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Links 11/10/10

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The world’s best underwater photographs 2010 Guardian (hat tip reader Sundog)

1,000 tigers ‘killed in a decade‘ BBC

Scientists: Beak deformities increase in Northwest Associated Press (hat tip reader John M)

Bacteria ‘R’ Us Miller McCune (hat tip reader Sundog)

Chromium plume spreads in Calif. town’s water Associated Press (hat tip reader May S)

Any Port in a Storm Robert Cringley (hat tip reader John M)

Mystery missile launch reported off California coast BBC (hat tip reader John M). Fat fingers were supposed to be limited to traders.

Nearly 59 million lack health insurance: CDC Reuters (hat tip reader John M)

Scholar brings economics to life Japan Times (hat tip reader Phil)

Dreaming of a New Edo Era Guy Sorman, Project Syndicate (hat tip reader Sundog)

Greece professors ‘spent £172m EU cash on luxuries’ Evening Standard (hat tip Marshall Auerback). As one wag noted, “I’m sure that will go down well in Germany.”

IMF warns austerity measures may have to be reconsidered Telegraph

Goldman executive fired over violations Financial Times

ABA clarifies role of trustee in securitization Housing Wire. As MBSGuy noted,:

Funny timing for this announcement from the ABA – obviously a reaction to the American Banker article. Also, just like the article, it misses the point of where trustees may have exposure. Seriously, does the ABA really think this statement adds clarity? Are they trying to be dumb or is it just the way they are?

World Bank President: My Words Were Manipulated, I Don’t Support A Return To The Gold Standard Clusterstock. He was deemed the Stupidest Man Alive on the assumption he had, although other readers pointed out he would have plenty of competition.

The NYT Times Has Problems With Arithmetic, Economics and Editorializing Dean Baker

Will You Be Able To Heat Your Home This Winter? Millions Of American Families Will Not Economic Collapse (hat tip reader May S)

Tragedy of the technocrats Steve Waldman

Antidote du jour:

Picture 18

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42 comments

  1. attempter

    Re “…as we freeze to death…”

    Just remember,

    1. the banksters intentionally destroyed our jobs in the first place

    2. while they intentionally drive up the price of food and fuel.

    That would be the same banksters “our” government has stolen trillions from us to bail out.

    So can’t the U.S. federal government just pay for everyone to have heat?

    No, they cannot.

    Sure they can. At will.

    The same way they willed the Bailout.

    The truth is that as millions upon millions of Americans jump on to the “safety net” it is rapidly approaching the breaking point. For example, 42 million Americans are now enrolled in the food stamp program. That is a whole lot of hungry mouths to try to feed every month.

    Not that feeding hungry people should not be a priority. It is just that the U.S. government continues to spend way, way more money than it is bringing in and is basically bankrupt at this point.

    The truth is that anyone who can write this without mentioning the little fact of the trillions in worthless spending the government is doing as we speak is a liar.

    The lie is that the government doesn’t prove every day it can spend as much as it wants on anything it chooses.

    Tell ya what: Let’s end the Bailout, end the wars, cut the Pentagon budget down to rational size, end Big Ag subsidies, end all corporate welfare, and make the rich pay their fair share.

    Let’s take that money and use it for productive and constructive purposes.

    Then we’ll just see how “bankrupt” we really are.

    The truth is that it’s only the elite parasites who are bankrupting us. Get rid of them and all their projects, and we could have universal prosperity. There’s plenty of heat and warmth for everyone.

    All we need to do is purge a few criminals.

    1. DownSouth

      Attempter,

      Here’s
      an interview with Pete Peterson announcing his latest drive to spend $6 million to “educate” Americans.

      While he’s cleaned up his message to eliminate the blatant cognitive dissonance in the budget balancing argument—-that is advocating spending cuts while concomitantly advocating tax cuts for the very rich—-he’s still very much got Social Security in his crosshairs.

      The strategy now seems to be to peel off those Social Security recipients “who don’t need it.” This is truly Orwellian.

      This of course is the first step in changing the perception of Social Security from being a mandatory savings and insurance program for all Americans—-something one pays into during their working years and so deserves the SS benefit upon retirement or becoming disabled—-to being a welfare program. And once that change in perception is accomplished, much of the universal appeal of Social Security will have disappeared. Peterson knows that once that change in perception is accomplished, Social Security will be much easier to kill off.

      1. attempter

        Setting up SS as a universal entitlement rather than a means-tested “welfare” program is one of the things the liberals got right.

        Now of course they’re making up for that with a vengeance, as Obama strives to out-Reagan Reagan with every utterance and every act.

        We need a true, moral austerity movement to counteract the criminals.

        A slogan could run something like,

        Total Austerity For the Criminals, Not One Cent More From the People.

    2. traderjoe

      Why have any taxes at all? Government expenditures/GDP used to be in single digits. The Treasury can issue currency without debt. Shrink the government to 5% of GDP, let communities develop their own safety nets as they already do, and have a stable, debt-free currency with little government intervention for a free and prosperous citizenry – ideally not focused on excessive consumerism.

      1. attempter

        Sounds good to me. Little government intervention means, among other things, no such thing as corporations. And getting rid of taxes means especially all unproductive taxes, so first and foremost all rents.

        Especially all land and resource rents. Productive possession has to be the basis of the dispensation.

        From there we could prosper with practically no “government” beyond the regional level.

  2. craazyman

    Steve Waldman’s thinking and writing is always impressive.

    He adeptly skewers the hapless technocrats who seem to believe economics should be independent of morality, which only results in crack-cocaine dealer style money lending.

    Any economic system — market-based or otherwise — predefines winners and losers by virtue of its institutional structures and incentives. Therein is an implied moral choice, which if conscious at least offers the potential for a counterbalanced identification and remediation of the full scope of its externalities.

    If blind unconscious ideology clogs that perception, we are left to suffer the advantage of the stronger. Which is where we are now. History shows such epochs don’t typically end well.

    1. traderjoe

      I agree that institutional structures predefine winners – which is why mega-corporations have so vastly tilted the world in their favor – but I contend that it would be possible to have an economic structure that prevents – over time – the creation of these institutional structures. The two concepts may be linked, but they are not certain.

    2. DownSouth

      craazyman,

      The underlying problem is that the “technocrats” are not technocrats at all, but stealth ecclesiastics.

      What happened was that the old Christian values were replaced with new values (Values that, as you point out, very clearly favor one social group over another.). But instead of being billed as religious opinions, the new opinions were billed as “natural law” or “science.” Then economists like Milton Friedman go through this elaborate ritual of manufacturing all sorts of distortions, half-truths and outright lies—-“empirical” evidence—-to validate their “science.”

      When people like Friedman are allowed to lie with such impunity, with no consequences or accountability, this sets up a whole new set of problems.

      The predicament is a result of carrying the constructivist critique too far. Paul Boghossian explains:

      At its best—-for instance, in the work of Simone de Beauvoir and Anthony Appiah—-social constructivist thought exposes the contingency of those of our social practices which we had wrongly come to regard as naturally mandated. It does so by relying on the standard canons of good scientific reasoning. It goes astray when it aspires to become a general theory of truth or knowledge.
      –Paul Boghossian, Fear of Knowledge

      A perfect example of constructivist thought going astray is when the economics profession came to the conclusion that morality is one of “our social practices which we had wrongly come to regard as naturally mandated.” (The New Atheists, hailing from the fields of evolutionary biology and psychology, are allied with the economists in this belief.)

      How did this happen? It happened as the result of an assault on truth and knowledge, beginning slowly with Adam Smith and reaching its final crescendo with the Chicago School and such “children of darkness” as Friedman, Gary Becker and Richard Posner (even though someone had a post here on NC the other day that Posner has now recanted).

      What is the cure? Here’s Boghossian again:

      The intuitive view is that there is a way things are that is independent of human opinion, and that we are capable of arriving at belief how things are that is objectively reasonable, binding on anyone capable of appreciating the relevant evidence regardless of their social or cultural perspective. Difficult as these notions may be, it is a mistake to think that recent philosophy has uncovered powerful reasons for rejecting them.

      1. craazyman

        yeah South I see those points. That’s why I acquire most of my knowledge through channeling. Fortunately I don’t channel miserable demons who speak through me in tounges, or some bimbo space alien from the Pleadies with a new age sounding name — although that would interest me. ha ha.

        It amazes me what sorts of demons people will channel. And even worse are the people who really are channeling but don’t know it. They remind me of Roman statues, the big blank-eyed stare.

        One has to be careful, really. Not everything that comes through the channelling door is benevolent. The only real truths it seems to me are ideas that are self-evident to the Gnostic Channeler with half a bottle of wine already down the hatch. As Thomas Jefferson said. Couldn’t have said it better myself. Boghossian calls this the intuitive view. I call it channeling, but it’s the same.

        1. DownSouth

          craazyman,

          When it comes to the behavior of monads, your channeling probably reveals about as much factual reality as what Christianity, classical economic theory or any other religion does.

          When it comes to the behavior of atoms, however, I don’t think that’s true. That’s where your lumping climate scientists together with economists is not justified.

          But even when it comes to the behavior of monads, people cling to simplistic ideologies that fly in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Just scroll down this thread and look at the number who embrace the gold standard as if it were some elixir that will solve all economic afflictions.

          1. craazyman

            South, I think you badly missed my meaning and point of view. I thought I was agreeing with you!

            But I would not lump Christianity, as Jesus taught in the Gospels, with Classical economic theory or any other monad. Jesus himself taught channeling when he said go pray in private and don’t wave your arms around in a church pew and wail and babble like an idiot so that you might gain the favor of fellow men for your piety.

            Yet what was built institutionally in His name bears little if any relationship to what He taught. I think He drank considerable amounts of wine and was married to Mary Magdelene and He might have survived the crucifixion with the help of Joseph of Arimathea and ascended in the Astral body after his physical body sort of dissolved into energy.

            This guy that you quoted gives one angle on the universal Gnostic Christ Consciousness . . .

            “The intuitive view is that there is a way things are that is independent of human opinion, and that we are capable of arriving at belief how things are that is objectively reasonable, binding on anyone capable of appreciating the relevant evidence regardless of their social or cultural perspective.”

            I think that is true. And that there are absolutes. What you call an assault on truth and knowledge is an assault on the validity of “Gnostic Perception gained through Channeling” by means of these constructivist thought systems going astray. They always do when they clog the channel pipelines.

          2. DownSouth

            craazyman,

            I tend to conceive of the spiritual world as being radically different from the material world.

            The purely material world, for instance the way liquids or gasses behave, is the easy stuff. The spiritual world, on the other hand, is much more complex, difficult to describe, and even more difficult to predict.

            Human beings are creatures of both worlds. What affects their spirituality affects their materiality, and what affects their materiality affects their spirituality.

            Economists assume that human beings are material creatures. As such, humans are supposed to be, in the words of Deirdre McCloskey, “calculating machines pursuing Prudence and Price and Profit and Property and Power.” Now I don’t agree with this conception, because it leaves no place in the depth and breadth of human existence and experience for spirituality.

            But let’s say I did agree with that purely material conception of human beings. Then the scientific method that we apply to the material world of liquids or gasses would also apply to human beings, that is if we claim to be scientific materialists. That method requires that an inquiry into the world must think and it must observe, it must theorize and describe, formalize and record. And ultimately, it must predict.

            My objection is that economists like Milton Friedman fail miserably at the first part—-observing, describing and recording. And if one fails the first part, then the second part—-thinking, theorizing and formalizing—-is impossible, not to mention the final part, predicting.

            So these guys like Friedman fail on their own scientific materialistic criteria, without even delving into the inner world of spirituality.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Nah, you know, a name is just a name and Hemingway by any other name is still Hemingway, according to Shakespeare.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          What’s in a name? Economics by any other name is still faith-based voodoo magic.

          I was going to write that, but decided against it.

          1. craazyman

            seriously Prime, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve read Big Two-Hearted River or Indian Camp or The Battler or any of them. Probably over 100 times, honest, until the pages themselves fell out. The words never got old or worn. Each time through, they just shined, undiminished, like great art always does. I never cared for the Hemingway myth. The words were so pure and so clear. That was all that mattered to me. The myth was a monstrosity.

  3. Maju

    I think that the collapse of the housing bubble is what should concern the less to economists everywhere: if hose prices go down, life becomes cheaper and salaries can also go down (or not hike up) easier.

    It is the housing bubble (soaring prices) what is mostly driving the lack of competitiveness in many countries, so regardless of what banks and real state speculators can lose (“it’s just money” and they have it well deserved anyhow, as happen with all involved in pyramidal schemes).

    The focus of the economical measures must change from protecting financial institutions (a trivial pursuit) to protecting the real economy and favoring new demand. For that there’s nothing better than a real state slump, as it what drives the cost of life more than anything else.

    States are not (or should not) be there to protect the banks but to protect the citizens and secure a healthy economy. If a bank has troubles it should be nationalized or let succumb, but never ever bailed out.

    1. traderjoe

      True…the reason the economists care the most about the banks is because that is who pays them for research, funds universities, etc., etc.

      The banks have the fanciest buildings for companies with no factories, no products produced, etc. Why? It’s pretty darn profitable to be able to create money out of thin air, and charge people for the privilege of doing so.

  4. Jim Haygood

    ‘[Robert Zoellick] was deemed the Stupidest Man Alive on the assumption he had [advocated a return to the gold standard].’

    By whom, pray tell? Zoellick is the only American official I’m aware of who’s even contributed a thought about designing a post-Bretton Woods II monetary regime.

    The Stupidest Man Alive, without question, is Bozo Ben Bernanke — the evil clown inflationist with his QE2 Dollar Destruction Program.

    Eighteenth-century French peasants — the folks who kept gold stuffed in their woolen socks during the Johnny Law paper money regime — were at least smart enough to identify their real enemy. They fought the Law and the … Law lost!

    Twenty-first century Americans, by contrast, are deracinated lemmings cheerfully following Chairman Bensane over the cliff. Which raises the serious possibility of negative returns to higher education, as PhD Econs seem to be the fount of the contemporary reign of ignorance.

    1. spectator

      Well said. So few seem to realize how much of the root cause of our ills are due to corruption of the money system. Politicians and bureaucrats can be trusted to funnel money to themselves and their paymaster elites every time.

    2. poopyjim

      ‘By whom, pray tell?’

      By Yves, most likely. I’ve noticed a distinctly anti-gold slant on this site for a while now.

      I agree 100% with your comments. I don’t see how gold is in a bubble, or why a return honest money would necessarily be a bad thing. Where else can you put your money right now?

      Real estate? In a (dying) bubble, and due to fraud who knows if you’ll even have good title.

      Equities? Highly manipulated by the primary dealers, the Fed, HFT algorithms, and in a bubble.

      Bonds and/or the dollar? Rapidly being destroyed by the Fed – see QE2 (quite possibly it will then be QE3, QE4… QEn and onwards to hyperinflation).

      The fundamentals are all there for gold. Paper promises cannot be trusted. Fraud is epidemic in the US banking system, which has co-opted the government. We have raving psychopath Benny in the Fed who thinks he can print his way out of all our problems. We have increasingly discontented trading partners calling for an end of the dollar as a reserve currency (with many clamoring for the at least partial return of gold for this function). Further, we have an incredible amount debt in the US, both public and private, which cannot be repaid in real terms, and must either be (hyper)inflated away or defaulted on. And lastly, the prices of precious metals are being illegally manipulated downwards by the likes of JP Morgan, and the ratio of paper gold to real gold in existence is something like 50:1. Someday, this levy will break and that can only be good for anyone with real physical gold (or silver).

      Am I missing anything?

      1. attempter

        As deflation definitively sets in, a gold standard would be used by the banksters to accelerate deflation even beyond its “natural” process, in order to more effectively impose debt indenture and strangulation.

        That’s how the gold standard was previously used, even in times of real growth – to artificially constrict the money supply among participants in the real economy, to force them into debt.

        But whether it’s a time of real inflation or real deflation, the gold standard is used the same way, as a depressant and control over the non-finance sectors and especially the non-rich.

    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      What is the difference between QE2 and the Titanic?

      The Titanic was sunk by an iceberg.

      QE2 sank a currency.

  5. DownSouth

    Re: “The world’s best underwater photographs” 2010 Guardian (hat tip reader Sundog)

    Now scroll down to the pictures provided in this article—-the ones entitled “Coral suffering near Gulf oil spill site”—-and see how they compare.

  6. felony eavesdropping

    That would be great if GPS got destroyed, then the government couldn’t use your mobile phone as a always-on tracking device.

  7. aliena

    re Scholar brings economics to life Japan Times

    “Even more worrisome is the fact that much of the money the government has poured into economic stimulus measures has gone into public-works projects — mostly financed by borrowing from future generations.

    Consequently, with its national debt currently around ¥900 trillion, nearly double its annual gross domestic product (GDP), Japan is at risk of defaulting at any time.

    That risk would become even more acute if interest rates — kept close to zero through years of monetary easing by the Bank of Japan — were ever to rise significantly.”

    uh?
    This is utter BS, Yves, I am sorry :/

  8. S Brennan

    Physicist Michio Kaku of the City University of New York, is clueless when he says, “rockets move in a straight line”.

    Intercept missiles would hit nothing if this were true, hopefully he’s not teaching impressionable minds.

    Here:

    http://www.army-technology.com/projects/thaad/thaad3.html

    is a THAAD intercept missile at launch, note the “corkscrew” manuver at launch..

    QED Kaku is koo koo

    1. Ted K

      FT is largely crap. That c*nt Ishmael is probably still trying to explain to people that CDS are not “insurance”. Why doesn’t she just put “bought and paid for by banks” on her caboose???

  9. Ted K

    I’ve never seen a better example of idiocy from the media and/or public. It’s a freaking jet stream at sunset time, and “NO!!!” as they dissipate (and viewed at odd angles miles away) they don’t follow the exact prior trajectory of the jet.
    F*cking “DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUHH” People!!!!!!!!!

    Damn, can you people grow up??? And “no”, just because you got a hang nail after the psychic told in the mobile trailer park you something bad was going to happen in your life in the near future does not mean sh*t.

  10. bmeisen

    Bloomberg gives us details on how much private universities are spending on their students:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-11-10/executives-collect-2-billion-running-for-profit-colleges-on-taxpayer-dime.html

    Apollo/University of Phoenix spend 2.1 billion according to a spokeswoman, and they have 470,000 students. That’s less than 4500 per student. They pay management millions so they seem to be charging a substantial mark-up. WEaves nicely with the NYTimes report on private universities, the announcement from UCal that they are increasing tuition by about 15%, and the violent student protests in GB.

  11. aletheia33

    apropos of naked capitalism’s general focus: i couldn’t believe the definition in this study description of “thinking like an economist”–can this be what that really means:

    “a provocative new paper claims that people with higher intelligence are more likely to think like economists. That is, they’re more likely to be optimistic about the economy; to recognise the economic advantages of markets free from government interference, and the advantages of foreign trade and foreign workers; and to appreciate the economic benefits of achieving greater productivity with less man-power. The lead author is Bryan Caplan, an economics professor at George Mason University. Past essays by him include ‘The 4 Boneheaded Biases of Stupid Voters (And we’re all stupid voters.)’”

    what is with this???

    http://bps-research-digest.blogspot.com/2010/11/higher-intelligence-associated-with.html

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