Links New Year 2016!

I’ve been really under the gun this holiday :-( and I wanted to thank readers who gave end of year donations. It was really gratifying and very much appreciated to have you remember us, particularly since my inbox was chock full of e-mails soliciting last-minute 2015 donations, and we didn’t make an appeal. I put in an order for a new computer (my misbehaving one was repaired successfully, the problem was indeed the battery even though the symptoms sure gave the impression it was the charger port) but it is an over 5 year old MacBook Air, so I am living dangerously by not getting a new one. So the influx of cash nicely coincided with a needed infrastructure upgrade (I got a souped up MacBook Pro, with 16GB of RAM. I’ve decided I will tolerate more weight to get more longevity, since I tend to use machines until they become memory-constrained).

Best wishes for health, happiness, prosperity, and even better troublemaking in 2016!

Air India plane bound for London forced to return to Mumbai after rat sighting Independent (resilc)

Judge dismisses New York woman’s DWI because her body brews its own alcohol Slate

That Time the Philippines Skipped a Day Pacific Standard (Chuck L)

How Big Can a Black Hole Grow? arXiv (guurst)

George Lucas hits out at ‘retro’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens Guardian (furzy)

George Lucas compares Disney to ‘white slavers’ that bought his children The Verge (furzy)

Loose canon: Karl Barth taught us not to use religion to mask the stench of war Guardian (furzy)


China builds second aircraft carrier Financial Times. Has no one told them about the Millennium Challenge?

Russia names Nato as threat to security BBC

Merkel urges unity amid refugee influx Financial Times


White House Delays Imposing New Sanctions on Iran for Missile Program Wall Street Journal

Most important Neglected Middle East Stories of 2015 Juan Cole

Imperial Collapse Watch

Super Imperialism in 84 Seconds Information Clearing House (margarita)

America’s Incarcerated Population, Largest in World, Grew Even More Last Year Intercept

Wars of all against all Sic Semper Tyrannis (resilc)

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

Ex-convict accused of planning ISIS attack in Rochester Buffalo News. Bob: “I read through the court filing. The FBI informant drove him to Walmart and had to buy him the stuff. They’ve cancelled the fireworks in Rochester, and Cuomo is going all Trump on “the internet”.”


State Department misses court-ordered goal on Clinton email release Washington Post

Martin O’Malley fails to qualify for Ohio’s ballot Baltimore Sun (furzy)

Why the 2010s Are Reminiscent of the 1920s Atlantic (resilc)

Democrats, Beware: Billionaires Can Still Buy Elections Very Easily New Republic. The only part that might be news to Team Dem is the “very”.

Jeb Bush’s Fight Over the Everglades New Yorker (resilc)

Flooding in Missouri Raises Vexing Questions New York Times

A Mother And Son Must Drive Across Three States For What Should Be A Common Addiction Treatment Huffington Post

Police are solving a lot fewer murder cases than they used to Vox (resilc)


Gun-Friendly Texas Is Getting Even Friendlier With New Law New York Times

Florida woman fatally shoots ‘intruder’ who turns out to be her daughter Washington Post

2015 Was First Pre-Election Year to End In the Red Since the Great Depression George Washington

U.S. Oil Prices End 2015 Down 30% for the Year Wall Street Journal

A 2016 Agenda for America’s Senior Citizens! OpEd News (Glenn F)

Class Warfare

10 Billionaires Who Got More Billionaire-y in 2015 Vanity Fair

Parking the Big Money by Cass R. Sunstein New York Review of Books (Dr. Kevin)

Where Does Inequality Come From? Los Angeles Review of Books (margarita)

What Money Can Buy: Darren Walker and the Ford Foundation set out to conquer inequality New Yorker. Bill B: “Predictably, power without accountability is framed in a positive light. This is a tell. The New Yorker celebrates a mechanism of the wealthy few and its efforts to address the very problem that its donors worked so hard to create. An impressive instance of Chomsky’s propaganda model.”

Antidote du jour (Stephen L). From the Alberta Wildlife FB page:

chipmunk links

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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  1. Patricia Marino

    Re: “Where Does Inequality Come From?” — this interesting review correctly ties the philosophical idea of “sufficiency” (that it’s not equality that matters, but only that the poor have enough) to Thatcherite policies. But to me the discussion ends on an odd note:

    “Perhaps most importantly, On Inequality may unsettle those fuzzy-minded liberals who know they are committed to a more equal society but are not sure why. Given Frankfurt’s convincing proof that bourgeois, academic ethics cannot sustain a critique of inequality, these liberals may find themselves turning to intellectual traditions that offer a more radical, systemic critique.”

    In fact, John Rawls’s 20th-century “Theory of Justice” uses bourgeois, academic ethics to provide an interconnected political and ethical argument against inequality. These approaches should not, of course, crowd out the Marxist analysis appealing to exploitation — but perhaps there’s room for them to work together.

    1. Uahsenaa

      Frankfurt’s book makes use of a very convenient trick commonly used among Anglo-American philosophers, which is to define an issue under investigation so narrowly (he equates [sic] equality with a very limited framing of egalitarianism) as to exclude any potential counter-arguments. The philosopher then shows why those counter-arguments are excluded and voila, he’s proved his point, because the conditions of making the argument have already precluded the points about to be made.

      In other words, analytical philosophers get away with a lot simply because they delimit terms in such a way as to completely belie their lay usage. The uninitiated then tries to use a term in its lay sense, and the philosopher, by means of a bewildering rhetorical flourish, demonstrates why what the lay person says means something other than what she intends. It’s a trick as old as Plato.

      I would strongly recommend Danielle Allen’s Our Declaration and its extensive discussion on how, for Adams in particular, equality and freedom are inextricably linked, because of the power over others that accrues from hoarding or increased access to public resources, a topic Frankfurt never bothers to broach: power. Which would explain why Marxian arguments are avoided.

    2. Vatch

      I haven’t read Frankfurt’s book, so I can’t be certain what his arguments are. (I haven’t read the Rawls book, either).

      If Frankfurt is arguing against the idea that mild inequality is bad, then he’s knocking down a flimsy straw man. Sure, there are idealists who advocate on behalf of absolute equality. Most of us are more worried about extreme inequality. If someone’s income is 50 times greater than someone earning the minimum wage, there might be some very good reasons for it, such as talent, education, hard work, etc. If someone else’s income is 500 (or more) times the minimum wage, it’s a problem. The discrepancies in total wealth can be even larger, and these are usually the result of unfairness.

      I’ve read many rational justifications for moderate disparities in wealth or income, but I’ve never encountered a valid ethical justification for the existence of billionaires or hecto-millionaires. Their extreme wealth is always due in large part to luck, fraud, or some type of theft.

      1. Uahsenaa

        Frankfurt’s book is in two parts: the first is dedicated to critiquing a limited set of arguments in favor of redistribution of wealth (which is how equality/inequality gets defined here, as as relative distribution of resources, nothing else). He then proposes that the only “ethically” justifiable remediation is to redistribute just enough so that the poorest of the poor have “enough” to live comfortably (which at times comes rather close to “bread and circus” logic). So long as the lowest rungs of the ladder have enough to “get by” without much hardship, it doesn’t matter how many billions anyone else has. Or so goes the argument.

        He does speak briefly about not accumulating so much as to “destabilize democracy,” but what that entails is not really defined. For instance, is democracy destabilized if people are allowed to vote for representatives but have no real influence over what those representatives do once in power? i.e. what we have at the moment? The finer points of how resource accumulation affects power or influence are not discussed in great detail. Citizens are all atomized subjects in this framework, so the great desideratum is what maintains social and material stability for each individual.

        I had to put the thing down before finishing, because its a very underhanded justification for the kind of third-way-ism so in vogue amongst those who already exercise an outsized influence on the status quo.

      2. LifelongLib

        FWIW, I once looked at the top salaries in professions like engineering that require a lot of education and skill, but aren’t in a position to game the system the way (say) lawyers and business people are. The salaries were in the range of 20 – 30 times minimum wage. This probably represents the contribution of genuine differences in ability to salaries. Of course there are outliers like superstar musicians and pro athletes, but they don’t have the kind of influence on the political process that the true wealthy do.

        1. Vatch

          20 – 30 times minimum wage

          Makes sense. My guesstimate of 50 times the minimum wage was probably a little high for a justifiable high end income. Although if a high end (20 – 30 times minimum wage) earner is thrifty, s/he can achieve a somewhat higher income from interest and dividends.

    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Where did inequality come from?

      It started with the alpha male, his harem and the other apes.

      Nowadays, general inequality (beyond just wealth inequality) is so pervasive.

      “Someone will come to get us out of the mess.”

      Where does it come from? When we think (after having been thoroughly prepared through extensive conditioning) someone else is more creative, more fit, prettier, more messianic, more exceptional, etc than us, we willingly give away our own emotional, psychic and spiritual wealth, and it leads to general inequality.

      Master: “You’re the master. I’m no master”

      Guru: “You’re the guru. I’m no guru. Get me down from the pedestal.” (That’s why he/she is a guru.)

      1. susan the other

        We should never let the argument get detoured. Human inequality is a figment of money/wealth distribution. And once you have money you can protect yourself from inequality. It’s human instinct to hoard, like so many squirrels. If money could not buy protection it would be a big shakedown for people who have risen to the heights of money and silliness. I’m too old to hope to see the day when money is only a means of exchange and is valueless – but how do you separate the usefulness of a medium of exchange and some value it offers? If we could do that we’d all be monkeys again where it’s just too tiring to be alpha, all that vigilance and posturing to keep the other guys in line… It would be a really interesting experiment to do two groups of monkeys – the control group is the the troupe with the alpha male and predictable behavior; the test group is culled of all alpha males – what happens next?

        1. Steve H.

          Sapolsky: The keekorok troop is the one I started with 30 years ago.
          00:43:19 And they were your basic old baboon troop at the time, which means males were aggressive and society was highly stratified, and females took a lot of grief, and your basic off-the-rack baboon troop.
          00:43:32 And then about– by now almost 20 years ago, something horrific and scientifically very interesting happened to that troop.
          00:43:41 Narrator: The keekorok troop took to foraging for food in the garbage dump of a popular tourist lodge.
          00:43:49 It was a fatal move.
          00:43:53 The trash included meat tainted with tuberculosis.
          00:43:58 The result was that over half the males in the troop died.
          00:44:04 Sapolsky: Not unreasonably, I got depressed as hell and pretty damn angry about what happened.
          00:44:11 You know, you’re 30 years old, you can afford to expend a lot of emotion on a baboon troop, and there was a lot of emotion there.
          00:44:19 Narrator: For robert, a decade of research appeared to have been lost.
          00:44:25 But then he made a curious observation about who had died and who had survived.
          00:44:32 Sapolsky: It wasn’t random who died.
          00:44:34 In that troop, if you were aggressive and if you were not particularly socially connected, socially affiliative, you didn’t spend your time grooming and hanging out, if you were that kind of male, you died.
          00:44:47 Narrator: Every alpha male was gone.
          00:44:49 The keekorok troop had been transformed Sapolsky: And what you were left with was twice as many females as males, and the males who were remaining were, you know, just to use scientific jargon, they were good guys.
          00:45:03 They were not aggressive jerks.
          00:45:05 They were nice to the females.
          00:45:06 They were very socially affiliative.
          00:45:08 It completely transformed the atmosphere in the troop.
          00:45:13 Narrator: When male baboons reach adolescence, they typically leave their home troop and roam, eventually finding a new troop.
          00:45:22 Sapolsky: And when the new adolescent males would join the troop, they’d come in just as jerky as any adolescent males elsewhere on this planet, and it would take ’em about six months to learn, “we’re not like that in this troop.
          00:45:34 We don’t do stuff like that.
          00:45:36 We’re not that aggressive.
          00:45:37 We spend more time grooming each other.
          00:45:38 Males are calmer with each other.
          00:45:40 You cannot dump on a female if you’re in ” and it takes these new guys about six months, and they assimilate this style.
          00:45:48 And you have baboon culture, and this particular troop has a culture of very low levels of aggression and high levels of social affiliation, and they’re doing that 20 years later.
          00:46:00 Narrator: And so the tragedy had provided robert with a fundamental lesson– not just about cells, but how the absence of stress could impact society.
          00:46:11 Sapolsky: Do these guys have the same problems with high blood pressure? nope.
          00:46:14 Do these guys have the same problems with brain chemistry related to anxiety, stress hormone levels?
          00:46:20 Not at all.

          -Stress, Portrait of a Killer

    1. abynormal

      “The St. Cloud Police Department asked that media outlets not publish the names of the shooter and her husband, because the man is a police officer who has previously worked undercover. The victim’s mother works as an Osceola County Sheriff’s Office 911 dispatcher, the release states.”

      …confirms the quote i posted Yesterday “I think it is a wise person who does not answer the door to uninvited police officers. Who knows what kind of crazy person could be standing there with a loaded gun!” Steven Magee

      1. Katniss Everdeen

        And, being “law enforcement professionals,” they apparently could not resist the knee-jerk, “feared-for-my-life,” blame the victim explanation.

        “The figure was approaching quickly, Roberts said, and didn’t say anything.”

        Albeit in somewhat softer voice since it was her own kid she blew away and not someone else’s.

        I wish I could say that this experience would create a couple of credible evangelists preaching the need for COPS to learn to use firearms more “responsibly.” But I doubt that will happen. Instead we’ll have to settle for the satisfaction that she will live forever in the same private hell that her brothers and sisters in blue have visited on so many other innocent civilian families.

        1. abynormal

          i despise visiting the darkside but there are events that warrant it: ‘blaming the victim’ is classic narcissism and no hell exist for the narcissist…the hell is stored for all others.

          you do know that a true narcissist is so sinister that mental health professionals will NOT treat them. i’ve read where young professionals will try to crack the nut but thru their mentors they come to realize there is no treatment…

          imagine a disorder so complete that only a total lobotomy could raise the success rate of treatment…f u c k e d – u p

          Leaving THAT world….Looking forward to another year of your enlightening post, Katniss! Here’s to Taking the Fight to them…Clink

          1. Torsten

            And here’s to another year of your enlightening posts, Aby!

            May it be a happy new year, a new year in which, at long last, people identify one another not by the land they share, but by the air the breathe and the atmosphere that sustains them all.

            We can only wish and work.

            1. Torsten

              And a similarly wishful Happy New Year to Yves and Lambert and the commentariat, without whose support I doubt I would have made it through the last.

            2. abynormal

              Torsten, YOU are the Example for the Beauty in Balance.
              …huge hug and clean air, myFriend.

          2. Katniss Everdeen

            Thank you, Aby, and right back atcha.

            This should be a very interesting year. Looking forward to making the journey with you and all here at NC.

            Prospero ano y felicidad.

      2. joel

        It is not hard to connect yet another family’s tragedy to the war on drugs The husband had been ‘undercover’, probably a narc. So the family armed themselves, and became trigger happy in fear of blowback.

    2. jgordon

      The whole article gave me the feeling that it was an urban legend, since the names of the people were never mentioned. And I even searched multiple sources on Google and I couldn’t find the names at all. So they had an excuse about why no names were mentioned, kind of like the excuse the farmer gave when the aliens poisoned and so he cemented it over–so no samples could be taken–because it was poisoned. So why was this article even spread around then? The lack of info really grated on my nerves.

      Also about Darwin–you are 100% correct. Did you know people also sometimes urinate on electrified subway tracks? And others often drink alcohol (one of the top killers in America even without the involvement of dangerous machinery) and then get behind the wheel of a vehicle and drive, taking out many (often enough non-genetically related) Americans each year. So I guess that one is not quite Darwinian. Well shoot, now that I think about it, with the rampant dangers all around us in the world every day it’s a wonder how any of us even manage to survive at all. Scary thought!

      1. James Levy

        Yes, because people never accidently kill others with guns–never happens, just urban legends, because we all know that guns PROTECT US FROM THE EVIL GOVERNMENT and are GOOD because that’s what our American Daddies told us 220 years ago.

        What makes you piss yourself every time anyone wants to limit the ability of people to run around and kill others with guns?

        1. jgordon

          Why are you saying this? I was just annoyed by the shoddiness of this particular article. Really you can find plenty of better articles regarding people doing stupid things with guns, or cars, or third rails, or bath tubs, or cigarettes, or alcohol, or cheeseburgers for that matter. And you could probably get a lot of mileage out of those for whatever your pet cause happens to be. There’s no need to use an article like this that is so suspect.

        2. hunkerdown

          Any stick to beat a dogma, eh? If authoritarians want to take themselves out of the gene pool, why, EXACTLY, should we stop them? For that matter, why should we not encourage them?

    3. JTMcPhee

      Might the Darwin remark might have more of a ring of truth if the bullet had ricocheted off the door and killed the “Florida shooter woman…”?

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        The Darwin Prize has been shared every year, since its inception, by all members of humanity for slowly warming, polluting, destroying the planet.

        “Mama Nature, we’re home(planet)-less. We have evolved ourselves out of existence. Why?”

        “Because you were too smart, having invented all those dazzling gadgets, like nuclear bombs, fracking, genetically modified organisms, etc.”

        Evolving ourselves out of existence.

        A truly exceptional species.

        1. Oregoncharles

          It’s rather common. Steven Jay Gould mentioned that particular lines of evolution often ” hit a wall,” becoming counter-adaptive, usually because they cause over-specialization. Humans have found a variation: our intelligence led to the means to annihilate ourselves. So even that one faces the law of diminishing returns.

      2. hunkerdown

        By killing her own daughter, the cop’s wife has deselected her own genes for propagation. Selection operates on scales bigger than individuals, as neoliberal dogma hopes we forget.

        1. abynormal

          There You Are…Selection operates on scales bigger than individuals, as neoliberal dogma hopes we forget.

          Stay Smooth Hunker…You really are awesome!

    4. optimader

      I can argue that Darwin best applies when shooters takes themselves out of the genetic pool. In this case, giving the benefit of the doubt to the daughter , she had a finite opportunity for an advantageous genetic adaption :o/ Maybe she showed up at night to pick up her personal kit to get out of Dodge?

      It is heartening to read the shooter was a dispatcher and her husband was LEO, so they had professional access to the best weapon training etiquette FL has to offer.
      Maybe they can replace the weapon w/ ones that has a rail mounted flashlights so they can at least see better when they shoot each other?

  2. allan

    Chief Justice’s Report Praises Limits on Litigants’ Access to Information

    Calling for “a change in our legal culture,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. devoted his year-end report on the state of the federal judiciary to a plea that lawyers “avoid antagonistic tactics, wasteful procedural maneuvers and teetering brinkmanship.” …

    The change has not met with universal approval. [snark in the NYT – what is the world coming to?]

    “This provision will be used to restrict a citizen’s access to the information that often is critical to establishing a grievance, whether it be a civil rights claim or an economic or personal injury claim,” said Arthur R. Miller, a law professor at New York University.

    John Roberts, still calling balls and strikes after all these years.

    Happy New Year to Yves, Lambert and crew.

    1. abynormal

      early on Roberts was tagged ‘most learned corporate lawyer in the US’…how much could go wrong? (shiver, we got years to go)

      A chief justice’s authority is really quite limited, and the dynamic among all the justices is going to affect whether he can accomplish much or not. There is this convention of referring to the Taney Court, the Marshall Court, the Fuller Court, but a chief justice has the same vote that everyone else has. ~John Just One of the Guys Roberts

      1. allan

        “A chief justice’s authority is really quite limited”

        … but does include assigning the writing of majority opinions in SCOTUS cases to associate justices,
        and appointing the FISA court judges.

        From the NYT at the time of Roberts’ confirmation:

        The vote reflected deep anxiety and disarray among Democrats, who were under pressure from liberal advocacy groups to oppose the nomination. Many Democrats including the Democratic leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, who both voted no, declared their intentions early on. But at the end, there were a handful of surprises when stalwart liberals like Senators Patty Murray of Washington, Ron Wyden of Oregon and John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia supported the nominee.

        `Stalwart’. Never forget and never forgive.

        1. perpetualWAR

          Patty Murray isnt liberal. Both her and Cantwell voted for the TPP.

          Murray and Cantwell are on my list of naughties and will be voted against.

          1. tegnost

            Yes, not good enough to not vote, must vote against. That said my mail in ballot has been challenged every time so I see mail in voting as highly suspect, I preferred showing up and voting in person at the physical polling place.

          2. neo-realist

            I wish those two hacks had some decent opposition to run against them in our state, but a lot of people seem to be content with them and the green party around here appears to be out to lunch.

      2. JTMcPhee

        As with other manifestations of power in a “rule of law” structure, the Chief Justice’s clout seems limited. But Court scholars and those who have clerked and sat know how pervasive and subtle that clout can be. The tame version, from Wiki:

        The Chief Justice is considered to be the justice with most seniority, independent of the number of years of service in the Supreme Court. As a result, the Chief Justice chairs the conferences where cases are discussed and voted on by the justices. The Chief Justice normally speaks first, and so has influence in framing the discussion.

        The Chief Justice sets the agenda for the weekly meetings where the justices review the petitions for certiorari, to decide whether to hear or deny each case. The Supreme Court agrees to hear less than one percent of the cases petitioned to it. While associate justices may append items to the weekly agenda, in practice this initial agenda-setting power of the Chief Justice has significant influence over the direction of the court.

        Despite the seniority and added prestige, the Chief Justice’s vote carries the same legal weight as each of the other eight justices. In any decision, he has no legal authority to overrule the verdicts or interpretations of the other eight judges or tamper with them. However, in any vote, the most senior justice in the majority decides who will write the Opinion of the Court. This power to determine the opinion author (including the option to select oneself) allows a Chief Justice in the majority to influence the historical record. Two justices in the same majority, given the opportunity, might write very different majority opinions (as evidenced by many concurring opinions); being assigned the opinion may also cement the vote of an associate who is viewed as only marginally in the majority (a tactic that was reportedly used to some effect by Earl Warren). A Chief Justice who knows the associate justices can therefore do much—by the simple act of selecting the justice who writes the opinion of the court—to affect the “flavor” of the opinion, which in turn can affect the interpretation of that opinion in cases before lower courts in the years to come. It is said that some Chief Justices, notably Earl Warren[citation needed] and Warren E. Burger, sometimes switched votes to a majority they disagreed with to be able to use this prerogative of the Chief Justice to dictate who would write the opinion.

        There’s a whole lot of agenda-setting goin’ on…

        Another more expansive view:

          1. JTMcPhee

            I used to be a lawyer. Been there, done that, watched the framing under construction and in operation.

  3. Juneau

    Happy New Year!
    Thank you for the buprenorphine article. It can be a life saver for those who cannot abstain from opiates.

    One physician prosecution case that put in some who might otherwise help the addicted:

    ” Before his conviction, (doctor) Hurwitz had had a series of running battles with the Virginia Board of Medicine which, in 2003 found fault with some of his prescriptions but also held that all were written “in good faith”.”

    He went to jail because some of his patients sold his scripts WITHOUT his knowledge. His documentation was exemplary and he was a caring doctor. And he was only trying to help people with pain.

    Regulation is necessary but criminal prosecution for other people’s drug dealing is too big a risk for many providers. I suspect this is another reason people are afraid to prescribe buprenorphine.

  4. Lambert Strether

    Huge Fire Sweeps Through Hotel Near World’s Tallest Building in Dubai New York Magazine

    Apparently, they were to go ahead with the New Year’s Eve fireworks display…

    Dubai Hotel Smolders as Firefighters Tackle Last Gasps of Blaze NYT

    To the astonishment of many observers, including viewers around the world following live coverage of the fire, the government proceeded with a lavish fireworks display at midnight, even as the blaze continued. Just before midnight, an image of the United Arab Emirates flag was projected on the Burj Khalifa, which overlooks the hotel.

    “Dubai’s successful New Year’s celebration is testimony to its steadfast commitment to its major projects and initiatives,” the city government said on Twitter.

      1. optimader

        Those who understand “the miracle in the desert” know Dubai is nothing but an internationally sanctioned indentured slave labor colony.. The Sheikh would have a slave fiddle. We’ll see how the oil price retrace works out for idled labor there.

        …and then there is the foreign underclass who built the city, and are trapped here. They are hidden in plain view. You see them everywhere, in dirt-caked blue uniforms, being shouted at by their superiors, like a chain gang – but you are trained not to look. It is like a mantra: the Sheikh built the city. The Sheikh built the city. Workers? What workers?

        Sahinal Monir, a slim 24-year-old from the deltas of Bangladesh. “To get you here, they tell you Dubai is heaven. Then you get here and realise it is hell,” he says. Four years ago, an employment agent arrived in Sahinal’s village in Southern Bangladesh. He told the men of the village that there was a place where they could earn 40,000 takka a month (£400) just for working nine-to-five on construction projects. It was a place where they would be given great accommodation, great food, and treated well. All they had to do was pay an up-front fee of 220,000 takka (£2,300) for the work visa – a fee they’d pay off in the first six months, easy. So Sahinal sold his family land, and took out a loan from the local lender, to head to this paradise.

        As soon as he arrived at Dubai airport, his passport was taken from him by his construction company. He has not seen it since. He was told brusquely that from now on he would be working 14-hour days in the desert heat – where western tourists are advised not to stay outside for even five minutes in summer, when it hits 55 degrees – for 500 dirhams a month (£90), less than a quarter of the wage he was promised. If you don’t like it, the company told him, go home. “But how can I go home? You have my passport, and I have no money for the ticket,” he said. “Well, then you’d better get to work,” they replied.

        He shows me his room. It is a tiny, poky, concrete cell with triple-decker bunk-beds, where he lives with 11 other men. All his belongings are piled onto his bunk: three shirts, a spare pair of trousers, and a cellphone. The room stinks, because the lavatories in the corner of the camp – holes in the ground – are backed up with excrement and clouds of black flies. There is no air conditioning or fans, so the heat is “unbearable. You cannot sleep. All you do is sweat and scratch all night.” At the height of summer, people sleep on the floor, on the roof, anywhere where they can pray for a moment of breeze.

        “There’s a huge number of suicides in the camps and on the construction sites, but they’re not reported. They’re described as ‘accidents’.” Even then, their families aren’t free: they simply inherit the debts. A Human Rights Watch study found there is a “cover-up of the true extent” of deaths from heat exhaustion, overwork and suicide, but the Indian consulate registered 971 deaths of their nationals in 2005 alone. After this figure was leaked, the consulates were told to stop counting

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          I wonder about the stories behind all those 5-star resort hotels catering to affluent Westerners and Asians in many poor Third World countries (but the weather is gorgeous and the place pristine – before it will eventually be ‘developed’.)

        2. juliania

          Thank you, optimader, and Lambert for posting this.

          I can’t watch any of the fireworks displays. Sorry, New Year’s celebrants – this is the story.

  5. diptherio

    Happy New Year, all!

    Down in Cuba they’re doing a massive econ experiment, converting a bunch of state-owned enterprises to private ownership. Lots of sole proprietors, but lots of cooperatives too. Of course, the US is trying it’s darnedest to encourage the nascent capitalists. However, if the cooperators succeed, we could see a very unique type of economy down there. Here’s hoping for a new economy in this new year.

    Cuba’s Cooperative Challenge: Building a Socialist Civil Society After the Embargo

    A regulatory regime needs to be developed for the private sector. The state seems to be slow in developing this and some complain it is a wide-open free-for-all. Others see that as a virtue, pointing to small- and medium-sized private businesses as well as foreign investment as the key to needed economic growth. There are conflicting tendencies stirring in Cuba today among policy makers and their advisers. [Camila Piñeiro Harnecker, “Visiones sobre el socialismo que guían los cambios actuales en Cuba” TEMAS 2012]

    While promoting cooperatives with one hand, the Cuban state needs to carefully regulate private businesses with the other hand so as to assure that they do not accumulate great wealth. Why is this important? The political power of a class lies not just in its control of political institutions. It also lies in its weight in the economy. If private businesses were to come to dominate the non-state sector of the economy so that prosperity depended significantly on them, the state could find itself compelled to favor this non-socialist form of enterprise. Obama is determined to push Cuba down this slippery sloop toward capitalism. The Cuban Revolution needs to use its smarts to prevent that by containing the private sector while promoting the cooperative sector.

    Obama’s strategy is to change Cuba, not through regime change, but by promoting capitalism within the country through support of a petty bourgeoisie. After all, the fundamental objective of US policy has always been to bring Cuba back into the capitalist orbit. We have a unique situation in Cuba today. A socialist state is actively promoting cooperatives, thereby devolving economic power to people at the grassroots level. There is a rejuvenation of civil society underway, a socialist civil society. Solidarity calls on us to help it move forward along the road to a socialism for the 21st century

    And some more …

    Are Cooperatives Dangerous for Cuba?

    Opening a cooperative in Cuba, however, is an arduous task: the paperwork takes years, you need approval from the municipal government, authorization from the pertinent ministry and permission from the Commission for the Implementation of the Communist Party Guidelines – and the very Council of Ministers has the last word anyways.

    None of these permits, authorizations and years of waiting are justified when the members of the cooperatives are simply going to repair air conditioning units or old television sets. It’s really not a question of deciding whether this work is of “strategic” importance for the nation’s economy.

    It seems that they fear, not the work per se, but the cooperative as a company structure as such. Self-employed persons (setting up small and mid-sized private enterprises) are given the licenses denied members of cooperatives in a mere 15 days.

    The explanations as to this wariness with respect to cooperatives are varied. Some say they fear these could become the breeding ground for corruption…

    Others claim that the development of cooperatives would leave the country’s ministries without “sources of financing.” The problem lies in the fact that much of the “extra” money that circulates among corrupt officials comes precisely from companies “administered” by ministries.

    They may fear losing control. Cooperatives are legal entities, something self-employed persons are not. They are a legally incorporated company, with the obligations but also de the rights that State companies have, even in terms of importing.

  6. edmondo

    Obama’s strategy is to change Cuba, not through regime change, but by promoting capitalism within the country

    If it works in Cuba, does Obama intend to try it out in the USA or are we stuck with our plutocracy?

  7. Carolinian

    Re the Atlantic “return of the 1920s”–some interesting history in this article but I think it’s a stretch to suggest the America of 100 years ago has much to do with 2016. After all back then we (including my grandparents) were a nation of manual laborers and small farmers. Today we are a nation of suburbanites fast being homogenized under the influence of television and the internet. Arguably Trump’s recent Muslim comments are less an upwelling from below and more an opportunistic response to the hyped media response to the Paris and California attacks. And while Obama’s race undoubtedly accounts for some of the right’s hostility, one should point out that they were just as rabid about the very white Bill Clinton.

    Today’s story has far more to do with economics that the rural/urban culture clash of that past era. And in that sense we are like the 1920s. The rich party while economic disaster looms….

    1. Jim Haygood

      Had the same reaction. The 1920s and 1990s make better analogous decades. Both featured runaway booms driven by transformative technologies (autos and airplanes in the 1920s; internet and cell phones in the 1990s).

      Whereas our current Bubble III, driven by the desperate expedients of ZIRP and QE, much more resembles the fierce bounceback of 1932-1937. Newspapers on Jan. 1, 1937 carried photos of glittering News Year Eve balls right out of The Great Gatsby — women in ermine stoles flaunting elegant cigarette holders, etc. But behind the scenes, the Fed was tightening, commodity prices already were beginning to crack, and a war was brewing in Europe. Stocks topped out in March 1937, and a recession began in May, according to the NBER.

      Journos don’t want to make this analogy, because they know (or should know) that the next recession probably will finish off traditional print journalism. So they try instead to convince us that this is a replay of the Roaring Twenties. They promised me a Stutz Bearcat …

      1. Steven D.

        Very good analogy. Haven’t thought about it quite that way. Of course no analogy is perfect and in a lot of ways Obama is the anti-FDR.

        1. Steven D.

          Counting federal programs like the CCC and WPA, we were at full employment in January 1937. Economic growth in 1936 was 12 percent.

  8. Dino Reno

    Since Lucas was a moviemaker, the idea of selling his story to another movie maker and then complaining about the results are a little hard to digest. Authors of books adapted for movie sometimes complain, but most of the time they simply take the money and say books and movies are two different mediums and therefore there is no way to compare the two, particularly if the adaptation is done poorly.

    Lucas made movies, but got old and tired and wanted a big pay day so he sold to the biggest maker of canned spam on the planet, Disney, probably under the advice of lawyers and accountants. The resulting sequel is processed to be spreadable and digestible to large audiences. Now Lucas is saying it sucked because it dropped the whole story line in order to be family friendly which is par for Disney.

    Hard not call him a spoiled old brat and ask him what in the hell did he thing would happen? But, on the other hand, it’s hard not love him for discrediting the biggest film in history as the product of “White Slavers.” That’s a highly charged, fetishized, pulp-fiction piece of imagery that seems to be lacking in the final product, but would have been welcomed.

    1. Brian

      One has to wonder if Dismal changed the terms of what was agreed to with George’s original children products. Is it true Dismally now makes more money on their production of pornographic pictures than on any other investment? I heard that was the case about 10 years ago. If it is true, how can they keep it quiet?

    2. kj1313

      Who is worse, the “white slaver” or the person who sold his children to them. Disney is the blob that consumes everything but it is a little rich that Lucas is complaining when his last set of movies were roundly panned and this newest one followed the blueprint that fans were nostalgic for so it does seem like sour grapes to me. If he was so concerned he never should have sold his films plain and simple.

    3. BDBlue

      Lucas only ever spoke to Disney about selling to them. He reportedly never considered selling to anyone else. But then there aren’t a whole lot of companies who could afford 4 billion dollars are there? Lucas could have used his ownership rights by letting an interesting filmmaker make films in that universe, but he chose not to.

      The truth is that he’s a guy who is very rich largely because he made 2 good movies and one decent one and sold the sound and special effects technologies for use in other movies. The rest of his movies kind of suck don’t they? At least the ones that didn’t involve Steven Spielberg. You can see why in his interviews about the new film, which are summarized here. My favorite quote is this one:

      Lucas says that Disney “wanted to do a retro movie. I don’t like that.” And then talked about how he was constantly innovating in Star Wars, “I worked very hard to make them completely different, with different planets, with different spaceships. You know, to make it new.”

      As if all that it takes to make an innovative Star Wars movie is different spaceships, different planets. He’s always struck me as someone who fundamentally doesn’t understand the appeal of his own creation.

      I will also add that it might not have been necessary to make a “retro” movie and suck up so hard to fans on the nostalgia meter if the prequels that Lucas made had been even halfway decent. You only pay 4 billion dollars for a viable franchise, whether new Star Wars films were all that viable was heavily dependent on pleasing the absolute most people possible with the new movie. Not exactly a recipe for innovation. Again, the recipe for innovation was not taking the 4 billion (he hardly needed it) and letting an innovative filmmaker take the franchise out for a spin. He chose not to do that. And now, having gotten $4 billion, is comparing himself to someone whose children were sold into slavery.* Shut up, George.

      * Actually not just slavery, but “white slavery,” of course. Nice, George.

      1. aet

        I think that you have partially misunderstood Mr. Lucas’ complaint.

        I had thought that Mr. Lucas was referring to his ongoing development, as presented in his own successive Star Wars films, of new and original techniques for and in the creation of film special effects – his own Star Wars films, each and every one of them, had stretched the envelope of what had, up until the release of each film, then been possible to present on the screen with the exacting degree of verisimilitude required by Mr. Lucas.

        What’s new in the latest Star Wars film from the point of view of new and original film special effects techniques? Going from Mr. Lucas comments, I have to think the answer is “Not much”.

        I have yet to see the new film, and perhaps it does take place only on planets we have seen before in the series – but I like to think that Mr. Lucas’ critique was going beyond merely the locales in which the film’s action is set.

        1. Pespi

          The new movie is the first star wars re-shot and re-cast. American mass culture is dead. There are no new dreams allowed. We have dislocated ourselves into stupid mediums and we are paying the price.

          What to do? I just watch Nigerian movies.

    4. neo-realist

      Wasn’t Star Wars always space cowboy cotton candy family friendly tripe? How did it change w/ Disney? Only saw the first two films FWIW.

  9. Katniss Everdeen

    RE: A Mother And Son Must Drive Across Three States For What Should Be A Common Addiction Treatment Huffington Post

    “There’s a reason why Fischer and his mother must wake up before dawn, share road space with 18-wheelers and mule deer, and waste a day off from work. Addiction medicine is still not mainstream medicine. The federal government has helped to keep it that way.

    To become certified to prescribe buprenorphine, doctors have to first complete a one-day training class on addiction medicine. Then, for the first year of prescribing buprenorphine, certified doctors are limited to accepting only 30 patients with opioid addiction at any one time. They can move up to 100 patients in their second year of prescribing.”

    So for all the national geographic references to desolate, frozen landscapes and mule deer, no one at HuffPo thinks to ask the obvious question of someone at the american medical association or federal government who SHOULD know the answer:

    Why is it that EVERY doctor or dentist can write unlimited prescriptions for the the opiates which cause much of the addiction, and only a FEW can write prescriptions, for a strictly LIMITED number of patients, to reverse it?

    Can you imagine the reaction if those americans who are made “healthy” through their “addiction” to insulin or statins or blood pressure meds or antidepressants were treated in a similar manner?

    1. perpetualWAR

      That’s why legalizing marijuana nationally is so important. Why is any doctor prescribing opioids for pain?

      1. Inverness

        What’s frightening is how incredibly addictive those prescribed drugs are. Katniss asked, “Why is it that EVERY doctor or dentist can write unlimited prescriptions for the the opiates which cause much of the addiction, and only a FEW can write prescriptions, for a strictly LIMITED number of patients, to reverse it?”

        I think it’s about a lack of compassion. You know, only LOSERS become drug addicts. Why should we help out losers? A comprehensive drug treatment plan means that you care enough about addicts, and recognize both their humanity, and how much addiction costs society at large.

        It’s criminal that there is a hierarchy of sick people. If you’re a drug addict, well, you’re at the bottom. Of course, people would be really surprised if they knew how many of their nice neighbours are hooked on powerful opiates. Anybody can get sciatica, migraines, or other work-related injuries. And it isn’t so hard to get hooked on the painkillers that treat them.

        Of course, why were those prescription medications permitted in the first place? Profits before people.

        1. Oregoncharles

          As I was told by a pharmacist, the best treatment for migraine is coffee and aspirin, in pretty normal doses. Doesn’t eliminate the symptoms, but makes them mild.

          There are other medications, like belladonna. There is no reason to take opiates for migraine.

    2. Jim Haygood

      From the same article:

      President Barack Obama announced a series of measures to address the shortage of doctors certified to treat opioid addiction with medication. He ordered all federal agencies overseeing health care to review their policies and remove any obstacles to receiving medication-assisted treatment. The president also set a target of doubling the number of certified doctors.

      What a scam — Obama is the arsonist who promises to reduce property damage this year by setting fewer fires. Jubilee!

      From classifying cannabis as Schedule 1 (most dangerous), to restricting buprenorphine, to outlawing iboga and LSD (both of which also show promise for treating addictions), lawyer-politicians trying to play doctor have completely sh*t the bed.

      Doctor Obama is a quack.

    3. Aumua

      You know, these articles promoting suboxone have been popping up through multiple news channels at once on regular basis recently, and it makes me kind of seethe every time I see them, because they don’t tell the whole story about these ‘replacement’ drugs.

      I’ll begin by acknowledge that this not a one sided issue, but here’s some facts: these drugs, methadone, and subxone (methadone 2.0), what they do for the user is trade one addiction for another. Not only that, but the opioid tolerance of the (patient, user, whatever) skyrockets at the level of drug these doctors typically prescribe. Think ‘overkill’, big time. So the addict is now bound to this new pill, just as much (or more) than they ever were to their drug of choice. Witness the very people in the article above.

      Does it get addicts off of street drugs yes (but not really, since many of them end up using coke and/or benzos to get high). Does it stop people from using needles, possibly. Does it help addicts get on with their lives? I suppose, but here’s the thing: these drugs are opioids, filling the same receptors that the heroin or oxycodone did, except now at a super saturated level. And one of the effects is a widely reported blunting of feeling and emotion in the user. People who are on these drugs long term report living a kind of half-life, just sliding by but not really connected to the vital process of life, which makes perfect sense if you consider it for a minute.

      The thing is, once you get to the point of realizing that, you are hooked beyond any habit you ever had before. These drugs are a nightmare to get off of. The sub doctors of course are more than happy to keep you on it for the rest of your life, so no problem, right? From the article:

      To become certified to prescribe buprenorphine, doctors have to first complete a one-day training class on addiction medicine.

      That right there, ought to give anyone pause, considering the actual complexity of the issue of addiction in society. As a former I.V. drug user who uses no drugs today, maybe I have a little bit of a chip on my shoulder (no pun intended), but it just kills me to see this stuff pushed as if it’s just this great enlightened approach, when what it really does, IMO, is prevent the process of actual healing from taking place. It really makes me wonder about the source of these news stories.

      1. abynormal

        Hat Tip Aumua and thank you for the boots on the ground actualities. i know of 2 family members and a couple acquaintances that are dealing with the methadone issue, all have relapsed and their struggle is heartbreaking. Medically replacing one addiction for another is so capitalistic…follow the money thingy. One-day training proves the barn door$ will forever be open. It’s all so backwards…

        “Our goal is to set up 10 more methadone treatment clinics in the province this year, making about 2,000 drug addicts benefit.”(KaChing)
        Huang Fei

        1. Aumua

          Yeah, I understand the tenets of harm reduction, and I support such things as legalization in general, and even like prescription heroin such as they have tried in the U.K. But suboxone is really insidious stuff and these articles are always on a gish gallop of one sided information. They never say a word about the down side. Now why do you think that is?

          Lets look at some more facts: Here’s a page that gives a typical process and cost of suboxone treatment. Yes the headlines are comic sans. As you can see, cost of the pills notwithstanding, a doctor who has 100 patients is taking in around $180,000 per year, just from (required) visits. That’s for taking a one day course, plus whatever additional setting up has to be done to turn their office into a ‘clinic’. I’m sure there are downsides, but that seems like a very profitable situation to me. The article makes a big deal about how this altruistic doctor helping addicts is struggling to get by or something.. I just don’t see it.

          Let’s look at the doses that are being prescribed. This is somewhat anecdotal, but a typical daily regimen is 24mg.This page clearly states that for orally taken suboxone is to be considered roughly 80 times as potent as morphine per mg. So for holding off withdrawals, that 24mg dose would be equivalent to 1920mg of morphine, or about 1450mg of oxycodone, per day, every day. Now of course there are differences, and most people would die if they took that much morphine whereas you won’t with suboxone. The point is we are spiking a users tolerance way beyond what they ever had on heroin or oxycodone. Even people who come in with a relatively minor habit are given doses like this (once again, anecdotal information).

          I have kicked heroin, methadone, and suboxone at different times, and I would much rather kick heroin any day. The longer acting opioids cling to the receptors with such a tenacity, that these patients are in for a long, drawn out ride of misery if they decide to stop. There is one use of suboxone however that has merit: it’s a good tool for a short term detox off something like heroin, after which you immediately stop the suboxone. Some rehabs/clinics do use it that way, but that’s not what is being promoted in the article, or even mentioned.

          1. ambrit

            I was on a jury for a federal trial about a “pill mill” operation, a few years ago. What you describe fits that description.
            The only ‘legitimate’ use for Heroin, etc. I know of is for terminal patients, at least in Europe. America still resides in the Dark Ages of medicine, giving Morphine for serious pain. Now there’s an insidious drug if there ever was one.

            1. Inverness

              Ambrit, I hate morphine. Having endured a spinal cord injury, I choose horrible pain over morphine, and not because I am a hero. The morphine is a depressant, so you might get emotional pain in exchange. I also found that I developped a tolerance quickly. I judge nobody who takes morphine, but for me it isn’t an option.

              1. ambrit

                You’re a braver person than I am. I watched my father-in-law become a complete vegetable under the influence of Morphine. I’m convinced that it hastened his death. I hope your back is better, and not just bearable, either.
                I’d suspect that a lot of end of life depression is Morphine based, here in America.

                1. Inverness

                  Speaking of emotional pain, watching your father-in-law in that awful state…So much struggling with this mortal coil.
                  Thank you for your mind message. I’m deeply grateful to a recent surgery that so far, is has provided much relief and permits mobility! It’s also a pleasure to realize that on the NC boards, there is such generosity and smarts out there.

  10. Synoia

    How Big Can a Black Hole Grow?

    Good news!! There is plenty of head room for the Financial sector under this limit.

  11. flora

    Happy New Year.
    Since it’s Jan 1st and a number of people are contemplating starting a diet I offer this entertaining and informative talk on Vimeo:
    “The Website Obesity Crisis”
    It’s about an hour long and a good compliment to yesterday’s “Wolf Richter: Google Sarcasm” post.

  12. Noni Mausa


    Police are solving a smaller percentage of murders, and the article attributes this in part to citizens mistrust of the police and reluctance to answer questions or testify.

    Hardly a surprise. As Sir Robert Peel said, way back when he established the British police force, “The police are the people, and the people are the police.”

    When calling the police becomes a game of Russian roulette, when the citizen cannot be sure they will get a “good apple ” rather than one of the bad apples who seem increasingly common, when anonymously calling the police on innocent people has become a sort of SLAPP attack, is it surprising at all that people would avoid any contact with them?

    And in that situation, it has to be frustrating to be a good apple policeman, trying to do a good job but unable to guarantee to anxious citizens the goodwill and safety of his fellow apples.

    1. Lexington

      “The police are the people, and the people are the police.”

      In 1829 that was probably a fine idea, but it’s been overtaken by events.

      Contemporary police culture is surfeited by the belief that the law enforcement is a unique vocation whose practitioners stand apart from the rest of society and who cannot and should not be subject to the same norms of behaviour and expectations as ordinary people. It is a culture intended to inculcate extreme in group identification and unquestioning loyalty to the group’s collective prerogatives and interests. And then Americans act shocked – SHOCKED I tell you!- that these people actually behave like they are a power unto themselves. Because the truth is that they are. No one dares tell them otherwise, least of all the elites who are extremely cognizant that in an era of rising social tensions alienating the people who stand between them and the mob could well be self defeating.

      Btw it wasn’t helpful that after 9/11 the American public, with typical maudlin sentimentality, collectively fell over themselves to put emergency services on a pedestal as the best and truest expression of American virtue and spared no precept of moderation or self respect in showering them with obsequious adulation.

  13. Andrew Watts

    RE: Wars of all against all

    Our political class foolishly believes that they can re-make the world in the American image. This belief has long been apart of our mythological status as the City on the Hill and an inevitable conclusion of our national destiny. Francis Fukuyama reiterated this in the End of History at the end of the Cold War while present circumstances have emphatically refuted it. The result of Washington’s actions whether they were stupid, evil, or both was the creation of chaos and a subsequent void left to be filled.

    The irony of our situation is that when America found itself as the only center of authority none of it’s leaders were capable of wielding that power. Across a broad spectrum people in this country possess a confused notion of power that conflates it with authority. Authority is the commanding of subordinates and power is the ability to bring about one’s will. In recent history and present deed you can witness this flawed understanding. Whenever a diplomatic solution to the Syrian Civil War is discussed the Americans will always demand that “Assad must go” but are incapable of enforcing their demands.

    “Our culture knows little of the use and the abuse of power… Our idealists are divided between those who would renounce the responsibilities of power for the sake of preserving the purity of our soul and those who are ready to cover every ambiguity of good and evil in our actions by the frantic insistence that any measure taken in a good cause must be unequivocally virtuous.

    Sometimes it pretends that a liberal society is a purely rational harmony of interests. Sometimes it achieves a tolerable form of justice by a careful equilibration of the powers and vitalities of society, though it is without a conscious philosophy to justify these policies of statesmanship. Sometimes it verges on that curious combination of cynicism and idealism which characterizes communism, and is prepared to use any means without scruple to achieve its desired end.” -Reinhold Niebuhr, The Irony of American History

    At a time when America believed that a liberal democracy could unite diverse people the US fomented a regional sectarian war. When Americans deluded themselves into thinking that we were all middle class the distribution of wealth slowly reverted to Gilded Age levels. These are no ordinary failures… and if ever Americans believe that the ends justify the means we will be at war with ourselves.

    1. abynormal

      “and if ever Americans believe that the ends justify the means we will be at war with ourselves.” no offense but where have you been??

      “But man is a part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself.” Rachel Carson

      the Gilded Age will be good ole dayz when this settles

  14. BDBlue

    George Lucas is kind of an ass, isn’t he? Not that this is particularly news. He long ago mostly erased his ex-wife’s critical contributions to the success of the first Star Wars trilogy (question – did the second trilogy, with its lack of plot, racist stereotypes, and bad acting stink so much because Lucas didn’t have to collaborate or listen to anyone?)

    It seems clear to me that Lucas is peeved because the new film is getting a better reception than his prequels, which were terrible in almost every respect. Indeed, I’d argue that the new film is only getting the fawning reception it is because it is being compared to the new prequels. In reality, it is just okay, but okay looks pretty good when mixed with nostalgia and then compared to utter crap (perhaps a slogan for our neoliberal times).

    Anyway, if you didn’t like Disney, you shouldn’t have sold your company to them (I admit I’m glad he’s not making anymore Star Wars films, but I also shudder that Princess Leia is now technically a Disney Princess). Whining about the predictable results of having sold your company – making a billion dollars in the process – when so many Americans cannot feed themselves is pathetic. Go away George Lucas.

    1. neo-realist

      It’s a shame that Lucas did not follow up THX 1138 with more Sci Fi films that were just as intelligent and promising.

    2. Lexington

      He long ago mostly erased his ex-wife’s critical contributions to the success of the first Star Wars trilogy

      Well according to his ex wife and her biographer at least. I for one can’t for the life of me think of why they shouldn’t be regarded as anything other than unimpeachably reliable sources in the matter of the character of George Walton Lucas.

      As for being an ass, when Lucas sold the franchise he surrendered creative control over it. I don’t see how that also precludes him from having the right to an opinion about what Disney did with his legacy.

    1. Daryl

      Turkey Turkey uber alles…

      Did you see the news story where Erdogan talks a suicidal guy off a bridge? Guy has a good PR team in Turkey, gotta give him that much.

    1. ambrit

      Great encapsulation of the old, old, axiom; the Generals always plan for a rerun of the last war.
      Add this to todays Jade Complex and we have a recipe for “bubble and squeak,” bang up style.
      Being brutally pragmatic in military terms, who’s going to bet that the Russians are not teaching this in their War College and their version of “School of the Americas?”

  15. DJG

    Excellent antidote, a chipmunk looking exceedingly skeptically at the human with the camera. Now why would a chipmunk have doubts about human benevolence?

    1. Inverness

      Aby, great list. My favourites reasons for admission to the insane asylum are “desertion by husband,” and “political excitement.” I suspect a few of us commenting on NC could get caught in the latter one, ha!

    2. abynormal

      whatthefuck is “GATHERING IN THE HEAD”…..i got tears people! this list is beyond abnormal

      1. craazyboy

        Dunno, but I’m thinking one of Jay Leno’s writers wrote the list and this website is a hoax.

        1. abynormal

          the Appalachia is my backyard and Deliverance was a Disney feature… for some forsaken reason i am knee slap’n entertained by the probability of the list

          btw, hoping for YOU A Great Year Ahead

        2. Inverness

          I believe the list. I don’t think it is a criteria for admission, rather a diagnosis of what they thought were the origins if their so-called illnesses. Also, the emphasis on feminine roots sound about right, considering Freud was just around the corner. On that note, HNY to you all.

            1. abynormal

              How Thoughtful. i’ll round up some sour mash to keep you & yours warm this winter. (your toenails will eventually grow back)

      2. Barmitt O'Bamney

        Gathering in the head = subject hears voices (of people not present) and carries on animated conversations with them. At least that’s what it means when I’m hosting a gathering.

        1. abynormal

          dang, p’d myself, Again. just had a friend tell me its a party in the bathroom and i got to get out more :/

    3. hunkerdown

      Novel reading… ayup, that’s a big one. It’ll warp anyone’s observation of facts into a compulsion of looking for happy-ever-afters behind every woodpile.

      Hippy New Year aby! May there be ever more clever quotes from things I ought to read. :)

    4. craazyman

      Laziness seems like it might be on the list only as a hoax.

      A lazy person could never summon the effort to check themselves into a mental hospital. It’s a completely insane amount of work, to do something like that. It’s laughable.

      Unless, of course, it’s your only way to escape odious responsibilities.

      1. abynormal

        another friend just replied, ” I would just have gone and knocked on the door and said, “Lucy, I’m home!”.

        ya gotta admit craazy…its funnee as hell

    5. Llewelyn Moss

      Deranged Masturbation!?! What their definition of deranged?! Am I crazy or not dammit??? hahahaha.

      1. abynormal

        see this is where i get confused…if you did for 30yrs your in BUT if you scroll down at the 2nd column it states your in if you have NOT been masturbating.

        another American Conundrum

      2. abynormal

        now ‘Snuff Chewing for 2 years’ makes sense AND ‘Shooting of Daughter’ would’ve taken care of the crazy 911 operator

    6. Lexington

      I suspect the list was deliberately broad in order to imply that the institution could offer succor to the widest possible section of potential clients.

      Kind of like DSM V.

  16. fosforos

    For “sic semper tyrannis” the bloody chaos in the Middle East is not the fault of the Imperialists and Colonialists; not the fault of the oligarchs; not the fault of the humungous military establishments; not the fault of the Islamist clerical establishment; and most certainly not the fault of the Kings and Dictators and Strongmen. No, it’s all the fault of the ordinary people who have to be killed en masse to prevent them from killing each other. Last time I ever insult my eyes with the scribblings of a disciple of John Wilkes Booth.

    1. Jim Haygood

      That’s a mind-bending photo of dozens of women carrying placards reading “WE WANT BEER.”

      Especially when they’re wearing somber, ankle-length dresses and sensible shoes :-0

      1. craazyman

        Beer Goggles might be the only way that crew will get laid. The beers could be for the guys.

  17. Propertius

    How Big Can a Black Hole Grow?

    Well, not quite. From the paper itself:

    First, we should note that (6, 7) are the observable limits for luminous accretion at the luminosity L, not absolute
    limits on the black hole mass (as I have remarked already, non–luminous mass growth beyond Mmax is perfectly pos-
    sible). Sub–luminous mass growth (i.e. at lower accretion rates, with
    L/LEdd &gt 1 ) beyond M max is also possible.

    So, the paper doesn’t posit any absolute limit on black hole size, merely a limit on how big one can grow by luminous accretion. Other mechanisms (such as mergers) apparently will allow them to grow arbitrarily large. Just like corporations. ;)

    1. hunkerdown

      Yo dawg, I hear you like barcodes… so I put a barcode in your barcode so you could scan while you scan.

      Also remember to avoid UPCs beginning with 729 for human rights violations.

  18. ewmayer

    Happy new year, all! May your 2016 be s smooth as its factorization, 2^5*3^2*7. Quick hits:

    o Re. “Air India plane bound for London forced to return to Mumbai after rat sighting | Independent (resilc)” — Every flight should have its own cat – perhaps one of those hypoallergenic breeds. Useful for calming passengers, too!

    o Re. “George Lucas compares Disney to ‘white slavers’ that bought his children | The Verge (furzy)” — You mean those same ‘precious children’ which Lucas has no trouble majorly re-editing (often to completely change the character of major scenes) with every new DVD release? Gawd, can’t this twit just drown in one of his money baths already? (Cue Seinfeld line about ‘artistic integrity’.)

    o Re. “Police are solving a lot fewer murder cases than they used to Vox (resilc)” — Too busy out committing them, it seems.

    1. abynormal

      The Story of the Chinese Farmer (Alan Watts version)

      There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically. “May be,” the farmer replied.

      The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed. “May be,” replied the old man.

      The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “May be,” answered the farmer.

      The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.

      “May be,” said the farmer.

  19. Benedict@Large

    A 2016 Agenda for America’s Senior Citizens! | OpEd News

    Absolutely terrible. Less than useless. Counterproductive.

    Nothing on securing pensions and social security, raising interest rates, long term care. Many critical issues completely overlooked.

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