Links 11/22/10

Tiny chihuahua set to join Japan police BBC (hat tip reader John M)

Leaking Siberian ice raises a tricky climate issue Associated Press (hat tip reader John M). Methane emissions from permafrost, oh my!

Is this a true blue moon? Christian Science Monitor

Mammograms mismatched due to software error Free Access (hat tip reader Sugar Hush)

Silent flight: Sikorsky’s electric helicopter The Engineer (hat tip reader May S)

Beyond Understanding New York Times

David Swanson, All War All the Time Tom Englehardt

When the rich abandoned America — and what that has to do with defense
Thomas Ricks, Foreign Policy (hat tip reader May S)

Reporter: GOP hates Obama more than they love national security Raw Story

Mica Begs Passengers Not to Opt Out of Porno Scanners FireDogLake. Yours truly opted out of scanning, and the patdown was not bad at all (perhaps due to the fact that I was wearing a short skirt, they appear less interested in groping if more is on display)

The Gold Standard of Lunacy The Aporetic (hat tip reader Stephen M)

Eyes return to Greece after Irish bail-out John Dizard, Financial Times (hat tip Richard Smith)

Unequal Marginal Sacrifice Mark Thoma

Britain must call for more open bank pay rules
David Walker, Financial Times. Disclosing how many people in finance (or at least backstopped firms) get outsized pay packages might actually have an impact.

Eric Cantona’s call for bank protest sparks online campaign Guardian (hat tip reader David S)

Ending Banks’ ‘Disco Inferno’ Will Involve Errors, Haldane Says Bloomberg

US banks face $100bn Basel III shortfall Financial Times. Erm, that figure presupposes that you believe asset valuations, which in turn are goosed by super low interest rates.

Countrywide Never Sent Mortgages to Trust, Now With Helpful Chart Mike Konczal. Tom Adams and yours truly cover this ground in a bit more detail, but this is good one-stop shopping if you want to catch up on this issue, or bring colleagues up to speed.

Can HAMP Help in Bankruptcy? Katie Porter, Credit Slips

There Will Be Blood Paul Krugman, New York Times

Antidote du jour:

Picture 56

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  1. Foppe

    Re storyline “Reporter: GOP hates Obama more than they love national security”: it isn’t about hate, it’s just about making the democratic party (who cares about Obama’s name) seem incompetent. The title, then, is misleading because it assumes there are deep emotions behind it, whereas it really is just about politics-as-practiced-by-the-GOP-and-Blue-Dogs-(and Scooby Doo).

    1. Francois T


      “Pick two countries that would like to see a failure of ratification: it would be North Korea and Iran,” Luce continued. “I think if that argument doesn’t work with the Republicans, that sort of basic, elemental national security argument doesn’t work, nothing is.

      So…politics as usual for the GOP consider it is acceptable to favor North Korea and Iran’s position over the US one?

      This is the very definition aiding and abetting the enemy, isn’t it?

      Remind me again what’s the word for that?


  2. Ignim Brites

    PK is correct that the country is closer to political breakdown than most people realize. Actually it would be more accurate to say that the nation is lost and get on with it. It is obvious that the Northeast must secede. The citizenry there have a fundamentally different vision of what a nation should be than the rest of the country. Eventually they can join up with Ontario after Canada collapses and then have a decent chance of pulling in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. California is gone. The only question is whether or not the Mexican drug lords will make a play for sovereignty there.

  3. Ignim Brites

    “…as the wealthy will tell you after a few drinks, occupational income is really for the little people. The real game is capital gains taxes…” (Thomas Ricks, “When the Rich Abandoned America …”). This is absolutely correct. The concern about income tax rates is a diversion. If the Dems were really the party of the people they would have as their tax policy: “If it is good enough for capital, it is good enough for labor.” But unfortunately, the dems have a primitive, animistic believe in government.

  4. Jim Haygood

    From The Gold Standard of Lunacy:

    A gold standard would not really stop the magical creation of money, unless you’re going to insist on using gold coins only. A bank always lends out more money than it has in its vaults: it has $50,000 in cash, but it lends out $100,000. The bank is “creating money” by making a bet on the creative powers of the people it lends to, like Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life. A gold stan­dard won’t stop this.

    Who said it would, goofball? I understand straw man arguments as a rhetorical device. But readers unschooled in monetary theory may be deceived by the sleazy intellectual dishonesty.

    Too ridiculous to quote is the assertion that paper dollars are ‘backed’ by all the labor and production in the country. So was the Soviet ruble, comrade! Ask Soviet-era pensioners how they made out after the devaluation. Gold woulda stopped that …

    The one thing we agree on is that wars are financed by paper currency. As a statist, the author just blindly assumes that all wars are good, including the syphilitic tyrant Lincoln’s war against Southern independence — half a million souls slaughtered to establish the principle that the United States is a glorified roach motel — you can check in, but ya cain’t check out. Me no like …

    Statists — don’t they just kill you? ;-)

    p.s. It ain’t gonna win no Pulitzer, but this gold-bug novel is highly entertaining, not to mention a therapeutic aid in deprogramming acute statism:

    1. sherparick

      Well, unfortunately Jim, you need a pretty strong state, with a nasty secret police and rural police force, to maintain an institution like slavery where the property has tendency to walk away and steal itself. Slave owners, like bankers, love the state as long as the state serves them, and also to take the skin off a man’s back to encourage him and the others to keep working 14 hours under a July Mississippi sun.

      It was the strong, Classical Liberal, state that enshrined the Gold standard for the creditor classes in the 19th century and crucified the small, independent, American farmer on that cross.

      Buy yourself a pony Jim, with that Gold standard.

      1. DownSouth


        Every liberal democracy is torn by a fundamental paradox, and that is “justice” vs. a tyranny of the majority. The solution that Madison formulated to this paradox was to “enlarge the sphere” of republican government, allowing a powerful central government to trump local rule (e.g. “state’s rights”). In this scheme of things, the same forces that protect cultural minorities (e.g. black folks) also protect economic minorities (i.e. rich people). So the same Civil War that consolidated the power of a strong federal government and ended the institution of slavery also institutionalized the power of the bankers. And, as you point out, it allowed this wealthy minority to impose a gold standard upon the nation that proved baneful to the economic interests of millions of family farmers as well as to the “industrial millions.”

        The powers of a strong central government were once again invoked in the 20th century to trump state’s rights and to end Jim Crow—-the South’s system of endemic racism and structural discrimination against black people.

        Those who urge devolution of power to the local level in order to break the power of an economic minority (the banksters) must contend with the fact that such a move would undoubtedly prove highly unpopular with cultural minorities.

        All this goes to highlight that we somehow need to move beyond Madison’s political formulations, beyond what Amitai Etzioni called “the two-layered approach.” As Etzioni explains:

        From a practical viewpoint, the two-layered approach, the conception of community as a normative arbiter contextualized by a set of shared societal values, the framed conception, is rather satisfactory. In most situations, normative positions that pass the tests of both the community and the constitution will stand up under further normative scrutiny. This very statement, however, points to the existence of—-and, indeed, the need for—-a still higher framing criterion. Without it, we have no way of determining whether or not the outcome of the two-layered approach is legitimate.


        [W]e continually scrutinize that which is stated in the U.S. Constitution and various rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court. That is, we are clearly applying some higher criterion when we argue that the Constitution should be amended or question whether or not the Supreme Court was morally “wrong” ….

        Two approaches have been proposed for making supra-societal, cross-cultural judgments: dialogues and global framing. Much has been written about each. They are briefly reviewed here because they add to the normative accounting scheme I am trying to construct.

        After a discussion and critique of the “moral dialogues” and “global community” approaches, Etzioni goes on to proffer his “normative accounting scheme” approach:

        [A]s a communitarian I have a strong moral obligation to check and double-check, and review one more time, whether or not I am holding on to an erroneous principle or misapplying one, and whether I am sticking to my position out of inappropriate motives such as pride, desire to seem consistent, or partisanship. However, if I cannot, in good conscience, find such explanations, I must assume that it is the others who need to be swayed. When all is said and done, if the community’s moral course deeply offends my ultimate values, I must refuse, rebel, object, try to join with like-minded others to change the course, act as a conscientious objector, demonstrate peacefully, and even engage in civil disobedience (but not resort to violence).

        In short, a person should hold on to the values he or she finds most compelling, seeking to be joined by the community but steadfast even if others initially or ultimately do not approve. The community provides one with a normative foundation, a starting point, culture and tradition, fellowship, and place for moral dialogue, but is not the ultimate moral arbitrator. The members are. This is the ultimate reason that the communitarian paradigm entails a profound commitment to moral order that is basically voluntary, and to a social order that is well balanced with socially secured autonomy—-the new golden rule.
        –Amitai Etzioni, The New Golden Rule: Community and Morality in a Democratic Society

  5. Jim the Skeptic

    Paul Krugman is perturbed that an opposition party would vote down bills just because they are favored by the ruling President. That should bother us all, but we should not be surprised.

    When the English vote, the majority party or some coalition picks a Prime MInister and that person administers the government. The majority rules.

    Our founding fathers made a mistake. They set up a system of checks and balances that invites stalemate. The Senate filibuster rules exacerbated the problem. Compromise was everywhere in the constitution, but compromise had become a dirty word by the time of the Civil War, still possible but not as desirable.

    It took a long time, but we have come to the logical conclusion of our flawed system. A minority party can bring the government to a halt. The majority does not rule.

    1. eric anderson

      After the last election, who do you think is the majority? Are you saying you would prefer a Republican Prime Minister instead of a Democratic President?

      I voted mostly for Republicans, except for a few GOPers who’ve had more than enough time in office, where I voted third party. But even I don’t know if I would trust having a GOP executive at this time.

  6. gil mendozza zuntzes

    humm…. hummm Shame on my good friend Barack!!! The TSA is the American Polizei our Gestapo!!!
    We Americans are Gullible, Stupid and Crazy!!! We should be up in arms screaming and fighting!!! Our Government Gestaltphychology is taken away our rights beyond to the ability to understand; this cruel and unjust use of power with physical and mental brutal methods of grabbing tittys and cocks by the handlers of the TSA.
    Just think positively… If you try enough, you can do anything.

    1. traderjoe

      By “you can do anything” – I’m assuming you mean the government. So true, especially if you have the power and the apparatus’ to create false flags (underwear bomber), stage various ‘threats’ (recent package bombs), and even perpetrate large scale events (9/11 – see in order to justify all of these security needs. And then have a captured MSM in order to sell it all to J6P.

    2. Robespierre

      So why is it that the touching of minors by TSA agents as seen in some of the videos shown is not considered sexual abuse? How do we know that there are no pedophiles among TSA agents?

    3. Roger Bigod

      It’s the American way of corruption. Chertoff skims off a few million in “consulting fees”, leading to a few hundred million in sales of scanners, resulting in billions in lost airline revenue and time wasted by passengers and agents carrying out the charade, not to mention a few people fried by software glitches in the scanners and the erosion of privacy from having all the images wind up in a national biometric data base (generating consulting fees galore).

  7. Hugh

    Andy Martin’s Beyond Understanding encapsulates most of what I hate in academic writing. It manages to be both smug and sloppy. It takes a serious medical condition and trivializes it by applying it directly to philosophy and philosophers. Philosophy as autism. Martin then slings around a bunch of quotes and references without any real understanding of their contexts. He even throws in a ludicrously lame statistic on the “ratio” of male to female philosophers. There is a phrase for this kind of mindlessly bad academic doodling: intellectual masturbation.

    As for Krugman, what’s new? Simpson’s nutty quote we have already seen. All Krugman does is use it as an excuse to bash Republicans, defend Democrats, and worship Ben Bernanke.

    As for Tom Ricks, he is a militarist. Nowadays you can’t make a career out of writing on the Pentagon for the MSM without being one. So he wants a return to the draft? But look at what kind. He doesn’t want a volunteer force where those involved and their families might kick up a fuss for being sent off to fight in meaningless imperial wars. He wants draftees to do the menial jobs, currently performed by contractors, to make it cheaper and easier to fight such wars. Then too Ricks wants the service requirements for retirement from 20 years to 30 years. This might make sense if we were not engaged in endless wars. But 20 years with umpteen deployments to war zones is a different matter. This is the clearest indication of what a low value Ricks actually places on the people in the military.

    Of course, Ricks does give the public service alternative but look at his third component. You either accept his two possibilities or you are out completely forever, not even Medicare in the future. And that gives you the other dominant characteristic of Ricks’ view, its authoritarianism.

    I suppose it is interesting that Ricks the great income inequality in the country, but nothing he says would change an iota the great wealth inequality. Taxes even on capital gains won’t change that.

    1. attempter

      I didn’t subject myself to any of the three scribblings, but based on your account it sounds like what Ricks wants is really an ancient Egyptian-style corvee (and for exactly the same reason of working on monumental, worthless projects for the luxury of the elites, and of course corporate profiteering), but he’s too much of a coward to say so, so he disguises it as a good-civics “draft”.

      1. Sufferin' Succotash

        Besides, Ralph Nader proved that the Corvee was a lemon more than 40 years ago.

        Or was that Corvair?

        Um, wait…

    2. craazyman

      thank you Hugh.

      Even though I’m just a peanut gallery commenter I still get uncomfortable railing into something I read in the links. But I need to get my ya-yas out. I have a lot of them.

      I started the Beyond Understanding article and lasted about three paragraphs before I said to myself “Why am I reading this shit. This is nonsense.”

      Then I started from the bottom and read up, randomly skipping around from paragraph to paragraph whenever a word caught my eye. It was quite good, actually, that way. There was a good lead quote from Witgenstein and then there was a good quote about Simon De Beavoir. And there was a thing in there about Plato and logos.

      If you skip around chaotically just going by intuition it really comes together the way you want it to. You can sort of use it, like things in the fridge, to make your own dish.

      I can cook anything with three pots. A soup pot. A spaghetti boiler and a frying pan (and a toaster oven). You really don’t need more than that.

      Even if you read every other paragraph, backwards, it still makes sense.

      I think Wittgenstein was right about philosophy. The problem is everybody has to figure that out for themselves. And then you realize it’s really all just channeling and the words are what comes afterward and they just follow it around like little ducks following their momma.

  8. ScottS

    My antidote of the day:

    A retired Canadian couple who won $11.3 million in the lottery in July have already given it (almost) all away.

    “What you’ve never had, you never miss,” 78-year-old Violet Large explained to a local reporter.

    She was undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer when the couple realized they’d won the jackpot in July.

    “That money that we won was nothing,” her tearful husband, Allen, told Patricia Brooks Arenburg of the Nova Scotia Chronicle Herald. “We have each other.”

    1. PQS

      That story made me smile, too.

      Of course I had to yell at the television when the American reporter exclaimed that “they gave all the money away even as she was undergoing chemotherapy…”


    2. skippy

      Yes I too find it hard to spend a wad of cash on a remote beach, grassy plain or mountain top…someone to share it with, is what I crave…

      Skippy… Oh cabana boy!

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