep clients blissfully ignorant of their conditions.””

              1. different clue

                Thinking people have always known that this is how thinking people think. In the early years of the Constitutional Republic and again in the Civil War Era United States and again in the 1930s and a little beyond, thinking people in authority tried to craft a political economy which aligned the economic survival interests of various sectors of thinking people with eachother.

                This has been written about in detail by Charles Walters and some others at Acres USA. Carl Wilken in his testimony to Congress at one point referred to “the intelligent co-operation of society” in crafting minimum prices as well as minimum wages to maintain some sort of parity relationship between various chunkloads of economic actors. Regulated Anti-Free Trade was part of this intelligent co-operation.

                The e-commerce specialist you describe had no choice in how to decide how to get her parts and pieces for her company. If she thought about “the effect on the workers who made them” while her opposite-numbers at competing companies did not think about that, she would lead her company into death-by-higher-cost against other companies in that bussiness. That is the slippery-slope race-to-the-bottom designed on purpose by the Free Trade Architects.

                The only way off that racetrack is the abolition of Forced Free Trade and the restoration of Regulated Anti-Free Trade. Then the digital parts and pieces from Slave Laborstan can be kept out of the country altogether, and domestic bussinesses can be legally forced to buy legally produced parts and pieces.

                Free Trade means No Hope for anyone, ever.

                Free Trade is the New Slavery. Protectionism is the New Abolition.

          2. fresno dan

            December 22, 2015 at 10:25 am

            they used to say Bill Clinton was the best republican president there ever was.
            I would say Obama was the best Bush president there ever was…

                1. different clue

                  Here is a scenario in which Jebbie poo can get a chance. Trump reaches the Convention with the most delegates but never enough to get nominated. After enough bitter drama over days and weeks, the Convention sags into a behavioral sink of terminal despair and surrender. Then its Inner Party Establishment figures lock themselves in a smoke filled room and come out withhhhhh . . . The Compromise Ticket!

                  Rubio for President! And Jebbie poo for Vice President! Rubio can play a younger groundbreakinger new Bush, but even more Younger and morer Groundbreakinger than even that! And the Jebster can play wise old Cheney to Rubio’s dynamic young Dubya 2.0.

                  Rubio/Bush! You heard it here first!

                  ( Can you say “RuBushio”? I knew that you could).

        2. Brindle

          The elites would like us to believe that neoliberalism is a force similar to the physical laws such as gravity, water boiling at 212* (sea level), speed of light etc. The decimation of the working class was a choice made by those in power—not by any inevitability outside the realm of rational decision making.

          1. fresno dan

            Agree completely. As well as “economics” – these are all political choices. If you want more equity, you can have more equity.

          2. GlobalMisanthrope


            Yes, except that neoliberalism is a natural Capitalistic response. Consolidation is the name of the game. Why ongoing intercessionary efforts are always required to restore balance. This inherent inefficiency along with its instability make Capitalism a completely irrational system of economic organization. More like a religion. I think the elites see themselves, quite correctly, as the true believers. The rest of us are heretics. Justice then means simply giving us the opportunity to comply.

      2. SufferinSuccotash

        Obama’s also begging the question of where the hell were the Democrats during all those years when the factories were getting scrapped or shipped off to Taiwan and when middle-class incomes were stagnating.

        1. Uahsenaa

          While I have a bottomless tank of ire for the democratic presidents who have shilled for the neoliberal order over the years, it’s worth remembering that it was Congressional Democrats who where the primary opposition in the ’90s to things like NAFTA, welfare “reform,” and the gutting of financial regulations. Clinton got those things passed with majority Republican support + blue dog dems.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            I believe it was a 60-40 split with Team Blue over NAFTA, but they’ve lined up to the in favor of free trade agreements since 1994 which was 21 years ago. Those same Democratic heroes protect the blue dogs at all costs. Even now, Sherrod Brown has endorsed Hillary.

            The rot isn’t limited to a handful of members.

            1. Uahsenaa

              I would never in a million years argue that it hasn’t got much worse–even Al Franken is all too willing to paper over the misdeeds of his colleagues. I suppose I should have limited myself to the point I wanted to make, which is that NAFTA never would have happened if Clinton hadn’t openly bucked his own party and courted Repub. votes.

          2. jrs

            Maybe judge them by the results. Ok these democrats are on the side of the angels when it doesn’t matter, do they ever do anything good in terms of concrete results, in terms of either passing good legislation or effectively stopping bad legislation?

    2. Pavel

      Thanks for the NPR link. I can’t bear to listen to any politician these days — it started with Bush Jr, and now Obama’s voice (with its inanities, insincerities, and hypocrisy) drives me crazy. Hillary for some reason is even worse.

      I read through the interview and the comments (mainly negative). There were a few by Trump supporters, and I’m slowly starting to believe that he might actually be the Repub nominee, and then (if HRC is the Dem) he might actually win. There are so many frustrated, angry, disillusioned people out there. (Including yours truly, for that matter.)

      After that I happened to listen to BBC Radio 4’s “The World at One”, and they interviewed a journalist who had been held captive by ISIS for almost a year. He made the following points, which I would love to hear from *any* US politician or journalist (apart from a few e.g. Ralph Nader, Noam Chomsky):

      * “The father of ISIS was the US invasion of Iraq”
      * “The mother of ISIS was the West’s neglect of Syria” [to which some would add the deliberate funding of anti-Assad “moderate” rebels over the last few years by the CIA and others]
      * ISIS cannot be defeated by bombing or other military action
      * The West must “defeat the narrative” of ISIS
      * The US’s response to 9/11 was precisely what Al Quaida hoped for — the invasion of Iraq & Afghanistan

      He made the interesting point that the ISIS members he met weren’t particularly religious, and “didn’t go around quoting the Koran”. They were more just “lost individuals”, more influenced by gangster shows on French TV, uneducated, and amateurish.

      The BBC had another report from a town in Afghanistan, where after 13 years and a trillion dollars, the Taliban are threatening to take it back.

      I have many issues with the BBC, but it is an order of magnitude better than the drivel on CNN, NPR, Fox etc.

      1. fresno dan

        We can never ever, ever never broach the subject that ISIS followers may just be disillusioned, oppressed people that USE ISIS, for their desire for revolution, rebellion, and revenge.

        RE: Trump – how many Trump supporters have no love of Trump, but Trump is the most revolutionary and rebellious candidate?
        EVEN Sanders is kinda of a squish on foreign affairs.

        1. jrs

          I don’t see why Trump isn’t seen as bad on foreign affairs. His staff goes around saying ‘why not use nuclear bombs’ and he says ‘bomb Muslim families’. How is this better than Sanders, even if Sanders also leaves much to be desired on foreign affairs? And Sanders IS better on economics. Now it’s possible, but not certain, Rand Paul might be better on foreign affairs, as he’s always the reasonable one on this in the debates (not Trump, he’s not reasonable at all on foreign policy).

          It seems sometimes like Trump gets a pass noone else gets, and I don’t get it. Some kind of squillionaire businessman V.I.P. pass?

          1. fresno dan

            Last republican debate:
            TRUMP: In my opinion, we’ve spent $4 trillion trying to topple various people that frankly, if they were there and if we could’ve spent that $4 trillion in the United States to fix our roads, our bridges, and all of the other problems; our airports and all of the other problems we’ve had, we would’ve been a lot better off. I can tell you that right now.

            We have done a tremendous disservice, not only to Middle East, we’ve done a tremendous disservice to humanity. The people that have been killed, the people that have wiped away, and for what? It’s not like we had victory.

            It’s a mess. The Middle East is totally destabilized. A total and complete mess. I wish we had the $4 trillion or $5 trillion. I wish it were spent right here in the United States, on our schools, hospitals, roads, airports, and everything else that are all falling apart.

            Sanders – last democratic debate
            I’m running for president because I want a new foreign policy; one that takes on Isis, one that destroys ISIS, but one that does not get us involved in perpetual warfare in the quagmire of the Middle East but rather works around a major coalition of wealthy and powerful nations supporting Muslim troops on the ground. That’s the kind of coalition we need and that’s the kind of coalition I will put together.

            Sanders sounds like every repub candidate. Now Sanders initially voted against Iraq – yet he seems like he pretty much buys the whole notion of how US foreign policy is conducted.
            Sure, I would vote for Sanders before Trump – but in who would actually blow up the foreign policy establishment? I am afraid Sanders is just another “serious person”

            1. Hobbs

              Remember when Obama promised to close Gitmo? You can read his failure to do so in two ways: 1) the serious people told him he couldn’t do it; 2) he actually agreed with the serious people who told him he couldn’t do it. Eeesh.

      2. Oregoncharles

        Hmmm – just occurred to me: a Hillary-Donald election might be the best thing that could happen to the minor parties: two unbearable legacy candidates. Whom do I vote for? Hmmmm…

        Ok, low turnout, too.

      3. VietnamVet

        ISIS militants, child migrants crossing the Mexican border, and a million refugees flooding Europe are mankind’s response to neo-liberal (plunder) capitalism that is producing inequality, chaos and climate change. It is starting to slip through the cracks in the media that there is a revolt against society by youngsters converting to the one true religion to find a just and noble cause in their lives.

        No doubt this is will be fueled in the USA by familial despair caused by joblessness and opiate/alcohol addiction that is killing off lower class white Americans.

  3. Christopher Fay

    Is it just my preferences? Even when Fox/CNN insinuates itself into the Facebook suggested news stream all the comments are against either Hillary or Obama, but I repeat myself.

  4. James Levy

    Reading the Emptywheel article on Totalitarianism, I am struck by the way in which a certain bias is evidenced. The collapse of the Kaiserreich and the whole monarchical/social system associated with it is seen by “liberals” of both the 19th and 20th century persuasion as so obviously “a good thing” that it is hardly ever brought up in the context of the rise of Nazism. If mentioned, it is seen as an authoritarian prelude to Nazism. But I disagree. I think that system was sympatico with German culture up to that time and that losing it set the German people adrift and made them vastly more susceptible to Hitler than they ever would have been had the Kaiser been retained the way Hirohito was after WWII. This of course would have led to its own problems but preventing the rise of a Hitler is worth a dozen lesser headaches.

    I think it is also important to remember that Totalitarianism is a modern response, because it is predicated on the notion that something can be done. Many historical societies were simply fatalistic. Totalitarian regimes, however, are based on activism (“making the trains run on time’). It will be interesting to see (in the worst sense of the term interesting) if a post-neoliberal, demobilized and demoralized America is susceptible to Totalitarianism or if it will adapt to collapse in new or different ways. I have read about Wolin’s inverted totalitarianism and perhaps he may have hit on what is happening. I just don’t know.

    1. Michael

      The US is damn near a Fascist state after 200 years of vaguely self-determined rule and a kinda lousy economy for 15 years.

      With a real Depression? You’d be able to set your clocks by the trains running to the camps. I don’t think it’s just Germany. I think it’s white people in general.

      1. ambrit

        Idi Amin? Rwanda and Burundi? The Congo? Sukarno? Diem? Mao?
        Set your clock, if you are allowed one, by the lines of oppressed everywhere, everywhen.

    2. Ulysses

      “Many historical societies were simply fatalistic.”

      Very important point! Serfs weren’t necessarily happy with their lot, they just didn’t see any realistic way of changing it for the better. There is a sense in which today’s neoliberal ideology is much more psychologically cruel to the poor than most traditional world-views. Rollo the peasant wasn’t mocked by Otto the baron for not pulling himself up by his bootstraps. He wasn’t expected to go to night school after his day job to “get ahead,” and then blamed by those who don’t hire him for studying the “wrong” things.

      I think that the greatest difficulty an aspiring totalitarian dictator in the 21st century U.S. would have is the extreme atomization of our society. Pulling together in the same direction just doesn’t seem natural here. Our 21st century kleptocratic elites prefer to avoid the sturm und drang of nationalist fervor. Indeed they push for the steady erosion of national sovereignty, and the construction of a transnational kleptocratic rule.

  5. Carolinian

    More financial parasitism in the banana republic. What country that takes justice seriously would allow this to happen? Debt buyers are using arbitration clauses to deny class action challenges when they act illegally. Courts are consistently siding with the crooks.

    In Mr. Cain’s case, Midland Funding, the unit of Encore Capital, persevered despite originally lacking a copy of a Citibank arbitration agreement they said he signed in 2003. Instead, the debt collector presented as evidence a Citibank contract that one of Encore’s lawyers signed when he opened an account.

    Much more

    1. fresno dan

      Vaguely recall that there used to be the principal that one couldn’t sign a contract that made oneself a slave, and you couldn’t sell your own heart, etcetera.
      Nice to know we have progressed beyond such antiquated notions, and can now concede to being defrauded….(sarc)

  6. Steve H.

    – Emptywheel

    The ‘” history of mentalities” (as opposed to the “history of ideas”)’ quote within the piece is an explicit reference to the Annales School of the study of history. They were trying to provide a history based in empirical analysis of conditions, rather than the ‘Great Man’ perspective of how things changed.

    Although Braudel had a bestseller, the school has apparently languished. While I find the examination of marginalia individually insightful (as does Lambert (mr subliminal, dec 17)), there was a hope that the examination of the past could help us understand the present in more objective terms.

    However, a first-pass analysis of the mentality of the U.S. would be drawn to the incredible mass of resources that have gone toward the military. That would lead to an overwhelming single-factor explanation of our mentality being ‘imperialistic.’

    I hope that is an insufficient explanation of our culture.

    1. James Levy

      I had the good fortune to read all three volumes of “Civilization and Capitalism” over one summer many years ago and used the first volume in my “Western Civilization 1500-Present” course. Wonderful stuff. The question, of course, if the ratio of continuity to change. Carolinian above notes the obsession with the letter of contracts over any spirit of justice or fair play. Well, you can read letters by British officers serving in North America during the Seven Years War (aka The French and Indian War) complaining bitterly that colonial troops would actually leave the field in the middle of a critical campaign because their terms of service didn’t allow them to leave their own colony or their term of enlistment was up (Union generals Joe Hooker and George Meade had huge headaches with this during the Spring of 1863 when a whole bunch of regiments demanded to go home during the Battle of Chancellorsville and right before the Gettysburg Campaign). The British were stunned by what they saw as the lack of patriotism and esprit among the New England troops, but hey, a contract’s a contract! The fact that the New Englanders fervently wanted the French and Indians defeated and expelled didn’t change their attitude towards the letter of the law one bit (as one might expect from Biblical literalists). So one can see a certain continuity in the American psyche right there.

    2. Uahsenaa

      Most contemporary historiography originates in the academy, where history writing has been largely turned into a professional practice with prescribed standards for style and methodology rather than ideology. As a result, it’s far more eclectic both in approach and scope, and so would be rather loath to identify a spirit of the age or mentality. Frankly, I prefer this way of doing things, since it is much better equipped to deal with the fundamental heterodoxy of the source materials upon which history writing ideally is based. It would help show that contemporary America is an odd overlap of class, racial, ethnic, religious, etc. identities, none of which merge into one another but quite often have interesting intersections.

      1. Steve H.

        – the fundamental heterodoxy of the source materials

        There’s the parameter that unfolds the lotus. All the historians mentioned in the article are dead, so the perspective seems not to be up to date.

  7. allan

    Texas Colleges Can’t Bar Guns From Dorms

    Texas public universities cannot ban guns from dormitories due to the state’s new campus carry law, Attorney General Ken Paxton said Monday. Paxton cited Senate Bill 11 in a nonbinding advisory opinion . S.B. 11 forbids public universities from banning concealed license-holders from carrying handguns on campus. … The law allows exemptions in “limited circumstances,” but Paxton says a dormitory ban goes too far.

    1. cwaltz

      And on the other side of the debate we have Virginia demagoguery. The State AG cited that 25 states allow fugitives, known drug dealers and convicted stalkers to purchase handguns and that as a result he was revoking concealed carry reciprocity. The problem? FEDERAL LAW prohibits known drug dealers, fugitives, and convicted stalkers from purchasing weapons LEGALLY. We put in a FOIA t find out where he got his “data” from but I suspect that anyone who got weapons got through from loopholes in the system in much the same way Cho got through in Virginia despite his obvious mental health issues.

  8. JTMcPhee

    So now the political economy is told by an expert that the goal is “equitable growth.” So as with nasty metastatic cancers, “growth” is inevitable as are the outcomes?

    NYT opinion concurs:

    Great in mind that’s the word from people who are already on the train, in the totally swanked-out private and “public” Club Cars up near the front, who already “have theirs” and who will roll safely into Eternity Station before the cattle cars the rest of us are locked into back in the rear are done burning and crashing off the track…

  9. timbers

    I know some don’t like terms like Millennials or Obama Generation but the Great Recession is a watershed event that accelerated many of the treads and it happened closely to Obama’s rein and Obama was the one with the logical opportunity to respond with a fix to it which he failed to do (or he succeeded if his job was to make things even better for the 1%). Also too being feral in delivering a progressive point. So I say we need more headlines like this to directly confront Hillary supporters and Obama supporters who are the problem IMO not the solution:

    “Millennials Drown In Obama’s Tsunami Of Poverty”

    “Back in June, this website first “solved” the “mystery” behind America’s missing inflation, when we showed that a record number of US renters are unable to afford housing, suggesting that record amounts of “disposable income” were being diverted for use as a shelter “tax” instead of being spent on true discretionary goods and services, leading (together with the Obamacare tax) to the broad and distressing decline in not only traditional retail sales and moribund consumer spending, and the “secular” economic slowdown observed over the past several years.”

  10. Peter Schitt

    On effects of minimum wage:

    Classic economist “on the one hand…” Basically there is no compelling evidence that min wage causes job losses – unless you are a neoliberal.

    1. Bill Smith

      A company that owns a number of fast food franchises reduced their head count per store by ½ employee FTE by removing the person who took the drive in orders. They ‘outsourced’ that job to their own call center in another state.

      In this example it didn’t take an increase in the minimum wage to cause job loses, it just took the cost of whatever can be substituted for that job to be lower. And the cost of communications just keeps getting cheaper.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Another clogged trickle down machine.

        Science (or technology) is supposed to replace inefficiency (including when humans are not so productive, but it could a more efficient machine for a less efficient machine) so we all benefit from a new innovation (trickled down from the innovation epicenter).

        So, now taxi drivers, truck drivers, cleaners, burger flippers, and many other workers in numerous fields are being replaced by robots, but not much is being trickled down.

        1. Bill Smith

          The Turing Test for animation is passed when a human viewer can’t tell the difference between a scene which shows (among other things) the faces of people talking where the scene was filmed with real people and real props or one where the people and everything else was totally generated by computer.

          About a decade before the movie stars start being automated?

          1. ambrit

            Forget the “movie stars,” hows about the Leaders? It already started with the Animatronic Ronald Reagan in 1983.
            “Wag the Dog” should be declared a work of prophecy, not art.

  11. diptherio

    Good explainer on Fed rate raise:

    The Fed Raises Rates–by Paying Banks ~Dollars & Sense

    The Fed’s announcement on December 16 that it is raising its target for the federal funds rate does bring to the fore Bernanke’s concern in 2008: how to increase the federal funds rate when there are so many excess reserves. The Fed ruled out any large-scale reduction of excess reserves when it also announced on December 16 that it would not be reducing its large holdings of securities. By not selling securities, the Fed would not be accepting checks from bank accounts and thus not reducing the reserves the banks hold on deposit with the Fed.

    The Fed’s solution, instead, is to double down and increase the payment of interest on bank reserves. It announced that it will begin paying interest on reserves at 0.5%. This procedure won’t reduce reserves, but will give banks an incentive not to make loans at interest rates below the amount they can get from the Fed. However, this will not totally solve the Fed’s problem. Even when it was paying the banks 0.25% interest on reserves, the effective federal funds rate (the rate at which reserves at the Fed were actually being traded) was below 0.25%. This is why the Fed adopted a range for the federal funds rate of 0-0.25%.

    The reason the Fed could not keep the federal funds rate at 0.25% was because financial institutions other than banks participate in the federal funds market. In particular, government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) like Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Banks are allowed to keep funds at the Fed but are not paid interest on them. In recent years the Home Loan Banks have become the main lender in the federal funds market. (They were established during the Depression to lend to savings and loan associations to support housing, but now lend mainly to banks.)

    The Home Loan Banks were able to lend federal funds at interest rates below 0.25% and still make a profit. In turn, banks were able to take the borrowed funds and deposit them with the Fed at 0.25%, making a profit as well.

    So when the Fed on December 16 established a range of 0.25-0.50% for the federal funds rate, it also announced a new procedure designed to keep the federal funds rate from falling below 0.25%. The new procedure is to conduct overnight reverse repurchase agreements (ON RRP) with the Home Loan Banks (as well as with banks, other GSEs, and money market mutual funds, which are important lenders in short-term markets).

    ON RRP is an imposing-sounding term, but reflects a relatively simple process: the Fed sells government securities to the financial institutions on one day and then buys them back the next. The financial institutions are essentially making an overnight loan to the Fed, with the securities as collateral.

    But here’s the point: the money the Fed pays to buy back the securities is not only a repayment of the original loan. It also includes an interest payment. And the Fed plans to pay interest at 0.25%, the bottom of its target for the fed funds rate, thus giving the Home Loan Banks an incentive not to lend at less than 0.25%. Although it plans to use ON RRP as a secondary tool to its main focus of paying interest on bank reserves, it anticipates that both of these tools will keep the fed funds rate within its target range of 0.25-0.5%.

    It seems that the Fed has backed itself into a corner, where the only way to raise the federal funds rate is to increase its payments to financial institutions. With reserves held at the Fed equal to $2.6 trillion, even a 0.5% payment to the banks would cost $13 billion. And, of course, including the expense of the ON RRP program and increasing the fed funds rate in the future would add even more to the cost.

    To add insult to injury, 25 minutes after the Fed’s announcement on December 16, Wells Fargo Bank reported that it is raising its prime rate (an interest rate tied to business and consumer loans) by 0.25% but not the rates it pays to depositors. Later in the day other large banks, including JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America, made similar declarations.

    1. fresno dan

      Thank you for that nice analysis.
      I would say a lot of this follows when one equates protecting the economy with protecting the banks. But of course, its just not the FED that believes that.
      Certainly we need banks. But the FDIC says that there are about 6800 banks in the US. Did we really need to make sure the biggest and most fraudulent survived, as well as an apparent ongoing policy that they thrive???

  12. JohnnyGL

    Trump keeps the hits coming…schlonged? He really said that?–election.html#

    “She was favored to win and she got schlonged, she lost,” he said.

    Also, is anything funnier than when Trump makes fun of Jeb Bush? It brings me endless joy to watch Trump tapdance all over the Bush family. No one deserves to be publicly humiliated more than the Bush family and any and all of its members.

    Trump argued that he is the last person Clinton wants to run against in a general election. “Ask Jeb Bush if he enjoys running against me,” he said of the former Florida governor who has been struggling to gain traction despite a massive early fundraising advantage.

    Trump is calling out Hillary as a liar for saying he’s an ISIS recruiting tool when there’s no evidence of it. I wish Bernie would go for the jugular like that. It’s questionable if it’d work with the Dem base the way it has with the Repub base, but it’s worth a shot.

    1. fresno dan

      First of all, Trump is a horrible, terrible, very bad person. He is probably the worst person in the US….except for the republican candidates.
      Something about he is the least evil, or more accurately, least effective evil of all the repubs….
      And to be an equal opportunity cynic, Hillary’s lies are much more consequential.

      But I well remember when the dems were drooling at the prospect of running against Reagan….

      WELL worn aphorism – beware of what you wish for…

      1. Brindle

        HRC’s decisions and votes as Sec-State and Senator resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands in the Middle East as well as Honduras, Ukraine. For all of Trump’s ugly talk his actions in his career are not responsible for the level of carnage that Hillary is accountable for.

        1. fresno dan

          And as I’ve said many times, in the highly unlikely event that Trump was actually elected, the bureaucracy, courts and Congress still exists. Despite all the yammering about Bush being a moron, he was a highly skilled politician who (choose you own word) lead, manipulated, bamboozled us into war.
          40 years of declining wages…by people very, very competent at screwing us. I say maybe its time for an incompetent blowhard.
          I could go for Sanders as well – but does he want to win?

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            One doesn’t run as hard as Bernie is at 74 without wanting to win. I suspect he’s more anti-Clinton than pro-Bernie. One problem Bernie has is Hillary and her cronies will implement slash and burn tactics if she loses in hopes of a 2020 candidate. Bernie can’t give low info voters who know jack about Hillary a reason to think Bernie unfairly usurped Hillary. Clinton Inc. isn’t pushing “mansplain” for the benefit of the informed but the shallow and even true blue supporters who hate Clinton Inc. but don’t want to see Hillary trash the party with the bumper sticker crowd.

            1. polecat

              H Clinton as a 2020 candidate???…….she won’t be presidential material by then, i mean, she’s aging faster than a summer squash in winter!!!

        2. JohnnyGL

          Those of us who claim we don’t care what a politician SAYS, only what they DO, will have a real test of that claim on their hands if it comes down to Trump vs. Clinton. Clinton is on record, repeatedly, as pushing a no-fly zone which would bring a nearly Cuban-missile crisis level of tension with Russia if she seriously tried to implement it. Someone needs to call out how dangerous this idea is and how dangerous she is, based on her record of death, destruction and terrorist-enabling actions. She’s not shying away from that record, either. She’s running on it as a resume booster!

      2. Optimader

        How much of his bombastic schtick is old fashioned NYC abrasiveness because he understands any publicity, short of molesting/eating children, is good publicity?

        Is it possible he can reel it back in with more hand waving, talking loud and declaratively and having appropriate elements of whatever demographic do (free) handshaking media events to reshape his reality bubble?

        A year is a long time and Trump is a performance artist

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Much of Trump’s appeal is the bipartisan backlash that existed well before his Muslim ban proposal. Even if misguided, people know the country is rotten. When Democrats speak, they act smug and talk about Iraq as a mistake where the country needs a mulligan . Trump trashes the decision on Iraq.

          His anti-islam rhetoric is appealing to many even beyond his supporters who would welcome a ban on certain countries because every day we are told of the myriad of threats put there which justify everything the bipartisan consensus does. People liked freely crossing the border to Canada. Despite these threats, the government allowed guys like the Boston bombers to operate in light of Russian warnings about the older brother. Putin is villain numero uno, but he advised against the bipartisan drive to invade Iraq, Libya, and Syria. This is causing confusion for the masses who arent wrapped up in branding of a specific politician. Although, Trump supporters can’t articulate the divide in propaganda and realkty, I do think they are scared but are deeply distrustful of the claims of the bipartisan establishment. Also, I’m pretty certain everyone hates the Saudi clan and is sick of kowtowing to those thugs.

          I think Trump’s schtick would have played Itself out, but he’s being fed by official Washington. Is Trump more extreme than the incoming chair of the Joint Chiefs, Joe Dunford, and his public views on Russia or the NATO loon Rasmussen.

          1. fresno dan

            Good points.
            The dems act as if the economy is great shakes, and the repubs, except for some very nominal complaining about the economy, which must be solved by more tax cuts, can only talk about more war…
            Hard for Hillary and many dems to truly deride Iraq when they voted for it – either they are craven politicians, OR they really aren’t as smart on foreign policy as Trump, who is on record as being against it back in the day.

      3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        I recall the many single-issue voters, for each single issue, and those who looked beyond whether someone was good, bad, horrible or unfaithful to the spouse.

      4. Ron

        What must the Trump/Cruz Republican followers make of all the dislike and hate directed at Trump by Republican Elites? The realization within the Republican Party elites that past slogan’s have little or no value to the existing base must generate some panic. But on the other hand it may be the only way the party can grow its base significantly beyond its regional base in the South/Bible belt.

    2. edmondo

      Trump is calling out Hillary as a liar

      And water is wet.

      The Clintons think being called a “liar” is a badge of honor. It just means you’ve overlooked their less glaring attributes.

      1. Optimader

        No i think like good sociopaths they dont care but understand they need to react. Their historic reaction it to behave as the unjustly accused, trolling for addleminded sympathy.

  13. GlobalMisanthrope

    “Worthwhile Canadian initiative!”

    Hahahaha. Wow. You’re really old school. In a good way.

  14. Titus Pullo

    Re: A Proposal for Dealing with Terrorist Videos on the Internet

    It’s good to see if the Clinton Manhattan project gets off the ground, it will use the twin virtuous solutions of Silicon Valley — better PR and free labor — to win the “War on Terror” on the internet; since it is mathematically impossible to create a robust encryption scheme with a “backdoor,” as anyone with various scientific and professional research backgrounds knows and understands.

    Maybe this will be the next looting, er, bailout opportunity for the US government.

    Edit: And who is going to volunteer to look at possible snuff films?

    1. fresno dan

      Again and again, our “leaders” put forth illogical and contradictory propositions.
      The world view of ISIS/ISIL is such an outlier among good Muslims that all the middle eastern countries remain our best friends and good allies, and also HATE, HATE, HATE ISIS as much, if not more so than us – despite the fact that they seem never to be able to muster even a half dozen troops to fight ISIS.

      On the other hand, this ideology, even if viewed by oneself over the internet, like the full moon for a werewolf, turns one with no predisposing predilections, into a full blown terrorist. That must be one hell of an ideology…or religion.

      You know, if the world is so full of easily manipulated people, what does that say about our 2 choices for president?

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Mustering soldiers is difficult especially if the government is crummy. Much of our military adventures is achievable because their is a perception American soldiers will steam roll then get blooming onions at TGIFridays in Kandahar. If it’s just field rations and digging in for months with only letters to the wife and kids if the mail is even working, foreign misadventures without a share of the profit are considerably more difficult. Defending one’s home is a different matter entirely. The desertion rate in the Confederate Army was staggering even when they were winning. Hardship on behalf of greedy warlords isn’t a seller.

      1. fresno dan

        Seymour Hersh’s bizarre new conspiracy theory about the US and Syria, explained Max Fisher, Vox

        How Criticism Of Hersh’s New Piece Fails To Understand What Really Happened Moon of Alabama

        Hmmmm…so who is correct?
        Well, I don’t really know. But the Vox article seems to have the world view of an 8th grade civics class assignment. And it also displays a naivete about the knowledge, intellect, and good intentions of Presidents and associated bureaucracy.

        I would ask Mr. Fisher if he thought Bush was a thoughtful, well informed president, and that invading Iraq has served the US well. So much for the infallibility of the US bureaucracy…

        I see where “100 years war” Graham is taking credit for pushing boots on the ground.
        Small blessings, if Graham had been a senator in the 60’s, we’d still be in Vietnam…(well, or course not – now we accept that a few volunteers will die year in and year out)

        1. Paul Tioxon

          To anyone that bothers to observe Russian/US relations, the complexity is there but is not hard to understand or locate the obvious points of mutual cooperation. The US and NATO and Russia have exchanged military commanders, negotiated landmark nuclear disarmament in the Ukraine, recently, sat on one side of the diplomatic table against Iran becoming a nuclear armed nation. But the linkage goes deeper than big newsworthy stories. For example, NATO and Russia have worked together for almost 2 decades to come closer together on common defense issues, when the Soviet Union finally collapsed and the overt hostilities and standing policies of enmity fell by the wayside.

          The above link is for the NATO Russian Council. As the name clearly indicates, the military alliance and united command structure of Europe sits in council with it Russian counter parts.

          “NATO-Russia Council (NRC) Foreign Ministers met in Berlin, Germany on 15 April 2011. In an effort to enhance their cooperation in areas of common interest, they approved during the meeting, among others, an updated NRC Action Plan on Terrorism.

          Since its initial launch in December 2004, the NATO-Russia Council Action Plan on Terrorism has served as an effective tool in ensuring the overall coordination and strategic direction of NATO-Russia cooperation in the fight against terrorism. The updated NRC Action Plan on Terrorism draws on the NRC Joint Review of 21st Century Common Security Challenges endorsed by NRC Heads of State and Government in Lisbon in November 2010, and expands the scope of cooperation in the fight against terrorism.”
          Despite the cessation of the council’s ordinary activities due to the Ukrainian crisis in April of 2014, the long standing points of contact simply do not disappear. Furthermore, it is the Obama WH and NATO’s position on Asaad that has changed in the direction favored by Russia’s overt policy of support for the long standing recognized government of Syria.


          “The council’s full vote on Friday afternoon followed approval by the panel’s five permanent members — the United States, Russia, France, Britain and China — two hours earlier.

          The proposal seeks to join the Syrian government, led by U.S. foe Bashar Hafez al-Assad, and rebel forces for peace talks starting Jan. 1, 2016. It also calls for a ceasefire between Syrian forces and rebel groups.

          “This council is sending a clear message to all concerned that the time is now to stop the killing in Syria,” U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Friday. “This is the first time we have been able to come together at the United Nations, in the Security Council, to embrace a road forward.”

          “Let us proceed with confidence from here, and a determination to end this war, eliminate the terrorist threat, and enable the people of Syria to return safely to their homes” he added.”

          The policy of regime change has been tabled in favor of diplomacy, cessation of military conflict and leaving Asaad as the ruler of Syria until such time a negotiated transition towards an election can determine the recognized government of Syria. Working with Russia, at the same time disapproving of Russia in regards to Ukraine, Crimea, Georgia and other points of conflict is well within the capacity of both US and Russia government officials. Russia works with us even though in the words of the democratically elected president Putin, it was a historic mistake to allow the Soviet Union to fall apart into pieces, pieces of which landed in the EU and NATO. Putin clearly wants a larger role that as one of the Allied Victors of WWII was negotiated at Postdam and Yalta. Clearly, national relations are more complex than simple love-hate relations across the kitchen tables of world. But they are not impossible to comprehend metaphysical mysteries of the universe. Nor are they treasonous conspiracies.

          1. susan the other

            About the Pentagon being treasonous – I don’t buy that. Syria has never made sense. There are too many self-interested players all jumping in the act and many of them have long standing relations with the enemies of their otherwise friends in this spat. Like the Kurds. The Israelis. Iran. etc. I think the most likely explanation for this discoordination is deception because the situation is so conflicted. And as Diane Feinstein said, Obama is an extremely “cautious” president. It’s interesting that Obama might choose to be the stick and let the Pentagon be the carrot. I do not think it rises to the level of a conspiracy. But I do think there might be a unifying hidden agenda – global warming and control of energy resources

        2. Plenue

          Almost as ‘bizarre’ and ‘fantastic’ a ‘conspiracy theory’ as when he claimed the highest levels of the United States government were involved in a vast secret plan to conduct illegal carpet bombing of Southeast Asian countries without congressional knowledge, much less approval. Complete with an entire parallel chain of command. I mean, talk about totally insan-oh wait, he was right. Oh…

          Isn’t it funny how all the mandatory ‘praise Hersh for his past work before saying he’s gone crazy and senile in his old age’ paragraphs that preface all anti-Hersh articles somehow fail to mention his most out-there, and completely correct, reporting.

          As before, history will ultimately vindicate him.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      We continue to kill, to thrash about aimlessly with our lethal tools, long after the threat to our existence was over…the lions last threatened us like 10,000 years ago.

      What does it remind sane, rational beings of? That we humans are insane?

    1. optimader

      I am penciingl this in on my “do list, right after stabbing myself in the face with a sharp stick, just to see what that’s like!

  15. tongorad

    From the origins of totalitarianism post:

    After years of stagnating wages and pointless wars followed by a frightening financial crash, and more wars and political deadlock, the middle class is disappearing. People experience dropping from the middle class as a loss of status, of a place in society, a role, and even a purpose. There is nothing in US society to replace that status, or to provide a new sense of belonging. These dislocated people are not in any way organized.

    The dislocated people are being organized by Trump.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I think he’s getting a lot of single issue supporters.

      “Forget the person. Focus on my one issue,” they say.

      “Keep my family from unfamiliar-sourced violence issue”

      “Keep jobs in America issue.”

      “Down with the Republican establishment issue.”

      And a whole bunch of others that I am sure are there for these single issue people.

  16. fresno dan

    The world of threats to the US is an illusion Boston Globe.

    Promoting the image of a world full of enemies creates a “security psychosis” that misshapes our view of the world. It tempts us to interpret defensive steps taken by other countries as threatening. In extreme cases, it pushes us into wars aimed at preempting threats that do not actually exist.

    Arms manufacturers profit from the security psychosis even more directly than militarists. Americans take our staggeringly large defense budget almost for granted, and lament continuously that other countries do not build as many exotic weapons systems as we do. Finding new threats is always good business for someone
    I recently asked a United States Navy officer what threats he believed the United States might confront in the future. To my astonishment, he answered, “Venezuela.” The South American country is in political crisis and careening toward bankruptcy. Its combat navy counts six frigates and two submarines, none of them seaworthy. Yet last month President Obama designated Venezuela an “extraordinary threat to US national security.” The search for enemies can lead to odd places.

    This impulse is not peculiarly American. Feeling threatened strengthens group solidarity. Some thinkers have gone so far as to suggest that since societies become more united and resolute in the face of enemies, those that have none should find some.

    It is always possible to bind together a considerable number of people in love,” Freud wrote, “so long as there are other people left over to receive the manifestations of their aggressiveness.” Nietzsche believed the nation-state’s “profound appreciation of the value of having enemies” produced a “spiritualization of hostility.” A young country especially, he said, “needs enemies more than friends: in opposition alone does it feel itself necessary.”

    I agree (but not about Ukraine).
    Also, it enables politicians to not talk about rising inequality and falling standard of living for the 99%.

    However, for too long the wide oceans and massive “conventional” way of war has insulated the US from any real danger. I fear that making ever more enemies, violence as the first and only method of dealing with the world, will eventually lead to possibilities that can’t be foreseen or ameliorated against in the future. I don’t think we make ourselves safer by ever more monitoring or ever more involvement in other countries…

  17. Eureka Springs

    Belated response to the link yesterday on the photographer who couldn’t get nude images displayed in public – in Sweden?

    Here in the USdismAy I’ve been working with a model on several surrealist photo ideas as of late. Much to my befuddlement I have found several photo store printers who will not print nudity at all.

    I mean these are images that we’ve emailed and text’d to our mothers fer x sakes.

  18. Jim Haygood

    Rock the TSA:

    CBGB is preparing for takeoff. The legendary East Village rock club that closed in 2006 is reopening as a restaurant in Newark Airport slated to begin service at the end of the year.

    CBGB, which stands for Country, Bluegrass and Blues, opened in 1973 by the late Hilly Kristal and quickly became the famed venue of rock and new wave bands.

    The iconic punk palace launched the careers of Blondie, the Ramones and Talking Heads and is now going from grunge to grub with a set list that includes appetizers, salads, sandwiches and desserts. Expect pub staples like chicken wings, disco fries and cheeseburgers.

    They can use the food as a loss leader, with the T-shirt concession providing the profitability. One hopes they’ll have some pre-ripped T-shirts for gritty authenticity. Omfug …

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The CIA may be rumored to be behind Rock ‘n Roll and drugs, but hopefully they leave Country, Blue Grass, Zydeco and Blues alone.

  19. Carolinian


    How close is Ukraine to a major nuclear accident? Well, it turns out, very close: just recently one was narrowly avoided when some Ukro-Nazis blew up electric transmission lines supplying Crimea, triggering a blackout that lasted many days. The Russians scrambled and ran a transmission line from the Russian mainland, so now Crimea is lit up again. But while that was happening, the Southern Ukrainian, with its 4 energy blocks, lost its connection to the grid, and it was only the very swift, expert actions taken by the staff there that averted a nuclear accident.

    I hope that you know this already, but, just in case, let me spell it out again. One of the worst things that can happen to a nuclear reactor is loss of electricity supply. Yes, nuclear power stations make electricity—some of the time—but they must be supplied with electricity all the time to avoid a meltdown. This is what happened at Fukushima Daiichi, which dusted the ground with radionuclides as far as Tokyo and is still leaking radioactive juice into the Pacific.

    And so the nightmare scenario for the Ukraine is a simple one. Temperature drops bellow freezing and stays there for a couple of weeks. Coal and natural gas supplies run down; thermal power plants shut down; the electric grid fails; circulator pumps at the 19 nuclear reactors (which, by the way, probably haven’t been overhauled as recently as they should have been) stop pumping; meltdown!

    Clearly the neocon solution for global warming is to destroy the world before climate change has a chance to happen. Vote for Hillary!

  20. Jim Haygood

    We’re here from the government, and we’re here to “help”:

    Sales of existing homes plunged 10.5% in November, the slowest in 19 months, to a seasonally-adjusted rate of 4.76 million, down 3.8% from a year ago. NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said much of the decline was due to new regulations that are lengthening the time to closing, increasing the average time to 41 days from 36 days.

    As of Oct. 3 the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau required that loan disclosure documents must combine the information required in the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA). Under the new rule change, known as the “Know Before You Owe” rule, or the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure (TRID) regulation, consumers must be given the new combined Closing Disclosure (CD) with all the charges, fees and line items three days before the closing, rather than at the closing on the HUD-1 form, which is no longer used.

    Adding three idle days to closings adds costs. Lenders are making borrowers pay for locking in rates for a longer period.

    When a whole new acronym (TRID) is created, you can be sure that it means a new layer of inflexibility and delay.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      “Don’t buy.”

      “Don’t be seduced by those siren loans.”

      It’s better we say it now (if not for the past 5 years or more) – much better than saying ‘we must help those borrowers’ later.

      An ounce of prevention.

  21. Oregoncharles

    From “The Great Republican Revolt” (fascinating piece of into-the-weeds political analysis; will they do one on the Democrats?):
    “t was mitt romney who got the first post–Tea Party presidential nomination, and he ran on a platform of Conservatism Classic: tax cuts, budget cuts, deregulation, free trade—all lightly seasoned with some concessions to the base regarding stricter immigration enforcement. The rank and file did not like it. But they could not stop it. The base kept elevating “not Romneys” into first place, and each rapidly failed or fizzled; ”

    Look at that last line: is there tight internal control of that party, or not? Tight enough to “throw” an election because they have a deal with the “other” party?

  22. afisher

    RE: Landslide that buried an industrial park: Did I miss the MSM news that connected the dots between the disaster in China- Shenzhen with the corporations in the US that manufacture electronics there? hint: Apple – which makes the noise from the CEO even more incredulous – but then again the destruction wasn’t “about Apple”, it was the subcontractors and their contract workers – and Apple doesn’t seem to care or worry about those “gig workers”.

  23. Jim

    One thing to keep in mind when evaluating the insights of Hannah Arendt on Totalitarianism is the apparent change in her perspective which took place by the time she had completed, 10 years later, her Eichmann book.

    In Origins of Totalitarianism Arendt seemed impressed by the novelty of what she called the totalitarian system–consisting of a mix of ideology and state terror that culminated in “absolute evil.” She notes that such “radical evil has emerged in connection with a system in which all men have become equally superfluous”

    But her later coverage of the Eichmann trial seemed to throw that argument in “Origins of Totalitarianism” into doubt. It was no longer “radical evil” but the “banality of evil” that characterized totalitarianism for Arendt.

    Her up-close study of Eichmann revealed the apparent shallowness of the man who she now argued represented a type of bureaucratized evil not the demonic evil originally discussed in “Origins.”

    The ordinariness of Eichmann was what now appeared most striking for Arendt and perhaps has the most terrifying implications for our own situation in 2015.

  24. Optimader

    So difficult for TheOnion to compete…

    An old chum who’s niece attends Oberlin College just related this to me. Was yesterday’s holiday dinner chat.

    I had to search on the story, so over the top i could only laugh. These are HRC voters (the nieces insane mothers side of the family that thinks it all makes sense).

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