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Links 2/6/11

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If you are in DC, please consider Protest of President Obama’s Special Walk and Visit to U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Monday, Feb. 7 at 11 AM. If nothing else, it’s pretty unseemly for the so-called leader of the free world to kiss this ring.

Greenland’s race for minerals threatens culture on the edge of existence Guardian

Buddhism and Neuroscience Psychology Today (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Chernobyl birds are small brained BBC

Bush visit to Switzerland cancelled over security fears Independent (hat tip reader buba)

Wallflowers at the Revolution Frank Rich, New York Times

I got on the elevator with the Egyptian ambassador (his permanent residence is two floors above me). We were the only people in the lift and I could have asked him a question. But I didn’t since what could he say to me? I didn’t see the point of putting him on the spot, and he did not make eye contact.

Is the euro rescue succeeding? Uri Dadush and Bennett Stancil, VoxEU

Koch brothers now at heart of GOP power Los Angeles Times

All I’ll Say Today About Ronald Reagan’s 100th Birthday Ken Houghton, Angry Bear

Grover Cleveland, Obama’s Percursor? Michael Perelman, EconoSpeak

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas Falsified 20 Years Of Financial Disclosure Forms VelvetRevolution (hat tip reader furzy mouse). This story has not gotten much traction and the forms are actually very clear about the importance of the accuracy of info relative to one’s spouse and dependents, and on the penalties for falsifying information or failing to file).

Flagrant breach of copyright by TeacherSoft John Hempton

Hackers Penetrate Nasdaq Computers Wall Street Journal

In a jam, more skip mortgage payments Boston Globe (hat tip ShameTheBanks)

Anger over Barclays’ plans for Diamond’s bonus Guardian

Citigroup’s Distressed Muni Deal May Point Way for Takeovers Bloomberg (hat tip reader Buzz Potamkin)

New Jersey Appeals Court Shoots Down Foreclosure Over Bad Documents Abigail Field, DailyFinance

Why Aren’t Geithner And Holder Acting On Failure To File Suspicious Activity Reports On Mortgage Fraud? masaccio, FireDogLake

The Non-Mystery of the January Employment Report Dean Baker

Michael Lewis [NONSENSE] on Ireland jck. So much for the vaunted Vanity Fair fact checkers.

Antidote du jour:

Screen shot 2011-02-06 at 3.55.51 AM

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54 comments

  1. Jojo

    Excellent story here except for no discussion of the role of unrestrained population growth in a world where automation is displacing more jobs every year.
    ———
    BusinessWeek
    Cover Story
    February 2, 2011

    The Youth Unemployment Bomb
    From Cairo to London to Brooklyn, too many young people are jobless and disaffected. Inside the global effort to put the next generation to work

    http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/11_07/b4215058743638.htm

    1. Francois T

      Putting youth to work?

      We should first and foremost very seriously reconsider our very definition or “work”. This means throw out of power the actual crop of representatives who, quite frankly, don’t seem to have the faintest clue of what is going on here.

      Never in History have we had so many different kind of machines able to replace human beings. We’ve been warned for a loooong time about that, yet, we kept acting as if the promise of robotization was like the promise of Brazil as a country: “The thing of the future, and always will be!”

      Well…Brazil is rising very fast as a economic and political power. So does robotization and integrated automation.
      See Martin Ford blog http://econfuture.wordpress.com/
      It’s kind of scary to see how little public discussion there is on this urgent topic.

  2. Richard Kline

    Grover Cleveland is an excellent comp for Barack Obama, both on personal grounds, on political economic background, and on long-term cyclical synchrony. That’s been my take as well. —Except Obama is in all likelihood worse. He had more latitude of choice, arguably, when taking office, a stronger base in the country, and a much wider international context of effect. Both men are in the bottom half of American Presidents.

    And speaking of lower denizens, Clarence Thomas is easily the worst Justice of the Supreme Court in a hundred years, and likely since the late nineteenth century. Juridicially he’s a thunderous dud when not a complete vacuity. His conflicts of interest and self-dealing are longstanding and well known, and far beneath the status of his office. His exploitation of office and personal conduct prior to nomination made his confirmation a scandal, even though many justices are lesser persons than the role to which they’re called. He has non-zero odds, to me, of being the first Justice in, well, ever, to be impeached and removed depending on how the next twenty years play out. And the worst of it is, this is exactly what the Kochs and their ilk want, and institution so tarnished, so partisan, so puling when not reactionary, that the public turns against judicial review, leaving a disempowered public to grapple with gross fait accompli by exploitative corporate actors.

    The solution of course is to get someone better for Thomas’ job, but the letter of the law makes that difficult.

    1. Richard Kline

      And from the LA Times piece on corporate polluters having a donor dollar lock on the new lot of Republicans, Jeremy Symons of the National Wildlife Federation: “Voters didn’t ask for this pro-polluter agenda, but the Koch brothers spent their money well and their presence can be felt.”

      ‘Pro-polluters;’I like it. Not least because it’s literally true, of the Kochs and their cohort.

    2. Francois T

      The Thomas affair put in stark display another very ugly feature of the actual American society: just imagine the flame-throwing a gogo that would occur if, instead of Thomas, Justice Breyer was the offender. We would be carpet bombed by the Fix News noise machine, all these reichwing nuts “think tanks”, and worst of all, the whole galaxy of ditto heads from the Village (the Very Serious People) would amplify, ratiocinate and dissect each and every accusation generated by the above mentioned noise machine until the White House would, as it is their custom nowadays, bend over backwards to find a “compromise” to this oh so deplorable situation.

      Yet, nary a peep in the establishment media in Thomas’s case.

      And, there are still asshats who wanna talk to us about librul media?

  3. Richard Kline

    On the antidote, is that Iceland? I didn’t see many piebalds there, but the horses look right, as does the landscape. Beautiful country regardless . . . .

  4. Anon

    Went to a screening of The Murder of Fred Hampton last night.

    Chairman Fred was instituting breakfast clubs for poor children, and free healthcare clinics, and arrogating the right for a social class to defend itself under constant attack from capital (the unspoken backdrop in Chicago 1969 is of course the imperial adventure in Viet Nam).

    The parallels couldn’t be clearer.

    The bagman Wisner is sent out to Egypt now in 2011 to get everything back into working order, just like Hanrahan did in Chicago with Fred.

    The Egypt working class seems to have other ideas, though, and is pursuing what is effectively a general strike.

    More power to their elbow.

  5. Philip Pilkington

    On the Buddhism article. Yet again, this shows how contemporary neuro-scientists haven’t even a tertiary grasp of the history of ideas – which is precisely why they should be forced to attend some sort of class on this because, it would seem, they are inevitably led to draw links between foreign religions and the Western traditions.

    Example:

    “One of Buddhism’s central dogmas teaches the world is constantly changing and there is no such thing as a permanent state.”

    Of course, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus stated precisely the same idea centuries ago (around the same time as Buddha’s birth, in fact) – and without any influence from Buddhism or any other Eastern religion:

    “You could not step twice into the same river; for other waters are ever flowing on to you.”

    This idea can be found throughout the Western tradition – from Vico to Hegel and Marx.

    Contemporary neuro-science has come to realise – not wholly consciously – that it is far from scientific in the typical sense of the term. Like quantum physics, it has found itself dealing with contradictions and problems that Western philosophers have been dealing with for millennia (mind-body dualism, perception etc etc).

    But, being completely clueless as to the Western tradition, they find some of their problems reflected back to them in the Eastern religions. This provides them with a cloak of mysticism with which they can hide from themselves the fact that they’re dealing with the problems that are as old as Western civilisation itself. A terrible tragedy… and a true reflection of the degradation of the Anglo-Saxon educational system…

    1. DownSouth

      Philip Pilkington,

      I agree that Weisman has little knowledge of the history of Western thought. I also agree that many of the sciences, and especially those that deal with human mental processes, are just now catching up to what philosophers and theologians have struggled with for centuries. But there are many individual scientists who are genuine in their quest for truth, and I think Weisman is probably one of them.

      “[T]he world is constantly changing and there is no such thing as a permanent state,” he writes of Buddhist dogma. “This seems appropriate as far as the natural world is concerned, and apparently it should not be applied to…moral certainties.” If one follows Weisman’s “moral certainties” link one finds this:

      For a topic as subjective as morality, people sure have strong beliefs about what’s right and wrong. Yet even though morals can vary from person to person and culture to culture, many are practically universal, as they result from basic human emotions. We may think of moralizing as an intellectual exercise, but more frequently it’s an attempt to make sense of our gut instincts.

      This is an extremely important subject, and an especially important one for this blog, because moral relativism is frequently cited on this blog as a defense for the morality promoted by classical and neoclassical economic theory. That moral imperative basically boils down to Gordon Gekko’s line in Wall Street: ”Greed is Good.”

      Now compare Gekko’s morality to the “practically universal” morality that has been observed throughout time and space by psychologists, and described in this lecture on morality by the evolutionary psychologist Jonathan Haidt:

      Moral systems are interlocking sets of values, practices, institutions, and evolved psychological mechanisms that work together to suppress or regulate selfishness and make social life possible.

      So did the Buddhists apply their notion of a “constantly changing world” to the realm of “moral certainties”? Nietzsche believed they did. Here’s how Michael Allen Gillespie puts it in Nihilism Before Nietzsche:

      Complete nihilism, in Nietzsche’s view, is either active or passive nihilism. Passive nihilism is a form of resignation in the face of a world without God. It is characterized by an increase in pity and is thus akin to the Buddhism that destroyed Indian culture.

      [….]

      Passive nihilism deflects the convulsive self-obliteration that active nihilism seeks by putting in its place a doctrine of universal pity. It wants to go out not with a bank but a whimper.

      Weisman speaks of “volition,” or what I think philosophers would call “free will.” And his assessment of “volition” seems to me to be dead on. But theologians and philosophers have written about the contest between free will and fate for a long time. Some believe that, given sufficent will, nature is but putty in man’s hands. Others are fatalistic and buy into the notion of divine or scientific determinism, as Nietzsche believed the Buddhists did. So when Weisman says that “monotheistic religions…elevated humans above and beyond nature,” and that “science concerns taking humans off their delusional pedestal,” he demonstrates not only an ignorance of the diversity to be found within Jewish and Christian thought, but also of the fact that Modernism did little more than remove religion from its “delusional pedestal” and put science in its place. One has to look no further than the “science” of economics to see that this is true.

    2. paper mac

      Speaking as someone on the molecular side of neuroscience, I’m not sure that I’d describe Weisman as a “neuroscientist”. He appears to be a clinician, and I don’t see any neurology papers published under that name in Pubmed, so he doesn’t appear to be a practicing scientist. I’m not sure that I know how my colleagues would address the philosophical questions raised by their work- most of them seem not to particularly care. In any case, if Weisman received an undergraduate degree in science, he likely wasn’t required to take much in the way of philosophy. Young clinicians and scientists, in particular, suffer from this educational deficit.

  6. Michael H

    Re: Buddhism and Neuroscience

    From the article: “What we call a mind (or a self, or a soul) is actually something that changes so much and is so uncertain, that our terms for it do not find meaning. The Buddhist word for self is anatta and it means ‘no self.’ It is used to refer to oneself, while cleverly reminding the user of the word that there is such thing.”

    As Philip Pilkington pointed out, it looks like the neuro-scientists, with a little help from Buddhism, are just now catching up to what any number of Western poets and philosophers have been saying for centuries. And saying it better, as in the following lines by Wallace Stevens:

    “It is in that thought that we collect ourselves,
    Out of all the indifferences, into one thing:

    Within a single thing, a single shawl
    Wrapped tightly round us, since we are poor, a warmth,
    A light, a power, the miraculous influence.

    Here, now, we forget each other and ourselves.
    We feel the obscurity of an order, a whole,
    A knowledge, that which arranged the rendezvous.

    Within its vital boundary, in the mind.”

    1. Philip Pilkington

      “As a memory alone acquaints us with the continuance and extent of this succession of perceptions, it is to be considered, upon that account chiefly, as the source of personal identity. Had we no memory, we never should have any notion of causation, nor consequently of that chain of causes and effects, which constitute our self or person. But having once acquired this notion of causation from the memory, we can extend the same chain of causes, and consequently the identity of car persons beyond our memory, and can comprehend times, and circumstances, and actions, which we have entirely forgot, but suppose in general to have existed. For how few of our past actions are there, of which we have any memory? Who can tell me, for instance, what were his thoughts and actions on the 1st of January 1715, the 11th of March 1719, and the 3rd of August 1733? Or will he affirm, because he has entirely forgot the incidents of these days, that the present self is not the same person with the self of that time; and by that means overturn all the most established notions of personal identity? In this view, therefore, memory does not so much produce as discover personal identity, by shewing us the relation of cause and effect among our different perceptions. It will be incumbent on those, who affirm that memory produces entirely our personal identity, to give a reason why we cm thus extend our identity beyond our memory.

      The whole of this doctrine leads us to a conclusion, which is of great importance in the present affair, viz. that all the nice and subtile questions concerning personal identity can never possibly be decided, and are to be regarded rather as gramatical than as philosophical difficulties. Identity depends on the relations of ideas; and these relations produce identity, by means of that easy transition they occasion. But as the relations, and the easiness of the transition may diminish by insensible degrees, we have no just standard, by which we can decide any dispute concerning the time, when they acquire or lose a title to the name of identity. All the disputes concerning the identity of connected objects are merely verbal, except so fax as the relation of parts gives rise to some fiction or imaginary principle of union, as we have already observed.” – David Hume – ‘A Treatise of Human Nature’ published in 1740 (more: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/4705/4705-h/4705-h.htm#2H_4_0043)

      Or, more contemporarily:

      “For man to be able to question, he must be capable of being his own nothingness; that is, he can be at the origin of of non-being in being only if his being – in himself and by himself – is paralysed with nothingness.” – Jean-Paul Sartre – ‘Being and Nothingness’ published in 1943.

      Needless to say that both books are far more illuminating than the pseudo-neurological jargon propped up upon a Buddhist framework that the cognitive scientists have reduced their discourse to. But then, philosophy has nothing to tell us, right? – it’s all navel-gazing that doesn’t even closely approach Royal Science…

      1. Michael H

        Philip Pilkington said: “But then, philosophy has nothing to tell us, right? – it’s all navel-gazing that doesn’t even closely approach Royal Science…”

        I was looking for a particular quote about Hume, but couldn’t remember where I’d read it, and then, found it in a book by Jed Perl, entitled “New Art City: Manhattan at Mid-Century”. Perl is discussing two 20th century American artists, Fairfield Porter and Donald Judd, both of whom studied philosophy in college, and both were influenced by the skeptical thinking of 18th century British empiricism.

        To the end of his life, Porter spoke of how important it had been for him to hear Alfred North Whitehead’s lectures at Harvard. Whitehead, Porter said, “taught us that Hume’s criticism was practically unanswerable…..Hume’s idea is that all you know is one sensation after another: you do not know the connections between them. And that was what (Whitehead) was concerned with doing, finding an answer to Hume, who he thought had not been adequately answered by Kant.

        And in an essay in 1961, the art critic Meyer Shapiro observed that “Hume had described the self as “nothing but a bundle or a collection of different perceptions…… Hume spoke of the self as a fragmentary series of, or continuity among, certain sensations. The self, like substance, was a “metaphysical illusion”; all that one truly knows is a flux of sensations with some recurrent features… “consciousness” was the name for a certain mode or occasion of sensation – without sensation, there would be no consciousness.”

        Difficult questions. I certainly don’t have any answers. Perhaps Wallace Stevens was right when he said: “Everything is complicated; if that were not so, life and poetry and everything else would be a bore.”

        1. Philip Pilkington

          This is certainly a strange place to get involved in a philosophical discussion, but, what the hell, I’ll bite.

          I’d agree with Whitehead – Kant didn’t adequately answer Hume’s criticism which was, although counter-intuitive, almost unanswerable. However, I think that some later philosophers did. First Hegel (although there are hints of it all the way back to Heraclitus) – then following him, the phenomenological tradition moving through Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre and (in my opinion, most importantly) Maurice Merleau-Ponty (who is about 50 steps ahead of the cognitive neuro-scientists – and some of them are beginning to catch onto this…).

          What these thinkers claimed – and I think Whitehead ultimately followed them – is that the ‘self’ isn’t an ‘entity’ (a ‘substance’ – to use the jargon), but a ‘becoming’ or, as Whitehead said, a ‘process’. The self, then, is not a definitive sensation or even collection of sensations, but the very process of ‘sensational movement’.

          Thus, the self is NOT a static concept – but a dynamic one. To paraphrase Hegel: Being and Non-Being are one and the same thing – their contradiction gives rise to Becoming.

          In English: The self both exists (it has ‘being’) and doesn’t exist (we cannot ‘grasp’ it – thus it has ‘no-being’); through this movement we grasp the ‘essence’ of the self – which is ‘becoming’ (the movement inherent in the couple being/non-being that we find at the heart of the self).

          The neuro-scientists – in their impoverished jargon of pseudo-scientific metaphors – cannot express anything close to this. In trying so hard to be ‘scientific’, they thus end up as Buddhist mystics!

          1. Michael H

            Thanks Philip,

            You made things very clear. I agree this is an odd place to be having this discussion, and this will have to be my last comment today due to time constraints but just a couple of things…..

            I’ve always been confused by what Hegel meant when he said becoming, not being, is the highest expression of reality. However you managed to clarify this concept, and for the first time, I think I understand it. You should be a philosophy teacher. Or maybe you already are?

            Now if only I could find someone who could explain to me Karl Marx’s _Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right_ , as I’ve been slowly working my way through it, sentence by sentence, underlining things and looking things up, but still there are many entire paragraphs that remain almost incomprehensible to me.

            At this rate it could take me one or two years to finish, which reminds me of a letter Marx wrote to Engels in 1870. For a brief moment, it looked like a European revolution was on the verge of breaking out; Marx’s letter was panic-stricken: can’t the revolutionaries wait a couple of years?

            He hadn’t finished writing Capital.

          2. Philip Pilkington

            Hehe… I’m no philosophy teacher – I haven’t even formally studied the melancholy science (which is possibly why I understand these things in plain English…) – but thanks for the compliment.

            I’d just like to point out, since you mentioned Marx, that this way of reasoning (which, as you probably know, is referred to as ‘dialectical’) is absolutely and completely different from anything in the Western scientific tradition as it is usually understood.

            In that tradition it is demanded that all concepts are static – that is: singular, definable and unchanging. It is because neuro-scientists continue to use this framework – which is outdated, even in ‘hard’ sciences, like physics – that they start tripping over themselves and running into insurmountable difficulties… and eventually come out the other side worshiping Buddha or preaching some obscure ecological doctrine, or something of the sort.

            Marx – being very philosophically astute – recognised that macroeconomics is necessarily a dialectical science. All the values that it deals with are relative – and as such, they cannot be thought of as separate, fixed and unchanging magnitudes/concepts. Thus, unemployment levels and the government deficit are always – in some sense – relative to one another and cannot be truly conceived without thinking this relation; as are the deficit and, say, private sector saving; as are taxation and… well, you get the idea.

            In a sense, you could say that the economy itself – being eminently dynamic – is always in a process of ‘becoming’.

            Unfortunately, Marx – much like Hegel – conceived of this, not as a formal method for reasoning… but as some sort of essence inherent in history which teleologically unfolded in some predetermined pattern. Hence, his ‘laws’ of history and all that jazz. But as a philosopher of economic theory, few have grasped as much as Marx – barring, perhaps, Philip Mirowski, whose work would be far more widely appreciated if Anglo-Saxon universities (culture?) didn’t inculcate an acritical suspicion of philosophy into their students. (If I ever speak to Mirowski, I’ll be sure to tell him to have his works translated into French…).

          1. Philip Pilkington

            I dunno… was Einstein (whose theories he claimed derived from Hume)? Does it matter? After all, even if Einstein did have a tenuous grasp of self, nuclear missiles still explode. Ditto for Hume – his theories still stand.

            It should be mentioned, though, that Hume’s theories did derive out of a nervous breakdown he had six years before the ‘Treatise’ was published. But then, to go back to Einstein, I’ve actually seen feminists claim that the theory of relativity is sexist (Einstein himself was a notorious misogynist). So, I dunno… how far do you think subjectivity penetrates thought?

            Schumpeter claimed it was absolute. Which is interesting, given that the theorist of business cycles suffered from some sort of bi-polar disorder…

          2. craazyman

            Mr. Pilkington, I’m a Professor of Contemporary Analysis at the University of Magonia and the structure and nature of consciousness is my specialty.

            Subjectivity penetrates to the Crown Chakra, it goes up from the root chakra.

            The thing Hume missed is the faculty that integrates the diaspora of sensation into a unified whole. That faculty is, too, part of self — so to set Self agains the thing that observes Self is an artificial separation. This is It’s a primary universal force call “Imagination”. I would consider it equivalent in nature to the Luminferous Ether which Einstein et. al. obliterated, but it’s a timeless spaceless constant. The luminiferous ether can’t exist mathematically, but it can from the standpoint of pure awareness.

            Imagination It continually advances and recedes in consciousness. It’s the organizing force at botht he individual and communal level.

            The other problem is like in pLato’s Third Man argum,ent in Parmenides. If there’s a self and a thing observing the phenomenon, then there must be a third thing, observing both self and phenomenon.

            this is why I stopped reading philosophy and started doing art things and drinking. there’s never an end to it. But at 4 am the bars close. So that ends it. Each day it starts again. It’s a circle, not an arrow. An arrow never hits the wall if philosophers are measuring. Like Zeno joked. Time for a beer and Super bow;l

    1. Paul Repstock

      Gwain; those types of issues will gain little traction anyhere. When people shrink even from information about government, because they feel powerless, then the truly asome power of nature cannot even be recognised. Also, the media and the government will give the threats no coverage because there is no way to profit from them.

      Not that the people in power are unaware (Why else would they have spent public money to have created hundreds of miles of underground caverns to shelter “The chosen”.)

      The vagaries of nature and the universe however, are not predictable enough to create profitable economic models.

      1. Gawain's Ghost

        Oh, come on now. Climate default swaps, catastrophic debt obligations, monsoon backed securities, there’s no end to financial innovation!

        Anyway, I just found the article fascinating and thought I would pass it along. I used to be a science teacher, and meteorology was my favorite subject to teach.

        Where I live, in deep South Texas, it’s normally very hot. In fact, it’s only snowed once (Christmas Eve, 2001) down here in the last 200 years. We have had an occasional freeze or an ice storm, but not very often.

        Last week, we had temperatures in the 20s, icy roads that shut down highways and closed airports, snow flurries. So I was freaking out.

        But the sun came up this morning, and it’s warming up. Still, I was intrigued about the cause of this strange weather pattern.

  7. Norman

    I’m surprised that there hasn’t been someone to challenge the Citizens United decision that Justice Thomas was/is unqualified to render a fair unbiased opinion. His position doesn’t bode well for the country to stand as a beacon to the world that the U.S. is governed by laws for all, not just the majority. This one blatant act has caused the ugly side of politics to come to the forefront of reality, of which should never have been allowed to happen.

  8. rd

    We had the “Age of Discovery,” The Industrial Age,” the “Post-Industrial Age” and now the “Age of Irresponsiblity.”

    Clarence Thomas is just another example of people from both sides of the aisle who have demonstrated an unwillingness to believe that rules apply to them. I found it incomprehensible that Geithner was able to progress in the Treasury after the discovery of his inability or unwillingness to read and comprehend a simple memorandum on a fairly common aspect of the tax code. I protested to my Senators at the time to no avail.

    At least Clarence Thomas will be well-positioned to opine on fraudulent documents submitted under oath prepared after the fact when the robo-signing and related issues arrive before the Supreme Court. My suspicion is that he will find they they are not important.

  9. scraping_by

    Re: Clarence Thomas

    Justice Thomas gives paranoia a bad name. For most people, the idea of a corrupt SCOTUS judge would be the far-fetched premise for an Alan Drury novel. To find out it’s true, and so cheap, actually takes a mental leap.

    It’s hard to say if this helps the Alex Jones viewpoint. But since it’s the dictionary definition of a ‘conspiracy,’ it may give more traction to that whole view. It’s like socialism: as capitalism covers increasingly repellent actions, more people find they’re leftist pinkos. Life changes.

    1. John

      No mental leap at all that a Supreme Court justice could be corrupt after witnessing the past three years in this country.

      But I am still stumbling over the what happens when the secrets are exposed: nothing.

  10. Paul Repstock

    Democracy is now deamed A Virus?? Funny stance for a Presidential candidate in a “Democratic country”.

    McCain Compares Arab Pro-Democracy Movement to a “Virus” While protests continue across the region, Former Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain of Arizona has described the growing popular movements in the Arab world as a “virus” that must be countered. He made the comment in an interview on Fox News.

    Sen. McCain: “This virus is spreading throughout the Middle East. The president of Yemen, as you know, just made the announcement that he wasn’t running again. This, I would argue, is probably the most dangerous period of history in—of our entire involvement in the Middle East, at least in modern times.”

    1. Paul Repstock

      God or Something better help the Egyptian people if they weaken to international presures and give Suleiman’s “New” government the chance to take power. Suleiman/Mubarak/America it is all the same game. Given a year or even six months the government of Egypt will be prepared to squash the protestors. This time they were surprised, next time they won’t be.

      Senator McCain’s “Virus” must be irradicated!

      1. Anon

        This is one Arabian Nights genie that ain’t going back in the bottle.

        It’s sleeping in Tahrir Square until all its wishes are granted.

        (McCain a Laurie Anderson fan, though, who knew?)

  11. Got A Watch

    Love the Blog as always Yves.

    Would it be possible to have a small explanatory caption below the “Antidote du jour” pic?

    Just to explain where the photo was taken, or what the critter is in the photo. Yesterday, I was wondering what type of bird they were, today I would like to know where the photo was taken.

    I know, damn readers, always complaining or demanding something.

    Keep up the good work.

    1. Bill

      Yesterday I guessed the birds as blue-footed booby……….I’d also like a caption, they’re always welcome photos.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Thanks, but it’s the old hairstyle. I had taken to wearing my hair up for TV because some people liked it and it’s less time consuming. TV is a big time sink, unless the folks have a NYC studio, I have to do my own hair and makeup, and the makeup part alone is almost a half hour (it doesn’t look that way on camera, but I am wearing hooker levels of eyeliner, for instance). Putting hair up takes one minute, blowing it out to TV standards, as opposed to my usual rushed job (or alternatively going to a salon, which I could also do but don’t) is an additional half hour. And then it’s a half hour each way to the studio and they want you there 15 mins early…..

  12. Hugh

    That piece on the euro by Dudash and Stancil seems divorced from reality casting everything in terms of competitiveness and “structural misalignments”. Boy, I hate descriptors like that. All in all, it makes me think that the job market for charlatans remains strong. I admit I am quite envious. They have great careers, probably pull down really nice incomes, have the prestige that comes from their positions,and all they have to do is put out the occasional BS report now and then.

    Re the Baker post, I wrote elsewhere on Friday about the BLS jobs report. It was essentially a long rant about the BLS’ revisions and the screwiness of its models. What Baker misses is that not only did employment increase by 589,000 in the household survey but unemployment decreased by virtually the same amount. That is very odd, not to say suspicious, because we aren’t dealing with a closed system. The labor force is a subset of the non-insitutional population over 16 representing the potential labor force (NIP). Nor is the NIP static but increases month to month due to natural growth in the population.

    Anyway contributions from the NIP are another input. So what we would not expect to see is a decline in unemployment exactly matched by an increase in employment.

    On top of this, those numbers for the January employed and unemployed are from the BLS’ seasonally adjusted model. It is this model that shows the unemployment rate falling from 9.8% to 9% over the last two months (without any corroborating data from the jobs/establishment survey).

    But if you look at the seasonally unadjusted numbers, the U-3 unemployment rate is still at 9.8%. So from where I’m sitting, this strongly suggests that there is something out of whack in the BLS’ seasonally adjusted model. It is unlikely that we really have seen the drop in the unemployment rate the BLS is reporting. But what is going on is further confused because for the last two months the BLS has also been making longer term revisions. There is definitely something wrong with the model but exactly what or how much is hard to say because it is being obscured by these other revisions.

  13. Hugh

    Re Clarence Thomas, the hypocrisy barometer to use is what would the reaction be if he were a liberal justice and had done this?

    Not a lawyer, but I have followed the Supreme Court and written on a fair number of its decisions. I recommend reading some of the Court’s decisions (which are available at its site) because I think they are quite educational. You would not believe how bad the argumentation often is, or the writing (anything Kennedy does), or how fast and loose they play with the concept of stare decisis (Scalia in reversing something, will say well you know it’s only been around X number of years, and no matter if it is 5 years or 25 years, somehow it never comes up to his standard for stare decisis, a standard which he never explains). On the one hand, they can miss all the elephants in the room, and on the other, address an elephant that wasn’t even in the room. This is what they did in Citizens United where they threw out Citizens United’s argument but then inserted their own and then decided the case on that basis. No, you can’t make this sh*t up. One of my favorite lunatic decisions was DC v. Heller. Scalia wrote that there was an absolute 2nd Amendment right to own arms. The problem was this would have legitimized your neighbor, even if he/she were batsh*t crazy, owning nukes. So having just asserted an absolute right, Scalia backtracked and said, well, except for all the usual exceptions, which apparently meant whichever exceptions he liked but not the ones he didn’t. Again all unspecific enough to leave no one with any idea of what he was talking about.

    The Court is often talked about in liberal-conservative terms, but the truth is that there are no real liberals on the Court whereas with Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy, there are 5 extremely conservative ones. On the other hand, all 9 are fairly corporatist in outlook. What is depressing is there is nothing surprising about this. Except for about 25 years of the Warren Court and its aftermath, the Supreme Court has always been a much bigger defender of the haves than the have-nots. The propertied vs. the unpropertied, slavery, segregation, child labor, employers vs. labor, resistance to the New Deal. It has been (with the exception of the Warren years) on the wrong side of all these, and only changed under threat of being ignored or rendered irrelevant. It’s current defense of the wealthy and corporations against the rest of us is just reversion to the norm for it.

    1. russel1200

      Hugh,

      That’s pretty cool. Maybe I’ll get to own a nuke some day.

      I only want a small one. After I clear a lot, it would be great for getting out the tree stumps all in one shot.

    2. Anonymous Jones

      What’s so strange about SCOTUS is that, by and large, the justices really are very intelligent human beings, and the clerks are generally f’ing brilliant. I’ve known quite a few of the clerks, and they are serious outliers on the intelligence scale (I’m sure some dipshit, delusional, supremely overconfident academic is going to scoff at this, but you, dipshit academic, are wrong and idiotic, so there…).

      So what you have is a collection of people who are very intelligent and educated not just in comparison to the mean or median intelligence in this country but in comparison to the 1% top, but at the same time, we always used to joke in law school (especially in specialty areas like commercial transactions) that there was about a 90% confidence level that a SCOTUS decision would not make much sense on a theoretical level given the clear thrust of the case law and general statutory approach to the issue.

      Why does this happen? Why do we end up with a less-than-50% success rate even with some of the smartest people with the most education spending their lives doing just this?

      I don’t know. I think it is that the world is complicated, that breadth and depth of the cases before SCOTUS is difficult to understand if you aren’t faced with them all (it’s easy to cherry-pick a few and say, oh, I know this *so* much better; it’s like people in bars who make fun of NBA coaches; yeah, sure, the 1 out of 100 terrible decisions you wouldn’t have made; of course, you would have made 30 other terrible decisions that the actual coach didn’t make). But it does seem that it’s more than that. Maybe these people are too smart for their own good. And getting them together in one place makes it even worse. The downfall of most people used to success is in the overconfidence bred by such same success.

      In any event, Thomas aside (a true misfit on SCOTUS) the judges make a lot of mistakes, but I doubt they are really the evil corporate masterminds envisioned by the conspiracy nuts. They, like all of us, don’t always see reality for what it is. They, like all of us, have limits in their ability to comprehend and analyze all that the world has to offer. And they, like all of us, are blinded by ideas nestled deep in our brains early on that all the facts and logic in the world cannot shake (in fact, these people are so good at arguing that it makes them even more impervious to facts and logic when there is a cherished part of their personality and belief system at stake).

  14. Andy Ballard

    Chernobyl was not neither designed nor built nor run nor destroyed by capitalists.
    That said, the nuclear industry in the west is not the direct opposite, being a reasonable balance between capitalist innovations and independent / governmental regulation.

  15. YY

    Revealed: US envoy’s business link to Egypt

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/revealed-us-envoys-business-link-to-egypt-2206329.html

    It occurs to me that people who can not understand the concept of conflict of interest, who would therefore not withdraw from participation using their own judgment, should not be put in any responsible position. Competence of those that pick these guys, are questionable, especially if the “conflict” is known, in which case a party line should have been enforced, avoiding “privately” held mis-statements.

    It also occurs to me that government aid and concessions given in money should attract at least some sort of prior agreement that such funds should not manifest in lobbying the same government. The practice of paying entities that turn around and fund lobbyists to lobby the payer should be not so much banned as controlled. These self amplifying feedback loops are not healthy, regardless of character/merits of issues or interests involved.

  16. Stelios Theoharidis

    One of the videos linked by the advocacy group suggests that Virginia Thomas was working as part of the Bush transition team when Justice Thomas made the Gore v Bush decision. If it is true, which I don’t personnally know, it is another complete failure to disclose another clear conflict of interest. I feel like the “liberal” media will utterly fail to get this to national attention.

    The notion that these guys attend Koch funded conservative meetings just gives SCOTUS a bad name. I don’t have a good historical perspective regarding the Supreme Court and prior conflicts of interest to determine how commonplace this has been throughout American history.

  17. vaughn_nebeker

    If US DOD has ask for chernobyl to be put out on a probonio base’s. I would have looket at it. how ever US DOD never gave suck a pereintashion. one can now refuse service’s do to dubble jepity. Do to US DOD did not pay for good and or services when chernobyl went out. Do to the United States lost credability buy pull in fraud on the account.
    One dose not look at US DOD untill one see’s the color of thcer green. That’s $887.0 Trillion dallor’s. Intrest running.

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