Links 5/9/10

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Doctors ’cause blood pressure to rise’ BBC

Expert Recommends Killing Oil-Soaked Birds Der Spiegel

Officials look to Mississippi River to help in oil-spill fight USA Today. Reader John L points out: ” They are using water out of an already drought-struck watershed. How do you send BP the bill for that?”

Rig firm’s $270m profit from deadly spill TimesOnline. Yes, sports fans, the rig was insured for MUCH more than it was worth.

For BP, a History of Spills and Safety Lapses New York Times

I Think the Last Line I Have Quoted Is the Funniest Thing I Have Ever Heard… Brad DeLong. Warning, you do have to be a bit of a computer type to get the jokes.

20% Of Americans Are “Birthers”; 31% Of “Birthers” Approve Of Obama; America Is Weird Mediaite (hat tip reader John D)

Food-stamp tally nears 40 million, sets record Reuters (hat tip reader John D)

This real iron chef will make you pay Sydney Morning Herald (hat tip reader Crocodile Chuck). Zeitgeist watch.

What’s the “We” Jazz, Thomas Friedman? Dean Baker (hat tip reader John L). Baker is even more withering than usual: “You get paid a really big premium for ignorance at the NYT, just ask Thomas Friedman…”

Is Your Senator A Bankster? Dylan Ratigan (hat tip reader John M)

Goldman to ‘sue for peace’ on Abacus charges Telegraph. Has more detail than the earlier reports.

NY Post: Feds Launch Criminal and Civil Probes Into JP Morgan’s Silver Trades Jesse. Finally, investigating is fashionable.

Ignoring the Elephant in the Bailout Gretchen Morgenson, New York Times

Guest post: El-Erian on a critical weekend for Europe and the economy FT Alphaville (hat tip Calculated Risk). Ah, you know the crisis is on in full when a guy like El-Erian, who normally posts on the FT’s comment page, is posting on FT Alphaville on a Saturday.

Antidote du jour:

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  1. attempter

    Re Ratigan piece:

    Much of it is true, although it repeats the lie that “left” and “right” are equally responsible for our problems. In fact, as his own examples demonstrate, all that happened was that the Right triumphed completely, and there is no longer a Left. (His alleged “left” example is really an example of right-trending sellout “liberals” in action. An exception that proves the rule, as it were, except that that’s no exception but the norm.)

    While I agree that the old delineations Left and Right are no longer meaningful or useful, it’s simply historical falsification to say they both failed or were otherwise proven wrong. No, the Right destroyed the Left and then, given total power, it proved itself infinitely evil and stupid and terminally dysfunctional.

    This part is also incorrect:

    And while I may not agree, I am also OK with someone voting no on Kaufman-Brown if they voted no on the bailout in the first place. That at least shows a consistent ideology and we wouldn’t need to break up the banks into smaller parts if our leaders had the will to let them fail.

    Sorry, but that’s not a tenable position. By now we know for a fact that so as long as the rackets exist, they will always be bailed out. The Bailout continues on a daily basis through Fannie and Freddie and the TBTF premium. So to sit passively, as those who say, “let’s not break up the banks, let’s just promise No More Bailouts” want to do, is de facto to choose more bailouts.

    That’s the case whether in the form of a “consistent ideology” or not.

    So by now if one opposes the Bailout, the only option is to break up the bank rackets.

  2. Abhishek

    BP is failing with its containment of the oil spill. First the company slept for a week , then when it felt pressure from the state and investors it mounted a rescue.We need more of a cleaner energy but the strong oil lobby prevents that also

  3. Richard Kline

    Through the last fifteen years or so, I’ve had the distinct impression that the blood pressure reads I’ve had at my clinic are high compared to what I expected. It’s interesting to read in the article linked substantiation for that phenomenon, and moreover that it is widespread and at a significant level, above 10% judging by the write up.

  4. Eleanor

    That monkey is in a cage. What are they doing to it? Why does it look so lonely? — On the plus side, I guess, at least someone gave it a teddy bear.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The little guy is waiting for an apology from Humanity and maybe $1,000 compensation to each and every animal and plant on this planet.

  5. nowhereman

    Freddie’s requirement for 10 billion more dollars, is simply that without it they can’t afford their executives $10 billion bonus package.

  6. herman sniffles

    The monkey is being tortured, of course. This is an experiment. The monkey has been removed from its mother at birth, given a “surrogate” mother (the teddy), and it being kept in isolation to study it’s behavioral development. It’s part of a group of experiments that are used to tease apart the effects of “nurture” vs. “nature.” This pic was probably shot at one of the major primate centers in the US, perhaps Europe. Maybe even the one where I was employed a long time ago. There, the female lab technicians would sneak into the isloation room when the professor wasn’t looking, take the isolated baby monkeys out of their cages, and play with them on the cold cement floor, probably messing up a perfectly good experiment. Some of the monkeys were kept alive until they grew into adults; very strange somewhat dangerous adults. I’m not saying it’s bad. It’s just what it is, and not unlike the upbringing some of the professor’s children probably received. Producing, perhaps, people like Larry Summers.

    1. prostratedragon

      Ah yes, like Harlow’s monkey experiments. We were shown a film about them and other experiments in my college psychology class. I seem to recall the air leaving the room at the demonstration of the Wire Mother phase of the experiments. I’m quite sure that some students changed their major plans that very day, and myself spotted the exit door, though it took me a few more months to decide that this definitely was not the psychology I was looking for.

      Over the years I think I’ve found the agitated monkey with the Wire Mother too harrowing to keep handy in my mental image file, in fact I’d forgotten about it until now. But I well remember from those films a chicken who, similarly, had been brought up with a red mitten as its mother. The mitten was hung up on the wall of the cage, about head high to the adult hen. She would come over to it from time to time and nuzzle it, seeming to become calmer while doing so. Then, of course, the experimenters took the mitten away …

      But seeing the contentment that the hen got from her red mitten told me all I’ve needed to know since about what fragile beings we are at some primary level.

      And as I’ve just recalled that this is Mother’s Day, let me go get ready to phone mine. Happy MD to all!

  7. charcad

    r.e. “Goldman to ’sue for peace’ on Abacus charges Telegraph. Has more detail than the earlier reports.”

    Yes. Including the fact that Wittle Timmy and the Fed appear to be running interference for G-S.

    A senior figure close to the bank said that Goldman would never “win a battle” against the regulator and so the bank had to find a resolution. The source also revealed that Tim Geithner, the Treasury Secretary, and the Federal Reserve also wanted to see a solution to the dispute.

    Translation: they don’t want the SEC doing a full court press against G-S. Or by implication G-S’ peers.

  8. MonkeyMuffins

    re: Dean Baker’s ignorance and idiocy (and, presumably, NakedCapitalism’s: which, as I’m learning, is really an apt name for this site as it’s Capitalist Religion — enlightened and unenlightened — is as naked as it is sad and foolish):

    I’m not a fan of Friedman or the New York Times but it’s clear to me that Baker — like the overwhelming majority of Americans, “Westerners” in general, and Naked Capitalists — is desperately intent on cutting down trees for short term profit instead of nurturing the forest for long term prosperity.

    The Friedman article in question is clearly part of his current “story arc” which began with his important (though unfortunately riddled with counterproductive technofix optimism: speaking of dead tooth fairies), The Inflection Is Near? (NYT, March 7, 2009):

    “Let’s today step out of the normal boundaries of analysis of our economic crisis and ask a radical question: What if the crisis of 2008 represents something much more fundamental than a deep recession? What if it’s telling us that the whole growth model we created over the last 50 years is simply unsustainable economically and ecologically and that 2008 was when we hit the wall — when Mother Nature and the market both said: ‘No more.’

    “We have created a system for growth that depended on our building more and more stores to sell more and more stuff made in more and more factories in China, powered by more and more coal that would cause more and more climate change but earn China more and more dollars to buy more and more U.S. T-bills so America would have more and more money to build more and more stores and sell more and more stuff that would employ more and more Chinese …

    “We can’t do this anymore.

    ” ‘We created a way of raising standards of living that we can’t possibly pass on to our children,’ said Joe Romm, a physicist and climate expert who writes the indispensable blog We have been getting rich by depleting all our natural stocks — water, hydrocarbons, forests, rivers, fish and arable land — and not by generating renewable flows.

    ” ‘You can get this burst of wealth that we have created from this rapacious behavior,’ added Romm. ‘But it has to collapse, unless adults stand up and say, ‘This is a Ponzi scheme. We have not generated real wealth, and we are destroying a livable climate …’ Real wealth is something you can pass on in a way that others can enjoy.’

    “Over a billion people today suffer from water scarcity; deforestation in the tropics destroys an area the size of Greece every year — more than 25 million acres; more than half of the world’s fisheries are over-fished or fished at their limit.

    “ ‘Just as a few lonely economists warned us we were living beyond our financial means and overdrawing our financial assets, scientists are warning us that we’re living beyond our ecological means and overdrawing our natural assets,’ argues Glenn Prickett, senior vice president at Conservation International. But, he cautioned, as environmentalists have pointed out: ‘Mother Nature doesn’t do bailouts.’ ”

    The prescient reference to Greece aside, the myth of infinite growth on a finite planet is ultimately what Friedman has appropriately and astutely referred to in, Root Canal Politics.

    While Baker is right that American living standards have not truly risen in the impossible, nightmarish American Dream sense, I think Friedman’s salient (but always ignored, dismissed and ridiculed, for obvious, unfortunate and counterproductive reasons) point is that we have continued to borrow and consume hopelessly beyond our means.

    The party is over.

    Spending more fictional (read: fractional) money to try to maintain an unsustainable-by-definition, debt-based (there is no such thing as “credit”), consumption of non-renewable-resources way of life is not a solution.

    With regard to the unsustainability of our Ponzi way of life, folks like Friedman and Romm are right and infinite growthers like Baker are dangerously, tragically and monumentally wrong.

    We live at the end of empire, during the century of contraction, in a culture of make believe.

    We are not going to grow, consume and indebt our way out of the problems of growth, consumption and debt.

    1. attempter

      You’re completely missing the point. Friedman isn’t saying in good faith “the system’s unsustainable and we need to dismantle the empire, smash corporatism, renounce consumerism, and live within our means”.

      On the contrary he wants to prop up all those things – for the rich only.

      All his pseudo-sustainability talk is just a stalking horse for looting the non-rich into abject serfdom, to prop up the power and wealth of the feudalists for as long as possible.

      (And while I haven’t followed Romm in awhile and don’t know his real agenda, his position at the corporate CAP doesn’t inspire confidence.)

      I don’t know if Baker really gets it either, but at least his ideas all trend in the right direction – wherever we’re headed, it will be best for the people to cast off the kleptocratic, top-heavy, high-maintenance corporate/elite parasite.

      Then, once we have the most equitable and rational political arrangement, we can see what the real post-Peak Oil level of our economy will be.

      The only other option is the return to Dark Age feudalism. That’s exactly where neoliberal cadres like Friedman want to go.

      1. Evelyn Sinclair

        Friedman was calling himself a “liberal” back before Cheney/Bush started attacking in Afghanistan and Iraq. He kept saying how hard it was for him to bring himself to accept the *sigh* necessity of going ahead with these awful tasks, but concluded that it must be done.

        Yeah, some “liberal.”

        I even bought his “Lexis and the Olive Tree” book, after hearing him in a radio interview, where he sounded so obviously brilliant I decided his book must be something I’d like. Then I found out how totally fake his is. I’ve never been able to get very far in that book either. Too sickened by his hypocrisy. (Similarly, I have a copy of “Meistro” — the book lauding the wondefulness of Alan Greenspan, which seems to have gone into the same limbo).

        His cheerleading for globalization and war has been consistent.

        He has NO RIGHT to ask us to pay for HIS war with OUR Social Security.

  9. lambert strether

    A propos the Times UK link:

    Does Transocean insure all its rigs for more than they’re worth, or only the ones it thinks are most likely to blow because BP is managing them?

  10. Ina Deaver

    Give me a break: there are plenty of things to go after about the well blow-out and oil spill without attacking Transocean for its insurance. Do you know how much it would cost to REPLACE that rig? Anyone deciding to insure an asset must decide whether to pay to insure the asset for its COST/VALUE, or its REPLACEMENT COST. This particular piece of equipment is rented out at a daily cost, with a full compliment and spread of support craft and other items that were all destroyed in this instance.

    I have it on excellent authority that it would take twice as much money to build that rig now that it cost when it was built in — what — 2001? Without the costs that are involved in lawsuits, etc. etc.

    Yves, it is not a profit just because the Times calls it one. The payment is not in excess of what it would cost to replace the equipment, loss of revenue from the rental contract, and claims. I’ll believe that there is an actual profit when I see it, not when the Times claims that there is one.

  11. eric anderson

    Gretchen Morgenson doesn’t take into account the money the Fed has created to buy junk mortgages from Freddie. I don’t know the figure, but tack that on to the $130 billion that has been shunted to Freddie through the Treasury.

    Where is the outrage?

  12. Evelyn Sinclair

    “Rig firm’s $270m profit from deadly spill TimesOnline. Yes, sports fans, the rig was insured for MUCH more than it was worth.”

    OK — but did they issue multiple CDS’s on it?

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