Links 1/15/11

Floods Spread Across Australia as Brisbane Residents Clean Up Bloomberg. The American Australian Association has set up a website to take donations from US residents to help provide relief (and yes, the IRS says donations are tax deductible). Please give if you can!

Airborne Prions Make for 100 Percent Lethal Whiff Wired

Swine flu gives its survivors supercharged immunity io9 (hat tip reader May S)

Neanderthals’ ugly faces weren’t adaptations to cold NewScientist (hat tip reader May S)

Roman rise and fall ‘recorded in trees’ BBC

Mummy’s little helper: The truth about parents and alcohol Independent

Obama’s Tucson Speech and the Progressive Moral Vision Swopa, FireDogLake. There’s a scary anecdote in this piece.

The Vehicle of Street Food Is Getting an Overhaul New York Times

The Fed Has Spoken: No Bailout for Main Street TruthOut

U.S. Breaks Housing Price Decline Record Set During Great Depression Mandelman

States Will Soon Have To Start Paying Interest on Their Massive Unemployment Borrowing ProPublica (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Large bets fuel commodity bull run Financial Times

Consumer Spending Collapses in Early January, But So What? Seeking Alpha and Sales Up, But Stores Fret Over Outlook Wall Street Journal versus Banks Loosen Purse Strings Wall Street Journal

Did You Hear the One About the 445,000 New Jobless Claims Last Week? Dean Baker

JP Morgan threatens small depositors Felix Salmon. Hhm, is there a relationship between banks threatening to no longer serve customers and this measure, which may be intended to widen the use of debit cards in lieu of bank accounts? Treasury program gives tax refund on a debit card Reuters (hat tip reader Tertium Squid)

A Mixed Bag of Data Tim Duy

Is China Really Funding the US Debt? Barry Ritholtz. And that’s if you don’t believe in MMT.

Broad Tack Expected in Implementing ‘Volcker Rule’ Wall Street Journal

Antidote du jour:

Screen shot 2011-01-15 at 4.11.10 AM

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  1. dearieme

    There’s amusing political correctness here: “…warm, wet summers coincided with prosperity, while political turmoil occurred during times of climate instability”. But the opposite of “warm” is “cool”, not “instability”. Twits.

    1. Richard Kline

      So dearieme, I’ll agree that the relationships aren’t well phrased in that piece, but then it’s a journalist who wrote it. But the relationships as defined are structurally reasonable. Warm, wet summers in subsistence agricultural societies would reliably translate to large harvests which would put a floor under consumption and typically leave a profitable surplus. But instability is in some ways worse than cold. Heavy rains or drought can ruin crops. Short growing season can reduce yield. But the occasional superabundant harvest can crash price and beggar the luckless producer. The problem with instatiblity in aggregate in an agricultural society is _fluctuation_ of yield beyond bufferable ranges. In reliably cold periods, the crop base is adjusted to shorter season cultigens, which are often less desirable but readily available. But with instability, every sowing is a gamble, and no one really knows what to risk their lives on.

      The relationship better stated isn’t an inverse one with regard to temperature. Political stability correlates with stable harvests; political instatibility correlates with unstable harvests. Stable harvests correlate with warm, wet summers; unstable harvests correlate with anything other than warm, wet summers. None of this is news, I might add. The only thing new in the article is a more complete dendrochronological reading for Europe. It would have been good if more historical examples of good and bad phases had been made.

      1. sub sister

        Yes, and there are societal factors that can accommodate weather instability such as finance and storage/distribution. So it’s possible that instability became a problem only when those systems broke down, which would make climate act differently as a cause of decline.

  2. dearieme

    “Oh, they’ve started shooting them? (smiles) Get ‘em all!”

    Very American: wasn’t that Mr Jefferson’s view too?

    1. Jim Haygood

      That suburban housewife was talking about the evil speculators, silly:

      US senators warned of a “speculative bubble that threatens to drive up gas and food prices even further.”

      Never mind that Bernanke’s buying $600 billion of Treasuries with funny money. Punish the price gougers!

  3. rjs

    interesting ad alongside “no bailout for mainstreet”

    “make $21,000 a week flipping foreclosures like flapjacks”

  4. Richard Kline

    I didn’t listen to or read in total Obama’s demi-eulogy; I can’t stand to listen to a man so false. So perhaps I shouldn’t comment. I have read excerpts, and followed the gist. To me, his message is worse than useless.

    I’m a believer in reconciliation. I definitely see it as vital to see the other person’s view, negotiate, and have a broad tolerance even for those whom one likes. Making change through example is the first, last, and best approach. Reconciliation to folks who laught about someone putting a gun in your face and pulling the trigger, or who are actively doing the same themselves is beyond self-hating. Resistance to the unacceptable isn’t the same as firing back, but it does mean _resisting_, it means calling the unacceptable _unacceptable_. Barack Obama would be living under Jim Crow today with a job as a carpenter the best thing he could aspire to in most of the country if a whole lot of folks hadn’t but their butts and necks on the line to call what was unacceptable by its ugly name, stand up to it and in its way. Talking about ‘living up to our best’ when some of us are shooting others of us is total capitulation. Not only will it NOT change the minds of those calling for those triggers to be pulled, it will embolden them because clearly those with the power to care and intercede are calling, quite loudly, for everyone to look away and move on.

    That’s my take away from Barack’s Syrup in the Southland. It’s the equivalent of ‘move along, nothing to see.’ There is something to see: a fascistic minority is edging past lies, past graft, past racism into “Who will rid me of this priest?” and our Collaborator-in-Chief says by way of response, ‘Dont’ get mad; don’t stand up. Say a prayer and go back to bed like good sheep, serious people have work to do on Monday.’ Don’t look over while a couple of pistoleros are dragging off some hippie/Muslim’/egghead/malcontent is dragged of the the white Plymouth Falcon. Dont’ expect action. Don’t expect justice: in fact, don’t even TALK about justice, that creates bad feelings and makes all those gunpointer-haters look bad which creates all this ‘tension.’ Just go back to your soon-to-be-stolen homes and wait for the security investigators to summon you ‘to check your statements.’

    Burbling about reconciliation when one side is shooting down the other isn’t reconciliation, it’s a pablum of surrender.

    1. Dirk77

      I think the lesson here is that one should follow Andrew Carnegie’s advice and judge people not by what they say, but primarily by what they do. Employ your own Turing test: if someone acts like a plutocrat, then as far as you are concerned he is one. What he says is irrelevant. BS words from Obama about the Tuscon shooting should by now be ignored by any non-plutocrat. So he might be more complex than what Matt Stoller painted him in a previous post on this blog—so what? At best, it shows he is conflicted (he’s a Democrat, right? What else is new?) and in love with the sound of his own voice. So what? If you want to draw lessons fron the Tuscon shooting, listen to someone giving reasons with evidence to back them up. ( End of rant. I am just dreading having to face my “liberal” friends about this…)

    2. Foppe

      To be honest, I don’t quite follow why this shooting is seen as so unimaginably horrible.. Far worse policies, affecting far more people, have been enacted over the past few decades, and have begun to bear fruit by now, the effects of which on the population are still hardly talked about at all. Yet a simple political shooting (affecting the rather-emasculated US “free speech”) that hits a dozen or so people, and was intended as an assassination of a single politician, suddenly proves that “the US political climate has become radicalized”. Is that really all there is to say?
      Anyway, I haven’t watched Obama’s speech either – I surmised I would find it rather unpleasant to listen to as well. Having said that, his stance does seem to fit his appeasement-role quite well, although it is a separate question to what extent he’s merely acting out his role in order to keep his bosses happy. Lastly, I know I posted the link once before, but did you see this article?

    3. Paul Repstock

      I did listen to Mr. Obama’s speech, and as I posted on Attempter’s blog, I as relieved by it’s content and delivery. The first 15 minutes had me worried though.

      This (though an odd eulogy), was a necessary speech.

      Given the tensions and frictions built up in the United States, if you had a different President, you might be far down the road to a civil war. The shootings in Arizona might not have been that important in themselves. But, they occured in the wrong place at the wrong time. And there are no shortage of people who would exploit this sad event for their on purposes.

  5. attempter

    Re the mass murderer’s anti-violence speech:

    I won’t bother commenting on the infinite vileness of this robber and thug, especially the way he wants the innocents whose doom he seeks to be “reconciled” to it. (I did click on the link of hackboy Dayen, but had to stop reading after two sentences; I’m trying to eat breakfast here.)

    The anecdote is clear enough. These stupid Democrats and corporate liberals really think they have an arrangement with the corporations and Republicans. They really don’t understand that once neoliberalism moves on to more overt fascism, the Republicans intend to physically kill them.

    “First they came for the productive citizenry, and I didn’t care because I’m a super-hip Democratic liberal corporatist…..”

    Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of traitors.

    Re federal government’s assault on the states:

    I wrote a short post on this, expressing what Republicans and Democrats really are, so I’ll just link to that.

  6. Ina Deaver

    Interesting things are afoot. Way back in the mid-90s, Chase ate my bank. I’ve had an account there since then (no reason to lose the account I’d had since the 1970s, and attendant credit card). When I moved away from Chase’s service area — literally, I now live in a state that is not even BORDERED by one Chase has a branch in — I didn’t kill the account. Have you got any idea how impossible they make it to kill an account if you can’t walk into a branch? It is, for all intents and purposes, impossible.

    So I’ll make a trip home to see the folks, and kill my accounts. I’ll literally take a $2 fee now per check when they cut the checks to give me my money back. I’m sure there will be other fees. Bloodsuckers.

    Thing is, I picked a little regional bank when I moved here (we’ve also got a main account at the credit union) to stash my personal account because the branches were WAY more convenient to me than the credit union where my husband does all his banking. Capital One just took them over. I get the distinct impression that there won’t be any banks left except the big 5, and they will have no use for anyone without assets below $1 million. I’m sure inflation will swell the minimum amount.

    The rest of us will be on debit cards from the government.

  7. Ina Deaver

    UGH. Of course, that should be “without assets of at least $1 million.” Must. Get. Coffee.

  8. Max424

    Hey, what is that cute little creature in the antidote du jour, is that our government being drowned?

    Never would have guessed that Republicans would use soap suds to do the dirty deed, or that government was already so small, they could dispatch of it in a sink.

  9. Bernard

    yes we are supposed to be good sheep and follow our leaders and go into the crematorium. Do not pass Go. lol.

    some of us have a problem with that, and others just don’t give a damn one way or the other.

    it is interesting to watch the Republican and their sycophants deride those who question… anything. sad but interesting to watch.

    comes down to: “how dumb are these people?” obviously dumb enough.

    but do go on. the Right is close to total success right now. this is a most interesting show.

  10. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Is it some kind of unconscious thing to justify and to blame the vanquished that we call Neanderthals ugly?

  11. eric anderson

    From the firedoglake piece: “The message that we as a people can be better, that we can use our government to help achieve that — and that the best part of ourselves demands that we try — is one that transcends this election cycle and the next one. There’s a longer game to be played here, and all of us need to be part of it.”

    Don’t we have some irreconcilable positions in this country? Many folks believe our government can help us be better by being smaller. Much smaller. It can help us by not helping us so much.

    Love one another. Give your children a hug. Respect those whose opinions differ from yours. This is the message the President offered. It wasn’t controversial.

    I respect those who differ, but I do not intend to stop fighting their agenda with words and votes. We had a peaceful revolution at the ballot box in November. If this revolution continues in 2012, I wonder if the opposition will remain peaceful.

    Well, will they?

  12. Scott Peterson

    “Once taxpayers open a prepaid debit card, they can reload it with their own money and use it just as they would a regular debit card, but without opening a traditional bank account.”

    A stealth trial of Bank of the USA? If you don’t have to have a traditional bank account, that makes the Treasury your bank. It would shift some deposits out of current financial institutions. If we make consumer banking (basically transaction processing) a utility that takes demand deposits away from bankers to hose away on bad loans.

    It would be a way to reduce the potential liability for the FDIC in future bank failures. Also, the US has infrastructure in place in the form of the USPS to basically copy the Japanese model of postal savings accounts. This would allow mobilization of savings into Treasuries, supporting the national debt.

    Pass a law absorbing the USPS as an agency of the Treasury, and add some functionality to the ATMS already in PO’s where you buy stamps, tie the debit card to Treasury Direct accounts, set a cut-over date and you’ve solved two problems at once.

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