Links 6/5/10

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Apologies for the lack of substantive posts. Am traveling.

Sherpas warn ice melt is making Everest ‘dangerous’ BBC

‘The Cove’ Canceled In Japan: Several Movie Theaters Refuse To Show Film Huffington Post

Can otters smell underwater? Telegraph

NHTSA’s Complaint Database Leaks Private Information Like A Sieve The Truth About Cars

More New York Times FAIL: More of Abelson and Harris’s Sources Reject Their Conclusions Brad DeLong

Gulf Oil Spill (PHOTOS): Animals In Peril Huffington Post (hat tip reader Francois T). An edited version of this series, with comments from the photographer, is at the New York Times (hat tip Glenn Stehle)

BP hives off ‘toxic’ Gulf spill operation to dilute anti-British feeling in US Guardian

Fed cuts Tishman Speyer a break Crains New York

Reporters Dispute Israeli Account of Raid New York Times (hat tip Gonzalo Lira)

Israeli fears rise over deeper isolation Financial Times

Chinese “Miracle”? No – Just A Scam Karl Denninger (hat tip reader Scott)

Drop in Home Sales in Wake of Tax Credit Tops Forecasts Wall Street Journal

Greece’s plan B needs decision on bonds John Dizard. Makes some observations I have not seen elsewhere.

Antidote du jour:

Picture 40

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  1. Dan Duncan

    The face of anti-Israeli commentary.

    Poor Helen. She’s like that old-hag-half of that Gestalt optical illusion. Only, she’s been that way for 40 years.

    Please! Please bring on the perception shift! I just know there’s a young lady with a necklace lurking somewhere in the frame.

    Maybe this will help….

    1. i on the ball patriot

      Yes, Helen Thomas, given her stature, should know better.

      You have to hand it the wealthy ruling elite though, her behavior and the comments in the linked article seems to attest to the fact that their setting up Israel as a nation state in the region, with its multitude of contentious and divisive rationales for its existence, has really paid off in terms of engaging the masses in their own debilitating, resource and energy consuming, perpetual conflict.

      Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

  2. avrymann

    I sincerely apologize for my remarks yesterday. I don’t know what got into me, but that is no excuse. My behavior was inexcusable.

    I do respect your work and those of your bloggers. That is why I read your blog everyday. But I was way out of line. I am truly sorry.

  3. MindTheGAAP

    I’m surprised you aren’t posting about Hungary. This is a big deal–both for the pressure it creates on the Franc and for the pressure it creates on the rest of Europe (I guess that even the most die-hard Europe fan has written off Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania by now).

    It’s only a matter of time before there is a major run on *all* European banks (those swaps aren’t going to help them), and the effects on the countries relying on bank secrecy for cash are going to be particular astonishing, since most have nothing else to offer.

    Capital controls, coming soon to a country near you…

  4. Francois

    Re: Abelson and Harris.

    My oh my! One could write a volume or two about that. I’ll limit myself to the obvious, at the expense of the details.

    Their article and the saga surrounding its writing:

    is a prime example of, when it comes to health care, Americans in general harbor very deeply rooted preconceived notions that pretty much preclude any meaningful and long-lasting reform.

    The one operating in the minds of Abelson and Harris is the most toxic: More is always better. They cannot possibly bring themselves to admit, despite the overwhelming evidence of 30 years (!!) of solid, peer-reviewed research demonstrating there are ways to provide better health care outcomes while doing less, but in a SMARTER way. The evidence is crystal clear, but so are the prejudices. Since this is politics, prejudices win, hands down. Being journalists for the NYT, Abelson and Harris seem incapable of going beyond the vulgus populus.

    It is important to note here that the attacks on the Dartmouth research were almost inexistent during the period post Clinton failure to reform health care…until Obama started his own attempt. A cursory Lexis-Nexis search is quite convincing in this respect. Those who stand to lose income or power during a health care reform will first and foremost attack it. Mind you, they have the tremendous advantage of playing on those preconceived notions I alluded to above.

    So ingrained are these, that even senators and congresspersons who know the Dartmouth very well (yes, there are some that do) will never, ever tout the evidence publicly. Press them a bit about why they don’t, and one shall witness oratory escape maneuvers that would put Houdini to shame. It is just not (yet) “politically feasible”, as they say.

    Apart from the Dartmouth research, there is another irrefutable piece of evidence that, when it comes to health care, smart beats more: The VA system.

    Now, before everyone jump at my throat with the Walter Reed scandal, I would recommend reading Best Care Anywhere, by Philip Longman (updated edition 2010)

    As per Maggie Mahar:

    In the 2010 edition of Best Care Anywhere Longman also recounts how the Bush administration attempted to dismantle the open-source VistA software culture that Kizer had built, “doing its best to recreate the dysfunctional VA of the 1970s.” Meanwhile, as more vets turned to the VA for care (in part because the care was so much better than it had been in earlier years), the Bush administration failed to provide enough funding, leading to long lines and not a few complaints.

    Fortunately for the veterans, the situation has dramatically improved since the change in Administration. (There is still a lot of work to be done, but the trend is toward improvement)

    The bottom line is this: Since 1994, the turnaround of the VA system demonstrate it is possible to provide good outcomes with high patient satisfaction (except in psychiatric services, but this is another long and complex story) by following what the evidence provides, instead of being guided by which reimbursement schemes is the flavor du jour.

    1. Francois

      Serendipity being what it is, the excellent blog Health Care Organizational Ethics just published a post about consumers beliefs v evidence-based medicine. To anyone who is familiar with the latter, the news are truly horrifying. It is also sure to give every deficit hawk and bean counters of all stripes the mother of all eczema flares.

      The key finding from focus groups, interviews, and the online survey is that there is a fundamental disconnect between the central tenets of evidence-based health care and the knowledge, values, and beliefs held by many consumers. For health care experts, variation—in quality among health care providers, the evidence base regarding therapies, and the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of treatment options—is a well-established fact of the health care delivery system, documented extensively in the published literature and well understood after years of careful study. Yet such concepts are unfamiliar to many Americans and may even seem threatening, to the extent that they raise unwelcome questions about the quality of medical care that people receive.

      Unwelcome? That is the understatement of the decade. Seems that Americans:

      The majority believe that all care meets minimal quality standards, that more care means higher quality care, that newer care is better care, that treatments costing less are inferior, and that medical guidelines “represent an inflexible, bargain-basement approach to treating unique individuals.”

      In other words, the brain-washing is total, the health care industrial complex has an extraordinary easy time to block any meaningful reform (the one just adopted has very few chances of accomplishing its goals) just by playing on this belief system.

      In this context, is it any surprise to see NYT journalists deciding to avoid a direct confrontation with their readers by telling them that pretty much everything they believe about their care is BS?

      The political implications of this survey are not negligible, thank you very much. The deficit terrorists will meet their Waterloo if they try to shave Medicare. As for Obama, he’s got his work cut off for him with such a background.

  5. kevinearick

    … a bit long. Have patience with me aet. I’m old; it takes me a while to set the focus on the microscope …

    The Wall

    So, the efficiency part of the system has been built out as far as it can be. To do so, The US provided artificial demand to Europe, the US and Europe provided artificial demand to the BRICs, Europe and the BRICs provided artificial supply to the US, the BRICs provided artificial supply to Europe, and now the BRICs are trying to provide both artificial supply and demand for everyone, entering Africa to complete the loop, using GDP = I + C + G + (E-I), economic activity, which is a supply-side loss leader. That’s the gravitational field.

    The scarcity assumption has been proven invalid. If you look at the numbers, we can easily provide food, shelter, and clothing for everyone, requiring no one to work more than 20 hrs/wk, and we can pay the people that do not want to work to stay home, so long as they do not reproduce. The planet can and will replace us if we do not increase diversity, the energy dissipation relativity circuit. We can do that with 100M or 7B people.

    The planet is now pulling in its limits, causing the corporate/agency nexus responsible for efficiency to collapse in on itself. Effectively, nexus momentum has hurled it past the edge of the cliff, onto a bridge that will not support it. It cannot make it across, it cannot go back, and as it slows, its weight of inertia will collapse all the false-work. The chasm below is huge, max capacity – 0, which gives us all kinds of potential energy to put to work.

    Now, we are in the effectiveness half-cycle. We want to catch that nucleus, or part of it, and put that potential energy to work, increasing planetary diversity. For example, basic biology tells us that we can pretty much liquidate the entire healthcare system over time by re-establishing homeostasis. Basic engineering tells us that we can liquidate the entire education system over time, replacing it with a much more effective system at much lower cost. And real estate, which assumed infinite demographic acceleration, can be liquidated because we are migrating to a mobile society at saturation population levels.

    The empire, corporation, is nothing personal, despite the opinion of the US Supreme Court; it’s just gravity, created by a click gearing system, resistance to change created by shared social psychology. It’s like a big ball of clay, waiting to be molded into something useful. If the behavior of the BP CEO doesn’t prove that to you, nothing will. Currently, the government rotor is locked into that stator, accelerating out of control, shorting gravity into a black hole, as they feed on each other in a symbiotic relationship, in an economy completely addicted to oil. If the debt trajectory doesn’t prove that to you, nothing will.

    So, to create a stable sun, we need to balance that black hole. We need to balance efficiency with effectiveness, which is (I – C) / G. I in the efficiency circuit is artificial demand. I in the effectiveness circuit cannot be measured directly (we have no idea what others are truly capable of). It is only measurable to the extent it balances the efficiency circuit. What we want to see on our oscilloscope, which is attached to the “neutral” circuit, is an analog wave of surpluses and deficits, crowding the 0 baseline over time, resulting in a self-governing system. Government is the net result of responsibility not taken by individuals. We want to eliminate that, which both accelerates effectiveness, because G is in the denominator, and gives the gravitational field a virtual rotor. The corporation is quite capable of creating artificial demand, and C is C.

    That missing 20 hours from the 40 hr work week is going to go into self-governance. Basically, the corporation built up government to replace the family, as a means to maintain economic control, like a voltage-reduced starter. The multi-nationals wiped out their food chain, by shorting natural new family formation, which feeds small business, which feeds communities, and they eliminated all future competition by locking small business out of the enterprise system, which naturally backfills an economy on contraction, with the protected labor nexus in government, which will now largely be liquidated because the multi-nationals are starving.

    Just to put it all in perspective, in the 60s, birth was much more successful, with no significant medical intervention, and chronic disease cost was much lower when children took care of their parents, albeit with rigid roles (we will not be going backwards; the whole point is to allow role migration). And contrary to popular mythology, longevity has increased because we are no longer employing kids as physical slaves (now, we are employing them as financial slaves), and education levels have increased.

    The next technology is going to pull energy right out of the sun, to feed diversity in an equilibrium reaction, at much higher amperage. Because the universe is a fulcrum of fulcrums, “all” we have to worry about is maintaining stability in that virtual coil residing in the planet core, and we have plenty of drillers, currently misdirected. But technology cannot be left in the hands of the multi-nationals. A black hole cannot be trusted to tie its own shoes in the morning, simply due to its inherent nature to create artificial demand and supply, in a closed loop, recursive circuit. A rock thinks about doing something until something is done to it, relying on momentum. The multi-nationals have to stick to what they do best, which is consumables, and consumers have to make more intelligent decisions, all of which is directly measurable.

    The biggest error individuals make is taking the mentality of one function into another, shorting the isolated circuits. You should expect corporations to slice and dice each other up. You should expect government to turn a 5 minute job into a one week job, and you should expect labor to turn a one week job into a five minute job. You want the corporation to be efficient; it’s the accelerator. You want the government to be inefficient; it’s the brake. And you want individuals to be effective; it’s the steering. In aggregate, you want the accelerator and the brake to respond to net individual liberty to respond to planetary evolution. That’s the magnetic field balancing the gravitational field (pick your analogy for the poles).

    All of this going to require a quantum improvement in education, which requires a quantum improvement in Democracy, effective participation. There is no lack of work. There is no lack of demand. There is no lack of supply. We have all the wrong people doing all the wrong things, in all the wrong places, with all the wrong materials because there are shorts all over the place, because human critters are trying to direct the wave instead of learning how to surf it. That’s the problem, which was the means to building the potential. Problems and solutions run in pairs, in a daisy-chain reaction, like an inch-worm.

    If you look at the wave, the industrial revolution was a quantum acceleration over previous history, and the digital computer revolution was a quantum acceleration over the industrial revolution. To balance that black hole, we are slingshotting the slingshot. Many will prefer not to go along for the ride. That’s fine, but the people who want to move forward with evolution are going to do so, one way or the other.

    There’s nothing wrong with an old-timer taking the jalopy out for a ride in the countryside, and we want to preserve that, but don’t take it out on the information superhighway and expect not to get run over. (personally, I like to run the old jalopy on the back roads, but when I go with the kids, I get in the back seat, put on my seatbelt, and try not to watch too closely)

    The legacy nexus information systems, which have ironically been renamed “smart infrastructure”, are hitting the development wall, with increasing frequency, triggering technology blow-outs.

    There’s nothing wrong with running your operation out of corporation or government, and there are many advantages in doing so, but you have to maintain circuit isolation with the looking glasses, by keeping your stuff two steps ahead, or we have no choice but to cut you out of the loop, a position in which many, who thought their place was secure, are now finding themselves, because shorts in the next system could be catastrophic. Your stator must be virtual to accept the virtual rotor.

    A good boss cannot be overpaid, of which there are very few, and a bad boss cannot be paid too little, of which there are way too many. Feed the good bosses and starve the bad bosses, by setting yourself up to be patient. The best way to be patient is to be working on the next two bridges, while you current application sits on the shelf, waiting for a good boss.

    You know critters. I always moved a wire somewhere deep in the recursion, so it would blow up in a thief’s face, with a delay timer so all the thief’s friends had time to copy it first. Don’t mess with a kernel programmer. And, whatever you do, do not mess with his/her kids. There is no one on this planet the kernel programmers cannot touch, and they are quite good at reading the neutral line back to problem origin.

    As you can now see, the digital economy has two choices, blow up or extend you credit, in the form of small business loans. The budget is roughly $12T over the next 6 years, and the gap has been set for you. Stay two steps ahead and you will have access to most of it. Expect them to blow themselves up, but be ready either way, to employ gravity as you need it.

    The long-term outcome is the same for the universe, but there are an infinite number of ways to get there. When the balls collide on the pool table, energy can re-work mass in any number of ways. There is no point in planning an aggregate outcome. Work your projects to take advantage of your unique talents so you will have an equity position in the product. Gravity will pull everything else away for the commodity stream, creating the rest of the bridge. Have a little faith in the virtual rotor; it’s pretty good at what it does. It was here long before we arrived and will probably be here long after we are gone.

    Is Obama the guy? I don’t know, but he is keeping the click busier than anytime in History, and net permanent government employment is declining, which is what you want. A dramatic increase in small business loans, beginning with those locked out of the credit system for the last 40 years, will tell the tale. The current participants obviously cannot reset the system. Don’t close the loop behind you. We have many potential new participants that are watching this show for the fist time.

    If he starts cutting the checks, take care of him, but tell him nothing. An economy depends entirely upon confidence in the unknowable. It’s not here, it’s not there, it’s not anywhere, and then suddenly it’s everywhere … until it’s not (Dr. Seuss / cat in a hat). It’s a titration chain, with 7 billion unique components entering the reaction, which itself is a tiny signal within a much larger symbiotic circuit of signals.

    1. tkarn

      Nice ramble rant, particularly like this line,

      ” Government is the net result of responsibility not taken by individuals ”


      1. kevinearick

        people bitch and moan about government, and they are government. same with corporation. they are getting exactly what they paid for, nothing, but numbers in a computer that can be erased at will, by the gamekeepers.

        you’re welcome.

    2. i on the ball patriot

      How about a giga quantum explanation of this line …

      “A good boss cannot be overpaid, of which there are very few, and a bad boss cannot be paid too little, of which there are way too many. Feed the good bosses and starve the bad bosses, by setting yourself up to be patient.”

      And a little macro gumbo energy dissipation relativity blast on this one …

      “Is Obama the guy? I don’t know, but he is keeping the click busier than anytime in History, and net permanent government employment is declining, which is what you want.”

      And a little geriatric gravity glow on intimidation sleeve jobs wrapped in deflection sleeve jobs …

      Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

      1. kevinearick

        people participate in the game, wipe out others, write it off to the game, realize that they are also set up to lose, and then they get angry, when JPM & GS have all the chips, which were never anything more than chips in the first place.

        the nexus is shrinking, quite rapidly. the only thing that is growing is the numbers in the computer.

        ultimately, someone has to do the work. look around. who is going to do the work?

  6. Valissa

    Here is some of the latest science news in climate change research… thankfully, there are many great articles on climate change where one can learn about this unfolding science… and that have nothing to do with political or financial agendas or trying to cram people in the very narrow believer-denier boxes for pointless partisan boxing matches…

    Shape-shifting islands defy sea-level rise
    AGAINST all the odds, a number of shape-shifting islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean are standing up to the effects of climate change. For years, people have warned that the smallest nations on the planet – island states that barely rise out of the ocean – face being wiped off the map by rising sea levels. Now the first analysis of the data broadly suggests the opposite: most have remained stable over the last 60 years, while some have even grown.

    Ancient oceans belched stagnant CO2 into the skies

    Fractal haze may have warmed the early Earth

    1. Valissa

      And here are a couple of great popular science books on aspects of climate change research… non-political… between the two books you get a good feel for both how the science works and how humans are effected…

      Frozen Earth: The Once and Future Story of the Ice Ages, by Doug Macdougall (an earth science professor at Scripps)

      The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization, by Brian Fagan (an anthropoligist)

  7. Mickey Hickey

    @ Kevinearick
    You wouldn’t by any chance have been running the Irish Gov’t for the past ten years.
    By old you must mean not over 39 because no one over 40 would have the stamina and creativity to produce such a masterpiece in one day. I see Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Saint Teresa, Modern Management Theory, opportunistic gov’t, nursery stories, fantasy and science fiction.

  8. renting_a_piece_of_beach

    ‘Such a “swap” in a loaded container beyond customs could have only occurred with the complicity and involvement of the customs agents. That is, OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT PERMISSION.’

    Is this really how Denninger writes? Because if corrupt customs agents actually mean ‘OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT PERMISSION,’ then wow, the world is in a lot worse shape than I thought, as no government has ever been able to completely eliminate corruption on the part of its various inspectors, police, regulators, etc.

    And following his logic, then the Gulf oil spill occurred with ‘OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT PERMISSION,’ as there is a provable trail of testimony and documentation showing where BP relied on the fact that those in the MMS and other agencies simply ignored laws and regulations to allow BP to drill in the manner it did.

    1. Stumpy

      Denninger is prone to hyperbole and exaggeration, and your point taken narrowly seems fair. Still, government corruption when it is present permeates all expressions of government authority, and a customs official is arguably just another form of this expression. So, while sloppy, and all-caps hysterical, I don’t disagree with him on this point.

      What does scare the shit out of me in Denninger’s article is the idea that anyone could think that defaulting on trillions of dollars of Treasuries held by a particular country is a good idea, even from the perspective of a completely amoral realpolitik. (I’m sure you banking wonks can also point out why it is no doubt also practically infeasible, but let’s ignore that shall we.) I can’t think of a way to get a trade war to proceed directly to nuclear confrontation any faster.

      Yes, the USD will probably be debauched in the coming years. But it is likely to be slow, and will affect anyone who holds it. Targeted and sudden debt repudiation as Denninger advocates would surely be one of the final acts of the American Empire.

  9. renting_a_piece_of_beach

    ‘So, while sloppy, and all-caps hysterical, I don’t disagree with him on this point.’

    I do – and though not an example of government corruption, this is a story I remember from es from the 80s which I couldn’t possibly trace now –

    A group of Japanese businessmen, under various pressures to buy American (remember those days?), toured various American rice storage facilities, and were actually somewhat impressed at the basic quality of the rice. So they placed an order in the not exactly small range (a freighter load or two), and were not exactly thrilled to see that what they had bought was rice, mixed with the American legal limit of bit and pieces of stone, stalks, husks, etc. Bait and switch? No concern for long term customer relations? Simply not caring about some sucker Japs? Welcome to the real world, where trust is a very rare commodity, especially where money is involved. And why anyone would trust Chinese customs agents to have anything but their definition of Chinese/personal interest at heart is completely beyond me. Is it stupid for the Chinese to act this way? Of course – but I’m not sure this makes this worth the all caps conclusion about official government permission.

    1. alex

      “rice, mixed with the American legal limit of bit and pieces of stone, stalks, husks, etc.”

      Another possible explanation is simple differences in distribution practice. Perhaps American practice is to give the rice a final cleaning later on in the supply/distribution chain, whereas the Japanese tend to do it earlier. All kinds of things like that happened in the 80’s, and savvier Americans simply learned to adapt to their new customers preferences.

      A similar thing happened with basmati rice shipped from India to the US. At first the stuff was notorious for being filled with the sort of stuff you describe, and Americans didn’t like it. Maybe in India they’re used to doing the final cleaning at home or something. Anyway, they started cleaning the stuff better somewhere along the production/distribution chain and it became quite popular.

      Neither case is comparable to the clear fraud that Denninger describes.

      1. BigBadBank

        ‘Maybe in India they’re used to doing the final cleaning at home or something.’

        That’s exactly right – you can see Indian housewives cleaning rice in any village before they start cooking, usually sitting on the doorstep ; it looks much like panning for gold only they throw out the heavy stuff.

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