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Links 2/14/13

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Finally, I am living up to my “please be nice, you aren’t getting much today” threat. I had competing responsibilities and couldn’t start on this till 3:30 AM, and I have to get off this Godawful sleep cycle.

Midwest Soil Could Take 2 Years to Recover from Drought AgWeb

Non-Profit Hospital Executive Salaries Continue to Defy Gravity and Logic Health Care Renewal (Francois T)

SARS-Like Virus Infecting More People Spurs Hunt for Source Bloomberg

Can computers save health care? IU research shows lower costs, better outcomes: Indiana University (Chuck L)

The astonishing ineptitude of the MRRT (updated) MacroBusiness. This is an amazing little story.

One Billion Rising – live coverage Guardian

GDP data reveal Japan mired in recession Financial Times

US banks attack Europe’s ‘Tobin Tax’ Telegraph

Euro-Area Economy Shrinks Most Since Depths of Recession Bloomberg

Scavengers Stripping Greece of Metals Greek Reporter (Lambert)

Obama’s Expanding Kill List Paul Craig Roberts (jsmith)

Pentagon Creates New Medal For Cyber, Drone Wars Associated Press

SOTU {{facepalm}} riverdaughter (Lambert)

SOTU: Obama Opens Door to Grand Betrayal Real News Network

To Reduce Suicide Rates, New Focus Turns to Guns New York Times. How many gun stories have we had before someone brings up the elephant in the room?

Lew’s Senate Finance hearing as Treasury Nominee Linda Beale. Be sure to read the bit at the end.

FreedomWorks Made Video of Fake Giant Panda Having Sex With Fake Hillary Clinton MotherJones (Richard Smith). Department of weird.

Fresh Juice Party Announces the FUBAR! Fresh Juice Party

Punishing Anti-Nuke Protesters ConsortiumNews

How Law Enforcement and Media Covered Up the Plan to Burn Christopher Dorner Alive Alternet

UPDATE: Taylor Swift Back Together With Former Flame Christopher Dorner Onion

Texas wins on housing MacroBusiness. Nothing like people who have never been to Texas or California speculating on California v. Texas real estate. I don’t know how much the rest of the state is like this (I’ve been to Dallas, Houston, and Austin, FYI), but Dallas has astonishingly expensive toll roads and disposable looking cookie cutter housing, low rise offices, and strip malls. That plus the beastly weather in the summer must explain some of the difference. (I am sure Texans who live in the more civilized spots, namely Austin, will yell at me, but I’d also pay a big premium to live in a state that isn’t full of gun fetishists).

Ben Bernanke Is Actually A Hawk Clusterstock. Clever, but I don’t think anyone is afraid of Bernanke. By contrast, everyone on Wall Street stopped what they were doing at 4:00 PM every Thursday in Volcker’s day to read the latest money supply numbers.

Affluent Americans Downbeat on Economy OnWallStreet (j33)

The Convergence of George Will and Sherrod Brown Simon Johnson, New York Times

Sorry, Economists: The Crisis is a Huge Problem for Your Discipline Unlearning Economics

The smell test for big data Cathy O’Neil

Which Consumer Financial Education Programs Are Most Effective?: Assuming a Fact Not in Evidence Lauren Willis, Credit Slips

Antidote du jour (Francois T). OMG, cute overload! I had to give you two of the four he sent:

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108 comments

    1. Synopticist

      Yeah, of course. The rightwing plutocrats have had the tea Party option in their back pockets for a long time.

      If Kerry had won in 2004, it would have surfaced in time for the 2006 mid-terms, if Mcain had won in 2008 it wouldn’t have come up when it did, if a newly elected democrat president had won in november it would be building momentum as we speak.
      .

  1. ArkansasAngie

    Not afraid of Bernanke? Gee … I am. But even I don’t stop to listen. Why? Two reasons:

    We know that Bernanke is patient alpha for Geithneritis and we know that he isn’t going to make anybody take their medicine

    So … SSDD

    Yes Virginia I’d prefer a crash to the slow bleed of wealth transfer without moral hazard.

  2. Aaron Layman

    Yves,

    This one might be deserving of a not just a link but a write-up as well. Check out January foreclosure filings in California following new rules prohibiting dual tracking and fines of up to $7,500 per loan for filing of multiple unverified foreclosure documents.

    Surprise, Surprise, January notices of default in California were down 75% compared to a year ago. LOL!

    http://www.marketwatch.com/story/realtytrac-us-jan-foreclosure-filings-down-28-2013-02-14?dist=beforebell

    1. Butch in Waukegan

      NPR did its thing on this story with a 30 second clip this morning. Though they did mention an unspecified “change in the law” as a contributing factor, their take away message was the housing market is improving at last.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      You (meaning people in general) should be guilty of something for luring unsuspecting victims into buying real estate, via ZIRP or whatnot, when you are not sure if housing will decline later.

      I am thinking of the buying credit in 2007/2008.

  3. fresno dan

    Can computers save health care? IU research shows lower costs, better outcomes: Indiana University (Chuck L)

    One of the dirty secrets of medicine is how many doctors view it as an “art” rather than a science. The literature on how often the most data driven and proven therapies are NOT followed would shock the average person.
    After my heart attack, the intial hospital, surgical hospital, intial cardiologist, and my current cardiologist never brought up, until I asked, about the post myocardial infarction drug regimen recommended by the US commision on post hearth attack treatment (all medical societies essentially recommend the same thing).
    Whether if was lack of knowledge or lack of organization, it is rather astounding…

    Of course, Gawande has been avocating forever the benefits of simply having a checklist to simply do what is already proven to work…

  4. David Lentini

    BIG SMELLY DATA

    “Bottomline: there’s a smell test, and it states that real influence happening inside a social graph isn’t magical just because it’s mathematically formulated. It is at best an echo of the actual influence exerted in real life. I have yet to see a counter-example to that. If you have one, please challenge me on this.”

    “Social graph” should include any aggregate measure of human decisions and interactions, like stock market prices. Poincaré was wise enough to explain this to the young French mathematician Bachelier when advising him on Bachelier’s initial work on the random walk character to the prices on the Paris Bourse, thereby limiting Bachelier’s analysis to moment-to-moment actions in the market.

    Sadly, Irving Fisher picked up the same independently some years later using NYSE prices, but, being an economist, Fisher believed that the randomness held some secret, magical information about human rationality that proved “markets” could not be improved upon, which still later became Fama’s Efficient Market Hypothesis. And thus economics became a neo-Platonic endeavor, complete with Pythagorean numerical mysticism.

      1. David Lentini

        Read Justin Fox’s The Myth of the Rational Market. Fox provides lots of interesting details and stories. The upshot is that intellectual foundation of economics is so dishonest and corrupt that even when explicitly faced with the failure of the “rational market”, the mavens of modern economics still cling to the fantasy by either claiming “there’s no alternative” or that only a few minor adjustments are needed to fix the problem.

        1. Expat

          Your comments strongly suggest that the appropriate way to think about economics is as though it were a religion. Religion universally breaks into three levels: an elite level that is concerned with the nature of reality and similar questions of truth, a popular level usually following a saviour, and a folk level concerned with ritual, prayer, spells, etc. This tripartite analysis certainly applies to economics. While I would never want to equate Ayn Rand & Jesus, it is clear that they both operate at the popular level of religion.

          1. David Lentini

            I have come to find that modern economics is very much like a religion. Philip Pilkington, who frequently contributes columns to this ‘blog, has written quite a lot (and convincingly) about economics being a religion. I hope you’ll read his columns if you haven’t already.

    1. Ms G

      “And thus economics became a neo-Platonic endeavor, complete with Pythagorean numerical mysticism.”

      Thus explained, I now understand! Thank you David!

      Fascinating historical detail.

  5. Richard Kline

    Very cute pic . . . though not to go all grinchy on everyone but any of those pups could asphyxiate that infant lying on the child’s chest. I’m just sayin’ _I_ wouldn’t pile pups around an infant . . . .

    1. Bill the Psychologist

      I agree, animals sleeping with infants is really bad idea…the parents would never recover from that kind of loss, if anything happened.

    2. Noni Mausa

      Um … you did notice that someone has to be holding that camera and thus is watching the baby and the Frenchie pups vewy, vewy closely?

      Not likely they are all tossed into the crib at bedtime and left alone. Three pups overnight, with or without the baby, would present a real crib-cleaning challenge come morning. Ewww…

      1. Susan the other

        It got me. What a sweet Valentine. 3 puppies and a baby in an abstract configuration of a heart. I think I love it.

        1. juliania

          Nope, sorry, even as a cutsie pic this is way out in left field. Like Michael Jackson dangling his baby on the balcony. Don’t try this even for a pic, parents!

  6. scott

    I guess because TX taxes land instead of labor, something must be wrong. Property taxes are high, which puts the lid on housing prices, which many would exchange for the state taking 10-13% off the top of your paycheck. If you want to avoid taxes, buy a smaller house. QED. As you can see, high property taxes have destroyed the TX economy.

    “Full of gun fetishists” is a nice generalization. TX is only a few generations from a true frontier, where people lived off of what they grew or could kill (it’s called “self-sufficiency”). Did you know the only real growth in the hunting market is wild pigs, which are destroying pastureland and farmland at an alarming rate. The weapon of choice is a .223 semi-auto with a 30 round clip, since wild pigs don’t normally travel alone, and will charge you if they are pissed.

    1. from Mexico

      scott said:

      “TX is only a few generations from a true frontier, where people lived off of what they grew or could kill (it’s called “self-sufficiency”).”

      Well that’s without a doubt the myth of our rugged individualism, which I’d love to bask in since I’m a native born Texan. But unfortunately, the reality is something very different.

      Early immigration to Texas was from the Southern United States, and those immigrants brought with them not only their slaves, but their ideas about the virtues of slave society. Thus, when Texans declared their independence from Mexico on March 2, 1836, largely because Mexico had outlawed slavery, the Texans were quick to make the right to own slaves one of the fundamental freedoms of the newly established repbublic. From the Constitution of the Republic of Texas:

      ***beginning of quote***

      SEC. 9. All persons of color who were slaves for life previous to their emigration to Texas, and who are now held in bondage, shall remain in the like state of servitude, provide the said slave shall be the bona fide property of the person so holding said slave as aforesaid. Congress shall pass no laws to prohibit emigrants from the United States of America from bringing their slaves into the Republic with them, and holding them by the same tenure by which such slaves were held in the United States; nor shall Congress have power to emancipate slaves; nor shall any slave-holder be allowed to emancipate his or her slave or slaves, without the consent of Congress, unless he or she shall send his or her slave or slaves without the limits of the Republic. No free person of African descent, either in whole or in part, shall be permitted to reside permanently in the Republic…

      SEC. 10. All persons, (Africans, the descendants of Africans, and Indians excepted,) who were residing in Texas on the day of the Declaration of Independence, shall be considered citizens of the Republic, and entitled to all the privileges of such.

      http://tarlton.law.utexas.edu/constitutions/text/ccGP.html
      ***end of quote***

      After 1865 what emerged in Texas was a social and economic order that was hardly any less exploitative than the old slave order. In Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas: 1836-1986, David Montejano examines the new ranch and farm order, Jim Crow, the cutlure of segregation and the web of labor controls that arose after the Civil War.

    2. Eclair

      “people lived off of what they grew or could kill (it’s called “self-sufficiency”).

      Or, who they had to kill – like the indigenous populations of Apache, Lipan, Tawakoni, Tonkawa, so they could take over the territory.

      And, talk about “theft of language.” From whose perspective was Texas a “frontier?” The invading Euros, certainly. A most murderous bunch.

    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Taxing land instead of labor is a great idea.

      Let’s hear more good ideas from south of the MD Line.

      1. ScottS

        So I read the piece and it says that people in the $20,000-$40,000 annual income bracket were the ones leaving California for Texas.

        The piece makes an unfounded assertion that “Cheaper housing, more jobs, and lower taxes” are the reason for the exodus.

        First, house prices in California are very expensive (and volatile) compared to the national average, whereas Texas’ house prices are highly affordable (and stable), due to its permissive market-based urban planning system

        There is plenty of cheap housing in California in the interior. I know the Inland Empire has plenty, go look for yourself. If I had to guess, I would say energy industry jobs might be pulling Californians away. But I’m not going to magically turn correlation into causation like the guys at MacroBusiness.

        But the last phrase in the quote above is the “meat” of the piece. Macrobusiness has had a hard-on for lowering housing regulations and had another piece previously that tried to make the case for lessening housing regulations — as if we don’t have enough McMansions. They have avoided the elephant in the room — deplorable credit underwriting standards that gave us the subprime meltdown. Simply giving everyone “infinity” money to spend on housing gave us the bubble, not the oh-so-draconian housing regulation. Apparently Australia is a better vantage point for knowing how available housing was during the boom and bust than I was at ground zero.

        But to anyone who would rather live in America’s cultural and climatological armpit than The Golden State: don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

  7. Ned Ludd

    All the calls by politicians for more scientists and researchers always struck me as a way to drive down wages.

    Since 2008, the biotech/pharma research sector has laid off over 100,000 scientists, the bulk of them in NJ. Don’t believe me? Check out FiercePharma Top 10 Layoffs for 2009 for a taste of the carnage. As for foreign engineers needing to come here, I can only assume he means the kind of engineers they employ in the Apple plants in China. Because I know American chemical engineers who are working in Canada and Japan because they can’t get a job in the United States. So, the only reason I can think as to why we are bringing in foreign engineers is that the companies that want to hire them have been keeping perfectly good, highly skilled American engineers out of the labor market and now, realizing they actually need engineers, they want to bring in cheap labor from elsewhere.

    1. jrs

      Just make sure they don’t take any liberal arts classes like history, they might learn about the labor movement. Bad low paid STEM wage slave! Bad!

      1. Lidia

        STEM: an acronym I just came across yesterday in re. my state tediously promoting engineering education without any real idea of what the hell is going on in the world.

        Of the nation’s nine million people with STEM degrees, only about three million work in STEM fields. Despite the lamentations of employers about not being able to hire qualified people (which is true in some locations), the real problem is that there are too few jobs for the qualified people available. Further, when businesses can off-shore jobs or hire foreign nationals at a fraction of the cost, there is no incentive to hire our home-grown kids.

        In Vermont, the pattern is the same — except for registered nurses, none of our fastest growing jobs require STEM training. To be sure, a number of STEM jobs in the state have high percentage increases. Yet, again, these are big percentage increases to small numbers. For the decade 2008 to 2018, software engineers are projected to increase by only 361 new positions. But, in a “Call to Action for Vermont” STEM Connector says, in bold, red headlines, that the state needs 19,000 such workers.

        http://www.vtcommons.org/blog/stem-vermont%E2%80%99s-urban-myth-william-j-mathis

  8. JTFaraday

    “In the hours after the standoff, however, the police cover-up remained unchallenged thanks largely to local media complicity…

    …The sources claimed the deputies who had besieged the cabin were under a “constant barrage of gunfire” and that, “There weren’t a lot of options.””

    Armed or unarmed victim, the police always seem to be under a “constant barrage of gunfire.” I think it’s time to consider the possibility that the entire US vigilante street justice squadron is suffering from mass psychosis.

    1. JTFaraday

      Oops, that’s from “How Law Enforcement and Media Covered Up the Plan to Burn Christopher Dorner Alive,” Alternet.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I can empathize – it’s like driving under the ‘constant barrage of being pulled over’ or the ‘constant barrage of traffic tickets (= DMV points {= higher insurance rates}).

      It’s my firm belief that an award-winning research paper is just waiting to be written about how much one shortens one’s lifespan everytime he/she drives in front of a patrol car.

  9. Ned Ludd

    Texas is beastly hot. I remember visiting Laredo, riding in a car that did not have air conditioning. I rolled down the windows, and it felt like a furnace blasting from the outside. So I rolled the windows back up.

    When it rains, in the area around Austin, parched creek beds turn into raging torrents of water and wash cars off of the roads, drowning the occupants. Poisonous snakes called water moccasins are able swimmers, making flood waters even more dangerous. In fact, in Texas lives every poisonous snake of North America. The most dangerous are the coral snakes, which “possess the most potent venom out of any North American snake”. I remember seeing one on a dirt road when I was out walking and making a very wide path around it. Not too wide, because the grass was full of rattlers.

    There are also lots of black widow spiders and scorpions around the Austin area. When I was a kid, my sister’s best friend had a scorpion fall on her when she shut her front door, jarring the scorpion loose from the portico. In Texas you learn to always bang your shoe heels on the floor before putting them on, to dislodge anything that crawled into them. As my cousin was driving, he realized a scorpion was caught in the toe compartment of one of his shoes and was trying to turn around so it could sting him; it was jammed in there with its stinger away from his toes. Taking his shoe off was a bit stressful.

    1. Tx Doc

      I concur – would not reloacte to Texas – particularly if from Colorado, Texas, Oregaon, Washington state…you get my drift.
      Oh, and take Austin with you when you depart…

    2. Bridget

      Every word of that is true. (Although that was likely a king snake that you saw, coral snake sightings being rare).

      And it’s not a sunny, cloudless 73 degrees today in central Texas, either. :)

      1. Bridget

        But if it had been a coral snake, you would have had nothing to fear if you’d had a gun with you. :)

  10. Brindle

    SOTU: The Nation (Ari Berman) gingerly steps around the obvious: Obama doesn’t really give a fuck about voting rights and long lines etc.

    —”Unfortunately, Obama’s solution was less than inspiring. Another election commission is a pretty tepid response to the magnitude of the voting problems we face. And Romney campaign lawyer Ben Ginsberg is a puzzling choice to be its co-chair.”—

    http://www.thenation.com/blog/172853/obama-appoints-controversial-gop-lawyer-his-voting-commission

    1. Shutupshutupshutup

      The Security Council has an Arria formula informal meeting tomorrow on the security dimensions of climate change, so naturally all scientific information must be state secrets, because the response is going to be militarized control of transhumance (Check out H.R. 390) and state reallocation of productive land. They’re going to decide who lives and dies.

    2. Mark P.

      ‘CryoSat-2 estimates of Arctic sea ice thickness and volume’

      Abstract

      Satellite records show a decline in ice extent over more than three decades, with a record minimum in September 2012. Results from the Pan-Arctic Ice-Ocean Modelling and Assimilation system (PIOMAS) suggest that the decline in extent has been accompanied by a decline in volume, but this has not been confirmed by data. Using new data from the ESA CryoSat-2 (CS-2) mission, validated with in-situ data, we generate estimates of ice volume for the winters of 2010/11 and 2011/12. We compare these data with current estimates from PIOMAS and earlier (2003-8) estimates from the NASA ICESat mission. Between the ICESat and CryoSat-2 periods the autumn volume declined by 4291 km3 and the winter volume by 1479 km3. This exceeds the decline in ice volume in the central Arctic from the PIOMAS model of 2644 km3 in the autumn, but is less than the 2091 km3 in winter, between the two time periods.
      http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/grl.5019/abstract

      ‘Jeremy Grantham Will Participate In An Anti-Pipeline Protest That Could End In Arrests’

      Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/jeremy-grantham-keystone-protest-2013-2#ixzz2Ku7nj6zc

  11. from Mexico

    @ “Texas wins on housing”
    http://www.macrobusiness.com.au/2013/02/texas-wins-on-housing/

    Leith van Onselen says:

    “First, house prices in California are very expensive (and volatile) compared to the national average, whereas Texas’ house prices are highly affordable (and stable), due to its permissive market-based urban planning system (see next charts).”

    What we’re seeing here is van Onselen’s propensity to drift towards libertarian and right-wing ideology. According to van Onselen, the bubble in housing prices in the US and elsewhere was not attributable to the blowing of a credit bubble, but was caused by governmental restrictions on land use and development. For van Onselen to make his case he has to take a one-eyed approach to the Texas housing market. He has to bar from sight other more plausible explanations for the performance of the Texas housing market which have nothing to do with Texas’ wild west attitude regarding real estate development.

    There is no doubt that Texas’s low and stable (stable at least since the 1980s: van Onselen seems to erase from the historical record what happened in Texas during the 1970s and 80s when housing prices bubbled and then burst due to the machinations of the Savings and Loan industry) housing prices have contributed to Texas’s resiliance in the face of the GFC. However, the reasons why Texas housing prices didn’t bubble during the naughties is not so clearcut. This study, which takes issue with the right-wing spin that Texas’s current prosperity is due to its lack of regulation and low taxes, explains in more detail:

    ***beginning of quote***
    Texas has the second-biggest land area in the country, much of it quite flat and thus available for development. The supply of land keeps prices low and makes it considerably less expensive to start a business or build housing than in many other parts of the country. Texas has by far the most open land among the nation’s most populous states. The population density of Texas is less than half of that of California, less than one-fourth of New York’s or Florida’s, and about one-third of Pennsylvania’s, and (as discussed further below) has only recently crept above the national average…

    There is some debate about why housing prices did not soar in Texas along with the rest of the country. Whether it was because Texas was the last state to allow homeowners to borrow against their homes through equity loans and placed strict controls on the amount they could borrow, or whether it was the plentiful land or some other reason, there is no doubt that Texas did not face the boom and bust in housing that preceded the 2007-2009 recession in many states.[12]

    Elizabeth McNichol and Nicholas Johnson, “The Texas Economic Model: Hard for Other States to Follow and Not All It Seems”
    http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3739
    ***end of quote***

    1. Bridget

      On the issue of how Texas was less impacted by the foreclosure crisis, most definitely we were protected by constitutional prohibitions protecting homesteads from predatory lenders and all sorts of creditors. Texas is a very debtor friendly state.

      On the separate but related issue of land prices, yes, we do have a lot more developable land per capita. Also, less stringent land use regulations. Except Austin, which not coincidentally, has the highest housing prices.

      Like California, we have a significant water issue. Its going to impact growth in the future.

    2. jrs

      I major difference with Texas and California is property taxes. Texas has them, CA has prop 13 that keeps properties off the market for generations! The cost of future tax savings decades ahead (and even for your heirs) is figured into the price of housing in California.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        If property taxes are for, among other things, schools and firefighters, does a homeowner who has no kids or has not called on the fire dept get a rebate?

  12. Brindle

    From the Paul Craig Roberts piece:

    —”If terrorists were really a threat to Americans, shopping centers and electric substations would be blowing up constantly.
    Airport security would be a sham, because terrorists would set off the bombs in the crowded lines waiting to clear security.
    Traffic would be continually tied up from roofing nails dispensed on all main roads in cities across the country for each rush hour.
    Water supplies would be poisoned. Police stations would be bombed and police officers routinely terminated on the streets.
    Instead, nothing has happened despite Washington’s killing and displacement of huge numbers of Muslims in seven or eight countries over the past 11 years.”—

    PCR is a good read on the sham of the War On Terror and US MidEast policies, less so on economic matters and domestic politics.
    I think linking or block-quoting to PCR on DaliyKos will get you banned because Roberts has written on 9/11 and does not believe the guvmint version.

    1. monday1929

      HSBC are the only four letters that must be said to put the lie to any claim that there is a “war on terror” or a “war on drugs”. The only war is on us.

    2. neorealist

      Unfortunately, Daily Kos rejects any discussion of conspiracies regardless of the legitimate facts that surround some of them. Along with the Obamacans who believe their leader can do nothing wrong, I’ve just about given up on them.

    3. Klassy!

      Best one: our policies must be working because we haven’t had a major attack on American soil since 9/11. Yes, because in the years preceding 9/11 we had at least two attacks a year, right?

      1. Ms G

        @Klassy!

        Well, duh, there were attacks every year before 9/11. We just weren’t told about them because For Our Safety!!

        The only one I recall was the WTC bomb in 1993. That was where Giuliani decided to build the Super Bunker “terrorist command center” … in one of the WT towers … and we know how useful that center turned out …

        It sucks not being deluded :)

        1. Klassy!

          Yes, that was the only one I could recall too but you’re probably right. They kept the other attacks hidden from us until they needed us to shop in the name of freedom.

        2. Klassy!

          But seriously, when officials are being questioned about the price of our war on terror and they say we have not had an attack since 9/11 why does no one call them out on this ridiculous statement? They never do!

          1. different clue

            And of course we did have an attack after 9/11 . . . the anthrax attacks. Conducted with professionally grown professionally milled and professionally dispersed anthrax.
            I remember reading that Cheney, Ashcroft, and other government figures knew to take Ciprofloxacin ahead of time in case of anthrax exposure . . . almost as if they were expecting anthrax. Now . . . how might they have known to expect that?

  13. Keenan

    RE: New cyber-warfare medal

    It seems to me that an individual must be at personal risk to life and limb to merit a combat decoration. One wonders what old soldiers like George S. Patton, for one, might think about this.

    What next? … A cyberwar version of the Purple Heart for carpal tunnel / repetitive motion injury ?

    1. Garrett Pace

      More interesting is what will happen to the mystique of military bravery. Soldiers are flattered and honored for putting themselves in physical danger. How long does the honor continue when the physical danger is gone, or rather is only borne by electronic devices and enemies?

      More intriguing yet is what might actually put these “combat participants” in physical danger? For surely, they are combat participants though thousands of miles away. Are they not therefore legitimate military targets, according to any standard?

      1. juliania

        Perhaps the award is a recognition of the psychological trauma that will ultimately beset such operatives.

        I prefer to think there are not many qualified applicants, so they had to dream up an inducement. Unfortunately, I also think it trivializes other medals – although it does give us something to look for in the scrambled eggs displays of future tv military pontificators.

        Hopefully this crazy attempt at legitimization won’t work.

        1. Garrett Pace

          An alarming idea, that if something is psychologically painful and damages a person’s character, it must take virtue and heroism to do it. That seems a central message of works like Zero Dark Thirty.

          This is from Shirer’s seminal work on the Third Reich, about the psychological effects from being a functioning part of the Holocaust machine:

          “In a letter to headquarters Dr. Becker objected to German S.D. men having to unload the corpses of the gassed women and children, calling attention to ‘the immense psychological injuries and damage to their health which that work can have for these men. They complained to me about headaches that appeared after each unloading.’”

          I wonder how many of those guys were decorated for conspicuous distinction.

          Here’s something too. Guards and wardens celebrated the 75th anniversary of the prison camp they worked at:

          http://news.yahoo.com/russian-wardens-throw-party-stalins-gulag-164327085.html;_ylt=AwrNUbFtUB1RgXsAky3QtDMD

          What’s the proper viewing distance for this stuff? Anything can be glamorized depending on your point of view and the (virtuous!) strength of your stomach.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            It’s the post-modern world we live, I guess, where we all kill and don’t kill, depedning…

  14. Bridget

    “but Dallas has astonishingly expensive toll roads and disposable looking cookie cutter housing, low rise offices, and strip malls”

    Are you implying that California doesn’t?

    Texas would be a horrible place for many NC readers. You should definitely not move here. You would loathe it.

  15. jsmith

    1) Nice overview of Christian Z!onism and American foreign policy.

    2) And just to remind everyone who sits on the United Nations boards who write up all of those reports of war crimes in Syria and elsewhere.

    From the piece (links not brought over):

    “Such facts reveal alarming hypocrisy as the UN keeps almost daily, inflated tallies of civilian deaths elsewhere, in particular, in nations like Libya and Syria where Western interests have been heavily involved in regime change and in dire need of manipulating public perception worldwide. The United Nations had in fact pieced together a dubious report crafted from “witness accounts” compiled not in Syria, or even beyond its borders in a refugee camp, but instead, in Geneva by “witnesses” supplied by the so-called Syrian “opposition.”

    Indeed, as NATO claims to fight terrorism in Afghanistan, it has already handed over the North African nation of Libya to Al Qaeda terrorists, specifically the the US State Department, United Nations, and the UK Home Office (page 5, .pdf)-listed terrorist organization, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). The US in particular oversaw the rise of the Al Qaeda terror-emirate Benghazi, even having a US ambassador slain there by the very terrorists it had armed, funded, trained, provided air support for, and thrust into power.

    snip to the conclusion:

    The glaring hypocrisy of so-called “international law” and “international institutions” is on full display. Nations like Russia, China, Iran, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Brazil, and many others should give serious thought to peeling away from the United Nations, the compromised International Criminal Court, and other corrupt, Western-serving institutions that will, and in many cases already are, being turned against them, their interests, and national sovereignty.”

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The title is ‘Milk creatio ex nihilo.’

      Each thinks his or it is getting milk from the other.

  16. rjs

    pam martens expounds a bit on the second point linda beale made about jack lew:
    Senator Orrin Hatch Drops a Bombshell at Jack Lew’s Confirmation Hearing – At last we know how the grease is funneled to that revolving door between Wall Street and Washington. One only gets a $940,000 bonus from Wall Street’s Citigroup if you can land a “full time high level position with the United States Government or a regulatory body.” It can’t be just a part-time job, mind you; and you can’t be rank and file. Citigroup’s dangling carrot will only pay $940,000 if the company can add a “high level” government mover and shaker to their gold-plated Rolodex….

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        It’s doubt the government can run any kind of trickle-down stimulus without these guys taking a cut.

  17. briansays

    from jesse today in his usual eloquence

    just when you think the oligarchy could not become any more audacious.

    ‘Slow mobility’ as used in this essay from this recent issue of The Economist implies a natural class structure amongst people.

    It suggest that a child would only slowly, and not usually, rise above the station of their parents and grandparents, presumably in terms of wealth, education, and opportunity. If you are born to poor parents, you are likely of an inferior genetic quality, poor stock, your success unlikely, and your servile station or poverty pre-destined.

    The reason for this is because the children of ‘the elite’ will have ‘inherited the talent, energy, drive, and resilience to overcome the many obstacles they will face in life.’

    These inherited gifts are supplemented, of course, by the easy opportunities, valuable connections, and access to power. And a virtual freedom from prosecution does not hurt either, in case they have inherited a penchant for sociopathy, or something worse, along with their many gifts.

    And by inference, the children of the poor will not do well, because they are genetically inferior. These are the pesky 47% who deserve to be cheated and robbed by the elite, because of the inherent superiority of the one percent. There is no fraud in the system, only good and bad breeding, natural predator and prey.

    This line of thinking rests on the assumption that society today is a naturally efficient meritocracy, despite the enormous advantages of the children of ‘the elite,’ because they would have succeeded anyway.

    I succeed, therefore I am. And if you do not, well, we shall have to do something about that drag on the efficiency of the economy and the maximization of profits. Ah, the burdens of the aristocracy, and their far flung sahibs.

    This essay concerns me, because such thoughts echo throughout the Anglo-American culture of late. They are whispered in the evolving mythos of those favored few who enjoy certain völkisch advantages, presumably justified by the nature of their blood. We seen this kind of sociology before, as the rationale for the widespread looting of wealth, and the ransacking of nations.

    “Many commentators automatically assume that low intergenerational mobility rates represent a social tragedy. I do not understand this reflexive wailing and beating of breasts in response to the finding of slow mobility rates.

    The fact that the social competence of children is highly predictable once we know the status of their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents is not a threat to the American Way of Life and the ideals of the open society.

    The children of earlier elites will not succeed because they are born with a silver spoon in their mouth, and an automatic ticket to the Ivy League.

    They will succeed because they have inherited the talent, energy, drive, and resilience to overcome the many obstacles they will face in life. Life is still a struggle for all who hope to have economic and social success. It is just that we can predict who will be likely to possess the necessary characteristics from their ancestry.”

    Greg Clark, The Economist, 13 Feb. 2013

    Mr. Clark is now a professor of economics and department chair until 2013 at the University of California, Davis. His areas of research are long term economic growth, the wealth of nations, and the economic history of England and India.

    1. Expat

      “They will succeed because they have inherited the talent, energy, drive, and resilience to overcome the many obstacles they will face in life. Life is still a struggle for all who hope to have economic and social success. It is just that we can predict who will be likely to possess the necessary characteristics from their ancestry.”

      Luckily, this is a testable hypothesis. Sequester a scientifically valid number of rich children in a highly polluted, run-down environment where gangs and killings are rampant and there is no access to ameliorating services. After 40 years or so, compare with a similar cohort who have been raised in the usual way. Test the assumption that environment, social status and deprivation make no difference. To make the comparison even more realistic, ensure that there is no trustworthy person in the test situation.

      The facts obtained from this experiment would be the most useful information for public policy imaginable. But even conducting it as a thought experiment ought to raise concerns about the validity of the statement and surely undermines such thinking as a basis for government or management.

    2. Laughing_Fascist

      Greg Clark’s article triggered a cascade of thoughts. I believe we may be witnessing the birth of a new nobility, transnational in character just like the 18th century nobility. The new nobility is not arising for the reasons Clark gives (energy, resilience, i,e, good genes). Expat thorouhly debunked Clark’s theory.

      The nobility will arise as a result of the accumulation of wealth and extreme influence over governments, law-making,and media (and of course industry and banking). The accumulation is occuring regardless of whether a gov is a democracy in the west or communist in China (the PRC party members are already billionaires) or a dictatorship. Control of the govt means the wealth can remain in the same families for generations. As generations pass these families take on an ancient aura of nobility and blood becomes an important factor in priviledges.

      There is really nothing to stop this process. There is an intellectual based challenge to the oligarchs such as in the blogosphere. But in the absence of will to lead a revolt (see the life of Lenin) the intellectuals are just a chattering collection of naval gazers. So the prols are and will remain leaderless.

      The only thing that might stop the process would be a catastrophic financial collapse. But such a collapse might also see the “nobility” consolidate its grip. Hard to call that one.

  18. diptherio

    Re: Which Consumer Financial Education Programs Are Most Effective?: Assuming a Fact Not in Evidence

    I spent a good deal of time during my undergraduate days working on consumer financial education…glad to see all that work was for nothing. Oh well, it kept me busy, I guess.

    She makes some very good points about why financial education fails. Financial literacy does not save one from unemployment, for instance. I like her suggestions as well (improving basic math education and “executive function” (i.e. desire control) training for kids) , but would add a few of my own.

    Besides math education, I would also like to see rhetoric taught, and basic media literacy, so that kids early-on in their lives learn how to parse all the advertising we are constantly bombarded with.

    Also, why not place restrictions on the kind of advertising that financial service firms are allowed to do. We already require the “basic info box” on credit advertisements and, as a nation, we have already set a precedent for restricting the advertisement of dangerous products like tobacco and alcohol. I don’t see why we couldn’t do something similar for credit cards, sub-prime mortgages, etc. Maybe we could require that advertisers list the possible negative consequences of their products at the end of their ads, like pharmaceuticals have to do.

    Use your MasterCard today!…Negative side effects may include, usurious interest rates, ungodly fees, embarrassing calls from debt collectors, and generalized tension, strife and turmoil. Some users of credit may experience depression, anger or feelings of hopelessness. In a few cases, suicide and/or homocide may result. If you are using credit and feel an impulse to kill yourself or someone you owe money to, you should stop going into debt and immediately see a personal financial counselor. Other side effects include, headache, nausea, cold-sweats and divorce…Find out about getting your MasterCard today!

    …something like that :)

    1. direction

      Use of MasterCard and MasterCard Services not recommended for patients experiencing prior credit card debt, student debt, an adjustable rate mortgage, or sudden unemployment. Please see a certified consumer advocate or debt consolidation counselor before applying for MasterCard.

  19. Cynthia

    Re: “Non-Profit Hospital Executive Salaries Continue to Defy Gravity and Logic”

    I don’t have much of a problem, per se, with CEOs receiving million dollar salaries, but I do have a REAL problem with CEOs receiving million dollar salaries off the backs of the taxpayers, and to a lesser extent, people with private insurance (a rarity that’s on the rise). Such is the case for hospital CEOs. Since there’s hardly anything “market-based” about healthcare providers, especially hospitals, be they nonprofit or for-profit, then it’s fallacious to argue that hospital CEOs must be given outrageously high salaries because that’s what the market demands. Despite what the medical-industrial complex will tell you, there is no such thing as “market-based” healthcare in the US!

    Furthermore, I’ve noticed that an increasing number of hospital CEOs got their start as RNs, even if they worked only briefly as clinical nurses. This probably explains why most of the wage gains in hospital nursing aren’t happening at the clinician level, but rather the management level, and why nursing has become overly top heavy with way too many nurse managers and other nurses who don’t provide direct patient care, such as nurse educators and nurse coordinators. If pharmacy departments and physical therapy departments can function perfectly well and provide good quality care without having layers upon layer of management and armies upon armies of nurse educators and nurse coordinators, there is no reason in the world that nursing departments can’t do this as well.

    Therefore, if hospital want to cut out unnecessary costs, most of which are occurring at the indirect patient care level, they can start by not hiring CEOs who got their start as RNs, especially the ones who value managerial skills over clinical skills, and who have had a very brief stint in their career dealing with life and death issues, as well as putting their license on the line every time they came to work. This will eventually cause nursing departments to shrink their management structure down to a size, which is comparable the management structure within other hospital departments, including but not limited to the pharmacy departments and the physical therapy departments.

    1. Cynthia

      A related topic: “Too Many Medical School Grads, Not Enough Residencies” (see link below)

      The way I see it, medical-school grads, who fail to get into a residency program, can always spend just an extra year or two in grad school getting an MBA degree. That way they’ll have the necessary credentials under their belt to land a highly lucrative job in a large hospital chain or network as a top-tier administrator or a so-called “physician executive” (a term that literally makes my skin crawl.) And they can do that without experiencing any of the stress or strains of diagnosing, treating, or operating on patients. Talking about having the good life, getting something for nothing!

      For reasons that totally escape me, there’s a recent push in hospitals to add additional layers of management to manage physicians! This has happened to nursing, it is now starting to happen to medicine as well. Tell me, though, how is this gonna do anything but cause healthcare costs to go up even further?

      We all know that administrative costs are the primary and overarching reason why health costs are spiraling out of control, and physician executives, as do nurse executives, clearly fall under the category of administrative costs — whether they are on the provider side or the insurer side of things.

      http://www.physiciansnews.com/2013/02/14/this-chart-is-scaring-medical-students/

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      It’s interesting that nonprofits can be so profitable…for some. I think you have to be very smart to do that.

      Sadly, many for-profits are not profitable at all…at least they weren’t when I was investing before the dotcom bust.

      1. Cynthia

        I wouldn’t say that you have to be smart to get away with running a nonprofit company as though it were a for-profit company, but you have to be crooked to do it.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          I agree. I should have said put the word smart in quotations marks.

          You have to be very ‘smart’ to do that.

  20. diptherio

    Linked to in the Simon Johnson Article:

    The Bankers’ New Clothes: What’s Wrong with Banking and What to Do about It

    Authors Anat Admati and Martin Hellwig presented the findings of their book, The Bankers’ New Clothes: What’s Wrong with Banking and What to Do about It, at the Peterson Institute on February 11, 2013. The authors discussed whether banking reforms require the sacrifice of lending and economic growth, and they outlined an ambitious proposal, including high capital requirements, to shore up financial systems and prevent future financial crises.

    Anat Admati is the George G. C. Parker Professor of Finance and Economics at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. Along with the Institute’s Simon Johnson, she cochairs the Global Systemic Risk Initiative at the Institute, supported by the Institute for New Economic Thinking. Martin Hellwig is director of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods and professor of economics at the University of Bonn. Professor Hellwig is a member of the Economic Advisory Group on Competition Policy of the European Commission and a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the German Ministry of Economic Affairs.

    Three experts offered independent views on the book and its proposals: Peter Fisher, senior managing director at Blackrock, formerly Under Secretary of the Treasury for Domestic Finance and executive vice president at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York; Morris Goldstein, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute and world renowned authority on international banking standards; and David Schraa, regulatory counsel at the Institute for International Finance (IIF) and former director of the IIF’s regulatory department.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I think some kid needs to stand up and say ‘the banksters are naked!’

      Naked, as in wearing no clothes.

  21. MarkD

    Yves,

    Texas deserves a lot of the criticism we receive, but it sounds like you’ve only been to the northern suburbs of Dallas, which isn’t much different than Orange County (minus the mountains and ocean…which I would love to have nearby). Dallas the city (and in some ways Dallas County) is becoming quite urbane and is quite liberal, not that we don’t have our share of wing nuts on the right. The same can be said of the other major cities as well.

    In regards to Austin, it is the most overrated place on earth. It has awesome natural beauty, and yes the politics are progressive in some ways (but just as dogmatic as the far right), but the people are horrible (there’s no one worse than rude hipsters) and the traffic is abusive on every single road.

    Anyway, please don’t hate us just because of our state’s politics; the game is rigged against the metropolitan areas.

  22. optimader

    RE: Pentagon Creates New Medal For Cyber, Drone Wars

    I googled that title and the Onion just to make sure NC wasn’t being punked.

    Maybe it should be a virtual medal they can display on their Smartphone display?

    The counterintuitive aspect of this is my hope that this degeneration incrementally depreciates the Pentagons use of “decorations” to effect esprit de corps amongst our Foreign Legionaries.
    For many in the rank and file that never achieved any notable success, and were not on any track to in their private life, this pshyops manipulation by Authority and with “tribe” tchotchke (uniforms and shiny bits) serves is their positive reinforcement and modivation.
    Look at Petreaus as a role model for the less intellectually gifted that need to be tasked…

  23. Matt

    California v Texas: it is definitely the case that it is easier to get building permits in TX than in CA. Try to do anything here in Los Angeles, and you are practically guaranteed to get NIMBYs, the Sierra Club, etc. filing lawsuits. There are also a host of other nasties, like Prop 13 and impact fees, that make development here harder.

    The other thing you never hear about is that the Texas state constitution has some pretty strict provisions regarding mortgage lending, which prevented a bubble from forming like it did in the Inland Empire, where people were buying houses with 102% LTV and loans 10x their income.

    But there’s a far more basic fact at work: Los Angeles has been in the sprawl game for 70 years. We invented it. Open up Google Earth and look at how far away the sprawly fringe is in greater LA – it’s 60 to 80 miles from downtown LA in places like Lancaster, Adelanto, and Murrieta. Now head over to Houston, Austin, or Big D – places that have only been at it for about 20-30 years. You can find farm fields 15-25 miles from downtown. The Grand Parkway, at the sprawliest edge of development in Houston, is about the same distance from downtown Houston as the 57 freeway is from downtown LA – and the 57 ain’t even anywhere close to the edge.

    Simply put, LA is pushing the geographic limits the sprawl model. A quick look at a major home builder shows I can get a 3/2 1327 SF for $130k in Houston. Well guess what? The same builder offers a 4/2 1649 SF for $172k in Adelanto – a negligible difference in $/SF. The difference is that Adelanto is about 60 miles further out.

    The problem we are facing in California is that zoning/permitting schemes make it very difficult for cities to get denser, even when there is a clear market signal. Hopefully we can change things and overcome that so that the state can continue to prosper.

    As for Texas, we’ll see how pro-development they are when the affordable homes in Houston are in Brenham and Huntsville.

  24. Hugh

    The SOTU is meaningless political theater. We knew where Obama was going before it. We know where he is going after it. The SOTU is only interesting to see how brazen Obama will be in his lying and how hypocritical both sides of the aisle will be in reaction.

    What was it? last week th PTB had declared the euro crisis over. This week, much like the Titanic an hour after the it hit the iceberg, it’s still sinking.

    The Pentagon is obsessed with medals. I think they give them out for going to the restroom. So new medals for their virtual warriors is completely unsurprising.

    Jack Lew, a shameless hypocrite and shill for Wall Street? Who could have predicted?

    Re Dorner, one of the police communications they had on cable news at the time said they had “seven burners” in the building. So yes, the decision was to burn him out or burn him up. I wonder how many other people were murdered in LA while the Dorner affair was going on and just how aggressive police forces will be and how many resources they will use to catch those murderers.

    Re Japan and the world economy, is it the canary in the coal mine? Or is that Europe?

    Economics is not a discipline or a science or a religion. It is a con and a scam and should not be treated as anything else. It is propaganda to cover for looting, nothing more, nothing less.

  25. Klassy!

    Do you think the media will be asking why local paramilitary forces were used in the latest civilian casualty disaster rather than the Afghan Security Force? This was kind of buried in the middle of the story.

  26. p78

    “French meat processing company Spanghero knowingly sold horsemeat labelled as beef, the French government has said. French Consumer Affairs Minister Benoit Hamon said the meat had left Romania clearly and correctly labelled as horse. It was afterwards that it was relabelled as beef.

    In the UK, three people have been arrested on suspicion of fraud in connection with the sale of horsemeat. Two suspects were detained at a meat processing plant near Aberystwyth in Wales, and a third was arrested at an abattoir in West Yorkshire.”

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-21464052

  27. jfleni

    RE: briansays says: “natural class structure amongst people”

    Every time I read something like this, I laugh. Regression to the mean, and the random distribution of talent among different people will ensure that any natural structure is nonsense.

    When I go to my local supermarket, I am always astounded by the fact that the front door is right in the middle of a white-painted (as if that affected anything!) parking-lot-walkway covered in often speeding gas-buggies just barely dodging the little toddlers tightly grasped by their mothers, the carefully alert, doddering old geezers carefully clutching their canes and crutches, and hoping fervently that they make it across OK. Yet everybody knows that the “dumb as dirt” designers all went to “Buffoon business academy”, where they apparently learned nothing, except how “elite” they are.

    Examples like this are as common as air molecules; regression to the mean of “stupid” is even more common.

  28. Propertius

    If only we had actual data on the effect of gun regulation on suicide rates! Oh wait, we do:

    In the UK, the passage of the 1997 Firearms Act was followed by an 11% increase in suicides among men and a 2% increase in suicides among women in 1998. Certainly no one would claim that banning firearms caused the increase in suicide rate, but it certainly did little to prevent it. (see: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AonYZs4MzlZbdHptcm9MMWl2aUxIanJDU3o3b2ZxdXc#gid=0 , courtesy of The Guardian)

    Suicide rates in the UK are only slightly lower than in the US (11.8 per 100,000 vs. 12.0 per 100,000) and Canada (with a firearm regulation system somewhere between the two) is lower than either (11.5 per 100,000), which doesn’t provide a whole lot of support to the notion that firearm regulation would have a significant impact on overall suicide rates (not that this has much effect on those who adhere to the “any stick to beat a dog” school of public policy debate). Perhaps we should also prohibit ropes, natural gas, pills, knives, any structure or natural object more than 7 or 8 feet tall, or bodies of water deeper than a few inches, as well.

    25% of suicides are legally drunk (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/19/health/19suicide.html) – perhaps one could also make an argument for banning alcohol (particularly given alcohol’s role in traffic fatalities, other accidents, various health problems, and crimes of violence).

    After all, it worked out so well last time.

    1. grass mud horse covering the middle

      Firearms ownership rates are petty obviously lost in the noise as far as suicide rates internationally. Looking at suicide rates by states within the US, it becomes clear living in Alaska or the intermountain West is correlative.

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