New Year Open Thread

HankP's picture

A Happy New Year to all, full of amity and prosperity and devoid of strife and suffering.


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Looks like I picked the wrong team

HankP's picture

Cincinnati sure doesn't look like they did the last few weeks, and neither does Houston.


I blame it all on the Internet

Lotta Dropped Passes


or plain ol' errant ones. Sloppy.


The evening game was not much better. The Packers should have ended it in the 3rdQ. Instead they dinked around. It wasn't terribly close, but if the Vikings replacement QB was just a little more familiar with his offense, and a little sharper on his first few pass attempts, who knows? 

Don't Feel Bad....Me Too....(Sob!



....the truth is it was a pretty boring game!



Both teams looked pretty bad

HankP's picture

I was surprised how close it was considering Cincinnati was 0 for 9 in 3rd down conversions and had a pretty nothing offense. But Houston didn't look that great either on offense. Both defenses played pretty well, though.


I don't think Denver or New England has much to worry about from Houston.


I blame it all on the Internet

The anti-science left?


Compelling article on GMOs here:

"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

A reply to Mark Lynas on GM and the anti-science left


Feeding 10 billion people would be good point

mmghosh's picture

the left wing POV would (should) also include the issues of distribution - of food, land and most important perhaps - distribution of profits.


freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

There Are Certainly Some Intellectual Property Issues To Address

M Scott Eiland's picture

For one, it should be made clear as a matter of law that it's not the problem of non GM crop owners if unasked-for cross pollination from nearby GMC crops benefits them.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Dept of conservatism as albatross around country's neck



"NO" on Sandy Flood Insurance Expansion (HR 41)

The Club for Growth urges all members of the U.S. House to vote "NO" on the bill to expand the National Flood Insurance Program's borrowing authority by $9.7 billion.

Temperatures below absolute zero

HankP's picture

fascinating article.

I blame it all on the Internet

Absolute zero my a$$. You want cold....


...try some of the looks Darth gets when he's been sampling the juice of the barley.  Oh and if you need it just a bit colder let me develop a twinkle in my eye.  Makes well digger's a$$es and witches t*t$ feel downright balmy. 

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

Doesn't this contradict the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics?

mmghosh's picture

when objects with negative temperatures release energy, they can actually absorb entropy.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

I think the Bolded Section Helps...


An object's temperature is a measure of how much its atoms move — the colder an object is, the slower the atoms are. At the physically impossible-to-reach temperature of zero kelvin, or minus 459.67 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 273.15 degrees Celsius), atoms would stop moving. As such, nothing can be colder than absolute zero on the Kelvin scale.



Using human body heat as an energy source

mmghosh's picture

and waste energy - how cool is that.  

Paris Habitat, the largest owner of social housing in Paris, has finally decided to benefit from the fact that Paris Metro is always sultry warm. Six million people is riding  metro  a day and each person is giving away 100 watts of heat. Combined waste hot air from commuters and moving trains is sufficient to keep temperature in Rambuteau Métro station constantly between 14 and 20°C. Paris Habitat is using dissipated heat to warm up low-income apartments in a housing block in rue Beaubourg, near Centre George Pompidou in Marais.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

~90% of Israel is equipped for solar power hot water heater*

brutusettu's picture

 Parisians learned not go full Philip J Fry:



Fry: Boy, this A.C. is incredible! [He shivers.] I'd better turn on the heater too. [He does and the fuel gauge starts to go down. They pass Hg's Fuel, the only fuel station on the planet.] (shouting) Boy, this heater is incredible! I'd better turn up the A.C. some more.


*kind of insane that more patriotic Americans aren't/weren't advocating to heavily invest in some American company that makes some sort of lightweight solar power equipment designed for use on rooftops. 

Do Democrats have a plan for Republican gerrymandering?


Estimates are that Ds would now have to win the popular vote by 7% before they could get a majority in the House.


One possibility is to immediately attempt to return the favor by matching GOP gerrymandering whenever and wherever possible.


Another is to start making a judicial branch solution to this problem of disenfranchisement a litmus test for all Democratically appted judges.


The Republicans certainly bought themselves some time to adjust to the US's changing demographics. If Democratic voters want to get anything done, they'd better prioritize addressing this somehow. 

This is the problem with writing off so much of the so-called


Red States. The Dems underperform in state legislatures and thus when these legislatures draw the congressional districts that disadvantage is transferred to the national scale.

Extend the Voting Rights Act

HankP's picture

it'll have to go to the Supreme Court to get resolved, though, so we're talking years. Because of the pro-rural design of the house and senate, it would be very difficult to get traction on this.


I blame it all on the Internet

Pass A Bill Banning Racial Gerrymandering Immediately

M Scott Eiland's picture

That'll eliminate the natural disadvantage that Democrats have in any gerrymandering plan because of the need to create Democratic supermajorities to let certain racial groups automatically nominate a Democrat with the right skin color, should they choose to do so. Such a bill would face little Republican opposition and would strengthen Democratic prospects in the House in the future. Assuming no race huckster backlash against Democrats, of course.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Two points


One I'm less sure about, and one I'm certain about.


The first: please correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that "racial gerrymandering" follows judicial rulings that are constitutional, and thus can't be overruled by a law.


And the second: it is a well-known dynamic (in the South particularly) that the GOP is a significant beneficiary of racial gerrymandering. It concentrates Democratic votes in a few districts, making the rest of the districts less competitive. I doubt that the GOP cares more about not electing black people than they do about electing themselves.

"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

I believe race-based gerrymandering is already illegal, no?


And some judges have already smacked down Republican gerrymandering on that basis. 


But it hasn't been enough to overturn a baked in 7% advantage.


To make progress, I think you need judges who view this kind of gerrymandering as inherently unConstitutional, as upsetting the idea of proportional representation for which the House was designed.


Naturally our liberal media is all over this topic.

The Arabs have landed.

mmghosh's picture

al Jazeera buys US TV channel.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

I know it's very impolite


to speak of ancient history these days. But this story reminded me of a little trip down memory lane the memory hole:



Can you imagine if obama had...? oh, never mind.

Obama didn't kiss, he bowed

Bird Dog's picture

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

Which would you rather do?

HankP's picture

remember, no tongue.

I blame it all on the Internet


Bird Dog's picture


"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

It is funny how this is suddenly a problem with Obama

HankP's picture

when plenty of Presidents have done the same thing, including manly men like Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan and both Bushes.

I blame it all on the Internet

Pretty sure


bush was the one and only president to kiss a grown man on the lips. At least in front of press cameras.


The right wing will never, ever accept a non-gop person as president. S/he'll always be some other, alien, pseudo american in their little noggins, where if only the rest of the world, MSM, etc., looked harder, they'd see the TRUTH.



Mutual bowing is a pretty standard, formal way to greet.

mmghosh's picture

Its also safer, you can't spread infectious diseases that way.


I'm sure 19th century American presidents would have bowed...if nothing more than kissing the back of the lady's hand.


The mutual air kiss is new.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency



I'm born and raised in the USA, Chicago for the most part. I've bowed to people in greeting once in a while, can't remember specifics, but it wasn't some prince or king, or even a boss. It's just a friendly way of saying hello, perhaps to an older person. Admittedly not very common, but still it happens here.


I lived for 5 years in Miami, and really had to get myself used to friends/acquaintances - even women I had just met a few minutes before through another friend...! Kissing me hello/goodbye. This was mostly through the various Latin folk I encountered, though I think it has become pervasive in the population overall due to mingling of cultures. Very weird to this 2nd generation white guy from the midwest. I really did get used to it though and it became second nature... and nice too.


I'm back in Chicago now, and I have to say I miss some of the physicality of the hello/goodbye ritual that was so prevalent there.


But I can't say I've ever been the leader of the free world and kissed the king of SA on the lips, held his hand, smelled the hummos on his breath, sucked the parsley from his teeth. Bush was and is a real cowboy-- a man's man who would never dream of bowing! A few kisses on the lips and a lovers' walk through the Rose Garden would be the all-american way to do it! ...IOKIYAR.

I was talking about the bowing

HankP's picture

but yeah, starting with Clinton they completely let go of the old "respect the office" bit they used to pull out. If I had a nickel for every time I heard that line during the Watergate investigations ...

I blame it all on the Internet

Tyrannical surrender monkeys


who rule with a brutal iron fist at home, but become a quivering mass the second they leave our shores.


I don't pretend to know how pervasive this incoherence is among conservatives, but I do see it now and again.

Incompetent, bumbling boob


and all-powerful destroyer of the USA and the American Way® ... at the same time.


Almost like he's not quite human... Show us his genome sequencing!

I'm pretty sure kissing


a Saudi official would get obama in a heckuva lot of trouble. Seriously, kissing the man? Kissing?! I read wingnuts claiming Obama is gay/effeminate, etc, and their last president kissed the ruler of another - Arab Muslim - country ON THE LIPS... in/near the white house! Holding hands walking through the garden!


Obama Derangement Syndrome! Can I blatantly claim all over the place here that certain posters are afflicted with ODS?


Also, see bush bowing to accept a medal from the man. Apparently CNN redacted the bL0\/\/j0b pics, for which we can be thankful:


At least

HankP's picture

he insisted on no tongue.


I blame it all on the Internet

A hero of the viet nam war. A


A hero of the viet nam war. A twice elected president whose grandfatherly appearance and stirring speech at the 2012 GOP convention brought the divided nation to its feet in admiration and love... Oh wait, he didn't even show up at the last GOP convention...



Ran multiple businesses into the ground. Exploded the national debt. Created an entirely new tentacle of the US government, the dept. of homeland security. Then got us into 2 decades+ long wars, costing over a trillion dollars.




But a hell of a Saudi's man -- with this I bid you good night.

I'm Not Touching This One

M Scott Eiland's picture

Unlike the Manhattan Project scientists who bet on whether Trinity would ignite the atmosphere and destroy the world, I decline to contribute to a potential apocalypse--in this case from a potential infinite feedback loop caused by two entities so worthy of savage mockery interacting in this manner.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

By two entities I assume you mean

mmghosh's picture

the Saudi Arabian emir heavily invested in a right-wing American news organisation versus a Qatari emir now heavily invested in an American left-wing news organisation.


Duelling Saracen emirs in modern America?  Bemusement, I think, rather than mockery.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

Probably incorrect, Manish

Jay C's picture

"...versus a Qatari emir now heavily invested in an American left-wing news organisation."

Reading a little deeper into the (projected) dynamics of the Al-Jazeera/Current TV deal, it seems more like AlJ was buying it mainly for its existing channels/cable access, and that the specifically "left-wing" orientation of Current, as well as, apparently, its entire current payroll, will be a thing of the past, as AlJ seems to planning to set up a completely new US-based news network (separate from the present Al-Jazeera English).


In a bricks-and-mortar analogy, it sounds as if Al-Jazeera have bought a failing store, changed its name, hung a new sign out front, redecorated the inside, and will be selling their own product line henceforth through their own sales staff. Only the street address will be unchanged.  

I find al-Jazeera a curious mix of classic Victorian liberalism

mmghosh's picture

and Islamic orthodoxy (although there are components of Islamic orthodoxy which are pretty left wing).  They do promote the Sunni Arab line in the ME (play up the pro-Syrian rebel protest, play down the anti-Bahreini regime protests).


Interesting to see what they do in the USA.  


It would certainly interesting to know how the influence of Saudi emir's investment in News Corporation is paying off.  They invested in News Corporation in 2005-2006 presumably to counter the influence of the anti-Saddam, anti-Sunni agenda promoted by NewsCorp which was causing the Iraq chaos.  The USA decided to leave Iraq soon after, so presumably that influence has paid off.


Is News Corp behind prince bin Talaal new anti-alJazeera channel?


BSB and the Saudi family already have their own channels.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

Plenty Of Buffoonery To Go Around

M Scott Eiland's picture

That particular Saudi Arabian emir got a well-deserved comeuppance at the hands of Rudy Guiliani with FoxNews leading the chorus of attacks against the emir. There's an old saying that comes to mind: "If you can't beat them, join them."

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Chavez takes after his country

Bird Dog's picture

Both are on life support.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

The Daily Mail is an unreiiable rag


in case you were unawares.

It helps to drill down

Bird Dog's picture

The Daily Mail is getting this from ABC, a Spanish newspaper known as Spain's paper of record.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009


HankP's picture

Venezuela had double the GDP growth that the US had in 2012. Jokes like that are only funny if they're true.


I blame it all on the Internet


Bird Dog's picture

And superficial. Their growth was fueled largely by public spending and government housing programs, per your link. The reason for such spending is that Chavez had an election to win. Their inflation rate is 31% (link). For an oil-rich economy, that's pathetic. The latest example of his economic mismanagement here

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

Infrastructure isn't artificial or superficial

HankP's picture

it's textbook economics for a developing country. So is joining mercosur, the South American trade pact.


Look, the conservatives have been calling Chavez a failure ever since he was elected to office. The fact is that he's done some great things in Venezuela, specifically halving the poverty rate. He's been no worse, and often a lot better, than other leaders in Central and South America - including the ones we "like".


I blame it all on the Internet

It is exactly artificial

Bird Dog's picture

When a government consciously chooses to flood the economy with its largesse, nothing could hardly be more artificial. Chavez gets some credit for helping the disadvantaged, but it comes at the price of taking away freedoms and mismanaging an economy through his continuous acts of nationalizing, price controls, etc. His failed economic policies are only masked by his oil reserves. Also, I'm not saying Chavez's approach is superficial, but your analysis is, particularly since you linked to a pro-Chavez website whose founder is married to a chavista.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

Re: Venezuela Analysis


It's definitely a mouthpiece for the Chavez PoV, but in my experience doesn't fib on basic economic stats.


I don't typically read the site, however, even though it often comes up high on google searches, b/c there are better resources.


The Guardian regularly covers Venezuela. I also regularly read the Center for Economic and Policy Research's blog on The America's.


which, along with Dean Baker's "Beat The Press" weblog, regularly catalogs whoppers in the US press about Latin America.


According to both the editorial and news sections at papers like the Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, Argentina was massively punished and has barely recovered from its default over a decade ago, Venezuela has been on the verge of collapse for nearly a decade, Bolivia and Ecuador are massively corrupt and unstable, and Mexico's economic policies are a shining model for the region.


For example:

* a WPost editorial last month claimed Venezuela was running a 2012 budget deficit of 20% of GDP. Turns out it's 7.4% instead. Oopsies!


* Another WPost editorial in November claimed Mexico's economic miracle over the past 20 yrs. quadrupled its GDP. Turns out there was an 83% increase instead, and Mexico is dead last in the region of per capita GDP increase since NAFTA passed. Whoops!


In other words, there's a pervasive denial of the basic dynamics of the region over nearly a decade.



VEnezuela's inflation rate started growing in the final months of 2012, but inflation for the year was: 19.9%


In 2011: 26.1

In 2010: 28.2%


As I said, the actual trend is downward. This sounds really high to a westerner, but it is not out of whack for Venezuela, and hasn't meant low growth:



As for GDP growth "largely" being due to unsustainable government spending, my recollection is that most of Venezuela's growth was in the private, not public sector (but I couldn't locate a report just now with a breakdown).


Bird Dog's picture

Even at 18.6%, Venezuela's inflation is in the bottom 12, on par with Sudan and Sierra Leone. The only reason it was that low was price controls, the repercussions of which will be felt in 2013. Venezuela still has a private sector, but the problem is the trend over Chavez's reign. He has continuously nationalized companies that have gotten in the way of his revolucion. He is lucky that he has a big pot of oil to play with.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

Indeed they are lucky to have a big pot of oil to play with


And the point is precisely that their growth is probably sustainable and non-superficial as a result.


You don't have any facts that say otherwise, just a list of things you don't like - like nationalization. But look at Venezuela and Bolivia, both of which have had robust growth for years despite their records of nationalization. 


Argentina just nationalized its largest energy company this year. Some of us are watching how that turns out for them, you know, paying attention to evidence rather than just hewing some ideology. 


Really, the record of Latin American growth the past decade suggests your conservative economic orthodoxy is rigid and wrong. Many of these country's growth should never have occurred, and indeed were predicted not to.


Time to update your beliefs rather than just continually professing them.


Bird Dog's picture

...we're done. Apologize for the insult and we may continue.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

My tone is a little strident, BD


And apologies for the implying that you have zero facts, which isn't true.


For example, you point out that Venezuela's inflation is very high compared to most countries.


But you did get the inflation facts wrong initially, and aren't showing much facility with Chavez's record of growth, so I hope I'm allowed to suggest that your ideology is trumping the facts on the ground without that being an insult.


It's hard for me not to see yours and Bernard's comments as familiar, long-standing, and wrong predictions about the health of Venezuela's economy, overwhelmingly coming from conservative sources. Is that acceptable?


Bird Dog's picture

My inflation numbers were dated, not wrong, taken from a mainstream source [EDIT: IMF estimated the 2012 inflation rate at 31.6%]. Whether 31% or the current short-lived 18%, Venezuela is in the bottom 12. That is a fact. My opinion is that being in the bottom 12 year in and year out is not a healthy economic situation.

Second, I haven't made predictions about Venezuela's economy. Look it up. I have said that Chavez's ill-conceived economic policies are being propped up by his oil reserves. Oil is Venezuela's economic life support, comprising almost one-fifth of its GDP. My larger concern has been his constant efforts to proscribe freedoms and expropriate private companies. We've already seen the outcomes of his attempts at price controls in the form of shortages, rationing and more nationalizing.

The four South American nations with higher per capita GDPs are also free in terms of civil liberties and political rights. Venezuela is partly free at best. I suggest that this correlation is not coincidental, particularly since Venezuela has won a geologic lottery. Argentina is wealthier than Venezuela and is a free nation, despite recent government takeover attempts. As for Fernandez's attempt to nationalize its oil industry, M makes a good case.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

Re: your edit


An inaccurate IMF prediction that's unfavorable to Venezuela?


I see that as part of a pattern of pervasive conservative economic bias that I discussed earlier.


For example, the IMF underestimated Venezuela’s growth for the four consecutive years 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007, by 10.6, 6.8, 5.4, and 4.7 percentage points, respectively. They also undershot for both 2011 and 2012. Inflation predictions have routinely been higher than actual rates as well, which is also discussed in the link.


The general pattern I see is that countries that cut their public sector and liberalize trade often have their economic fundamentals over-estimated while countries that increase government spending or their public sector through nationalization often have their fundamentals underestimated. Then this is often misreported after the fact.


The explanation I've arrived at for this pattern across multiple countries for many years in both Latin America and, since the downturn, in Europe is systemic conservative economic bias.

Subsidizing Fossil Fuels


How is that a good idea for developing countries?


Argentina nationalized Repsol YPF, do you know why? Because a decade of price controls to keep fossil fuels cheap led to a drop in production so great that the country went from being a net gas exporter to a net importer. It now pays some $17 per million BTU to import liquefied gas from the Middle East, because of a policy limiting the price of local natural gas to $2.50. This in turn has led to a currency exchange problem, so the country instituted exchange controls similar to Venezuela.


Now the nationalized company (it was seized, they haven't paid a dime yet, which is actually worse than what Chavez does), needs a ton of money, some 30 billion, to exploit unconventional (i.e. shale) fields. This money will come from the government, which refuses to invest in renewables and has strong ties to local oil companies.


So price controls lead to fuel rationing, a currency crisis, a seizure, crony contracts, and the subsidy of fossil fuels and future water pollution. This is sound, sustainable policy?


Bolivia is a different story entirely. They are fully an exporter and were selling far too cheap. They have raised prices and revenue while maintaining an investment relationship with Petrobras, the Brazilian national oil company, and others. Bolivia has little internal consumption in relation to what it produces and has a sound energy policy overall. I don't think their overall economic policy, which also engages in seizures and heavy handed state intervention, is sound over the long term. But their energy policy is rational and is earning the country more money than previously. They have a strongly positive trade balance and plenty of reserves. They are investing in wind and hydro as well.


You are mapping US conservative vs. liberal debates to Latin America, and this is misleading you. The left wing governments are not liberal in the US sense and you would not want to live under them. I agree with you that neo-liberal (conservative) formulas for austerity and unregulated private markets have been a total failure where attempted. But refried 1960's left wing solutions won't work now any more than they did 50 years ago. It is one thing to bend over backwards to accommodate crony capitalism as was done in the 1990's, but ignoring market mechanisms and blocking price signals is equally counterproductive.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

"You are mapping US conservative vs. liberal debates


to Latin America"


Mainly insofar as I'm pointing out to BD and Bernard that their cocksure conservative mapping is w/out basis. Venezuela's tanking economy has been right around the corner ... just like US inflation, rising interest rates, and growth in European countries with austerity.


One route from moving between developments in Latin America back to US politics is the following: if you observe the extent to which conservative nonsense and ridiculous predictions about Latin America are all over US media, a light bulb might go on that biased conservative economic viewpts pervade economic reporting generally.


But I've been to many of countries in LA, know that a US liberal vs. conservative frame often isn't apposite, and that they're far from perfect. The orthodoxy contra nationalization is my main interest, and I reject at least one disambiguation of your ambiguous criticisms. On the one hand, you're implying that Latin American leftists in Argentina and Venezuela -- by seizing and nationalizing -- are making mistakes equal to the neo-liberals who championed unregulated markets. On the other your criticisms don't appear to be against nationalization per se, but about price controls and subsidizing fossil fuels. 


From my PoV, it's simply a fact that many countries in Latin America are much better off with radical leftists like Chavez, Morales, etc. in power than with their neo-liberal predecessors. The years-long record is something to be explained, not disputed.


I'm still trying to learn lessons from Latin America's experience with nationalizing its energy industry and consider these wide open, possibly supporting nationalizing the US's energy industry. You more than anyone keep pting to energy companies as the root of many of our biggest political and social problems. Perhaps the evidence from Latin America suggests that US industry would suffer inefficiency and reduced output b/c of nationalization, but that those costs would be outweighed by reduced corruption of our political system by these wealthy private orgs.

Yes, It Can Be Disputed


The statistics are not trustworthy. Argentina reports around 10% inflation a year, but in reality it's more like 25%, as evidenced by demands from unions, not merely IMF reports. Both Venezuela an Argentina have fantasy "official" exchange rates that are available only to those the government chooses, while market exchange rates are much higher.


I am not ambiguous. First of all let's agree about terms. Fossil fuel extraction companies, oil companies, are not energy companies. They are fuel miners. If they are nationalized, it can only be for the purpose of government subsidy in order to lower the cost of fossil fuels.


In this day and age, it should be clear to any American liberal that fossil fuel subsidies are a very bad thing. They encourage waste and make the business case for renewable energy and efficiency much worse. Why get a car with good gas mileage if gas is 25 cents a gallon?


As to the broader issue of nationalization, it depends what, why, and how. It is a process often connected to substantial corruption. I am not being ambiguous, it's simply a case by case issue.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

I'm not completely following here


Venezuela's PDVSA is an oil and gas company yet nationalization has served multiple purposes, not solely subsidizing fossil fuel consumption. Notoriously its revenues are being diverted to Chavez's social and military programs rather than being re-invested in the company, and output has been stagnant or falling slightly as a result. 


I don't see why subsidies and nationalization necessarily go hand in hand. I'm recalling Berkeley's Brad DeLong recently arguing that nationalizing fossil fuel extraction companies in the US could be a positive step toward implementing a carbon tax. The idea was that nationalization would undercut the subordination of our political institutions by private oil companies, the single largest impediment to such a tax. 


Perhaps you'd argue that governments are more likely to use nationalized oil and gas companies to improve the economic conditions of voters via subsidization and to project regional power, as Chavez uses PDVSA and Putin Gazprom. As I say, I'm still at the looking stage re: these nationalized companies.   


And I accept that they likely differ case by case and read your previous comment on the differences between Argentinian and Bolivian nationalization efforts with interest. Also, if you have any links on Argentina and Venezuela systematically understating inflation Id be interested to read them.


Bernard Guerrero's picture one of the most fundamentally unserious comments I've seen you write the entire time that I've been frequenting this site.:


"Also, if you have any links on Argentina and Venezuela systematically understating inflation Id be interested to read them."


Dude, one of us hasn't been paying attention to South America, but it ain't me.  (Hint: I own oil & gas stocks.  A lot of 'em.  My mind on my money and my money on my mind, etc.)

I'm not an expert on any issue discussed on this site


Apologies if I was ever misleading on this point.


Yet I can still deploy sophisticated and technical economic analysis such as ... comparing predicted economic #s to actual ones. I've even developed methods for pointing these high-level comparison techniques over consistent periods at individual economists and research organizations.


If you've been trained in these techniques, I don't recall any evidence of it in your posting on macro-econ issues.


For example, I see you aping the "unsustainable" line re: Venezuela's growth, which I've heard from folks who've been making wrong predictions about Venezuela for years. And I recall you being on the wrong side of the Cameron slowdown, which I deftly avoided using the sophisticated methodology outlined above. 


Point being, any idiot can be more accurate than an economic conservative these days.

Put your money where your mouth is, Lefty.

Bernard Guerrero's picture

I'd think it would be fairly obvious that:


A) Venezuela's entire economy is, basically, oil exports

B) They had a fairly sophisticated oil extraction industry in place when Fatboy took over

C) They have, since that point, seriously under-invested even as they've continued to run production flat-out

D) They're sitting on 20% of the world's proven reserves


Ergo, they have a huge machine they can run down for years while extracting huge amounts of revenue.  When does it break down?  How long did it take for the housing bubble to inflate and bust?  You can run this pattern for the better part of a decade before your 2007 rolls around.  But if you disagree, well, bet big on my 5 year offer.  I'd love to help immiserate another academic. :^)

Good for the planet, though.

mmghosh's picture

Venezuela's well known maintenance issues means that they will be less able to damage the Lake Maracaibo area compared to what the more efficient Canadians are doing to boreal forest in Alberta.  A silver lining to every cloud and so forth.


Efficiency is not always a Good Thing. Fossil fuel needs to be left in the ground.  Go renewables and nuclear.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

I'm not trying to get too bogged down in the details


when making a bet, since some of my interest is testing the impression that there's a baked in bias against leftist governments/ideologies when economists make predictions and recommendations.


If that's right, without having to do much research, the odds should be on my side that the risks of a collapse of the PDVSA b/c of under-investment is being exaggerated.


Just like the risks associated with PDVSA's debt, Venezuela's public debt/deficit, investment tanking after nationalization, expanding the public sector, etc.


That said, I'm curious why you're making any short-term, sloping downward prediction of GDP falling from 5.5% - 2% next year if you believe a bubble popping is the right way to model the effects of under-investment in PDVSA.


As you say, under-investment has been compatble with overall growth for a time, so why do you believe it will set in in 2013? Krugman noticed the bubble in '05 but never siad it would pop that year or in '06.


Somewhat relatedly, why do you believe a bubble pop is the right way to model detioration at all vs. a continuous, perhaps mild downward slope as has been the established trend.


Is there some historical precedents you're basing this off of or do you just have a mental image of big-machine-fall-down-go-boom?

You've basically challenged him to one up with a gif.



In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

Oil Revenues


You don't need to nationalize to use oil revenues for whatever you want. You simply charge royalties to oil companies who exploit your fields. You also regulate them for safety and environmental protection (otherwise the government is regulating itself).


But you do need to nationalize if your intent is to sell products at a massive loss, such as gasoline at $.20 a gallon. You cannot ask a private company to do that.


Brad DeLong is only right if the government is controlled by Democrats. If the Republicans ran a national oil company, you'd have oil wells in the middle of Central Park and crony contracting schemes with oil services companies.


Argentina Inflation (note the discrepancy with the official rate is nearly 3 to 1)


Venezuela Exchange Rate (note the country has two official rates plus the black market rate)


This means these countries have no currency that can act as a store of value. Nobody leaves their money in the bank in local currency, except as needed in order to operate on a daily basis. This leads to capital flight and so on.


This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

"fossil fuel subsidies are a very bad thing"

HankP's picture

maybe in wealthy countries like the US, but in countries with large numbers of people in poverty the alternative is not so simple. Kerosine and LNG are a lot cleaner than coal or wood.


I blame it all on the Internet

This isn't Africa


Wood burning people who live villages are common in Africa but no so in Latin America and much less in Venezuela and Argentina, both of which have long histories of oil and gas use, and virtually no coal use.


I can see subsidies for natural gas, for cooking and heating (though heating is hardly required in Venezuela). But for gasoline? That means you are subsidizing car owners, hardly the destitute, and encouraging them to buy gigantic gas guzzlers. In fact, you are subsidizing large car owners the most. And you are doing it by encouraging consumption of a valuable commodity, gasoline, which can bring in needed foreign currency.


I know the developing world is like a big blob to people who are not familiar with it, but it's actually made up of countries with vastly different levels of development and energy usage profiles. Venezuela is South America's #1 per capita CO2 emitter from fossil fuels. Venezuela has over 150 cars per 1,000 people, Brazil has over 250, and Argentina has over 300, that's 7 to 15 times the rate of car ownership in India and much of Africa, which is in the order of 20 per 1,000.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

Pissing away oil revenue, lad.

Bernard Guerrero's picture

Utterly unsustainable, particularly since he hasn't put a penny back into maintenance in years, and already driving massive inflation. (Also a whopping murder rate.)  But hey, I guess you gave up on moving to Brazil already?  That was your last Fantasyland South O' The Border, IIRC.

Every conservative knows Chavez is going to tank the economy


... eventually. 


It doesn't matter that he hasn't and these predictions have been wrong for 10 yrs. or so, but keep at it.


The real reason the current level of 5.5% growth isn't likely to be sustained is b/c it was partly based on increased government spending intended to goose the economy before an election.


But here's Chavez's record the past 8 yrs (counted from 2004 after the coup and recession ended):



As you can see, tho growth is likely to go down a bit, if Chavez manages to whip his cancer there's every reason he'll continue averaging a respectable 4+% growth, beating out CHile, Brazil, and of course the awful conservatives in Mexico.


Inflation isn't a big deal - it's up in recent months but overall lower this year than the past two and entirely within historical precedents for periods of growth. 


You've been complaining about the lack of investment into the oil infrastructure for years, which I believe is a problem, but which your posting history shows is exaggerated.


You could've made $ in Venezuela this year if you weren't reading right wing garbanzo. The stock market was up 300%. 


Speaking of making money and your right wing bias, how far do you believe Venezuela's growth is going to fall? Perhaps we can make an actual wager this time, since I'm getting better at taking misinformed conservatives' $ over bets on macroecon events. Got a prediction?


Bernard Guerrero's picture

I think Hank's an even bigger sucker than you are, so let us see if we can set something up that appeals to all parties.  :^)


The key here is time-frame, the oil field investment issue is an absolutely real one, but it's also the sort of thing that can take a decade to make a difference.  But I understand your desire to look at the short-run outcome of activities like pissing away billions on poor people.  1 year timeframe?  Mean real growth rate over 4 quarters?  No get-out-of-jail-free card for political shifts?


Sound like the basis for something?



Edit:  Unless you want to shoot for a longer-term bet? 


Well, Chavez is sick right now


which means the advantage of disruption on growth would go to you.


But if you're buying the latest right wing nonsense about "unsustainability" in Venezuela, you probably can be parted from your money, and I'll bear the disadvantage.


Btw, you mentioned a decade timeframe, and it's now been a decade since Chavez nationalized Venezuela's oil companies. I've been hearing predictions similar to yours for at least 5 years, probably longer.


Back to the main program, you said Venezuela's growth was "unsustainable" and indeed that's what I'd like to bet over, though I'm also expecting some drag from cuts in spending now that the election is over. 


Can you put some #s on your claim over a 1 yr. time frame - do you believe Venezuela will go into recession (BofA claims -3.5% contraction for 2013), that their growth will collapse to 1/2 its current level, or...? 


Another idea is to index an estimate for growth to Latin American growth overall. Will Venezuela outperform the region's average, which in general is not engaged in the kinds of government spending Chavez has implemented?


... I wish I hadn't given you the info. that Venezuela has averaged 4.7% growth the past 8 yrs. I'm guessing you had little idea that was the case before claiming 5.5% this year was unsustainable. 

Ha. Why look at numbers when you have faith on your side? nt

HankP's picture


I blame it all on the Internet

I have a daughter in college

HankP's picture

so I'm not going anywhere for the next four years. Brazil still seems nice, not sure how well I'd do at learning Portuguese from scratch.


I have to laugh at your analysis of Venezuela. Unless you predict oil prices will go down in the long term, revenue is one thing they don't have to worry about. Now they do have problems, like with the murder and violent crime rates, that are puzzling since they're reduced their poverty rate significantly. In virtually every other country through history, that has helped to reduce crime rather than increase it. You can criticize Chavez for not bringing the crime rates down, but at least he's trying to fix it using historical trends as the basis for his policies. And it's not as if Venezuela is that much of an outlier, most Central and South American countries have ridiculously high crime rates.


I blame it all on the Internet

I am afraid...


...I am a bit closer to Bernard on this one.


I don't trust those growth numbers, for one thing. It's hard to correctly measure growth under high inflation and with a split black market / official dollar rate. If you state 27% inflation instead of 29%, you pick up an extra 2% of growth, and that's in Bolivars. In dollars it's negative if you run the numbers with the black market exchange rate.


But more to the point, I know three separate Venezuelans who work in IT who got out as soon as they were able to secure a job. One could only manage Mexico, he took it anyway, and gladly. Crime has definitely gotten worse, but it's not just that. It's a police state setup you wouldn't stand if you had to deal with it. To buy foreign currency for travel, they need to ask the government, which decides to authorize or not, and how much per day. It's also difficult to buy equipment, Dell being a particular problem since it is a common global corporate requirement.


Crime is an economic indicator. A growing economy does not result in more murders, kidnappings, armed robberies, and so on, especially one growing for nearly a decade as the figures claim.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

Crime may be an economic indicator


but elections are probably a better indicator and Chavez won his recent election overwhelmingly. Again.


I don't think there's much reason to doubt that under Chavez the average Venezuelan is significantly richer. The poverty stats, if you believe them, show nearly 30% of the population escaping poverty since 2004.


Even if exaggerated, I don't think there's any doubt that growth in Venezuela has massively benefited the average Venezuelan, much more so for example than growth in the US.


I suggest people who are commenting on the issue glance at the Center for Economic Policy Report: "Venezuela's Economic Recovery: Is it Sustainable?"


Mark Weisbrot of CEPR in my experience is a hair biased in favor of the Chavez admin, but is overall a very welcome balance to the average crappola information in western media, which is shot through with neo-liberal propaganda.



Under Chavez wealth redistribution has certainly happened. That's actually not so difficult, since Venezuela had awesome disparity even by Latin American standards.


I'm not peddling neo-liberal garbage. The Venezuelan elite, on the whole, sucks, and is responsible for setting the stage for a populist figure like Chavez to take power. If they knew how to run a competitive market economy, rather than a crony capitalist one, they would not be where they are today.


But Chavez's socialist-bolivarian revolution is not going to achieve a viable country, any more than the dozen or so experiments in government-led development were successful in the 1960's and 1970's in Latin America. It is still an oil-based economy that imports everything and subsidizes waste, like gas at a few cents per gallon. Chavez can be rightly thought of as a Robin Hood figure. He steals from the rich to give to the poor (and his cronies keep not a little change in the bargain). But that's not sustainable, especially if you create conditions that lead to middle-class flight.


You should know that a regime built on having one man in power for life can't be good. He simply has not been able to build up a true system or solid institutions. He's just a strongman, and it looks like his time is up.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

It's a worry what Venezuela post Chavez would look like


But on the other hand Chavez has participated in reasonably fair elections and democracy appears to be on a strong footing in Venezuela. I suspect they would follow their COnstitution in the advent of his death and have a fair election within 30 days should he pass away. Chavez has already set the stage for that by encouraging his supporters to vote in an election for the Vice president if he dies.


As for middle class flight, population growth is solid in Venezuela and so is income mobility. As the report I linked above notes, however, there is significant capital flight and that is somewhat of a worry. The report suggests that since Venezuela's capital controls are very weak, it could benefit by making it harder to take money out of the country. In any case, the levels of talent and capital flight don't appear to be crisis-inducing, just a drag on growth.


As for stealing from the rich to give to the poor, perhaps you could quantify that and back it up. From what I know, the rich are also benefiting from economic growth, but not as much as the lower classes. That's a different pattern than we're used to, but hardly unsustainable.

Why would people...


...take their money, themselves, and their families out of a country that's doing well?


What does Venezuela make that anybody would buy, except oil?


Yes, the elections are fair. I'm not one to say they aren't. That hardly insures a successful economy, or a country worth living in.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

Hank, high prices don't mean....

Bernard Guerrero's picture

....much if you can't pump the stuff.  The idea that you might maintain production while skimping on that is what seems laughable.  (Granted, a reduction in what they can pump should have an impact on the price, but it will also mean more revenue flowing towards domestic producers and away from Venezuela.)


Bernard Guerrero's picture

The 2013 dead pool hasn't been set up yet!  Ah well, probably for the best, this one was a gimmee.

A what-if-catchy-is-right subthread.

mmghosh's picture

No, seriously. catchy has been going on about this for months, but what we in the ROW want to know is


1.  Is it a real problem?

2.  Does it impact us (after all it seems from the outside to be just a distribution issue) - e.g. does it inhibit overall investment in new technologies?

3.  Is anyone going to do anything about it?

In 2010, a stunning 93 percent of all income gains went to the top 1 percent of Americans. Also astonishing: just 15,000 households received 37 percent of all of those income gains. In no other period in recent American history have economic gains been concentrated so disproportionately in an elite sliver.


freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

It's not just that the top 1% are hogging all the new wealth


it's that their income increases are partly taken directly out of the pockets of the bottom 99%.


Average incomes were falling from '09 - '11 and some of the income increases for the top 1% came from pocketing the lower class's losses. 


As the communist Warren Buffett likes to say: "There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning."

You didn't answer the question.

mmghosh's picture

Does it matter, really?  Is this affecting the social fabric - or can't that be assessed yet?  And are a significant proportion paying attention?  Bernard isn't, to start with.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

Oh, I'm paying plenty of attention.

Bernard Guerrero's picture

Not overly concerned, though.  The idea that the income gains of the last couple of years would have tended to go to the upper end is no surprise whatsoever.  Segments of the upper end depend a great deal on capital gains, investment income, etc.  They took a hammering during the Crisis and recession, a proportionally greater one than the bottom end, for precisely that reason.  And once the panic was over, all those temporarily undervalued assets bounced and you were bound to do okay so long as you weren't one of the panicky ones.  Or, as I said at the time, "Potter's not selling, Potter's buying." (Big winners last year?  Bank stocks.  Not that you'd be up on holdings you carried forward from 2007.  But if you could buy intelligently during/after...)


As to the longer-term distribution, dunno.  You can make the argument that the fast post-war growth in places like Taiwan and South Korea was predicated in part on an authoritarian regime conducting a land reform and distributing farmland (read: capital) widely and then letting the chips fall where they might, thus allowing new winners to drive the state-of-the-art forward without too many entrenched interests in the way.  But then you're not talking about income redistribution, you're talking about a one-time non-distorting capital levy.  Also, you're not really worried about whether the incapable poor are doing well outcome-wise, the idea is to get resources into the hands of the competitive in order to let them build up wealth.  i.e. The revolutionary French government's selling the biens nationaux confiscated from emigres and the Church to local middle-class strivers, which constructed a dynamic (and not incidentally deeply pro-regime, for fear of having it all taken back) entrepreneurial class.


But OTOH, poverty-stricken in the U.S of 2013 is not the same as poverty-stricken in France in 1795 or Korea in 1950.  You have to be close to being an incompetent loser to be short on calories or even vitamins, or the children of such.  I'd worry as much about crappy admissions policies to good schools, the general rise of credentialism in all fields, the general cultural lack of interest in any difficult course of study and the overwhelming preponderance of red tape if you're trying to do anything of consequence, if we're talking about stifling innovation.


A separate argument would be that high-wage environments naturally tend to encourage investment in capital in order to save labor costs wherever possible.  i.e. if a French McDonalds has to pay $25/hr, minimum wage, to fry-jockies, it will work much harder to install robots, self-service, higher-efficiency processes, etc, all leading to innovation-> productivity gains -> actual increases in wealth, eventually.  This is true (see early U.S. advances in agricultural productivity because really cheap labor was not available) but takes a proposition that only applies under specific circumstances and incorrectly tries to generalize it.  The French McDonalds example is good because the high wages can be combated by the entrepreneur via innovation.  OTOH, if GM figures out (or buys from a smaller outfit) a concept that would cut labor inputs in half while increasing quality, but is blocked by either rigid work rules or a generalized (and understandable) hostility on the part of the UAW, you have a result that supports high wages but actually stifles innovation.  The same, of course, applies to any entrenched interest that would lose thereby and acts to preserve its position, regardless of whether you want to label it "labor", "capital", "stakeholder", "government" or whatever.


So possibly the patter is: High growth comes via a starting position that is relatively flat but is then allowed to concentrate naturally.  Neither a permanently skewed distribution nor one that is permanently flat via enforcement is useful in this regard.  But then, the question is how to set up a structure that encourages that perpetual renewal (or, depending upon your political bent, substitute either "creative destruction" or "permanent revolution".  Soulmates!)  You probably need to target large, immobile concentrations of wealth, but at the same time you don't really want to penalize income, much less striving for it.  And the natural human tendency is to want to provide as much security as possible for the kids, and the folks you're trying to keep from doing that will, of course, be the most talented.  Etc.

"a proportionally greater [hammering] than the bottom end"


Indeed the top 1% took about 50% of the hammering during the downturn, but then they hogged 93% of the gains of returned growth, even while the lower classes were still taking a hammering.


"They got bailed out, we got sold out" is accurate.

History has not been kind

HankP's picture

to governments that enrich the wealthy and impoverish the poor.


I blame it all on the Internet

Name me one country that hasn't enriched the wealthy

mmghosh's picture

over, say, a 60-year period, and stayed on course thereafter.


Isn't it better to pursue the concept that the affairs of the rich, and what they get up to, do not matter?

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

You dropped the second half of my statement

HankP's picture

which kind of misses my point.


I blame it all on the Internet

I think you would find it hard to prove that Americans

mmghosh's picture

are impoverished (or at least a significant proportion).  


True, individual incomes may have fallen in real terms, but impoverished?


And yes, in general, the poor have always been impoverished.  There are more poor people in the world now than there ever have been, surviving on less than $2/day.  Yet, disease has never been lesser, inter-national violence and intra-national violence is dropping, information circulation has never been greater.


I've said it before, but apart from climate change and species depletion there is not a lot that has gone seriously wrong.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

I Lile a Good Conspiarcy As Much as the Next Person...Hildabeast


...actually injured herself on a secret mission to Iran, so says Russian Intelligence. Link is very slow, so article here:



A new Foreign Military Intelligence (GRU) report circulating in the Kremlin today is saying that United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [photo 2nd right] was injured, and a top US Navy Seal Commander killed when their C-12 Huron military passenger and transport aircraft crash landed nearly 3 weeks ago in the Iranian city of Ahvaz near the Iraqi border.

Iranian intelligence agents quoted in this GRU report confirm that the C-12 Huron aircraft is still in their possession in Ahvaz, but will only admit that the plane was “forced to land because of technical problems”.

The US Navy Seal member reported killed in this bizarre incident, this report says, was indentified as Commander Job W. Price [photo 3rd right] who as a leader of this highly specialized American Special Forces unit protects high-ranking diplomats traveling in Middle Eastern and Asian combat zones.

Curiously, US media reports on Commander Price’s death say it being investigated as a possible suicide as he died from what the American Defense Department describes as “a non-combat related injury”.

Equally as curious, US media reports state that Secretary Clinton will return to work next week after her having suffered what they describe as a “nasty bout with stomach flu” and a “concussion” which have kept her missing from public view the past three weeks.

This GRU report, however, states that US military flight logs recorded by Russian air and space forces confirm that Commander Price, and other members of US Navy Seal Team 4, left their base in Urozgan Province, Afghanistan on a flight to US Naval Support Activity Bahrain where they met up with Secretary Clinton and all of them transferred to the C-12 Huron that began a flight path to Baghdad, Iraq.

Within minutes of leaving Bahrain airspace, this report says, the C-12 Huron carrying Secretary Clinton and her US Navy Seal protectors, “without notice,” deviated from their assigned flight path heading, instead, directly towards Iran’s Ahwaz International Airport where, coincidentally, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had previously landed on an “unscheduled” visit.

Important to note, GRU analysts say in this report, was that when the C-12 Huron entered into Iranian airspace neither American nor Iran air force units responded clearly indicating that this secret mission was sanctioned.

Upon the C-12 Huron landing at Ahwaz, however, this report says it encountered “extreme turbulence” causing it to leave the runway where its main landing gear then collapsed causing it to crash.

Within seconds of the C-12 Huron crashing, this report continues, Iranian emergency and security personal responded freeing the victims, including Secretary Clinton who was reportedly unconscious and “bleeding profusely.”

After emergency aid was given, GRU agents stationed in Iran state that another US military flight was dispatched from Bahrain to Ahwaz which evacuated all of those wounded and killed in the crash including Secretary Clinton.

Strangely to note, this report says, is that in the aftermath of this crash, Iran’s main oil company announced today that they were buying the Ahwaz airport with the intention of moving it because, they say, oil was discovered beneath it.

To what the Americans mission to Iran was about this report doesn’t speculate upon, other than to note that with the Gulf State Monarchies rapidly approaching a union of their oil rich nations to counter Iranian power, and with President Obama signing a new law this past week to strengthen American borders against threats from Iran, and with the highly-publicized “Velayat 91” Iranian military exercises now taking place across a wide area from the Strait of Hormuz, a new and catastrophic war in this region is much closer to being a reality than many realize.

To if Secretary Clinton’s mission was meant to forestall such a war it is not in our knowing, other than to note, that with the United States continued backing of some of the cruelest dictatorships in the world, our entire planet is but one spark away from a fire that could very well consume us all.


How interesting is that!

mmghosh's picture

Juan Cole on the Arab-Iran realignment in the ME.

Hizbullah could well have its Iranian lifeline cut. Its secretary-general, Hassan Nasrullah, has come out strongly in favor of the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, because both of them are Iranian clients. If Syria falls to the Sunni Arab revolutionaries, the latter will have a grudge toward both Iran and Hizbullah for supporting the Baath government, and will likely cut the latter off from resupply through Syrian territory. Instead, Syrian support will go to the Sunnis of Beirut, Sidon, Tripoli, Akkar and the Biqa Valley.


Between 2003 and 2012 the United States, in a fit of absent-mindedness, made Iran a regional hegemon. Washington overthrew the Taliban in Afghanistan and delivered it into the hands of the Northern Alliance, a set of strong Iran allies. A brake on Iranian influence in Afghanistan was removed. Then the Bush administration overthrew Saddam Hussein, the Sunni ruler who subjected the Shiite majority and stood as a barrier to Iranian penetration of the Middle East. Without meaning to, the US brought to power a religious Shiite government that naturally allied with Iran. Then the US Congress targeted Syria for deep sanctions and the Bush hawks drove it firmly into the arms of Iran. The Bush administration backed Israel’s attack on Lebanon in 2006, which strengthened the Shiite party-militia Hizbullah, which now is a key backer of the government of Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Miqati. The pro-Iran capitals stretched from Kabul to Beirut (light blue in the map below), and Iran suddenly became a much bigger player in Levantine affairs than it had been in the 1990s.

Another link to your article.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

How much "more" accurate is stuff from the Kremlin?

brutusettu's picture

Is/was there anything circulating in the Kremlin on the spontaneous appearance of controlled demolitions in 3 separate skyscrapers?




 HRC never left for the trip over there, Kremlin apparently has super secret intel that says otherwise................

She Actually Travelled On The SR-71. . .

M Scott Eiland's picture

. . .that Bush the Elder used for his super duper secret negotiations with the Iranians to set up the October Surprise (Bush the Elder was with her for this trip, too--that "deathly ill" stuff was all bunk).

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Turns Out The Airplane Is Real Though


An American airplane has been stuck there for three weeks. No information at all about crew, plane ownership, or anything. Curious.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.


HankP's picture

I hope all you cranky misanthropic old f*(s have a great 2013.


I blame it all on the Internet

You Mean Us Young and Vitally Alive Hammers-of-Love?


...I am not quite sure what that means...but it is probably better than Anvils of Intelect....which is where I was going with


I slept through New Year's, but now I am up for the breaking most things resolve themselves for the better.


As will all of 2013!


Happy New Year's and may it be healthy and prosperous for each and everyone of you!


Best Wishes, Traveller

My 3 Entires on the Theme of Happiness & (My Christmas)



as per rules, shot within the last 10 days


Best Wishes, Traveller





Sunrise from BD's front yard

Bird Dog's picture

After a whole December of rain and grayness, finally, on the last day of month, pretty nice.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

That was this am, right?  I


That was this am, right?  I saw some other pics online from western wash.  We don't have that view.  Ours faces the condo next to us.  On a good day.


Bird Dog's picture

We don't get many morning like that. This morning, we're fogged in.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

It is clear and crisp down


It is clear and crisp down here in the lowlands! 

You're still a young guy

HankP's picture

you'll be buying and selling guys like me in ten years.


I blame it all on the Internet

That is Very Nice,Well Seen & Lovely Indeed(as we like to say)nt



Why can't we have a Facebook link to diaries and posts?

mmghosh's picture

I use the Forvm as my favourite links database, but I find it hard to let other people know how to get to it, and other people find Facebook easier to get to.


I don't want Hank/MA/significant others to have to put in extra unpaid work, but a whip around for a case of bourbon could be arranged, no?

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

I think we need a vote on that

HankP's picture

because the way Facebook works, it will look up and cross reference all email addresses and start asking everyone if they want to connect to people by their real names. Not a problem for you, not for me either, but not everyone might want the people here connected to their private life.


I blame it all on the Internet

Not On Facebook


I am not on Facebook and never will be, under any name.


The community is free to do what it pleases but my vote will be "no" to anything connected to Facebook, especially if it has to do with integrating the members of our community into it or using it to host any of our stuff.


I am somewhat less hostile to Twitter, though I don't use it either.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

Why the opposition to Facebook?

mmghosh's picture

Like I said, I don't use it much except as a links database.  Definitely do not put any personal stuff on my page.


Will linking to FB attract spam?

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

Because once you join

HankP's picture

it's a constant struggle to keep them from exposing every single scrap of information they can obtain about you to the entire world and especially to paying customers. I joined just to get in touch with a friend who was in some difficulties and have been bombarded by facebook nonstop ever since.


I blame it all on the Internet

Let Me Further MA's Position re Facebook, the Strength of Opposi


...opposion in me is fairly strong...or, to put it clearer, very strong. So Facebook wouldn't be a matter of convenience of inconvenience, it is an existential question as to the very nature of The Forvm.


People are here because they want to be here, it takes some effort, and that is good. Often I read the comments under CNN or other sites, Kevin Drum often even, and it is a vicious Wasteland where there is absolutely nothing of interest being said.


The larger web is often pretty terrible.


Best Wishes, Traveller

The FB group that's the follow-on to...

Bernard Guerrero's picture

....soc.hist.what-if is fairly lively and worthwhile, though the lack of threading makes real in-depth exploration of any topic a PITA.

I like TNC on the Atlantic.

mmghosh's picture

Good commentariat too.  They link to FB.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

Poll, then?

mmghosh's picture

I also use Facebook as a link database - it is much easier to link articles to my Facebook account, than to write about it here.


But Facebook is not the place for intelligent or considered conversation.  Also, the civilised moderation here is important.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency


HankP's picture

it doesn't look trivial, and I'm not sure how much of a site redesign it would require. I think I have some ideas of the kinds of things we could do with it, but I'm not a Facebook user so maybe not.


Take a look at these:


Activitystream for Facebook


Drupal for Facebook


Facebook Style Micropublisher


Facebook Social Plugins integration


Post It Everywhere


and let me know which ones provide what you're looking for.


I blame it all on the Internet


mmghosh's picture

I'm no expert.  Drupal on Facebook seems OK.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

Not that my Opinion Matters, But No Facebook For Me...



...too much responsibility.


If I get another Church Choir trying to get me to Friend them...I will scream.


Personally, I am done with Facebook.


Shorted the stock, made a little money, went long, should have stayed longer, made a little money....I'm done with


Best Wishes, Traveller

Have a good one everybody!


I hope 2013 treats you well.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

Shorter Seidman

Bird Dog's picture

Scuttle the law of the land and give me the policies that I want, dammit. Oh, but keep a few things that I still like, but leave the First Amendment as a guideline, not some nettlesome law. Quite the scholarship.

Or there's the Ezra Klein argument that it's too old and confusing.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

Please change your picture


I asked before in another thread, but I don't know if you saw that.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

I saw it

Bird Dog's picture

Changed, but under protest.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

Protest Noted



This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

it is pretty nsfw if someone


it is pretty nsfw if someone were to walk by and glance at the screen.

What's wrong with....

Bernard Guerrero's picture

It's Certainly Better Than the Screamer...But Also...



...the Obaaama logo, maybe I can't see it clearly...but what is the problem with it?



Oh, I dunno...


Maybe I just don't feel like having a web page give me the finger all the time. Call me picky that way.


If an image is worth a thousand words, it's a PRV as far as I am concerned.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

I thought it was funny


someone using their xmas lights to give their neighborhood the finger makes me smile.


But I understand if folks have to worry b/c they're in lame work environments.

Yes, I thought that too.

mmghosh's picture

Using Christmas lights to give the finger part.  What's America without irreverence?

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

Arafat's widow confirms the obvious

Bird Dog's picture

Her husband the Nobel Peace Prize winner instigated the 2000 intifada.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

Hasta 2012. I hoist the parting glass.


Ok, I'll hoist a few.






In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

And I hoist my glass to you

HankP's picture

filled with Winchester Small Batch Straight Bourbon Whiskey. 90 proof, and filtered with oak staves instead of charcoal. Not bad.


I blame it all on the Internet

Tonight it's the cheap stuff


I've had too many years of 'What's Mack got in the cabinet?' to stock top shelf at New Years.  Jameson's it is for me and mine and for any visimoochers. And seriously, after the first two drinks anyone burning up the high-end stuff just hates their wallet or it's a lot bigger than mine.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 


HankP's picture

Jameson's isn't cheap, it's pretty damned good Irish whiskey.


BTW Darth I pass a couple meaderies almost every day in town here. If you ever find yourself in the NW let me know ahead of time so I can warn them.


I blame it all on the Internet

Warn them? By all means, tell them I'm headed that way.


I'm sure they'd love an opinion on all those unbottled expressions they'll push in the upcoming year.  Mead murders people because they think they are supposed to drink it Viking style, not understanding that they are sucking in anywhere between 12%-20% alcohol.  You are supposed to drink it Viking style but that means taking time between goblets to burn something, kick a severed head through a hoop or perform the blood eagle on the neighbor's dog then have drink #2.  Y'know, pace yourself.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 


HankP's picture

I have a feeling that your opinion will be that you haven't had enough yet to form an opinion.


It actually is kind of ridiculous how many wineries and breweries are in my town. At last count there are


3 distilleries
6 breweries
2 meaderies
93 wineries


and far, far more in the surrounding areas. I'm not saying it has anything to do with me moving here 14 years ago ...

I blame it all on the Internet

104 spirits producers just in your town?

Jay C's picture

So if we send you snail-mail addressed to:



          Boozeburg, WA



it will get there and delivered?


I can understand it getting the tourist trade, but is anyone ever in condition to leave?





Believe it or not

HankP's picture

since marijuana is now legal to possess in WA, and will be legal to grow and sell starting in December, I've heard that some people are planning to open "smokeries".


I blame it all on the Internet

In Cuddlyeese, cheap means inexpensive


The poor quality connotation to 'cheap' is expressed as 'shiddy' or 'for sh@t' in Cuddlyeese. I keep the cheap stuff in the front of the cabinet, where I find so many prefer to show off their good taste to my good fortune, at the front. Also, I've never said a bad word about Jameson's and might be offended if one did.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

Speaking of cheap,

Bird Dog's picture

I just had my first taste of Fireball whiskey, courtesy of BD Jr.


"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

Did you like it. I've never had it myself but I have had


bad whiskey and I fully understand why whiskey drinkers fight.  I had a cousin who got seriously miffed 5 years ago to the day, because I finished off a bottle of Dewers.  One, there wasn't much left when I started and two,  I considered every sip I took to be a favor to him.  He was also under the mistaken impression that I had arrived sans libation, when his wife produced 2 pint sized, perfectly poured  frosty mugs of a certain well-known Irish stout all transgressions were forgiven.

BTW, Hank always talks about visiting but IIRC you had bidness in eastern North Carolina a few years back.  You ever swing out this way anymore?  You called for a link-up or anyone in the area and while I do own a house here, at the time I think I was in Iraq.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

I did like it

Bird Dog's picture

It's good college whiskey, kinda sweet and cinnamony, 66 proof. Better than Jaeger. The only drinking disputes I've had were the ones where BD Jr. has given a snort or three to his younger sister, but I'd rather her consume under his tutelage than at a random party, at a house where I don't really know who's there. I haven't had fights over low-grade liquor, not since my college days anyway.

I had in-laws in Southern Pines and Pinehurst, but one of them passed and the other moved to Ocala. I still have other family in Maryland and Westchester Co. We took the family to DisneyWorld last August (a blast) and then drank and played golf in Ocala with my foul-mouthed 81-year old stepfather-in-law ("of course I'll get on the f**king Tower of Terror, I was a fighter pilot, goddammit").

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

The NFL 2012 regular season is over

HankP's picture

here's the playoff picture for next weekend -


Saturday, Jan. 5
AFC: Cincinnati (6) at Houston (3)
NFC: Minnesota (6) at Green Bay (3)

Sunday, Jan. 6
AFC: Indianapolis (5) at Baltimore (4)
NFC: Seattle (5) at Washington (4)


I was glad the Seahawks won today, even though the game didn't affect their playoff status or seeding. You really don't want to enter the playoffs with a loss in your last game. Even though the offense sputtered until the last quarter, the defense kept them in the game. The Seahawks have the best scoring defense in the league, which should be a big factor in the playoffs.


I always like to see Dallas lose, but not as much tonight. I'd much prefer the Seahawks face Dallas over the Redskins next week. I'm pretty sure Dallas would be a fairly easy win, but the Redskins are too much like Seattle for me to feel comfortable. I hope Seattle's better defense makes the difference. I think it will be a great game, though.


Condolences to Sulla and TXG1112 about their teams, not much to say other than that they had a lousy season.


Now we can look forward to the best 3 weeks of football of the year.


I blame it all on the Internet

The Jets fired the GM

TXG1112's picture

Which qualifies as a good start. Hopefully the OC is next. As bad the Jets are, they are not the worst team in the league. They just get a lot more coverage than they deserve.


I was feeling pretty good about repeating an overall win, but 2 will be difficult to make up with just the playoffs.


As I recall, Trav and I were neck and neck right up to the final week last year.

--- I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered. My life is my own.

The Jets get coverage

Jay C's picture

... umm, in the media, that is, not on the field - 'cuz they play in the nation's biggest media market, Being located in New York may give  the Jets and Giants a bit of a publicity boost: but it also magnifies their failings when they fall short. Like they did this season. Boosterism is definitely a two-way street in the Big Apple....

NYC media market giveth and taketh away...

TXG1112's picture

This season isn't even that bad by Jets historical standards, so I don't feel like I should wallow any self pity. I remember the Kotite years with a records of 1-15. I think part of the issue is that Jets are victims of their hype machine. The owner seems to be pursuing a get our name in the paper by any means strategy. It seems to be working, but I can only assume it isn't having the expected effect on revenue. I know I'm not planning on getting season tickets at the prices they're charging for the crappy product they put on the field.

--- I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered. My life is my own.

You could see the frustration on Sanchez's face...

Bird Dog's picture

...when Tebow came in for him. That's a coaching problem, a head coaching problem. The offensive coach didn't have much to work with. Running game? No. Receivers? Not that I could see. Pass protection? Not very good. QB? Sanchez confirmed that he's adequate when he has the personnel around him, and terrible when he's under pressure.

The Jets made a horrible decision in signing Tebow, and Tebow made a horrible decision in agreeing to play with the Jets. It still remains that he sucks as a QB and it still remains that, despite sucking, he took a team to the AFC championship. Maybe Jacksonville is the place for him.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

I'll admit, I like Rex.

TXG1112's picture

Even though I like him, I won't get too upset if they fire Rex. I thought Sparano was a bad choice from the beginning and will only be too happy to be rid of Tebow. He'll never be a good quarterback in the NFL, though Jacksonville is welcome to try it out. Sanchez took a team to the AFC championship too, for whatever that it worth.

--- I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered. My life is my own.

You're In A Pretty Solid Position Going Into The Playoffs

M Scott Eiland's picture

Two up on TXG1112, three up on Sulla, four up on me. With only eleven games left, that's fairly comfortable if you avoid disaster the next two weeks.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

I've been lucky the last three weeks

HankP's picture

but luck can disappear as fast as it appears. We'll see what happens when the Super Bowl comes around.


I blame it all on the Internet