Links 2/27/11

Rare, Unique Seeds Arrive at Svalbard Vault, as Crises Threaten World Crop Collections ScienceDaily (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Doodling in Math: Sick Number Games Barry Ritholtz

The historical roots of yoga Tyler Cowen

Gasland and Natural Gas Drilling Ed Harrison

Regulation Lax as Gas Wells’ Tainted Water Hits Rivers New York Times (hat tip reader Crocodile Chuck)

Exclusive: Military’s ‘persona’ software cost millions, used for ‘classified social media activities’ Raw Story. Eeew, and Anonymizer is part of the dark side (not that I’ve used it, but techie friends recommended it years ago)

WikiLeaks: How U.S. tried to stop Spain’s torture probe Miami Herald and The Spanish Investigation into U.S. Torture Center for Constitutional Rights (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Tripoli slipping from Gaddafi’s grip Financial Times. Wow, this is happening quickly.

Long Bread Lines and Barricades in Libya’s Capital New York Times

Live Blog – Libya Feb 27 Aljazeera

“I Won’t Pay” movement grips debt-ridden Greece Associated Press

Premier Wen: China’s rise lies in talents, education, not GDP Xinhua Wen chats weekly with “netizens”. Even though this is theater for the masses, Team Obama has yet to add this one to its repertoire.

Forget fuel costs, U.S. farmers cheer oil surge Reuters (hat tip reader Deus-DJ)

Protesters out in force nationwide to oppose Wisconsin’s anti-union bill Los Angeles Times

Scott Walker’s ruthless ambition Guardian (hat tip reader May S)

Sign Optimization Angry Bear

Why Wouldn’t the Tea Party Shut It Down? Frank Rich, New York Times

Waiting Seven Years for Two Answers Gretchen Morgenson, New York Times

Rep. Waters says proposed $20 billion settlement falls short of servicing goals HousingWire

Exchange Rates: Two Stylized Facts and Yet Another (Consequent) Puzzle Menzie Chinn. When I was young, high yielding currencies were viewed with skepticism, since the assumption was depreciation was in store in the not-too-distant future.

Eliot Spitzer: Wall Street’s fallen angel Guardian (hat tip Joe Costello)

Antidote du jour:

Screen shot 2011-02-27 at 4.03.48 AM

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  1. attempter

    No hat tip for the “I Won’t Pay”? (Although I forgot to mention I got it from the Chris Martenson newsletter.)

    Re Svalbard:

    I don’t mean to always look at the negative where it comes to everything in sight, and I’m sure the curators of Svalbard mean well.

    But the fact remains that all the usual criminals – Monsanto, the US government, etc. – are involved in this project; and that the Svalbard protocols for everyone involved – seed saving organizations, tribes, etc. – contain some highly suspicious language about the obligations they’re incurring, redolent of every other globalization “treaty”.

    So all I’m saying is that as always we need to be vigilant about what’s happening there, and that centralized banks like Svalbard are not a sufficient way to store seeds even in principle. The Egypt incident where Mubarak thugs attacked the Egyptian Deserts facility is the latest proof of that. We can look back at similar incidents from Iraq and Afghanistan for more proof.

    Does a plant put all its seeds in one place? Of course not – it tries to disperse them as far and wide as possible. So by the same principle, and in accord with the general relocalization movement, we need hundreds, thousands of seed libraries. This year I’ll be starting one myself.

    Regarding the article itself, the overwhelming reason why plant diversity has been so radically diminished in recent decades is corporate action. Corporate agriculture inertially seeks to maximize the universal breeding of a few varieties and the extinction of all others, while the proprietors of plant germplasm patents* systematically and intentionally try to drive all non-proprietary varieties to extinction. This has been an ongoing mass extinction event, a more radical microcosm of the general global mass extinction event.

    This article, and most other articles of this sort, completely black out all mention of this main reason for seed diversity being under siege. They instead lamely blame it on the changing climate. But the likes of Monsanto are moving much faster and more aggressively than the climate.

    This is the equivalent of blaming the housing bubble and crash on the CRA. When an article does this, it’s clear that it either intentionally wants to whitewash the determining role of the biotech rackets, or else it’s simply too cowardly to name them as the culprits.

    *The IP regime itself has by now long since perverted and exceeded anything envisioned in the Constitution’s copyright/patent provision, and is therefore unconstitutional and anti-democratic. It also has no moral or rational validity.

    But the very concept of a patent for plant germplasm is illegitimate on its face. Any plant breeder, and any genetic manipulator, is working with plant cultivars which are the result of thousands of years of breeding, all of which is public commons intellectual property. And all that work in turn was done on the foundation of nature’s own work in evolving the plant in the first place.

    For a corporation today to perform a tweak upon this work of thousands of years and then claim a proprietary right is exactly like if someone came into your house, changed a light bulb, and declared that the house and everything in it belonged to him.

    So no one can legitimately patent any plant of variety of any plant. The very concept is simply false religion.

    1. rd

      There are some interesting studies on bees going on that are related to plant diversity:

      The average person undertakes vey few personal actions to counter things like falling plant diversity, global warming etc. These types of studies indicate that areas like urban gardens and farmland hedgerows can play an important role in overall ecosystem health.

      If we had more native plants planted in urban and suburban gardens instead of huge swathes of non-native grasses that require mowing, we would greatly increase the bio-diversity of the general ecosystem benefiting the birds and the bees which are both good markers of healthy ecosystems, cutting down on CO2 emissions and air pollution from very inefficient and dirty lawnmower engines, and greatly reducing the use of herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers that are doing great damage to our inland waterways and estuaries. This is a simple activity that could yield huge dividends for the planet but can be done at low cost (probably even net cost-reduction) by the average person. We might even be able to offset the actions of Monsanto et al.

      I strongly recommend Douglas Tallamy’s book “Bringing Nature Home” for the importance of native plant bio-diversity on insect and bird populations and Don Leopolds “Native Plants of the Northeast” if you live in the Northeastern part of the country.

      1. attempter

        That’s exactly the kind of thing we need to be doing. It’s necessary for our political and physical survival. Thanks for the book recommendations.

      2. Lidia

        Also, “Noah’s Garden: Restoring the Ecology of Our Own Backyards” (kind of CT-centric, but gets the point across that the suburbs could host a lot more wildlife and diversity.

    2. Paul Repstock

      Guys: The personal accountability factor is much broader and deeper than anyone wants to admit.

      Whether it be the SubSaharan farmer that wants more goats so he can be more important than his neighbour or the Silicon Valley suburbanite who clamours for broader streets to front his sprawling McMansion, or just the ordinary person who insisted that public services should use more salt to keep the roads bare in winter (Do any of you realize that road salt is the greatest by volume and one of the more dangerous by toxicity of modern polutants in North America?) For most of us environmentalism is the ultimate externalization. This also allows governments and interest groups to futher polarize society.

      1. Paul Repstock

        I don’t hope for it, but the greatest cosmic joke would be if ‘kujo’ became the last plant standing…:(

  2. BigBadBank

    Thank you for the yoga link – most amusing. As usual with India anything you can say both is and is not true (the technical term is (and is not) bhedaabheda – different/not different).
    FYI the word yoga occurs frequently in the mahabharata where it roughly means a plan or scheme of organisation (nothing to do with postures). One young man learns the secret of penetrating the enemy army’s yoga but is destroyed because he doesn’t learn the way out – a story which Vodafone, Cairn and anyone thinking of investing there would do well to bear in mind.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        I wonder if a yoga-trained Hamlet would have pronounced, to be or not to be, a Democrat or a Republican, that…is NOT the question.

        His creator, Shakespeare, I think, once said, there is no right or wrong, only thinking makes it so (in Elizabetan English of course…this is a modern translation). It seems Hamlet could have uttered those words.

        So, what is the question?

        What is it? (draws a big circle).

        1. attempter

          Hamlet did utter those words.

          Lately my favorite is King Harry’s “All things are ready if our minds be so.”

          Not that that’s really true yet. But the right mindset is definitely the most important thing.

          1. BigBadBank

            I don’t know what Shakespeare would have made of it but we have just seen a stunning display of bhedaabheda in the cricket world cup (a very unusual tie between England and India for those not familiar with the game).

  3. Richard Kline

    In a very real sense, Libya was over a week ago; it’s just not done. When the serving Interior Minister and substantial intact units switched sides in the east, it made the possibility real, and the army, such as it is, has largely fallen apart; rapidly, an in many cases in the country’s west voluntarily. Why was that crucial? Relative numbers, and tactics. It is impossible to take a city like, Benghazi, with something on the order of 700,000 inhabitants 95% against the regime with a force of 2-3000 men with light arms. And Gaddafi didn’t even send that many. In Benghazi, the reports make it clear that most of the regime forces were effetively besieged in the center of town from the outset, with terror-squads of a few dozen roaming around elsewhere and shooting people. And doing that, you can kill several hundred, but you can’t assert any kind of control. In al-Baida, several hundred mercanaries were flown in: they never got out of the airport, but were bottled up there by initially unarmed protestors who then had a small volume of arms some of which came from police and the army and some of which may have been purchased in Egypt after things started (regarding which there were reports). The numbers which the regime could commit apart from the army were just too small. These eastern groups were dispersed or overrun.

    There were reported mass protests in practically every urban center in the first few days, even Sirte which is substantially pro-regime. Having regained control of a few of them, the regime dispatched contingents from Tripoli to ‘retake’ some towns in the west of the country, particularly at Zawiya to the west and Misurta to the east of the capital. The intitial force attacking Zawiya was mentioned as ’60 men’ using terror tactics of firing on crowds, mostly with small arms. The group sent to Misurta seems to have numbered a few hundred at most, and never even recovered most of the airport there, let along the city. These contingents failed, because you just can’t take a town of tens or hundreds of thousands with ’60 men’ or even several hundred. You can just shoot a couple of hundred people until you run though your ammo, then pull out. Tiny regime forces were repulsed from these two western cities.

    Without the mass numbers of army units, and heavy weapons in volume such as artillery, or less effectively extensive aerial bombardment, undisciplined scratch columns whose combatants lack any unit cohesion or numbers are just large death squads without the ability to seize any ground. We can thank fortune in some respects that operationally the Libyan regime had only one plan: terror. Gaddafi’s mercs and militias have never fired a shot at anyone shooting back in their lives, and have no idea how to take territory and assert control. For them, it was enough to show up in a few dozen amongst a terrorize population, just seize or shoot a few, then let fear do the rest. When fear is gone, you need an army, and Gadaffi didn’t have one anymore, just large gangs of killers. Militarily, they’re gonifs, if murderous ones. (Although psychological projection tells some tales perhaps: it wouldn’t surprise me if contra Gadaffi’s claims of ‘drugged up rioters’ it was _to his own contingents_ that amphetamines or other drugs were distributed to turn them into terror squads who would fire on unarmed strangers, something otherwise difficult to induce most folks to do, mercenaries or not. This kind of practice was, and is odiously common in the kinds of terror war too often pursued in sub-Saharan Africa, with which Gadaffi has had some engagement.) The Libyan regime simply doesn’t have a cohesive force capable of controlling any extensive area once the army quit on him. Gaddafi planned like a mafioso, not a presidente, and that’s why he’s going to die in a bunker. There are 2,000,000 people in the metropolitan area of Tripoli; the regime can shoot and snipe at crowds, but can’t be present in much of even that area continuously, let alone project any force. So the regime is a sitting target while the popular insurgents have nearly all the initiative.

    Violence is bad. The costs of this will hang over the Libyans for years after they are free. But if the Devil sends killers on drugs to exterminate you, you can’t make it easy for them, that’s just the way it is. The best outcome would be for the insurgents to use suasion and the encroaching demoralization to peel away as much of the manpower clustered around the regime as possible, it seems they are doing this, forcing those remaining to concentrate in a tiny area whether assault or seige ends it. It’s a cagy endeavor now for the next few days, but those on the wrong side can follow the show on the net too: they have to know, many in the ranks, how this is going.

    May it end soon.

    1. KFritz

      The one issue I’ve not seen addressed in any public forum is who is in control of Libya’s petroleum facilities: fields, refineries, pipelines. Khadafy’s hole card is sabotage. Would it be a good idea for NATO to offer rapid deployment of special forces to help the Libyan rebels stop sabotage? Probably not. The better alternative is to develop a plan to put out fires and repair infrastructure as quickly as possible if Khadafy engages in sabotage.

      1. Paul Repstock

        The only thing NATO would be interested in doing is protecting the oil as you just questioned. I’ve always been certain that the Libyan Army has been doing that job right along. There would have been no Western call for Gaddafi senior’s ouster until that was assured.

        Probably some deal made to off Poppa, and guarantee the continuation of supply?? I hope the bastards misscalculated.

        1. KFritz

          From the information available over the last 2 weeks, there would seem to b no unified command staff for the Libyan armed forces. It seems to be a deliberately fragmented ‘institution’–by Kadhafy’s design,to remain in power. Is there a dedicated petro-infrastructure unit? If not, is your assumption based on any other information?

          1. Paul Repstock

            No specific information information Fritz. I’m extrapolating from several points. First the loss of 1.6 million barrels per day would have been disasterous and it’s potential would have pushed the oil price much higher.
            Second ‘al Islam as busy reasuring the oil companies that the supply was secure. Third, that the oil companies did not pull out their people. Fourth. that Gaddafi senior started hiring mercs for crowd control as soon as the uprising began.

  4. DownSouth

    Re: “’I Won’t Pay’ movement grips debt-ridden Greece” Associated Press

    But many see the “I Won’t Pay” movement as something much simpler: the people’s refusal to pay for the mistakes of a series of governments accused of squandering the nation’s future through corruption and cronyism.

    “I don’t think it’s part of the Greek character. Greeks, when they see that the law is being applied in general, they will implement it too,” said Nikos Louvros, the 55-year-old chain-smoking owner of an Athens bar that openly flouts the smoking ban.

    “But when it isn’t being applied to some, such as when there are ministers who have been stealing, … Well, if the laws aren’t implemented at the top, others won’t implement them.”

    So the mask is slowly being ripped off of neoliberalism.

    Regardless of what Friedman, Mises and Hayek said, neoliberalism and its ugly twin, “libertarianism,” , were never about “capitalism and freedom.” Instead, they were about “capitalism and freedom” for a select few, and capitalism and an authoritarian police state for everyone else.

    1. Richard Kline

      About ‘property liberation’ to coin a phrase; yes, agreed. Putting property before society never ends well. Only the time to impact varies.

      1. YankeeFrank

        The use of TOR and JonDo, or at least an encrypted VPN like IPredator, or better yet, OpenVPN, are the best ways to keep yourself anonymous on the web. I myself have used JonDo on occasion for two years now, and the pay version has decent bandwidth. I like JonDo over Tor myself just because the owners and locations of the “cascade” servers are transparent. Tor just sounds like a bit of a honeypot for criminals to sniff your traffic, although if you can set up a network of trusted friends you can each host a pass-through server to obfuscate each others traffic. Its not so hard as it sounds.

        Dynamic DNS, once it is a reality, will open up the net like never before — just imagine if, by simply selecting a different DNS server, you can go to and instead of getting the corporate blather site that represents the criminal oligarchic neoliberal cultist enclave (aka the “investment” bank doings god’s work of starving people to death), you will get a website that provide documentary detail as to the crimes of GS.

        The Pirate Bay gets negative treatment from our fascist government/political/media establishment, but they are helping fund dynamic dns research. Soon…

        1. Paul Repstock

          If you want to post opinions yet remain anonymous, how do you expect people to believe what you are saying?

          1. Paul Repstock

            I did understand that Frank. My comment was generic and out of place (I have a bad habit of venting opinions at every opportunity).

            I do feel that I’m correct in the context of the blog though. If things are so bad that people dare not use their names, then we have much bigger problems than what passes as polite conversation on this or any blog.

            I think many see me as a fool for using my own name. However, that is the fight I’m engaged in. I want freedom for myself and all the generations to come. Some people seem to have distanced themselves from me a bit, perhaps waiting to see what lands on my head??

            I cannot and have no right to make those choices for others.

  5. Foppe

    Re: “Regulation Lax as Gas Wells’ Tainted Water Hits Rivers”
    Gods what an obnoxious article this is. Released just about 20 years after Gasland, and it still treads hardly any new ground, while it manages to forget to address most of the issues mentioned in the docu. For instance, that pretty much all state-level EPAs by (GOP) design do not have a meaningful budget, and that there therefore is almost no checking going on even in those place where that are nominally regulated. Furthermore, there is no mention of the ‘cheney/halliburton exception’, that exempts fracking companies from having to respect or even care about the Clean Water Act.
    Additionally, ‘industry official’ statements are injected at random places in the article, and the story is split up pretty much randomly to make it seem organized, even though there is basically no narrative that connects the parts. For instance, there is a section called ‘Overwhelmed, Underprepared’ that hardly spends a single line explaining what that section head means. What you’re meant to infer is that the Frackers could never have known that their benzene-laden fracking fluids might cause health issues if you dump the fluid in drinking water, but what is actually the case (watch gasland) is that they just don’t give a shit about the fact that they are poisoning people’s drinking water. Then the story focuses on the utterly uninteresting issue of ‘radioactivity’, when the real issue is ‘poison being fed to everyone who uses his tap water’: there are many more carcinogens around than there are radioactive materials, and benzene and toluene are among the more important (prevalent) among them.
    Lastly, why don’t they even mention Gasland? It may well be that some of the things that were said in Gasland were factually incorrect (i don’t know, though i doubt it), but the nyt reporters don’t even bother to look at whether there may be corruption and willful neglect going on; they just assume that it’s all due to ‘unknowns’.
    But basically, after having read it I just felt confused. (Well, not really, because I read lots of statements that suggested that the deregulation was going to increase soon, with the new crop of ‘regulators’ coming in, but is it really this hard for nyt journalists to write a nice story with a coherent narrative structure?

    1. rjs

      pennsylvania has a grandfather clause that lets small towns dump their sewage directly into creeks and streams…so what they’re doing is probably legal…

    2. Ron

      Environmental damage from gas drilling is an issue that replays what happened during the U.S. oil boom days and probably pales what is now occurring in oil sands extraction.
      This early gas exploration is producing cheap energy for large industrial and consumer consumption that mirror early years in the oil phase as low prices generate a industrial built based around cheap sources but sooner or later the energy becomes harder to find and less plentiful meaning rising prices. It appears that America will be going full circle with natural gas never envisioning the day that it will be expensive and require the bulk of it to be imported. Those LNG terminals are being built for a reason!

    3. craazyman

      I’m not impressed by what passes for narrative structure in most mainstream journalism, but I didn’t have an “I want to vomit” reaction to that article.

      I just can’t see how any one new to the topic (and that is clearly the intended audience) wouldn’t be persuaded that there are some real unsolved issue with fracking.

      I thought the industry quotes came across as shillish and the profile of the woman whose kids are sick was very moving. The Times reporters really did their homework on the regulatory vacuum governing the water plants.

      The story didn’t mention the Halliburton/Cheney exception, but if it did, it would just make it easier to write it off as partisan journalism.

      I thought it was pretty well done, in a sober mainstream journalism way. If I’d written it, it would be a hypervenal attack on anyone who fcuks with Mother Nature and the dumb-shittt bone heads who surf the Pilot Wave like stiff prciks knowing not consciousness or the sublime transcendence of the Gnostic Wave form amplitudes. But then, no body would believe me. bowaaha haha ahahahah ahahahah

  6. DownSouth

    Re: “Live Blog – Libya Feb 27” Aljazeera
    I found the “Kevin Rudd speaks to Al Jazeera” video to be quite enlightening.

    Here we see the layer upon layer of irony that lies at the core of Western diplomacy put on display, in full view, for the entire world to see.

    Rudd says the threat of prosecution in the International Criminal Court should be brought to bear against Gaddafi and his henchmen. But which country has done more than any other in the world to undermine the International Criminal Court? Hasn’t it been the United States? And isn’t the reason that, if the International Criminal Court had any real teeth, that the most notorious war criminals in the world, and the first ones to face prosecution, would be Obama, Bush, Gates, Cheney and Rumsfeld?

    Then Rudd reiterates the canard that the reason the West threw its support behind the murderous Gaddafi was because it was a way to get him to agree to stop the developing weapons of mass destruction. This is the politics of fear taken to its most nonsensical and hypocritical extreme. After all, what were the chances that Gaddafi could have developed nuclear weaponry and the delivery systems necessary to make him a threat to the West, much less neighboring nations in the region?

    No, if we want to find out why the West supported Gaddafi, we need to follow the money trail. Western neoliberals perceived an opportunity to loot and plunder Libya, transforming it into yet another neoliberal wet dream, and Gaddafi was a partner in this criminal enterprise.

    1. Richard Kline

      Yeah, we should prosecute Gadaffi for genocide, but only after waiting for him to kill enough that it’s no longer simply crime against humanity. The talking shop of the Security Council is specifically designed so that no war crime sanction or investigation will ever be undertaken against any of the permanent members of the body. Hence, it is just not on to have an interventionary force not under selfish state control to intervene anywhere, or an independent judicial party that could really intitiate its own actions free from gross interference by the Permanently Exempt from Having to Care.

      While from the diplomatic standpoint the ‘resolutions and sanctions’ approach has some pale and gradual meaning, the feeble machinations of the Security Council just disgust me. Humanity, we can do better then this. Once we learn that states _cannot_ do better than this . . . .

      1. doom

        There’s actually a lot going on to deal with the problems in the Security Council. Much of this stuff comes under the rubric of institutional reform. While US propaganda focuses strictly on anticorruption reforms, reform proposals include expanding representation on the Council; making council seats contingent on countries’ commitment to the doctrine of “Responsibility to Protect;” limiting abusive veto votes; or making impunity the issue. The US is fighting the reforms, of course, but Bolton’s blatant Soviet-style obstruction is played out. With agonizing slowness, the permanent members are losing their chokehold on the Council. National security isn’t a blanket justification for UN obstruction anymore: it has to be reconciled with human security.

      2. Paul Repstock

        Richard; DownSouth has it right. Put Gaddafi into the que for prosecution if you like, but Bush/Cheney and company have priority. Read the WikiLeaks link to the Spanish process above.

        America should be more ashamed of continuing to protect these monsters than for having spawned them in the first place. Germany has put Hitler mostly behind them. One day America will be able to do the same with the Bush era.

    2. Charlie

      There is no mystery as to why America has supported Gadaffi, all of Americas support for ME dictators and authoritarian rulers comes down to two things, Israel and oil.

    3. Ron

      The U.S. kills thousands of innocent civilians during its military adventures most recently in Iraq and full time today in Afghanistan and rural Pakistan but Obama and U.S. citizens are very indifferent and in fact ignore such deaths with the term collateral damage.

  7. Richard Kline

    If you follow the link to the roots of yoga piece, and then on to the source article, it is quite illuminating (so to speak). While I was aware of the non-Vedic origins of yoga in tantrika practice of the sadhus, and the limited asana (postural) basis of it, the argument in the article for yoga as we know it being in fact a synthetic innovation in of the early 20th century is a story worth knowing for what it says about cultural transfer and the power of the new.

    1. attempter

      I don’t know anything about yoga personally, but I read that another IP scam (just like with plant germplasm) is to make minor changes in traditional yoga practices, “patent” the “innovated” practice, and then assault other practitioners using that same public commons style.

      I assume that’s the purpose of an article like this, although Cowen doesn’t explicitly mention IP.

  8. John Emerson

    The piece on yoga was as tendentious and slanted as the stuff it’s debunking. Cowen apparently likes to stir the shit, and he’s already got some nasty comments on both sides of the issue. Whoopee.

    The debunking mixes several different arguments. One is that the dates used by Hindu traditionalists are exaggerated. Hinduism does have a 5000 year tradition in some sense, but the Vedas only go back 3700 years and there isn’t really a lot of documentation older than 2500 years.

    A second argument is that the records of hatha yoga only go back perhaps a thousand years and that hatha yoga originated from a less-respected branch of Hinduism (“matted-hair ascetics” etc.) This may be true but who cares? to most people 1000 years is still a long time.

    A third argument is that maybe yoga was influenced by Chinese Daoism at Nalanda University somewhere between 427 to 1197 AD. This again is in the “who cares” category, and it has also been argued (by Victor Mair, a Sinologist) that Daoism learned more from Hinduism than the other way around. It’s definitely an open question.

    The fourth argument is that hatha yoga in the form it circulates in the US was developed in the 19th century and was influenced by nationalism and Western disciplines (e.g. gymnastics). This is true. Asian traditions were brought over to the West mostly by westernized Asians: D.T. Suzuki lived in the US when young and had an American wife, Walpole Rahula studied in England, Nishitani studied with Heidegger, Gandhi was a successful English-language lawyer, etc., etc.

    People I know who are seriously interested in yoga all say that hatha yoga is not its primary form, but is the form best adapted to the West, and they see it as a sort of entry-level version which, for some but not most students, will lead to the higher levels.

    India at all times has had a proliferations of various disciplines of various kinds, and I’m pretty sure that there was always something somewhat like hatha yoga there. But the exact form the majority of people learn is a 19th century development of mixed Western and Indian origins.

    1. Richard Kline

      So John, I really wonder whether you bothered to engage with the original article linked to by Cowen as opposed to bring your prior, if broad, understanding on the issue to it. The issue of ‘chain of derivation’ is the major point of the essay. You may be indifferent to that, but the point is significant in dealing with the ‘backdating to antiquity’ device of many modern Hindu nationalist and Hindu fundamentalist rhetoric, with which I assume you have some familiarity by your remarks. The point on mixing of practice between proto Daoism and Buddhism of the day is of minor note for the spread of the latter into the former but of signifigance for the author’s argument for the synthetic nature of the predecessor practice to hatha yoga. The author does engage with the ‘hatha was/was not always there’ with the relevant discussion of the sadhu community, brief but of appropriate length for the context.

      Your disinterest doesn’t mean that the arguments involved are without interest.

  9. MrM

    Even though this is theater for the masses, Team Obama has yet to add this one to its repertoire.

    Russia’s Putin and Medvedev as well as senior ministers in the Russian government regularly hold web-chats, which proved to be quite popular.

  10. John Emerson

    I confess that I was biased by seeing the piece over at Cowen’s where a nasty and stupid debate has already erupted, which isn’t at all unusual over there of course.

    To my mind the piece itself was unnecessarily polemical. Of course if I were in India fighting with Hindu fundamentalists I might end up writing something like that myself, but I’m not, and none of Cowen’s readers are. Instead it’s been inserted into a libertarian debate about whether Asian cultures are all a bunch of crap or not.

    The author chose the most convenient and easily refuted target to engage, took a variety of miscellaneous data and flung it, and developed in the context of a parochial argument. He takes hatha yoga as representative of all yoga, proves that it is not ancient, or not as ancient as it’s said to be, and not purely Indian, which is all true. But he makes it seem that yoga as such was invented in the 19th century by Westernized Hindus, which isn’t true.

    When cultural forms pass form one culture to a different one, e.g. Buddhism to China, they are normally transformed a lot. The people in the country of origin can take that however they wish, graciously or not. Buddhism died out in India so the question became moot, but it makes sense to me to say in the case of yoga that most Western hatha yoga, after having been stepped on several more times by various popularizers, is pretty far removed from the actual yoga of India, whether that goes back 5000 years or only 800.

  11. John Emerson

    Incidentally, that kind of argument is a coming thing in Asian studies (Confucianism was invented by Jesuit missionaries around 1600, etc.) and I think that it’s way overdone.

  12. Elliot X

    Counterpunch: It Sure Looks Like Osama bin Laden is Winning the Great War on Terror

    “From Washington DC we hear brave talk about Uncle Sam leading the charge for democracy across the Arab world, and thus restoring himself to high esteem in Arab eyes as something other than the sponsor of tyranny and torture by neoliberalism, the electrode and the waterboard.

    The only people fooled by this kind of talk are themselves. Barack Obama may have zig-zagged his way towards some tougher talk to tyrants, but there was no shilly-shallying about the lonely US Feb. 18 veto in the UN Security Council of resolutions condemning Israeli settlements. You think al-Jazeera did not broadcast that across the world?

    (Washington invokes Twitter and Facebook, made-in-America tools in the struggle for democracy in the Middle East. Compared in significance to al-Jazeera they are like a couple of ticks on the rump of a water buffalo.)”

  13. deeringothamnus

    Regarding water contamination, methods of water purification are off shoots of a very few fundamental methods, which tend to be old as the alphabet. A rare new technology useful for brackish and hard water, called the Flow Through Capacitor is being developed in the Netherlands, see . New technologies simply do not get much attention or funding, so are hard to get started. There are more cell phone hook ups in Africa than water hook ups. There is no technical reason water cannot be as available as a cell phone. The untold story is that technology investment goes into a thin slice of technology; internet and telecom. Potentially money making industrial technologies are starved for investment Fortunes could be made, and people could be put back to work, by re-investment in industrial technologies.

    1. Cedric Regula

      I think a big problem here is that stock investors (and venture capitalists, if you want to start at the beginning) have been spoiled with the so called “high tech” industries that can have a 9 month design cycle, obsolete the product in two years, then launch marginally improved products like 2.0, 3.0 etc… or in the case of hardware when Intel was up selling us on processor clock speeds, or when Apple et all does I, II, III…..

      In the case of established corporations in industry and infrastructure, they of course try to preserve the status quo, ala Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Bang….etc..

      Not sure how to break that logjam. Maybe a government program???

      1. Paul Repstock

        LOL, probably.
        Which party will annoint themselves, “The Neo-Ludites??
        May have to have an election to decide who gets the honour.

        1. Paul Repstock

          Technology should only be developed in support of the government, see my link below on the ‘new assains’ weapon.

        2. Paul Repstock

          Technology should only be developed in support of the government, see my link below (omfg) on the ‘new assains’ weapon.

  14. financial matters

    From the Gretchen Morgenson article

    “”Late last week, Wells Fargo agreed to a settlement with Ms. Green. The terms are confidential. The deal came shortly after the United States Trustee, the unit of the Justice Department that oversees the nation’s bankruptcy courts, indicated it was interested in the facts of the case.””

  15. Numbers Are In, nazis out

    1. (We the American People): A crowd estimated at more than 70,000 people on Saturday waved American flags, sang the national anthem and called for the defeat of a Wisconsin plan to curb public sector unions that has galvanized opposition from the American labor movement.

    In one of the biggest rallies at the state Capitol since the Vietnam War, union members and their supporters braved frigid temperatures and a light snowfall to show their displeasure.

    2. (Them … teaparty nazi movement): “It says in the Constitution: ‘In order to form a more perfect Union.’ … Mr. President, that does not mean coddling out of control public employee unions,” he told some 2,000 partisans gathered for a conference.

    There’s yur f’ing ratio: 70,000 to 2,000, or for every 35 taxpaying voters, there is 1 right-wing nazi nut.

      1. Cedric Regula

        I found their website here.

        If this pans out, certainly is a game changer. A hundred year event on the order of finding a use for that sticky black stuff that used to make Texas farmland worthless.

        Still we have tailpipe emissions, but one problem at a time.

        1. Paul Repstock

          Thanks, got it now.
          Agree on one step. Breaking the energy monopoly will actually help clean energy progress.

        2. craazyman

          there’s so much energy stuff out there in ‘net land. Hard to know what’s what.

          My favorite is zero point energy. I think the English physicist Paul Dirac was the theoretical father of this one, but I may be wrong on that, as my physics history is very much layman-stuff, although I have math envy. I was a math minor in college but have forgotten all of it, except my experience with the calculus of imaginary numbers, wherein a got an A in a grad-level class. LOL.

          This stuff fascinates me, believing as I do in the concept of the Dirac Sea. But there are so many other forms of potentially unlimited energy. Not sure about the Tesla stuff, as I know so little about it.

          The whole topic is a hot-bed of conspiracy theories and quacks. A few years back there was a Mr. John Mills (in England or the US, not sure, who had some free-energy device he was shopping to VCs I think.) And there was an Irish company with a fancy web site doing the same. And then there’s the dude where Colin Powell is on the board, out in CAli.

          I wouldn’t be surprised if something or other blew forward on this topic quite soon. But then it also could be Trickster territory too. I would never underestimate that, from a metaphysical standpoint, if not a physical one.

          1. Cedric Regula

            Someone was excitably telling me once about “Energy from a Vacuum”, and that the technology was being suppressed by Big Oil. I told him they told us in physics that vacuum doesn’t have any energy. He didn’t believe me.

            There will be metaphysical stories. You can count on it.

          2. Paul Repstock

            LOL Ced…Energy from a vacum should sell, like hotcakes on monday morning, at the Fed. They seem to understand that sort of equation.

    1. emca

      You have to be careful with this, from the same article:

      “Pienkos (NFEL scientist) said his calculations, based on information in Joule’s recent paper, indicate that though they eliminate biomass problems, their technology leaves relatively small amounts of fuel in relatively large amounts of water, producing a sort of “sheen.” They may not be dealing with biomass, but the company is facing complicated “engineering issues” in order to recover large amounts of its fuel efficiently, he said.”

      Don’t know how this will pan-out, but if successful, it will put the cash cow corn (as featured in another link above) six feet under.

      Such is competition at its finest, elimination of most inefficiently economically inept, or in a more political vain, another kernel in the continuing legacy of Bush’s estrangement from reality.

  16. KFritz

    As I recall events, Elliot Spitzer was prosecuting prostitution rings and johns while engaging in the selfsame behavior. As much as the nation missed his presence during the first phase of the financial crisis and as much as his downfall was engineered by financial industry thieves, he deserved disgrace for worldclass hypocrisy and injustice.

  17. amateur Socialist

    Mentioned again on Harry Shearer’s excellent Le Show congrats. He says your very good interview on the foreclosure mess will be rebroadcast next week, just fyi.

  18. Cedric Regula

    Exchange Rates: Two Stylized Facts and Yet Another (Consequent) Puzzle Menzie Chinn.

    The Force is being channeled by the Darkside with unprecedented zeal. The risk evaluating, Mathematikally inclined Jedi may not have a chance. Some resort to their warchest of Thaumaturgikal powers. Some fall to the Darkside.

    This is a new episode in the saga, and we can’t predict where it goes.

    1. Cedric Regula

      Actually, in one of Dan Jones early books he had a mechanical fly for bugging indoor areas. It could recharge itself by landing near an electrical outlet and link up with the leaking electric field flux. It could broadcast sound and video. Dan Jones claims it is a real project at DARPA.

      I also saw some university making flying bird spies. They flap their wings like real birds.

      Then my RC airplane buddy in CA knows a couple guys who started their own company and are developing a small RC surveillance plane that transmits back GPS coordinates along with the video. They have a laptop that will show the plane’s position on a map and the video. You can fly it like Flight Simulator. You can also strap some plastic explosive to it and fly it into the target. They just were awarded a DoD contract.

      Then craazyman recently told us about the thing he saw in a puddle near the Potomac that he thought was a carp….

  19. skj


    You once again display your bias against India and Hindus with your latest link to the Meera nanda hackjob. What do you have against us Indians?

    According to you, the current story of India is a sham and the historical traditions are an invention too! :-)

    As an avid reader of your blog, who is Indian and Hindu, this persistent bias in your ‘linkage’ leaves me with a slightly bitter after-taste.

    FWIW, Meera Nanda has her own agendas, nothing that comes from her pen can be treated as without bias. Fortunately, there will be a scholarly rebuttal posted to her article shortly and I shall be glad to point you to it.

    Will you be fair to Hindus and post that rebuttal?

    >>> Far from being considered the crown jewel of Hinduism, yogic asanas were in fact looked down upon by Hindu intellectuals and reformers—including the great Swami Vivekananda—as fit only for sorcerers, fakirs and jogis.

    I have read Vivekananda, and in none of his writings have I seen him ‘look down upon’ yogic asanas. Yes, it is true that asanas without any spiritual component to the exercise is looked down upon, but thats not the same as saying hath yoga has been infradig in Hindu tradition.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I don’t see how that piece represents bias. It is arguably badly written. It starts out in its first sentence by discussing “postural yoga, as we know it in the 21st century” which I think means “hatha yoga as taught in places like Kripalu (I don’t mean to single out Kripalu, it just happens to be a Western ashram that I know) and the, erm, distillations taught in upscale gyms all over America”. It then uses the term “yoga” as shorthand for that definition.

      Look at the picture in the article, it shows a lot of people, mainly women, doing yoga in an urban setting. What exactly does that have to do with Hindu? This is clearly about an exercise practice that is derived from Hindu and may overlap with Hindu practices, and more advanced students may become interested in the real deal. But it is most assuredly not about any religious beliefs.

  20. Max424

    re: Spitzer — sex with socks on

    What is the big deal with the socks? Seriously.

    Up here in Buffalo, it gets so cold, you’d be a fool to have sex with your socks off. Who wants purple toes — and maybe frostbite?

    Hell, it gets so cold up here, I’ve been known to wear mittens. Big woolly ones.

  21. Rex

    In the Military ‘persona’ article, Ntrepid self describes as “a leading provider of technology and managed services to national security customers in the areas of cyber operations, analytics, language engineering, and TTL”.

    Language engineering is quite a nice, bizarre turn of phrase, but what the heck is TTL? Probably not transistor-transistor logic. Technology telling lies? Through the looking-glass? Treacherous technological legerdemain?

  22. Sud


    Am kinda late to the party but anyway here goes on that Yoga hitjob.

    The word ‘Yoga’ derives from the sanskritic root ‘Yog’ which means, literally, ‘union’. (No, not as in ‘trade union’)

    A union between the individual and the universe and the various yogas are different paths leading to the same end ultimate outcome – Moksha. The Buddhists call it “Nirvana”, close enough to Moksha but there are technical differences, though.

    Among the yogas, Hatha Yoga – the path of physical control, flow, mastery and thereby spirituality was, yes, kinda considered the crudest of sorts. The highest yoga, according to the great sage Vivekananda himself, is Raja Yoga (King among yogas) which focusses on control, nay, mastery over the mind.

    All the yogas share certain characteristics and that is not accidental. The same goal drives them all, after all. The more tangible goal of any yoga is to get to a state of mind+body where the body’s ‘chakras’ can get activated. These are distinctive pressure points that run from the base of the spine along the spine to the hippocampus. Even the (allegedly) simple Pranayama – the yoga of breathing – is nothing in of itself but a way to open the first chakra – the muladhara.Now one can do breathing exercises without ever knowing anything about the chakras. It would just be breathing exercise and not yoga then.

    And so on. If all folks wanna do is some postures here and there, why call it yoga? Call it Fane Jonda or something and get on with it, no? I suspect the struggle is because empty postures or asanas get folks nowhere. The philosophy, the logic, the essence of yoga cannot be divorced from the spiritual mission around which it has developed.

    Sometimes I feel that the west, having colonized and plundered India’s physical wealth for decades till 1947, now wants to dispossess it of the few cultural-civilizational products left that it can proudly call its own. Sad, really.


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