Links 12/23/15

Would Jesus Celebrate Christmas? VICE

Wall Street Mulls Naughty List for Ethically Challenged Bankers Bloomberg

‘Animated Life: The Living Fossil Fish’ New York Times (furzy). This is a great story with nerd appeal. I recall reading a book about it when I was a kid and being intrigued.

Amazon Seeks to Ease Ties With UPS Amazon

Kim Dotcom loses US extradition hearing Financial Times

2015 Lists

Cartoon: Year in review, part one Daily Kos

FDA overturns 30-year ban on blood donations by gay men Reuters. EM: “‘…they can now donate 12 months after their last sexual contact with another man.’ And how does the FDA propose verifying that, exactly? Via access to NSA feeds?” Actually, if you use FitBit, that will tell you. But a one-year celibacy requirement for a gay man is tantamount to saying that gay men still can’t give blood. As one gay man once said to me, “If they [straight people] knew how much sex we have, they’d kill us all.”

I Asked A Computer To Be My Life Coach NPR (David L)

Target Practice for Robots Scott Adams Blog (Chuck L)

Apple opens board choices to big investors Financial Times


China Just Launched the Most Frightening Game Ever — and Soon It Will Be Mandatory AntiMedia (Chuck L)

China’s consumption blues Japan Times

Political uprising in Spain shatters illusion of eurozone recovery Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Telegraph

Hope and fear in the endless Greek crisis Martin Wolf, Financial Times

Refugee Crisis

How the Turkish mafia organizes the trafficking of refugees failed evolution

Refugee crisis: Britain can no longer sit out as EU prepares for greater numbers Guardian

21 heartbreaking photos of the ongoing refugee crisis Business Insider


Turkey Moves to Clamp Down on Border, Long a Revolving Door New York Times (furzy)

Iraqi forces advance on IS-held Ramadi BBC

Afghanistan: Another Broken Obama Promise; Taliban Poised to Retake Sangin; Money Trail Shows Billions of Fraud; Mish 5-Point Solution Michael Shedlock

Veteran Intelligence Officials Call for Proof on Syria-Sarin Attack George Washington

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

“The Medieval Origins of Mass Surveillance” Bruce Schneier

In Germany, your ex must destroy nude photos on request DW

Researchers Solve Juniper Backdoor Mystery; Signs Point to NSA Wired (furzy)


Little Hitler’s Minion Had Plot to Kill Muslims: Another Trump Day The Ring of Fire

Hey, Hipsters: Please Save Us From Ted Cruz The Daily Beast (furzy)

Trump’s crude comment reveals his biggest problem: women voters (+video) Christian Science Monitor

The Two Big Political Mistakes of Obama Alternet. Steve C: “Of course with Barry O, these “mistakes” are features, not bugs.”

Police State Watch

For 55 officers involved in fatal shootings this year, it wasn’t their first time Washington Post

Private Prison Exec Waves Off Criminal Justice Reform, Predicts More Profits Intercept


Virginia to Stop Recognizing Concealed Gun Permits From 25 States New York Times (furzy)

The Trouble With Sovereign-Wealth Funds Wall Street Journal

Deutsche Bank’s probe into Russian trades widened Financial Times. I’d love to know the politics behind this one….

Financialisation compounds commodity rout Satyajit Das, Financial Times

Sued Over Old Debt, and Blocked From Suing Back New York Times. A must read.

Class Warfare

Shkreli and the true cost of high drug prices Financial Times. Subhead: “Gouging has made reform inevitable; it should be market-based.” Guess what they mean by “market based”? Having the government haggle over prices, just like those “socialized” medical systems do everywhere else in the world.

For New York’s Best New Public Sculpture, Thank the Sanitation Department New York Times (David L)

Uber partially wins ruling to potentially halt California drivers’ suit outcome Business Insider

‘Affluenza’ Texas teen’s mom listed as missing, search on for truck Reuters (EM)

Reshoring Myth Explodes: Offshoring Outpaces Onshoring Every Year Since 2004 Except 2011 Michael Shedlock (EM)

Republican Poverty: 93 Of The Poorest 100 Counties In America Are In Red States Addicting Information

Antidote du jour. From The Atlantic via Olivier:

cows and cats links

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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  1. Chris in Paris

    The comments in the NYT article “Sued Over Old Debt, and Blocked From Suing Back” are nearly universal in noting that forcing people into arbitration and denying them access to the courts to contest seizure of property is an unconstitutional denial of due process.

    Unfortunately, the USSC ceded that important bit of the US Constitution to the private sector in ATT v. Concepcion. One more knot in the noose that capital will hang itself with.

    1. Carolinian

      Perhaps the root of the problem in this particular case is that lawyers and class action have taken the place of meaningful regulation. The rogue debt buyers didn’t even have a license to operate in some of the states where they took people’s money.

      So you can blame the other two branches as well as the Supreme Court.

      1. fresno dan

        Wasn’t the vaunted theory of our “triad” government that the three branches would forever be in competition and a check on each other? Seems like we have a very highly coordinated view of what the outcome should be….

        I just watched a documentary about Gore Vidal….so many great quotes!
        Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia

        I had read Burr when I was very young, but Vidal’s political insights are so profound and prescience – he had worked as a page for his grandfather in the US Senate, so undoubtedly he had long exposure to the highest level of Bullsh*t

        At The David Susskind Show (1980)[edit]
        I say, they don’t have to conspire, because they all think alike. The president of General Motors and the president of Chase Manhattan Bank really are not going to disagree much on anything, nor would the editor of the New York Times disagree with them. They all tend to think quite alike, otherwise they would not be in those jobs.
        After being asked “Does someone as sophisticated as you are submit yourself to the conspiracy theory of history?””

        As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent, too. Words are used to disguise, not to illuminate, action: you liberate a city by destroying it. Words are to confuse, so that at election time people will solemnly vote against their own interests.

        1. Carolinian

          Vidal recalled sitting on his grandfather’s knee on the Senate floor while wearing shorts. Another Senator exclaimed: “The boy is practically nekkid!” It was a more innocent time for sure. The Best of Enemies is on my movie watching short list.

      2. Dave

        I carry a ruler and a black pen with me and have lined out arbitration clauses on any contract that I sign in person.(Use a fine point sharpie) Low level employees never notice what I am doing as I pretend to be using the ruler to help read the fine print, “dammit, I forgot my glasses” etc.

        Never have been sued because we pay on time but it will be fun if and when it were to happen. “Can we see the original document we signed?”

        What happened to the old electrician contains several important lessons: Open a new bank account every couple of years and move your money. Put a fraud warning and a lock on it so that nothing can happen to the funds without prior notification.

          1. Yves Smith Post author


            Mitt Romney does not keep all or even a large portion of his money outside the US. His public disclosure form for his presidential bid showed that very clearly. He had had $3 million in a Swiss bank account, which is chicken feed for a billionaire like him. He had declared it, presumably under a tax holiday, in which people who had illegal offshore tax accounts could fess up and come clean with no penalties if they paid the back taxes and amended their past tax returns. Tax experts believe that is why Romney showed only his most recent tax return, since if he had kept his account secret, his prior returns would be “stapled,” making clear he had been in violation of the law.

            1. Abe

              Romney had interest in at least a dozen Bain Capital Funds in the Cayman Islands. How much, no one but Romney knows.

              1. Yves Smith Post author

                Go look at his tax returns. All reported.

                Most of these deals are organized in the Caymans to reduce the complexity of legal structuring, since for foreign investors to go through US entities is a hassle (I can cycle in a tax expert to give details). This has nothing to do with tax avoidance for Romney OR for US individuals. Firms like Bain get their money almost entirely from institutional investors: US public pension funds, fund of funds (small foundations, small endowments and rich individuals invest via them), sovereign wealth funds, US private pension funds, endowments, foundations, and life insurers.

                The Caymans are famously one of the big boltholes of what Nicholas Shaxson calls “offshore” or tax avoidance by the super wealthy, but that is not the main or even a major reason why firms like Bain use them.

    2. perpetualWAR

      Of course, no one is even talking within this article about the corruption of our 3rd branch of government, the courts.

      After being involved in litigation against the bankers, I can tell you, that there is no longer due process.

      I have enough evidence to bury an elephant, but the problem is getting your case in front of a jury. What with banker influence deep within all local bar associations, that is nearly impossible

      However, when forexlosure cases DO get to juries, we see $5.4 and $6 mil awards (Texas jury for the former and Montana jury for the latter.)

      1. down2long

        perpetualWAR you are so right. I have the same experience – 7 years after my Chapter 11 BK was confirmed, still fighting Wells Fargo to prevent foreclosure after they returned my court ordered payments for 4 years. Had to reopen my bk case because the new “judge” – Judge Sandra Klein – who was just appointed by the 9th circuit after rabidly pursuing debtors in the Trustee Dept. of the court – was named judge because of her “depth” of legal experience. (So said porn loving 9th Circuit Judge Alex Kozinksi in her appointment statement.)

        Instead of sanctioning the banks for violating the court’s orders, she makes debtors go to “trial.”(In which she is the sole judge, so the outcome is predetermined.)n She will only hear arguments from the bench by banks – she makes the debtors file expensive motions. Which, when filed, after the debtors pays several thousand dollars to the firm to prepare – she promptly rejects. While I sat in court, she had one debtor back for the third time, and for the third time the bank had not had the appraiser sign the appraisal form. The debtor’s lawyer begged the court to sanction the bank for appearing with an unsigned appraisal, contending that it was costing her client at least a $1,000 each time to show up in court, and the bank knows an appraisal must be signed. Judge Klein brushed that aside, said “It’s only another 3 weeks” and set a new court date. Don’t know if the appraisal was signed by the next appearance. Evil harridan.

        After she let Chase foreclose on my paid up loan, and forced me into a trial against Ocwen after they refused my court ordered payments for 4 years – in direct violation of the court re-org plan – I refused to go back to her court. (Ocwen and I reached a settlement out of court. I was unwilling to let her vet it.) She also would not discharge my Chapter 11 case, even though I had met all the terms and paid back all my creditors as required by the court. She didn’t want me to file a new case and get automatic stay against Chase. Eventually once Chase got my building, lo and behold, she discharged my case out of the blue. Evil judge

        What a horrible women. Thinks she’s Judge Judy – she sounds like JJ, and even has her hair done like JJ. Bk judges do not serve life terms, and most of them are looking for a fat payday when they go work for law firms repping creditors. There are a few pro-debtor judges, but their revolving door only goes to academia. (I never got one. My first judge – Judge Victoria Kaufman – was at least fair. And she did admonish the banks when they got aggressive with me – “[Down2Long] is doing everything he’ supposed to do in bankruptcy. And you can’t say he’s not maintaining the properties (she waves a pic of a fully restored building). So no, you do not get the property.”

        The bar buzz is Judge Klein may not be so lucky – she goes so far to punish debtors that she often steps on banks’ toes too. An example I heard is a case where a bank and a debtor reached a settlement for the debtor to pay the bank X amount, and the debtor could keep the building. Klein would have none of it – she ordered the bank to take the building, despite the bank’s protestations that they did want the building and were happy with the settlement.

        Klein is just the tip of the iceberg. BK judges are so poorly paid (in the $170K range) when a private BK lawyer can easily make $500K at a good firm, that you don’t get the cream of the crop at the courts. And those folks, since they are second string, are hoping for the court credentials to give them a leg up at creditor law firms.

        My Wells loan is such a mess – MERS filing, refiling, sold, moved, who knows what. Eventually going to try for a CA state court njury trial. But as you pointed out, it’s hard to get there with these judges.

        I will say having stood before CA Superior Court judges in 2008 and now, that the CA judges have a very different view of banks. They may still think that debtors do not deserve a “free house” [see] but they are deeply offended that the banks have played them. Judges hate that. They are much more willing to dig deeper now.

    1. lyman alpha blob

      Seeing a farmer crushed by a free ranging cow while trying to milk her might dampen your enthusiasm too. Can’t speak for the antidote farm but at the ones I am familiar with the cows are chained during the couple hours it takes for milking and then they are let out to pasture to smell the daisies for the rest of the day.

      1. Oregoncharles

        Have you TRIED smelling daisies? They stink – but maybe not to cows. do not bring a big bouquet of them into the house!

    2. 3.14e-9

      I was raised on a small dairy farm in upstate New York and have to admit that the chains unsettled me, too. Our barn had stanchions. When the cows came in to feed, they put their heads through a gate-like structure in front of the feed trough, and the farm hands went quickly down the outside aisle and locked the gates in place. My father’s herd was under 40 cows, so it didn’t take long to milk them, and then they went back outside. I used to help my mother drive them down the road to the pasture. The only time they stayed in longer was in severe winter weather that was dangerous for the animals.

  2. Timmy

    The great irony of the proposed Wall Street “naughty list” is that its exact opposite (a “won’t play ball” list) already exists in the informal but tight HR connections across Wall Street. This is the list of personal enmity from executives or firms such that a hiring firm learns that hiring an identified individual will risk their business from the firm in question. These individuals are often internal whistle-blowers or were in positions to resist edgy business practices. Yes, these are simply bad references but they are very often, at root, lies and smears. Wall Street gets to have it both ways: take retribution against those that push back but protect the reputation of those that cheat.

    1. griffen

      I didn’t finish reading the article, because it’s just more of the same silliness. Nothing changes.

      And if one individual is really great at his/her work, PE or hedge funds can rationalize a reason to hire someone. Especially when it comes to trading or winning client business.

      1. perpetualWAR

        I’m offended by your choice of words.

        “Silliness” implies that these crimes aren’t the sinister, underhanded and felonious actions that are undermining our democracy.

        1. griffen

          That adjective should be properly allocated – as in, the suggested notion that regulators or overseers or central bankers or DOJ or (okay this list could go on) will make or require any adjustment based on the previous actions.

          I’m not condoning the acts, mind you.

    2. Lambert Strether

      So Wall Street proposes a “Most Wanted” list for bankster crooks. In both senses of the word; after all, some CEOs might find the combination of known criminality and lack of arrest or jail time irresistible.

      1. zapster

        The whole thing sounds to me like a way to scapegoat lower level employees and squash whistleblowers, who always end up with many “complaints” against them by HR before being canned to shut them up.

  3. abynormal

    re ‘Refugees’: “The challenge of ending displacement is inseparable from the challenge of establishing and maintaining PEACE. When wars end, farmers return to their fields; children return to school; violence against women declines; trade and economic activity resume; medical and other services become more accessible, and the international focus changes from relief to development and self-sufficiency. All this makes new wars less likely. It is a virtuous cycle that deserves nurture and support.” ~Kenneth H. Bacon

  4. Pavel

    The Guardian has a piece on how the big banks… get ready for it… pay virtually no corporate tax in the UK.

    Anger at City banks paying little or no corporation tax:

    Opposition politicians and tax campaigners have expressed outrage after it emerged that some of the biggest and most profitable investment banks in the City of London paid little or no corporation tax last year.

    Seven City banks paid a combined £21m in corporation tax in 2014, according to research by Reuters on Tuesday. Between them the banks, together employing about 33,000 mainly City workers, generated UK profits of £3.6bn on revenues of £21bn in the UK.

    Five of the banks – JP Morgan, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank, Nomura and Morgan Stanley – disclosed their main UK arms paid no corporation tax, according to Reuters. Goldman Sachs UK Ltd revealed UK tax of $26.6m on UK profits of $1.98bn. UBS also recorded low UK tax.

    Tax disclosures were released in country-by-country filings required of investment banking companies. They detail staff numbers, turnover, profits and tax paid by key trading subsidiaries in each country where they are active. The figures lay bare how firms shift income from high- to low- tax jurisdictions.

    Part of this is due to tax credits they received after the 2008 crisis, but partly it is the usual chicanery:

    Analysis by Reuters found at least some of the banks paid no tax because they reported losses in London, while reporting profits in much smaller affiliates in lower tax jurisdictions.

    Nice work if you can get it.

  5. Llewelyn Moss

    re: Shkreli and the true cost of high drug prices

    It makes me laugh when I hear all the pols waxing poetic about protectin’ the ‘merican people from Terraizm. Then they Do Nothing about price gouging — and in the case of drugs, the price gouging stops people from getting life saving drugs. It’s safe to say the cost of Healthcare (docs and hospital care) is on the same highway to h3ll. Obamacare, what a sham.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The Yin and Yang of killing.

      Does saving-a-drowning-person + drowning-a-person = zero?

      Does killing-a-person-with-a-kitchen-knife = denying-a-person-food/water/life-saving-medication?

      When a cop was about ready to pull the trigger on shooting an innocent man, but then decided not to, has he saved a life?

      “I was going to have a cup of coffee, but decided not, have I saved some trees in the jungle?”

  6. fresno dan

    Reshoring Myth Explodes: Offshoring Outpaces Onshoring Every Year Since 2004 Except 2011 Michael Shedlock (EM)

    I am in my Gore Vidalphilia phase, so a quote from the Gorester:

    “The corporate grip on opinion in the United States is one of the wonders of the Western world. No First World country has ever managed to eliminate so entirely from its media all objectivity – much less dissent.”

    So, was the reporting just entirely ignorant stenography? Or something much more ominous – a perceived need by corptocracy to take the heat off NAFTA, globalization, and DAVOS man by asserting that jobs are COMING BACK!

    “Many in the media, along with consulting firms, think tanks, and economists, now proclaim the emergence of a U.S. “manufacturing renaissance,” marked by the “reshoring” of production and the growing competitiveness challenges of many foreign nations vis-à-vis the United States.”

    Church Lady: HOW CONVENIENT!
    Reshoring Index would drop to -26, still supportive of the view that the widely predicted reshoring trend seems to be over before it started.

    Patrick Van den Bossche, A.T. Kearney partner and co-author of the study, stated, “The U.S. Reshoring phenomenon, once viewed by many as the leading edge of a decisive shift in global manufacturing, may actually have been just a one-off aberration. The 2015 data confirms that offshoring seems only to be gathering steam, while the U.S. reshoring train that so many predicted has yet to leave the station.”

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      One day in the future.

      Off-shoring means sending robots overseas.

      Re-shoring means robots landing in beaches all over the country.

      Some humans might see the former (sending robots overseas) as imperial adventures and the later (robots landing here) as invaders from abroad.

  7. fresno dan

    The Affordable Care Act created legions of newly minted medical consumers which benefited the bottom line of the companies that cared for them, their executives, and investors who enjoyed incredible stock returns.

    For investors who bet on healthcare stocks during the roll out of the ACA, the portfolio returns have been stellar. While the S&P 500 returns were great over the same time frame, the Health Care Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLV) was better by a substantial margin. From the beginning of 2013, the year before the roll out, to the peaks of 2015, the S&P 500 was up +47.8% while the XLV nearly doubled that effort by rising +91.1%.

    For the hospitals, who likely saw the most incremental benefit, increased patient volume and less unpaid charity care led to stock returns of +141.6%. In small terms, a $10,000 investment in a basket of hospital stocks would have peaked a few months ago at over $24,000. In big terms, the XLV added an additional $5.0 billion in market capitalization over the same period going from $12.7 billion to $18.7 billion. Helping people get insured has its benefits.

    Reform: redealing a stacked deck to put even more aces on the bottom…

    1. Gio Bruno

      And these new medical consumers are wholly unaware of the billing confusion that hospitals, doctors, and “medical insurance” companies are going to perpetrate on them.

      If they don’t die from hospital admission they will certainly die a slow death of frustration with obtuse, obscene, and endless bills from persons (doctors) and services unperformed or unseen.

      1. fresno dan

        I posted this first thing under the “holiday schedule” but as the issue come up again:

        A woman who refused to leave a hospital when doctors discharged her died after she was forcibly removed by police, authorities said Tuesday.

        Barbara Dawson, 57, collapsed Monday while being escorted in handcuffs from the Liberty Calhoun Hospital, where she went to seek treatment for breathing difficulties, said Blountstown Police Department chief Mark Mallory. Mallory said an officer had arrested Dawson for disorderly conduct and trespassing.

        An autopsy on Dawson has been performed and the results should be released Wednesday, Mallory said. Florida Department of Law Enforcement officials have been called in to investigate, department spokesman Steve Arthur said. He declined to comment further.

        Mallory said that the officer who arrested Dawson removed the handcuffs after she collapsed and escorted her back into the hospital.

        “We were told by a doctor once she got back in the hospital that her vital signs were good and it was their decision to readmit her,” he said.

        In addition to the obvious deficiencies of the hospital, one wonders about the competence of the physicians. You know your body best of all – if you don’t like what a doctor is telling you, get another one. In this case of course, there wasn’t time to be taken to a real hospital.

        will this affect the hospital accreditation? Do you think the SEC does a good job?

  8. allan

    Is Hillary for the TPP after she was against it? Nancy Sherman, one of her foreign policy advisers,
    was on the PBS Newshour last night singing the praises of the TPP:

    We have created some development opportunities, and we have also agreed on TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, with 12 countries in Asia, which is very critical to our economic future.

    But back in October, HRC (also on the Newshour!) `came out against’ the TPP:

    Clinton said, “As of today, I am not in favor of what I have learned about it.”

    So which is it?

    1. Llewelyn Moss

      I saw that segment. Both mouthpieces, Sherman and other guy (forget his name ), both wailing-on about TPP being critcal to US economy. When in reality it is just more rigging of the system against the working class — but rigging on steriods. Atta boy PBS News Hour — rigging the debate.

      I’m inclined to think what Sherman said was exactly what HRC would do if elected. All of HRC’s campaign rhetoric is exactly the opposite of her senate voting record. Leopards don’t change their age spots.

    2. Ulysses

      The “as of today” is a huge tell! What HRC meant was “today I’m feeling pressure over my consistent support for the TPP over the past few years, tomorrow, when attention has shifted, I’ll go back to (quietly) supporting the TPP/TISA/TTIP regime that I and my cronies helped to launch years ago.”

    3. fresno dan

      Its economic – its a complex calculus of payola, kickbacks, deferred payoffs, bribes, contingency fees, in-kink compensation, donations to Clinton foundations, and …oh yeah, campaign contributions. Not to mention that tax implications…
      This money doesn’t come in all at once, so it is perfectly reasonable for her to await the accounting reports. Also, how the bureaucracy tilts to the benefit of uh, er, benefactors, is a complex and time consuming process.
      Geezzzz – you people are in such a hurry. Clinton is a sophisticated, wonkish grifter – its not like she is getting paper bags stuffed with 100’s….

    4. Lambert Strether

      ” I am not in favor of what I have learned about it.”

      Parse that carefully. She doesn’t say she’s not in favor of TPP.

      She says she’s “not in favor of what I have learned about it.”

      Not at all the same thing!

      1. allan

        Or, as the old joke goes, I will waste no time in reading your comment!

        I liked the way that both interviews were conducted by Judy Wodruff, who, good Villager that she is,
        didn’t bat an eyelash at the apparent contradiction and just moved on.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          This is not quite a joke, but more a comedy skit that one sees often on the internet.

          “I am ignoring you.”

          “No, I am ignoring.”

          “I ignored you first.”

          “No, I ignored you before you ignored me.”

          “You are wrong there. I ignored you before you decided to ignore me before I ignored you.”

          And on it goes, as those two valiantly try their best to ignore each other.

      2. Jim Haygood

        Sanders should counter with the dramatic contrast of straight talk. How about wearing a prominent lapel button at the next debate:


      3. Katniss Everdeen

        Oh you sillly, adorable boys. Worrying your pretty little heads about what our standard bearer, miss hill, really means when she speaks.

        It matters not to us. We are a sisterhood. Have you never heard of “girl power?”

        Miss hill will finally push our rock to the top of the mountain and KEEP it there. Because hormones.

        And besides, Donald Trump said “schlonged.”

        1. craazyboy

          And don’t ferget Carly. Carly eats glass ceiling shards for breakfast!

          The wimens in this country need successful female kleptocrat role models to make them feel their gender is a part of our kleptocratic society. They need to feel kleptocracy is no longer just a man’s game! Some wimens can be successful at it too!

    1. Ian

      My apologies for asking. And thank you if you do respond. I have to sleep and my mind is overloaded from Finals and work.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Pernicious cycle: Finals – lack of sleep – more coffee – more falling Amazon trees to plant coffee beans – more caffeine and higher GDP.

        To save the planet – eliminate finals.

        I would try this reasoning in one of my final exam essays.

  9. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Your ex and photos in Germany.

    Aren’t they (joint art products) community property to be divided?

  10. Ulysses

    The TPP/TISA/TTIP regime aims to eliminate the possibility of meaningful political opposition to the neoliberal orthodoxy. One of the tools used will be the surveillance panopticon that Edward Snowden and others have exposed. Amanda Power points out that this is nothing new– in her excellent piece comparing erosion of privacy today with enforcement of religious orthodoxy in the medieval west and in earlier epochs:

    “Those who have exposed the extent of surveillance are fugitives and exiles from our paradise. They have played the role of the cursed serpent of Eden: the purveyor of illicit knowledge who broke the harmony between watcher and watched. The rest of us contemplate the prospect of dissent with careful unease, feeling that our individual and collective security depends on compliance. We are unwilling to cease our perpetual confessing. That murmuring of our thoughts and experiences into the listening ears of states and corporations—disguised by the loving online presence of our family and friends, or concealed by the vast anonymity of the Internet—is one of the great horrors of modernity. We cannot conceive of how what we reveal now about ourselves and our children might be used in the future, by the systems of governance that will arise amid the instabilities of a changing climate. And yet, for all that, the deep narratives of our culture tell us that the lost happiness of humanity consisted not of the harsh travails of private existence, but of just this: living naked and innocent within the absolute love of an omniscient watcher.”

    O’Brien: What are your feelings towards Big Brother?

    Winston Smith: I hate him.

    O’Brien: You must love him. It is not enough to obey him. You must love him.”

    — George Orwell

  11. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Would Jesus celebrate Christmas?

    Jesus is a popular first name in the Hispanic culture.

    You don’t see that often in some other countries.

    Imagine someone named Jesus Christiansen.

    1. ambrit

      Yeshua ben Yosef is referred to as ‘rabbi’ in the New Testament. He would hardly celebrate what to the Jews of that time would be regarded as a ‘pagan’ festival. Ideas about the ‘real’ birthday of the Nazerine are all over the calendar.
      My favourite imagining on that subject is contained in Robert Graves book, “King Jesus.”

  12. ambrit

    Warning. This is a tinfoil hat zone.
    “General Dynamics choses Konigsburgs ‘Protector Remote Weapon Station’ for the Stryker armoured cars.”
    This is an already proven system that can allow remote control of armaments. Over 15,000 already out there providing a large variety of capabilities.
    Now, to don our radiation proof chapeaus, link this with Jade, which has been in development in the U.S. military since at least the late 1990s. An interesting early description of Jade:
    A remotely run ‘conflict’ with arms length ‘force projection.’ What’s not to like?
    I’m changing my allegiance. No more ‘Hail Hydra’ for me. Now it will be, ‘Hail Skynet!’

    1. craazyboy

      Whomever has the missiles, long and short range, wins. The rest is just a huge waste of money. Not that governments would be concerned about wasting money.

  13. Katniss Everdeen

    RE: Afghanistan: Another Broken Obama Promise; Taliban Poised to Retake Sangin; Money Trail Shows Billions of Fraud; Mish 5-Point Solution Michael Shedlock

    Getting really sick of Mish’s libertarian whining about obama’s broken “promises,” juvenile parsing of phrases like “what we have learned,” lamentations about waste, fraud and abuse, and inability to “win” the “war.”

    Mish is no dummy. He knows better than most that this “war” is nothing more than an economic bonanza for his vaunted “entrepreneurial” apostles to create “wealth” while producing absolutely nothing of value. It was never meant to be “won.” It was meant to be perpetual. And he KNOWS it.

    His weak-kneed, repetitive “critiques” of obama’s failures (and they are legion) are intended only to suggest that if americans “voted” differently, for “smaller” government, these problems would magically disappear. What BS.

    Why doesn’t he turn his guns on his beloved individual “entrepreneurs,” who have “bootstrapped” themselves into eternal “profitability” by securing enormously lucrative government “contracts” and then f@#king them up so they can get another contract to unf@#k it?

    Like one Judith Jorge Hartman, founder and ceo of Jorge Scientific, the only such “private business” entity mentioned in a commentary that should have been full of such mentions. So, who is this woman, and what does she know about training afghan security forces? Not much judging from the “results.”

    Jorge Scientific, now known as Imperatis Corp. (funny how these “businesses” keep changing their names, eh?) has an impressive “customer” list–all government. And almost a billion taxpayer dollars in her pocket.

    If Mish wants to know where all the money went or kvetch over obama’s “broken promises,” he should start by doing a long, hard re-think of the idea that everything goes better with “private” business. We may not have “won” the Viet Nam “war,” but at least we got OUT. Now that the entrepreneurs of Mish’s wet dreams have sunk their hooks in, it appears that our luck, in that regard, has run out.

      1. polecat

        Mish also has an enormous woodie for all things robotic….yeah,forget all about the lowly plebs to be thrown under the economic bus…er…bulldozer! shameless

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          He thinks he can not be replaced by a robot

          Good luck with that, though I suspect from his posts with the same points of view, time and time, that they have all been pre-programmed and a robot is responsible for all his articles.

    1. fresno dan

      Why doesn’t he turn his guns on his beloved individual “entrepreneurs,” who have “bootstrapped” themselves into eternal “profitability” by securing enormously lucrative government “contracts” and then f@#king them up so they can get another contract to unf@#k it?

      Considering how it never turns out OK, isn’t it more accurate to say REf@#k it?

  14. Jim Haygood

    Venezuela’s desperate clown gov, choking on its own vomit of a 140-times overvalued exchange rate, tries to overturn the opposition’s legislative victory:

    Caracas (AFP) – The leftist party of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro Tuesday challenged the election of 22 opposition lawmakers in this month’s landmark polls, according to opposition leaders who slammed a “procedural coup.”

    The opposition coalition MUD won a resounding victory in the December 6 legislative vote, ending 16 years of leftist majority in the oil-rich but troubled nation.

    With 112 of 167 seats in the new National Assembly, the opposition would be able to call a referendum, launch constitutional reforms, replace senior judges and even take measures to try to depose Maduro.

    But if the challenge goes ahead it could prevent the lawmakers concerned from being sworn in as planned on January 5, leaving the opposition short of the crucial two-thirds majority.

    1. Steve Gunderson

      I think you will see a few more economies imploding in South America before this decade is over.

      I think Argentina is next.

      1. Jim Haygood

        I’d take the other side of that bet. Argentina just devalued by 30%, representing a major easing of financial conditions. Its Merval stock index is up 42% in the past 12 months, not consistent with an imminent crash.

    2. Katniss Everdeen

      Sounds like the people of Venezuela need some good old-fashioned american intervention to save them from a tyrannical government and restore democracy.

      Interestingly enough, I recently watched a video of an interview of Lawrence Wilkerson. He claimed that TPTB have identified, wait for it, VENEZUELA as a likely future existential threat to homeland america.

      Sometimes “truth” really IS stranger than “fiction.”

      1. Steve H.

        Wilkerson appears to be on the level. There was a video of him laying out the specifics of international relations to a class of freshly-minted officers that I wish I could find. It was stunningly straightforward.

  15. Jess

    Antidote is almost surely a good old-fashioned barn cat. Cute but tough. Great for keeping the rodent population in check. May or may not be pet-able, depending on how much human contact it got as a kitten.

  16. Optimader

    Oops should have posted here!

    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).

  17. Oregoncharles

    PJ O’Rourke is really funny; he’s also got atleast one fact really wrong:

    “Instead, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, Richard Nixon, won the election with 60.7 percent of the popular vote. And, pay attention here, 1968 was the first time 18-year-olds had voting rights.”
    No, 1968 was extremely close. It’s also the first year I could vote. I think he’s also wrong about the 18-yr-olds: I think both that and Nixon’s 60.7% were in 1972. against McGovern. McGovern was actively sabotaged by the Demoratic Party because he was an insurgent candidate – like guess who.

    O’Rourke has a point, but voting inthe Republican primary would prevent people from voting for Bernie sanders

  18. Jeff W

    I recall reading a book about it when I was a kid and being intrigued.

    Yeah, me, too—this one from Scholastic, 1966. (You’ll recognize the cover.) It was pretty good.

  19. ewmayer

    Re. the 2 Mish pieces:

    [1] On Afghanistan: It is of course critical to keep the Taliban from wresting control of the opium poppy fields from the CIA. Also, WaPo sez: ‘Afghanistan has been the one constant that spans [Obama’s] two terms in office.’ Presumably they mean “in addition to fomenting middle east chaos, micturating on the Constitution, Guantanamo, ownership of government by BigFin/MIC/BigMed, ongoing decimation of the US middle class, and zealous pursuit of ‘free trade’ treaties which will finish the latter job.”

    [2] Re. Onshoring, the money quote: ‘Although reshoring of manufacturing by U.S. companies is on the decline, non-U.S. companies, including Chinese companies, increasingly invest in establishing or expanding their manufacturing footprint in the United States. The insatiable U.S. consumer market, the stable political and economic environment, and the benefit of tapping into America engineering skills and manufacturing know-how are main draws.’ Paging Tim ‘the building is half empty’ Cook…

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I feel if I am smart enough to work for you, I am not smart enough to consume your products.

      “I will go shop elsewhere.”

  20. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    China’s more frightening game ever – a score for how good a citizen you are.

    Only Chinese Luddites will be exempt.

    Unless they are automatically considered suspicious.

  21. liberal

    Re gay men…they _are_ more promiscuous. But it’s not because they’re gay, but because they’re men.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Oh, I agree. Gay men don’t have to go to anywhere near the work straight men do to get laid. Ergo, much more sex.

      Plus, at least until recently (and the source of my quote is an older gay man), the prejudice against gay men was so strong that the incentives to stay closeted were very high (they are still in place but less punitive). So you would imagine that there would be an element of selection at work: that among older gay men, a high % who had outed themselves would be both strongly gay (Kinsey thought sexual appetites were on a spectrum, and most men and women weren’t purely hetero or homosexual in their natural inclinations) and have a high libido.

  22. mikeyrem

    I want to push back a bit on the Chinese credit score story. I’ve seen the video the article is referring to several times on facebook, and it’s quite funny in its hyperbolic anti-CCP fearmongering.
    ^^I think this article clarifies a few points, namely that most of the fears about the program are mere speculation at this point.

    That’s not to say that these fears are totally unfounded–I wouldn’t be particularly surprised if the Chinese government’s credit program does in fact end up being kind of scary. Right now though, we just have the idea of sincerity to go off, and that’s not necessarily the same thing as “falling into line.” Levels of trust in society, the government, and the business sphere are not really high in China (one of the reasons for Xi’s anti-corruption drive is to increase faith in the government). This credit system may just ding you for breaking contracts or the kind of low-level fraud that isn’t so uncommon in China. On the other hand, this is a country where people go to jail for “spreading rumors” on weibo, so it’s not unlikely that activities like “spreading rumors” will also have an impact on your credit score.

    It’s kind of a weird story–lot’s of propagandizing against the Chinese government as well as addressing fears about civil liberties in our own society. Not sure if anything like the Orwellian speculation would be as feasible in an American context as it would be in China though….Definitely a story I’ll be following!

    1. ambrit

      I’ll be watching too. The “Great Firewall of China” was designed for the CCP by American contractors. I’d look for the roll out of an American Cyber Panopticon to start in the grade schools. “No child left alone.”

    1. ambrit

      Yes. One of my father-in-laws’ cows once stepped on my foot while I was trying to watch and learn the fine art of hand milking. She wouldn’t shift her stance either. I was lucky not to end up with a broken foot.

  23. RicRadio

    The Guardian piece by George Monboit – the hill farmers get a hell of a beating! What with all the trashed watersheds, dangerous flooding, the destruction of our otherwise pristine empty uplands, they have the nerve to park domesticated wildlife there abouts, flatulatingting their and our way to global warming. How will the global economy cope when it has to accommodate these rapacious mavericks? I just cannot be bothered to take Mr Monboit to task over his dodgy math, or the factoid that animals are carbon neutral whereas fossil fuel consumption is not, but I would dearly like to see this man explain himself to a Scottish hill farmer and and his generations of farmers anteceding him, and watch him hobble away with a walking stave placed firmly where it shouldn’t ordinarily reside. Disgraceful drivel.

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