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Links 1/13/13

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Biggest Structure in Universe: Large Quasar Group Is 4 Billion Light Years Across Science Daily

Freakish dust storm causes ‘red wave’ on Australia’s west coast NY Daily News (more).

Death of internet activist Aaron Swartz prompts flood of Twitter tributes Guardian

Aaron Swartz, Famous Hacker And Reddit Builder, Dies At 26 Gothamist

Treasury: We won’t mint a platinum coin to sidestep the debt ceiling Ezra Klein, WaPo (cf.).

COINTASTROPHE: White House Rules Out The Trillion Dollar Coin Option To Break The Debt Ceiling Joe Weisenthal, Business Insider

On The Disruptiveness of the Platinum Coin Tim Duy’s Fed Watch

No clear path for Obama to act alone on U.S. debt cap: experts Reuters

White House responds to secession petitions, calls for unity instead The Hill. And a pony. I’m gonna name my pony “Legitimacy Crisis.”

Buffett Says Banks Free of Excess Pose No U.S. Threat Bloomberg. Confidence über-fairy talks his book?

Who are the criminals here? John Quiggin

Latest in private Libor cases: California city, counties file suit Reuters

Paying the Price, but Often Deducting It Gretchen Morgenson, NY Times. Guess who really pays for “settlements” with the banksters?

Usury Laws Are Dead. Long Live the New Usury Law. The CFPB’s Ability to Repay Mortgage Rule Credit Slips. No behavioral economics in CFPB qualified mortgage rulemaking.

Is Shinzo Abe the Great Keynesian Hope?  Noahpinion

The Crisis of the Middle Class and American Power Stratfor

Assessing the job polarization explanation of growing wage inequality Economic Policy Institute

Why the Unemployment Rate Is So High Laura D’Andrea Tyson, NY Times

Americans feel austerity’s bite as payroll taxes rise Reuters

Massive Cuts to Postal Service a Step Towards Privatization? RNN

Billions pumped into global equities FT

Water, energy and the economy Angry Bear

Mississippi Rock Blasting Puts River In Ship Shape AP

Iowa corn yield, production fell 20% last year DesMoines Register

A mother’s story of the teenager India wants to hang after gang-rape that shocked a nation Independent

Jimmy Savile: A report that reveals 54 years of abuse by the man who groomed the nation Independent. Sandusky in Pop Warner League by comparison.

Here Are Some Tips on How to Avoid “Consensual” Police Encounters Slate

Proud to be a Garfield Bulldog Rethinking Schools (DCB)

Here Is What Happens When You Cast Lindsay Lohan in Your Movie NY Times (MT)

‘How old Cary Grant?’ FT

Handwriting: a joined-up case Gillian Tett, FT. Opposable thumbs? For texting. Why else?

Gov. Cuomo Declares Public Health Emergency Over Flu Epidemic Gothamist

Lean into the pain Aaron Swartz

Antidote du jour:

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97 comments

  1. LucyLulu

    All the southern coastal states (Virginia doesn’t count, it isn’t really southern anymore), and only those states, from Texas to North Carolina (hiding in corner in shame, really, I’m a transplant, I swear), petitioned to secede. Not particularly surprising except that Mississippi was missing from the list. Anybody have a clue why?

    1. Jim Haygood

      Mississippi has the smallest population (under three million) of the southern coastal states, of which about one-third is black (the highest proportion of any state) and unlikely to support secession.

      When a fixed threshold of 25,000 signatures is imposed, states with small populations are disadvantaged in meeting it.

  2. Jim Haygood

    ‘All of which doesn’t mean that fiscal stimulus isn’t a good idea for Japan. After all, money is still getting spent! But it does mean that we can expect construction pork spending to continue if and when Japan’s economy recovers.’

    A casual visitor to Japan who probes its back roads and smaller villages will be perplexed to note that every creek and gully has been turned into a concrete-sided ditch, and every road cut (of which there are many) stabilized with concrete reinforcement. Find a coastal road, and the shore is likely to be paved with giant concrete tetrapods.

    After reading Alex Kerr’s Dogs and Demons, you’ll never see Japan through the same eyes again. Kerr explains how pork-barrel construction spending turned densely-populated Japan into a paved-over environmental disaster area.

    http://www.alex-kerr.com/html/dogs___demons__english_.html

    At this late day, the only construction spending that would do Japan any good is to pay for ripping out the acres of concrete blight that deface Japan’s streams, valleys and coasts.

    1. Can't Help It

      The only useful stimulus that Japan can and should do is pay a bunch of foreign mercenaries to get rid of the Yakuza and their crony politicians. 5 trillion Yen is a bargain if that can be done. The Yakuza and their ilk is the reason why Japan has never taken a write down on all those real estate speculation. If this sounds like drama, go read all the books on the origin of the modern Yakuza including their intertwining with LDP politicians (and the CIA).

      1. Yves Smith

        The yakuza have a long-standing deal with the officialdom.

        They get to run all the rackets but they keep hard drugs out. They don’t deal in them and they crush any new market entrants that try to bring them in.

    2. CRLarue

      Yes! I lived in Japan for 18 years, left on the first plane out after 9/11. I agree 100% that Japan is now paved over.
      All the old wooden structures where replaced with steel and concrete. So sad, these where works of art!

  3. David Lentini

    So, according to Stratfor, the rape of the middle class shouldn’t be stopped, because, . . . well, it just wouldn’t be American. Instead, let’s just wait until we get lucky agaain, because, . . ., we’ll always be lucky, because, . . ., we’re AMERICA!!

    Do we really need the talkinng points of the 1% on this ‘blog?

    1. from Mexico

      You beat me to the punch. I found Friedman’s narrative to be highly seductivie, but in the end completely unconvincing.

      For instance, he states:

      Obviously, this is a massive political debate, save that political debates identify problems without clarifying them. In political debates, someone must be blamed. In reality, these processes are beyond even the government’s ability to control.

      This is a masterwork of sophistry and historical fiction. The demise of American labor did not happen due to some naturally occuring process, as if no one could have known and no one could have done anything about it. It was a murder. An assasination. It was an intentional, premeditated, well-planned and perfectly executed mafia hit, ordered by corporate America. It began under Carter but it was Reagan who really pulled the trigger, and U.S. presidents ever since have been nothing but a succession of corporate hit men. In Lockdown America Christian Parenti goes to great lengths to document all the gritty details — detailing the actual legislation and executive orders — to show the calumnity of what Friedman asserts.

      Then there’s this from Friedman:

      If we move to a system where half of the country is either stagnant or losing ground while the other half is surging, the social fabric of the United States is at risk, and with it the massive global power the United States has accumulated. Other superpowers such as Britain or Rome did not have the idea of a perpetually improving condition of the middle class as a core value.

      I wish Friedman would try peddling that line to historians like Carroll Quigley, evolutionary biologists like Peter Turchin, or psychologists like Andrew M. Lobaczewski. The transition from the “all for one and one for all” attitude to the “just me” attitude, the growth of inequality, and the destruction of what in military terms is called “unit cohesion” has been the death knell of all great empires and civilizations.

      Then Friedman trots out the same old hackneyed argument we’ve heard from the Austrian-neoclassical crowd a gazillion times, as if what there is is all there ever can and ever will be, making all human activity a zero sums game:

      The left would argue that the solution is for laws to transfer wealth from the rich to the middle class. That would increase consumption but, depending on the scope, would threaten the amount of capital available to investment by the transfer itself and by eliminating incentives to invest. You can’t invest what you don’t have, and you won’t accept the risk of investment if the payoff is transferred away from you.

      Friedman then tops it all off with this:

      It would seem to me that unless the United States gets lucky again, its global dominance is in jeopardy.

      The irony in this statement, however, is that Friedman’s corporate masters certainly don’t need any luck. When the dice are friendly and they make their point, they pocket the winnings. But when the dice are unfriendly and the roll comes up craps, it’s the proles who are forced to pick up their gambling tab.

      1. David Lentini

        Thanks, Mexico, I just didn’t have the stomach to disect that piece of garbage so early on a Sunday morning. And what is with guys named Friedman? Are they all Right Wing Authoritarians?

      2. Susan the other

        This article by George Friedman is not just offensive and canned commentary, it is stumbling around in the dark. From a Reuters piece at News Daily (Science News) apparently free trade has failed. The WTO is irrelevant these days. Everybody knows it but George Friedman? The ostensible reason for gutting American industry was to open up and nurture free trade, and line the pockets of all the corporate arbitrageurs. But no more. Chris Hedges also said this last year – that free trade has failed. It is being replaced by regional and bilateral trade agreements with little transparency like TPP, wherein only industrialized (corporatized) nations will be able to compete; and the UK is pushing hard for an EU-US trade pact. Presumably these deals will also include Japan. I’m not able to imagine what transformation this holds for the middle class – I’m also not optimistic.

        1. David Lentini

          Some time ago, I took a trial subscription to Stratfor and was profoundly disppointed. After wadiing through several steaming piles of Friedman-esque b.s., I realized that the site was written mostly by third-rate poli-sci majors who think that regurgitating their lecture notes is actual thinking. Stratfor’s writers aren’t smart enough, or they lack the intellectual courage, to actually derive honest conclusions from an analysis of facts; they, like so many of our elites in the social sciences and econocmis, pick and choose particular facts to cram into their pre-conceived conclusions that justify the status quo.

          Again, why waste time and space posting this crap on NC?

        2. Aquifer

          Sto – methinks “free trade” hasn’t failed at all – it has done precisely what it was supposed to do – remove the only leverage domestic workers had with the corps – their labor – by forcing competition with a world wide labor pool ….

          The WTO is alive and well – it has stalled of late because the last thing it needs to get to – ag – is a really touchy point for developing nations …

          So the big biz nations are going around the outside and picking off as many as they can outside of that framework …

          “Free trade” is alive and well, as well, in the hearts and minds of the corps, it is far too effective a tool with which to pry the world apart to be abandoned by them – they just have to “tweak” it a bit here and there ….

        3. different clue

          Free Trade has “failed”? No . . Free Trade has succeeded admirably. It has destroyed some high wage jobs in America and created some low wage jobs in Mexico exactly as intended. It has destroyed many high wage and mid wage jobs and entire bussinesses in America and transferred all those jobs and bussinesses to China/Vietnam/Bangladesh/Haiti/etc. Again, exactly as intended. So where is the “failure”?

          And sinister agreements like TPP are yet more Free Trade, designed to destroy yet more jobs in America and designed to destroy what social and eco-protection standards yet survive in America. “Transparency” or “opacity” are entirely beside the point. The point is to keep Protectionism and Social-Economic Sovereignty impossible so people with vestigial remaining standards cannot defend those standards against Forced Free Trade erosion and destruction.

          1. LeonovaBalletRusse

            dc, correct: This is “free trade” defined by the British East India Company and the Global Reich of BIS “Governance.” The TPP is the hammer designed to break the back of We the People and our Constitution, usurping our Government with their “Governance” and our Law of the Land with their Law Merchant/Maritime Law.

          2. different clue

            I would basically agree and only offer the minor quibble in that I would not refer to it with ironical quotes as “free trade”; I would capitalise it without quotes as Free Trade. This IS exACtly what Free Trade IS all about. This is the whole and entire PURpose of Free Trade. There never was any other goal for Free Trade. There never will be any other goal for Free Trade.

            Free Trade is the new Slavery. Protectionism is the new Abolition. Abolish Free Trade.

      3. LeonovaBalletRusse

        Why do Executive Orders carry any weight of Law? If Executive Orders are the Law (instead of only one man’s opinion on the Law), then the our Chief Executive is an Absolute Dictator.

        Everybody’s fine with that?

      4. Roland

        The most accurate term for what happened to the prosperous workers of America would be: “liquidated as a class.”

    2. Jim S

      I read the piece as a problem statement without an accompanying recommendation. But despite Friedman’s choice of the word “luck” in describing the source of a solution it’s clear that he’s warning that a solution is urgently required and that America is not really at the point where a solution can be sought–ie. we’re not taking it seriously as a nation (although certain groups such as the NC readership here may be alert to the danger). “Luck” indicates to me that he thinks the solution may be arcane rather than common sense, and I might disagree with him there, but his basic assessment of the situation seems sound.

      What is interesting to me is that, if we take Friedman to be an agent of the 1%, this may be an indicator of the mentality within the 1% and hopefully the start of a public discourse among its members. Several of you have commented before that the 1% is not monolithic, and from the political standpoint I don’t see how it can be. So this piece may be cause for hope.

    1. JTFaraday

      ““We don’t have to save her,” Schrader said. “We just have to get her through three weeks in July.””

      Whatever her exploits on the streets of America, for which she apparently thinks she needs to do penance, this d**kh**d has nothing to complain about.

  4. Brindle

    Sony chief not “outraged” by torture, just people expressing their opinions and beliefs:

    —”Sony Pictures co-chair Amy Pascal has replied swiftly and strongly to a member of the Academy of Motion Arts and Sciences who said he would not vote for “Zero Dark Thirty” in any Oscar category because of the film’s torture scenes.

    “We are outraged that any responsible member of the academy would use their voting status in AMPAS as a platform to advance their own political agenda,” Pascal said in a statement Friday, responding to an event organized by the character actor David Clennon, who is a member of the academy.
    “This film should be judged free of partisanship. To punish an artist’s right of expression is abhorrent.”—

    http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/envelope/moviesnow/la-et-mn-amy-pascal-zero-dark-thirty-david-clennon-20130111,0,774576.story

    1. Eclair

      “This film should be judged free of partisanship. To punish an artist’s right of expression is abhorrent.”—

      Sheesh, I grew up on a diet of Hollywood films depicting evil slant-eyed yellow Jap devils gunning down our brave boys. Alternate Saturdays, we watched sly, savage (and evil) Red Indians scalping our brave pioneers.

      The film-makers “right of expression” shaped my world view for years.

    2. patricia

      “To punish an artist’s right of expression is abhorrent.”

      Dark Thirty’s creators expressed exactly what they wanted, and with all big powers’ approval. It has been showing everywhere.

      “This film should be judged free of partisanship”

      The idea that art criticism must not evaluate artwork on the “strength of its character” is similar to the problems underlying the degradation of our nation’s journalism. “Content neutrality” and “objectivity” are merely covers for unadmitted bias and a sleek way to avoid the demands of integrity.

      And it has always been a cover for the thin-skinned artist who doesn’t want viewers to do anything but massage their rampant egos. Pathetic.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Funny how introducing ethics and morals into the equation is characterized as “partisan.” Somehow, those are the last things I think of when I think of our legacy parties.

    3. Wendy

      the artist has taken a position on torture. to demand critics not take any other position is so obviously hypocritical they should be too embarrassed to say it. but of course these pro-torture types never are embarrassed, are they?

    4. Ms G

      Ms. Amy Pascal,

      News Flash — First Amendment 101.

      The filmmakers excercise their free speech (make the movie); David Clennon excercises his free speech rights by disagreeing (refusing to vote and forming a group). This is the heart of the First Amendment principle the the virtue of free speech is to create a vibrant “marketplace of ideas” — where citizens exchange ideas and views and are free to disagree and argue back.

      Your unfortunate statement that Clennon is “punishing free speech” is therefore not only screechy, but offensive to the First Amendment. What you are doing, if you take a moment to think about it, is attempting to suppress speech that disagrees with yours. That’s the essence of a First Amendment violation.

      Someone in the SONY P.R. office please send Ms. Pascal to remedial class.

      1. Ms G

        ADDING. Note to Ms. Pascal’s handlers: many of us suspect that SONY is just rolling out torture-normalization content per White House instructions which would explain Ms. Pascal vituperative attack on a fellow who happens to be anti-torture. It’s just that if you want enough rubes buying into this hideous agitprop, you (through Ms. Pascal, et al.) can’t be that obvious about it!

    5. Ms G

      Call to NC readers: does anybody have links to youtubes or photographs of those Third Reich mass events where you see thousands of people arranged in perfect rows staring up at giant banners with eagles on them?

      Better yet, are there any images of the Third Reich Volk watching a Leni Rifenstahl movie?

  5. citalopram

    It’s good to see Aaron Schwartz getting massive attention throughout the internet. This is just one more nail in the Federal government’s prosecutorial coffin. People are starting to catch on to the sham that is the justice system.

    1. Aquifer

      cit – yup, and within a week or so that “massive attention” will move on to focus on something else, like locusts in the field ….

      People have known about the sham for ages – but they don’t seem terribly interested in pounding the necessary amount of nails …

      Until they do, regrettable as it is, though his influence will live on, the mechanisms of his persecution will continue, until we remove those who would persecute ….

      1. citalopram

        Yeah, I agree with you. He’ll be forgotten by the end of this week I’m sure. I can only hold out some hope that it will steel the resolve of his fellow hackers. And also, it will convince a few more people of the out of control “justice” system we have today.

    2. different clue

      Since Mr. Swartz was part of a fairly big and very digi-tech skilled community, they may try doing what they can to make sure he is indeed remembered.

      What if Anonymous and all the little Anonymii are considering how to plan and conduct rolling sustained effective Vengeance Operations?

      What if OverGround digital community people are thinking about how to weaponize this knowledge and use it against the people responsible for driving Mr. Swartz to suicide? Can they make Obama into a figure of hatred for several million digeratii and digeratii wannabes?

    3. Aquifer

      I was wondering – if maybe Swartz wasn’t the civilian counterpart of Bradley Manning – maybe somebody said “Aaron, see what happened to BM – the same thing will happen to you … because you have tweaked the noses of essentially the same folks as he did”.

      I suspect that no one could ever bring themselves to ask AS to risk enduring what BM has/is – methinks his being alive might have kept his cause alive longer, but was it worth risking all that ….

  6. Aquifer

    Moose – “Rats, a couple of years ago this outfit was great camouflage, this year not so much – damn that climate change, I never know what to wear anymore ….”

  7. Max424

    The big white moose in the antidote would look good on the trillion dollar coin, methinks.

    Note: Chris Hayes has intellectual balls. That makes him the SOLE person worth watching on PropagandaVision.

    Ok. The kid grasps the coin concept. Good. Public banking, willing to discuss it. Good. Next up for the lad, MMT.

    I always said on the old Yglesias blog, that the platinum coin idea could be our Trojan Horse. With luck, we could use it to slip inside the walls that guard the Beltway Citadel of Ignorance.

    Once in, we fan out of the horse’s belly, and spread the Enlightenment!

    I never thought the Republicans would be dumb enough to open the gates and pull those ropes, though. God bless em.

    Obviously, we’re going to need more than intellectual warrior Hayes in the belly. Having the President of the United States on board the Platinum Horse would help. Unfortunately, student Barrack, at this moment, is showing a clear inability to grasp the kindergarten coin concept.

    And if the President can’t graduate kindergarten, how will he ever be able to pass, 3rd grade MMT?

  8. craazyman

    Unforgiven

    You didn’t have to read one thing — as I did not — about the raped and murdered Indian girl to know what the story would be. There’d be a poor village and family broken, by caste and poverty, living in a shack, and a son turned out to the insane streets to make money somehow as a boy ending up in a bus exploding in a blind volcano of wordless rage at a world that hated him and that he in turn hated with a fury beyond words. Somehow the word “justice” is supposed to find a place in this story.

    Half a lifetime ago I met a young Indian girl about the same age as the one that was killed. In Amsterdam in August in the mid-1980s, in the back alleys near the hashhish shops where the prostitutes sat fleshy and corpulent on pink and violet settees in windows facing the street. It was all legal. And it astonished me to see them, here and there, casually standing outside their stores in their underwear and bras chatting with police officers, as if about the weather or local politics. Mostly they frightened me. Beasts of corpulent flesh as pink as ham or bitterly hard and angular avatars of a sexuality that seemed more a form of savagery than pleasure. I think I was 24 at the time, just a few years out of a college frat house, and had no appetite at all for what was on sale.

    And then I passed a window and saw a girl with a gentle beauty that would have made me nervous, to say hello and chat, if she’d been in a bar in New York with her friends on a Friday night. She was probably in her late teens or very early twenties, a little younger than me, sitting expressionless behind the window on a small sofa with the curtains pulled apart to indicate her availability. I was a little nervous but opened the door and went inside. The price was incredible to me, I think it was 25 U.S. dollars, barely a few hours’ bar tab for drinks after work. And so I figured, whoa, this is amazing. It didn’t occur to me to do anything other than strike a deal.

    It also didn’t occur to me to think of her as a “whore” or a “prostitute” or as a victim of any kind. I saw here completely as an equal, a partner in a venture of pleasure, one that I was delusional enough to think might be mutual. And I began to chat her up, asking where she was from. India she said, in a disengaged and utterly disinterested matter of fact, quiet voice. I asked how she came to Amsterdam. By train she said, her parents sent her here on a train. And then she was put to work, doing this. She didn’t continue.

    I think I remember being briefly startled by her remark, but the mechanical steps we had agreed to stopped all reflection, had I even been capable of it. She pulled the curtains closed across the window and laid down on a single bed worn down like a hammock from use. Turned her head to the side and closed her eyes and waited. I remember I tried to kiss her and she said, quietly, “No kiss.” And then she was gone.

    Her body was still there, but the rest of her had disappeared, taking refuge someplace, in a tiny dot of soul light, inside a lifeless body that laid on the bed like a rag. Or maybe even outside entirely, hovering in the corner of the room up by the ceiling in a point of near vanishment until it was over and she could see again. When I paid her it was as if it had never happened. And I walked away wishing it never had. In fact, I wasn’t even sure what had happened, only that I wished it hadn’t.

    This was half a lifetime ago and I can’t now bring her face into my mind, only the overall circumstance, which I could not recognize at the time. The failure of those who she was forced to trust most, her parents, the failure of the society she came from, the failure of her entire world, and a little girl collecting her soul into a little point of refuge and projecting it out of her body into a blind and fortified dot while waiting again, to breath. A prison from which the only escape is death. Not to touch the earth, not to see the sun.

    India now has its villians, which it wishes to hang. It also has itself and its castes and its dowries and its women. It doesn’t have justice. And neither did this little Indian girl, half a life time ago. Whether or not you believe in the historicity of Jesus, one thing He said is so illuminated by the spark of a divinity that it must have been said by a man partly imbued by God, right before he died “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” Somebody has to, because we can’t.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Willing buyer, willing seller in a “service economy” — all those terms being cliches in the system of agnotology that we call “economics.”

      “Economics without politics” is perhpas the most vacuous slogan I’ve ever encountered…

      1. Aquifer

        So the question is, are there some things that should never be allowed to be bought/sold, willingly or not ….

        If there are none, then the hegemony of the Market is complete …

        1. LucyLulu

          For some women, uneducated and without skills, their bodies are the only things they have to keep them, and perhaps their children, from starvation. For women, it is the job of last resort. I’ve seen it in this country as well, parents sending their daughters as young as 10 to make money to support their (mom’s) habits. It’s heartbreaking.

          Beautiful story, craazyman. You have a good soul.

    2. JohnL

      Lived in Holland for 6 years. The legality, and the knowledge that it brings that this young lady and thousands like her _could_ just walk away, makes it so much more poignant. It’s easier for us to accept prostitutes as either victims of a pimp or trafficer, or as “sluts” and therefore undeserving of our sympathy. But a girl like this is uncomfortable for us to deal with. She’s a product of the world we all make. She cries out for our compassion. Thank you craazy for giving it and inviting us to do the same.

    3. LeonovaBalletRusse

      India never had justice. The concept is completely foreign there; justice obviously is “against their religion” – Q.E.D. Yet today, it is the poster child for “democracy” Global Reich style. Think Bobby Jindal in Louisiana.

  9. Comrade Carson

    That White House “response?” I’ve cut squeak-farts that are more convincing. “We will need to work together… We don’t let that debate tear us apart… The founders established a perpetual union… As President Abraham Lincoln explained…”

    Fuck you, jerkoff.

    I like Carson’s pointless recourse to authority, his unsupported assertions, his question-begging. This is neo-Soviet sloganeering from an apparatchik of a state that has forfeited its sovereignty with repression, rights derogation, failure to protect, and crimes of concern to the international community, a state that rejects the International Bill of Human Rights, flouts UN Charter commitments to peace and development, and runs from the Rome Statute to preserve official impunity. It’s Carson here to shut you up and tell you what to think, pink-faced party line perseveration – just what you’d expect from a middle-aged volunteer in the drolly-named Peace Corps in pre-coup Honduras.

    Patriotic bullshit. That’s what you get for appealing to a criminal state as though it was a legitimate authority.

    1. tooth-brushing project

      Right, Foreign-Interference Cadet Carson comes home and gets debriefed and caring philanthropists like Ken Adelman’s wife pump him about participatory eleemosynary empowerment scholarships or whatever and next thing you know the Tegucigalpa Chief of Station is running all his little friends as agents (we got rid of all the stovepipes, Remember?) and they’re boring into the GOH like termites from within. Carson’s not a spook, strictly speaking, he’s a tool, a blunt object. And now, as a low-level propagandist, he gets to intercept the misguided separatist stirrings of Texas rubes as part of a contemptible PR stunt.

  10. Valissa

    Transforming Pencils into Landscapes http://illusion.scene360.com/art/37758/transforming-pencils-into-landscapes/

    Marangoni’s Pointillism Tattoos http://illusion.scene360.com/art/38085/marangonis-pointillism-tattoos/

    Vladimir Franz: tattooed composer polling strongly in the Czech elections http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jan/09/vladimir-franz-tattooed-czech-elections

    Tattooed candidate in gains ground in Czech presidential race (1 min.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MmGRbMk5AaY

  11. Mac

    About “consensual police encounters”…

    Every American citizen should watch this video.
    I made my daughter watch it. I was astounded how she dresssed down a cop that was questioning a bunch of her friends at a bus stop–with firmness and politeness.
    The cop never knew what hit him.

    Dont Talk to Police – YouTube

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wXkI4t7nuc

    different URLs for same

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8z7NC5sgik

    http://www.boingboing.net/2008/07/28/law-prof-and-cop-agr.html

  12. Valissa

    Simplest Clock Yet? Single Atom Tells Time http://www.livescience.com/26195-simplest-clock-single-atom-time.html

    Simple, hah! http://lpsc.in2p3.fr/barrau/cartoon.gif

    Time is an endless spiral http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-cYK2I4SUq7o/TkidYuiHctI/AAAAAAAAAsI/k-nXxjY4IBU/s1600/time-warp.jpg

    Introducing the thyme machine http://www.cartoonsbyjim.com/images/site/sections/100_main.jpg

    The scary truth about the future http://www.webdonuts.com/comics/2010-11-10-Time-Machine.jpg

  13. Susan the other

    Largest Structure in the Universe. OK, I’m totally confused as per usual. Newsflash: Just discovered – a quasar group 4 billion light years across! (times 186,000 miles per second?). This glob will definitely take more man years to traverse than there is/was time since time began. And since time will expand faster than it can be traversed this glob is never to be explored. 14 billion years, going back in time, just won’t cut it. We’re gonna need a much bigger head start, right? So where does that leave time and space? Are the physicists trying to fudge this by saying space, the universe itself, is not symmetrical. So time is also asymmetrical? Was Goedel right that time is an illusion. Nevermind.

    1. Jim S

      I was at EU2013 in Albuquerque last weekend, a conference of plasma cosmologists, or Electric Universe proponents. If you’ve heard of the Electric Universe, it was probably to dismiss it as crackpottery. Well, they do espouse some wacky ideas–some of it would make great SF stories–but they raise some interesting points.

      One of the fundamental points of contention with conventional cosmology is the argument that redshift is not an indicator of velocity but of some undiscovered factor. Crazy, right? But–and this is a question I hope someone more knowledgeable than me can pitch in on–is our estimation of distance the supra-galactic bodies based on anything but redshift? If I’ve got it right, Halton Arp was the first fellow to seriously question the interpretation of redshift, and he argued that our observable universe is much smaller than we currently think. So a body that appears to be 4 billion LY across may be orders of magnitude smaller if Arp is correct.

      I don’t know if plasma cosmology is correct, but it’s very, very exciting stuff.

      1. smokethebarbecue

        For nearby galaxies, the distance calculated to Cepheid variable stars in those galaxies agrees with the distance gotten by measuring their red shift.

        1. Maximilien

          @stb

          Right. I’ve read a fair number of books on cosmology and I’ve never seen Cepheid variable or redshift measurements questioned.

  14. JGordon

    As if dumping the trillion dollar coin absurdity is surprising. I can well imagine what happened: a few of the other central bankers in the world got on the phone with Bernanke and told him “no way in hell you guys are getting away with that” and that was the end of it. Predictably.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Yes, all serious people are agreed that it is very important that we keep borrowing our own money from the bnksters and keep paying them interest on it. So I commend Obama for his courage in continuing this practice. On to austerity!

      1. JGordon

        That deserves a thoughtful answer. I agree that bankers are parasites that need to be excised from the system for the good of humanity. Along with most economists. However the bankers and their crooked financial system are one of the main enforces of the petrodollar world reserve currency that we have today, I have no doubt that when they are cut out of the picture of necessity(when not if) the petrodollar is going with them.

        This is in fact a good thing, since Americans will instantly be forced into a healthy, low-consumption life style, and all of our wars will end and the overpriced police state we are running will collapse in on itself in a moment. However, I think that most politicians and people (for whatever reason–I’m not really sure why) want to stave off this eventuality for as long as possible. As I said, I don’t really get why this is, but I’m weird I guess.

        So that’s why I always thought of this trillion dollar coin idea as something of a joke. I was incredibly surprised when I saw people actually trying to take this thing serious. Like how many of the phony conservatives we have here in America actually think that Stephen Colbert is on their side. Stunning when you find out about it.

        1. diptherio

          “This is in fact a good thing, since Americans will instantly be forced into a healthy, low-consumption life style, and all of our wars will end and the overpriced police state we are running will collapse in on itself in a moment.”-JG

          Sounds a little optimistic to me. I think “low-consumption lifestyles” will mean catfood for lots of us. Our “wars” may end, but only because they’ll morph into one big never-ending war (oh wait…).

          It’s no more ridiculous for the Treasury to create new currency to fund social programs than it is for the Fed to create new currency through QE to give to banks. Far less, actually.

    2. Aquifer

      For me that still begs the question – is either the 14th Amendment or the coin a “legal” way to avoid the debt ceiling deadline or not?

      Obviously these are two avenues that O could arguably pursue if he wanted to avoid having to “compromise” (cough, cough, hack, hack) with Reps and keep from whacking social programs – there are, ISTM, legal scholars that would back him up, as well as his own party (supposedly ..) – STM the fact that he refuses to pick up either of these swords to whack the Reps with should be yelled from the rooftops – instead, what we seem to be seeing is “oh well, sigh, sigh, BB says no – too bad, guess that’s the end of that. We’re not surprised now, are we, wink, wink …”

      For folks who are really serious, as opposed to merely being clever, about these options, the debate should not end with O saying, “Nope, ain’t gonna do it!”, and apparently being satisfied with “‘Cause BB says no ..” when asked “Why not?”

      Accepting O’s “compromise” with Reps was excused before because he “had no choice – can’t let the US default, now can we?” – well now that it is clear that he does (and always did …), 2, in fact, – he should not be let off the hook on this one, too much is at stake …

      1. JGordon

        The debt ceiling is a non-issue. It will be raised at the last moment again, without much of a fuss when that time comes. Everyone knows this except the breathless mainstream media and the gullible sheep who give it credence.

        Nothing in the law that theoretically gives the Treasury the power to make a trillion dollar coin says that Ben Bernanke has to take it. More than likely what happened was that Ben informed Tim of this fact and gave Tim the opportunity to dump this idea nonsense quickly before Ben was forced to come out and do it for him. Unlike the many delusional nimrods within the US, Ben and has fellow central banking ilk are in no hurry to mutilate the premise that the current entire financial system of the world is based upon.

        Although admittedly I was looking forward to seeing them actually do it, since I’m for the most part ready for the collapse now and don’t mind seeing it happen a bit sooner.

        1. Aquifer

          J – if O had directed his SecTreas to do it, it would have set up an interesting confrontation with the Fed – “We, the Treas of the US, under color of the Laws of the US, have minted this coin and directed that it be considered legal tender for purposes of paying the debt of the US, as the 14th Amendment requires that we do” – a confrontation which very many of the populace on “both sides of the aisle” would have welcomed – this backing down, this refusal to “go to the mat” for the sake of the social programs that so much of the population relies on, STM could be used by those who profess to want to show these schmucks up for what they truly are … In accepting the admin. “reason” for refusal, when arguments could be made that such refusal is one of choice, not one of necessity, how is that different from excusing him? How can we continue to excoriate O, while at the same time giving him cover for his failures – as in, “the devil (in this case, BB) made him do it” …

          This is the same guy who makes the outrageous claim that he can whack citizens without “due process” – that his little Tues tet-a-tets in the WH constitute “due process” – but he won’t tell BB he has to take the coin or he will take him to court – we won’t make that case? We will “back down”/

        2. Aquifer

          It will be raised without much of a fuss –

          Hmm it will be raised at the cost of gutting our SS programs, methinks, because that is the “price” the Reps will “demand” and the Dems will “reluctantly” pay to “keep the gov’t from going into default”… They were prepared to pay it last year, in spades for Pete’s sake, but the Reps were too dumb to accept it, methinks they will not be so dumb this time around, especially if they can get some more tax cuts (e.g. payroll tax) to boot –

          As skeptical as i was/am of the wisdom of the coin/MMT routine, I will be even more skeptical of the sincerity of the folks who push(ed) it if they will not go to the mat for it now … but will shrug and “give up” because the “cards are stacked by TPTB”. Did they not see this play by the Fed coming? Did they not have an answer for it? What else would they not be prepared for?

    3. Ms G

      I had exactly the same reaction and even visualized a similar “red phone” phone call.

      That line attributed to Henry Ford (?) — “If people knew how banking works, there would be a revolution” — was at the front of my mind as I was watching the progression to Obama’s condescendingly terse and unexplained “no.”

      I think the .01% and their lackeys are really starting to freak out. The explosion of the Platinum Coin Solution to the bogus “Federal Deficit” “issue” clearly showed that more and more Americans have gotten wise to the Big Secret about our money system. A very thick barricade has been breached.

      1. Aquifer

        If Obama ia allowed to get away with “Ben won’t take it, so we won’t mint it”, without folks making a really big, continuous fuss, then ISTM that nobody has gotten wise to anything – this has just been an amusing little bump in the road, a side show, a bit of an inconvenience on the way to Business as Usual ….

        Have these folks no answer to “Ben won’t take it ….” C’mon MMT folks, here’s where the rubber meets the road …

        1. LeonovaBalletRusse

          Aq, If Ben won’t take it, then we must tell him to:

          “Hit the road, Jack…” or “Get on the bus, Gus” and end this sad affair.

        2. djrichard

          Aquifer, Obama doesn’t want to burn political capital with this impasse. He actually wants to increase his political capital, which is what makes this whole thing bullock-ed up. Because at this point in his presidency, he should be looking to burn political capital.

          Given that, he’s just looking for whatever is the best vehicle to hitch his wagon to. The platinum coin was not it. He would have burned political capital.

          And any other MMT idea would require him to burn capital too. Let’s pretend Lincoln Greenbacks (not the IOU/scrip idea) were easily at his disposal, so all he had to do would be to issue a presidential order and there would be no court challenge. I think Obama would still see that as burning political capital and would not want to go there.

          What’s needed is to get Obama to see that he can gain political capital by fighting for his constituency. But the window is too short for that. And frankly I think it will require an come-to-Jesus-moment more than anything to penetrate his skull before his 2nd year is up.

          I was hoping we’d be able to scrounge something that was more of a challenge for him to ignore. Hence my posting about the scrip/IOU idea. But I’m now pretty pessimistic. [Thanks for indulging me in that conversation, BTW]

          1. different clue

            What is Obama’s constituency according to this comment?
            What is it you think that Obama would like to support, if only he were willing to burn political capital to support it?

          2. djrichard

            Either Obama is wielding authority or he is currying it. I think he’s still currying it. So he’s still tacking towards authority. And he’s still tacking away from political isolation.

            His constituency may be the bankers. But I think that’s secondary in this impasse vs currying authority.

          3. Aquifer

            I know why O is doing what he’s doing – my point is that he shouldn’t be allowed to wiggle his way out of revealing his duplicity so easily – at this point he thinks he can make a “rational” argument to the public that he has no “real” choice but to “compromise” with the Reps to keep the nation from default. On the surface, the argument does, indeed, sound plausible – and in the absence of a concerted effort to say BS! he will be able to away with it – The coin folk and the 14th amendment folk have put him in a corner, now is not the time to let him escape without, in the immortal words of EW, “blood and teeth on the floor” …

            It’s as if the little boy said “The Emperor is naked!” then shut up and sat down when the Emperor said “No, I’m not!”

          4. Aquifer

            I just took a look at Firestone’s post today – maybe the “little boy” isn’t sitting down after all!

    4. Hugh

      You misunderstand the power relationships. Most central banks around the world are dependent on the Fed and its dollar swaps programs. So how or with what could they threaten the Fed?

      For its part, the Fed has no power not to accept the platinum coin just as it has no power not to accept and sell Treasuries.

      What it comes down to is that Obama and the Washington political class have taken great pains to manufacture a fiscal crisis so that they can target the social safety net and make cuts elsewhere in government freeing up resources which they can then loot. They have no intention of throwing that away for a simple accounting mechanism like the platinum coin which would eliminate the crisis and the need to make these cuts. Nor do they like the idea of the platinum coin becoming a precedent and start cutting into the annual tribute of hundreds of billions of dollars which go out in interest payments on the national debt. It was Obama and his economics team that did in the coin, not anyone else.

      1. Aquifer

        “For its part, the Fed has no power not to accept the platinum coin just as it has no power not to accept and sell Treasuries.”

        Bingo! Interesting that you, not a raging fan of MMT, from what i can gather, would be the one making the argument that the MMT folks, or at least their supporters, should be making, loud and clear, all over the place …

        That was the point of my argument – if the coin/MMT supporters don’t actively, all over the place (just as they promoted the coin), – give the lie to this “the Fed doesn’t have to take it” BS, ISTM they are “caving” to this admin … they are backing down ….

        Why? (OK, here goes,I’ll really stick my neck out here -) Is it because they are hoping for “a seat at the table”? Are they hoping to “convince” TPTB, and challenging them in this manner would not be good “politics”?

        If MMTers have their ducks in a row – then let them take it to the mat, for Pete’s sake, don’t back off at the first feeble “counter blow” from the admin – especially when it was given with a flyswatter, a counter blow that probably took 10 minutes, at most, to come up with over brandy and cigars at the club – if the admin is going to reject the coin, e.g., make ‘em sweat, make ‘em work at it. At this point the admin has been able to easily “shift the blame” to BB – “Shucks, we were really thinkin’ about it, but BB said No, so what can we do?” Are the MMTers going to let him get away with that, for cryin’ out loud!

        1. Aquifer

          Well – I may have to eat crow (is that better than cat-food?), I just took a gander at Firestone’s post today – good for them!

  15. djrichard

    Posted this to Krugman’s blog:

    So Obama wants to have a game of chicken on the debt ceiling and says he won’t flinch. If that’s the case, then there’s no reason to bundle decisions on spending cuts and tax mods as part of that game of chicken, is there?

    Or is there? The only reason to keep them bundled is to allow for a compromise, for a quid-pro-quo. Which is not any different than Obama flinching in the game of chicken.

    In contrast, if he unbundles the issues, he can play his game of chicken and we can eat popcorn and we can watch him not flinch because he’ll have nothing to negotiate with. And then after that’s over, there can be a nice leisurely conversation on where and what to cut and where and what to make tax mods.

  16. Valissa

    No Labels enters new era by shedding ‘centrist’ image http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/no-labels-enters-era-shedding-centrist-image-110001675–election.html
    “If you carry the No Labels brand, that says something – it means you’re bragging about problem solving, not just bragging about yourself,” Manchin said. “I think you’ll see people climbing aboard and wanting to become part of this.”

    Wow, that’s some pretty uninspiring bullshit, but help is available to Manchin and the No Label goons here http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_27qQ3O-QYbk/TQozkSElvqI/AAAAAAAAASc/MgvIn4ayeVw/s1600/16458_341215535230_556610230_9934241_1182734_n.jpg

    Antidote to No Labels article… ‘Dog who wouldn’t die’ home after surgery http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/sideshow/buck-dog-bag-surgery-texas-172128740.html

  17. Aquifer

    And the meme “SS tax baaaad” continues to to be bleated …

    How baaad is this? Why “Evelyn Weiss Francisco has put off plans to upgrade her cell phone …” and another couple “…might cut cable channels, …” Almost sounds like a piece from the Onion ….

    To offset this average of $700/year loss from this baaad tax, what about doing what has been done – rebating folks the money? (of course raising the minimum wage isn’t even “on the table” though that would put more money in folks pockets than anything else …) But a rebate would “add to the deficit” …. Ending the SS tax “holiday” makes sure that SS doesn’t “add to the deficit” – oh wait ….

    I have no doubt that decreasing paychecks means less money for folks to spend, and that, right now, folks need more to spend, but of all the ways to put more money in folks pockets, ask yourself, why cut the SS tax?

    Here’s the play – cut it “to put more money in folks’ pockets”, let ‘em get used to it, then restore it (“raisin’ taxes – those SOBs!”) again and stoke the backlash … I am waiting for the other shoe to drop …. Restoring the “holiday” in “return” for bennie cuts …. Reps come away having “lowered taxes” and getting SS whacked, a “win-win” and Dems come away with muting the criticism from their base re “agreeing to” whacking SS – hey, such a deal ….

    It would seem that most folks here are in agreement that both Ds and Rs want to whack SS/Med, so it would seem to me that ANY move these schmucks make with regard to these programs should be examined in terms of “how would this maneuver help them do what they want?” …

    And that’s my version of “what the hell is goin’ on here …!” and the MSM is right on cue ….

  18. Aquifer

    The article by Swartz is interesting – don’t know when it was written – wonder if he was really writing it for himself, trying to convince himself it was true – in the end it appears he did not succeed …

  19. Evil rock

    “ST. LOUIS (AP) Crews have completed the most critical phase of removing bedrock that threatened barges along a crucial stretch of the drought-starved Mississippi River”

    Up next- how can you protect your family from the threat of bedrock?

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