Links 6/8/10

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Humpback whales form friendships BBC

Turkey bans use of Google, services International Business Times

Helen Thomas, Christopher Hitchens, and being wrong Felix Salmon

Liveblogging World War II: June 8, 1940 Brad DeLong

Summer of Tears Mike Roberts, Louisiana Bayoukeeper

BP Oil-Capture-Rate Increases as Pace of Spill Stays a Mystery Bloomberg and Rate of Oil Leak, Still Not Clear, Puts Doubt on BP New York Times. The MSM is starting to hone in on the fact that BP has lied consistently about the size of the leak, with good reason, so its new course of action appears to be to obfuscate. That is the strongest indicator that the leak is much bigger than the 12,000 to 19,000 barrel a day figure we’ve heard recently. And we have this troubling idea, that the latest operation may have made matters worse. From the Times:

At least one expert, Ira Leifer, who is part of a government team charged with estimating the flow rate, is convinced that the operation has made the leak worse, perhaps far worse than the 20 percent increase that government officials warned might occur when the riser was cut….

“The well pipe clearly is fluxing way more than it did before,” said Dr. Leifer, a researcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “By way more, I don’t mean 20 percent, I mean multiple factors.”

Economists Who Understand the Economy Are Not “hoping that households will soon borrow … Dean Baker

Swiss Lower House Rejects UBS Pact Wall Street Journal. This is going to get interesting.

Bernanke comments bring out the bargain hunters Financial Times. So get this:

“News” that Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke thinks the US economy is improving is encouraging a bit of timid “bargain hunting” by embattled risk investors.

Help me. Someone is going to listen to the forecast of a man who was a housing bubble denier and deemed subprime to be contained?

Tough times ahead for China steel companies China Daily (hat tip Clusterstock)

World-Wide Hiring Set to Pick Up WSJ Economics Blog

Does Studying Economics Make You More Republican? Economix. Um, correlation is not causation…

Fitch Warns U.K. on Fiscal Challenge Wall Street Journal

Who’s exposed to Hungary FT Alphaville

Bond Maths: iPIGS + CBs = GSEs MacroMan

TDI Podcast 164: Yves Smith – Naked Capitalism The Disciplined Investor. You can listen on ITunes or Zune.

Antidote du jour:

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  1. Abhishek

    Its a bit surprising to see the rapidity with which countries even “democracies” are imposing bans on popular Internet websites at the drop of a hat. Bangladesh and Pakistan had banned Facebook ( not even 2 weeks ago,now its Turkey.It reflects the growing strains between the forces of openness driven by the Internet penetration and opacity favoring the ruling classes.

  2. MGKurila

    Regarding the Thomas / Isreal affair, it was this remark by Robert Gibbs: “I think those remarks were offensive and reprehensible. She should and has apologized because obviously those remarks do not reflect certainly the opinion of most of the people in here and certainly of the administration.”

    Gibbs is basically saying that one needs to apologize when a voiced opinion does not reflect majority opinion or that of the President.

    Forget Thomas, this comment is political correctness as well as an assualt on freedom of speech of the worst sort.

    Gibbs’ expectation that I will apologize when I disagree with Obama is arrogance beyond belief.

    1. Cynthia

      Jack Ross, a blogger at Mondoweiss, makes the case that the state of Israel isn’t being destroyed by Islam, but by Zionism:

      “Ms. Thomas’ comment [telling Israelis to leave Palestine and “go home” to Europe] does not reflect a desire to see Israel/Palestine judenrein, but rather an ominous sense of what a dangerous place Israel has become, and will only increasingly be, for its people.

      But the more important point is that the cries of “historical ignorance” by the Zionists only reflect their own. It was the Zionists, with a mighty assist from Stalin, who stood in the way of the surviving Jews of Europe being able to return to the only homes they ever knew. The anti-Zionists of that time, most notably the great Lessing Rosenwald, passionately and rightly argued that the suggestion that the Jews should not simply cast down their buckets but be transferred en masse to Palestine was an insult to all that the war against Hitler had been fought to achieve. Along with his friends in the Reform rabbinate, Rosenwald had also not been shy about calling out the proposition that there existed a Jewish “nation” for what it was – a fundamental and dangerous concession to the doctrine of Hitler. Indeed, per Helen Thomas, there could be no happier consequence of the fall of Zionism than the rebirth of Judaism in Poland that we have already seen in Germany.”

      So if anyone wants to put a label Ms. Thomas’ comment, they oughta label it as anti-Zionist, but not as anti-Jew. But this more accurate interpretation of Ms. Thomas’ comment will never see the light of day in America as long as the Zionists, both Jewish and Christian, have a Vulcan death grip on the American mainstream press.

    2. Cynthia

      Juan Cole, the blogger at Informed Consent, has found some statistics on Jewish immigration that would strike most of us as strongly counterintuitive:

      “There are over 250,000 Jews in contemporary Germany, and more Jews immigrated to Germany in 2005 than to Israel. Four-fifths of them are Russian Jews who prefer Berlin to Beersheva. And, there are some Israelis among them who have similar preferences. In further evidence of how Israel can actually be bad for Jews, the Israeli government lobbied Germany in 2004 to restrict Jewish immigration. But there are now more Jews in Germany than there were in 1939 before the Holocaust. (True, there are not more than in the Weimar Republic, but that is where the trend line is going despite Israeli attempts to foment discriminatory immigration policies toward Jews.)”

      So I think that too many Americans have their minds stuck back in World War II that they fail to see that Germany has become a far more desirable place for Jews to immigrate to than Israel. And I’m sure that many Israelis, at least the hardcore Zionists ones, are very envious of the Germans for this.

    3. Valissa

      It is important to note that Helen Thomas’ ancestry is Lebanese. And I can tell you that the friends I have had who are Lebanese (and they are all Dems or Indies voting Dem) probably secretly rejoiced over what Thomas said… though they are politically correct enough to be careful to whom they express their anti-Zionist (though NOT anti-Semitic) feelings.

      1. commentality

        People like to point that her background is “Lebanese” but Helen Thomas and her family are CATHOLICS from Lebanon. Her whole family is Catholic. I know that’s like going from the frying pan into the fire with what is going on with the church right now.

        1. Valissa

          All the Lebanese people I know are Christians. Their religion here is not the issue… it’s a tribal land issue.

      2. Cynthia

        Helen Thomas specifically said that Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine,” not out of Israel, so she shouldn’t be accused of being antisemitic. There is nothing controversial, let alone antisemitic, about her suggesting that Jews, who have stolen land from Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, should “get the hell out of Palestine” and “go back home to Poland, Germany, America or anywhere else they came from.” I suppose she should have included Israel and Russia on the list of places where all Jews living on stolen land in Palestine should go back home to, but by her failing to do this don’t make her an anti-Semite!

        So if there’s anyone who should be fired from their job, it should be former Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleischer for falsely accusing Helen Thomas of being a Jew-hater. But since he got off the hook for being an aider and abettor to Bush’s war crimes, I’m sure he’ll have no trouble getting off the hook for assassinating Ms. Thomas’ character. Needless to say, none of this would’ve ever happened had the American press not been under Israeli occupation.

        1. OutsideLookingIn

          As the Palestinians are also a Semitic people I fail to see how “Give Palestine back to the Palestinians” can be an anti-semitic statement.

          1. commentality

            Of course not and I was not trying to imply that she was. I try to read Helen Thomas’ articles and follow her career. I was drawn to her declarations of truth and fairness.

            She defends a woman’s right to choose and is not afraid of the church that I’ve become more and more disillusioned with in my 30s because they continue to stand in the way of reproductive rights for women.

            Maybe I brought my own personal issues with the church into my comment given that the church was basically silent around the time of the Holocaust and continues to meddle in affairs of women that should have been saved for a more appropriate post. The church has since apologized. So did Helen Thomas.

            I agree with Glenn Greenwald when he said that she has been bullied but I don’t agree with him saying that she was powerless, given she earned a seat in the front of the press room after being a real journalist for more than 67 years.

            The flotilla incident to try to break the siege on Gaza has been Katrina’d where the issues involving American citizens has been pushed to page 2 over old news. I read that HT was quoted saying this months ago and it is just now coming to light in light of all that is going on with the country right now.

            The flotilla investigation is barely mentioned now where an American citizen has been murdered in international waters. Just like when Obama went to NOLA to talk about recovery and was bumped off by Balloon Boy. Another deliberate act of obfuscation by the powerbrokers. I hate racism and injustice that impacts people everywhere, in Palestine, in Malawi. There needs to be justice also for our people here.

  3. anonymous

    The Japanese didn’t kick out anyone for six hundred years. Japan executed anyone who wouldn’t swear total loyalty to the Tokugawa Bakafu about 350 years ago, executed a lot of Japanese Christians, and placed strict limits on where and how western traders could do business in Japan.

    But I digress.

    Yves, the guy you helped elect (sent cash) listens to Ben everyday for sound advice on how to create more jobs and more growth in America. That’s who listens to Ben.

    Just read an interesting piece about the young twenty-somethings fleeing the WH to ‘pursue other interests’. Not a hint of contrition in any of them. Having helped create the disaster this presidency is, they’re leaving now, before the Gulf oil stink takes hold in their resume.

    What’s the bet White House experience isn’t going to have the cachet it once had in another six months or so.

    President I’m Furious now wants to kick some ass, we learn. He should call Mike Dukakis and see if Mike has an extra Tank commander’s helmet.

    Jimmy Carter is in the Oval Office right now. The good economic news from China is most welcome. Evidently the median income among middle-class mostly African-Americans in Memphis is at pre-1990 levels. The good news is that Obama seems to be shooting even more terrorist suspects around the globe than Bush.

    Get used to a bunch of stats like that once the Republicans return to office. Almost any WH is going to be more transparent than this one. How many press conferences did I’m Furious hold in the last 10 months? One, Two?

    He spent more time answering questions from his caddy than the WH press corps.

    1. Skippy

      Thanks I should have proofed more carefully, amends.

      Unknown to even many Japanese, Japan has a long history of Christianity. The usual dating of Japan’s first contact with Christianity is 1549. However, some feel that there is sufficient evidence to claim that Nestorian missionaries arrived in Japan via India, China and Korea in 199 AD and by 400 AD had planted the first churches in Japan.

      In 1549, Francis Xavier, a Jesuit priest, arrived in Japan. His stamina, zeal and willingness to suffer resulted in thousands of conversions in just two short years. Unfortunately, the Church soon adopted some extreme methods to advance itself, including the introduction of Buddhist and Shinto religious elements into Christian worship and using feudal lords to coerce their subjects to convert. The shoguns were also eventually persuaded that Christianity was an attempt to soften them up for European conquest. Added to that, quarrels among rival missionary groups aggravated the situations and as a result, as many as 280,000 Japanese Christians were persecuted and thousands were martyred. In 1626, Christianity was banned in Japan. For the next 250 years, Japan closed its door to the rest of the world.

      It was only in the 1800s, when Commodore Perry of the US Navy forced Japan into signing an agreement that Japan’s isolation came to an end. And in 1859 the first 7 Protestant missionaries arrived in Japan.

      Skippy…still its a far whack of time, wouldn’t you say.

      1. anonymous

        I’d say your thorough second effort makes your first wholly inaccurate characterization even harder to defend. Which you are. Shutting Catholic missionaries from Europe out of Japan might sound like closing the door to the world to you, but not to me. Your smart about face might be your own work, but I’m betting you’re serving up someone someone else’s work as your own.

        Not to get too far into the weeds, Japan has never been completely isolated. I wouldn’t assume the Japanese public to be as ignorant of Japanese history as you suggest.

        Your Coles Notes version of Japanese history salted with a few sparkles is full of holes. That’s what I’d say.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I DO know a fair amount about Japanese history, and your argument with Skippy is a distinction without a difference. The Japanese themselves did then and still continue to try to limit disruptive alien influences on their culture, and their past limits on interactions with foreigners were extreme compared to that of pretty much any nation-state one can think of. The fact that a few Kansai merchants were permitted to trade with the rest of the world does not disprove the general point.

          1. Anonymous Jones

            Yves — You totally missed the point! If there’s one black swan, that means all the white swans you saw were just an illusion!

            Wait…That’s not right? OK, never mind.

            We should set up logic ground-rules for the comments at your wonderful site.

            1. Any counterexample disproves all generalizations.
            2. Any practice that leads to less-than-perfect results is “idiotic” and should never be tried (even if it is preferable to all the practicable alternatives).

            Wait…that’s what all these blowhards already do? OK, never mind.

          2. Skippy

            Anonymous Jones,

            The comment was about nations limiting or down right expeling facebook/google.

            My core argument, visual aid by the culturally popular South Park caricature Cartman, was to illustrate facebooks main memo…*self advertisement* (libertarians wet dream). There are so many problems with this apparition, security, class distinction, exhibitionism, the cult of *I*, etc, etc.

            In this context I choose to use Japan circa 1600 as they (the powers that be) attempted to limit the amount of out side influence_too their_nation, for reasons I believe you are well read in but, will point out my main one…infiltration by non nationals under the guise of sharing ideological beliefs and trade (butt sniffing) when in reality its all about plunder, soft control. Your initial grievance was time line, which I addressed, and thanked you for, it was late 1.30pm (still it was grossly inaccurate).

            I never claimed author, I left the central paragraph clean, obvious…your projection and unwarranted accusation.

            As to Google, well they say…where their is smoke their is fire…see:,us-court-orders-google-to-copy-data-in-wi-fi-case.aspx

            The Federal Government has asked the Australian Federal Police to investigate Internet giant Google over alleged privacy breaches.

            Last month, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy labelled Google “creepy” and accused the company of committing the “single greatest breach in the history of privacy” when it collected information from wireless networks.


            Skippy…In ending_a hole lot of not_about 600 years vs 200 years, preceding too accusations, symmetry over substance and never addressing my core point…facebook and google can be use like smallpox and a curtain.

          3. anonymous

            Hi Yves, I don’t have an ‘argument’ with Skippy as much as I do with the underpinnings of his claims. I strongly disagree with your characterization of Japan’s trade policies during the Bakafu, however. Here’s why:

            A You, like Skippy, fail to acknowledge that all Catholic trading nations, including France, granted charters to trading societies on the condition that these societies colonize and convert within the trading concession area. That’s why Goa is a Christian state. We can argue about individual company commitment to this fusion of trade, conversion and colonization on a case by case basis. The fact remains that trade with Portugal and Spain meant getting priests. The Bakafu grasped that central fact and set policy accordingly.

            2. The Bakafu’s ability to control from Edo Japan’s enormous coastline was similar, in real terms, to Britain’s ability to control smuggling in the thirteen colonies from London. True the distances are greater, but not if we consider the autonomy in practice of individual daimyo across Japan. The Tokugawa recognized the physical limits Japan’s geography placed on their authority and thus decided to compel all daimyo to maintain a residence in Edo. That innovation forced rebellious samurai to expend time, energy, and resources traveling back and forth to the Tokugawa capital. The policy did not, however, prevent indigenous populations of northern Honshu, Kyushu and Okinawa, all areas we now think of as ‘Japan’ from trading with communities in Korea, China, and Russia. Yes, the average Japanese peasant/farmer knew nothing about France or England. The average English or French peasant knew nothing about China or Japan. Japan’s literati, by which I mean the administrative class, as well as and many merchants, were intimately familiar with Chinese and Chinese culture, a fact I contend pretty much demolishes any argument that Japan was ‘cut-off’ from the world.

            The absence of real internal cohesion or support among the different daimyo for the Tokugawa and their policies meant that daimyo hostile to central authority in Edo enforced or adhered to these policies with varying degrees of fidelity.

            The enormous role fishing, including whaling, played in the economy of coastal region meant that virtually every community along Japan’s coast had the means and opportunity to meet others in the seas off Japan’s coast and sail to communities in Korea, especially.

            The prophylactic Tokugawa policy against direct contact with Christian countries was never really tested. Once it was, it quickly collapsed.

            Britain established contact with daimyo hostile to the Tokugawa central authority after 1800 and armed the Satsuma around the time. Earlier British contact prior to 1800 probably did not occur because Britain, like virtually every other trading nation, was far, far more interested in China. Japan offered pearls, silver, and not much more. The Dutch did successfully negotiate trading agreements with Japan. The only other major far east trading nations, Portugal and Spain, had already been expelled from Japan, which leaves France and Russia.

            France’s colonial endeavors during the period in question consisted of individual trading companies granted royal charters. Zero incentive to trade with Japan, plenty of better more lucrative markets.

            Russia would have almost certainly done more than take control of the islands north of Japan had Napoleon not invaded. Russian and British ships sailed into Japanese harbors in the nineteenth century before Perry showed up. Indeed a Russian prince, can’t recall which off the top of my head, stayed in Shimoda near Edo a year or two before Perry showed up.

            Point is, the vaunted and much ballyhooed forced isolation of Japan is by and large a historical construct of the late nineteenth-century. Yes, the prohibition on trade with a select community of European nations trading in the far east existed. Contact with other communities in Asia continued. America did not become a Pacific power until after 1850. Portugal and Spain were making far too much money in China, India, and the Philippines to be much concerned with trading with Japan.

            The Dutch were allowed to trade legally with Japan and were making lots of money trading throughout the region. Britain and America were not players at the time and French companies concentrated elsewhere.

            The period in question, when there was little or no direct contact with the west is probably much closer to one hundred years, rather than Skippy’s ludicrous six-hundred year claim, 1700 to 1800, give or take forty years either side.

            I expect you know much of this, Yves. I’ll accept that the isolation argument has merit, but I’d strongly disagree that the differences are without distinction. Quite the opposite, because evolving US trade policy with Japan is evolving in the shadow of that history. GM didn’t even bother sending cars to the recent Tokyo Motor show, but had a huge presence in China’s recent show, in Shanghai, I think it was.

            There will be some who argue that Japan’s protective policies have ‘forced’ the US to look to China. The reality is that the potential for profit is far greater and that the ‘isolationist’ argument is being overstated now, as it was then. Indeed, Japan is currently importing so much from China that domestic demand for made in Japan products has collapsed.

            Facts matter, and on a blog of this quality I’m a tad surprised to find you defending an inaccurate and crude characterization of Japanese trade history. One final note, the Tokugawa succeeded in limiting the number of Christians allowed into Japan once Perry threatened to bring down the government and ensured that opium would not be imported into Japan. Japan allowed trade and kept Christians and opium out. That’s worth thinking about, IMHO.

            Love the blog, thanks for the reply.

          4. anonymous

            Sorry, one final, final note. The impetus for Perry’s ‘invasion’ of Japan was not trade, but coal. The US required coaling stations in the far east. Japan would provide the coal the US required to permit trade in China and the region, not with Japan. The assay, however, revealed that Japan’s coal was less than ideal as a fuel. Both Perry and British engineers saw Formosa as a much more attractive source of coal. It’s an interesting topic. Cheers.

      2. skippy

        A penny becomes wire if pulled too hard…

        The time line was grossly inaccurate and I gave reason for it and readily rescinded it, although it could have been a 1,000 years and not change thrust of my statements.

        I was not interfering too, North Korea like exclusion, more to the realm of limiting corrosive element’s, to much purchase in-country, save that what they (ruling elite) determined was in their favor_at that_time.

        Seems my inclusion of a paragraph from a Catholic source has produced unwarranted friction and is another issue in it self (not applicable to my original statement).

        Too clarify, make it as plain as possible, American entertainment media is a *malignant advertising cancer* exporting societal dearth globally and if sovereign nations_don’t want it_ so be it_ better off in my book…democracy my ass (worn out advertising meme).


        PS. cancer or ???? herpes simplex..umm…if we all got it, it don’t matter…eh.

        1. anonymous

          Hi skippy, I’d suggest citing your source rather than simple copy and pasting, that you way you don’t get tagged for authorial bias.

          You and Yves do confuse contact with the west with the world. Proximal contact with other communities in the region and regional loyalties are an important parts of the dynamic, one your analysis ignores.


          1. skippy

            Concur…with the caveat that although I’m aware of regional players (historical) sans the wests influence point your making…but, facebook and google are the west.

            Skippy…lets not forget nature…eh…that was one hell of a storm…it could have change our discourse. Drinks are me next time OK.

    2. wunsacon

      >> Having helped create the disaster this presidency is, they’re leaving now, before the Gulf oil stink takes hold in their resume.

      Well, some of them were probably overruled by Larry, Timmay, and Bernoccio. … And Obama.

      1. anonymous

        That’s a fair comment. I won’t bother to link to the puff piece, which essentially avoids any suggestion that self-preservation might be playing a part in their decision to separate themselves from an administration that is not closing Gitmo, not leaving Iraq, is ramping up troops in the never-ending war in Afghanistan and can’t seem to co-ordinate an organized response to an oil spill, much less run the US economy.

        The best part was when all these young idealists smeared critics of ‘no experience required’ as racists. After, wrecking the economy, they figure they deserve a job in the private sector. I recommend wall st.

        Cleaning-up after Bush was never going to be a small job. Thanks to the bots accusations of ‘racism’, candidate I’m Furious got to walk away from his nothing-burger track-record.

        Would anyone have believed these clowns would make Bush look competent? I mean, I feared it would be bad, but this bad?

        1. NOTaREALmerican

          A person’s brain either worships authority or it doesn’t. Those who support big-government socialism (guilt based) and fascism (meanness based) are generally unable to see that their king has no clothes either – they are the true believers.

          1. Anonymous Jones

            I resent that there’s another emperor-is-wearing-no-clothes-a**hole on this site. My self-worth is inextricably linked to being the only one here at NC.

            (although, in all fairness, your conclusion was a little too confident to place yourself in the true skeptics’ camp, but I liked it nonetheless)

  4. Dikaios Logos

    Not only do I concur that conforming to the President’s ideas is a reprehensible standard, but I think it needs to be asked why similar comments by Mike Huckabee about forcing Palestinians out of land their families have occupied for centuries and perhaps since ‘time immemorial’ have only generated a small fraction of the outrage Thomas’s have:

  5. alex

    from “Does Studying Economics Make You More Republican?”: “The more economics courses they had completed, the more likely they were to agree that tariffs reduce economic welfare and that increases in the minimum wage raise unemployment, and the less likely they were to think that trade deficits adversely affect the economy …”

    So the propaganda machine does work! Nothing like argument from authority.

    Left unsaid is that so many “economics” courses only teach neoclassical ideology (or some variant that pays lip service to watered down forms of other ideas). No doubt preposterous assumptions, a lack of empirical verification and even the acknowledged gotchas are de-emphasized. The truth (little ‘t’) of science should always be subverted to the greater Truth (capital ‘T’) of proper ideological indoctrination.

    I wonder if the same correlation is found amongst those who studied economics under Prof. Steve Keen. His book “Debunking Economics: the naked emperor of the social sciences” should be required reading for all economics students. A good taste of the book is here on his blog post ripping apart the neoclassical theory of the firm:

    An interesting aspect is that he rips apart the assumptions based on published economic research that’s been around for years, and verified numerous times. Anyone who knows of empirical research that contradicts these findings is welcome to post them.

    It’s the same approach which he uses to rip apart mainstream monetary theory – he starts with research that’s been around and acknowledged for years, and which destroys the standard assumptions. The amazing thing about mainstream economics is that even when research is published, accepted and acknowledged that destroys the standard assumptions, they ignore it. Ignore it, not debunk it. Some of this research has been published by people who are otherwise considered very mainstream and widely accepted. It’s as though Galileo had demonstrated that the rate at which an object falls is not proportional to its mass, but some false Newton had ignored that. Can you imagine physicists accepting centuries later the theories of this false Newton? In economics you can do that, and pass this “wisdom” to generations of students, while only occasionally acknowledging that Galileo’s findings are a curiosity.

    1. scraping_by

      I’m not so certain about econ education as a brainwashing course. I suspect it’s more like a Darwinian race course.

      Professors make no bones about teaching “attitudes, beliefs, viewpoints”. Indeed, a lot of courses I’ve sat through, econ or any other, seem to be more laying out the proper social attitude rather than the provable fact base. More charm school than getting schooled.

      I’ve taken it on faith that any first year law student who publicly holds on to the notions of right and wrong is going to fail Wills and Contracts. Raise Christianity to support an idea in an English course and your final essay will never go above a C. Challenge the ethnic warfare view of American History and you’ll be talking to the Dean. Much of the grading I’ve seen, starting in sixth grade with my kid, were based on how far the student took opinions and theory as fact.

      It seems unlikely any neoclassist worth his tenure would allow challenging ideas to get past, say, Sophmore year. As good little servants of the elite, often deluded they’re elite themselves, they’ll be good little gatekeepers until further notice.

  6. Debra

    Thanks for the BBC pieces recently.
    It is a great paradox that… the science that is FINALLY allowing us to break through our long standing prejudices about… human exceptionalism in the world is also largely responsible for bringing us to the brink, these days. At least… our understanding of what the word “science” means…
    I am very moved to learn these wonderful things about the humpback whales. What surprises me is… why we are still surprised to discover how much more sophisticated the animals are than what we initially thought. THAT’s a continual source of surprise to me. Could it be in part the result of mecanistic thinking ?
    On Helen Thomas… sounds like maybe she got a little carried away, and FORGOT how the vice grip of political correctness would slap her around for free speech. I, for one, can forgive her… After all, she’s human, right ??
    By the way, living daily on the soil where the horror of the two great world wars of the twentieth century played out, I feel competent to say that we have not even BEGUN to work our way through the collective trauma that these events caused. We are STILL maintaining the world wars as intact melancolic monuments to bow down before. Which means that what they COULD be teaching us about our lifestyle, about the price to be paid for the industrial revolution, well, we are in collective denial over all this.
    On being right.. Being right is a passion. Probably the most lethal passion around.
    It can only be treated with.. forgiveness. The capacity to forgive oneself, AND others for not being perfect.
    And.. is that a rat in the antidote du jour ?
    Cute little guy. (oops, sorry, ratty if you are a girl.) Rat or not.

  7. Peripheral Visionary

    Re: Helen Thomas, Christopher Hitchens, and being wrong

    I think Felix Salmon has put his finger on a number of important issues (his piece is a bit broad in scope), but I think he misses the fundamental point. He is right to be concerned that being “wrong, even temporarily, even only once, on a hot-button issue” can result in severe consequences; and perhaps that is what is at the root of the elusive “political correctness” issue, the idea that there are severe consequences associated with speaking something contrary to the politically accepted dogma (even if what has been spoken may be true.) It is an unusual day when the left is suddenly begins discussing “political correctness” in negative terms, but here we are.

    But the fundamental issue at hand is Thomas’ special level of access to the White House. I find it unfortunate that it was her specific views that called it into question; it should have been called into question long before now, regardless of her views. For the freedom of the press to operate fully, access to government should be maintained in a way that is fair and impartial; and granting special ongoing access to one person, no longer even a journalist but now simply yet another opinionated commentator, could not be justified by any reasonable standard of fairness.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      This would be more of a hot button issue with Felix than most people, he has commented to me that he isn’t particularly concerned about being “right”.

      1. Anonymous Jones

        That’s good Felix doesn’t care about being “right,” because the linked piece he wrote was a POS.

        The Helen Thomas thing is obviously much more than a “being wrong” issue. Whether or not you agree or disagree with anything she said or may have meant (I have no idea what she meant), *there are people who think they know what she meant*. Many, many people (right or wrong) hear those words and immediately think, “I knew it all along. She’s a closet anti-Semite.” Whether or not Helen retracts the words publicly or never says them again, many people are going to assume those are her true views and the only reason she never said them before is that she was afraid of the consequences. This is an unreliable narrator problem (as well as the product of the indeterminacy of the truth) much more than a “being wrong” problem.

        I appreciate your blogging immensely. The reason I keep coming back is that you are so thorough and thoughtful. Yes, I’m sure you are “wrong” every once in a while, but that piece-of-sh*t, off-the-cuff, completely-facile-simplistic-and-shallow blog entry from Felix shows the limitation of the “art form.” And seriously, the idea that Felix, for even a second, took the claim by Hitchens of being a skeptic at face value is ludicrous. Let me put it this way…I’m skeptical that Hitchens is a skeptic.

  8. Patriot

    Thanks for the piece from the Louisiana fisherman. What’s especially sad about it, is that there are things we could do (as a nation) to really alleviate and improve the economic situation of the folks who live there. But we won’t, because of deficit terrorism. What a shame.

  9. Hugh

    Political pundits, economists, sportscasters, and the people who do the weather make careers out of being wrong all the time year in year out. I’m not defending Helen Thomas’ statement. It was incredibly dumb for one who has spent her life in Washington. She should have known better and expressed her outrage at Israeli conduct better. On the other hand she is 89. Yes, she was the only member of the White House press corps in the last decade who ever challenged anyone on anything, despite the biggest scandals and disasters happening all around them, but 89 is old, folks, and that’s a lot for one person to carry. What I find a little hard to take though is all the chest beating going on in the MSM, as cowardly a group of shills, hucksters, sycophants, liars, whores, and hacks as you are ever likely to find.

  10. dearieme

    I’m a bit surprised at the surprise at the reluctance of many Jews to go to live in Israel. Before WWII the British administration in Palestine put an annual limit on Jewish immigration but it had no effect because fewer Jews applied for immigration permits than the limit.

    1. Hugh

      The Israeli economy sucks, they have universal military service, they get into shooting wars with someone every couple of years, they run a brutal occupation, the country is increasingly dominated by religious nutcases, the politics are various shades of fascist, and they discriminate against their minorities. I know some will say this sounds like us, but multiply by ten and this begins to give you an idea about modern day Israel. Would you want to move there or to a jewel of a city like Berlin?

      1. aet

        Sigh. Be it ever so humble, there’s no placelike home.
        I think that’s true in some measure for everybody!

        Anyhow, some don’t feel properly at home unless there is buckshot a-flyin’ through the air. Yahoo!

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Also, dunno about the past, but Reform Jews are seen as non-Jews in Israel.

  11. Hugh

    As for Turkey banning google, what an incredibly boneheaded move. Here Turkey just achieved the moral high ground after the vicious, and equally boneheaded, Israeli attack on the Gaza aid ships, and what do they do with it? They do something that is pretty much universally seen as a hallmark of repressive, anti-democratic governments. They try to restrict the web. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

    1. Cynthia


      I don’t know if Turkey is banning Google because it believes that Google has a strong pro-Israeli bias, or because it wants to silence Turks who speak out against the Turkish government. I was wondering if you or anyone else here have any thoughts on this.

    2. Doug Terpstra

      Speaking of boneheaded moves, US Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) “has called upon U.S. Attorney General [sock puppet] Eric Holder to prosecute U.S. citizens who were involved [in] or on board the [Gaza] flotilla.”

      “Because the Gaza Strip is currently ruled by Hamas, according the Sherman, any humanitarian aid to the people of that territory is “clearly an effort to give items of value to a terrorist organization,” which is prosecutable under the 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. Despite the active support of the humanitarian aid effort by a number of pacifist organizations in the United States and Europe, Sherman insists that the organizers of the flotilla have “clear terrorist ties,” dismissing critical analysis of such charges as part of the ideological agenda of ‘the liberal media.'”

      In invoking the death penalty, this Zionist facsism goes way beyond the current McCarthyism of anti-Semitism. It’s like Joe Lieberman’s threat to strip Americans of citizineship for alleged terrorist plots. No wonder they don’t want to close GITMO. It’s going to become a destination torture/death-row resort, Hotel California style.

      Good grief!

  12. Glenn Condell

    The Salem-style lynching of Helen Thomas is shocking but not really surprising.

    It’s sad that more ink has been spilled and more opprobrium vented in the US on her minor verbal faux pas than on Israel’s murder of 9 activists, or on it’s blinding of US student Emily Henchowicz, or indeed on any of the daily crimes Israel commits against the people it’s occupying. It is an index of several things; American indifference to the atrocities it implicitly supports, the weird lack of proportion in reactions to mere opinions, but most of all the sickening fealty to Zionist sensitivities over all others.

    Helen Thomas has served with distinction in the Washington pres corps, being there long enough to see it decline from an independent force to lickspittledom. A thousand David Broders aren’t worth one of her fingernails.

    She has the sort of balls many of us wish Obama possessed. America needs more Helen Thomases, not less. And her opinion, if Israel continues to dig its own grave, will in five years have moved in from the cold to become conventional wisdom.

  13. Doug Terpstra

    The article on humpback whales reminds me of the lasting friendships formed by elephants.

    Never ceasing to disappoint, sadly, it seens Obama is about to break yet another pledge by lifting a 24-year moratorium on whaling, according to

    “…The White House says a new agreement will save whales by keeping the three countries from exploiting loopholes in the current moratorium, but environmentalists say they aren’t buying it.”

    But Greenpeace and other enviros aren’t buying it anymore.

    ‘”That moratorium on commercial whaling was the greatest conservation victory of the 20th century,” Patrick Ramage of the International Fund for Animal Welfare said.’

    ‘”And in 2010 to be waving the white flag or bowing to the stubbornness of the last three countries engaged in the practice is a mind-numbingly dumb idea,” he said.’

    “Australia has announced it will take Japan to the International Court of Justice to try to end its “scientific whaling” program in southern oceans, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported.”

  14. Aaron

    Ya know, I have a lot of respect for you several other financial commentators. But when it comes to recent events, I have been very disappointed with the seemingly misguided approach I have seen from you, George Washington, ZeroHedge, and a few others when it comes to this, the Israel-Gaza issue, and the BP spill.

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