Links 7/3/10

Posted on by

Whales and humans linked by ‘helpful grandmothers’ BBC

Extinction of Woolly Mammoth, Saber-Toothed Cat May Have Been Caused by Human Predators Science Daily (hat tip reader John M)

Tibetan Adaptation to High Altitude Occurred in Less Than 3,000 Years Science Times (hat tip reader John M). I think I’ve seen similar findings for Peruvians in the Andes.

When the scientific evidence is unwelcome, people try to reason it away Guardian. Some of you no doubt are familiar with the studies mentioned, but a nice recap nevertheless.

Is Julia Gillard the new Bob Hawke? Larvatus Prodeo

The Glittering Prizes: War Crime Continues to Pay Chris Floyd

Jobs and Democrats, Tobin Harshav, New York Times. The article blurb on the first page: “Not even liberal bloggers believe the White House spin on the economy.” Um, I must confess I avoid, as much as I can, “liberal bloggers” who buy the Team Obama party line. John Mauldin, along with others, shredded the ugly aspects of today’s report, 362,000 jobs added in the birth/death adjustment (with the BLS insisting jobs are being added in respectable numbers in hospitality and construction) and the drop in unemployment a function of the departure of discouraged workers from the labor pool

Almost Surreal in its Delusions Michael Panzner

ECRI Weekly Leading Index Growth Lowest In 13 Months Ed Harrison

Biggs Cuts Stock Investments by Half as Risk of Recession Grows Bloomberg. This is funny, I recall Biggs being very bullish when the S&P was higher, see Barton Biggs Says U.S. Stocks Oversold, Sees ‘Big Pop`: Video (May 27, S&P at 1068) and Biggs Sees Buying Opportunity on Overblown Europe Fears: Video (May 20, S&P at 1071)

Protestants Can’t Trade Paul Kedrosky. Hah! Explains a lot.

Obama’s public touch grates with business Financial Times

Hedge-Fund Lending Draws Scrutiny Wall Street Journal

Market Microstructure and Capital Formation Rajiv Sethi

BP: the inside story Financial Times. This is intriguing, and there is no way of telling how much is BP spin versus a reasonably realistic account. The intriguing bit is the story contends that BP really did not know how bad the leak was early on and it really did believe the top kill would work. Those are awfully convenient, from a liability standpoint, but they could actually be true, and if so, this says that BP was a company massively unaware of the limits of its capabilities.

Antidote du jour:

Picture 12

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. burnside

    “Those are awfully convenient, from a liability standpoint, but they could actually be true, and if so, this says that BP was a company massively unaware of the limits of its capabilities.”

    Understand your reservations, which I share. Yet the conclusion is seductive – it matches too well with the nature of individuals, corporations, states.

    1. aet

      Perhaps Corporations require a slave to whisper into their ear, “Remember! Thy capacity is limited!”

      Since after all, they are immortal.

      1. Bates

        “Since after all, they [corporations] are immortal.”

        Not true; simply looking at the number of auto companies, aircraft manufacturers, motorcycle manufacturers, airlines, locomotive and rolling stock manufacturers, food processors, banks, tech companies, ad infinum, that have gone bankrupt and disappeared is an obvious contradiction to your statement.

        For instance there were almost 3,000 auto manufacturers in the US before Henry Ford began manufacturing autos. Not only did Henry put most of the auto makers out of business, at the same time he eliminated the motorcycle as a serious competitor to autos and put about 1,900 of them out of business.

        Henry Ford, with little education, understood economy of scale. Henry also understood that his employees needed to make enough money to purchase a Ford automobile (a fact lost on the labor off-shoring corporations/government of today) so he was the first large employer in the US to pay workers $5 per day…a very large wage for that day when most toiled for $1 per day…or less. But, this was an era when large corporations were for the most part unencumbered with excessive government intervention in markets.

        The corporations that seem ‘immortal’ are usually those that are deemed too big to fail and given special privilages and financial backing by government…a fairly recent development except for the finance sector and residential real estate, which have been sacred cows in the US since the passing of the Federal Reserve Act.

        Do not lose heart. Mr Market always prevails and the businesses of today that are deemed too big to fail will definitely fail with a return of real capatialism and away from the current command economy. With the inevitable deflation which is underway, shrinkage of governments and a real economy will reemerge.

        BTW, real capitalism is as brutal as nature in selection of winners and losers. So…this might be a good time to decide if you really want a return of true capitalism to the world’s economies. I suggest you read Howard Zinn’s history of America prior to jumping to conclusions about what real capitalism is like.

      2. psychohistorian

        It is not the corporations that we have made immortal but the rich elite that own the corporations.

        End that immortality and you will have cracked the nut that binds us to our current social engineering mindset.

        1. Bates

          “It is not the corporations that we have made immortal but the rich elite that own the corporations.”

          Fortunes come and fortunes go. Rich people go broke all the time. Somethimes those that go broke make new fortunes, sometimes they do not. Much depends on the intelligence, and drive of the person with a will to riches. What few want to discuss is the enormous difference between the person with a low intelligence and one with a high intelligence. The real challenge is; how will any society organize itselef to insure that the person with the lowest intelligence will make a living wage when the predatory person with the highest intelligence is buying the politicians to pass legislation to favor the predatory class to the detriment of those with the lowest intelligence? Many systems have been tried but none lasted very long…from Spartan Greece to Marx is a very wide spectrum…yet nothing prevailed except capitalisim…and I have serious doubts about capitalism’s future at this juncture (in it’s current form). Marx spent years studying capatilism and building detailed models of perfect capitalist economies (without the aid of computers) and Marx found that capitalism would fail in the best of times and the best of circumstances with no fraud, in all of his model trials. Now some serious economists are taking another look at Marx’s writings. BTW, I am not a Marxist nor a communist, just an average person with an interest in history and economics.

          “End that immortality and you will have cracked the nut that binds us to our current social engineering mindset.”

          What I think you are saying is ‘pass an inheiretance tax of 100% and that will solve all the problems’?

          I will answer your contention with an old saw; “If all the assets in the world were divided equally among all people, within a few years the same people that had all the money originally would have it all again.” I will not claim this old saw is 100% true but I believe it is almost 100% true. Each of us likes to think that we could do better if we had a ‘do over’, but is that really so?

          The root of the current problem in the US is that almost all of our elected legislators (and many of those appointed) have been bought and paid for by a few people with an extrodinary amount of money and power. Even if we manage to solve this problem…we have not solved the problem of differences in intelligence levels among individuals.

    2. reslez

      No doubt they didn’t know because it’s considerably cheaper to not know. Safety costs money which is why BP’s pay structure awards bonuses for not using maintenance funds. That inherently selects for ignorance. We might even call it willful ignorance since managers are paid more if they downplay, discount or don’t notice a problem.

      Deep water drilling is not a forgiving exercise. Hindsight may be 20/20, but BP blindfolded themselves then did pirouettes on the edge of a cliff. Lucky for them they landed on a taxpayer.

      1. Lyle

        It seems that BP has the same disease that AIG had the folks at the top don’t believe in Murphy’s Law. When you do detailed analysis you decide that risks are so small as to be ignored but Murphy says that is not the case, and cannot be ignored. Perhaps CEO’s need to hire retired folks as their devils advocate to tell them always the worst that can happen, and then they ask the operating folks what will you do to mitigate this risk? And the answer that it is so remote a chance that the it will not happen once in a Trillion years is not an acceptable answer. Murphy says that it is not if it can go wrong it will go wrong. The law is well proven, but often ignored. (In essence the whole black swan thing is saying that Murphy is right)

  2. aet

    From today’s Antidote, I see that tiny skateboards are still being made, so things cannot be all bad.

  3. Amit Chokshi

    Barton Biggs is a lagging indicator, with his move it may make sense to actually buy this market given he may be representative of the “smart money” – i.e. people that get paid to screw up in terms of investing.

    He’s an economist and writer and despite being ancient lacks any historical context. I have no clue how Traxis is still in business.

  4. KC

    This is no doubt a multi-dimensional spin – lots of what the FT article said are rubbish. Truly thinking that Topkill will work does not excuse BP from preventing clean-up crews from wearing personal protection equipment.

    And why are the crews still not wearing masks? No one can do anything about it?

    1. depublican

      KC, they honestly believe that there is no issue with that. One can’t fault them for their honesty.

  5. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    When scientific evidence is welcome, people try to reason away…

    Between scientific evidence and reason – who do you root for?

    Scientific evidence is the result of a 2 step (at least) process involving humans. One, thinking in the head to gather/observe/evaluate/reason said evidence and two, the physical act to gather/observer that evidence, either occuring naturally or in an experiment set up by some humans, in which case, it would be the 3rd additional step.

    Now, errors occurs with everything involving humans.

    So, while errors occur with reasoning (a simple one step process), scientific evidence comes with additional errors because of the extra one step (minimally) involved.

    So, I would suggest we don’t denigrate reasoning so quickly. Faulty reasoning maybe, but not reasoning in general.

    If people can reason away your scientific evidence, keep an open mind – that’s my quixotic-jab-du-jour at the conventional wisdom.

    My other one is about the oft-quoted definition of insanity – think playing dice and God.

    One day, humans will repalce machines.

    1. reslez

      That’s not reasoning, it’s rationalization. You can’t reason away evidence. You can only present other evidence that contradicts it.

      Reason alone gets you airy cathedrals of nothingness, beautiful intricate philosophies with no bearing on reality. We had a lot of that in the Middle Ages. They thought the Black Plague was caused by astrology and earthquakes and Jews.

      We need to be willing to question everything it’s reasonable to question (extraordinary claims : extraordinary evidence). There’s a difference between doing that and rejecting whatever contradicts our pet beliefs. Reality doesn’t care what we believe. It remains true whether we believe or not.

      That’s the difference between reason and rationalization. One is based on what’s so, the other on what you wish was so but ain’t. Evidence demonstrates which is which. Everything else is empty argument.

      1. sciguy

        There’s evidence and there’s “evidence.”
        First there’s the fabrication of observations out of whole cloth. Then, there’s the deliberate misinterpretation of observations. And then don’t forget the skewed set-up of experiments, misuse of statistical methods, deliberate use of uncalibrated or miscalibrated instruments, and the inability to see what is directly in front of you.
        Experimental science is rife with possibilities to collect exactly the data that will support your point.

        Every scientist knows at least a few guys at “top schools” pulling in the big grant funding doing exactly this.

  6. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Soryy, it should read, ‘…scientific evidence is unwelcome….’ (could have used a human proof reader)

  7. Valissa

    re: extinction article…

    This argument has been going on for many years now… what exactly caused the extinction? Was it triggered by climate change, or humans, or both or some other trigger that hasn’t been discovered yet? Arguments can get quite nasty between the different sets of scientists on this issue. This is very typical of science research.

    and related to this very closely…

    re: When the scientific evidence is unwelcome, people try to reason it away

    This especially includes the scientists I mentioned above. Scientists often belittle the scientific evidence of their “opponents” when competing scientific theories challenge their own expertise and authority. The history of science is rife with examples of this.

    It is human nature to defend one’s worldview and beliefs over the evidence or interpretations of evidence. Scientists are human and not immune from this affliction. Liberals are just as guilty of this as conservatives or any other political believer. The one advantage science has is that eventually evidence is taken in and theories modified… but it takes quite a while for most humans to update their worldview with new evidence.

  8. Valissa

    re: Tibetan Adaptation to High Altitude

    Interesting article… reminds me of when I stayed at a B&B in Silverton, CO, altitude 9,300 ft some years ago. My travel companion and I had driven across country to get there so we had gradually adjusted to the altitudes in the Colorado Rockies… which made hiking much more pleasant and neither if us had any altitude probelms (unlike when I flew in to CO a prior time, and had headaches and tiredness for a few days).

    The owner of the B&B told the dinner group that some people that moved to Silverton had problems adjusting to the altitude and would stick it out for maybe a year and then move to either Ouray, Ridgeway or Gunnison (altitudes in the 7000 ft range). It appears that some folks are more capable (genetically speaking) of adjusting to altitude than others.

  9. Bob_in_MA

    Barton Biggs was predicting the “mother of all bear market rallies” in November 2009. Then, 6 months later he insisted the rally was a real bull market.

    I disagree about seeing this as a contrary indicator. The thing with this rally, is that an increasing amount of “dumb money” (small investors was moving to the sidelines all through the rally. The institutional money was all-in long. Even after this sharp fall, short interest isn’t particularly high.

    If “smart money” investors like Biggs start selling, who is there to buy? 401(k) money willnot be making anther big move into stocks for a very long time.

  10. Valissa

    Our authoritarian gov’t’s enforcers… Homeland Security

    Photographer Detained Briefly by BP and Local Police
    The photographer, Lance Rosenfield, said that shortly after arriving in town, he was confronted by a BP security officer, local police and a man who identified himself as an agent of the Department of Homeland Security. He was released after the police reviewed the pictures he had taken on Friday and recorded his date of birth, Social Security number and other personal information.

    The police officer then turned that information over to the BP security guard under what he said was standard procedure, according to Rosenfield. No charges were filed.

    Rosenfield, an experienced freelance photographer, said he was detained shortly after shooting a photograph of a Texas City sign on a public roadway. Rosenfield said he was followed by a BP employee in a truck after taking the picture and blocked by two police cars when he pulled into a gas station.

    According to Rosenfield, the officers said they had a right to look at photos taken near secured areas of the refinery, even if they were shot from public property.

  11. dearieme

    “Henry also understood that his employees needed to make enough money to purchase a Ford automobile…”
    Why do people believe and repeat this sort of drivel?

    1. Bates

      You label it drivel yet you offer no confirmation, no counter arguement? Your post is drivel.

    1. Skippy

      The real effort see:

      TALLAHASSEE — In the immediate aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, BP publicly touted its expert oil clean-up response, but it quietly girded for a legal fight that could soon embroil hundreds of attorneys, span five states and last more than a decade.

      BP swiftly signed up experts who otherwise would work for plaintiffs. It shopped for top-notch legal teams. It presented volunteers, fishermen and potential workers with waivers, hoping they would sign away some of their right to sue.

      Recently, BP announced it would create a $20 billion victim-assistance fund, which could reduce court challenges.

      Robert J. McKee, an attorney with the Fort Lauderdale firm of Krupnick Campbell Malone, was surprised by how quickly BP hired scientists and laboratories specializing in the collection and analysis of air, sea, marsh and beach samples — evidence that’s crucial to proving damages in pollution cases.

      Five days after the April 20 blowout, McKee said, he tried to hire a scientist who’s assisted him in an ongoing 16-year environmental lawsuit in Ecuador involving Dupont.

      “It was too late. He’d already been hired by the other side,” McKee said. “If you aren’t fast enough, you get beat to the punch.”

      At the same time it was bolstering its legal team, BP was downplaying how much oil was spewing from the Deepwater Horizon well — something that lawyers say is likely to be a critical factor in both court decisions and government fines.

      Read more:


      1. Vesta

        Skippy, it is sick, isn’t it? What does this $20B fund really mean when it’s obvious that they’re going to fight the really big claims tooth and nail so that they drag through the courts for years and years while victims start dying off?

        And using the Coast Guard like one of their private security forces… wow, what a sinking feeling.

  12. doc holiday

    Is BP rejecting skimmers to save money on Gulf oil cleanup?

    Read more:

    “By sinking and dispersing the oil, BP can amortize the cost of the cleanup over the next 15 years or so, as tar balls continue to roll up on the beaches, rather than dealing with the issue now by removing the oil from the water with the proper equipment,” McCallister testified earlier this week before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. “As a financial adviser, I understand financial engineering and BP’s desire to stretch out its costs of remediating the oil spill in the Gulf. By managing the cleanup over a period of many years, BP is able to minimize the financial damage as opposed to a huge expenditure in a period of a few years.”

  13. same

    As the catastrophe reaches Day 73, McCallister, who grew up in Mississippi and has family on the Coast, believes there is just more to it.

    “Looking at it from a businessman’s perspective,” he said, “if I am BP, assuming I don’t have a conscience that would steer me otherwise, the best thing I can do for my shareholders, my pensioners, and everybody else, is to try to spread the cost of this remediation out as long as I can.

    “I am concerned it is seen by BP as being the most pragmatic financial approach. But they’re playing Russian roulette with the Gulf, the marine life in the Gulf and the people in the Gulf region

    1. psychohistorian

      BP past tense HAS played Russian roulette with the Gulf. The bullet has left the gun and we are just waiting to see how many victims it kills.

      Why are people not in jail? When the justice under rule of law fails the system probably reverts to a much cruder version of justice. Are we ready for that?

Comments are closed.