Links 12/27/15

Why Asia Craves America’s Pig DNA Bloomberg

ASEAN leaders accept Obama invitation to Sunnylands summit Reuters

Trans-Pacific Partnership is a wonderful idea – for China Globe and Mail

New Brooms: Bank CEOs embark on clean up FT. In 2015? A litte late, no?

$1.7 Trillion of Sub-Zero Euro Debt Shows ECB Outlook for 2016 Bloomberg

The Perils of Fed Gradualism Stephen Roach, Project Syndicate

Hoping for a Price Surge, Oil Companies Keep Wells in Reserve NYT

The $500 Million Battle Over Disney’s Princesses Bloomberg

Scrooge’s activist hedge fund letter to Santa Claus FT

Christmas 2015—–Why There Is No Peace On Earth David Stockman (Jim Haygood).

Boxing Day rail shutdown prompts Labour accusation of Tory hypocrisy Guardian. Correct me if I’m wrong, but, pre-Thatcher, weren’t we able to keep the railway system in good repair without shutting it down over the holidays?


Relatives Gather From Across The Country To Stare Into Screens Together The Onion

This has been making the rounds:

The 2015 Economist Advent calendar: Christmas Day The Economist

COLUMN: The Search for True Leaders at Christmas ABC. A good distinction between “niceness” and “kindness,” but badly infected with airport bookstore business section-style Fuhrerprinzip. Jesus a “leader”? Like, you know, Tim Cook? Genghis Kahn? That guy in your Cub Scout troop?

Explosive Documentary Links Peyton Manning, Major Athletes To Doping Ring HuffPo

2015 Lists

The Worst People of 2015 Esquire. Rahm should be higher. And the URL is least-influential-people-2015. “Least”? Really?

Who Won 2015? Vulture

Never a Dull Moment: A Look Back at 2015 WSJ

The most successful crowdfunding campaigns of 2015 Sidney Morning Herald

How crowdfunding became a lifeline for cancer patients struggling with debt Guardian. Haven’t these people heard about ObamaCare? What’s wrong with them?


Our caucus: Debaters agree on one thing — Sanders Des Moines Register. High school debaters, vulnerable to logical appeals. We’ll soon set them straight on that.

The real scandal in the Bernie/DNC feud is the one nobody is talking about David Dayen, Salon. “There’s a compelling theory that the DNC leaked the controversy about the Sanders campaign to distract from the data security failure of their sole-source vendor.”

6 ways Donald Trump’s wrestling career previewed his campaign WaPo. Which NC readers knew back in July.

Political Dark Money Just Got Darker Editorial Board, NYT. “For two years, President Obama has dithered and withheld the one blow he could easily strike for greater political transparency: the signing of an executive order requiring government contractors to disclose their campaign spending.” Wow. It’s almost like the Democrats aren’t fully committed to campaign finance reform.


William Dalrymple: Christianity and Islam are not as far apart as Bin Laden and the neocons would like us to believe New Statesman (from 2005).

Kurdish group TAK claims responsibility for Istanbul airport attack Daily Star

Pressure Mounts on Turkey for Answers in Airport Blast WSJ


Pablo Iglesias: How the leader of the leftist Podemos party upset Spain’s elites to reach the brink of power Independent

Don’t bet on a happy new year for Greece CNBC

German business leaders fear nationalism, refugee crisis will destroy EU Reuters

Police State Watch

Hero security guard defuses hostage situation only to be fatally shot by late arriving cops Raw Story

Chicago Police Fatally Shoot 2, Including 55-Year-Old Woman ‘Accidentally’ ABC and Quintonio LeGrier: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know Heavy

In the end, 2015 saw no ‘war on cops’ and no ‘national crime wave’ WaPo

Global Weirding

Tornadoes sweep through Dallas area; significant damage AP

Parts of U.K. Facing ‘Very Severe Weather,’ Met Office Says Bloomberg

Over 100,000 flee flooding in Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay Reuters

Guillotine Watch

Why Does the FTC Keep Ignoring Endorsement Violations? The Fashion Law. Kendall Jenner “rakes in $300,000 for a single Instagram post.”

Class Warfare

Buybacks fueled by cheap credit leave workers out of the equation Reuters

When Brooklyn juries gentrify, defendants lose New York Post

Pawnshops Emerge as Solid Lender in Post-Austerity Spain NYT. I hadn’t thought of pawnshops as harbingers of prosperity, but whatever.

The Class Struggle in the North Pole Jacobin

At the top of Twin Cities real estate market, the selling isn’t easy Star-Tribune

The unsuccessful self-treatment of a case of “writer’s block” Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis. Successfully replicated here.

Prayers for Richard Oxford American. Little Richard.

Antidote du jour:


The comtemplative pose reminds me of one of Thurber’s dogs. Apparently the dog sat like that, peacefully gazing out to sea, for some time.

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. financial matters

    John Wendle writes in Scientific American about the climate aspects of the Syrian conflict. ClimateRefugees

    ““The drought lasted for years, and no one said anything against the government. Then, in 2011, we’d had enough. There was a revolution.” That February the Arab Spring uprisings swept the Middle East. In Syria, protests grew, crackdowns escalated and the country erupted with 40 years of pent-up fury.

    In recent years Iraqi War refugees and displaced Syrian farmers have inundated Syria’s cities, where the urban population has ballooned from 8.9 million in 2002, just before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, to 13.8 million in 2010, toward the end of the drought. What it meant for the country as a whole was summarized in the PNASstudy: “The rapidly growing urban peripheries of Syria, marked by illegal settlements, overcrowding, poor infrastructure, unemployment and crime, were neglected by the Assad government and became the heart of the developing unrest.”

    represent what threatens to become a worldwide crush of refugees from countries where unstable and repressive governments collapse under pressure from a toxic mix of climate change, unsustainable farming practices and water mismanagement.””


    The military powers of the US, Russia and China would be much better used to support trying to relieve the pressure of this toxic mix.

    Humanitarian efforts would probably be better served by this sort of multipolarity and realizing that we’re all on the same boat.

    1. different clue

      Somewhere on an SST thread someone wrote that starting in the 1950s, the Syrian government criminalized the practice of birth control and criminalized the spreading or even possession of knowledge or implements having to do with contraception. The Syrian government wanted to force-grow the Syrian population.

      So a force-grown population combined with a drought and water-burning dismanagement of agriculture produced the functional equivalent of desperate overpopulation which helped feed the social eruption. I have not seen this mentioned anywhere outside of that one comment.

      Former Diplomat Mr. Polk discussed in a guest post on SST about the drought and farmer migration to the city outskirts in his article on Background To Syria.

    1. andyb

      The author of this piece advises to use the colleges and universities as a platform to fight fascism (or, for that matter, any form of totalitarianism). Unfortunately, present day institutions of higher learning are no longer bastions of free thought and enlightenment.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      It should be noted that:

      merry + mas = x

      That Merry and mass are on the same side of the equation.

      What does it mean?

      That’s above my pay grade

      1. EmilianoZ

        This was way too easy. Slightly less easy:

        Take the derivative of y in respect to m.

        This is still elementary. Should be done in less than 1 minute or 2. If you’ve been through high school and you cant do it, surely they let you graduate by mistake.

        (for the correct answer, check with craazyman, he has probably done it in his head already)

  2. divadab

    Re: Exporting genetic wonder pigs – the farmers of Haiti might have a different perspective to this piece: they were given, under a USAID program, wonder pigs to improve the yields and fecundity of their traditional varieties – local varieties that pretty much fended for themselves, eating anything and well-adapted to the heat. The new varieties were huge and needed to be fed as the ability to fend for themselves had been bred out. They got sunburn as their pink hairless skins had been bred for indoor factory farms. The had little resistance to local parasites and diseases. In short, the whole thing was an utter failure.

      1. divadab

        Well yes I suppose the makers of Zyklon B also profited when they sold it to the exterminators…….

        As the war industry profits by selling the bombs that destroy countries and communities and peaceful life.

        Which I thinkis rather your point, eh, JT?

        1. William

          Bruno Tesch and Karl Weinbacher became very wealthy supplying Zyklon-B, but the British hung them anyhow after WWII.

  3. craazyman

    that looks like mathematical proof Santa Claus exists because Christmas can’t be merry without Santa. And if Santa exists, then the entire boundary between imagination and reality just got a lot more permeable.

    I wonder if these guys realize what they’ve done here. This is a lot bigger than it seems.

    1. Steve H.

      Did you notice that how much stuff you get is positive on one side of the equation and negative on the other?

      So x-msa = x+(-m)sa, so the stuff you get has to be from Santa (sa) or it doesn’t make you merry!

      Wait, where did sa go in that last equation?

      Wait, how much of what makes your merry?!

        1. Steve H.

          If it’s a time-series, X(i)t2 – X(i)t1 > 0 describes a potlatch society of reciprocal giving.

          And noting that, for Santa, i am imaginary.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Maybe it’s my imagination, but that sum can be anything we want.

            And, so perhaps, there is a Xmas after all.

            Take the simple case, where X(i) = 1, for all values of i in the series.

            We have

            1 – 1 + 1 -1 + 1 -1 + 1 – 1…

            that is

            (1 – 1) + (1 -1) + (1 -1) + (1 – 1)…

            And the answer is zero.

            or we can write it as
            1 + (-1 +1 ) + (-1 + 1) + (-1 + 1)…

            and the answer is 1.

            Now, we may argue that

            (1 -1) + (1-1) + (1-1) … really is the sum of (x-x),


            1 + (-1 + 1) + (-1 + 1)… really is x + the sum of (x-x)

            and that the sum of (x-x) is a different series than x + sum of (x-x), with subscript i skipped here, for the sake of convenience.

            If that is the case, when we observe 1 – 1 + 1 – 1 + 1… in nature, and we want to describe the world mathematically, do we go with the first infinite series or the second one?

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              Mathematicians will say it is indeterminate, flipping between 1 and 0, but too often, things like (x-x) or the sum of (x-x) are crossed out of an equation, and when we make observations in nature, when we see offsetting effects in the beginning, we assume the whole thing leads to a big zero.

      1. craazyman

        looks to me like you’d be merrier if you could get rid of the “mas”. I wonder if that’s the church part where you sit on a hard board with uncomfortable clothes on and listen to some dude spout unctuous nonsense until you’re nearly in a coma, and what’s left over are the parties, food, alcohol and Santa? This could be a scandalous equation.

  4. JTMcPhee

    As to “German business leaders” and their fears for the EU, it appears a lot of them are betting on and profiting from the flood of refugees/migrants/5thcolumnsleepercellterrarists —

    Seems the Star Chamber of Commerce does not have any interest in mitigating the behaviors of the governments they drive that cause and contribute to what for the Displaced Mopes is pretty pure misery (though I’m sure, humans being what they are, some few of the Dispossessed are figuring and playing the angles to make a buck off the miseries of their fellows…)

    And a reminder that “fortune passes everywhere,” and the category “Greece” is made up of a whole lot of subcategories and individuals, just like almost all the rest of the “policy”-driving, high-explosive, shrapnel-loaded antipersonnel-munition categories the smooth-bore large-caliber cannons joyfully provided and served by the members and sponsors of the “think tanks,” fired into the guts of the polities with the “it’s just business” version of “God is GREAT!”, “there’s a profit in it!” —

    Innovation! Disruption! Volatility! Opportunity! (for me, and Fokk the rest of you!)

    On a larger scale, of course, “business” and the military vampire squid that spreads red ink across the planet just like the Commies were cartooned to be doing back in the day,, those people with their careers and wealth transfer conduits are already lining up to profit from the much larger “crises” that seem pretty clearly already baked into the “global market…”, and And one of my perennial favorites, for its cheerful optimism toward the future domination of the Imperial and related militaries over the management and control of all human reaction and response to “climate change,” “Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Trends and Implications of Climate Change on National and International Security,”

  5. Brindle

    Sanders Says He’s Courting Trump Supporters….

    So the Politico headline goes. Beltway Dems such as Joan Walsh, Donna Brazile etc. will see this as Sanders seeking the support of racist morons. I’m guessing that for those voters that lean Trump, Hillary is probably their least favorite candidate—along with Jeb Bush.

    —In a pre-taped interview for CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Sanders said many of Trump’s supporters are “working-class people” who have “legitimate” angers and fears because of decreasing wages and the rising cost of college tuition, among other reasons.

    “What Trump has done with some success is taken that anger, taken those fears, which are legitimate, and converted them into anger against Mexicans, anger against Muslims,” Sanders said. —

    1. jgordon

      Yesterday I watched a speech that Chris Hedges gave wherein he said that he’d worked with the Bernie Sanders campaign before he ultimately decided that he wasn’t going to endorse Sanders for president. Later I went back and found this article:

      Personally I pretty much considered Sanders to be incompetent to be president when he said that he’d support Hillary if she were the nominee. To me, that’s like saying that serial killing is a good idea under some circumstance. But Chris Hedges has a lot of other really good reasons about why Sanders is a truly lame candidate, and I wouldn’t even vote for him if he were up against Trump now.

      Actually Trump isn’t such a bad candidate. Sure he’s completely nuts, but I’ve really got a good feeling that he might start hanging people left and right in DC, literally, after a proper trial of course, and that gives me hope.

      Incidentally Chris broached the subject that back in the 1930’s there were also plenty of mainstream media outlets and politicians in Germany ridiculing the Nazis as clowns. Then the Nazis surprised everyone by taking power and dispensed with them. Considering history, people who dismiss Trump as a buffoon are deluding themselves–and let’s all hope that they keep deluding themselves right up until the end.

      1. Higgs Boson

        Sanders had to pledge support to Clinton if she is the nominee, because that is the price of admission to run as a democrat. What else could he do? Run as an independent? Then, if the democrats lost the GE it he would be blamed as the spoiler, much like Perot was. And he loses nothing by making that pledge. Just because he would pledge support it does not follow that his supporters will. A large segment of Sanders’ supporters are independents and alienated republicans who will NEVER vote for Clinton under any circumstances. So he can promise to kiss the pope’s ring.

        At first glance it may seem as though Sanders and Trump are not all that different. Both campaigns seek to overturn the establishment in their respective parties. Both candidates “can’t be bought”. However, with Sanders you know what you are getting. His positions on economic policy, healthcare, social justice, etc. have not changed over the decades his career spans.

        With Trump, you cannot know if Trump the candidate is the same as President Trump. How much is showmanship? To me, the Trump campaign is like the Colbert Report; Stephen Colbert the pundit was a persona. We all understood the persona was not the actual Stephen Colbert. Do you know who the actual Trump is?

        1. jgordon

          He lost nothing by making the pledge. Well that takes quite a bit of gall to make that statement: obviously making the pledge made people like me and Chris Hedges think that Bernie was worthless after it happened. That’s not nothing.

          Making the pledge was similar to making a pledge of allegiance to Satan; sure most people wouldn’t be especially bothered by it, but there is a certain percentage of the population who will freak out and become ardent enemies afterwards.

          And–do you know who the actual Hitler was? He was a clown and a showman for everyone’s amusement, then he grabbed power and had a remarkable impact on Germany. He was definitely psychotic–but hey the status quo for the people was utterly intolerable, so have a psychopath in power rather than usual band of useless sycophant politicians must have been quite energizing and hopeful for the German people. I would support Trump fully knowing that he’s psychotic simply because he’s different from the usual band of slick establishment liars. And there’s enough people now in America who feel the same that it could actually happen. This is what the utter lameness and banal corruption of the political/corporate class has brought us to.

          1. tegnost

            I’m wondering how many disaffected sanders voters will defect to trump rather than clinton, and what percentage of those would go to any of the other republican candidates

            1. tegnost

              not to wade too far into the fray but I’m a sanders who won’t vote clinton, but if I mention trump I’m usually trying to be annoying not serious, and I feel it’s a lot less funny when the comparison to ’30’s germany is brought into it all. Check the etymology of “loose cannon”

          2. Higgs Boson

            Holy cow. So what would Chris Hedges and you have him do? Run as an independent? Green Party?

            So because he chose not to fight the quixotic fight, it’s freak-out worthy enough to open the gates of hell?

          3. 3.14e-9

            He lost nothing by making the pledge. Well that takes quite a bit of gall to make that statement: obviously making the pledge made people like me and Chris Hedges think that Bernie was worthless after it happened. That’s not nothing.

            I hate to break it to you, JG, but the Sanders campaign likely wrote you guys off from day one. The campaign isn’t wasting time or resources on voters who already have made up their minds. It’s not like the hard left would have abandoned Jill Stein even if Bernie had decided to run as an Independent. They’ve been bashing him for years as a sell-out and a fake socialist.

            If Clinton wins the nomination, I don’t suppose he will have any choice but to support her, but it’s going to be awkward, given that his campaign has sued the DNC for obstructing their operation, and Sanders is on record as saying he believes they are doing it deliberately to protect Clinton.

          4. different clue

            He lost nothing worth keeping. Or having. Or gaining. There are too few left-wing purity jerks to affect an electoral outcome, and the moral superiority stuff-strutting leftists were never going to vote for Sanders anyway.

      2. Lambert Strether

        It seems to me that Sanders has done more for good policy — single payer, especially — than Hedges has ever done or can do. Hedges exists to be read, or listened to; he doesn’t exist to be acted on. Sad, but true.

        * * *

        That said, my litmus test for Sanders is taking him at his word: It’s going to take a movement, not an election. I’d like to see that movement, but I don’t see the spark/impetus for it coming from anywhere but Sanders; that’s the message those small donations are sending. So where is it? That’s far more important empty ritual declarations of political fealty.

        1. jgordon

          I find that Hedges is correct that the only truly important is a politicians stance on war, general foreign aggression, and military industrial complex/police state. Everything else is nice, but not really important in the grand scheme. And in those areas that are most important to me, Bernie is a complete sellout. Show me one Bernie Statement where he comes out against drones. Ok, there aren’t any. I looked. Actually he’s made statements supporting drones, and says that he’ll continue the Obama regime’s drone program. This is pure, unabashed vile evil, and Bernie supports it.

          That’s pretty much all I need to know about Bernie’s moral compass and integrity right there. His ritual pledges of fealty to Democrats and Hillary only serve to flesh out how utterly spineless and morally bankrupt he is for me. Well if I’m going to have an evil bastard as president anyway, might as well have one who’s up front about it.

          1. cwaltz

            You win most ironic poster of the day.

            In one post you chortle because you think Trump and his supporters will hang people who disagree with them from lamp posts. Then in the next you tell us how opposed you are to foreign aggression and drones.

            Let me guess you’re fine with violence, just as long as it’s directed towards those you disagree with.

            No wonder you support Trump, you fit right in with the pretzel twisted logic that his supporters have. The means justify the ends…… long as the means isn’t a pointless pledge to support a Clinton that might lead to an actual chance for change without hanging people in this country from lamp posts.

          2. Lambert Strether Post author

            Well, I can choke down Sanders’ appalling support for gun humpers, so I don’t see why you can’t give a little, too. Eh?

            The Hedges branch of the left has proved utterly ineffective. I see no reason to do more than listen to them (though I give credit to Hedge for his call on the Black Bloc in Occupy).

          3. Anon

            It must be nice, being able to hold true to one’s convictions in the face of overwhelming forces. While I respect Hedges, I just can’t see how running 3rd party/Green would’ve helped. If he did that, he’d be lucky to even get 1/10th of the airtime he’s had so far, let alone being on the ballot.

            As someone said, even if he doesn’t win, his very existence brings questions to the forefront, which could be the spark that pushes us towards meaningful reform. Soon, we’ll be in 2016 and there will be more stories of how terrible the ACA/Obamacare is and we haven’t even touched on how (kinda) permanently screwed disclosure of election funding is with that terrible funding bill passed during the holidays.

            Can’t we accept people that are good enough with strong convictions and do our part to hold them accountable, making them better than we were than having hang-ups about the MIC/Big Pharma/Oil etc.? Looking at his record, he seems genuine about healthcare as a right, unlike Obama who had experienced first-hand how terrible American healthcare was when dealing with his grandmother and peddled his lies about wanting to fix it [One could argue that he did fix it, it was just fixed to not be favorable to most people].

            You fight those from a position of strength, not weakness. Power concedes, and all that. But hey, maybe you’re right – we’re fast approaching the big day.

            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              People who say Sanders should have run as a Green generally act like the Greens have no say in the matter. In fact, the Greens have had bad luck with outsiders parachuted in as Presidential candidates (Nader, AFAIK, didn’t do much party building), and they also have a Presidential candidate they seem to be satisfied with, Jill Sanders.

              1. John Zelnicker

                Lambert — “a Presidential candidate they seem to be satisfied with, Jill Sanders.”

                Freudian slip, there?

          4. 3.14e-9

            Hedges is flat out mistaken that Sanders was “one of 100 Senators who stood up like AIPAC wind up dolls and approved Israel’s 51-day slaughter last summer of Palestinians in Gaza.” Of 100 members of the Senate, 79 approved the resolution to which Hedges is referring. Sanders was one of the 21 who did not. Hedges either doesn’t know how resolutions are adopted in the Senate, or he’s deliberately distorting the record.

            As for the drones, while Sanders has said he wouldn’t get rid of them entirely, he has said he would revise the program, because too many civilians are being killed and the way drones have been used has resulted in more terrorism. He also has stated that he wants to cut military spending in order to fund domestic programs.

            1. different clue

              Hedges used to be a New York Times reporter. That means he has proven himself to be smart enough and diligent enough to be able to look things up and know what the facts of the matter are.

              So you are being far too kind to Hedges when you use the gracious euphemism “deliberately distorting the record” for “brazenly lying” . . . which in fact is what Hedges was doing.

          5. different clue

            How nice to be as affluent as Hedges to not have to worry about personal economic survival or retirement. How nice to be as affluent as Hedges to not have to worry about Social Security survival or not . . . so as to be able to strut his moral superiority stuff about how he is so pure that he only cares about the only thing that really matters etc. etc.

    2. Lambert Strether

      Personally, I think even racist morons deserve single payer health care, because of common humanity.

      But you can’t get there from identity politics, and hence Joan Walsh writes, if that is the word I want, as she does.

      1. Steven D.

        The Democrats should be about full employment or they should go home. Their abandonment of full employment is why Americans are gunning each other down in the streets and lusting after the blood of Mexicans and Muslims.

        Only the left can bring about full employment but the left globally has accepted its own neutering.

  6. ex-PFC Chuck


    ” High school debaters, vulnerable to logical appeals. We’ll soon set them straight on that.”

    This is accomplished by teaching them neo-classical economics at our colleges and universities.

    1. polecat

      no….. this is accomplished by teaching them “common cored” unlearning in elementary, middle, & highschool !

  7. jfleni

    RE: Hoping for a Price Surge, Oil Companies Keep Wells in Reserve:

    Hope springs eternal for Plutocrats, but the galloping decrease in renewable energy costs suggests that these turkeys are far more likely to “leave it in the ground” causing environmentalists to cheer, while the jumped-up grease-pit clowns go broke!

  8. Jim Haygood

    Rage of the Lo-Teks:

    Astra Taylor is a 21st-century digital dissenter. She’s one of the many technophiles unhappy about the way the tech revolution has played out. Political progressives once embraced the utopian promise of the Internet as a democratizing force, but they’ve been dismayed by the rise of the “surveillance state,” and the near-monopolization of digital platforms by huge corporations.

    Last month, Taylor and more than 1,000 activists, scholars and techies gathered at the New School in New York City for a conference to talk about reinventing the Internet. They dream of a co-op model: people dealing directly with one another without having to go through a data-sucking corporate hub.

    As ol’ Mick Jagger used to say, ‘Go ahead — bite Cook’s big Apple — don’t mind the maggots!’

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      As a Luddite, I sympathize with Astra Taylor, but I am not certain of the direction they are going.

      Our bogeyman or bogey bear is that one day, one robot can do everything, and at the time, we finally confront the question, what does it mean to be a human in a economy with simply one omnipotent robot (owned by just one human, perhaps not for long, if that robot is really smart).

      And so, as we march on to that destination with fate, we can ponder on another question. Is Herr One Stone right that it’s insane to do the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result (meaning Luddites have been and will always be wrong), or does God play dice, or do we play dice, keeping on rolling the same dice (doing the same thing), and expecting a different result (if not right away, eventually), that is, will the Luddites get lucky at the gaming table and finally get the roll they have been expecting?

      As this is a financial weblog, we remind ourselves of what our financial advisers extol: Stick to your investment strategy and one day you will be correct. Don’t jump from value to growth, back to value. Do the same thing, expect different results.

    2. Carla

      If you post the full title of the piece, those of us who don’t want to, or can’t, pay for WaPo access can get through the paywall by Googling it in quotes and adding Washington Post.

      I will try to remember to do this if/when I post links in Comments to NYT pieces as well. Thanks!

  9. Ed

    “Boxing Day rail shutdown prompts Labour accusation of Tory hypocrisy”

    This is part of a genre of news articles that middlebrow magazines once called “only in England”, but its still pretty amazing. Apparently they have to shut down their passenger rail system a few days each year for maintenance. And the whole thing has to be shut down, and it has to happen during the Christmas holiday season, just to drive whatever point they are making home.

    I can’t think of any other national passenger rail system that does this, though I am willing to be corrected. Amtrak takes a lot of criticism, but they have never pulled this.

    But the interesting part of the article is that even this is pretty much an annual event, put on by the permanent government/ corporate bureaucracy, the opposition party is always going to criticize and and promise changes when they get into power. They get into power, but it never changes. Labour criticizes the how the rail system is done under the Tories, then Labour gets into power and the Tories criticize the same practices, then the Tories get back in and so on.

  10. Dr Beeching

    Boxing Day rail shutdown ….

    I wholeheartedly believe that London deserves to have its rail service upgraded to the level of the rest of the country. Some stations haven’t seen a train stop there since 1964.

    Quick segue to Lambert’s article about Social Artifacts: It’s noticeable that the infrastructure that US train modellers model is freight, whereas in the rest of the world it is passenger rail modelling. Before the eponymous Dr Beeching, we had a Hornby 00 gauge track with a superbly detailed model of the Duchess of Montrose, in green livery, pulling half a dozen carriages in British Rail red.


  11. efschumacher

    I wholeheartedly believe that London deserves to have its rail service upgraded to the level of the rest of the country. Some stations haven’t seen a train stop there since 1964.

    Quick segue to Lambert’s article about Social Artifacts: It’s noticeable that the infrastructure that US train modellers model is freight, whereas in the rest of the world it is passenger rail modelling. Before the eponymous Dr Beeching, we had a Hornby 00 gauge track with a superbly detailed model of the Duchess of Montrose, in green livery, pulling half a dozen carriages in British Rail red.


  12. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Major athletes to doping ring.

    Don’t know much about that, but I believe,, always have, that fitness is not about a nation of couch potatoes watching elite athletes performing ever unbelievable ueber-mensch athletic feats, but the 99% athletically endowed doing yoga, tai chi and other exercises to keep themselves fit.

    I also believe public financed stadiums should be converted to community gardens.

  13. DJG

    David Stockman, what a remarkable evolution. Why, he’s a veritable leftist. I am reminded of what has happened to real U.S. conservatives every time that Lambert or Yves posts an article from American Conservative, too. These articles might as well have come from Jacobin.

    Now, that does not mean that I believe that right and left are the same. That is a foolish mistake. But as the older style of U.S. conservative (small government, small business) has been eclipsed by libertarians and neocons, so has the U.S. left been gummed into oblivion by liberals and their mushy doctrine of “whatever works we’ll give a try, plus sushi.” Liberals, neocons, and libertarians all are meretricious. They have their prices stamped on their foreheads.

      1. Plenue

        Makes me think of Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier. A lot of modern reviews say the first half of the book is a distressing portrait of the working poor, but then say the second half is a ‘perplexing’ and ‘incomprehensible’ attack on middle-class leftists. Orwell was attacking what we now call limousine liberals, and if someone doesn’t understand what he’s saying it’s probably because they are part of the group he’s attacking.

    1. Katniss Everdeen

      Not sure how this “just the facts” essay triggered yet more political left / right masturbation.

      The messenger deserves to live, and his message shouted from the rooftops.

      1. readerOfTeaLeaves

        Yes, I thought Stockman’s piece a brilliant synthesis that distills much of the main themes.
        I think the old ‘lib/conserv’ lines are crumbling, along with much other erosion due to dishonesty, distrust, ineptitude, etc, etc.

    2. Massinissa

      I kinda have to agree with Katniss I think. I dont see how this kind of talk is relevant right now.

      1. DJG

        The essay itself uses terms like ‘neocon,’ ‘war party,’ ‘liberals,’ and so on. Stockman has had a remarkable evolution. Context helps, and you should consider his context, too.

        1. Massinissa

          Point taken, I suppose. But im still not convinced hes a leftist, not that I think thats a bad thing.

    3. jgordon

      Amazing to me that this liberal vs “conservative meme is a horse that just won’t die. What do liberals and conservatives agree on now?: a bigger police state, more neoliberal economics, and way more wars. What do they disagree on?: same sex marriage and whether or not Caitlyn Jenner is a hero.

      These people have all made themselves irrelevant. They’re only still just hanging on like zombies due to social momentum. But things are going to blow up soon.

  14. J

    Or the electorate can vote out of office the would-be mini-fascists called conservatives (i.e., reform and alliance types that merged and then all imitated each other by singing out of the same hymn book.)

  15. Katniss Everdeen

    RE: How crowdfunding became a lifeline for cancer patients struggling with debt Guardian

    How blissful it must be to be so totally immersed in the technology revolution that you can intellectually separate the idea of “crowdfunding” from the image of a shaved-head beggar in tattered clothing shaking a tin cup at passers-by.

    I do think use of the word “lifeline” is a bit of an overstatement, as is use of the term “healthcare system.” Generally speaking.

  16. Vatch

    William Dalrymple: Christianity and Islam are not as far apart as Bin Laden and the neocons would like us to believe

    I agree, there are major similarities among all of the Abrahamic religions. I’m not religious, but if I were forced to choose, I would pick some variety of Buddhism. I’m impressed by the psychological and ethical sophistication of Buddhism; too bad there are miracles in Buddhism, just as in other religions. If there can be secular Jews, then certainly there can be secular Buddhists! Unless I were living in Iceland; then I would choose to be a Zuist for tax reasons.

    1. LifelongLib

      I would say traditional Judaism and Islam resemble each other, more than either resembles Christianity (I’m not a member of any of them). Both Judaism and Islam are religions of practice rather than belief. I don’t know what the case is within Islam, but it is quite possible to be a devout Jew and a philosophical atheist, something that is almost unheard of within Christianity.

    2. Massinissa

      Buddhism in theory is great. But uh, then you have ones in places like Myanmar that are just as awful and violent and sectarian as any muslim or christian fanatics.

      Ive never really been convinced that buddhism is really any different than other religions. Im not saying its worth, but im not sure its really any better, either.

      Anyway, if I was to choose a religion, I might choose Baha’i. To them, not just followers of their religion but also worshipers of all abrahamic religions, in addition to Buddhists and Hindus, can all go to heaven.

      1. Vatch

        Regarding the grim association between Buddhism and the tyrannical government in Burma/Myanmar: Any religion is worsened by affiliation with a government. Christianity, whatever virtues or flaws it had during its first 300 years, got worse when Constantine gave it preferential status in the early 300s. Several decades later, Theodosius I made Nicene Trinitarian Christianity the official religion of the Roman imperial government, and around 393, other religions were basically outlawed.

        Islam started out as a heresy, and Muhammad had to flee from Mecca to Medina, but within a few years it was intimately linked with the government of the expanding Arab empire. So we have concepts such as the caliphate, and the distinction among Dar al Islam (the House of Islam — good guys), Dar al Harab (the House of War — bad guys), and Dar al Kufr (the House of Infidels — very bad guys).

        I suspect that if the Baha’i or Jain religions ever became the dominant official religion of a country, they would become noticeably less tolerant, and possibly even oppressive.

        1. Massinissa

          Well, the Jain WERE very dominant at one time over two years ago. And as far I can tell, they were not too bad (relatively), which is probably why the more militaristic Hindu’s (as well as Buddhists like Chadragupta Maurya) almost completely eliminated the religion from the subcontinent.

          1. Massinissa

            Also the Jains were powerful from between 500 BCE and a bit before about 1000 CE. And some of the earlier Jains were about as militant as you can probably imagine, but it got more pacifistic over time, especially after 500 CE, which IMO partially led to its downfall.

  17. optimader

    6 ways Donald Trump’s wrestling career previewed his campaign
    My assessment of Trump remains that he is a performance artist. He just took a different path than Andy Kaufman

  18. tongorad

    Scenes from the class war:

    Deffo one of the most engrossing and disturbing film documentaries about class and our criminal justice system that I’ve ever seen, NetFlix’s Making A Murderer:

    The 10-episode documentary series MAKING A MURDERER follows the strange and harrowing story of Steven Avery, an outsider, convicted and later exonerated of a brutal assault. His release triggered major criminal justice reform legislation, and he filed a lawsuit that threatened to expose corruption in local law enforcement and award him millions of dollars. But in the midst of his very public civil case, he suddenly finds himself the prime suspect in a grisly new crime.

    Netlix has made entire first episode is available on youtube

    1. Foy

      Yes, just finished watching all episodes. The video recordings of the police interviews of the 16yo boy with developmental difficulties (IQ 69) are unbearable to watch. Completely coerced into a false confession without a lawyer or parents present. You can literally see him trying to guess what answer the police want to hear. How those police and prosecutors involved live with themselves is beyond me.

      I’ve never been more depressed after watching a documentary.

  19. allan

    Israeli liberals cry foul over funding disclosure bill

    JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Cabinet ministers gave preliminary approval Sunday to a bill that imposes new disclosure requirements on nonprofit groups that receive foreign funding — drawing accusations the government was trying to crack down on government critics, rattling relations with Europe and deepening an increasingly toxic divide between liberal and hawkish Israelis.

    Critics said the regulations are meant to stifle dovish organizations critical of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government policies toward the Palestinians, since such nonprofits tend to rely heavily on donations from European countries.

    In contrast, pro-government and nationalistic nonprofit groups tend to rely on wealthy private donors, who are exempt from the measures under the bill. … [The liberal] activists also will be required to wear special tags when working in Israel’s parliament.

  20. Vatch

    I was surprised to see that the January/February 2016 issue of “Foreign Affairs”, the house organ of the ultra-establishment Council on Foreign Relations, is featuring Inequality on its cover:

    What Causes It
    Why It Matters
    What Can Be Done

    30% of the magazine covers this topic, with these articles:

    Inequality and Modernization: Why Equality Is Likely to Make a Comeback
    Inequality and Globalization: How the Rich Get Richer as the Poor Catch Up
    How to Create a Society of Equals: Overcoming Today’s Crisis of Inequality
    Equality and American Democracy: Why Politics Trumps Economics
    How to Spread 
the Wealth: Practical Policies for Reducing Inequality
    Brazil’s Antipoverty Breakthrough: The Surprising Success of Bolsa Família

    The presence of so many articles about inequality in such a bastion of The Establishment suggests that The Powers That Be are worried. At the back of the magazine there are the results of a poll of Very Smart People about whether or not Inequality matters. 3 strongly agree, 16 agree, 2 are neutral, 6 disagree, and none strongly disagree. The full responses are supposed to be available at this web site:

    But when I tried to browse to that site, as well as the https equivalent, I got:

    Page not found
    The requested page “/Inequality” could not be found.

    Perhaps there is a faction in the Council on Foreign Relations that is unhappy that the magazine is admitting that Inequality is a problem….

  21. susan the other

    Stockman. Oil does not matter. Maybe. But it is the lifeblood of the planet, or it was. If the market is incapable of organizing a switch to renewables, then oil does matter because it has to be shut down and off in an orderly manner. If the Saudis figured this out and have decided to undersell everyone else and nobody can invoke the market to restore the price of oil then this has nothing to do with the market. It is war by manipulation of the oil market. But the long history was a good read and he’s right – politix in the ME is none of our business. The only thing he doesn’t see is that this has nothing to do with an old fashioned capitalist marketplace.

  22. financial matters

    I think Bill Mitchell’s thoughts on bank reform from 2010 are worth a review.


    “”I start from the proposition that the only useful thing a bank should do is to facilitate a payments system and provide loans to credit-worthy customers. Attention should always be focused on what is a reasonable credit risk. In that regard, the banks:

    should only be permitted to lend directly to borrowers. All loans would have to be shown and kept on their balance sheets. This would stop all third-party commission deals which might involve banks acting as “brokers” and on-selling loans or other financial assets for profit.

    should not be allowed to accept any financial asset as collateral to support loans. The collateral should be the estimated value of the income stream on the asset for which the loan is being advanced. This will force banks to appraise the credit risk more fully.

    should be prevented from having “off-balance sheet” assets, such as finance company arms which can evade regulation.

    should never be allowed to trade in credit default insurance. This is related to whom should price risk.

    should be restricted to the facilitation of loans and not engage in any other commercial activity.

    So this is not a full-reserve system. The government can always dampen demand for credit by increasing the price of reserves and/or raising taxes/cutting spending.

    The issue then is to examine what risk-taking behaviour is worth keeping as legal activity. I would ban all financial risk-taking behaviour that does not advance public purpose (which is most of it).

    I would legislate against derivatives trading other than that which can be shown to be beneficial to the stability of the real economy.

    So do I support bank nationalisation? Probably, but that is for another day. Having a strong public banking system to compete against the private banks will achieve mostly the same ends and is more likely to be politically acceptable in the current climate.””

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