Links 4/4/10

Missing link between man and apes found Telegraph (hat tip reader Swedish Lex)

Consumer Spending Rests On Shaky Foundation Comstock Partners (hat tip reader Scott). From last week but still worth reading.

Five Weekly Charts: Gold, Silver, US Dollar, US Long Bond, and SP 500 Jesse

Capital can’t be measured Steve Waldman. This points to big time problem (IMHO) in what we allow firms to do. If the metrics are that bad, the firms have to be vastly less geared or stick to easier to value products, something no one is prepared to consider.

Critics Say Firm Weakens Safety Net as It Fights Jobless Claims New York Times

AIG Gets Away With It The Economic Populist

Cross-party support among MPs for break-up of big banks Telegraph (hat tip reader Swedish Lex)

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Obama! Frank Rich

The Silence of the Liberal Lambs: Outrage at Outliers, Hosannas for State Crime Chris Floyd

Antidote du jour. From reader Barbara, with the subject, “Beware of identity theft this Easter”>


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  1. attempter

    Chris Floyd is eloquent and compelling as always. If only there were still much of a truly American audience left for the expression of such American ideals.

    This corporate/government nexus is obviously the real threat and the real obscenity. The “tea partiers”, however obnoxious, are no threat at all in themselves. (Though they will be once they’re fully Astroturfed once the Reps get the power back the way Obama and the Dems clearly want them to.) Floyd’s right on regarding the sickening contrast between how we rightfully laughed at Bush having a shoe thrown at him (what wasn’t funny was what befell the shoe thrower afterward – Bush/Obama style torture) and how the Dems and the liberal teabaggers are screaming bloody murder over some Congressional criminals being insulted.

    It’s the same bogus lie as when the Republicans were outraged that people were rightly (obviously) pointing out that Bush was a vastly greater threat to American liberty than Saddam. So today Obama is of course an infinitely greater threat than “terrorism”, which any sane person knows can never be anything more than a nuisance to America or what used to be its freedoms.

    (The correct word for psedo-Americans with their “war on terror” is pusillanimity. To be pusillanimous adds to cowardice the connotation that the thing toward which one is so cowardly is in fact so meager a threat that he shouldn’t even be very scared of it in the first place, let alone a coward.)

    Right now the liberal teabaggers are a far greater calamity than the right-wing variety. The definition of a liberal teabagger is anyone who really believes that Obama’s a progressive, that he and the Democratic party seek progressive policy, and that they have good intentions toward the public interest.

    100% of the evidence of course contradicts this. But the kind of wingnut who insists against the evidence that Obama’s a “progressive” and that the health racketeering bill was “reform” is the exact same wingnut who calls him a “socialist” and thinks the bill was a “socialist takeover”. The only difference between the two teabagger types is that one approves and the other diapproves. But they share the identical root delusion.

    1. Evelyn Sinclair

      This Comment is so dead right I just had to compliment you on it. Not even pick out quotes — whole thing!

  2. craazyman

    Waldman’s article on the impossibility of measuring bank capital is great stuff.

    He gets an immediate Citation of Excellence in Contemporary Analysis from the Institute for Contemporary Analysis at the University of Magonia.

    Especially loved the phrase “Shroedinger’s Banks”.

    1. Richard Smith

      Yup, completely ace post.

      The scale of the valuation problem is a great big reason why, by themselves, even the good bits of Basel III (capital and liquidity rules), as currently proposed, may not really help much to get a grip on risk at banks.

    1. eric anderson

      As a Bible-believing Christian, I have no problem with the concept of evolution in the abstract. Genesis is a description of the creation in song or poem, not wholly literal, but generally descriptive of what has occurred. I’m not Catholic, but even the Catholic Church believes that evolution fits within the frame of scripture and have endorsed it, with qualifications.

      However, when I look at the evidence, a few missing links here and there do not begin to cover the gaps in the fossil record, or the paucity of transitional forms prior to the Cambrian explosion. Nor does the inherently discontinuous nature of observed change fit with Darwin’s idea of gradual change.

      Assuming that the sculptor’s redering of homo habilis in the Telegraph article is an accurate representation, there is still a great deal of difference between that creature and modern man. On a genetic level, how many point mutations, how many nucleotides have to flip around in precise order to effect the kind of change necessary to “improve” this organism into homo sapiens? And how long would this be expected to take, given the mutation rate, and the number of mutations that would be retained after filtering through natural selection?

      As some comments at the Telegraph noted, it is a matter of generation of complex information, which normally does not happen, whether it is by monkeys banging on typewriters, or cosmic rays flipping genetic switches around.

      The best analogy I know of is Michael Behe’s: Although it is possible to cross a small stream by jumping from one stone to the next, how often will it be possible to cross a river like the Mississippi in such a manner? Thus microevolution could work, but macroevolution is another story. Gradualism on one level does not necessarily scale up to levels that are orders of magnitude higher.

      At some point, the probabilities become insurmountable, unless some new materialistic process is discovered that can account for the accumulation of useful complex and coordinated genetic improvements. Or did a giant monolith materialize on an African plain, and provide a genetic spark of intelligence? 2001: A Space Odyssey was intelligent design by any other name.

      Dawkins gave it all away at the end of Ben Stein’s movie Expelled anyway. He didn’t have any objection to intelligent design, just as long as the designer is not God. That is a stunning moment in the history of cinema. From the horse’s own mouth. There it is. It’s hard to even say that Ben Stein set a trap. Dawkins dug his own hole, and fell in.

      1. micron26

        The knowledge level of biology displayed here is at least 20-40 years out of date (much like Michael Behe’s). The assumptions about things such as gradualism sound like they were lifted straight from Watchtower Society tracts.

        Anyone who’s drawing their conclusions on Dawkins’ beliefs from Ben Stein’s movie needs to actually read one or two of Dawkins’s books (his mid-80s “The Blind Watchmaker” more than thoroughly illustrates the weakness of non-data-based, simplistic, essentially emotional arguments like Behe’s). A modicum of understanding of the scientific method wouldn’t hurt, either.

        As a scientist (albeit a highly dogmatic one of late), Dawkins can never discount the possibility of some sort of intelligent design in human evolution. There’s zero evidence of it–and the case against it grows exponentially every year or two as sequence data accumulate–but that doesn’t make it impossible. Just incredibly unlikely. We’ll say 99.999% unlikely, with an extra 9 being added every decade. The possibility that it went down as per the christian old testament? Tack on about a hundred more 9’s.

        The simple answer to the query about “how many mutations” is “not too many.” A good real-world example are modern canines. They can still interbreed with wolves, yet due to selective breeding (or what a biologist would call “artificial selection”) there are chihuahuas and great danes–which are members of the same species. The nucleotide sequence and higher-order structural between those 2 dog breeds is almost certainly far less than that between Homo sapiens and this (possibly) new species.

        As a side note: Ben Stein’s views on evolution are about as well-informed as his views on the economy. Remember this classic from 2007?

        “The financials, as I keep saying, are just super-bargains. I predict that, like, Merrill Lynch which is an astonishingly well-run company. Did you know that a couple of days ago it was trading at barely more than seven times earnings? Financials typically trade at a low P-E [price to earnings ratio], but this is a joke. This stock, they might as well be giving it away in cereal boxes and giving it away, that’s how cheap it is.”

        1. eric anderson

          Well, Dawkins said what he said. You can defend him if you want. Ben Stein’s movie was not about proving intelligent design or creationism. His point was that dissenting voices should not face discrimination. This is essentially the same point that I make about climate science. There are legitimate criticisms, and we should hear them.

          Then, to defend a macroevolutionary viewpoint, you produce a microevolutionary argument. Huh? Sorry, that won’t work.

          You see, I don’t really care which side is right. It doesn’t interfere with my religious beliefs. However, I have not seen a convincing demonstration of complex information coming out of random variations. I have not seen a convincing road map of how you get there without an “assist.” Generally, what we hear from the scientific community is an appeal to authority, coupled with a put-down about the “ignorance” of the opposing view. Or, in your case, you just charge that the opposing view is based on out-of-date information.

          There are people smarter than both of us who are open to the concept of intelligent design. I am open to it as well. If anyone can demonstrate a plausible natural road map from jumbled organic building blocks to the simplest working cell, then I would have to consider that. I think we just have to honestly say that some changes can occur naturally, and some… we just don’t know.

          1. craazyman

            I haven’t been inside a church for 10 years, but I quite agree with you Mr. Anderson. Life, consciousness, imagination? As we know it? Self organizing from a soup of molecules? It makes no sense at all. None. It would be like a piano suddely playing Mozart, by itself.

            I suspect there are forces at play in all this — call them God or whatever — that our minds have yet to comnprehend and our language yet to articulate. Personally, I think DNA is a radio. I am not sure who is sending the signal though.

            I suspect it comes from a multi-dimensional source outside of space and time. Now some might call this “God”, but I don’t necessarily. It may be far more complicated than that. I think some of this is buried in the Old Testament, in some of the stories, but not the histories or the Laws.

          2. bystander

            “However, I have not seen a convincing demonstration of complex information coming out of random variations.”

            Well, no, and you’re never going to. But if you allow inheritance and selection as well as random variation, you will.

            “Generally, what we hear from the scientific community is an appeal to authority, coupled with a put-down about the “ignorance” of the opposing view. Or, in your case, you just charge that the opposing view is based on out-of-date information.”

            Well, if your criticisms are all like the above, based on ignoring inheritance and selection, the central mechanisms of the theory, then ignorance is a perfectly valid charge. How do you expect your criticism of the theory to be treated respectfully when you don’t give the impression of having taken the trouble to find out what it is?

          3. micron26

            You really don’t understand biology, do you?

            The point of my argument was this: it takes very little variation (arising from mutations) to produce large changes. The morphological variation between 2 dog breeds (size mainly, but also other traits) of the same species can vastly exceed that between Homo sapiens and now-extinct Homo whatever for which there are fossil remains. There is, however, very little genetic variation between those 2 dog breeds. They have the same number of chromosomes. The genes are essentially in the same order. They can hybridize.

            As a biologist, I have sat through thousands of scientific seminars and classes and have yet to hear the terms microevolution and macroevolution used. The only people who use them today are religious fundamentalists trying to excuse their beliefs.

          4. Jan Perlwitz

            “Ben Stein’s movie was not about proving intelligent design or creationism. His point was that dissenting voices should not face discrimination.”

            The purpose of this straw man argument about “discrimination” is to paint “intelligent design” and evolution theory as being equals with respect to the scientific acquisition of knowledge. But “intelligent design” is not a scientific theory, in contrast to evolution theory. It already assumes what it concludes. It assumes that complex structures can only be designed by an intelligent creator, and the existence of complex structures is then taken as “proof” for an intelligent creator. It’s postulated and immune against any testing, which makes “intelligent design” unscientific. It’s pseudo-science. It’s disguised creationism, i.e., religion, and as religion it belongs to another realm than science.

            As for climate science, since it has been mentioned here. There are the ones who criticize aspects of the state of knowledge in climate science, who try to test hypotheses that are alternative to the explanations that are being criticized, and try to provide evidence for their hypotheses, based on a strictly scientific approach. These critiques are a part of the scientific community. Then there are other ones who plainly deny the results from research in climate science on non-scientific grounds and who dismiss the scientific method. Those are the equivalents to the creationist. It wouldn’t come to me as a surprise, if there was a large overlap of the population of deniers in relation to climate science with the population of creationists in relation to biological sciences, although I don’t know any demographical research about it.

          5. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            I have two questons.

            1. Why did DNA molecules want to make copies of parts of themselves in the primordial soup? What was the motivational force behind that?

            2. Can cats still evolve into hominids?

          6. Swedish Lex


            When I suggested to Yves that she post this link I did not expect to see comments questioning evolution by natural selection.

            You say. “You see, I don’t really care which side is right. It doesn’t interfere with my religious beliefs.” I found this definition of “fanatic” on the internet: fanatic – a person motivated by irrational enthusiasm (as for a cause); “A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject”–Winston Churchill

            I obviously have no reason to believe that you are a violent or otherwise uncharitable person, as some religous fanatics are, but as regards your views about reality, you seem harbour them in a way that could make you fall within definition of a fanatic.

            No crime in that, of course, but it should at least make you conscious of the fact that your arguments against the evidence about reality, as provided by the body of knowledge in the natural sciences, will be devalued radically, if not entirely, as result. Sure, we can be “open” about creationism, but it is seems to be a scientific dead end.

            To me, it is simply unhealthy and dishonest not to take evidence at face value, whatever the area, even if it goes against what I would like to believe. NC is a good source to challen the very few “rock solid” notions that I still have about the economy.

  3. kevinearick

    So, the nucleus and the capacitor are digital, with rather simple algorithms. They seek to re-enforce themselves, and filter out anything else. The analog electrons pass through the circuit, imparting incremental additions over time, feeding and balancing the system.

    How much does the government or corporation really know about you? Next to nothing. What does the government or the corporation know about the universe. Next to nothing.

    They are little more than machines, artifices, a return path to ground. Spending too much time in either or expecting to change their inherent nature is counter-productive for the electron.

    The nucleus and the capacitor will never become electrons, but electrons can and do become digital, when they fail to recharge between cycles, and fall out of orbit.

    1. kevinearick

      extend and pretend has been going on for a few thousand years now. capital has been trying to convince labor that capital is more important since the beginning. can you blame the rock for wanting to be something more than a counter-weight?

      1. kevinearick

        So, there are enough individuals climbing the mountain to gain the attention of the herd in slaughter valley. Of course the valley operators are going to helicopter up a load of rocks and drop them. Part of the solution is camouflage, and part of it is to enjoy the threat, but mostly it’s about liking to climb mountains, to see what’s on the other side. People that don’t like the challenge of the process, but want what’s on top of the mountain, as a trophy to show the herd, are better off in management, waiting in line for the helicopter, slaughtering the herd in the valley.

        A factory shuts down, because they can’t figure out the problem, losing millions of dollars a day. They hire you to fix the problem for a fee that exceeds what most of the factory workers are going to make in a year, and you make more than the executive on an annual basis. Do you really expect anyone in that system to like you?

        Get in, get the job done, keep your mouth shut, and get out of there. The herd is going to b—- and m— regardless, and do nothing for themselves, but they will cheer you, both on the way up, and in the fall. What else do they have to do, but lay in the grass and wait for the trough to be filled.

        Craving for identification is the system.

        1. kevinearick

          Boeing: the programs have no way of knowing that they are creating recursive circuits.

    2. craazyman

      Dear K,

      Would you be willing to climb down from the mist enshrouded peaks of Poesy and state your case in plain simple English that a dumb dude like me could understand while I drink my second Budweiser? And I’m not an electrical engineer. Think 9th grade level comprehension.


      1. Skippy

        Um…any system that is built on artificial demand, that offers only a few to rise above the many (attempt to hoard electrons), that grows exponentially with in a finite grid, with shorter intervals between feed back, goes BOOM one day.

        Skippy…see Toyota’s PLC problems or as K said boeings IE: the joint probability distribution of the number of nodes of fan-out k in random recursive circuits. For suitable norming we obtain a limiting multivariate normal distribution for the numbers of node of fan-out at most k, where we compute explicitly the limiting covariance matrix by solving a recurrence satisfied among its entries


        WTF is norm.

  4. wunsacon

    “Missing link. Missing link. Missing link.”

    There will always be missing links, just as a 1-frame-per-second video shoot will always miss portions of the path of an arrow in flight.

    The question of whether there are any links “still missing” is a Rorschach test.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Modern evolutionary theories would point to their being transitional species, who might be classified as a missing link, but they would only exist for around 10,000 years before the new species arose from and replaced the old one.

      There also isn’t evidence evolution occurs by slight changes. Mutation that spreads through breeding can overwhelm an old species. The egg that leads to a chicken didn’t need to come from a chicken for example. A missing link isn’t needed to explain the change in species.

  5. gigi

    Missing link between men and slime found. They are called bankers.

    Waldman beats around the bush. I think he is too nice to put it bluntly.

    If the letter of the law is all that counts (accounting=law) criminals will always find a way around it. There are two ways to deal with it:
    – Reduce leverage in the banking system to 0. Let the criminals try to get around this one.
    – Remove all protections and subsides from the banks, let the marketplace be the LAW, and expect some economic turmoil. Periodically they will all go under and create a depression. Accept and live with it.

    Or enforce the spirit of the law. Denude the TBTF banks, Fed, SEC of their executives, bring criminal cases against them, throw them in jail for life with violent criminals (i.e. not the white collar prison), clawback each and every dime they and their families have, and make an example out of the whole banking system so future perpetrators know what to expect if they get caught.

    Pussyfooting around these issues will get you nowhere. Ever tried to reason with a robber?

  6. Sy Krass

    Does anyone really think the FED is done with QE? FYI The economy can’t collapse with the dollar going up (with QE). Before the economy actually does collapse we should probably se the DOW go to 20,000 to 30,000 as we try to hyperinflate into oblivion – THEN the FED will try to put the brakes on.

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