“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Monday, December 10, 2012

The youth jobless rate has reached 58% in Greece, 55.8% in Spain, 39.1% in Portugal, 36.5% in Italy, 30.1% in Slovakia, and 25.5% in France: The failure of EMU policy is now undeniable. Whole societies have been broken on the wheel. Yet there has not been any substantive shift in strategy. The EU authorities remain adamant that the next bayonet charge will deliver victory.

Europe clings to scorched-earth ideology as depression deepens

Like the generals of the First World War, Europe’s leaders seem determined to send wave after wave of their youth into the barbed wire of tight money, bank deleveraging, and fiscal austerity a l’outrance.

7:48PM GMT 09 Dec 2012

The strategy of triple-barreled contraction across a string of inter-linked countries has been the greatest policy debacle since the early 1930s. The outcome over the last three years has been worse than forecast at every stage, and in every key respect.

The eurozone has crashed back into double-dip recession. It will contract a further 0.3pc next year, according to a chastened European Central Bank. The ECB omitted mention of its own role in this fiasco by allowing all key measures of the money supply to stall in mid-2012, with the time-honoured consequences six months to a year later.

The North has been engulfed at last by the contractionary holocaust it imposed on the South. French car sales crashed 19pc last month, even before its fiscal shock therapy -- 2pc of GDP next year. The Bundesbank admitted on Friday tore up its forecast on Friday. Germany itself is in recession.

The youth jobless rate has reached 58pc in Greece, 55.8pc in Spain, 39.1pc in Portugal, 36.5pc in Italy, 30.1pc in Slovakia, and 25.5pc in France, with all the known damage this does to the life-trajectory of the victims and the productive dynamism of these economies.

EU policy elites blame "labour rigidities". The United Nation’s economic arm UNCTAD counters that the EU demand for "wage compression" is itself perpetuating the crisis.
The labour share of total income has fallen to a 60-year low, eating away at demand. This is a formula for perma-slump. In a thinly veiled attack on Berlin, Frankfurt, and Brussels, the UN decried the "political blockade" against any solution to the crisis. It mocked the "discredited mantra" of flexible labour markets. Well, at least somebody is exposing the lie.

The International Monetary Fund’s latest work on the `fiscal multiplier’ has largely demolished the credibility of EMU fiscal policy. Austerity takes a greater toll on GDP during a deleveraging crisis than originally thought, doubly or triply so in countries that cannot devalue or cushion the blow with monetary stimulus.

As constructed so far, the policy has been largely self-defeating even on its own terms. Debt dynamics are deteriorating at a frightening pace across half Europe. The IMF’s Fiscal Monitor says Italy’s public debt (128pc). It will be 4pc of GDP higher next year than estimated as recently as April. It will be 8.4pc for higher in Portugal (124pc), and 12.9pc higher in Spain (97pc).
This is what a depression will do to you, and is in fact what happened to Britain in the 1920’s when combined fiscal and monetary tightening pushed public debt to 190pc. The cure was emancipation from the dollar peg (Gold Standard) in 1931, an emancipation that Britain’s status quo elites ruled out as too dangerous to contemplate.

The failure of EMU policy is now undeniable. Whole societies have been broken on the wheel. Yet there has not been any substantive shift in strategy. The EU authorities remain adamant that the next bayonet charge will deliver victory.

Currency Commissioner Olli Rehn says "the worst is over," citing a cut in the combined deficits from 6.2pc of GDP to 3pc over the last two years. The alleged achievement is of course the crime. As the Maynard Keynes wrote in 1931, deficits in a slump are "nature’s remedy from preventing business losses being so great as to bring production altogether to a standstill."

Mr Rehn’s fiscal overkill should not have occurred in a balance-sheet crisis when households and companies are deleveraging feverishly. It is being done to meet an arbitrary target set by the EU bureaucracy, with no regard for the therapeutic dose.
In Britain we at least have a roaring policy debate. Personally, I support the Coalition’s cuts: tightening is well-paced at 1pc of GDP each year. It is cushioned by quantitative easing. Britain has a big current account deficit (unlike Euroland), and is therefore not morally obliged to offer the world reciprocal demand (unlike Germany with a 6.4pc surplus this year). But I am thankful that we have an opposition Labour Party and the pugnacious Ed Balls fighting the policy every day. The nation can hear the arguments. There is a choice.

No such choice yet exists in the eurozone. EMU strategy has few defenders left on the global stage. There is hardly an economist in Italy, Spain, or even France who believes that health can return under current policies. Yet there is no coherent opposition. No major party in any EMU county is willing to grasp the nettle.

Europe’s curse is that Germany has a massively undervalued exchange rate within EMU, and therefore has different needs, and yet controls the policy levers for everybody. We can argue over why this has happened. The legacy charisma of the D-Mark still counts, and so does sheer power. Creditors always hold the whip hand at the onset of a debt crisis, though not always at the end.

A wiser Germany would see that it cannot force the brunt of adjustment on the South without causing a contractionary bias for everybody. But we have a foolish Germany, spouting pre-modern economic quackery, seemingly unwilling to give up the mercantilist advantage it now holds over EMU trade partners. It resists wage inflation to close the North-South gap (understandably). It resists a debt union and fiscal transfers (understandably). Yet it also resists the only other option, which is an orderly break-up of EMU. We have a total impasse.

The Latin alliance could force an end to German-imposed contraction policies at any time by marshaling their inherent majority on the EU Council and at the ECB. They could turn the tables, compelling Berlin to yield or to withdraw from EMU. But that would require an entirely new leadership in France, willing to sacrifice the illusion of Franco-German condominium and the foreign policy catechism of the last half century. Francois Hollande dipped his toe in such waters, but recoiled.

So an odd fatalism prevails, an acceptance that Germany cannot be resisted. It falls to Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi to fulminate from the sidelines. "I can’t allow my country to plunge into an endless recessionary spiral," he said last week. He is the court clown, the only who dares to tell the truth that EMU itself is the problem, or mockingly suggests that Berlin should go back to the D-Mark and let the rest of Europe recover. The others bite their tongues.

It is true that the ECB has removed the "tail-risk" of sovereign default in Portugal, Spain, and Italy by vowing unlimited bond purchases to cap yields, once those countries surrender fiscal sovereignty. Two-year debt spreads have plummeted. Capital flight from Spain has stopped, after bleeding funds worth 40pc of GDP.

The ECB could have averted much carnage if it had stepped up to its responsibilities as a lender-of-last-resort a long time ago, but EMU politics prevented Mario Draghi from acting until euro break-up was imminent. What a way to run a railroad.

But while Mr Draghi has imposed a beguiling calm on bond markets, the economic crisis grinds deeper. The 20pc currency misalignment between North and South has been disguised by the collapse in demand across Club Med, not closed in any sustainable way.

Spanish companies still have to pay twice as much as German rivals to borrow, with the spread on five-year debt at 250 basis points. Standard & Poor’s said in a report last week that companies across Europe are still winding down exposure to Club Med to protect their credit ratings, entrenching the North-South divide.

S&P’s Jean-Michel Six said EMU has degenerated into a "customs union". The collapse of the interbank market has imposed de facto capital controls. "There are two eurozones, a northern one and a southern one," he said.
The awful risk for Europe is that all these years of EMU pain will achieve nothing, that Euroland has maneuvered into a "bad equilibrium" from which it cannot escape under the current dysfunctional system, that policy paralysis will leave the region trapped in permanent depression as the US, China, and the rest of the world moves on.

This is the message in Citigroup’s latest global outlook. Recession will drag on into 2014. "Flawed EMU structures" will hobble the region for years to come. Per capita income in Euroland (and the UK) will remain 3pc-4pc below 2007 levels in 2017. This is much worse than Japan’s Lost Decade.
America will pull further away. The growth gap between the US and EMU is 2.6pc this year, the highest since the 1990s. Citigroup said it will widen to 3.4pc in 2014 and continue at extreme levels through the decade. This will have dramatic compound effects over time. Such is the fruit of Europe’s "policy choices".

Italy faces a slow lingering death. Citigroup says the economy will contract by 1.2pc in 2013, and again by 1.5pc in 2014, with near zero growth thereafter, ending in debt restructuring anyway. France will stagnate until 2016.

If this is what lies in store, there is no further reason to hold EMU together. It should be dismantled in an orderly way after Christmas before it does any more damage.

Yet no leader seems ready to admit the Europe has been in thrall to a false religion. The grim possibility is that nothing will be done to change course until Europe is already reduced to an economic Passchendaele.


  1. Hat tip to Q, Rufus or Bob. I don’t have time to check. Thumbs up on the previous thread. Later.

    1. That would be Bob and Quirk.


    2. What's needed of course is a healthy tax increase on the wealthy, carbon taxes, more spending, more printed money, and food stamps adjusted quarterly for inflation. Not to mention more vacation time for those that still work.

  2. :) One for you Bob and another :) for the Teutonic fervor for moral hazard:

    Germans were forgiven almost all their debt in 1953 by Britain, USA and France. While Britain paid all her wartime debt as high as 230% of GDP in 1945, Germany was the biggest debt transgressor of the 20th century. German disability to learn anything from history is nothing new. That's the way it is.

  3. Rufus: In that excellent Atlantic article that I linked the point was made that, although the jobs were coming home, the work that previously had required 10 People making $21.00/hr

    now required 3 People making $13.50/hr.

    The Atlantic? Did you get a smoking pipe?


    The wages metric needs to be combined with health care costs. The author should have included how the unions were handling that. You can't overstate the escalating cost of health care, especially for seniors. If those union workers at $13.50/hr are getting (major medical) health care benefits, the comparison isn't quite as stark, but I'm sure the direction is the same. Hard to say which is worse - getting sick or going broke.

    (AG Holder is criticized for not prosecuting financial fraud cases but one thing he has done is go after Medicare fraud. Those cases are way up under Holder. I provided a study link quite awhile back.)

    One other point noted by the author was the "herd mentality" that contributed to outsourcing. I assumed that studies were commissioned and plans carefully drawn up before business exposed serious money to market risk. Hunh. "Cheap labor" is like telling a junkie there's free nickle bags on the corner.

    (I discovered a study, also awhile back, that claimed the tax code represented 60% of the "regulatory burden" and was much more of a "burden" on smaller enterprise (no surprise) than large corporations which spend some small percent of gross revenues on paperwork - under 5% or so - I'm remembering 1% or 2%.)

  4. Abstract: This paper compares corruption in China over the past 15 years with corruption in the U.S. between 1870 and 1930, periods that are roughly comparable in terms of real income per capita. Corruption indicators for both countries and both periods are constructed by tracking corruption news in prominent U.S. newspapers. Several robustness checks confirm the reliability of the constructed corruption indices for both countries.

    The comparison indicates that corruption in the U.S. in the early 1870s — when it’s real income per capita was about $2,800 (in 2005 dollars) — was 7 to 9 times higher than China’s corruption level in 1996, the corresponding year in terms of income per capita. By the time the U.S. reached $7,500 in 1928 — approximately equivalent to China’s real income per capita in 2009 — corruption was similar in both countries.

    The findings imply that, while corruption in China is an issue that merits attention, it is not at alarmingly high levels, compared to the U.S. historical experience. The paper further argues that the corruption and development experiences of both the U.S. and China appear to be consistent with the “life-cycle” theory of corruption — rising at the early stages of development, and declining after modernization has taken place. Hence, as China continues its development process, corruption will likely decline.

    For a second there I was worried.

  5. Replies
    1. Anyone who pays attention to GS WILL end up wearing a straw hat to the Christmas Party.

      At one time I considered them to be merely criminal. Now we have to add "laughable" to the description.

  6. Obama didn't win on merit alone. His high-tech, data-driven, socially-networked campaign was one for the history books, turning out key demographic blocks in astonishing numbers. Consider that in Ohio, the president's team drove the African-American share of the electorate to up to 15 percent, versus 11 percent in 2008. That's more than 200,000 new votes for the president in a state decided by a margin of 165,000. In other words: That was the ballgame.

    President Obama owes his second term to a masterful campaign team – few of whom are household names. Here are ten heroes of the Obama 2012 team:

    "[F]ew of whom are household names"

    Memo to Rush et al.

  7. Ironically the general consensus on the problems in Europe is that there is a lack of ability and willingness to re-flate the economy. The Republicans have been hell bent on forcing contraction on the economy as well.

  8. The idea of multiple sovereign countries sharing One currency is, undoubtably, the Dingiest idea of all time.

    Yes, I'll take the H/T. It was I that linked to the article.

    Those GE employess Were making $21.00/hr Plus Healthcare.

    GDP is no longer a particularly useful metric. Median Income is what matters.

  9. Very cool site.

    Data for Westport, CT

    Do you feel old yet???????????


    But health care was cheaper "back then" - say 20-25 years ago when outsourcing gathered momentum. About 10% per annum cheaper, at least for the last decade.

    1. Yep, I gotta give you that. :)

    2. Used to live right down the road, in Weston.
      Up the hill from Paul Newman's place. Before you got to Alan Arkin's, on a little side street at the top of the hill.

      Really was a pretty nice place. There was a not a stop light in all of Weston, that'd have been in 1971 or so.

      Westport ...

      Ahh, the memories that brings forth.

  10. BTW, the federal gummint borrowed 31% of expenditures in 2012.

  11. Escalating health care costs: some numbers.

    Health care costs doubled from 1996 to 2006, and are projected to rise to 25% of GDP in 2025 and 49% in 2082.

    That's about 10% per year.

    1. Gotta go slip sliding my way across town.

      (If those low wage workers are still getting full medical benefits, it's worth twice as much as ten years ago.)

    2. There's still only 3 of them.

      Compared to the prior 10

    3. Healthcare inflation has slowed considerably the last couple of years. Down to around 4%, now, I believe.

    4. You've got a couple of factors in guaging health care "inflation". There is the increase in cost of doing a particular procedure, the addition of new procedures, and the increase in demand due to an aging demographic. Hard to find apples to compare with apples and arrive at an inflation figure.

  12. .

    GDP is no longer a particularly useful metric. Median Income is what matters.

    I would disagree since GDP is a reflection of overall business activity within the economy. It encompasses productivity and population growth. It reflects demand.

    Median income is driven by a number of factors, productivity, demand, unemployment levels, outsourcing, immigration, etc.

    Another Perspective on the Latest GDP Numbers


    1. See my link to Google in the previous spread.

      When Google makes $8 Billion, and promptly transfers 80% of it to Bermuda, thus avoiding paying hardly any taxes, you get a healthy jump in GDP, but a lot less benefit to the Citizenry.

      When 93% of the benefits of "recovery" accrue to 1% of the population it doesn't do a whole lot of good for the 99%.

      Put another way: fuck the national economy, how's MY economy doing?

    2. .

      You can rant and scream about taxes all you want and I would generally agree with you. But corporate taxes represent 9% of total tax revenue.

      There are many more important factors that impact on median income, the most important ones being overall demand, productivity, and unemployment levels. No business is going to pay more than they have to and numerous trends have been working to the disadvantage of American workers.


    3. I absolutely agree with you. It's a VERY complicated issue.

      But, if Corporations are going to pay a very low rate (which they are,) then Dividend, and Cap Gains have to be taxed at a Higher rate.

      And, no, this doesn't solve all the world's problems; it's merely a small step in a necessary direction.

    4. Doesn't the US have one of the highest Corp tax rates in the world? On the order of 36% isn't it?

    5. Yes, it does; and that is one of the problems. It encourages Corps to hide their profits offshore (where it remains untaxed - and, unuseful for investment in the U.S. - until it is brought back "onshore.")

    6. We have an idiotic policy as regards "corporate taxes."

      In a commonsense world Corp Taxes + Dividend/Cap Gain Taxes would = the top tax rate - say 39%. So, you could have a 10% Corp tax rate, and a 29% rate of Dividends/Cap Gains.

      The caveat, here, is that Corp taxes need to be collected in the year that the profit is earned - it's crazy to reward companies for keeping their money in Bermuda, or the Caymans.

    7. Many a corp (and individual) would argue that why should they pay taxes in the US when they earn the money elsewhere in the world?

    8. Obviously, there's another side to that argument; I won't bore the bar with the details. Needless to say, we'll be discussing that point a hundred years from now (if we're here a hundred years from now.)

  13. .


    Hit "Restart" not resume on

    Fiscal Cliff Averted


  14. Honest to God, I'm listening on Fox about a little girl with leukemia who was cured with modified AIDS virus. Spliced and diced in the lab, injected into the little girl, the AIDS virus, which is great at invading cells, gets in there and works against, again because of splice and dice, the leukemia cells/virus(?). Little complex but she looks great. May work with other forms of cancer. Big breakthrough.

    1. So, there ya go.

      Do you want "cheap" healthcare, or do you want That - and what comes next?

    2. If ObamaNoCare doesn't tax the medical devices required out of existence.

      It is this kind of research, along with more teaching hospitals and med schools, where we ought to be putting our money. This little girl might well have been death paneled right on out of here.

    3. You are a moron, Rufus.

      Do you want survival and health or death at a young age?


    4. Oh, fuck, Bob; get over the blind hatred. A one and a half percent tax on medical devices? Give us a break.

      On the other hand, it's the Pubs that would have us cut funding for NIH, and other research facilities that lead to discoveries such as this.

    5. Who paid for her treatment?

    6. The article didn't say; but it wouldn't be "Private" insurance (in that it was an "experimental" procedure.)

    7. My friend 'D' whom I have taken to the VA in Walla Walla a few times, had pneumonia. Treated by the VA they found a lump in his lung, and thinking it related to the pneumonia let it go. Finally doing a biopsy they found it benign. Alas, they didn't go in far enough and missed the lung cancer lurking behind. D doesn't smoke. When they finally did catch on to the now Stage 4 lung cancer it had spread to his stomach. Which is why they found it, in fact. I am waiting around today for the time to take him to the VA hospital in Spokane for emergency chemo, full blast. A born again Christian, he is turning to the Lord, quoting scripture both 'Old' and 'New' and continues to curse Obama, Hillary, the MB and the koran as a whole. A normal hospital or medical group would be sued for mal-practice for this I'd imagine. Don't they take an X-ray from the back too? Do a blood test for cancer? This is want you can expect all over with ObamaNoCare.

      I don't know who paid for her treatment Ash. That's not the point anyway. The point is the super medical innovation that is involved in the leukemia case.

    8. boobie still has not explained how taxing a persons wages from labor is not a tax upon his/her time.

    9. Fuck off crapper.

      And that doesn't even make any sense.

    10. Or why the time value of capital should not be taxed, while the time value of labor is.

    11. I'm not in the mood for your bullshit today. Keep it to yourself, please. I got other things to think about today. Don't expect another reply.

    12. I never expect a reply, boobie.
      I expect others to see that you wallow in self-pity and cannot think beyond the ideas propagated by the propaganda that you foist upon US, here at the EB.

    13. Is the VA exempt fro some reason from medical liability Bob?

    14. I want everyone to see that you hold hourly labor in low regard, while you think your income, from the sale of Federal welfare program land grants, should be tax free.

    15. As to your friend with cancer, he's terminal and will go to Hell for cursing those that have nothing to do with him, his illness or his lack of treatment.

      He's not "Born Again", he's dead.

    16. This comment has been removed by the author.

    17. .

      You're a real charmer, rat.

      Your act must go over like gangbusters at cocktail parties.


  15. Consumer spending also in the crapper -

    Indicators: Consumer spending not looking too good
    posted at 2:21 pm on December 10, 2012 by Erika Johnsen

    At first glance, last week’s release of the monthly jobs report may have appeared to be good news — the unemployment rate technically fell to a recent low of 7.7 percent. Upon closer inspection, however, labor force participation also dropped as Americans continued to exit the work force, and that’s not the only economic indicator going south.

    Investor confidence has been slackening off somewhat with the fiscal cliff within range, and there are fresh signs that consumer confidence is following suit, via the WSJ:

    American consumers helped carry the economy through a spring slowdown and appeared to power a summer resurgence in growth. But in recent weeks government data have shown spending was slower over the summer than previously believed, and it has started off the final three months of the year on an even weaker footing.

  16. Sometimes, when she's Not "phoning it in," the old bitch really can do a little prose.

    But another sign of the old guard’s denial came on Friday, a month after the election, when the Romney campaign ebulliently announced that it raised $85.9 million in the final weeks of the campaign, making its fund-raising effort “the most successful in Republican Party history.”

    Why is the Romney campaign still boasting? You can’t celebrate at a funeral. Go away and learn how to crunch data on the Internet.

    Outside the Republican walled kingdom of denial and delusion, everyone else could see that the once clever and ruthless party was behaving in an obtuse and outmoded way that spelled doom.

    The G.O.P. put up a candidate that no one liked or understood and ran a campaign that no one liked or understood — a campaign animated by the idea that indolent, grasping serfs must be kept down, even if it meant creating barriers to letting them vote.

    Although Stuart Stevens, the Romney strategist, now claims that Mitt “captured the imagination of millions” and ran “with a natural grace,” there was very little chance that the awkward gazillionaire was ever going to be president. Yet strangely, Republicans are still gobsmacked by their loss, grasping at straws like Sandy as an excuse.

    Some G.O.P. House members continue to try to wrestle the president over the fiscal cliff. Romney wanders in a daze, his hair not perfectly gelled. And his campaign advisers continue to express astonishment that a disastrous campaign, convention and candidate, as well as a lack of familiarity with what Stevens dismissively calls “whiz-bang turnout technologies,” could possibly lead to defeat.

    Who would ever have thought blacks would get out and support the first black president? Who would ever have thought women would shy away from the party of transvaginal probes? Who would ever have thought gays would work against a party that treated them as immoral and subhuman? Who would have ever thought young people would desert a party that ignored science and hectored on social issues? Who would ever have thought Latinos would scorn a party that expected them to finish up their chores and self-deport?

    Republicans know they’re in trouble when W. emerges as the moral voice of the party. The former president lectured the G.O.P. on Tuesday about being more “benevolent” toward immigrants.

    As Eva Longoria supersedes Karl Rove as a power player, Republicans act as shellshocked as the Southern gentry overrun by Yankee carpetbaggers in “Gone with the Wind.” As the movie eulogized: “Here was the last ever to be seen of Knights and their Ladies Fair, of Master and of Slave. Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered, a Civilization gone with the wind.”


  17. The average 2012 corporate tax rate for the 34 developed countries is 25.4 percent, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

    Each December we publish a list of investment themes that we feel are critical to the coming year.

    We continue to believe that US equities are in the midst of a major bull market that could ultimately rival 1982’s bull market.

    It is hard to be bearish when one considers the following:

    Rich Bernstein

    1. Well, let's hope he's right.

    2. James Paulsen, Wells Capital Management from Oct 2012

      I have to confess I do listen to Goldman Sachs, but my main man is Jim Paulsen, to a lesser extent Rich Bernstein.

    3. In fact you could say I watch them (GS) like a hawk.

    4. The only reason I can think of to follow any of that crowd is to do the exact opposite of what they say.

  18. Here's the NYT article on that leukemia cure. Very Intrestin'.


    1. At $20,000 a treatment, it's a money saver.

      Could take a bite out of healthcare cost inflation.

    2. Remember how much those first computers cost? And, how primitive they were compared to today's machines?

      I can't think of a reason why the cost curve on biotechnology/gene-splicing shouldn't run the same way.

  19. Poor boobie, he regales us with his woes.
    He has to, at some point in time, pay caital gains taxes on the land that the Federal government gifted to his forebears.

    15% of the gain.
    On the sale of a grant.

    He thinks that is to high a price to pay, for the security provided him and his by the government of the United States.

    Yet those that toil for 34 hours a week, for an average of $23 per hour, they should pay up.

  20. McDonald's Corp. surprised investors Monday when it reported growth in sales at restaurants open at least 13 months in November, but analysts remain cautious about the months ahead.

    Added emphasis on its Dollar Menu helped reverse a downward slide from the month before, when McDonald's posted the first drop in monthly same-store sales in nine years. Same-store sales globally rose 2.4% in November, fueled by a 2.5% rise in U.S. same-store sales.

  21. TRIPOLI, Lebanon — Clashes between Sunni Muslim and Alawite militias have killed at least 17 people here recently in perhaps the worst spillover of violence from the civil war in neighboring Syria.

    Now if the Hezbollah shia in Lebanon would start shooting at both the Alawites and the Sunnis there all would be well.

    1. And if they all started gassing one another, it would be....

    2. ....(fill in blank according to your true feelings)


  22. By Robert Tait in Jerusalem

    12:55PM GMT 10 Dec 2012

    The avian discovery was made in Kereinek, a town in the Darfur region of western Sudan, Israeli media have reported.

    Sudanese officials are said to have concluded that the bird was a secret agent after discovering it was fitted with GPS and solar-powered equipment capable of broadcasting images via satellite, according to Haaretz newspaper, which cited an Egyptian website, El Balad.

    The vulture also had a tag attached to its leg with "Israel Nature Service" and "Hebrew University, Jerusalem", leading to accusations that it was on an Israeli surveillance mission.

    The reports follow allegations by Sudan that Israel carried out the bombing of a munitions depot near the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, in October, after jamming the country's radar defences.

    Israel has made no comment on the raid, which left two people dead. The arms depot was said to be supplying weapons to the Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza.

    Israeli officials have acknowledged that the bird, which can fly up to 375 miles a day, had been tagged with Israeli equipment but insisted it was being used to study migration patterns.

    Ohad Hazofe, an ecologist with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, told the website, Ynet, that it was one of 100 vultures fitted in October with a GPS system equipped to take distance and altitude readings but not surveillance images.

    "That's the only way we knew something had happened to the bird – all of a sudden it stopped flying and started travelling on the ground," he said.

    A similar discovery in Saudi Arabia last year prompted local media to report that a bird, later identified as a Griffon, had been "arrested" under suspicion of spying as part of a suspected "Zionist plot".

    Saudi officials later dismissed the speculation and criticised journalists for jumping to conclusions after accepting Israeli explanations that the bird was part of a migration study.

    Pick of the handsome flying spy included.

    1. solar-powered equipment capable of broadcasting images via satellite . . . . ?

      Vulture cam? :)

  23. Beware false Mark Twain quotes -

    Lots of them floating around out there.

  24. Hope for an Assad win, or a negotiated settlement, just don't let the rebels win --

    It may well be true, as recent news reports tell us, that Bashar al-Assad's regime in Damascus, increasingly desperate in the face of an unrelenting rebel onslaught, is prepared to use chemical weapons against its own citizens. The Syrian leader himself, all the main power brokers in his government, and virtually all of the country's military officer corps come from a long-persecuted minority that legitimately fears that this war is a matter of "kill or be killed" for the Alawites, who make up around 12 percent of Syria's population. The Alawites left what is now Iraq a millennium ago and settled in the dusty hills of northwest Syria overlooking the Mediterranean. A doubly heretical sect in the eyes of orthodox Sunni Muslims -- as an offshoot of Shiite Islam -- the Alawites lived an isolated existence for centuries as their religion evolved to reflect various folk traditions.

  25. Camille Paglia has stepped away from her ivory tower more and more in recent days by focusing a bit more on pop culture iconography. A few years ago, she took aim at Lady Gaga for not being sexy enough and, instead, coming off “like a gangly marionette or plasticised android” that is “clinical and strangely antiseptic, so stripped of genuine eroticism.” I don’t think these criticisms had much effect on Gaga, who — as annoying as she can be in a famewhore sense and when it comes to her bizarre claims of “art” — doesn’t seem to be striving for sexiness at all. Oddly enough for a feminist, Paglia seems to only care about how erotic a pop star is with very little regard anything else an artist is putting out there in terms of how they live their life off the stage. Even if Gaga’s messages are often self serving, they do have a positive effect on her fans. She’s not all bad, and she’s especially not as bad as Paglia would have us believe.

    Now Paglia is taking aim at Taylor Swift and Katy Perry for the Suzy Creamcheese images they project through their recorded music and live performances. Katy Perry sort of deserves the criticism after publicly denouncing feminism last week, but Paglia makes no mention of Katy’s awkward speech, so I am assuming that she either wrote this before Katy inserted foot into overglossed mouth, or she doesn’t care what comes out of Katy’s mouth. Instead, Camille is focusing on the good-girl images of both Swift and Perry as an example of what’s gone wrong with feminism or, if you will, the death of feminism. While I can’t argue much about what Paglia says about Katy’s “good-girl mask over trash and flash,” and Swift’s glitter ponies are generally annoying, there’s a certain hypocrisy that comes into play when Paglia goes on to mention how Rihanna is a stunning example of eroticism and feminism. Say what? Here are the most relevant portion of Paglia’s essay from the Hollywood Reporter:

    Camille Paglia

    1. Doris. Did you get a little . . . confused? This is the Elephant Bar.

    2. I hate when trash and flash cowers behind a good girl image ruining any image of eroticism and feminism; I want my empty headed sluts seething, steamy and adorably lioness, purring and ready to eat you if you aren't good enough.

    3. :)

      Camille tapped into my inner rebel. Can't countenance either one.

      I also suspect that the popularity of the two Christian singer gals is supported by at least one political party.

      But that's just me. Dopey ole Doris.

    4. Well, I'll grant you, that if there's anything that I find generally annoying it's "glitter ponies." :)


      Whut the fuck are "glitter ponies?"

    5. Talk about your fucking mess; this thread has devolved to the point that it's Alfalfa Bob that's making sense.

    6. Glitter ponies is really bad poetry?

  26. I am watching a video made Saturday night at The Pennsylvania Society Holiday Dinner at The Waldorf Astoria and the Gold Metal Award made to M. Night Shyamalan. I hope to get a copy for a future post.

  27. .

    Despite turmoil, major lending effort aims to boost Egypt, Arab neighbors

    The United States and a coalition of international lenders are pushing ahead with billions of dollars in loans and other help for Egypt and neighboring states despite the region’s sometimes violent political turmoil, in hopes of heading off a destabilizing economic collapse.

    The risks involved in the effort have been on sharp display in Egypt in the clashes between protesters and forces loyal to President Mohamed Morsi, whose Islamist government must be trusted by the United States, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and others to deliver on commitments made in return for international support.

    Diplomats and others involved in crafting the IMF program acknowledge that they are dealing with an unpredictable situation... The uprisings in the region have produced grass-roots democratic movements applauded by the United States, strengthened Islamist parties and led to incidents such as the September attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya...

    But U.S. and other officials involved in the discussions with the Morsi government use words such as “pragmatic” to describe the approach to economic policy...The Obama administration separately is planning $1 billion in debt forgiveness for Egypt...

    Hey, why not?

    Timmy, cut them a check. It's the 'pragmatic' thing to do.


  28. .

    Senate Stalls Spy Surge

    The Senate has moved to block a Pentagon plan to send hundreds of additional spies overseas, citing cost concerns and management failures that have hampered the Defense Department’s existing espionage efforts.

    A military spending bill approved by the Senate last week contains language barring the Pentagon from using funds to expand its espionage ranks until it has provided more details on what the program will cost and how the extra spies would be used...

    The measure offers a harsh critique of the Pentagon’s espionage record, saying that the Defense Department “needs to demonstrate that it can improve the management of clandestine [human intelligence] before undertaking any further expansion.”

    The longest running D.C. soap opera: As The Bureaucracy Grows.


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