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Links 3/26/11

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    1. psychohistorian

      Its outlook seems a bit grim. I wonder why?

      A general comment on links is the Buffett one…you are right on Yves in noticing him trying to cover his ass. While he is not entirely the problem, he is complicit…..he is no Soros.

      Thanks for upgrading Skippy’s link on the unfolding catastrophe in Japan. Denial is going to harm people and the planet long term. Where are the global adults who are not sociopaths?

  1. dearieme

    I’m amused by that common problem that physicists have, of assuming that only physics is science. I suspect that genetics has advanced a long way since that Texas boondoggle was abandoned.

    1. Max424

      For sake of accuracy, that should read “putting behind bars the criminal…”

      As of now, we’ve only got the one guy; but I have my suspicions there may be more.

      1. Rex

        For the sake of accuracy, did you mean that? It is a working link to “In Prison for Taking a Liar Loan”.

        Are you saying we should expect more prosecutions of the very small fish at the bottom end of the mortgage scams?

        The IRS is willing to work for us, albeit stupidly and inefficiently. They’ll bring a criminal to justice where the SEC and others can’t or won’t go after the masterminds. How comforting.

        1. Max424

          “For the sake of accuracy, did you mean that?”

          No, I did not — I should have put a snark tag on my post.

          But I do believe ForeclosureGate is a farce, that it fast moving up the farce strewn historical ladder, and from the looks of things now, it has a very good chance of supplanting all the others to become the number one farce in the history of mankind.

          You have a supposedly great nation — the Greatest Nation Ever (it tells itself, ad nauseam) — that prides itself on it’s laws, in the midst of what, in my opinion, is easily the most all encompassing, and possibly the most heinous, peacetime crime ever committed within the confines of a nation-state, and that nation rises to the challenge of this tsunami of a crime wave by putting, exactly, one jogger behind bars.

  2. Max424

    re: Krugman is Wrong

    He made a minor mistake, he forgot that the Greeks were no longer coining the Drachma. No biggie.

    Now, if Paul forgets that our mother country, England, passed currency acts in 1751, 1764, and 1773, forbidding the American colonies from the issuance of fiat money as legal tender for settling debts, then we have a slight problem.

    By taking away their money, England committed an act of austerity (WAR!) against the colonies. England was undoubtedly thinking no one would notice, but the colonists did, and they revolted, for 100 months. And I think your seeing a similar situation arising in Athens, and in Madison; people in both places are revolting because they either don’t have a fiat currency (Greece), or because they are being starved of their own fiat currency (Wisconsin) by their host nation.

    But I think the Professor knows that. What is more interesting to me than the Greece slip up, the old neo-liberal liberal took on Modern Monetary Theory yesterday (he doesn’t like it!). This I consider a big deal.

    As far as I can tell, all main stream economists are on the same basic page — they ALL believe we need to shovel huge piles of sovereign fiat money into international banking institutions. It doesn’t matter if these institutions are upright organizations or merciless crime syndicates — epochal in their rapaciousness; they must be given the money, because that’s the place where the market magic originates!

    MMT says this type of economic theory is nonsense. MMT believes there is no compelling reason for a nation to hand over it’s money to thieves and robbers unless there is a deep desire within that nation to have all their money stolen.

    And another thing: adopt MMT, and you won’t have to deal with the stupid ass bond vigilantes, ever again (wouldn’t that be nice, Wisconsin, California, Texas, Greece, etc.?) As a nation, you can sell bonds, or not sell bonds, that’s your choice, but in MMT, you are spending money into existence, not borrowing it into existence, so the bond vigilantes…well, they can go f+ck themselves.

    Note: What idiot would borrow money at penurious rates (burn cash) when they don’t have to, and what moron would lend money to someone specifically for the purpose of borrowing it back at a higher rate of interest?

    1. Paul Tioxon

      The strange logic of those who separate fiat money from money with inherent worth. Fiat money becomes currency because the government says so, by decree and real money is backed up not by man made decree but by innate value, the very nature of money to be recognized as money when you first lay eyes upon it? It is money because of its moneyness? I would think we find this as a natural element, perhaps on the periodic table, its symbol: M1, right after molybendum Mo.

      1. Max424

        re: putting money on the Periodic Table

        Not a bad idea, although, right now, I don’t think any of the world’s currencies stand out enough to receive such a distinction.

        But in the future, I can definitely see the PetroYuan (Py?) becoming the most important element on earth.

          1. Paul Tioxon

            Now that I have had a chance to seriously consider my contention about M1, it is so much greater than an element of the earth, it is of transcendent import. Since money makes the world go round, it is a force in the same category as gravity. Physics, the serious science for the smart money set is obviously the line of reasoning to be pursued to understand the gravitational pull of money.

          2. Cedric Regula

            If MMT designed the periodic table, Mo would have an atomic weight of 1, further research would show that M1 has an atomic weight of zero, and the rest of the elements are bartered for as a store of value.

          3. Max424

            “If money were in the Periodic Table, would it be radioactive or a Rare Earth?”

            Good question. Both? Neither? Is money, perhaps, a compendium of all things?

            Don’t know, but I do know this; money will always be the root of all evil, whether it is on the Periodic Table or not.

            And that’s why I find Modern Monetary Theory so compelling: it seeks to mitigate the evil — in very significant ways.

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        To get change for periodic table money, you would be handed protons and electrons back.

        And you are really picky about small change, you can have quarks and even strings.

        Here, a couple of strings.

        The real frugal will soon be collecting and hoarding strings, from China to India to Portugal to Iceland.

        1. propertius

          If memory serves, the science fiction author Jerry Pournelle once suggested using high-level nuclear waste to coin money. This would simultaneously eliminate the problem of disposition while making the problem of hoarding self-correcting.

          1. Cedric Regula

            Yes, many great minds have focused on this money hoarding problem. In fact, Niven and Pournelle took it one step further in “The Burning City” novel. In this prehistory civilization, there are three classes. The worker class, the aristocratic class, and the thief class. They eliminated money altogether using the barter system. The aristocratic class uses the thief class to intimidate the worker class and solidify their power. Since there is no money to pay the thief class, the rules of society sanctioned by the aristocrats are that the thief class may steal from the worker class. Generally the worker class does not object, because the thief class is good with knives. The thief class likes to travel light and does not want to be bothered with the difficulty of storing food for long periods of time, so they steal “on demand”…at dinner time, when they need a horse to get somewhere, or when they would like to sit in a chair.

            In this way, this society also eliminated the need for banks as all wealth was stored on the premises of the worker class.

        2. propertius

          The real frugal will soon be collecting and hoarding strings, from China to India to Portugal to Iceland.

          Meanwhile, the real MOTU will be accumulating branes.

      3. Jack Parsons

        The phrase “fiat money” is inherently propaganda. Paper money is not fiat, it is trusted. It is “trust money”: you trust that it will be worth something. No trust, no commerce.

  3. Sufferin' Succotash

    The last straw for the 13 colonies (or for Boston anyway, where the economy was particularly hard-hit by austerity)was His Majesty’s government’s plan for the colonists to bail out the East India Company.
    This plan involved dumping the Company’s tea surplus…
    The rest is badly distorted US history.

  4. Ina Deaver

    That Dylan Ratigan link is great – thank you for the heads up. Poor Mr. Lerner really got himself in a pickle by suggesting that people behave like banks. If enough of us do it together, what is the difference between that and the vaunted “invisible hand?”

    It is this sort of thing that puts the lie to Beck’s purported interest in average folks. No one should have the right to organize people unless it is him, and unless the target is government rather than state-sponsored enterprise.

    1. Anonymous Jones

      Exactly. They always attack the means, until those same means are used for an end they desire.

      (Of course, this particular brand of hypocrisy is hardly limited to any political leaning or ideology).

  5. Paulette

    On food dyes – yet another reason to eat only organic food.

    When you see “natural flavors” on the label know that they are
    ‘natural flavors’ that have been created with chemicals.

    Fresh organic vegetables from your backyard or a farmers market or a local store that you trust are the best way to assure quality.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Thanks for the info.

      One needs a Ph.D. in nutritional science to shop safely these days.

      1. lambert strether

        Pollan: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

        By “food,” Pollan does not mean “food-like substances.” Anything with “natural flavors” on the label, or indeed any acronym on the label, is not food.

  6. John Merryman

    When people begin to recognize that money, no matter what its backing, or how it is originated, is a contract and not a commodity, it would bring a whole new set of assumptions and practices to the table.
    As it is, we treat it as a commodity and yet fail to consider that the laws of supply and demand apply. We can only save as much notational wealth as can be effectively loaned out, or is required for circulation. The whole function of our economy over the last forty years has been the production and maintenance of surplus wealth. By definition, those in power have extra wealth, so the entire ecology of the economy and government has become a function of borrowing and paying interest on this wealth. It’s not a free market when the medium of exchange is in private hands.
    Paul Volcker didn’t cure inflation by raising interest rates, because you don’t cure an oversupply by rewarding supply and punishing demand. It was cured by expanding government debt, which absorbed far more excess capital than the Fed ever did and then spending it back into those sectors of the economy which don’t return a profit, but benefit those sectors which do, thus increasing private sector investment and multiplying capital demand.
    We also don’t have a viable budgeting process by the Federal government. Since their debt is the basis of the monetary system, the government spending process is designed to spend as much as can be gotten away with. They put together these enormous bills, add enough extras to get enough legislators to vote for them and then the president can only pass or veto the entire bill. And people wonder why those going to Washington, thinking they will clean it up, only get mired in it as well.
    If they wanted to budget, they could break these bills into their individual “line items,” have every legislator assign a percentage value to each one, reassemble the bill in order of preference and have the president draw the line at what would be funded. There would be little inclination to overspend, because the items on the line would have much smaller constituencies than those asked to pay for them.
    Of course this would blow up our entire debt based monetary system, but it is failing anyway, so this might be something to consider when it does finally collapse.
    Along with a public banking system built from the bottom up, with local banks serving their communities and using the profits to fund local services, rather than count on federal funding. These could then form organizations for regional and larger projects.

    1. Paul Tioxon

      John, I agree, credit unions are powerful financial utilities that are in the service of their members, not the endless accumulation of capital. They are community based and can provide an economic function that is indispensable. The reification of money, turning into a commodity is problematic. Money is more like language in the social order, a learned set of rules and behaviors,drawn up as a contract, like natural language is drawn up culturally, and eventually in written form, with agreed upon standards and practices.

      1. John Merryman

        Paul,
        It is a long and involved evolutionary process, with the occasional punctuated equilibria, ie. revolutions, where the old forms break down and have to be replaced by slightly more evolved and flexibly resilient structures.
        I think a good comparison is that while while governments are comparable to society’s central nervous system, money and banking are comparable to the blood and circulatory system of the underlaying economy. Much as politics started as a form of private enterprise and over the course of millennia, eventually became a public trust, so too did banking start as private initiative and is slowly evolving into another form of public utility. While many people rightly decry the intentions of central banking, it does transfer responsibility for the value of the currency from the bankers to the public. As go responsibilities, eventually follow rights. Therefore we are actually much further along this process than is fully understood. It is now a matter of when it does break down this time, of pointing the reconstruction in the right direction.

  7. Hugh

    My memory of the SuperCollider project runs something like this. There was a big competition between the site in Texas and one in Illinois near Chicago. At the time the decision was made, Texas had a really powerful and well-placed Congressional delegation and they basically said it goes to Texas or it doesn’t get built. So it went to Texas. The Illinois site would have garnered political support from a variety of states in the Midwest and have been more accessible because of its proximity to Chicago to scientists from around the nation and the world, and then too there would have the attractions of Chicago itself. Both politics and atmospherics are important in such decisions. In any case, the Texas delegation lost some of its power and when there was a budget crunch, instead of having a broad coalition of states to support the SuperCollider there was just Texas and so it hit the dust. Others can correct my memory of this, but that’s how I remember it.

    Re Penrose, his evidence for echoes of previous universes was shot down a while ago. (I can’t access the video so I’m working off of notes found on the web.) There is also a philosophical argument which runs something like the Big Bang happened. If it could happen once, then it could happen more than once. Indeed it could have happened an infinite number of times, and if it can happen then it has happened. Personally, I have always found a large jump in logic between that “can” and “has”.

    I would note too that “before” as in “before the universe” is a nonsense. We live in a universe of space-time. In the absence of space-time, there is no time so there is no before.

    Fukushima is an example of elite failure and kleptocracy. Tepco routinely put profits ahead of safety. Japanese politicians let them. Both were betting, not their own, but the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands and maybe millions of ordinary Japanese. Disaster struck and from the beginning, the extent of the disaster has been downplayed. It really was an amazing propaganda tour de force. I mean we had a nuclear power plant hit by an earthquake and tsunami, explosions and fires, uncovered fuel rods and a likely cracked containment vessel. This is about as bad as bad gets but the company and government line remains essentially to hope for the best and hope that reality plays along.

    1. propertius

      As I recall, it wasn’t so much that Penrose’s conjecture was “shot down” as that alternate explanations for its predictions have been offered.

      My recollection of the SSC is that it was an early casualty of the Contract on America.

      As for this:

      There is also a philosophical argument which runs something like the Big Bang happened. If it could happen once, then it could happen more than once. Indeed it could have happened an infinite number of times, and if it can happen then it has happened. Personally, I have always found a large jump in logic between that “can” and “has”.

      It’s a necessary corollary of the Poincare recurrence theorem that, given an infinite amount of time, any event with a nonzero probability (however small) will recur and that it will do so an infinite number of times. If the Big Bang ever occurred, then its probability is obviously nonzero and therefore given an infinite amount of time it must eventually recur (and do so an infinite number of times).

      There’s no real “leap of logic” involved (formal proofs of the Poincare recurrence theorem abound on the net), and it ought to be intuitively obvious that multiplying or dividing infinity by nonzero finite numbers will yield infinite results.

      The question is (as you have pointed out) whether it makes any sense at all to talk about “an infinite amount of time” when one is discussing a singularity in space-time itself.

  8. emca

    I read ElliotX’s link on Indian Point yesterday.

    Well maybe Truth-Out doesn’t like nuclear, but this passage reads like a skit from SNL:

    “…Entergy’s men battled off a squad of four mock terrorists, armed only with hunting rifles, who assaulted the plant in broad daylight. Moreover, the attacking squad weren’t former Delta Force operatives trained in terrorist tactics, but security officers from a nearby nuclear plant, who assault the plant from only one point after crossing open fields in plain view of Indian Point’s security guards.

    Just to make sure that there were no surprises, the Entergy security team, which consisted largely of guards hired only for the test, was warned that a mock attack would take place sometime within the next hour…”

    (Entergy in the Arkansas firm which owns the Indian Point nuclear facilities)

  9. scraping_by

    @Jail

    Ah, the old soft snare…

    I remember looking at some houses during the height of the boom. We’d arrived back at the office in the agent’s Hummer and she leaned over the console, her generous mammaries on the console next to my forearm, and breathed, “I’ll do anything to get you into a house!”

    Thinking with the right head kept me from being underwater, insolvent, and liable to prosecution all at once. Beware of attractive women who want to talk money.

  10. MichaelC

    The story Nocera tells is revolting. My blood was boiling mid way, stomach was shot by the end.

    This story can’t go viral fast enough.

    What a travesty, sicing the regulatory pit bulls on the small fry, while setting the lap dogs loose on the real crooks.

    And of course, it was a Countywide loan. Jail for lying on a loan application?! WTF!!! How does that punishment fit that crime.

    Mozillo pays a pittance and this guy pays with years of his life.

    Now that the precedent’s been set, an amnesty program better be in the works, or new prisons are going to be needed, and fast, to house all those crimminal liars.

    1. kareninca

      Yeah, I started to read the Nocera piece in the NYT, and I wanted to vomit. F*ing government cowards love to go after individuals who lack political pull. God forbid they should go after someone who has any power, that is, the real criminals here.

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