Links 1/5/09

Astonishing pictures show how a Devon kayaker got up close and personal with a humpback whale feeding frenzy Daily Mail (hat tip reader Steve L)

The resurrection of Howard Dean Politico (hat tip Ed Harrison)

Working people’s blood for sale — prices lower than ever! Workers (hat tip reader Warren C). From last year, but this story does not seem to be making the rounds.

17,000 potentially harmful chemicals kept secret under obscure law Raw Story (hat tip reader John D)

SS Trust Fund – 2009 Full Year Results – Ugh Bruce Krasting

Sovereign Debt, Hither and Yon – You Know, Like Japan Paul Kedrosky

Carnage Continues: PHK (Who Smells Smoke?) Karl Denninger (hat tip reader Scott)

Personal Bankruptcy Filings Rising Fast Wall Street Journal

America is losing the free world Gideon Rachman, Financial Times

Levin apologises for ‘worst deal of century’ Financial Times. A call by the former CEO of Time Warner for the big banksters to join him in ‘fessing up to their sins. Think it will happen? Nah. But good for Levin, he singled out the self serving Sandy Weill piece in the NY Times as an example of what chief executives should not be doing.

And a tidbit: McKinsey pushed hard for the disastrous deal with AOL to go through. It brought the transaction idea to the board five times, and unfortunately, the board turned it down only four times.

Accuracy and Truth Douglas Smith. This is old, but the distinction he makes is important….and notice the implication: “truth” is a collective construct, and not the same as what is factually correct. It highlights that our modern Ministries of Truth are so effective that the word “truth” has been debased.

Fannie, Freddie, and the New Red and Blue Matt Taibbi

Antidote du jour:

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  1. attempter

    The Smith piece:

    Shared relationships and shared roles are two of the most powerful determinants of shared values. Another are shared ideas. Consider the shared idea of ‘red state’ and ‘blue state’. This idea has spread across our new world of markets, networks, organizations, friends and families to fuel any number of beliefs and behaviors. For example, it is highly predictive of the way media employees approach a wide array of stories. You personally may not like that, or you may. You might think it ‘good’ or ‘bad’. But as a predictor of some shared values, the shared idea of ‘red state/blue state’ exists and does explain much of what happens in the media.

    The red/blue state theme is one of the main divide and conquer tactics of the corporatist rackets and their bought government. It’s propagated by the bought MSM just like Smith says, for the purpose of enhancing the racketeering stranglehold on America.

    All of which suggests that our future and the future of our children and others around the globe will become more sustainable when our markets, networks, organizations, friends and families put more effort into the shared idea of accuracy than the shared idea of truth.

    Quite right, but unfortunately so long as the system exists the large-scale markets, networks, and organizations will never do anything but lie to us in the service of corporate “truth”, i.e. fraud.

    Which is why we need to decentralize, relocalize, rely on our friends, families, communities as the basis for new, bottom-up markets, networks, and organizations.

  2. Steve

    Working people’s blood for sale:

    The Story is probably not making the rounds because it’s from a socialist website in addition to being absolutely ridiculous, but that’s just my two cents.

    1. i on the ball patriot

      Steve, do you mean to imply that if the story were from a ‘socialist’ corporate media web site — that covers (and omits) stories about socializing the losses of banksters onto the backs of the taxpayers — it might not be “absolutely ridiculous” and somehow more credible?

      Taken on its face the whole sordid plasma gathering scheme is a hideous example of the intensifying circle of vicious oppression and exploitation of humanity being carried out by corporate scamerica. The same corporate owned and controlled media that facilitates the ‘socializing’ of corporate losses onto the backs of the taxpayer, has also created the conditions that allow the wealthy ruling elite few; to hijack the government, co-opt the scam ‘rule of law’, and drive people into desperation deep enough to have to sell their blood plasma.

      Where is the Wall Street Urinal, The New York Slimes, The Washington Ghost, etc., on this story?

      Kudos to “Workers World” and shame on the silence of scamerican corporate media.

      Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

  3. Dan Duncan

    The Smith piece is a muddled mess.

    He’s writing about “Truth” and “Accuracy” but one can argue that his definition of “Truth” is not accurate. His definition of The Truth is highly relative to his individual viewpoint.

    Smith’s personal definition of The Truth is that Truth happens to be relative to The Group. As such, Smith’s personal version of truth is based on a shared set of values of a group.

    Of course, Smith does not make the distinction that his version of the truth is relative, even while he decries the fact that the group’s version of the truth is relative. Thus, he goes on to treat his version of the Truth as if it’s absolute.

    And from here, he laments the fact that his version of Truth quite often diverges from Accuracy. Go figure.

    Well, Mr. Smith…I have one thing to say to you:

    You are wrong! And how do I know that you are wrong? Because I know a lot of other people who also “know” that you are wrong.

    In the future, please try to be more accurate.

    To Attempter who writes about The System and our need to “decentralize, relocalize, rely on our friends, families, communities…”:

    Since this site is all about All Things Orwell, and since I am all about broadening your horizons…

    I bring you a limited form of Anti-Orwellianism. Consider Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”. Yes, big brother is bad…but Little Brother in Salem has his own set of issues. Reliance on friends, families and communities may not be the Utopian ideal after all…

    [….Unless, of course, those “friends, families and communities” are Leftist, Elitist Academics who in the name of Orwell–ironically enough–want to tell others how to live their lives because…”well, we are academics, after all, and we are smarter than you.”

    Damn, I love the irony of Leftist academics invoking Orwell.]

    1. attempter

      I love the way you always think I’m a leftist academic. That’s pretty funny.

      I don’t live among Salem witch-hunters, so why would I be relocalizing among them? But they would certainly be a big improvement over corporate slave “consumers”.

      As for Smith, your reading comprehension is clearly pretty bad. (Not enough academics in your life, I guess.)

      That is, unless you’re reading according to your highly ideological “individual viewpoint”.

      He’s using the term “accuracy” in the way that the term “truth” should be used but is not, since everywhere you look you see the rackets, the racket government, and the racket media having hijacked that term to slap on their lies.

      So, yes indeed, he’s saying “truth” is generally used in an Orwellian way, which is why for the sake of the piece he uses the term that way as well, and contrasts it with “accuracy”, by which he means real truth.

      Glad I could help broaden your horizons.

    2. enemy combatant

      Hm, Dan Duncan has quite a chip on his shoulder about academics. So he’s not just a quivering submissive cowering in fear of the outside world, fawning to government bureaucrats for protection, he’s a meritocratic washout too!

    3. Anonymous Jones

      I am once again (twice in one week!) sympathetic to Dan’s comment. He’s merely pointing out that all of these things are more complex than most assume. We can’t even agree upon the definition of “truth.” Trust me, we *cannot* and *will not* agree on a definition of “truth.” We could meditate on the issue for years (and for effect, raise Wittgenstein from the dead to tutor us), and I can assure you that we would still not agree (and it would not necessarily be because someone is an “idiot”). This brings us to the question that fascinates me most: how do we live with one another when we hold diametrically opposed positions regarding the most basic ideas and basic building blocks of life? And I have no answer! And I think there is no right answer!

      Dan’s also right about the Crucible (in the sense that utopian dreams are insane, from the top-down or the bottom-up (unless of course your version of utopia does not include other humans)) and Orwell (in the sense that many of Orwell’s oft-cited ideas may apply to the “Left” as well). Of course, I still wish Dan would stop using such non-constructive terms as “Left” and “Leftist,” but I’m taking what I can get at this point!

      1. DownSouth

        I’m sympathetic with Dan’s comment insofar as I believe Smith is completely in over his head.

        The debate over truth has befuddled the greatest minds since time immemorial.

        One of the things I love about the writing of persons like Amitai Etzioni, Hannah Arendt or Reinhold Niebuhr is that they delve into how humans actually operate. Here’s Etzioni for instance:

        There is a close role between facts and values. They do not exist in separate containers. Examination of the facts is often accompanied by examination of one’s values. Values in turn direct one’s choice of relevant facts. This interdependence of facts and values implies a constant shifting between empirical and value elements in decision-making.
        –Amitai Etzioni, The Moral Dimension

        Arendt, in The Human Condition, traces the concept of truth—what it means, how we arrive at it—beginning with the Greeks, before even Plato and Aristotle, through the Middle Ages, to the Renaissance and right on up to the Modern era. She thinks that we in the West have been quite a pickle ever since Christian certainty became doubtful:

        Doubt of the goodness of God, however, the notion of a Dieu trompeur, arose out of the very experience of deception inherent in the acceptance of the new world view, a deception whose poignancy lies in its irremediable repetitiveness, for no knowledge about the heliocentric nature of our planetary system can change the fact that every day the sun is seen circling the earth, rising and setting at its preordained location. Only now, when it appeared as though man, if it had not been for the accident of the telescope, might have been deceived forever, did the ways of God really become wholly inscrutable, the more man learned about the universe, the less he could understand the intentions and purposes for which he should have been created…

        Modern man, when he lost the certainty of a world to come, was thrown back upon himself and not upon this world; far from believing that the world might be potentially immortal, he was not even sure that it was real. And in so far as he was to assume that it was real in the uncritical and apparently unbothered optimism of steadily progressing science, he had removed himself from the earth to a much more distant point than any Christian otherworldliness had ever removed him… The only contents left were appetites and desires, the senseless urges of his body which he mistook for passion and which he deemed to be “unreasonable” because he could not “reason,” that is, not reckon with them.

        Daniel Yankelovich also gives a superb overview of some of the thinking about truth over the past century in Coming to Public Judgment and concludes:

        Objectivism has been under a cloud in philosophy for three decades or more without having much effect on the world outside of academia, especially in the United States… Unhappily, the objectivist outlook—its dogmatic narrowness, its equation of reality with the measurable and quantifiable, its dedication to specialization and expertise, its contempt for modes of knowing that are not information driven—is still in its virulent phase of ascendancy in the United States, and no amount of philosophical analysis can stop it. But It may be possible to win some minor skirmishes along its extended front.

    4. emca

      //You are wrong! And how do I know that you are wrong? Because I know a lot of other people who also “know” that you are wrong.

      Maybe you just know the ‘wrong’ people?

  4. joebek

    Gideon Rachman seeks to salve the narcissistic wounds of the American ‘intelligensia’ after Copenhagen with the assertion that “…Brazil, South Africa, Turkey and India are all countries whose identities as democracies are now being balanced – or even trumped – by their identities as developing nations that are not part of the white, rich, western world.” Obama would do well to ignore his self-infatuated flatters and focus on the hard observation of the de Gaulle: “Nations do not have friends. Nations have interests.”

    1. Fluffy

      Re Rachman:

      “Rather than siding with the US on the big international issues, they are just as likely to line up with authoritarian powers such as China and Iran.”

      Correction: This should read: “Rather than siding with the US on the big international issues, they are just as likely to line up with THE OTHER authoritarian powers such as China and Iran.”

      Somehow it must be the fault of Turkey or Brazil if we have managed to alienate them with threats of eternal war and death-by-drone from above…

  5. Wade Nichols

    The Story is probably not making the rounds because it’s from a socialist website in addition to being absolutely ridiculous, but that’s just my two cents.

    Indeed, the story linked above is quite idiotic!

    However, it has been “making the rounds”, in the NY Times:

    Here’s a couple “inconvenient facts” that the Socialists won’t tell you about those who donate blood regularly. From an old NY Times article about the NYC area:

    Blood supply officials say the imbalance occurs because 90 percent of donors are whites, who have a third more type A than blacks.

    In contrast, blacks have twice as much type B as whites.

    As a result, there is a constant oversupply of type A blood, which has gone bad on storage shelves and in hospital blood banks, and a chronic shortage of type B.

    Type B blood is chronically scarce, officials said, because the center historically has had poor responses from blood drives in predominantly black areas of the city and has consequently been reluctant to mount new ones in those areas.

    They said, moreover, that blood collected in such areas had a high rate of rejection because of a higher rate of infection and disease among racial minority groups with large numbers of poor people.

    Full disclosure: I’m an evil, oppressor white guy, who has donated red blood, platelets, and white blood cells (once), for a total of 42 times. I don’t get paid cash either, but I do earn points redeemable for gifts and gift cards!

    P.S. – My blood type is B+

    1. Yves Smith Post author


      12.3% of the population is black, so a roughly 10% participation is not disproportionate. And the focus of the article was that the efforts to lower the cost of plasma were becoming more concerted. This blog has reported on increased plasma donations for cash as a sign of economic stress.

      1. Wade Nichols

        12.3% of the population is black, so a roughly 10% participation is not disproportionate.

        The article I linked to is specific to NYC, and stated that 90% of blood donors in NYC area are white (this is back in 1987, not sure what current stats are).

        How can you assume since 90% of blood donors are white, therefore the remaining 10% of donors are automatically black? Do Hispanics and Asians and “Other races” matter? Or, maybe you’re using the old “racist” “logic” – “if you’re not white, you’re black”???? (That’s meant as sarcasm!)

        Not sure if you’re from NYC, but I can tell you that 90% of the population is NOT white. So, yes, there is a MASSIVE disproportion when 90% of blood donors are white compared to the actual population in NYC!!

        This blog has reported on increased plasma donations for cash as a sign of economic stress.

        I think there’s some truth to that, but then there’s always the problem of “constructing the narrative to fit the facts afterwards”.

        New York State doesn’t allow plasma donations for cash, and from what I understand, the Red Cross has a constant shortage of blood products, and has to import from Europe.

        Maybe if NY did allow cash payments, there wouldn’t be a shortage of donors?

        Or, maybe if members of the public did their “civic duty” more often, and stopped being so damn selfish, there wouldn’t be a shortage.

        I don’t wish to grind a “racial axe”, merely wish to point out the obvious………

        1. Yves Smith Post author


          I must confess I did not look at your piece…I can barely keep up with the work needed to do fresh posts…but you were citing 1987 data? That is a whole generation ago. And to complain about black participation in plasma, when you cannot say with confidence that things have not changed?

          Re doing civic duty, you have no idea what the impediments are. Some may be misinformation (re sickle cell anemia in particular, I believe sickle cell trait is an impediment to giving whole blood, since it has to be filtered, but not for plasma). I happen to have low blood pressure and cannot give blood or plasma.

    2. i on the ball patriot

      But, wade, the thrust of the story is not “idiotic” and “absolutely ridiculous” as you claim. Here are a couple of “inconvenient facts” about the exploitation from the New York Slimes article;

      “The Mexican donors need visas that require they have a job and a permanent address. The donor’s health is checked on each visit, and each donation is tested for five viruses. Most of the Mexicans interviewed said they had no problems with donating, though it can sometimes leave them lightheaded if they don’t have adequate nutrition.

      Reynaldo Bueno Sifuentes, who began giving plasma a year ago when overtime was cut at the auto parts factory where he works, said he did not take the recommended vitamins because they were expensive. He said the donations left him tired, and that when overtime was restored three months ago, he stopped selling plasma.

      But many of the Mexican donors are worried less about their health than the possibility that immigration officials will decide the donations constitute work in the United States, in violation of their visas.

      Some advocates for Mexican border workers see the plasma donations mostly as evidence of inadequate factory wages. “It provides a little escape valve” from economic hardship, says Ricardo Hernández of the American Friends Service Committee, which works closely with a Mexican organization, Comité Fronterizo de Obreras.

      Juan Carlos Torres, a 35-year-old father of three, started selling plasma when he lost his factory job three years ago. But he has continued to do so even after finding a new job because he doesn’t want to give up the extra income. To him, he says, “It’s a business now.” “

      And further … NY Slimes reporter, Andrew Pollack, puts this nice little bit of selective spin, smoke, and mirrors on this exploitive scam …

      “Early on a recent Tuesday evening, about 40 people were in the Talecris waiting room in Eagle Pass, sitting under a big sign reading: “Save lives. Earn money. Feel good.” Many of the people had just finished their shifts at Mexican factories.

      In an adjacent room, about 70 people rested on vinyl beds, with a line connecting a vein in one arm to a machine. Many of the donors are regulars. “It’s kind of like ‘Cheers,’ ” said Ruben Duran, the center’s manager. “They come here and know each other.” “

      Wow! That’s awesome, “It’s kind of like ‘Cheers,’ ”. I can just see Normy rolling in, ordering a beer, and rolling up his sleeve. Maybe a little more journalistic inquiry for context might have been wise before including that outrageous comment.

      And how about that big sign that all of those poor exploited Mexicans, tired from a days labor, sit under while their rapidly falling in price plasma is extracted from their weary bodies ; “Save lives. Earn money. Feel good.”, hmmm … could that be a strangely reminiscent and mocking twist on the famous Auschwitz, “Work Sets You Free” sign?

      Full disclosure: I have a hard on for the wealthy ruling elite and their crooked scamerican corporations.

      Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

  6. NotTimothyGeithner

    So Levin will be returning all the money he made off the deal to former shareholders or employees? Or is he just saying he’s taking responsibility?

  7. MichaelC

    I also recommend the link to Jesse’s Cafe for his excellent analysis of Taibbi’s piece.

    One thing I think is overlooked in Taibbi’s analysis and the comments is that the GSEs were buying private RMBS paper on a massive scale in addition to their in house underwriting and securitization programs. I think that fact got lost in the fog of war on the community reinvestment act’s role, and diverted attention from the fact that, CRA or not, the GSEs fueled the housing market, backed by gov’t guarantees (implicit or explicit , it doesn’t really matter). The GSEs were operating as ‘for private profit’ on the gov’ts dime, unchecked , for a very long time. A big chunk of the GSE bailout funds are being used to cover those losses on private MBS owned by those now officially gov’t entities.

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