Links 1/23/11

Prairie dogs have a language all of their own and ‘can describe what humans look like’ Daily Mail (hat tip reader May S)

Two forms of world’s ‘newest’ cat, the Sunda leopard BBC (hat tip reader John M)

Bye Bye Blackbird: USDA acknowledges a hand in one mass bird death Christian Science Monitor (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Yellowstone Has Bulged as Magma Pocket Swells National Geographic (hat tip reader John M). So why no disaster movie about this yet?

World is ‘one poor harvest’ from chaos, new book warns Independent (hat tip reader May S)

Press Release – FAA Announces Record Number of Laser Events in 2010 Federal Aviation Administration

Former Spy With Agenda Operates a Private C.I.A. New York Times

Relatives of Pakistani Drone Victims to Sue CIA Der Spiegel (hat tip reader May S)

BP and makers of iPod in line for ‘shame’ awards Independent. The Global Financial Crisis killed more people than Foxconn has (think of suicides, retirees who lost enough money that they cut back on their meds), so why aren’t any big banks on the list? Ah, the advantage of financial chicanery is it’s harder to pin the bad outcomes directly on specific perps.

BP victim fund is ‘inaccurate and misleading’ Telegraph

Major reforms needed, says banking inquiry head BBC

Ireland’s property entrepreneurs relinquish their London trophies Guardian

The Volcker Rule Study: Key Takeaways Economics of Contempt

Number of the Week: Americans Dipping Into Savings WSJ Real Time Economics

“Competitiveness” Mark Thoma

GOP’s State of the Union Responder Would Set Higher Taxes on Middle-Class Than Millionaires TruthOut (hat tip reader May S)

Antidote du jour:

Screen shot 2011-01-23 at 5.15.01 AM

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59 comments

  1. attempter

    Re food chaos:

    This description of the food crisis we face is harrowing enough in itself, although it evades discussion of the main threat to our food, corporate domination. (Similarly, Brown characteristically calls for big government actions which don’t touch the main problem and in practice would only be hijacked by corporatism, as we’ve seen with all cap-and-trade legislation.)

    Put it all together and we see clearly what are our absolute, clear and present imperatives, to:

    1. End all food commodity speculation, which is nothing more or less than a crime against humanity.

    2. Break corporate power over our food in general.

    3. All these resource and environmental crises dictate that we’ll need many millions of new small farmers and growers. And hundreds of millions more must have Victory Gardens.

    4. This is the only option for maintaining sufficient food production. It’s already proven that smaller scale organic agriculture is more productive than industrial monoculture:

    http://www.mindfully.org/Farm/Small-Farm-Benefits-Rosset.htm

    This will only become more true post-Peak Oil:

    http://www.fromthewilderness.com/free/ww3/100303_eating_oil.html

    5. It’s also the only option for redeeming our economy. It’s the only basis for building an economy of full employment and maximal self-employment.

    Then that could serve as the basis for the true redemption of democracy, economic and political.

    6. But to do any of that we need the land. We can start by recognizing as societies that the banks have forfeit ALL land rights. “REO” is a contradiction in terms, morally and according to any human law. The growing Land Scandal can be one avenue of political transformation here.

    1. wunsacon

      >> 1. End all food commodity speculation, which is nothing more or less than a crime against humanity.

      I’m not speculating and I’m not committing a crime against humanity. I trust no other “investment” to put my money. The Fed is absolutely devaluing the money I’ve saved throughout my working life. I’m protecting my capital.

      Do you insist I buy bonds in insolvent governments? Do you insist I buy stocks from insiders who picked up their shares for free and are selling at a frenetic pace? Do you insist I hold cash and watch as its value erodes? I had hoped to use my cash as a substantial down payment to buy a home but the government has stepped in to keep house prices high. (That helped the majority of Americans — who own their homes — but it screws conservative renters like me.)

      So, where does this all leave me? I have nowhere else to put my money. Nothing else I “believe in”.

      Crime against humanity? Letting Mozilo walk. Or bailing out our plutocracy and not raising their taxes. Or killing Afghan and Pakistani civilians. Now, we’re talking crimes.

      1. Deus-DJ

        Technically speaking the Fed is not devaluing your money. Your irrational fear of a coming hyperinflation is borne of a misunderstanding due to a group-thinking frenzy among institutional investors with irrational fears of inflation.

        Also technically speaking, you could have parked your money into equities.

        I’m not willing to go as far as to say commodities futures markets should be done away with, but certainly the government should have it’s own account and manipulate it(or threaten to) when it’s being used as a vehicle for asset diversification, or when there is a completely irrational hysteria like there was with oil going above $100. Bottom line: if one cannot justify oil at a certain price(based on supply/demand fundamentals, and given a PROPER discount rate for future demand or supply), then it is too high…period. Commodity speculation on the market right now IS ANTI-humanity at the moment, and the BS excuse like the one you just gave does not change that.

        1. wunsacon

          >> Technically speaking the Fed is not devaluing your money.

          Yes, they are. Perhaps you failed to notice the government/Fed-engineered bounce in house prices (instead of letting them seek a price level about 20-30% down from here), the double in oil/food back to 2007 levels, and the absence of any interest on cash.

          >> Your irrational fear of a coming hyperinflation is borne of a misunderstanding due to a group-thinking frenzy among institutional investors with irrational fears of inflation.

          Really? Are my observations above “irrational”? And what “coming” hyperinflation do you think I’m worried about that we haven’t already been seeing?

      2. Karen

        Like you, I have a nest egg I am very worried about. But just as, not that long ago, oil futures trading drove the price we all paid for gas above $4/gallon for a while, I think the recent bidding-up of other commodities in the futures markets will cause a similar real-world effect in the near future – only if the item is a staple food item for millions of the world’s poorest people, the result will be people starving.

        I think, morally, those starving people trump your and my nest-egg shrinkage problem, so people like us – and, more importantly, people like hedge fund managers and investment-bank proprietary traders – should not be allowed to treat basic food staples as investments. We should buy what we need for our own nutritional needs, and invest our money elsewhere. I have no problem with caviar futures markets.

        1. wunsacon

          >> I think, morally, those starving people trump your and my nest-egg shrinkage problem

          Morally, we should:
          – stop burning our food for fuel
          – raise taxes on the top 1% from their multi-generation lows
          – stop devaluing my savings to bail out everyone else

      3. attempter

        I can’t tell if you mean you’re in a fund that preys on food, or that you directly do it. I’m more focused on the bankster and speculator than the pension holder. But in the end, yes, if the money hoard is used to commit crimes, those who participate in it are also implicated.

        The system is criminal. We all know that. The fact that it’s done all it can to conscript all of us in so many ways doesn’t absolve us of the obligation to do whatever we can to at least withdraw our support and participation.

        In the end, Move Your Money is a moral imperative as well.

        There’s also the practical fact that believing in these banksters to maintain the value of any small-time investment at all is a vain faith. Look at how aggressively they’re liquidating every union pension. I’d like to ask all the “first they came for the unions..” types, do you really think they aren’t going to liquidate all your middle class-type retirement funds as well? Your IRAs and 401(k)s and such? They’ve expressed their intent to liquidate Social Security itself!

        And as you say, they manipulate money in a way favorable to the banksters. Anyone who’s not rich who thinks he’s going to play this game as well as the system does is delusional.

        So it’s clear that we need to get our money out of the system and into our own communities. What’s a good investment today? Only one thing – local land, local politics, local business, local people. If enough people invest well in our communities, we can protect our communities and ourselves from the scourge.

        One piece of investment advice I think I can guarantee is that neither your money nor any other aspect of your life is safe with Wall Street and Washington.

    2. Deus-DJ

      attempter,

      I just read the article, and it’s unfortunate that you attack the futures market when it has nothing to do with it. The article and book is focused purely on on the supply of food. Thomas Malthus and the 30th day(lilypad growth) are coming back to haunt us until we do something.

      1. attempter

        I know the article wasn’t about that. That was one of the points of my comment, to criticize the article for not dealing with it. As I said, that’s the great failure of articles like that, and I assume the book as well. As is, the article’s at least objectively a whitewash.

        I started with the fact that as of today there’s no food supply shortage whatsoever. I said we already have a severe artificial food shortage, intentionally generated by criminals. It’s an example of what capitalism always does: Take productive plenty, steal the produce from those who produced it, generate artificial scarcity and therefore high rents, and then sell the stolen property back to the robbery victims at these jacked-up prices. I said this is especially criminal where it comes to food.

        So then I said any actual food supply shortage caused by resource depletion or climate change (and most of all fossil fuel depletion) will only exacerbate this intentionally generated artificial shortage.

        So it follows that if actual shortages loom, it’s imperative that we purge the artificial shortages immediately. So the first thing we need to do is end food commodity speculation. That has to be a preliminary goal of any transformational movement. So does creating millions of new small farmers using organic smallholder methods which are proven to be more productive than corporate monocropping.

        Only the enshrinement of Food Sovereignty as the first principle of civilization can help us face any actual food shortages which we face on account of Peak Oil and the environmental devastation whose delayed effects will soon be affliciting us.

        1. wunsacon

          >> I said we already have a severe artificial food shortage

          Yes, we burn some of our food for fuel to drive Hummers and low mpg cars.

        2. skippy

          In defense of your argument and substance, my wife was going to the Solomon Islands to do relief work (on her own dime but it was short notice, next time) ie: bad pregnancy out comes due to eating habits an a end of the line economy due to extraction overload…cough…looting…unable to operate health facility’s. The old we take your stuff and build you a few civic facility’s that you’ll never be able to upkeep once were done.

          It seems that due to processed foods (Asian, American, Euro) becoming a social affluence thingy (act like the economic imperialists) the mothers are not getting enough vitamin A or foliate. Now there is an Australian horticulturist (can’t remember the name, sorry mate) that has been back and forth for over 20 years, that is now assisting villages in re-learning how to grow sweet potatoes (many variety’s) and other traditional food stuffs to remedy this totally avoidable occurrence.

          Skippy…reminds me of the skin whitening products sold in African city’s to the indigenous business women or affluent circa 70s and 80s. Boggles the mind, to want to look like…your oppressor.

          PS. do you remember how to make fire, like your ancestors.

          1. attempter

            Thanks for the example, Skippy. Yet the neoliberals would have us believe the peasants of the Global South are all now landholders at a permanent feast.

            (But Vitamin A? Didn’t all those people with their annoying nutritional requirements get the word that Golden Rice is going to save us all? Any day now…)

    3. Paul Repstock

      Attempter and I disagree greatly on this one.

      The commodity markets have become such a corrupted mess that they will be difficult to repair.

      Here are a few of my thoughts:
      1) Place the control of each market segment in the hands of boards made up equally of producers and distributors. (Governments are not sufficiently unbiased).
      2) Discard the abomination of the corporation as a person. If corporations were really people they would be personally liable, which in the present state they are not.
      3) Allow speculation only as it was originally intended eg. An intermediary between the producers and the consumer/distributors.
      4) Limit speculative trade to a trailing average three years production. (in some commodities we now trade ten years production, or more.)
      5) Prohibit financial institutions from trading in commodities. (Banks should not be allowed to have a vested interest in the failure of their financial clients.)
      6) Prohibit Exchanges from manipulating markets by codifying all position limits, margin requirements and contract specifications.
      7) Prohibit open markets in any commodity of which the government wishes to trade more than 10% of the annual production. (The commodity markets should not be a tool of government policy.)
      8) In case of a National Emergency, all markets should be frozen and all trades rolled back to the time of occurrence of said emergency.
      9) Conviction for the crime of conspiring to control or manipulate a market should bear an immediate penalty of a lifetime trading ban, plus restitution of all gains there from.

      That should be enough for a good start. Open trading markets are useful tools in a complex system. Without commodity markets (specially in food) the prices would be very volatile. Bad crop years would leave many unable to buy basic supplies, and bumper crops could bankrupt many producers.

      1. attempter

        I never said anything about legitimate hedging by those who actually make and take delivery.

        But you do seem, for unexplained reasons, to still want to let gratuitous parasites into the process. If we got to the point where we were in a position to abolish corporate personhood and ban banks from commodity speculation, why wouldn’t we be in a position to go much further, and set up something like the Farmers’ Alliance subtreasury plan?

        1. Paul Repstock

          I truly resent being cast as a “gratutitous parasite”. Have you ever traded a commodities market? Do you know ho they work and why?

          Functioning commodities markets (and speculators) allow for the creation and storage of surplusses, not shortages. There needs to be a pool of ‘capital’ available to reduce the risks to both producers and consumers.

          Btw. perhaps you should not rely on that Phiffer piece so much. I didn’t mention it before, but it is so full of holes it could be sold as Swiss cheese. eg. By his ‘facts’ the deisel required to make the fertilizer would cost more than I would be paying for the fertilizer? And the average American eats 6 pounds of food per day??

          1. attempter

            I’m sorry, Paul. I didn’t know you were a finance middleman.

            Why would producers and consumers ever need such in order to store food reserves? People were doing that for themselves for thousands of years before capitalism came along. I can’t think of any reason whatsoever other than the criminal barriers set up by capitalism itself why we can’t do it for ourselves today.

  2. Max424

    Who is that staring out into the icy void, Rachel and Big Ed?

    Maddow and Schultz, shivering, commiserating; meditating on the possibility that they may next up on the NBC?… ah… MSNBC!… ah… NBC/Universal!… um…Obama/Immelt?… um… GE?… ah… Comcast!… ah… um, d+mn; somebody’s chopping block.

  3. Unusual Plant

    In response to this question: Yellowstone Has Bulged as Magma Pocket Swells National Geographic (hat tip reader John M). So why no disaster movie about this yet?

    It’s already been made:

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0419372/

    “Supervolcano”

    Cheers… and thanks for the great site.

  4. DownSouth

    Re: “Former Spy With Agenda Operates a Private C.I.A.” New York Times

    This is great stuff.

    What we have here is the clash between the once dominant Machiavellian school, symbolized by Henry Kissinger, and the now dominant neoconservative school, symbolized by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and thrust into dominance by George W. Bush (Bush II) and Barak Obama.

    I actually find the old Machiavelli school preferable. We didn’t have to endure the insufferable hypocrisy of how we are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan to “spread democracy.” Instead, according to the Machiavellian school from which Clarridge hails, we are there to promote and protect our interests.

    “We are going to protect ourselves, and we are going to go on protecting ourselves because we end up protecting all of you,” Clarridge forcefully asserts in the interview cited by the NY Times. “And let’s not forget that. We will intervene when we decide it’s in our national security interests [read economic interests] to intervene, and if you don’t like it, lump it.”

    This is a reiteration of Colonel Nathan R. Jessep’s speech from the movie A Few Good Men. In comparison to Jack Nicholson, Clarridge is of course lacking in his delivery, but the message is the same.

    Several assumptions must be true in order for Clarridge’s and Jessep’s assertions to hold up:

    1) Neo-imperialism pays dividends.

    2) Those dividends are distributed amongst all denizens of the empire.

    3) The denizens of the empire enjoy greater freedom due to the neo-imperial enterprise.

    My personal reading is that Clarridge has fallen victim to the “modern” focus on the universal, the general, and the timeless. If we search our history books, we can indeed find instances where all three of the above conditions have been met under imperial regimes. Perhaps the most striking example is when Augustus ended “democracy” in ancient Rome in 27 B.C. and restored monarchy. What followed was a huge geographical expansion of the Roman Empire (see map on Augustus link). As Will and Ariel Durant put it in The Lessons of History, “Augustus organized, under what in effect was monarchical rule, the greatest achievement in the history of statesmanship—-that Pax Romana which maintained peace from 30 B.C. to A.D. 180 throughout an empire ranging from the Atlantic to the Euphrates and from Scotland to the Black Sea.” “If,” said Gibbon, “a man were called upon to fix the period during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous, he would without hesitation name that which elapsed from the accession of Nerva to the death of Marcus Aurelius. Their united reigns are possibly the only period of history in which the happiness of a great people was the sole object of government.”

    Of course Gibbons completely ignores the plight of subject races like the Jews. But this is of no relevance to Machiavellian theorists who concern themselves, as Gibbon put it, solely with “the happiness of a great people.”

    But is the example provided by the Pax Romana general, universal and timeless? Does empire always work to maximize “the happiness of a great people,” as Gibbons puts it?

    I believe history provides numerous examples of where it does not. Imperial Spain beginning in the second half of the 16th century is a prime example. The imperial ambitions of the Hapsburgs were frustrated on both fronts: the war against the Muslims in northern Africa and the war against the Protestant Heretics in northern Europe. Meanwhile, the Dutch and the English, along with the demographic disaster in the Mexico due to overwork and starvation of the Indians, were driving the nails into the coffin of Spain’s immensely profitable imperial enterprise in the New World. Spain, despite the fact it was by far the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the world, could not sustain the unbridled imperial ambitions of the Hapsburgs. As Carlos Fuentes put it, it became “a poor empire, debt-ridden, incapable of solving its internal problems while insistent on playing an imperial role overseas, but begging alms from other, surplus-wealthy nations in order to finance its expensive role as a world policeman.”

    Individual freedoms of the Spanish also suffered immensely. As Christian Duverger wrote in Agua y Fuego:

    King Phillip II, son of Carlos V, imposed in America a hard colonial line: economic dependence, Hispanicization, massive supervision. The 25th of January, 1569 the Spanish monarch signed an order instituting the Inquisition in Lima and in Mexico. All those who up until then had managed to flee the intolerance oo post-Isabellan Castile are persecuted to the end of the earth and captured.

    So, does the United States now find itself in the position of Rome in 27 B.C., or Spain in 1575?

    Persons like Clarridge can answer this question with certainty. Their doctrine, which transforms the particular, the timely and the local (the Pax Romana) into the general, the universal and the timeless, leaves no doubt: the United States is the next Pax Romana.

    1. Paul Repstock

      Hmmm. Thanks for the nice historical perspective. An area sadly lack knowlege.

      But, I feel persons like Mr. Clarridge are even less reliable and more dangerous than regular spies. They are symptomatic of a bloated organism which has begun making ar against itself. In a shado world like this nearly all information is suspect. When private (for hire) entities are allowed to opperate the situation worsens. Almost anything can be proven given the right parameters. And people like Clarridge are not accountable for methodes or veracity. Were not the WMD enough of a wake up?

    2. Jimbo

      One final thought. With respect to the Inquisition in the Americas, is that the reason why so many Spanish Jews fled Mexico City to Monterrey? I’ve never understood why ANY colonist would have voluntarily left the Mexico City area to what is essentially a desert up north, unless they were forced to move.

      1. DownSouth

        Jimbo,

        I didn’t know that, but according to Wikipedia you are correct. Monterrey was founded by the Carbajal family, who were crypto-Jews fleeing the Catholic hierarchy:

        Los cripto-judíos provenientes del sur de España, entre ellos la familia Carbajal, que al ser descubiertos por la autoridades de la jerarquía católica deciden inmigrar al norte de la Nueva España donde fundaron la ciudad de Monterrey.

        But the flight to the north evidently didn’t offer much protection from the inquisition, as Doña Isabel de Carbajal was executed when she was discovered practicing her religion:

        Una de las muchas tragedias contadas por esta comunidad es el martirio de Doña Isabel de Carbajal, juzgada por denominarse a sí misma practicante del judaísmo ante el Santo Oficio.

        1. Jimbo

          That’s interesting. My Mom and Dad hail from Nuevo Leon, and I’ve always suspected that if I traced my family lineage, I would be Jewish (I was raised Catholic). I first suspected this when I researched a game a grew up with, Tomo Todo.

          http://www.library.pima.gov/librarianfiles/?kbid=1228

          Regrettably, in Nuevo Leon, many had to foresake their Jewish faith in exchange for being allowed to live.

  5. Riggsveda

    “Yellowstone Has Bulged as Magma Pocket Swells National Geographic (hat tip reader John M). So why no disaster movie about this yet?”

    Check out “2012”.

  6. Elliot X

    Re: Relatives of Pakistani Drone Victims to Sue CIA

    from the article: “Almost every day, people in the Pakistani region of Waziristan are killed or seriously injured by drone attacks carried out by the CIA…..The reports only ever mention that “terrorists,” “militants” and “extremists” are killed, never civilians.”

    And yet even a “senior adviser” to General Petraeus has admitted that 98 percent of the people being killed by Obama’s drones are civilians.

    Considering how these type of attacks have nearly quadrupled under Obama, how long before the USA gets its own domestic version of the predator drone? And from sea to shining sea, not just patrolling the borders of Texas and Arizona. After all, it’s common knowledge that the American people are not sufficiently conformist. Gotta keep the people in line, keep them from getting any funny ideas, such as “All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights….” or any other such anti-elitist non-sense.

    And what better way to achieve this than by using predator drones on the civilian population?

    “No hour day or night was exempt from helicopter visits,” (the narrator says about the late sixties), “though this was still back in the infancy of overhead surveillance.” –
    Thomas Pynchon “Vineland”

    1. DownSouth

      This from the article I also found interesting because it is consistent with one of Adam Curtis’ claims in The Power of Nightmares:

      A second front has unexpectedly opened up: Extremists in Waziristan are now threatening the plaintiffs. The militants have long learned to cope with the rocket attacks: Many live in caves, rarely travel by car and regularly change their location.

      The militants profit in a gruesome way from the drone missions. After each attack in which innocent civilians die, they win over some of the relatives as supporters — with a few even volunteering for suicide attacks.

      According to Curtis, Osama bin Laden and the neocons are twins, each wearing a different hat.

      It sort of reminds me of something Robert Hughes wrote in Culture of Complaint:

      Somewhere along the line the obvious fact that rap and hip-hop are not the agents of a desired or feared apocalypse, that they are just another entertainment fashion, gets lost. And it is lost because one side needs the other, so that each can inflate its agenda into a chiliastic battle for the soul of America. Radical academic and cultural conservative are now locked in a full-blown, mutually sustaining folie à deux, and the only person each dislikes more than the other is the one who tells both to lighten up.

      1. Elliot X

        “The militants profit in a gruesome way from the drone missions. After each attack in which innocent civilians die, they win over some of the relatives as supporters — with a few even volunteering for suicide attacks.”

        Assuming that a majority of those targeted were not “terrorists” before the drone attacks, this pretty much guarantees that, if nothing else, they will become enemies of the USA after seeing their friends and relatives get killed.

        And thanks for that link to the Adam Curtis film, I’ll watch it as soon as I have a chance. Also, strange that you should mention Robert Hughes, as I’m in the process of reading his book on “Goya”, and it’s fantastic.

      2. Jim Haygood

        Meanwhile, these drone-attack war crimes are sold to a credulous populace with the claim that they will actually make them safer, despite the obvious incentive for blowback from aggrieved noncombatants who’ve had their families pulverized.

        Here’s the unadulterated version of the preposterous pitch, straight from a decorated veteran of firefights with the Taliban in Kandahar:

        “I do what I do because I believe in the country that we live in. I believe we are making a difference in stemming the flow of terrorism into Australia. I want my children to be able to live as everyone does now without the fear of getting on a bus and having it blow up.”

        http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/onthefrontline/8276998/Victoria-Cross-for-Australian-soldier-who-saved-his-platoon-by-charging-into-a-hail-of-bullets.html

        Yur, right, mate! Somehow colonial Australia gets itself involved in every colonialist war on the planet: Vietnam — check; Iraq (thanks to the ghastly John Howard) — check; and now Afghanistan — check! Hard to believe insurgents in these remote Asian outposts had even heard of the antipodal subcontinent. But they have now, I reckon …

  7. DownSouth

    Re: “Relatives of Pakistani Drone Victims to Sue CIA” Der Spiegel (hat tip reader May S)

    It’s amazing how insurgents, Taliban fighters, foreigners who came to Afghanistan and Pakistan to aid in the fight first against Russian and later against American invaders, along with innocent civilians can, with a single wave of Obama’s magic wand, all be magically transformed into “terrorists.”

    Powerful myths are necessary to justify the murder of innocent civilians.

    Adam Curtis, in his film The Power of Nightmares, explains how such a powerful myth came into being in the United States. It begins at minute 9:30 on “Part Three” of the series which can be found here.

    It’s quite an eye opener because it exposes the fictions that Obama trades in.

    Leaders like Obama engage in myth-making and the murder of innocent civilians, as well as witch hunts against American citizens, because it enhances their own personal power.

    1. Paul Repstock

      Down South, those are the same ‘onmipotent’ fictions manufactued by every elitist culture from the Chinese and the Egyptians to 1960’s America. When pure empire building megalomania fades into materialism it carries a residue of insecurity and fear of retribution. I think that is when anything can be justified.

      1. DownSouth

        Paul,

        True. But up until the Enlightenment, weren’t the “omnipotent” fictions other-worldly? And as such, they were impossible to disprove.

        Obama, because the fictions he trades in are this-worldly, doesn’t have that luxury. It’s not that difficult to expose the falsity of his lies.

        What boggles my mind is the sheer number of people who believe in what are so obviously myths, and can be convinced to self-sacrifice for them. It seems to make little difference whether they are secular or supernatural. Could this be an immutable trait of human nature? Or can we as a species evolve beyond this?

        1. colinc

          … the sheer number of people who believe in what are so obviously myths, and can be convinced to self-sacrifice for them.

          Aye, there’s the rub! I, too, am incessantly “fascinated” by the widespread exhibition of irrationality. However, what I find even more troubling is how few endeavor to question/expose those myths when expressed aloud.

          Or can we as a species evolve beyond this?

          Through my “well-worn” eyes it appears doubtful. Alas I am without quotable references, but I’m fairly confident that, over all of the 3+ billion years of life on this rock, there have been more than a few species which encountered their terminus due to a “flawed selection.” That is, I do not think there is any “universal impetus” that directs or dictates that the evolutionary process necessarily results in a “better” or “more-fit” life-form. Perhaps we’re witnessing such a “correction” now. I always “enjoy” your commentary, sir.

    2. Elliot X

      DownSouth: “Powerful myths are necessary to justify the murder of innocent civilians.”

      According to Chris Floyd’s Empire Burlesque blog, at approximately the same time that Obama consoled the nation after the shootings in Arizona, his agents had just killed another four innocent civilians in the illegal war in Pakistan.

      Chris Floyd goes on to write:

      “But of course this contrast remained totally obscured. Instead, the media was saturated with bipartisan praise for Obama’s heavenly puddles and “transcendent” rhetoric about “aligning our actions with our values” and measuring our lives by “how well we have loved and what small part we have played in making the lives of others better.” Naturally, in the midst of so much self-congratulatory afflatus, there was not much room for a short story from the Associated Press noting that Wednesday saw yet another attack by American drone missiles on a remote village in Pakistan…..”

        1. Elliot X

          Paul,

          You make a good point about them being non-Christian, also in response to DownSouth’s comment about the “sheer number of people who believe in what are so obviously myths”.

          It’s not often discussed on this blog (at least to my knowledge), as it would be getting off topic, but obviously organized religion plays a huge role in preserving the status quo as this prevents many people from even so much as questioning the wars or liberal capitalism.

          I know this is the case with my own family and many of my relatives. Even questioning the war or liberal capitalism would be considered by many of them to be anti-Christian, and therefore evil.

          And if people won’t even ask themselves if the wars are really necessary or if our form capitalism is really the best system, then how on earth are they going to see signs of kleptocracy or the warning signs of fascism? They’ll never see any of this as long as they believe that our leaders are basically honest and well-intentioned and therefore whatever happens must be part of God’s Will.

          Because it’s not like our leaders are going to hold up a big sign announcing that this is the age of kleptocracy and next it will be the age of fascism, people are going to have to figure this out for themselves.

          1. Paul Repstock

            Weeeelll..Christianity does come up occasionally, sometimes obliquely..
            A former poster Fbeard used to mention religious aspects of money frequently, but hasn’t posted much lately. It has been mentioned in relation to work ethic and other things.

            However, I think few are willing to really climb down into the trenches and recognise the “Holy War” aspects.

            Here is an amusing and enlightening sunday read for you. It describes all of us at one time or other in varying degrees.

            http://www.dailykos.com/story/2007/1/20/153011/840

        2. Elliot X

          Thanks for the article.

          And I understand that a forum like this would not work very well if it came down to believers versus non-believers talking past each other.

      1. Paul Repstock

        There is a socio-economic aspect which I am not here to critisize, but must be recognized.

        Peacetime malitary forces, those found between global conflicts, contain members with a variety of motivations. You have some shootem-up rambo types, some political nutjobs, but the majority are ordinary folk who are enlisted for economic reasons.

        Except for those few who might be psycopaths, these people when confronted with the ugly realities of warfare as directed by distant masters, must find ways of justifying their ,by now involuntary, participation in killing fellow human beings. I believe most of the survivors do this by building an extreme patriotic position in their minds.

        I said ‘survivors’, because though it is not publicized much, there are large numbers of desertions and a high incdence of suicide. I would guess that these are mostly caused by the moral dillema the combat situation presents modern people.

        1. Elliot X

          There is no question that the working class in America has been beaten down and that the vast majority of enlisted men and women fighting these wars in Iraq, Afghanistan (and now Pakistan) are from poor or working class backgrounds. To call it a “voluntary army” is just another form of hypocrisy when the choice in many cases was between the military or minimum wage at places like Walmart or McDonald’s. What it comes down to is unacknowledged class warfare.

          Meanwhile people who consider themselves liberals continue to listen to NPR and to hang out at Starbucks ordering things like doppio espresso macchiatos or “Tall, non fat, hold the whip, easy ice mocha frap with extra caramel blended.” (And I’m not making this up.)

          1. Larry Elasmo

            Excellent. This gives me a chance to indulge in my favorite sport: bashing pretentious liberals (but from the left).

            And while these liberal yuppies are ordering their grande iced half caf triple mocha latte macchiatos, they’re carrying a Diane von Furstenberg designed Team Pelosi Tote Bag which retails for $65.00.

            Seriously, I just found this over at the “stop me before I vote again” blog:

            “Legendary designer Diane von Furstenberg has specially designed a signature tote bag to benefit Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats. The proceeds will go directly to helping elect House Democrats. Perfect for work, the beach or travel, this stylish tote is available only through the DCCC for a limited time. The bag measures 17″w x 14″h x 5″d. Union made in the USA.”

            Followed by this wicked commentary by Michael J. Smith:

            “You can’t make this stuff up. Personally, I would be happy to buy the bag, and even pay more than $65 for it, if Ms Pelosi’s bleached disarticulated skeleton were neatly tucked inside, each vertebra and phalange lovingly wrapped in organic silk spun from Marin County worms who heard nothing but Vivaldi during their short happy laid-back lives.

            The party as brand – you heard it here first, and some time ago, too.

            “Union made in the USA.” By the last union member left in the USA, who lovingly bit off the stray thread from each seam with her sole remaining tooth.”

          2. Larry Elasmo

            Okay ex-Speaker Pelosi, who has retained Steven Spielberg to help rebrand Democrats with a new Logo, so it’s a bit out of date, whatever, so now it’s a collector’s item.

        2. DownSouth

          Paul,

          Hannah Arendt certainly picked up on that in Crises of the Republic:

          Marx may have said that the proletarian has no country; it is well known that the proletarians have never shared this point of view. The lower social classes are especially susceptible to nationalism, chauvinism, and imperialistic policies. One serious split in the civil-rights movement into “black” and “white” came as a result of the war question: the white students coming from good middle-class homes at once joined the opposition, in contrast to the Negroes, whose leaders were very slow in making up their minds to demonstrate against the war in Vietnam. This was true even of Martin Luther King. The fact that the army gives the lower social classes certain opportunities for education and vocational training naturally also plays a role here.

          But when MLK finally did come out against the war, he came out blazing as this speech he gave at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in 1967 shows.

          There’s a video recording of the speech available on YouTube here that’s worth a view because King was without a doubt one of the greatest orators in all the history of the United States.

          David Montejano in Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas, 1836-1986 spoke of the key role WWII played in ending Jim Crow:

          Social conflict and national crises provided the necessary impulse for the decline of old race arrangements. World War II, in particular, initiated dramatic changes on the domestic front. The need for soldiers and workers, and for positive international relations with Latin America, meant that the counterproductive and embarrassing customs of Jim Crow had to be shelved, at least for the duration of the emergency. In more lasting terms, the war created a generation of Mexican American veterans prepared to press for their rights and privileges. The cracks in the segregated order proved to be irreparable.

          More on the demise of Jim Crow and how WWII set the stage for that can be found in this PBS video (beginning at minute 9:00 of Chapter 2).

          Certainly MLK and other civil rights leaders were not unaware of this.

  8. deeringothamnus

    On “World Is One Poor Harvest Away from Chaos”, the reviewer does not mention overpopulation as the primary cause of environmental problems, but I sure hope the book does. The very word “overpopulation” seems to have been expunged and, as they say in China “harmonized” away from public discourse. Why?. My guess is that the ruling elites see increase population as just a Ponzi scheme to pay debts. The sad fact is, people are no different than cats and dogs, and have offspring that they cannot possibly feed or take care of.

    1. Paul Repstock

      LOL deering. “Expert/Authors” in general are not constrained to the big picture, or even to the broad view of the world They need to target their offerings to that segment that will buy their books.

      Disaster Authors could help save the environment by generating a catagoric framework for their topic du jour.

      Lets see: Starvation/water depletion/soil degredation/climate change/poor harvest,,,that would be #5A(i)17.3 subsection 2..See how much time and paper is saved..:)

      That said, this is not a trivial (or new) problem and inspite of the narrow focus of the author, could be triggered by a host of incidents.

      We were recently discussing it on Attempter’s blog.

      I think the window is much tighter than the article or the author suggests. I think that the biggest threat to the food supply is distribution, a whole new set of varriables.

  9. MichaelC

    Re Key Takeaways.

    Agree hedging enforcement will signal if serious regs will be written.

    If Market Makers need to hold/buy positions to perform that role fine. They must simply then hedge that position, leaving them essentially flat market riskwise till the offsetting trade takes place and the hedge is unwound.

    We can argue about the precision of the hedges, but the main point is if banks are prohibited from taking prop trading risk, them market making risk limits should be set close to zero as well.

    1. Paul Repstock

      Michael, I have a small suspicion that if the unwinding could have been done, (as in if the longs and shorts were balanced) your government and others would have forced an unwinding a couple of years ago. My guess is that the institutional short is so long term and so broad based that it has involved the entire global economy.

      The wealth concentration so often discussed here is possibly a symptom of this and is actually a ‘societal short’ in itself.

      If indeed all the “Smart Money” is concentrated in a collosal short, that only leaves one unpaletable escape. Hyperinflation is not a kind or productive condition.

      The best evidence I can provide for my thinking is the lack of income growth, inspite of 30 years of productivity increases. There is a huge bill owing here, and nobody wants to pay it.

  10. jaymaster

    RE Foxconn: Yes, the number of suicides looks bad. But if the total number of workers is considered (over 900,000 last I heard), the rate is actually less than for Americans in a similar age group.

    So it might be just a appropriate to ask what is Foxconn doing right?

    1. paper mac

      Comparing the suicide rate of a group of labourers composed primarily of rural Han Chinese working in Guangdong with a similarly-aged American population is totally inappropriate, especially in light of the well-known and characterised positive correlation between GDP and suicide rate.

  11. Jon H

    “Bye Bye Blackbird”

    That’s actually about starlings, which are an invasive species in the US. So no harm no foul.

  12. Michael H

    Iceland arrests more banksters:

    http://www.icenews.is/index.php/2011/01/20/more-icelandic-bankers-arrested/

    Meanwhile in the US, no banksters are being arrested, but at least CNN leads with a story that would make the National Enquirer proud:

    Date night for Congress?

    “Democratic and Republican legislators are pairing off to sit together in a sympolic gesture of birpartisanship…”

    http://www.cnn.com/2011/POLITICS/01/23/congress.date.night/index.html?hpt=C1

    1. Paul Repstock

      LOL. Yep. A lesson to be learned for the common folk as well: We stand united or we fall together. Obviously the government has figured this out…

      Next interesting thing will be to see if Icelands bankers value their freedom and their country more than Bankster Solidarity. It requires the removal of very few bricks, to crash a house of cards..lol I don’t expect we will see anything similar in Ireland now.

    1. Sundog

      & this via @jpbarlow: “Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong.” – John G. Riefenbaker

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