Links 8/3/09

Comets ‘not cause of extinctions‘ BBC

The truth about grit Boston Globe (hat tip reader DoctoRx)

DefCon: ‘Credit Hackers’ Win the Credit Card Game … Legally Wired (hat tip reader John M)

On the the great Singularitian Political Food Fight: Transhumanist/Singularitian Political Food Fight h+ Magazine and ReadWriteWeb Mentions SIAI Accelerating Future (hat tip reader David C)

The New Financial Media RealPropertyAlpha (hat tip reader John R)

Unequal unemployment—Racial disparities in unemployment vary widely by state Economic Policy Institute (hat tip reader Bill)

Rewarding Bad Actors Paul Krugman

Phibro in talks to part with Citigroup: report Reuters

NPL Sellers Fear Dirty Linen Paul Muolo (hat tip reader Mark F)

The Financial Innovation That Wasn’t Rortybomb (hat tip reader John L)

Andy Xie Calls Chinese Stock Markets a Bubble (hat tip reader Ping W). I am sorry not to give the name of the blog, but the blog name in Chinese. There are scary stats re the real estate market too.

Unconscionable Math Taunter (hat tip reader John L. Today’s must read (forgive me if you saw this already, but it is important). Appalling

Antidote du jour:

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  1. Aki_Izayoi

    I liked that link about a certain gay anti-immigration libertarian. Too bad he is doing badly this year. Clarium's deflation trades (shorting stocks, shorting GBP in March; they covered) didn't pan out.

    I still admire Peter Thiel though… being gay, anti-immigration, or libertarian isn't that bad unless, in the latter case, you are an Ayn Rand cultist.

  2. jbmoore

    The transhumanist/singularity fight is a bunch of hot air over nothing. No one knows what the future will bring. What the future of humanity will be. It will likely be a poorer one since finite resources divided by an increasing population means that on average everyone gets poorer over time. Successive generations will be poorer than their predecessors, but they will likely be blissfully ignorant without some sort of unalterable record of the past.

    Malthus was right for the most part. Technology only gets one so far, and tech is useless if it does not provide clean water to drink or fresh food to eat when those two essentials are lacking. An augmented human will die just as fast without food or water as an unaugmented human.

    There will likely have to be a psychological component to the next evolutionary leap if humanity is to survive.

  3. Independent Accountant

    The recission article did not surprise me. It's a form of "ex post" adverse selection.

  4. Tim in Sugar Hill

    Re: Unconscionable Math:

    What an eye-opener. It's "heads I win, tails you lose." The casino reference is apt. No wonder Big Insurance doesn't want national health care.

    I am thoroughly disgusted.

  5. Alexandra

    jbmoore: You cannot know the future simply because it hasn't happened yet and it is not set in stone. In other words, you have an influence – subject to some natural constraints – on how it turns out.
    That's why I don't follow anyone. They simply don't know where there going.

  6. DownSouth

    Paul Krugman said: “Neither the administration, nor our political system in general, is ready to face up to the fact that we’ve become a society in which the big bucks go to bad actors, a society that lavishly rewards those who make us poorer.”

    To the list of those who have their heads firmly burried in the sand, I would add the American academe. Nowhere was this made more evident than in the imbroglio that ensued following the arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

    One cannot fail to be disturbed by all the ink that was used, all the headlines that were garnered, by this seemingly insignificant event. It took precedence over the economy, over healthcare reform, and was a very unwelcome distraction at a time when many were striving to focus the nation’s attention on what were, for me at least, much more important issues.

    The irony surrounding this event is so thick you can cut it with a knife. Here we have the esteemed writer and intellectual, friend of the president, who hails from the pinnacle of the American acadame, pitted against the lowly, blue-collar beat cop. And yet Gates is claiming victim status.

    Layered upon this irony is the fact that, despite all the gains the U.S. has achieved over the last few decades on the racial front—the nation did, after all, just get through electing a black president—neither acadame nor the left-wing culture warriors are satisfied. They seem to be intent upon raising the bar. Which of course should not come as any surprise. Alexis de Tocqueville foresaw such events almost 200 years ago, writing in Democracy in America:

    Men will never establish any equality with which they will be contented… When inequality of condition is the common law of society, the most marked inequalities do not strike the eye; when everything is nearly on the same level, the slightest are marked enough to hurt it. Hence the desire for equality always becomes more insatiable in proposition as equality is more complete.

    I noticed yesterday that Frank Rich trundled out the same old troup of consrvative rabble-rousers—Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs–that Pamela Merrit did a couple of days ago (see Links 8/1/09, “Post-racial America? Dream on”), adding a few more unsavory characters like Newt Gingrich and Jerome Corsi. I suppose Sgt. James Crowley’s right-wing/racist credentials were a little too ambiguous, so suitable surrogates had to be found.

    Which brings me to my real beef with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and the academe which he is such an integral part. As Robert Huges put it in Culture of Complaint: A Passionate Look into the Ailing Heart of America:

    All that preserves the illusion of radicalness in academic poststructuralism and neo-Marxism is the conservative opposition.

    As Huges goes on to explain, American conservatism is caught in its own death trap as it “confronts the death of Marxist ideology, its nurturing enemy.” The “right needs a left,”

    one side needs the other, so that each can inflate its agenda into a chiliastic battle for the soul of America. Radical academic and cultural conservative are now locked in a full-blown, mutually sustaining folie à deux, and the only person each dislikes more than the other is the one who tells both to lighten up.

  7. DownSouth


    So getting back to Krugman, how does all this “make us poorer”? Hughes, once again, provides the answer:

    When the old New Left students of the 60s academe re-entered the university as teachers, they saw the exhilarated hopes of their youths deflate after 1968, collapse under the backlash of the 70s, and become mere achaeology by 1980. None of the beautiful promises came true.

    Their response to this trauma was to shift away from classical Marxism, with its emphasis on economic and class struggle in the real world, and embrace the more diffuse and paranoia-driven theories of the Frankfurt school—Theodor Adorno, Herbert Marcuse.

    For these theorists, all human life was ruled by repressive mechanisms embedded, not in manifest politics, but in language, education, entertainment—the whole structure of social communication…

    Hence, what matters in the university is the politics of culture, not the politics of the distribution of wealth and of real events in the social spehere, like poverty, drug addiction and the rise of crime. The academic left is much more interested in race and gender than in class. And it is very much more interested in theorizing about gender and race than actually reporting on them. This enables its savants to feel they are on the cutting edge of social change, without doing legwork outside academe; the “traditional left” has been left far behind, stuck with all that unglamorous and twice-told stuff about the workers.

    I suppose that if one really wanted to be cynical they could take a look at the money trail. After all, the roster of family names who fund left-wing causes—the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, etc.—really doesn’t ring that much different from those who fund right-wing causes–the Olin Corporation, the Scaife family, the Coors family, etc. This all harkens back to something James Baldwin (whom I consider to have been a true black radical, not the kind of poseurs we find in American acadame) wrote in The Fire Next Time:

    No one seems to know where the Nation of Islam gets its money. A vast amount, of course, is contributed by Negroes, but there are rumors to the effect that people like Birchites and certain Texas oil millionaires look with favor on the movement. I have no way of knowing whether there is any truth to the rumors, though since these people make such a point of keeping the races separate, I wouldn’t be surprised if for this smoke there was some fire. In any case, during a recent Muslim rally, George Lincoln Rockwell, the chief of the American Nazi party, made a point of contributing about twenty dollars to the cause, and he and Malcom X decided that, racially speaking, anyway, they were in complete agreement.

    Oh well, I suppose I’ve been living in a third-world country for entirely too long. Here in Mexico political theatre pushed real politics off the national stage a long, long time ago, it being revealed just a few years back how the PRI, the center-right party, was secretly funneling money to its political opposition, the left-wing PRD.

  8. DerFreischutz

    Any problem of political economy can be solved with the number 1.

    I have a marvelous demonstration of this theorem, that I have chosen to call "The Solution at 1%"

    Unfortunately I'm running out of ink and can't write it now.

    So it shall remain a conjecture until someone else, perhaps, some day, finds it.

    Pierre de Fermat

  9. Dave Raithel

    Re Unconscionable Math: Here we have fundamental divisions; and on those, we push morality against commerce. Philosophical literature is leden with the problem of "you know something now" and I'll let people dig that up themselves. It does seem that people divide along this reason (in the particular instance): Ok, you showed me a goat. My chance NOW is 50/50; I might just as well flip a coin …. except that NOW I have to close my eyes so as not to see the coin side up (yeah, in the links somewhere ….)

    Rescission is a moral question – at best a contract question raising estoppel; but fuck the rich is my bottom line on all that …

  10. Dave Raithel

    Ok, I finished the article, and yes, some of the point I made is admitted. The short story is: We (them) only kick out 1 of 200, or so, except that we find the sickest 10 and screw one of them…

    It's a moral question. And my point isn't that nobody should die. Just quit pretending that it isn't a moral question.

  11. Dave Raithel

    Re Down South and Gates and All: As an academic refugee (or maybe I am an academic estranger, I don't know …) some of what you say rings home – though I won't dis Herbert. But none of the matters about which the poseurs posture are yet really settled – and you cite the evidence. Still – wouldn't the world (well, the part in which we live, even in Mehico) be better if dueling were legal and innocent bystanders left out the fray? I need a beer ….

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