Links 11/1/10

Theodore C. Sorensen dies at 82; JFK’s close advisor and writer-in-residence Los Angeles Times (hat tip reader Ted K)

UK to sell half of forests AlJazeera (hat tip reader May S)

The Looming Rare Earths Train Wreck Real Clear Science. Um, I’m not sure any technology that depends on rare earths can correctly be called “green”.

Decloaking perforin, the protein assassin LifeScience. This could be a big deal for cancer reseasrch.

The Perils of American Stupidity Asia Sentinel (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

William Astore, The Face of War (Don’t Look!) Tom Englehardt

Less Involved, Young Voters Say They Feel Abandoned New York Times

The GFC zombies that walk among us John Quiggin, (hat tip reader Crocodile Chuck)

It Looks As If Chinese Efforts To Cool The Property Market Haven’t Really Done Much Clusterstock

Fed Helping Spanish Debt Keeps ECB Mum on Dollar: Euro Credit Bloomberg

More on the Mortgage Mess New York Times

Manufacturing Mayhem in Mexico: From Nixon to NAFTA and Beyond Chris Floyd. Today’s must read.

Antidote du jour (hat tip reader furzy mouse):


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  1. rjs

    re: british plans to sell off sherwood forest…it looks like the british corporatocracy doesnt want to see no more robin hoods coming out of the woods & taking from the rich and redistributing to the poor…

  2. middyfeek

    Re The Perils of American Stupidity – couldn’t get past the paragraph about anthropogenic global warming. If that’s not a crock of shit, today’s not Monday.

    I guess stupid is in the eye of the beholder.

    1. Anonymous Jones

      Today’s not Monday?

      Only a stupid person could possibly believe that stupid is in the eye of the beholder.

      Yes, I know you were being facetious. It was not compelling, and it was not constructive.

      Even if the truth about any one question is indeterminate, a vast number of propositions regarding that same question can be excluded and proven false.

      Stupid people believe those things that have been proven false, and they also believe deeply in those things that cannot be either proven true or falsified. I have a pretty good suspicion you qualify on this basis.

    2. Francois T

      Was it really necessary to prove the author’s point so glaringly?

      AGW is settled science. Period! End of story!

      This is not open to debate: science is not a topic of debate. It is a topic to be examined, analyzed, reproduced if possible, criticized aplenty…but not debate. It is just not a opinion among others with all having equal “value”. Here are the fundamental equations:

      Sarah Palin “opinions” do NOT equal James Hansen 30+ years of academic work.

      Joe Barton’s bullshit does NOT equal Michal Mann’s career.

      If you refuse to BELIEVE in settled science, then, understand you made a choice. I’d be nice if you would (could?) understand the consequences of your choice.

      But that require kahunas and courage.

      1. CingRed

        I love to hear people talk about settled science. It supports the theory that there are still ignorant people who think they know everything. Tell me this, is gravity a settled science? If you think it is then you are as dumb as the flat earth people. We know its effects, we use it, we have ideas about what might cause it but we really don’t know for sure the mechanism by which it works and it could turn out to be something completely different than what we now envision. While there may be some pretty compelling evidence regarding AGW, calling it a settled science is the height of arrogance and tells me you are a pseudo-scientist at best.

        1. Skippy

          Easter Island…now go back and read all the history you can find. It all ways points to human interference, save the few big bangs nature hands out but, that is always used as cover…eh.

          Skippy…extinction ratios and human activity eh…yes we are approaching volcanic levels of issuance…we both breath in (consumption) and exhale toxification of said inhalation in higher magnitudes at exponential values. Please go live in a biosphere of your own, that way you can conduct a real time experimental of your own, with out making every thing ealse on this planet suffer your cheep science.

        2. Francois T

          Do you even know the meaning of the expression “settled science” to begin with?

          (BTW, a “theory” in science shouldn’t be confounded with a “hunch”.)

          Let’s take the existence of gravity, for instance. Its manifestations, the theory underlying it that explains them, all this pretty much places the science of gravity as “settled”; meaning, its existence just cannot be doubted, the theoretical explanations of the phenomenon are pretty darn solid.

          It sure does NOT mean that there is nothing more to learn about a given topic. As a matter of fact, there are still experiments, right now, that are conducted with the express goal of REFUTING the theory of gravity.

          Why? To learn more about the phenomenon of gravity. Plus, it is the work of Science to work at attempting to destroy existing theories: It is the only way to prove their validity, to explore their limits and keep exploring the myriad of questions that comes with each answer found, each problem solved.

          Yet, for all intents and purposes of our daily lives, in this 3 dimensional universe we think we know, the theory of gravity is considered “settled science”.

          So is the theory of AGW.

          BTW, it is futile to discuss this point further. No need to bullshit endlessly about this or that and whether angels are 3-headed hermaphrodites.

          There has been too much blah blah blah already and not enough action.

          The problem we got now as a specie is one of risk management.

          You know about risk management? Then, you’ll enjoy this video:

  3. dearieme

    I’d have thought that it was a sign of stupidity to assume that the NAS couldn’t be corrupt when evidently almost all other American institutions are.

  4. D. Mathews

    I would definitely qualify this: From LRB, cited by Chris Floyd –
    “The anticipated shift to export-oriented manufacturing was a failure. Few of the promised jobs in the foreign-owned assembly plants known as maquiladoras materialised. The ones that did soon vanished as companies pursued still cheaper labour in China.”

    Perhaps it appeared to fail initially. However, things are looking a bit different now, with the US economic “recovery” actually taking place south of the border:

    “MEXICO CITY – Mexican President Felipe Calderon inaugurated a $570 million Chrysler engine plant – the U.S. automaker’s sixth plant in that country – in the northern state of Coahuila.”

    Also read this from the Economist:
    “This resilience reflects various built-in advantages. Geographical proximity has become more valuable as the price of oil (and thus transport) has risen. NAFTA exempts Mexico from the American import tariffs that clobber Chinese exporters. (…) The NAFTA effect is also concentrating the manufacture of smaller cars in …Mexico. The country’s car exports are booming as never before, up 10.5% on their level of 2008. Carmakers have announced investment of $4.4 billion over the next four years, according to the government.”

    1. DownSouth

      A couple of anecdotal examples does not an employment boom make.

      But you gotta love the spin these guys like D. Mathews put on it.

      Here’s another example of how these government mouthpieces try to put a smiley face on a bad situation. In January, México’s secretary of labor, Javier Lozano Alarcón, made a presentation to the Organización Internacional del Trabajo (OIT) . At that time, the latest statistics showed that between January and November of 2009 Mexico had created 23,000 jobs. So to make that figure sound good, he compares it to the same period in 1995, when 802,000 jobs were lost.

      If we look at the national employment statistics, there is nothing to indicate any recovery as D. Mathews suggests. The percentage of the working-age population has remained almost unchanged over the past three years. If we look at the actual number of people employed, however, the situation looks a little better. The Mexican economy is creating jobs. However, it appears most of those new “jobs” are for people who are self-employed, or working in what Mexican economists dub the “informal economy.” Mexican statisticians thus use the same sort of tricks that American statisticians do to make the unemployment numbers look less dire than what they actually are. Street hustlers, vendors and parabristas do not count amongst the unemployed in Mexico.

      1. DownSouth

        By the way, here’s a video
        of a parabrista in action. I notice they don’t use the term parabrista, which is the way I recall them being called, but limpiapabrisas.

        1. Skippy

          Libertarian heaven…eh, the lumpen throwing themselves before their carriages to soften the ride and as they should!

  5. Ina Deaver

    “One in 10 Americans believes that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife” —

    I swear, that belongs in a “Yo Mama’s so stupid” fight on Robochicken.

    I’m not sure what to think of that article, but I definitely am concerned about the rise of anti-intellectualism and the rise of radical fundamentalist Christianity. Perhaps I need to start a nerd party. Print campaign buttons in binary.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      If you take a poll and ask people ‘Are you asleep now?,’ do you get 1 out 10 who will say yes and mabye 2 out of 10 who say they are not sure?

    1. Ina Deaver

      Judging from the way I get hounded at potlucks by persons who clearly cannot distinguish when to stop monologuing on their perseverent interest in libertarianism, clearly there is some subset of the nerd vote that bats for that team. I don’t think that part of the nerd vote is typical. It is kind of loud.

  6. makelovenotwar

    The face of war is right on. From George Bush’s ban on photos of returning dead, to the lack of a draft, the elites have been very careful to shape war as a video game.

    Avoiding the draft was key, and of course a wrecked economy keeps enrollment targets satisfied.

    Obama has seriously accelerated the dominance of the military-industrial and now, national security complex, and is by far, his greatest failure. Given the financial mess he’s created, that’s saying something.

    Never forget, though, it was the Republicans that started those wars (with Democrat complicity) and gave tax cuts to the rich while sending the children of the poor out to die.

    Where’s the outrage ?

  7. Chris

    Re: forests.

    Much of the oak woodlands were replanted or freshly planted by the Royal Navy that needed a sustainable supply of mature oak trees to provide the needed parts of for ships and the extension and maintenance of empire. The use of steel made
    this less necessary.

  8. alex

    Yves: “I’m not sure any technology that depends on rare earths can correctly be called “green”.”

    Why? Mining and refining of REE can be done cleanly. Just because China doesn’t do it that way doesn’t mean it can’t be done. In fact it was done in the US before Chinese price undercutting killed our REE industry.

    Less use of REE’s may well mean more oil and coal use. Those ain’t exactly clean. And as the Japanese are busy demonstrating, many REE’s are ideal candidates for recycling.

    1. Stelios Theoharidis

      The Real Clear Science article is written by someone from the Manhattan Institute, there is no wonder it is supporting our continued reliance upon fossil fuels.

      Koch Family Foundation is one of their main contributors, I wonder which person’s fellowship they are supporting.

      That doesn’t mean that there aren’t issues with rare earth minerals. However, it does not suggest that continuing on the fossil fuels track isn’t going to result or hasn’t already resulted in a similar or even worse train wreck not only for ourselves but also for ‘resource curse’ countries. Or that we aren’t presently paying the consequences for supporting dictatorial rule in order to obtain steady cheap supply of oil.

      The Japanese have been able to respond to this shortage in rare earth minerals by stepping up recycling efforts. So we need a comprehensive strategy increasing domestic production and recycling. The former might take some time, but the latter can be initiated in a reasonable time frame. The article is a unsophisticated strawman.

      I know we are trying to keep the discussion relevant. But, at the same time I think that you need to keep obvious PR pieces off of NakedCapitalism.

  9. anonymous-scientist

    Not sure I trust the real clear science article.

    The author takes the argument that any push towards alternative energy must be too difficult because we have to cut deals with those shifty Chinese. Meanwhile… The Earth, much like a Twinkie, has a juicy oil filled center that we can enjoy for centuries to come.

    While some of his points on rare earths are valid, the statistics he uses to back up his plentiful oil theory are quite comical. Oh, it’s okay that we import 12 million barrels a day because we export 2?

    1. TDK

      That Real Clear Science article is more like Transparently Clear Obfuscation. I like how he trots out the “some experts” line. I’m sure he knows that those “experts” are not from the oil companies (not if they’re arguing in good faith, anyway), who’ve long seen the writing on the wall.

      Also, about those shifty Chinese. How is what they’re doing so different from British and US mercantilism from the 18th and 19th centuries? It’s OK when we do it, it’s socialist market distortion when they do it?

  10. emca

    The Real Clear Science article is garbage.

    “The diversity and size of the global oil market provides the U.S. with real energy security”

    An imaginative analysis, something on the line of the politics of hope.

    1. Sundog

      emca, I agree with your sentiments. Rather than garbage I’d call it a poorly argued polemic.

      Electric vehicles seem a better bet than the ethanol trainwreck or the massive, myriad and mostly unseen subsidies for fossil fuels (the bulk of which cost we’re foisting onto future generations as even most AGW deniers I think would agree; millions of these folks are pretty sure the rapture will happen real soon now and so see no reason to consider future generations).

      I find national security a sufficient reason to question business as usual regarding market solutions for energy and manufactured products.

  11. Tertium Squid

    American Stupidity?

    “According to the National Endowment for the Arts, fewer than half of adult Americans had read any work of fiction or poetry in the preceding year – no detective novels, romances or even the “rapture” novels so beloved of the religious right.”

    I LOVE how the author tars the American intellect with two different brushes – once for holding “rapture” novels as beloved, and then for not actually reading them! Are we justly condemned for reading silly escapist religious fiction, or for not?

    Weak stuff. What were we supposed to glean from that article, Yves?

    Here is a better commentary on American culture. I think it goes closer to the cause of any current anti-intellectualism. From the NYT article on disengaged young voters:

    “It’s not the fad anymore,” said Jessica Kirsner, 21, a junior from Houston and vice president of the College Democrats. “It’s not the fad to be politically knowledgeable and active.”

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Both reading and writing are important.

      Reading is more passive and if you don’t watch out, you risk letting others do all the thinking for you. When you write, hopefully you think through and organize your thoughts that you come up with yourself. It’s more involved.

      People read too much and don’t write enough – it doesn’t have to be published. Just write for yourself.

      So, don’t read too much.

  12. emca

    To continue:

    Reference to Jack Lifton leads one to suppose support of Bryce contentions, i.e. that because China is the preeminent supplier (the 95-97% Chinese REE supply chain is the self-anointed mantle of knowledgeably is almost all, if not all articles on the subject) that nascent green technologies (which rely as correctly pointed out, on REE’s) should, as a policy matter, be ousted in favor of a more secure import commodity, oil (if the logic of this argument escapes you, you are not alone).

    Links to Jack Lifton’s blog are here via “Seeking Alpha”.

    The articles, absent occasional typos and and sometimes disjointed train of thought, give a sharper idea of his position on the issues of REE. It is also a much more informed discussion of issues surrounding REE’s, in particular those concerning Heavy Rare Earth Elements and those of its lighter kin.

    On the latter topic, this is what green energy alternatives will be largely based on, the is, HREE. In this area China is no better off than the U.S. (or rest of the World?); according to Lifton:

    “China has enough light rare earth resources to supply itself indefinitely. What China worries about is its supply, current the only one in production, of heavy rare earths. I cannot overemphasize the importance of the non-Chinese heavy rare earth supply industry to China’s and then the world’s green alternate energy industries.”

    and finally:

    “America’s needs for light rare earths will be oversupplied by Molycorp as will Australia’s by Lynas in a massive way. For the heavy rare earths America’s needs can be meet and exceeded by Ucore and Rare Element Resources. The needs of China and Japan and Korea and India for heavy rare earths can be met by the Canadian and African operations of Great Western Minerals Group, The Canadian operations of Avalon or Quest, and the southern African operations of Frontier Rare Earths and Tantalus.”

    (China has also expressed interest in investing it Lynas)

    Incidentally, although I haven’t read Lifton before today (he is mentioned often in articles on the topic), his suggestion that the China/REE scare was confabulated (in part?) to drive the price of the commodity upward, while conspiratorial, is not in my view outside the gamesmanship of Oriental and even (shudder the thought!) Western markets .

    This should not (I step up to the soapbox) be construed as saying the availability of REE is not a matter of concern, both internal and external. It is, and this recent episode should be the wake-up call, the call to what needs to happen in this country; for as Lifton and others point out, REE supply chain is the gage and measure of a that country’s overall industrial production and economic strategy. Its real strength.

    Unless the U.S. has turned its back completely on that strength, its own manufacturing engine and technological competence, in the face of short-term profit, this is important.

  13. Z

    One of the great things about this blog is the links section and the variety of topics that they pertain to.


  14. Doug Terpstra

    From Mayhem in Mexico: “[Notorious felon] Gordon Liddy, then the co-chair of Nixon’s narcotics task force, would later write: ‘It was an exercise in international extortion, pure, simple and effective, designed to bend Mexico to our will.’”

    That succinctly sums up the drug war in all of Latin America, a forty-year fiasco now joined by NAFTA in the deadly arsenal of the all-encompassing perpetual “Global War on Terror”. This is the shock doctrine, the neo-colonial strategy now re-imported to the homeland.

    But the good news is that much of Latin America is wising up to this strategy and rejecting neoliberal politics. Despite Serra’s Rove-style fear- and hate-based campaigning in Brazil, Brazilians just elected Dilma Rouseff of the Workers Party as president. May we now humble ourselves and learn from our more progressive southern neighbors?

    1. DownSouth

      The drug lords are lionized in Mexico, heroes of popular folklore, and the government despised. Here’s a corrido that deals with the arrest of Félix Gallardo.

      I think most Mexicans, given the choice between the “justice” dispensed by the Mexican government and that dispensed by the drug lords, might take their chances with the drug lords. They have no good options. In this regard, Mexico is no different than Afghanistan, where the people have tacitly, if not explicitly, cast their lot with the “insurgents.”

      I found this statement most disturbing:

      Carlos Pascual, the new US ambassador to Mexico, last summer confidently proposed ‘a new role’ for the Mexican military in Juárez, one consistent with counter-insurgency tactics employed by the US across the globe: they would secure the perimeter of five-block-square ‘safe zones’, and push that perimeter outward block by block.

      We all know how that movie played out with America’s other colonial adventures, like Viet Nam and Afghanistan.

      Mexico tried to legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana and cocaine a couple of years ago. The Congress actually passed the law, but then President Vicente Fox, under pressure from George Bush, vetoed it. It appears the Mexican people may be slowly coming to their senses. An opinion poll conducted a couple of years ago showed 78% opposed to the legalization of drugs. A new poll released just a couple of days ago shows that number to have dropped to 59%.

      1. Doug Terpstra

        The specter of counter-insurgency—Blackwater-style urban warfare—is really quite disturbing, only confirming the worst popular suspicions. In fact the admiration for “drug lords”, like Afghanis’ alliances with warlords, makes this drug war look much like the birth pangs of revolution.

        Calderon could certainly push it that way. In refusing to understand (or ignoring) obvious economic desperation underlying the growing violence, he would be following the same blind, perverse logic by militarizing Mexico as we are doing in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, et al, — just asking for endless trouble. The short-term profit from US military aid must be irresistible for him and our own arms industry, but it could get very ugly, destroying a far more important source of revenue—tourism— and contributing to a pointless, tragic culture clash already evident here in Arizona and other border states as the backlash grows.

        This reminds me of the CounterPunch article back in September: “The Next Mexican Revolution” by John Ross. He had a similarly cynical take on Clinton’s drug war cover story (Plan Columbia for Mexico), pointing out that Pancho Villa and other revolutionaries were also vilified as traffickers, “bandidos”, and the now all-too-familiar “terroristas”. History rhymes but we never remember the verses.

        Clearly the drug war is only a cover for a more sinister power agenda, but otherwise yes, legalization, ending the proven failure of prohibition quagmire, would go along way toward defusing much of the senseless violence and economic waste suffered by so many. It’s one reason we’re voting here tomorrow (medical ganja) as well as for local offices.

  15. Sundog

    One-liner of the day, by Mike Konczal.

    Again, the servicers at the banks are supposed to be middle-men between investors and borrowers. This system, as Yves Smith notes, is brand new, 30 years old at most, and really only 10 years in its current form. It has never had its tires kicked, and now that we’ve kicked the tires for the first time, the car has exploded.

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