Links 5/29/10

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San Jose union begins organizing pot workers SF Gate (hat tip reader John D)

Out-of-office reply: got the message? Tyler Brûlé, Financial Times. I suspect quite a few readers will take issue with this. And Brûlé also ignores the fact that there are places short of outer Siberia where there really is no cell phone signal (take big chunks of coastal Maine, for instance)

Headline of the Month: Why a Pigeon Is Under Armed Guard in India DoctoRx

Gulf oil spill is public health risk, environmental scientists warn Guardian

Morgan Stanley Holiday Weekend SEC Filing: Mack’s Salary Doubled WSJ Deal Journal

Whither Spain – Towards Finland or Argentina? A Fistful of Euros

House Votes to Eliminate Hedge Fund Tax Break New York Times

Number of the Week: 16% of Bonds Misrated Even Using Lenient Standards WSJ Economics Blog

“Angry Old White Men” Mark Thoma

Antidote du jour:

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  1. alex black

    Yves – I love your writings and your blog, so I ask this respectfully, and am genuinely puzzled – Why would you link an offensive, vapid, ludicrous, and racist article (Angry Old White Men) to such an excellent blog?

    I would comment on it, but it is beneath comment, and beneath contempt. Did you think it would generate a lively discussion here? Will you be posting something from the KKK to maintain a balance and enliven the discussion even more?

    Cool turtle photo. :-)

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      To be honest, I was puzzled by the piece, and probably should have said so.

      The urban/rural divide, older disenfranchised-feeling white male are real political types. Karl Rove play that sort of thing like a master, but my understanding is he does it on the micro level, with very granular demographic info (neighborhood level) and appeals to very specific hot button issues.

      1. alex black

        hi, Yves – My reply was, by design, over-the-top. It was a late Friday night and I thought I’d try to get a heated discussion going, but everyone was in bed…. And when I got to reading it, was actually surprised to see that everyone else found the article to be kinda ludicrous.

        Yes, Karl Rove has Evil Genius down to an art – truly a hyper-detail-oriented demagogue. His strategy to get the unelectable Bush re-elected in 2004 was stunning – by riding on the coattails of dozens of statewide anti-gay marriage propositions, which were all reactions to my odd San Francisco mayor, Gavin Newsom, declaring it legal in defiance of state law, marrying thousands of couples – which resulted in miles of interesting video footage of some of our more flamboyant citizens celebrating. It was a lovely human moment here, but smart Dem strategists were enraged at Newsom – they’re convinced that if he hadn’t handed that backlash to Rove on a silver platter, no WAY Bush would have been re-elected.

        Bush knew it too – during his victory speech, he was grinning madly as he introduced Rove, as “The Architect”

        I can think of better names for Rove….

  2. attempter

    Man, is that Thoma article completely delusional, albeit in a way that’s not even on his (very constricted) horizon.

    Farmers, of course, white or black or any others, were clobbered long ago by the rise of industrial agriculture. This was even before the neoliberal transformation in the 70s, though here too the assault was stepped up in the agricultural realm, personified by Nixon’s ag secretary Earl “Get Big Or Get Out” Butz.

    As always, it has everything to do with the corporatist assault and little to do with the culture war idiocy which rightist and liberal corporatists collaborate in foisting upon the people to distract them from their real interests.

    But today the end of cheap fossil-fueled industrial agriculture looms. Far from farmers being some stupid vestige the way Thoma and most others think, America will need millions of new small- to mid-size farmers if it’s to have any hope of literally feeding itself. And for these farmers to exist at all, i.e. for them to be able to break the stranglehold of the Monsantos and ADMs and Smithfields, presupposes not their complete political liquidation the way Thoma and others gleefully contemplate, but on the contrary their political empowerment.

    And I’d say this empowerment, as part of a general restoration of all political and economic power to the real economy, in this case to the literal soil itself, is not only necessary in order for these farms to exist, but is necessary for any general political re-empowerment of the people.

    Now of course I’m not saying most of the tea partiers have any such ideas. Most of them would side with the likes of Smithfield.

    But that doesn’t change the core wrongheadedness of Thoma’s kind of analysis. One way or another, farmers will have to be empowered, or we’ll starve as slaves.

  3. Coldcall

    problem with that article is its the usual black and white polemic, and there are similarly myopic articles from right wing perspectives on “liberals”.

    what is funny is how when one compares FOX to BBC, “progressives” folk get upset. FOX may be far more crass in its myopia but BBC are just as one sided but they are more subtle about it.

    Both are forms of propaganda, one is just easier to spot than the other.

    1. Ignim Brites

      The headline of the Thoma blog is the same old liberal racial analysis but the substantive conclusion is rather different. It is urban vs rural, an old meme of the left. When one starts to consider how actually the nation will dissolve, this quickly becomes a very salient point. In CA, for example, it the coastal areas and particularly LA and the Bay Area counties that are navy blue. In WA it is King County. Logically these areas should be city states in the ancient Greek model lately vindicated by Singapore. Not sure how MMT will work out for these new states though. An interesting theoretical question.

      1. Sundog

        Are you folks talking about Thoma, or Claude Fischer who wrote the piece Thoma reproduces?

        I tend to take the issue of religious fundamentalism pretty seriously, particularly in US politics and in the Islamic world. I believe the rural/urban contrast is a useful approach to thinking about this issue. More concretely, the US problem in Afghanistan seems very much rooted in the rural/urban divide.

    2. wunsacon

      Does or doesn’t the Tea Party skew heavily to older white men? If so, is anyone interested in possible explanations?

      If as suggested by someone we were to include an article from the KKK, would that provide “balance”? Okay, post that view. For balance, of course.

      And, yes, I do hear some TP’ers “pining away” for a rollback to the laws of the late 1800’s. Of course, they’ll keep the freedoms and technology advances that a strong federal government provided by defeating Nazi Germany and Japan, building interstate highways to facilitate commerce between their countryside castle moats, and funding the internet. But, other than that, they’re fiercely independent, self-made people and therefore owe nothing to anyone else.

      1. Coldcall

        Who cares? What exactly would it mean? Are you against the Arizona immigration law because it may enable racial profiling? I am.

        If so, think about that article. It is the epitome of racial profiling. For it or against it?

  4. Transor Z

    I’m angry with the FT columnist for appropriating the name of my favorite dessert in his nom de plume. Accordingly, I hereby dub him “Tyler Shaved Ice with Red Beans,” which is my least favorite dessert.

  5. Garo

    What’s the big deal with the Thoma article – most of which by the way quotes a paper by a Berkeley sociologist. Sure it is left-wing but it is not racist. If you think it is racist, you probably need to revisit the definition of racism.

    Ah yes the Tyler Brule article was such a load of codswallop. His last name is “burnt” and he edits something called the “Monocle”. And he lacks any sense of priority in life.

    1. alex black

      My addition of the adjective “racist” was parody – in the sense that if anyone dared to point out (and mischaracterize) any other group of people by race and then criticize them, the cries of “RACISM” would resound. Just pointing out how silly it is to do that. But that point will be lost on the professional race-baiters (Yeah, I’m lookin’ at YOU, Jesse and Al…and actually at many of Obama’s defenders in the media)

  6. Andrew

    Generalizations are wrong and at best useless.

    Had the Brule’ article not resorted to asinine generalization in order to provoke a reaction (or perhaps to advance the claims of corporations against their employees), it would have noted that different jobs come with (a) different levels of responsibility, (b) different requirements for or expectations of reachability, (c) different paychecks, and that in principle one expects some correlation between a, b, and c though in practice of course there is deviation from that correlation. Not much to write home about there.

    Had the Thoma article not resorted to asinine generalization in order to illuminate the Tru Truth of the Want My Country Backerz, it would have said that (a) some of the people who don’t like Obama are racists, (b) some of those racists are racist because they believe any move toward racial indifference is a move away from a past in which they imagine themselves participating in a greater prosperity simply by virtue of their race, sex, and age. That’s pretty weak tea.

    What’s pernicious about the Thoma article is that it makes an equation of the expression “I want my country back” with racist entitlement. When Jesse (of the Cafe’ Americain) or Brad DeLong repeat Franklin’s warning that we have “a Republic, *if you can keep it,*” is that racist code instructing white landowners to look to their chattel? Not bloody likely. You won’t catch me within a country mile of the Tea Party, but I want my country back too, dammit — the Bill of Rights, government by and for the people, liberty and justice for all.

    The profession of a very great number of academics in this country consists entirely in the building of authority for generalizations, and wielding of generalizations with authority.

  7. Andrew

    Man, my dander was up; I shouldn’t have written “a very great number” of academics — that gets me uncomfortably close to being hoist on my own petard. I mean to say that there is a non-null number of academics who do this, and to the extent that they do it is good to read their writings through a filter and keep them out of public thought leadership.

    And I hope it’s clear that when I say “that’s pretty weak tea” about the Thoma article, I mean that it’s obvious enough that pointing it out is not noteworthy, rather than that I dispute it. Ah, to be able to edit one’s rants.

  8. Valissa

    On Thoma’s post highlighting the excerpt from sociologist Fischer regarding members of the Tea Party… WOW, that was quite full of stereotypes and not nearly as fun of a theory as this related piece of tripe from two Democratic strategists…

    Most ‘tea party’ followers are baby boomers reliving the ’60s,0,3374643.story

    ROTFLMAO… propaganda can be quite hilarious… the liberal propagandists seem to be working overtime to find ways to discredit the Tea Partiers… why is so much energy put in to this effort, I keep asking myself. Interesting that the anti-war protests have mostly died out since Obama took office… only a few die hards still at it.

    BTW, has anyone else noticed the amazing amount of attention the Tea Partiers get from the press? Compare that to the amount of press anti-war protesters received under Bush. I was at the Bush counter-inaugural protest in DC Jan 2005, and we got almost NO press attention. I am very suspicious of all the press reports on the Tea Party and am very skeptical of what they have to say… I have belonged to groups that were labeled “fringe” for various reasons and I am well aware of how establishment press looks for the looniest folks in some group and gives them exposure (instead of the sensible ones) in order to discredit them.

    While I may not agree with the Tea Partiers on most issues I do appreciate the right to protest, whether others deem such protests rational or not (really, how rational are anti-war protests given that they never stop any war activity). Neither am I afraid of them, nor do I feel any need to act self-righteously superior to them as so many liberals do. Quite honestly I’ve formed a more negative opinion of so-called liberals… who ultimately are just as intolerant in their own ways (one of many reasons I’ve stopped identifying as liberal).

    1. alex

      Good points. I too would rather tell the Tea Partiers they’re wrong than indulge in smears. The essay seems more like a parody of the stereotype of a Berkeley sociologist than any serious examination of Tea Partiers. The whole “grand sweep of history” aspect is especially funny. Tea Partiers may be older than average, but how many of them are really pining away for the good old days of their 18th century childhoods?

      1. anon

        For me, the article was almost worth the read because of Sasha’s comment: “Obviously it’s a parody of the “Berkeley sociologist” stereotype. The truly clever part though is where the protagonist deals with his own despair about the waning influence of “Berkeley sociologists” by psychologically projecting his fears onto Tea Partiers. The movie version is going to be complete with flowers painted on VW vans, oversized afros and bra burning hippie girls (hey, it’s Hollywood).”

        The articles (Thoma’s and Fischer’s) were just odd speculation that seemed to rely on very few facts, even those that would be presumably easy to obtain (e.g., are those who identify with the Tea Party more likely to be rural than urban? ).

        Valissa, I’ve never understood the Democratic Party/Republican Party/MSM obsession with the Tea Party movement either. I think it’s partly a convenient scapegoat and diversion for the Dems. It’s probably seen as an easy “us vs. them”/divide and conquer strategy by all of the above (since “us vs them” makes for cheap and easy circuses for the MSM). But why was it the movement that got all the press when, at least occasionally, larger protests were essentially ignored? And why did the Dems almost immediately revile it and the Repubs embrace it when it started out as a protest against both parties and the bailouts?

  9. itad?

    Adjusting Gravity

    The legacy economy is worth more dead than alive at this point, and the new system would have to subsidize it just to wind it down. These are quantum events, from the perspective of the standing looking glass, and quickly buried in mythology, by gravity, after completion.

    The nucleus, from the perspective of the old looking glass, in relative time, is about to get much smaller, one way or the other. We will assume the white swan event, from the perspective of 7 billion participants…

    In order to shrink as required to cross the gap, all the internal bonds / promises have to be broken, but those bonds have developed since the last adjustment, to give the nucleus its stability.

    We will simplify all the complexities of the nucleus, to the synthesis of its symptomatic behavior, but keep in mind that it is a result of momentum, beyond the control of those within it. Control is a myth that the nucleus requires, to fit all the gears within the internal agreement. There are several individuals operating within gravity that understand how all this works, but they are embedded, and the mob is getting angry.

    Most have never participated in the social agreements creating their environment, and those that have were indirectly provided with a solution before they began, from the same source, playing both sides, largely cutting the baby in half, with the structurally stronger party taking back the other half over time, with an overall increase in efficient scale, largely exchanging promises for development, with the deal paid for out of economic return to unprotected labor.

    So, you need 53% return to unprotected labor to land in the next orbit, to reset the system, and you are beginning with 15%. Under gravity’s terms and conditions of negotiation, your initial demand would be (x + 15) / 2. The resulting 91% opening demand is an obvious non-starter. Because of its recent history, the development momentum of those internal agreements, and the assumption of those within the nucleus that it controls outcomes, the counteroffer is going to be an incremental increase above 15%, maybe 20%. It’s not really a negotiation, but it is from the perspective of most within the nucleus, that “think” the economy works that way.

    Because this approach can have no productive outcome, until everyone in gravity sees the precipice of the cliff, gravity will go over the cliff, due to its own momentum. Only when gravity sees its own death as the overwhelmingly probable outcome, will those bonds break sufficiently. That is the tipping point to the necessary agreement. Confidence in the required bridge must be established in that moment, in many cases, at the worst possible time psychologically.

    So, the pieces have to be prefabbed, and they must be prefabbed beyond the knowledge of gravity, which is a thief by nature. Obviously, the next level of infrastructure required is going to demand a quantum increase in both science and engineering adaptive skills in the resulting population.

    Enterprise architects do not think in terms of circuits, but in this case, circuit analogy is the best interpreter. One way to think about it is that they build all kinds of parallel circuits, with specialized devices, out of virtual transformers, with the required shorts, opens, and splits, to implement the device action. When the time comes, they traverse the parallel circuits, pick the specialized devices as needed, and adjust them for final fit, to get the necessary circuit characteristics. It’s like your bin collections.

    The to-be is a quantum advancement in Democracy, which means that while you will have the necessary “urgency” on the part of gravity, you must place the looking glass and build the bridge to it yourselves. The other “half” of the bridge will appear automatically, due to the action of the symbiotic relativity circuit.

    When the time comes, you must garner sufficient confidence to reopen the NPV window, so you have time to completion, which means you must have a collection of working prototypes and connectors, to fit the bridge. How you complete the bridge, to manage gravity, will determine whether you land and how long the bridge will last. Gravity is gravity. Do not expect it to be reasonable, left to its own devices. Schedule the NPV window accordingly.

    If we assume the black swan event, relative to the global population … you do not want to be anywhere near a major city when the lights and pumps go out.

    The system, as redesigned by gravity, is not viable, its own momentum will not allow it to reverse course, and the bill is due on all the promises. They tried all the current remedies in Argentina, and have been trying them repeatedly since, in the run-up to US Social Security insolvency. Everyone capable of addressing these “crises” is already working on the next system, and they are not going to give up their freedom and equity positions, to become economic slaves to ignorance.

    Gravity asserts that unprotected labor is expendable, executives direct the economy, labor leaders represent labor, governments represent people, and an empire with a reserve currency cannot be insolvent. Those who enter that field do so of the own free will, choosing to compete for finite resources, which is a parameter of gravity, hoping to win the lottery in the ponzi contest, and then want to force all others into the chasm to feed the black hole, with soft power if possible, with hard power if not.

    You always have a choice, and the only limitation on that choice is your own psychology. Don’t let the social looking glass fool you; only gravity sees itself.


    An empire, any empire, can be de-energized at will. Just leave yourself a leg so you don’t have to work in the dark, and don’t forget to bleed the capacitors before you start working on the equipment. And whatever you do, do not tell the boss ANYTHING. At best, you will end up with a lot of extra make-work, and, at worst, he will electrocute himself. Give him enough money to spend time with his own, and if he’s ignorant enough to “think” he knows, you’ll have another boss shortly. There is no shortage of people in the wantabe boss line. A good boss keeps the click busy, and leaves you alone. Take care of that one.

    So, there I am, the boss is talking sideways, and out pops “I could buy and sell those people.” After I let him and his helper blow up another elevator, he wasn’t my boss any longer. Pay me and do me the courtesy of shutting the f— up, while I work, or go to the bar. “You don’t say much do you?” I love that one. Same guy gives me a $20/hr pay raise after telling me he could replace me with a c-clamp, and an expense account after telling me we had to talk. Two points make a line; three strikes your out.

    The empire has had its three strikes. We are moving forward, with or without. Play in May, go away, don’t bother to come back in November. Congress is not God, and neither is its money.

    p.s. don’t be to quick to throw out all the old equipment; some of it is much better than anything on the market today, and be thoughtful when you talk to the janitors and secretaries. You never know.

  10. carping demon

    Who the hell is Tyler Brûlé to be “(worried)” about someone else’s commitment to their job?

  11. S Brennan

    anon, Valissa, Andrew, Garo

    Thoma does finds articles, [and it doesn’t matter how deeply flawed], that agree with his preconceived notions, in that sense, he is what he rails against.

    His love of Obama knows no rational bounds, any factual criticism of his “dear leader” will bring the emotional charge of racism.

    Thoma is big on repetition, every week-month you can count on him posting a “study” that shows that supply and demand have no effect on labor markets.

    In Thoma’s world an excess of workers do not lead to a reduction in wages, no in Thoma’s world view, oversupply in labor markets increases demand to point that wages actually rise. This idiocy of Thoma’s is always refuted on his site by commenters…which then allows Thoma to cull out those who do not share his theology.

    That’s the great thing about tenured economics professors, insulated from market realities, they opine on all matters foreign to them, using their personal experiences from prior decades to inform them of current events.

    Fair Disclosure:

    I was banned [after writing there for years] from “Economist view” for ridiculing the notion that economist had become so scientifically precise that they had become as good engineers in predicting outcomes within their field of expertise. In fairness, Mark did answer me back however, after stating that he considered it fair because as far as he was concerned his “internet blog was the same as his home, so any opinion he would not allow to be spoken in his home would be banned on his site”. I thought it funny that a guy who would argue for tenure on the grounds of academic freedom and then would in turn ban polite political arguments that he disagreed with. The offending two remarks were:

    “To be clear, my criticism is not directed at every INDIVIDUAL economist, rather it is directed at those who either support or remain silent while others provide highly complex technical reasons for barbarous behavior. Much of economics today isn’t about truth or near truth, it’s about
    justifying the rape of less fortunate and the planet itself. Religion once filled this role, but tiring of the indefensible, they’ve turned the dirty work over to “Economics”.

    And in reference to David Warsh who supported Alvin Roth’s supposition that economists predictions and designs were as reliable as an engineers, I said:

    “The economics profession would need to go through the equivalent of a Copernican revolution before this would be true”.

    I thought those remarks banal, Thoma was not just offended, but enraged…and I have the emails to prove it.

    1. psychohistorian

      Show me an economist that includes imperialism or empire in their models. Mostly, current economists provide cover for the status quo.

  12. Marianne Jones

    “Out-of-office reply: got the message” – You don’t have to go to Siberia to fall off the Blackberry net. You can go to Montana in the great USA. Mine doesn’t work. Everybody from my company who goes to Montana, their’s does not work either. For me Montana isn’t optional; my parents live there.

  13. Alex

    The Tyler Brule piece is typical of him. At first, I thought it was just the egotistical whining of a definitive fop.

    But now, I wonder if good old Lucy K. is actually working on a second more clever satirical persona than Martin Lukes?

    In any case, if one looks closely at such complaints, one can see the likely self-centered issue. Poor little Tyler wanted to reach one (right now…waahh…) and they dared to say they might not have perfect connectivity.

    Satire or not, he is an obnoxious jackass.

  14. Francois

    Re: House eliminates tax loophole of hedgies.

    100$ bet the Senate will do everything they can to prevent that to happen.

    “The Republican Party is the opposition; the enemy is the Senate.”

  15. Mark T

    Have to agree with Alex……I have taken to asking around the City of London and have yet to find ANYONE who likes “the fast lane”, the paint dryingly tedious column in the Saturday FT. In fact Tyler Brule is so absolutely awful that he has to be a parody. Doesn’t he?

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