Links 1/24/10

Puppy rescued from train track, frigid air; gets new home, name Birmingham News

Bee decline linked to falling biodiversity BBC

PayPal Freezes assets Slashdot. For the life of me, I can’t fathom why anyone would have meaningful money in a PayPal account. Even if you use it for payments, why would anyone leave a meaningful balance there?

Radiation Offers New Cures, and Ways to Do Harm New York Times

Berlusconi moves to impose Internet regulation Associated Press (hat tip reader John D)

SC Lt. Gov. compares people getting gov’t help to ‘stray animals’ who ‘breed’ because they don’t know better ThinkProgress (hat tip reader John D)

What if Bernanke Isn’t Reconfirmed Matt Yglesias (hat tip reader Scott). I don’t buy this “it makes no difference” view. This sort of repudiation will have an effect. It puts the Fed on notice that unless it includes the peasants in its calculations, it will be subject to more intrusive oversight.

City brokers angry at new capital reserve regulations Independent

Red Star Over Iraq Business Week (hat tip reader Michael T)

A toy model of money, growth, and inequality Steve Waldman

White House Is Confident Bernanke Will Be Confirmed New York Times. Time to call senators, preferably their local offices. Dump Bernanke – How You Can Help! Michael Shedlock has a tally of who is for, against, and officially fence sitting with phone numbers.

Wall Street’s $26m lobbyists gear up to fight Obama banks reform Guardian. The industry is so clearly in control that it doesn’t even bother telling plausible lies. This is up there with Clinton’s “I did not have sex with that woman”:

Spokeswoman Erica Hurtt said: “This was not a trading crisis and these proposals miss the mark. They won’t get to the causes of the crisis.”

Joseph Stiglitz: Why we have to change capitalism Telegraph

After the Massachusetts Massacre Frank Rich, New York Times

Antidote du jour:

And an extra from reader Scott. I’m amazed the bird will fly wearing all that gear.

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  1. attempter

    I agree on the intrinsic value of getting Bernanke’s scalp. it’s a victory, a morale boost, and proof that the enemy is not invincible.

    Each victory, however small in itself, however meager its other short-term effects, is proof that the next battle is worth fighting. This fight a cumulative process.

    That’s part of the reason we’re in the hole we’re in and have such little prospect of climbing out. Most of the people who want real change in theory can’t bring themselves to take a long-haul perspective.

    They don’t understand the fact that you need strong, principled action, and you need victories of principle, even if these actions don’t always achieve short run structural improvement; even if they sometimes make things even harder in the short run.

    They build morale, they build movement cohesion and momentum. They make you stronger for the long run.

    That’s why getting Bernanke’s scalp would be a good thing in itself, even if his replacement is “no better”. That’s also why the question of who-will-replace-him is so beside the point.

    1. i on the ball patriot

      Write ‘Your’ Senators

      Piss into the wind,
      Shovel shit against the tide,
      It validates the illusion,
      And fills your heart with pride,

      Be civil and respectful,
      And mind your tone,
      Make it hat in hand,
      When you beg for your bone,

      The dominant order,
      The owner of the illusion,
      Loves your empowering attention,
      And thrives on your delusion,

      Each letter you write,
      Where you bear your soul,
      Weakens your position,
      And puts you further in the hole …

      Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

      1. dlr

        Well, you sit there all smug and superior saying ‘you’re wasting your time writing to your congressperson’. But I don’t see you making any alternative suggestions on what exactly we should do. What exactly are YOU advocating as an alternative?

        1. attempter

          Is that what he was saying? I couldn’t tell.

          I’d say writing your congressman is usually a waste of time, but where it’s basically a mob with pitchforks all chanting one simple demand like “Fire Bernanke!”, coming right after a disaster like Massachusetts, it can have some effect.

          The right tactic is always simply whatever works in that particular context.

        2. i on the ball patriot

          dlr – The first thing I would do is ignore folks that refer to me as, “all smug and superior”.

          Attempter – I am generally in agreement with your comments, but here I strongly disagree. In effect you are asking the gang rapists to stop fucking the victims up the ass (pernicious greed) and please go back to the old missionary position (vanilla greed). Your being sucked into an internecine struggle at the top and validating the corrupt order at the same time. Auditing the fed is not a worthy goal. Eliminating the fed, and eliminating parasitic banking, whilst enacting utility banking with interest free money allocated directly to citizens is a worthy goal.

          The result of writing letters will only be energy and resource dissipation that might otherwise be spent on devising and implementing strategies that will change the scam electoral process so as to; allow for a constitutional jubilee outside of the purview of the present dominant order, and, devise a system that would in reality facilitate truly democratic collective decision making and be centered on stronger and more refined principles than those found in our current constitution and its outrageously corrupt offspring — the scam ‘rule of law’.

          Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

          1. attempter

            I agree with all of that as a rule, and those basic goals.

            But I think targeted strikes within the game can also be worthwhile.

            The best thing about auditing the fed, for example, is not anything it’s likely to intrinsically accomplish, but the very fact that the debate has already highlighted how politicized the Fed already is. The goal is to make the Fed’s pretensions to majestic non-ideological apoliticality look like a joke.

            Even many who tepidly support the audit worry that this might cause the Fed (even, horrors, its monetary policy) to become overtly politicized. But I’d say that’s the whole point, and not a bug.

            The point is to make it clear to everyone that the Fed is not some magisterial arbiter and bastion of impartial intellect, but a gaggle of clowns who are criminal in intent and generally incompetent in execution, and not very smart at all.

            The more people understand this, the more they’ll give up on the system.

            So regardless of what happens later on, part of this is already being accomplished just by having that amendment in there.

            None of this involved putting much effort into “reforming the system”, which I agree cannot be reformed. It was a one-off burst of effort, many of its participants sweeping in from the outside to make one stark demand.

            Just like with the demand “Fire Bernanke”. So the tactic I’d suggest is, use the system’s rules for targeted strikes aimed at demolishing parts of it, but never to beg for “constructive” change, since that part is always a waste of effort like you said.

    2. dlr

      Yes, and even if “his replacement is no better” there will be months of recriminations in congress over the actions of the Fed in the last two years as Obama fights to get his nominee confirmed. Getting rid of Bernanke will do wonders for the opponents of an expansive Fed – it will allow them to get their views before the public. AND, as a bonus, it will give a real leg up to the bill to audit the fed – which is currently languishing in the Senate going nowhere.

  2. DoctoRx

    It was not a referendum on Barack Obama, who in every poll remains one of the most popular politicians in America. It was not a rejection of universal health care, which Massachusetts mandated (with Scott Brown’s State Senate vote) in 2006. It was not a harbinger of a resurgent G.O.P., whose numbers remain in the toilet.

    (The Frank Rich first paragraph)

    Mr. Rich writes like an idiot. Re his first point, Barack Obama has horrible numbers in Rasmussen’s polling and has had such numbers for months now. Even BO’s friends at Gallup have him at 47-47. Re his second point, the bigger point is that Obamacare has been viewed unfavorably in the general polls for months, and Mass residents are similar in that regard. Of course Mass is different, but they are going to have to pay higher taxes and their booming high-tech medical business is going to be taxed, and there is no carve-out for Mass having univ hlth care already, so their voters saw giveaways to less enlightened states and voted as they did.

    Re the point about a resurgent Repub party, he can put his head deeper in the sand. Now that the Repubs deserve it, but a blowout victory in VA and then decisive victories in NJ and now Mass IS IS IS a sign of a resurgent party.

    IMO Frank Rich should go back to covering the arts.

    1. John

      You will never see a member of the MSM acknowledge that the public doesn’t like the Obamacare bill. Just as the MSM never acknowledged that the public was against legalization of illegal immigrants back when Bush was pushing that issue.

  3. Richard Kline

    Just imagine if Joe Stiglitz had Larry Summers’ job. ‘Course it would take a different boss for him to get it . . . .

  4. Skippy

    Rands back door priest’s emboldened by their neocon parishioners can not be informed, so get used to it.

  5. Uncle Billy vs. Mont Pelerin

    (Looks like the links got it caught in the spam filter)

    Interesting. Erica Hurtt, the spokeswoman, is a graduate of Loyola College in Maryland.

    Might be nothing, but when one clicks around to see who these people are (surrounding our creaking and straining hovel of economic rubble) many, many times you find they went to a Catholic or Jesuit University. Ms. Hurtt also did time as a student in Italy, per the link above, and spent time in the Czech Republic. Paging Dan Brown.

    Possibly related? There was a Police Chief Hurtt in Houston (orig. from VA, from the looks of it). A Hurtt who works as a Sr. Engineer at Lockheed Martin. A Hurtt at Greeberg Traurig. This looks more like a connection though. Ms. Hurtt attended high school in Maryland and this fellow is very Maryland:

    (Search Charles Hurtt at Forbes dot com.

  6. DownSouth

    The comments of South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer are in the same mold as the carefully crafted remarks of Pat Robertson regarding the Haitian earthquake. Robertson asserted that the Haitians had made a pact with the devil and the earthquake was God’s punishment. Bauer compared children who receive free and reduced-price lunches to stray dogs and implied that feeding them only encourages their parents to “breed.” In both cases, what we find is a meticulously calculated rhetorical strategy specifically designed to cast the poor as “undeserving.”

    “Deserving” poor vs. “Undeserving” poor

    [P]eople are willing to help the poor, but they withdraw support when they perceive that the poor cheat or fail to cooperate by not trying hard enough to be self-sufficient and morally upstanding…. Our view is also consistent with interpretations…that Americans support a wide array of benefits for the poor and are primarily opposed to “welfare,” presumably because “welfare” refers to means-tested cash assistance, which may be perceived as a program that benefits able-bodied adults who choose to have children out of wedlock and prefer not to work.


    Abundant evidence from across the social sciences…has shown that when people blame the poor for their poverty, they support less redistribution than when they believe that the poor are poor through no fault of their own….

    Americans have much stronger beliefs that poverty is caused by laziness than Europeans: 60 percent of Americans say the poor are lazy compared to just 27 percent of Europeans. The authors argue that this could be an important explanation for the small size of the American welfare state compared to the average European welfare state.
    –Herbert Gintis et al, Moral Sentiments and Material Interests

    Bauer and Robertson are of course pushing the envelope on the “undeserving” poor. In the case of Robertson, included in the category of “undeserving” should be the victims of a natural disaster. In the case of Bauer, the “undeserving” should include children who receive free and reduced-price lunches.

    Bauer couches his attack against free and reduced-price lunches by blaming the parents: “Bauer said that parents should be required to ‘pass drug tests or attend parent-teacher conferences or PTA meetings.’ “ Bauer of course doesn’t explain why it is that, regardless of whether the alleged moral shortcomings of the parents can be demonstrated or not, that these children should be punished for the failings of their parents.

    1. craazyman

      south you’re giving PR too much credit for craftiness.

      You’re looking at the world from the perspective of the priviledged and learned elite.

      consider the view from the jungle, where the individual soul is forced to deal daily with the demonic possession of his “brethren”. PR is a little bit correct and in ways our learned elite cannot comprehend. The violence of their rebuttals disguise an incomprehension of what PR is really all about — at sort of a psychoanalytical level. In our culture we usually do our voo-doo through metaphor, but at least that’s a progress of sorts . . .

      The Devil at Work and Haiti’s Anima Mundi:

      “In Tanzania, East Africa, at least 50 albinos (people with a rare genetic disorder that leaves the skin, hair, and eyes without pigment) were murdered for their body parts last year, according to the Red Cross. An albino’s arms, fingers, genitals, ears, and blood are highly prized on the black market, believed to contain magical powers. People with albinism anywhere often stand out because of their distinctive features; in a continent of dark-skinned Africans, albinos are often the subject of fear, hatred, and ridicule.

      1. DownSouth

        Ha! Ha! You may be right.

        But regardless of what part of the human psyche Robertson and Bauer are conjuring up, can we agree with what Martin Luther King said?

        [T]he leadership of the white South stems from the closed-minded reactionaries. These persons gain prominence and power by the dissemination of false ideas, and by deliberately appealing to the deepest hate responses within the human mind.
        –Martin Luther King, Jr, “Give us the ballot–we will transform the south,” keynote address in front of the Lincoln Memorial during the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom on 17 May 1957

    2. dlr

      Right, much better to make the PARENTS welfare payments dependent on taking birth control for the time period (however long) that they are unable to support themselves. That would take care of the whole argument. I personally would be glad to support anyone who agreed not to have children for the duration of the time that they were unable to support themselves. And, not to sound too judgmental, it would really be doing them a FAVOR to help them make sure they they didn’t get pregnant (or got someone pregnant) while they didn’t even have their act together enough to support themselves.

  7. DownSouth

    Gosh, I just can’t let the Lt. Gov. Bauer thing go!

    Will and Ariel Durant, writing in The Lessons of History, claim that “In the debate between the ancients and moderns it is not at all clear that the ancients carry off the prize.” “Are we ready to scuttle the science that has so diminished superstition, obscurantism, and religious intolerance,” they ask, “or the technology that has spread food, home ownership, comfort, education, and leisure beyond any precedent?”

    People like Bauer, however, greatly tilt the field in favor of the ancients. Bauer is quoted as saying:

    My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior. They don’t know any better.”

    Herbert Gintis et al take a look at the ancients. In a chapter entitled “The Natural History of Human Food Sharing and Cooperation” they examine contemporary hunter gatherers, who are believed to comport themselves similar to what all humans did up until about 10,000 years ago. That’s when humans began to organize themselves into complex hierarchical societies.

    There are also large differences in hunting ability among men. For example, there is a five-fold difference in the long-term average hunting returns between the best and worst hunter in the sample of Ache men. Similar discrepancies in hunting ability have been found among the !Kung, Hiwi, Gunwinggu, Agta, and Machiguenga. Therefore, even among men of the same age, there must be net transfers over the long term from families producing a surplus to families producing a deficit.
    –Herbert Gintis et al, Moral Sentiments and Material Interests

    The authors conclude that:

    1) There has been much written on the importance of “need” and the direction of food flows, supporting the notion that “if there is hunger, it is commonly shared.”

    2) Apart from kinship, there is good evidence that large short-term and long-term exchange imbalances among individuals and families occur among foragers and forager-horticulturalists. The highest food producers among the Ache, Efe, Pilaga, and Yuqui consistently gave away more than they received as compared to low producers.

    3) This foraging niche is related to human life history because high levels of knowledge, skill, coordination, and strength are required to exploit the suite of high-quality, difficult to acquire resources humans consume… If families had to “balance their budget” at every period, they would either have to have had to lower their fertility or force their older children to fend for themselves. This would most likely increase childhood and adolescent mortality and lower rates of skills acquisition. Adolescent males could not afford to hunt, because their returns are so low during the learning period. Moreover, there would be no way to buffer the risks associated with the stochasticity of family size and child demands. If families needed to support all of their individual food needs, regardless of whether few or many children survived, they would be forced to lower fertility or reduce child subsidies.

    4) [T]he human life course could not have evolved without long-term imbalances in food transfer within and among families.

    As Paul Zak, Director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies, points out, the majority of humans (but certainly not all) feel empathy, and that sentiment is both 1) hungry: looking for opportunities to attach and 2) fuzzy: not very discriminate.

    So I’ll bet that the ancients, besides finding a way to feed the less productive among their midst, might also have even scrounged up a bone now and then for a stray dog.

    1. i on the ball patriot


      You mix apples and oranges with Bauer and Robertson in terms of constituency and appeal.

      In Bauer’s case, with a far greater constituency, its not just about casting the poor as undeserving. The demonization is only a small part of the complete dynamic and Bauer is just another, one of many, well orchestrated sell out demonizers. Its more about creating divisiveness in the masses and deflecting from the wealth, and state welfare given to the wealthy few — that same wealthy few that now fund and buy Bauer’s puppet position for him — than it is about just casting the poor as undeserving.

      The reality — and catch 22 of giving to the poor — is that giving to the poor in many cases enables the wealthy few to exploit those poor more fully (by freeing up money to sell them alcohol, tobacco, junk food, lottery tickets, seats at their slot machines, etc.), and, and at the same time, diminish the resources of those who do the giving. The corporate media, in order to further the divisiveness, always points to the alcohol, drunkenness, junk food, etc. consumed by the poor, paints it as a carefree and undeserving lifestyle and never mentions how the rich profit from it all.

      Its a vicious cycle that won’t be broken by engaging in the divisiveness without at the same time pointing out that the poor are not poor because they are stupid. They are poor and ignorant because sell out elite scum bags like Bauer create and perpetuate the conditions of little real education and an outrageously unfair and tilted playing field with little opportunity to succeed. What also has to be pointed out is that until the electoral process is changed, conditions for all will only become worse.

      In Robertson’s case he is just a bat shit looney that appeals to a much smaller deeply troubled and more fully propagandized constituency.

      Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

      1. DownSouth

        i on the ball patriot,

        You, just like craazyman above, make an excellent point.

        So I concede. Maybe it is too much of a stretch to say Robertson and Bauer are cut from the same cloth. But can we agree that what they give us is the old one-two punch?

        One-two punch

        1. Boxing. a left-hand jab immediately followed by a right cross.

        2. Informal. any strong or effective combination of two people or things: The old one-two of a good passer and a good receiver is the best way to win football games.

        3. Fencing. a type of attack made up of two movements.

        And in a similar but different application (Not too different, because in America it seems economics is always inextricably intertwined with race.), here’s how Martin Luther King describes its workings:

        You know, there was a time when some people used to argue the inferiority of the Negro and the colored races generally on the bais of the Bible and religion. They would say the Negro was inferior by nature because of Noah’s curse upon the children of Ham…

        But we don’t often hear these arguments today. Segregation is now based on “sociological and cultural” grounds. “The Negro is not culturally ready for integration, and if integration comes into being it will pull the white race back a generation. It will take fifty to seventy-five years to raise these standards.” And then we hear that the Negro is a criminal, and there are those who would almost say he is a criminal by nature. But they never point out that these things are environmental and not racial; these problems are problems of urban dislocation. They fail to see that poverty, and disease, and ignorance breed crime whatever the racial group may be. And it is a tortuous logic that views the tragic results of segregation and discrimination as an argument for the continuation of it.
        –Martin Luther King, Jr., “The American dream,” commencement address at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, 6 June 1961

    2. dlr

      Well, yes, but that sharing took place in SMALL GROUPS, among people who knew each other, were involved in a long term (life long) relationship, and were probably even related. The hunters that gave away meat got plenty of prestige and honor from the recipients, and the recipients were their immediate neighbors, ‘co-workers’, friends, and relatives. They weren’t being asked to give to total strangers. And they were only sharing meat, not vegetable products that only required time and effort to acquire (ie, did not have a luck component).

  8. Claire

    Once again, Frank is wrong abut the SCOTUS decision’s ramifications.Power will now shift away from businesses and to Congress, which will now extort as much $ from lobbyists as possible.

    As for Bernanke–you really have to wonder about Obama’s wisdom on this. Every single time the lightning-rod Fed comes under pressure over the next few years, Obama is going to have to defend pushing this guy’s reconfirmation through. Surely he’s got something better to do with his Presidency than to constantly talk up his Treasury Secretary and his FOMC chairman pick? He could’ve just cut the guy loose and said something along the lines of “another dumb Bush appointment”. Why didn’t he??

    1. dlr

      NO, that’s not right. The supreme court decision doesn’t invalidate campaign contribution limits in any way. Those still stand, the only thing that was struck down was people (and alas) corporations saying and writing anything they care to for or against a candidate. Campaign contribution limits still stand, and hopefully, in a perfect world, people could use the outrage over this decision to roll back campaign contributions even further, like eliminate bundled contributions, or reduce the amount of money anyone could give down from $3,500 to $100. I personally think that the money that gets handed directly to a Senator is much more corrosive of the democratic process than any amount of money spent directly on praising him in the press. It’s not an ideal situation, obviously, but, it’s not as bad as you think.

  9. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Bee decline due to falling biodiversity?

    Well, variety IS the spice of life.

    It would be pretty boring eating genetically modified food every day, wouldn’t it? You gotta have some non-GM, organic food once in a blue moon.

  10. prostratedragon

    For the life of me, I can’t fathom why anyone would have meaningful money in a PayPal account. Even if you use it for payments, why would anyone leave a meaningful balance there?

    While I basically agree, the situation does help keep paypal’s name fresh, as it were.

  11. dlr

    It would be very easy for Obama and Congress to FUNCTIONALLY overturn much of the impact of the Supreme Court decision – all they would have to do is empower corporate shareholders. Make it easy for any shareholder to get a resolution in the proxy, and make any shareholder resolution receiving more than 50% of the votes cast be a binding resolution. Then sit back and watch democracy in action.

    Any shareholder who didn’t like the company spending his/her money campaigning for/against something COULD INTRODUCE A RESOLUTION requiring the CEO to get pre-approval FROM THE SHAREHOLDERS of any political advertising.

    And while the shareholders were at it they could introduce resolutions that all executive compensation over 200K, inclusive of retirement benefits ALSO had to be pre-approved by the shareholders.

    The mind boggles. Shareholder’s could interfere in CEO’s looting corporations. Shareholder’s could fire CEO’s for incompetence. CEO’s would have to start worrying about paying dividends to the suckers (whoops, I mean shareholders). Shareholder’s would actually be back in control of their property. Whew!

    Excuse me while I go calm down.

  12. Dismal

    I think it’s a matter of them accepting donations through Paypal, not keeping assets on Paypal. They were running a donation drive at the moment too, so this would really hit them where it hurts. Never mind that Paypal has all sorts of draconian measures for when you can withdraw money and how much. So, I wouldn’t say it’s WikiLeaks fault, more like Paypals incompetence/malevolence.

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