Links 11/24/10


  1. Cynthia

    Most news outlets, including the New York Times, have reported that the senior Taliban commander, who turned out to be an impostor, was given lots of money to meet with Afghan government officials and NATO. But after speaking with New York Times correspondent Dexter Filkins about this (see link below), Melissa Block of NPR ends with this statement: “White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton said today that no U.S. money went to the individual [the impostor] in question.”

    So either the folks at NPR are reporting the truth, or they are helping the Pentagon put a positive spin on the Afghan War. But given that NPR is nearly as bad as Fox News in churning out war propaganda, I suspect the latter to be the case.

    1. Chris

      As Media Matters has demonstrated, NPR is no leftist outlet. They are throughly establishment in their outlook.

  2. David

    That Penrose paper is garbage by the way. Penrose is an excellent mathematician, not an excellent physicist and especially not a good experimental physicist. The statistics in that paper are not anywhere near the level of rigor that is common in the field of experimental cosmology. The fact that Penrose would put his name on it shows that he is somewhat of a quack when he ventures into cosmology.

    1. craazyman

      The real question that should concern cosmologists is where is the mom and dad universes.

      There can’t have been just one. it would have taken two to create the one we live in, which apparently started from a little dot of matter-less and energy-less formal potential, like everything does.

      That’s just the way it all is on this level of reality.

      My guess is they’re both dead and out side any mathematical field by now, no matter how many dimensions you use. I hope they’re proud of their little baby. ha ha ha,.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        What if this baby universe was born by accident, that mamma universe and papa universe didn’t plan it? What ir our baby universe was born of sin?

    2. K Ackermann

      I don’t see how you can say that about Penrose.

      He has an excellent grasp of all conventional physics, and has made lasting contributions to such.

      Just because he asks questions beyond conventional doesn’t mean he’s bad.

      I love his rebuttals to those who claim the incompleteness theorem does not rule out an algorithmic consciousness.

  3. dr

    UnitedHealth Says Diabetes Will Cost $3.4 Trillion Over the Next Decade

    “Diabetes or prediabetic conditions will strike half of all adult Americans by the end of the decade unless people lose weight, said UnitedHealth Group Inc., the largest U.S. health insurer by sales.

    The disease will cost the nation almost $3.4 trillion in the 10 years through 2020, with more than 60 percent paid for by the U.S. government”

    Looks like we can’t afford the Bush tax cuts after all..

    1. Cynthia

      UnitedHealth must feel pretty confident that most of its current and future costs associated with diabetes will be dumped on to the taxpayer. This wouldn’t be so had the health-care reform bill not been deliberately designed to be a giant giveaway to the health insurance industry.

      Let me also mention that the decision by health-care insurers to reimburse hospitals according to patient satisfaction scores is just their way of perpetuating the myth that our health system is based on free-market economics. Apparently they don’t understand that by encouraging hospitals to turn themselves into five-star hotels adds unnecessary costs to providing medical care to patients. It would be better for insurers to discourage hospitals from wasting money on frilly things such as providing music and pet therapy to their patients and dishing up five-star meals to them. But they’d never do this because cutting these and other sorts of frills out of health care smacks of socialized medicine. This still doesn’t stop me from hoping that when health-care dollars shrink to the point where hospitals must decide between cutting back on providing patients with top-notch food and entertainment and providing them with top-notch medical and nursing care, they’ll choose to do the former rather than the latter.

    2. attempter

      Most of that is one of the many socialized costs of Big Ag. There’s “capitalism” in action.

      So remember that we the people, in addition to owning the bailed out banks, GM and Chrysler, etc., are also the rightful owners of ADM, Cargill, ConAgra, and so on. We’ve already paid for them, many times over.

      (And as Cynthia points out, we also own the health “insurance” rackets.)

      1. Cynthia

        Attempter, you mentioning Big Ag made me think of this. According to NPR (see link below), trade courts have found the US guilty of illegally subsidizing our cotton farmers. Brazilian cotton farmers sued over the violation of our trade agreements, and Brazil threatened retaliation against a wide array of important American exporters.

        Cotton subsidies, it seems, were too sacred to be dropped, so the US compromised by paying off Brazilian cotton farmers to the tune of $147 million per year. So now US taxpayers are not only subsidizing the American cotton industry, but the Brazilian cotton industry, too!

        Let me begin by saying that our war criminals got off the hook, so I’m not sure why anyone would think that our trade violators won’t get off the hook as well?

        And this is just one more piece of evidence among a mountain of evidence that the US is far from having a free-market economy. And for Obama to travel to Asia and preach the virtues of free-market capitalism just goes to show what a two-faced liar he is!

        I’ve known for quite some time that some of us get away with lying on occasions, usually by dumb luck, but I never thought I’d see the day when someone can lie their way to the top, getting promoted every step of the way.

        Recall that Mexican authorities looked the other way when US farm subsidies caused an enormous number of Mexican farmers to go out of business, but this didn’t happen in Brazil. Brazilian farmers refused to stand back and let US farm subsidies run them out of business. This indicates to me that Brazil has broken away from the US’s sphere of influence. Mexico, OTOH, is still too much of a US puppet state to stand up and fight the big-ag cartels.

        We’ve been subsidizing oil under the guise of national security for quite some time, but now it appears that we doing the same for other commodities, from cotton and soy to corn, wheat and sugar. Our practice of subsidizing commodities across the board has gotta stop before we start shedding blood for corn and cotton, similar to the way we’ve been doing this for oil!

        1. Cedric Regula

          Brazil also can’t export sugar ethanol to the US because a large US import duty on it makes it too costly compared to our inferior and less efficient to produce corn ethanol. Another win for US Ag.

        2. attempter

          “Free trade” was never intended to be anything other than a scam Orwellian term for the same old mercantilism and colonialism. It’s the same old might-makes-right, but with the added insult of hypocrisy and sanctimony.

          Obama’s lies are part of the scam. This isn’t an abuse of the free trade ideal, but its intended use. There’s no such thing as a possible “true” free trade beneath which practice has sunk. When practice always turns out a certain way, and practice has the power to be what it wants to be, we have to conclude that the practice is the real thing, while any difference in the principle is a scam or at any rate impracticable.

          The same is true of “capitalism” itself, which we know by now was never anything but the same old monopoly-seeking rentierism, just by different means.

  4. Enkco

    This attempt to smear the “don’t touch my junk” protests as nutty right wing kookery (which therefore the sane and liberal nice person coastal reader shouldn’t touch) is more divide and conquer. If the establishment wants something demonized, put it in one of the bogus left/right party lines, then tell the other team to attack it.

    Greenwald takes this apart handily. He’s ruthlessly consistent on civil liberties, and sees all this with a clear eye:

    “And therein lies the most odious premise in this smear piece: anyone who doesn’t quietly, meekly and immediately submit to Government orders and invasions — or anyone who stands up to government power and challenges it — is inherently suspect. Just as the establishment-worshiping, political-power-defending Ruth Marcus taught us today in The Washington Post, objecting to what the Government is doing here is just immature and ungrateful; mature, psychologically healthy people shut up and submit. That’s how you prove that you’re a normal, responsible, upstanding good citizen: by not making waves, doing what you’re told, declaring yourself a loyal Republican or Democrat and then cheering for your team, and — most of all — accepting in the name of Fear that you must suffer indignities, humiliations and always-increasing loss of liberties at the hands of unchallengeable functionaries of the state. I don’t really care what political label John Tyner applies to himself: we need far more of his civil resistance in our citizenry and far less of the mindless obedient drone behavior which these Nation writers seem to venerate.”

    1. Richard Smith

      I think you have nailed it.

      Peculiar to see which humiliations get people’s goat, and how that is reported.

    2. Cynthia

      John Tyner, including all of his junk ;~), is second only to Julian Assange as my top pick for Time’s Person of the Year.

    3. Andrew Bissell

      It’s even more funny to see an effort like Das Krapital‘s to cast the whole thing as yet another shadowy Kochtopus tentacle. Although given their record of opposition to the burgeoning domestic security apparatus (they even gave $20 million to the ACLU in the wake of 9/11), perhaps the Kochs wouldn’t object to the association.

      First, the billionaires came for the nude x-ray scans and grope-downs, and I did not speak up because I was not Michael Chertoff or a TSA agent. LOL.

      1. Paul Repstock

        Not one will ever face a scanner or a ‘pat down’, except as PR plays! They fly by private or government transport, which are exempt.

  5. readerOfTeaLeaves

    As it appears to be acceptable to leave links on this thread, I’d like to offer up a clip of about 11 minutes on Dylan Ratigan’s MSNBC show on Tues, 11-23, which uses a food blender to explain the securitization process, before pointing out how the blended mess violates basic property rights. He then interviews Rep Marcy Kaptur, who offers her overview of the outsized role of banks in the American economy, and expllains the process behind this mess in a very simple fashion – concluding that it was a giant Ponzi scheme.

    I’ve sent this to a couple of local government employees as a handy ‘explainer’ for them to use when trying to explain the MERS mess and the fraudclosure disaster.

    And I do realize that I really need to stop moaning around here for an audio version of Yves’ book, but I can think of a city manager, a utility exec, and a non-profit director who will never find time to read that book — but would greatly benefit from listening to it. They simply don’t have time to read an ‘econ’ book, but if they can get the info in a format more convenient for them (on the treadmill, while commuting…) but they badly need the ‘econ basics’ laid out by Yves in their toolbox as they advocate for reforms from the ‘bottom up’.

    Meanwhile, I’ll have to settle for providing them with ‘ammo’ from Dylan Ratigan’s program, like this link:

  6. ChrisTiburon

    re: Cable TV subscriptions…

    Cable is not a necessity ahead of food and addictive substances, therefore is the first thing to be dropped in poorer populations.
    I suspect that localized poverty and the decline of the Middle Class are what are shown on a mega scale.
    Another corollary and something more checkable at a
    smaller scale is the sale of tools by the formerly employed Working Class.
    A way to check/chart this is to look at Craigslist in an urban area. Check the different neighborhoods…for example, in the San Francisco Bay Area you will find that some areas have a huge number of tools for sale and others do not.
    Here is the category “Tools for Sale” by the overall Bay Area,
    and then in the
    North Bay (Area).

    Notice the amount of tools sold in Santa Rosa and Petaluma, which are what were formerly Middle Class enclaves?
    When a man sells his tools, he is desperate and has given up any hope of working with them. Therefore I posit that tool sales are a marker of real desperation.

    You can also zero in on specific towns within the North Bay zone by checking them and then researching.

    Craigslist is more sophisticated and complex in the Bay Areas as that is where it started so you may not be able to break down results as easily in your nearby urban areas.

    1. BondsOfSteel

      Eh. I gave up my $100+/month cable TV bill to for a $10/month streaming NetFlix, free Hulu, and the sports bar down the street. Heck, I can stream Netflix on my cellphone while watching TV in the bar. Cable TV is over-rated and over-priced.

      What would be interesting is to map good internet coverage aganist cable TV subscription changes.

  7. Hugh

    I found both the article on cosmology and the one cited by plschwartz confused although both point to the tentative nature of Penrose’s work and the non-sense of speaking about “before space-time”. We have seen before, as with Cepheid variables, that when data suggested that some were “older” than the universe, this had to do with how their use as a distance measurement was calibrated. A couple of other thoughts: Penrose would be extrapolating beyond the point where the whole universe was on the other side of the Planck limit. For me, black holes are stores of information. As they evaporate, that information is restored to the universe. If you want to talk about where information is lost, it in the Hubble expansion. When we see those very early structures from 13 billion years ago, it is important to remember that any photons leaving from their descendants will never reach us. There are no speed limits on space-time. The universe between them and us is expanding faster than light. So their information is lost to us. And that brings me around to the concept of the universe. It isn’t a static entity, both its size and information content are constantly changing. So when Penrose asserts that information may be lost in the future, my reply is that it is happening now. And perhaps I am missing something but there is a universe of difference between a low entropy high information universe and a low entropy low information one.

    1. skippy

      I too find the language clumsy, w/caveat that it is a second or third derivate of the original author. 3D or math seems the only way to provide a proper perspective.

    1. skippy

      Stretch is a perspective, of an individual with relationship to their range of observation, horizon to horizon. They had no concept of other quadrants or range save what the naked eye could behold.

      Skippy…2,000 odd years of head shrinking and the party is still going strong.

  8. plschwartz

    Penrose has written a recent book cycles of
    time. Which is not quite a popular book. So I
    have been reading reviews.
    is about the best
    There is also an excellent review in
    but that is a pay-site
    The experiment on CMB seems like a first step
    that involved only reanalysis of data. It is
    going to take a while for this theory to be
    digested and tested.

  9. Sundog

    Nouriel Roubini has posted the intro he wrote for Chris Whalen’s book on his website (registration required). I’m hardly qualified to evaluate either Nouriel or Chris but this rings true.

    You may not agree with Chris’ views—on the state of US banks; on which reforms of the system of financial regulation and supervision are appropriate; on the risks that large monetized fiscal deficit imply in terms of future inflation and risks of a crash of the US dollar—but he is always thought provoking, well versed in the details of financial history and a master of lateral and contrarian thinking that challenges the conventional wisdom.

    I suspect Chris believes money can be a store of value; my preference is to accept that money is a medium of exchange.

    The most fascinating parts of this great book are about the historical similarities in US financial history: cycles of asset and credit booms and bubbles followed by crashes and busts; the fiscal recklessness of US states that leads to state and local government defaults; the temptation to socialize those state and local government losses as well as the losses of the private sector (households and banks) via federal government bailouts; the recurrent history of high inflation as the solution to high public deficit and debt problems and private debt problems both after wars (Civil War, WWI, Vietnam and possibly now following budget busting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) and in the aftermath of asset and credit bubbles gone bust; the historical resistance of US state, local and federal governments to raise enough taxes to finance an increasing public demand for public services and entitlements that cause these large fiscal deficits, and the schizophrenia of an American public that hates high taxes but also wants public and social services; the trouble being that you cannot have simultaneously public spending like in the social welfare states of Europe and low tax rates as under Reagan.

    Nouriel Roubini, “Nouriel Roubini’s Introduction to Christopher Whalen’s Book, ‘Inflated: How Money and Debt Built the American Dream’ Published by Wiley, 2010”

    1. Paul Repstock

      Well..for one thing you are dead right to doubt money as a store of value. The only things which have allowed any validity to savings accounts are humans’ short life spans and the poor returns offered on so called investment vehicles. Even gold backed money is not such a good store of wealth because then you have both counterparty risk and the variable price of gold to contend with.

      Wealthy people have traditionally kept either land or productive assets as a store of wealth. Given the modern trend to socialist gangsterism, these also are now weakened.

      1. attempter

        What’s “socialist gangsterism”?

        I see the bankster and corporate welfare state, which isn’t socialism but rather the economic manifestation of fascism.

        I suppose communism could be called socialist gangsterism, but neither that nor any other form of socialism (communism and socialism are of course not synonyms; anarchism, for example, is the exact opposite form of socialism) seems to have any traction anywhere right now.

        I agree that money cannot legitimately be a store of wealth (cf. my second MMT post on that), and I’d go further to say the very concept “store of wealth” is illegitimate, since no one ever has any right to hoard the cooperatively produced wealth and withhold it from productive use.

    2. Hugh

      Roubini is a debt hawk. It’s all debt, debt, debt. He, and apparently Chris Whalen too, both miss the role of kleptocracy in our current economic disasters. I have used the metaphor before but this is like describing the sinking of the Titanic without reference to the iceberg.

  10. Sundog

    This is a good piece on 20th century technology and culture, taking off from some remarks by Keef.

    “It surely can’t be any coincidence that jazz and the blues started to take over the world the minute recording started, within a few years, just like that.”

    Richards’s point may be obvious, but it is still overlooked: Recording did for music what writing did for literature. It supplemented, then nearly supplanted, the live performance. Recording gave artists access to the music of the past to a far greater degree than mere live performance.

    Phil Patton, “Keith Richards and His Amazing Portable Cassette Recorder”

  11. Ted K

    That Koch Brothers story is a wild one. If it wasn’t so slimy and disgusting I would think Rachel Maddow would be all over that one.

    See, I would love to see Maddow get some guy like Newt Gingrich on and ask him what he thinks of Koch Brothers funding such degenerate people as Cassidy Nicosia and Jason Sorens and if Newt Gingrich feels those Koch brothers funded degenerate activities are more healthy for the future of America than say a Muslim mosque. The problem is Gingrich would never agree to be interviewed by Maddow and and shows Gingrich would appear on, like MSM corporate lapdog “Meet the Press” David Gregory would never ask the question.

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