Links Christmas Day

Cameras capture never-before-seen footage of wild crows building tools WaPo

One Way to Unrig Stock Trading NYT

World’s Biggest Pension Fund to Add Board in Governance Overhaul Bloomberg. Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund.

Exxon’s Oil Industry Peers Knew About Climate Dangers in the 1970s, Too Inside Climate News

Tech Faces Continuing Shakeout Next Year WSJ

Uber Goes Right to Users’ Phones When It Wants Lawmakers to Jump Bloomberg

The embarrassing truth about SpaceX The Week


Christmastime tornadoes ravage South; at least 14 killed AP

Economists Say ‘Bah! Humbug!’ to Christmas Presents WSJ

How the Nazis co-opted Christmas Business Insider

The Tedium Twins Harpers (GU). A classic from 1982.

The Huron Carol Sic Semper Tyrannis (Carolinian). Xmas in Vietnam.

DC’s Hottest Christmas Gift This Year is Weed Alternet. You can’t sell it. But you can give it away! A new — and welcome — experience in the Beltway, I guess…

U.S. retailers at risk of missing modest holiday sales goals Reuters

Malls Reel as Web Roars With Holiday Shopping WSJ

Stephen Breyer on the global challenges facing the Supreme Court Market News (Jim Haygood).


Poland’s constitutional crisis goes international Politico

Socialists reject deal with Spanish PM FT

IMFexit? Failed Evolution

French president’s ‘gift to far right’ is a Socialist’s nightmare before Christmas AFP

Jeremy Corbyn is ‘planning’ a Shadow Cabinet reshuffle in the New Year to purge his opponents Independent. Addition by subtraction.

U.K. Economy Loses Momentum as Pace of Growth Revised Lower Bloomberg

Eamonn McCann: Mother Teresa not such a good role model The Irish Times


Syria ready to take part in Geneva peace talks: minister Reuters

The story of the Arab Spring is far from over Al Jazeera

US Military In Iraq Circulates Fake Islamic State Document – Media Fall For it Moon of Alabama

Exclusive: Islamic State sanctioned organ harvesting in document taken in U.S. raid Reuters. Captured enemy documents prove ISIS infiltrated by market fundamentalists!

Policy Repercussions of the Paris Terrorist Attacks Schneier on Security (Furzy Mouse).

As Military Handles Drone Strikes, Less Scrutiny by Congress

Russia and India sign new defence deals FT


Look beyond the polls for the real odds on Donald Trump FT

A political bomb is about to blow up in the Democrats’ faces WaPo

Sy Hersh: Backing Assad’s Ouster, Has Hillary Clinton Forgotten the Lessons of Iraq & Libya? Democracy Now

Have Yourself a Bernie Little Christmas LA Progressive

Chicago ‘Black Christmas’ protesters march against police violence Reuters

What Drives Gun Sales: Terrorism, Politics and Calls for Restrictions NYT

Medical Records Systems All Need to Talk to Each Other LA Progressive. Amazing, or not, that the Obama administration threw billions at EMR in the stimulus package without mandating data interchange.

Class Warfare

Cronyism Causes the Worst Kind of Inequality Bloomberg

London must stop sucking up cash from the rest of Britain Guardian

Fight Poverty From the Radical Center Bloomberg. As defined by the AEI and Brookings. Oh, OK.

The HE Green Paper: (Don’t) Read it and Weep – Part 1: The TEF & Social Mobility The Disorder of Things. A truly noxious neoliberal document on higher education, now so-called, in the UK.

Bigger brains cause Flynn effect? Psychological comments. (Flynn effect.)

Feuding physicists turn to philosophy for help Nature

Why the Movie ‘Concussion’ Spells Trouble for the NFL—and Moral Angst for the Rest of Us The Nation

Dalene Bowden, School Cafeteria Worker, Fired After Giving Hungry Student Free Lunch NBC. See, there is such a thing as a free lunch. They just don’t want you to know.

Antidote du jour:


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. Jim Haygood

    ‘People are definitely interested in cannabis-themed gifts, and they are coming in for gifts that can help someone harvest their plants.’ — Alternet

    Had a visit from Colorado friends. As a couple, they’re entitled to grow twelve plants (six apiece). They cheated a bit by germinating more than a dozen, then weeding out the males.

    Colorado law requires that plants not be visible from outside the property, so they grew them in a small outdoor greenhouse in the back yard, with frosted polycarbonate glazing.

    After three growing seasons, they’ve got more cannabis than they can use stored in the garage. So they aren’t even planting this spring.

    Last I heard, they were baking brownies for Christmas. :-)

    1. ambrit

      If the giving of weed is legal in the DC, pack up some and send it to their Congress droid. Would that be bribery, practicing medicine without a license, interstate transport, a Racketeer Influenced Philanthropic Organization (RIPO), [if you can convince your friends to follow suit,]? Given the porous nature of campaign finance law, the act of not reporting this activity would not cross the threshold of misprision, and neither would you.

  2. fresno dan

    Stephen Breyer on the global challenges facing the Supreme Court Market News (Jim Haygood).

    Wager: The “challenges” will always be used to diminish the citizens rights and increase the state and corporations rights…

    Breyer: “As a lawyer and judge, I see our government as a kind of experiment in which Americans have long engaged. At a time when democracy was to be found nowhere else in the world,…”

    A lawyer and a Judge, but apparently, not a political scientist or historian. The United States is a republic, and if one looks at a number of countries at the time, it would be hard to argue that the Swiss, Dutch, or English (and who knows how many elsewhere) were NOT substantively republics as well and their citizen had substantively rights on par with the US (cough, cough, cough….coughs lung out…OH YEAH – SLAVERY). Britain abolished slave trading 1807 (without a war) and Slavery in 1833 (without a war) The US, like most states than, were de facto Oligarchies, and many would argue the US still is…

    Seriously, I find this RAH RAH exceptional-ism that is expressed by someone who should know better nettlesome and tedious. It precludes discussion by taking it as a given that the US always is doing the right thing by virtue of its manifest destiny, instead of examining policies as to their logic, utility, and intrinsic worth.

    1. Antifa

      Excellent observations.

      There is also the looming arrival of some version of TPP-style treaties in all directions, which will let any corporate entity in any signatory country override and nullify laws duly passed by the American people or their representatives. The Supreme Court’s opinion won’t matter, and won’t be asked for. The treaty already settled it.

      The SCOTUS needs nine rubber stamps that all say the same thing:

      “Not my job, mon!”

      1. Kurt Sperry

        Sometimes global consensuses (yes, that’s the plural) can be invoked for good at the SCOTUS–see Stevens on Atkins v. Virginia or Kennedy on Roper v. Simmons, both controversial DP cases where global consensus was invoked to argue against the DP.

    2. tegnost

      yes I cringed a bit when reading it and second antifas basis of approval, those who despise regulations seek to impose regulations upon us(TPP being a regulatory structure) while absolving themselves of any responsibility for doing so because TINA. I’m sure they’ll be happy to opine on how we can fit ourselves into the new rule regime.

  3. jgordon

    What Drives Gun Sales: Terrorism, Politics and Calls for Restrictions

    I can absolutely confirm this. I don’t own a gun and don’t feel any particular desire to have one. However the one time I was desperate to get one was right after the Sandy Hook shootings and Obama started talking about gun bans. At that point I raced over to several local sporting goods stores to buy what I was looking for (at that time, an AK-47), but all the stores were either out of stock or the weapon was 3X more expensive than it was usually. So I went home disappointed. After a while it looked like gun control wasn’t going to pass after all, my anxiety went down, and I forgot about it.

    Yes, the only time I’m really inclined to run out and arm myself is when gun-control advocates start talking about the need to ban guns. And further more if they only talk about banning certain types of guns and accessories for them, then it is precisely those items they want to ban that I feel the most intense need to acquire. I’m certain that’s the situation for most people. It’s why I have a such a jaundiced vie of these “anti-gun” efforts. They’re manipulating me into buying guns!

    Later I started analyzing my reactions and I realized just how effective Obama et al are as gun salesmen. Also, with the cynicism I’d come to view the Obama regime by that time, it suddenly occurred to me that the NRA must be doing something for Obama and others on the left to get them to run these boneheaded campaigns that completely backfire each and every time they’re tried. Whether knowingly or not they’re the most effective tools at the NRA’s disposal.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Yes, that’s why ridiculing ammosexuals is necessary as a starting point; it’s a moral issue, and will probably take a generation to play out, much as the NRA’S public relations campaign did, or cancer stick marketing and subsequent successful regulation each did.

      Apparently, a threat to your consumer fetish object of choice had you in such a dither you actually thought Obama was capable of accomplishing something.

      1. jgordon

        You really think American society is going to hang together for another several generations? Well that’s probably where one of the major unexamined points of contention is then: considering the current rate of degeneration, I don’t personally think that we’ll have much of a coherent society left in a few years time–anarchy, or at least much smaller political units, will be the rule for America in the years ahead and whatever measure of safety and security will exist for the people will be eked out through their own efforts.

        If you really want to have your unpopular ideas about gun control become more widespread you could start by convincing people that the government that will be enforcing those gun control programs is fair, legitimate, and stable. And if you don’t even believe those things are true yourself (imperial collapse watch?), then why in the world would you want that government to have even more power and control over citizens?

          1. jgordon

            You have no logic or reason for your beliefs. I have had this same sort of conversation before with religious nuts. Well, at least I know where you’re coming from now.

        1. ewmayer

          So your prediction for the not-too-distant future is of a dystopian America which resembles the ZeroHedge commentariat, one of millions of human mini-Smaug-the-dragon basement-lair hoarders of gold, silver and lead. Interesting … do roaming hordes of flesh-crazed zombies have a place in your future America?

  4. Puppytoes

    Mother Theresa described as “manipulative,” “dishonest,” and “despicable?”
    Merry Christmas to you, too!

  5. dcblogger

    what do you want to bet that the document alleging that ISIS is involved in organ harvesting is a forgery?

    1. Katniss Everdeen

      Where’s your sense of humor?

      It’s prolly just those crazy jokesters at the cia paying back their buddies at the “defense” department for sabotaging their program to arm the “moderate” syrian rebels by sending obsolete Korean-war-era ordnance instead of gunz that worked. (As linked here a few days ago.)


  6. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Dalene Bowen free lunch, hungry student.

    More education at work.

    What are we teaching our hungry and not-so-hungry students?

    1. Katniss Everdeen

      But Bowden said if a child exceeds the $11 credit limit, workers are instructed to take their tray away and throw out the food.

      We’re teaching them the consequences of not managing their credit responsibly or the need to live within their “means.” It’s been said that american students are not financially “literate” enough. It would appear that’s not the case in Pocatello, where financial “literacy” is a priority, even in the cafeteria.

      “So this is Christmas, And what have you done……

  7. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Cronyism…the worst kind of inequality.

    Nepotism is also up there.

    “Of course, you’re my friend.”

    “No problem. He’s my cousin. We have a big family.”

    “The job goes to that person over there. We’re from the same country, the same people.”


    Is it because our friend-foe identification gene is math-challenged (specifically, large number challenged)?

  8. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    London must stop sucking up cash…

    Isn’t London, and not the rest of that country, where fiat money is created?

    Are we seeing something similar to the Observation Effect here – the ability to create money changes that entity and leads to a need to suck up more cash?

  9. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    The Flynn Effect and a worsening world…a warmer planet and a world with more and wider wealth inequality – don’t leave home (country) without it (inequality).

    Maybe we should pray for an anti-Flynn effect or a reverse Flynn effect?!?!?!

    Very smart people?

    We have too many of them. And a lot more ‘just smart’ people.

    Give us some not-so-smart ones instead.

  10. Vatch

    Merry Christmas, Happy belated Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Merry Saturnalia, everyone!

    Here’s a nice short interview with a New Yorker cartoonist by the Center for Biological Diversity:

    Cartoonist Tom Toro says:

    My greatest concern is that unchecked population growth and depletion of the earth’s natural resources will lead to a desolate planet. A barren place where people can’t see beyond the sprawl of what we ourselves have constructed and controlled, where all of the wonder and mystery and diversity of nature has been erased and there’s no place left to step off the concrete and to stand in awe of all creation. I can’t imagine a worse home for our species than one in which we live alone.

  11. John

    The Free lunch comment brought mirth and merriment to my Christmas!

    We should not underestimate how much laughing (so hard milk came through my nose) can be antidote like the daily dose of animals….


  12. Cynthia

    Greetings and felicitations to Yves and Lambert for all of the brilliant, relentless, compelling analysis and commentary on contemporary events and other interesting topics from time to time.

    And best wishes to all other regulars, old and new, active or less so, holiday greetings to you too and good wishes to you for the New Year.

    I rarely comment here anymore, but I still frequent this site and appreciate the views and insights of all.

    1. Yves Smith

      I owe a big thanks to all of you who have wished Lambert and me a Merry Christmas, and I want to thank Lambert for being willing to run the site today (and tomorrow) so I can have a sort-of breather.

  13. Jim

    The article “Feuding physicist turn to Philosophy for help,” may have some application to feuding economists.

    The article states “For a scientific theory to considered valid, scientists often require that there be an experience that could, in principle, rule the theory out…or falsify it, as the philosopher Karl Popper but it in the 1930s.”

    But Popper seems to want to limit the scope of contingency for the sake of being able to do science as he conceives of it.

    In another essay Popper wrote “What is dialectic,” he argued that according to the rules of inference enshrined in the traditional Aristotelian logic, a toleration of contradiction means that no possibilities can be ruled out. He states that if two contradictory statements are admitted any statement whatsoever must be admitted–for from a couple of contradictory statements any statement whatsoever can be validly inferred.

    Popper argues that in order to do science in a fruitful way we need to circumscribe this scope of contradiction to the furthest extent possible and then the results could harbor the prospect of being cumulative, linear and progressive.

    But there are philosophical positions (like, for example, skeptical idealism) which is concerned with perpetually opening up presuppositions of argument to further scrutiny and investigation–of being committed simultaneously to the truth and the untruth of all propositions.

    Adapting this philosophical perspective might go a long way toward diminishing the religious fervor of debates between economic theorists who tend to believe that they have grasped the truth.

    1. craazyman

      string theory poses some knotty epistimological problems. what are the strings made out of? boy. more strings? maybe string theory can be tied to quantum loops. knitting two theories like that together would either go in circles or you can thread your way to another universe. you can already hear the naysayers chorus of “fraid not’. But you have to keep sewing your ideas together. They may not be as loopy as they sound. I’d have more respeect for these fukkers if they looked for bigfoot. But they are not empiricists anymore. They just sit around and mentally you know what. it begins with an m. and ends with a bate. other universes can certinly be observed and they are every day, but nobody believes it. there’s a video on the internet right now of sounds from hell. it’s in mexico. google ‘;Listen to eerie underground noises sparking panic in Mexican town’ It may not be hell but it sure sounds like it. it may be anoher uinverse, right there in a british newspaper! Thaat’s not hard to find, even for a theoretical physicist. There was even a video of a levitating witch or demon of some kind there too. It may still be on youtube. it is kind of freaky. I wouldn’t want to see it. Actually i would, through binoculars, and only far enough away that I could escape if it started heading toward me. I would be like Scooby Doo running, that’s for sure

  14. ewmayer

    Was out of town yesterday and catching up on several days’ worth of recent posts today, but would like to comment the 12/23-linked China Just Launched the Most Frightening Game Ever — and Soon It Will Be Mandatory | The AntiMedia (ChuckL).

    Prediction: Western “democratic” governments will very soon – insofar that they are not already doing this sort of thing “informally” already – be going down this route, but with an even more subtle twist: Instead of any appearance of mandatoriness, people not allowing their life data to be continually vacuumed up via social media (and thereby dutifully fed to the government domestic-spying hydra) will simply find themselves evermore shut out of the emerging Big Data-run economy. Want to work in the aboveground economy? Gotta have a Facefuck acount, your employer’s corporate spying app installed on your smartphone and and be trackably online 24/7.

    1. hidflect

      You can already see it in the “Rewards” cards at supermarkets that offer 2% discounts of your purchases. I refuse to participate in a system that informs private enterprise of who I am, what I purchase and when I purchase it. It is not a 2% discount to all participants, it a 2% penalty on me for my intransigence with the higher powers.

      1. different clue

        I got a store rewards card once. I gave a false name and address. I only pay in cash when I shop there.

  15. Plenue

    When you start looking for hard information on Teresa, a picture of a truly awful human being emerges. It isn’t just that she didn’t spend much of her huge amount of money to actually help people; it’s that she had a typically extreme Catholic philosophy that suffering was in itself beautiful and noble. Her Home for the Dying is literally what its name says: it’s a place for being to stay in until they die. They call it a hospice, but there isn’t much actual care going on in it. But of course she herself didn’t like to suffer and happily flew herself off to the United States whenever she needed expensive medical treatment.

      1. William C

        An alternative point of view:


        Being an Indian and have practically seen the missionary services rendered by the noble mother, I am not in favour of Mr.E. MaCaan’s opinon. Mother has taught what is humanity, human service and the path of Jesus Christ in India. Mother has earned lot of respect and many poorest among poor are worshiping her.

        1. Plenue

          So she impressed people with her metaphysical talk. Still doesn’t change the fact that she took millions in donations to give aid to the poor and then didn’t do much with it to, you know, actually aid the poor. Instead she expressed admiration for their suffering.

          1. Skippy

            Biggest revenue cow for the RCC and modern times and example of Calvin…

            skippy…. just shows what a dash of Bernays can do…

            1. William C

              I think there was more to the story than just metaphysical talk and advertising.

              I only met her once, when I was 18 and doubtless easily impressed, but she struck me as a very good, loving woman with a genuine concern for the most disadvantaged in society. Would I have thought differently when I was older and more cynical? Perhaps. I cannot tell.

              More substantively I do know that when she stayed with my uncle she insisted that he accompany her to go and look for the homeless living under the nearby bridges, to see what they could do to help them. I suspect that she thought the Catholic clergy were better at preaching the Gospel message of concern for the poor than at living it, and that they needed to see the problems on their own doorstep.

              What caused amusement in the family was that we knew my uncle regarded it as his duty as a priest in a city with significant homeless to go out every evening to walk the neighbouring streets looking for homeless people to see if he could help them find some shelter for the night. He was too much the gentleman to tell her that.

              I am no expert on the details of her life but what little I know of as absolute fact -as opposed to information intermediated through the media – does not make me think her a monster.

  16. VietnamVet

    The SpaceX article is interesting in describing the burgeoning space program. The landing of the first stage is remarkable and will open further space exploitation. But, if you wonder why everyone’s head is buried in the sand, this article is a prime example. The path the space program has taken is described as “weird”. It is not that. It is crony capitalism run wild.

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