Links 8/30/10

Spinal Fusion Devices: What’s the FDA Hiding? Howard Brody (hat tip reader Francois T)

Japan resort draws men with virtual girlfriends PhysOrg

US colonel blasts PowerPoint bureaucracy in Afghan HQ The Register (hat tip reader John M)

How panhandlers use free credit cards The Star (hat tip reader John D)

Obama’s Old Deal Michael Hirsh, Newsweek

Free market has turned us into ‘Matrix’ drones Independent (hat tip reader John D)

China Defends Control of Rare Earth Exports as Move to Protect Environment Bloomberg. Reader John D notes that this is a tad Orwellian.

Corruption, institutions, and firm productivity Donato de Rosa, Nishaal Gooroochurn, Holger Görg, VoxEU

US consumers split into two camps Financial Times

Fed admits: Money is a spreadsheet Lambert Strether

The Age of Mammon Jim Quinn

Antidote du jour. What I should be doing:

Picture 3

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  1. attempter

    Re money is a spreadsheet:

    While I’ll grant that many of the anti-MMTers also deplore the Fed’s balance sheet expansion, they never seem to transfer such concerns to the deficit terrorism which is trumping up lies about Social Security. If the 2037 shortfall of SS is such a concern right now, then surely the unfunded binge of the Bailout should precipitate a panic! Yet few among the SS alarmists, e.g. in the MSM, accompany their threats and demands against social spending with the same demand to radically cut down the Fed’s balance sheet.

    And never mind that things like SS can truly be stimulative, can truly help the real economy, while every cent spent on bailouts, wars, the Pentagon, and all other corporate welfare is pure waste, money thrown down a rathole never to be seen again.

    The truth is:

    1. There’s no natural limit on rational, effective deficit spending so long as there’s underutilization and unemployment.

    2. We do in fact have rampant deficit spending, but it’s irrational and ineffective spending. It’s simply the government embezzling from the people and acting as bagman, conveying the loot to private racketeers.

    But the fact that the spending is taking place at all with little objection from the “fiscal conservatives” proves that their fear-mongering about SS and other social spending is all a lie.

    3. So the rational, moral, and practical course of action is to end ALL corporate welfare and instead spend on a real jobs program and a real infrastructure transformation to the post-oil age. (But regarding that, see below.)

    The fact that the fiscal terrorists in the media and think tanks get everything exactly backwards proves their malevolent agenda. They’re enemies of the people.

    Re China and the rare earth:

    So how do the green cornucopians who claim to think we’re going to prop up “consumerism” with solar panels plan to deal with geopolitical issues like this? Not to mention that such a renewables buildout, even if there were no geopolitical obstacles, still could be accomplished only on the existing foundation of cheap plentiful fossil fuels. Renewable energy isn’t capable of bootstrapping itself if that means approximating the current level of energy consumption.

    No, this transformation isn’t going to work unless it’s enfolded in a broader political and spiritual transformation, as we give up the derangement of being “consumers” and resume our proper human role as citizens.

    1. Doug Terpstra

      Ah, another clarion post.

      “Fiscal terrorists” is spot on. If terror is, as Encarta defines it, “intense, overwhelming fear”, then Wall Street and its imperial military have inflicted paralyzing doses of it exponentially beyond anything the feeble murder-suicides wrought by al Qaida (if indeed they were). You re-appropriate Big Brother’s language and applied it quite properly to the effects of economic tyranny.

      Bates is right in some respects about American citizens falling short, but he completely misses your point about lifting ourselves up from the false materialist-consumerism flogged by Wall Street toward the ideal of citzenship, where “‘Active citizenship’ is the philosophy that citizens should work towards the betterment of their community through economic participation, public , volunteer work, and other such efforts to improve life for all citizens.” (Wikipedia)

      A certain spiritual understanding is required to grasp your meaning, but now I’ve lost half the readers. As Einstein said of spirituality:

      “My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.”

      “The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.”

      “Every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe-a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble.”

      1. attempter

        Thanks, Doug. Citizenship along those basic lines is my ideal. I guess I’m tempted by a word like spiritual because by now materialism, from consumerism (mostly astroturfed among the masses, although characteristically Bates blames them rather than the propagandists, policy-makers, and other wirepullers) to the psychopathic greed of the elites, is so deeply entrenched that to replace it with any sort of community ideal seems tantamount to a metaphysical upheaval.

        But it’s really just making a different political choice.

  2. Bates

    2)First sentence right, second sentence wrong…btw, ‘fiscal terrorists’ only exist in your head. It is an silly phrase used by you to demonize those that do not buy into your MMT theories.
    3)End corporate wellfare=yes. There will be no post oil age for civilization as we think of it and experience it now.
    4)As soon as the word ‘spiritual’ enters the conversation you have turned off half your audience.
    5)Citizens? Yes…But, the word citizen assumes a person willing to take responsibility for their actions. I see little of that in today’s consumer society. ‘Consumers’ spent like drunken sailors and now that they are up to their azzhats in debt they suddenly scream for a MMT bailout. Good citizens would not be foolish enough to become over their heads in debt to begin with and would have been aware enough to protest vigorously the offshoring of US jobs long ago. Instead they were shopping at Wall Dumb, buying McMansions, taking vacations that they couldn’t afford, and pursuing similar wastes of time and money.

    1. lambert strether

      Bates writes:

      ‘fiscal terrorists’ only exist in your head. It is an silly phrase used by you to demonize

      Let me try to understand you, here, Bates. When Alan Simpson, the co-chair of the Catfood Commission, appointed by Obama, calls Social Security “A Milk Cow With 310 Million Tits,” I am to regard co-chair Simpson’s remark:

      1. As a constructive contribution to the discourse;

      2. As totally unrelated to a preferred policy outcome;

      3. As not “demonizing” elders

      Is that it? In addition, I’m not to regard strategic default by the rich on their obligations to elders as an act of terrorism? Why? Should not someone living on the edge feel “terror” when a system they’ve paid into their whole lives is about to be looted? What would you prefer them to feel? Happiness? Resignation? Joy at participating in “shared sacrifice”? (Which the banksters and the MOTUs never do seem to share, for some odd reason, but let that pass.)

    2. DownSouth


      You never seem to tire of blaming the common man for his plight.

      And in order to do this, you employ the most outrageous anecdotal evidence so as to conjure up the most cartoonish portrayal of the everyday American.

      Your non-stop blaming of the victim wears pretty thin after a while. “Good citizens…would have been aware enough to protest vigorously.” Really, Bates, that is disgusting. It is the classic defence of the rapist.

    3. i on the ball patriot

      Regarding the Lambert Strether article, Great article, nice graphic, but …

      The Strether article was excellent for explaining the workings of the FED monetary scam. It does a great job of explaining the mechanics of the FED scam but not how the FED came to be. This is a hallmark of aggregate generational corruption, that over time the scams become so accepted and so commonplace that we focus on how they work, and not that they should NOT even exist in the first place. Similarly, we accept corporate structure as commonplace and rail at corporate machinations when if we would back up and examine how corporate ‘person hood’ came to be we would also see the same initial corruption of government that empowered them. Said another way; we ignore that these are rogue institutions illegally empowered by corruption and should be working to eliminate them, not reform them.

      What is needed is a lot more information on the mechanics of the individual scams that corruptly empowered the FED in 1913 and that have allowed the wealthy ruling elite and their corporate gangsters to co-opt the government and the media to shape the scamerican culture into a docile pack of logo lemmings. The causative methods of deception; cronyism, bribery, graft, extortion, robbery, patronage, nepotism, soft money, hard money, pac money, conflict of interest, kickbacks, etc. used to gain control of government need to be put on the front burner.

      Remedial measures in a system as crooked as we have in scamerica are now impossible. There will be no positive changes from within. Change must be made from without with peaceful election boycotts as a ‘vote of no confidence’ in this crooked government. An integral part of that effort will be to fashion new transparent and bullet proof laws and regulations. Those new laws and regulations will be formulated with the lessons learned from disassembling the past aggregate generational corruption. Not only should those new laws and regulations be more transparent and more honestly administered, there should be much harsher punishment of public officials that violate those laws.

      When a plant grows a rogue limb or two that threatens to uproot the total plant, those rogue limbs must be pruned away.

      Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

    4. attempter


      No, right!

      2)First sentence right, second sentence wrong…btw, ‘fiscal terrorists’ only exist in your head. It is an silly phrase used by you to demonize those that do not buy into your MMT theories.

      I don’t demonize anyone for not agreeing with MMT as such. I do demonize them for their demonic crimes. (And as I said, the only reason they disagree with MMT as phrased even though their actions demonstrate that they do in fact agree with it, is because phrased the way it is it threatens their criminal activity.)

      And once again, if you just say “wrong!” to something that’s clearly right, I reply Right!

      4)As soon as the word ’spiritual’ enters the conversation you have turned off half your audience.

      OK, I’ll maintain better discipline and say moral instead. Then people can be more clear on whether and why they’re turned on or off.

    5. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      With no natural limit on spending and the ability to create money out of thin air, why do we peasants have to be taxed?

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Why does the government want to regulate aggregate demand and can it be done without taxation?

          1. attempter

            The government wants to maximize demand for its “dollars” by imposing taxes which can be satisfied only in that currency. It’s a measure of social control, a way to force people into the wage-slave rat race and discourage alternatives.

            Compare how petrodollar recycling, within the context where OPEC agreed to accept only dollars for oil, was used as an expropriation and debt enslavement weapon vs. the global South. That’s was globalization’s first great crime.

  3. anonymous

    Thanks for the link to virtual girlfriends. I no longer post snaps online, but I just sent a copy of a poster I saw on a train a while advertising lottery tickets to a friend.

    In the poster, a shiny, slightly rotund man is standing before a table crammed with culinary delights, clinking wine glasses with a tall dark-haired mannequin. I mean, there’s not even the pretense that plastic thingy is real.

    In Japan, they paint our desires in broad strokes. Take a good look in the mirror, men.

    Blade Runner come home to roost, big-time.

    1. Jojo

      Bloomberg BusinessWeek
      August 26, 2010

      Japan’s Government Plays Matchmaker
      Its birthrate is dangerously low, so a prefectural government is setting up a website to encourage dating–and procreation

      Japan’s Fukui prefecture has the nation’s biggest share of dual-income households, the highest ratio of working women, and the lowest unemployment rate. What it doesn’t have is enough babies.

      So this month the provincial government will launch an online dating site for singles. Called the Fukui Marriage-Hunting Cafe, the website makes no attempt to disguise its purpose. And, as if wedded bliss were not its own reward, authorities will offer cash or gifts to couples who tie the knot. “Our goal is to first help people meet each other and then support them as they get married and raise children,” says Akemi Iwakabe, deputy director of Fukui’s Children & Families division.

      At 1.34 children per woman, Japan’s fertility rate is one of the lowest in the world, well below the 2.1 that is considered the minimum for a developed nation to maintain a constant population.

      The bottom line: To reverse a falling birthrate, Japan’s central and provincial governments are looking for ways to get singles to click.

  4. Ina Deaver

    Did someone give that lion a shampoo and blow out? Heavens.

    Real women are notoriously difficult and complicated: if only a man would design a woman who behaves the way that men would like her to, but presents some stereotypical challenges to keep a guy in chase mode. . . .

    I foresee certain ongoing demographic problems in Japan. On the other hand, of course, if all it takes is tons of practice to learn how to be kind and considerate to a partner, perhaps this will improve things demographically. I mean, if you don’t have to be able to get a real girl to talk to you in order to learn the finer points of carrying on a relationship, that might reduce the training time and wear and tear on everyone involved!

    I suppose all I can say is I’m clearly not the target audience.

    1. i on the ball patriot

      “I foresee certain ongoing demographic problems in Japan. On the other hand, of course, if all it takes is tons of practice to learn how to be kind and considerate to a partner, perhaps this will improve things demographically. I mean, if you don’t have to be able to get a real girl to talk to you in order to learn the finer points of carrying on a relationship, that might reduce the training time and wear and tear on everyone involved!”

      Demographic problems yes. All it takes for a Japanese man to be sexy is to buy bonds …


      “A recent entry in the popular blog of Harvard University economics professor Greg Mankiw was titled, “Are bonds sexy?”

      After Mankiw’s comment, “The Japanese government wants its citizens to think so,” the blog links to a wire service report about an ad placed by the Finance Ministry in June to attract individual investors to buy fixed-rate, three-year bonds. The ad features five young women, with the message, “I want my future husband to be diligent about money.”

      The ad goes on to say, “As people looking for a marriage partner these days have to make more of a conscious effort to find the right partner, one cannot hope to engage in fruitful activities without knowing what ideals women hold. We have conducted an urgent survey to determine the ideal marriage partner whom women are looking for. We present our findings here.”

      The ad concludes, “Men who hold JGBs (Japanese government bonds) are popular with women! Right!?”

      The wire report quotes a market insider as saying the ad campaign “strikes of desperation.””

      More here …

      Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

  5. DownSouth

    From “The Age of Mamon”:

    “Financiers – like bank robbers – do not create wealth. They merely distribute it. While the mob may idolize holdup men in good times, in the bad times it lynches them. What they will do to the new money men when their blood is up, we wait eagerly to find out.” – Mobs, Messiahs and Markets

    The truth is that the poor have no chance of joining the the rich. The game is rigged. The poor have admired the rich for decades. But, hard times have arrived. And they are about to get harder. The rich have armed guards to keep the poor at bay. They will need an army of guards before this crisis subsides.

    I am in complete agreement with Bonner’s diagnosis of the problem, that the financiers caused the problem, but not nearly so confident of the outcome.

    The financiers—-the true malefactors—-always conduct well-orchestrated campaigns to try to deflect blame onto others. During the 1920s and 1930s this occurred in the United States, and it occurred in Germany.

    Despite early successes (for instance, the stellar growth of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s or H.L. Menken’s ascendency to national prominence by heaping scorn upon the factory worker or sharecropper by calling them the “booboisie”) and the drive to project the blame for the economic malaise onto the Jew, the Negro and the Roman Catholic, the socialist or onto the disposed themselves, this effort by the “malefactors of great wealth” in the United States backfired. When the Great Depression hit, the masses got it right: they switched their anger on the true malefactors—-the wealthy financiers.

    But in Germany the masses got it wrong. They continued to focus their anger on scapegoats—-Jews, Gypsies, Bolsheviks, Negroes, or the dispossessed themselves.

    As recent news reports have shown, similar campaigns by the malefactors of great wealth, i.e. the Koch brothers, to project blame onto helpless scapegoats—-Mexicans, Muslims, gays, socialists or the dispossessed themselves—-are currently underway. But the outcome is unknown. How this battle for the hearts and minds of a majority of Americans plays out will determine whether we end up with a new New Deal, or with National Socialism.

  6. charles 2

    Funny how the Chinese bring the environmental argument. It reminds me of the dispute between Shell and Gazprom in the Far-East Gas fields….

  7. Kevin Smith

    Hi Yves,

    I’ll bet you sleep better after working hard.

    “Better to wear out than rust out.”

    1. psychohistorian

      My favorite attitude about sleep is that I can do more of it when I am dead. But I do enjoy a nap.

  8. nowhereman

    Spinal Fusion Devices: What’s the FDA Hiding?
    Back in the ’80’s I ruptured a disk in my lower back. I was in agony for about 3 years. It finally got to the point were I was hospitalized because of the pain. My Doctor offered me two choices, 1) spinal fusion or 2) an experimental treatment undergoing trials.
    The way it was explained to me is that the disc in the spine is like a jelly donut. It is fluid on the inside surrounded by cartellege on the out side. When the disk ruptures, the material inside the disc protrudes and puts pressure on the nerves of the spine.
    Anyway, I opted for the experimental treatment because if it didn’t work I could always get the fusion later.
    The treatment called Chemo-Papain injection was rather simple. The Doctors located the ruptured disc, injected the soft center with something that dissolved it, leaving the cartelege in place. I was told to stay in bed for 20 days after just to be safe.
    Well, the treatment worked, I have never had pain in my back since (except for those aches and pains that come with age)
    The interesting thing is the treatment was never approved because they say that they couldn’t determine whether the injection or the bed rest was the cure. Too bad nobody asked me, I would recommend this less invasive treatment to everyone considering fusion, it works.

    1. Francois T

      Funny thing is, Canada approved the Chemo-Papain treatment. It still is used today.

      Of course, surgeons and hospitals make much less money with this procedure, but when medicine is about evidence and common good, private profits take aback seat.

      A radical concept, to be sure!

    2. Jojo

      Glad it worked for you but papain enzyme has long been discredited and is rarely used for herniated dics. I don’t believe it is even available from regular docs in the USA. It didn’t work for most patients and there were some potentially serious side effects.

      I’ve had 3 back surgeries over the years (no fusion) for herniated discs and deteriorating bone in my lower back. I could use another one now but w/o medical insurance, there is no hope of that.

      Artificial discs are being used more often than fusion these days, particularly in Europe and Asia, but even though the FDA has approved them, I understand that many insurance companies still consider them to be experimental and won’t pay for them. I saw a news story a while back where the doc wanted to put in a couple of these discs ($35k operation), but Blue Cross refused to pay it. They were OK with paying $80k for fusion though! [shaking head]. So the lady paid the $35k out of her own pocket and it fixed her up nicely.

  9. Dirk

    Re: Antidote du jour: I think getting your hair done up frizzy with a copper color probably won’t work too well for you. Just my opinion.

  10. charcad

    r.e. US colonel blasts PowerPoint bureaucracy in Afghan HQ The Register (hat tip reader John M)

    This colonel is just hyper-frustrated at being on staff in a headquarters instead of in the field with troops. He likes blasting his enemies and sees no reason to stop. I can empathize with him…

    The rest of it is many decades-old general headquarters tradition, modernized. The article itself is almost blasphemous of modern America and its greatest achievements, as we’ll see.

    Overhead slide projectors were long used to project 8-1/2″ x 11″ transparencies on a screen during briefings. This article:

    …says the US Army began mass use of these projectors in classes in WWII. Certainly they were ubiquitous throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

    Powerpoint is just a computer refinement to a long standing custom.

    This reminds me of the first time I encountered Windows in 1988. It was Windows version 2.1 and it was on my government computer for one reason. Yes! One started Win 2.1 so you could use an early graphics program to prepare briefing slides.

    Headquarters officer over-population is also long standing. That’s a function of DOPMA and the officer personnel structure the US Congress annually approves.

  11. frosty zoom

    here’s something to chew on:

    most of the world’s star anise comes from just 4 provinces in china.

    shikimic acid, derived from star anise, is a vital ingredient in tamiflu…

    roche buys about 90% of the production.


    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      One word: princess.

      The Romans were concerned about the same monopoly of something they used a lot of – silk.

      Luckily, one Chinese princess smuggled some silkworms out of China by hiding them in a bamboo container, or something like that, according to one legend.

      So, perhaps, a daughter of some high ranking communist official will bring to the rest of the world the star anise plant.

      1. River

        You can buy dried star anise at any Indian grocery store in Canada. Ask them for flue remedy( dried herb). My mother uses it. Now I don’t have to pay Roach.

  12. Chris

    I’m getting tired of read What Happened. We know what happened, but the other question that we need answered is What Are We Going To Do About It? Are we going to keep whining on blogs, or are we going to take direct action against the criminal politicians and their bribers?

    1. Jojo

      Why of course, we will keep whining on blogs. Ranting is easy and painless.

      Besides, they have the big guns (works for N. Korea, Ira, China and others). ;)

  13. i on the ball patriot

    Regarding fusion … thorium fusion that is … worth a read … article and comments …


    “Obama could kill fossil fuels overnight with a nuclear dash for thorium

    If Barack Obama were to marshal America’s vast scientific and strategic resources behind a new Manhattan Project, he might reasonably hope to reinvent the global energy landscape and sketch an end to our dependence on fossil fuels within three to five years.”

    Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

  14. kawaly

    Hi,nice article. Informations are very interesting and saves me many time which I spend on something else instead of searching :) Im waiting for more, bye :)

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