Links 2/7/11

Assange threatens to sue ‘Guardian’ The Hindu (hat tip reader May S)

‘Cornell Dots’ That Light Up Cancer Cells Go Into Clinical Trials Science Daily (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

New Zealand scientists record ‘biodiversity breakdown’ BBC

World’s top architect Frank Gehry brands Paris residents ‘philistines’ after planning permission revoked Telegraph. Count me with the philistines. I’d rather have the trees.

Revealed: US envoy’s business link to Egypt Independent (hat tip reader Buzz Potamkin)

Would America Have Been Better Off Without a Reagan Presidency? Christopher Hitchens, Slate (hat tip reader Daniel P)

Chris Hedges – Death of the Liberal Class – Full TVO (hat tip reader Peter J)


Europe planning to solve the wrong crisis Wolfgang Munchau, Financial Times

Fruits of disleveraging MacroBusiness

Modest rise in retail sales rocks Australian dollar The Australian (hat tip reader Skippy)

Droughts, Floods and Food Paul Krugman, New York Times versus Yes, world food prices are higher because of speculation Clouded Outlook (hat tip Ed Harrison)

Business Groups’ Target: EPA Wall Street Journal. Charming.

President of Arizona Senate proposes secession measure Daily Kos (hat tip reader furzy mouse). I missed this in the “all eyes on Egypt” week and maybe you did too.

Two banks, a conman and a homeless bloke Lucy Kellaway Financial Times

Vision: Everyday Brits Are in Revolt Against Wealthy Tax Cheats — Can We Do That Here? AlterNet (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Antidote du jour:

Screen shot 2011-02-07 at 5.47.32 AM

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  1. attempter

    Re Reagan:

    While the absence of Reagan’s charismatic scam leadership may have caused the neoliberal onslaught to progress more slowly, it wouldn’t have fundamentally changed anything.

    The plan was well underway before Reagan (indeed, it was the Carter adminstration which took the non-linear leaps from which Reagan then progressed), and all significant leaders of both parties were on board.

    Re Arizona secession:

    I missed it too, and there was no reason not to miss it. It’s just empty, stupid grandstanding. No one in the Arizona leadership wants to secede. Arizona’s one of the federal welfare leech states, and besides, secession would be the one thing to guarantee Arizona’s being dominated by Mexico. As it is, the region is more naturally and demographically related to Mexico than to the US Northeast, Great Lakes, Pacific NW, or South.

    I’m from NJ. What advantage do I see in being part of the same technical country as Arizona? None. They’re a drag on us. Dead weight. What do they expect to do on their own, with nothing but sand and no water?

    “Secession”, don’t make me laugh. It’s the Northeast which should secede.

    Re Frank Gehry:

    That’s a good example of how Ayn Rand was sending a coded message by making her hero a boorish parasite architect needing massive welfare extractions in order to realize his shoddy, childish “vision”, rather than a penniless poet who wanted nothing but to write his poems in peace but was being censored.

    She was saying: Let’s be worthless parasites living large on massive theft from the truly productive people. But we’ll call our vapid, ugly schemes by pretty names, and use that ideology to cloak our true gutter nature. The celebrity architect is perhaps a perfect distillation of that. Always whining about those insects, er, “humans” messing up his cosmic projects with their filthy wants and needs and such. But he sure wants to steal the wealth only we create.

    1. Ignim Brites

      “It’s the Northeast which should secede.” Right On! Secession is the new Revolution. Power to my People. Who are?

    2. Cedric Regula

      Yes, yes AZ certainly is a kooky place when you listen NEsters describe it. After moving here from CA it’s entertaining to listen to the insights from foreign lands, and now some of our kooky politicians are suggesting they may disagree with the federal government’s interpretation of the US Constitution, but instead of being one of the cool kids, they are branded confederates embarking on Civil War 2.0.

      Some highlights of AZ’s shady, revolutionary background:

      Post 911 we became know as the stupid state that trained 911 pilots right under the nose of the FBI.

      A year ago we became Nazis for passing a law enabling police to request proof of citizenship documentation.

      We have a drug war on the AZ-Mexico border which also happens to be the US-Mexico border. Both Bush and Obama deployed our AZ National Guard to Iraq.

      McCain ran for President and was branded Bush III. Obama ran on the “change” platform, won, and changed into Bush III.

      Somehow we have become known as a welfare state???

      This is how it happens:

      Per census data our “federal spending” per population ratio is slightly BELOW the national average. Median household income is somewhat below the national average, so maybe federal tax receipts are as well. If this is the problem, then we have to conclude that AZ screwed up when they wrote Federal IRS tax law.

      But then we might want to see where the “federal spending” goes. We have a lot of US military bases, and some sizable defense contractors. We have a lot of indian reservations, but we gave all them casinos so maybe that helps. We have a lot of Federal park land. We also have a lot of old people migrating here from other states whom spent their “productive” life in other states and now uselessly reside in AZ collecting social security and medicare. We have lots of migrant snow birds whom expect roads and airports to be in good shape for their arrival.

      We don’t have sand deserts. The stuff is some sort of dirt good enough to grow mesquite trees.

      We have aquifers and one bank of the Colorado river.

      We have First Solar, and most NEsters believe First Solar will save the World!

      So keep up the entertaining commentary, NEsters.

        1. MikeJ

          I never understood why people would leave the parts of the country where all the water is because it’s cold, only to settle in the desert and waste a bunch of water making their housing subdivisions look like a suburb in Ohio.

          1. Cedric Regula

            The vast majority don’t. We have desert landscaping which is red and white gravel, rocks, a mesquite or palos verde tree, and maybe an irrigation drip on a timer for a flower bed or some thirstier kind of bush. You can buy a house next to a golf course and from one side of the house see a sort of a deforested version of Ohio with naked mountains behind, but it will cost you. The really good part is we keep our snow on very high mountain tops, which is much more civilized than the way it’s done in Ohio.

          2. JTFaraday

            “The vast majority don’t. We have desert landscaping which is red and white gravel, rocks, a mesquite or palos verde tree, and maybe an irrigation drip on a timer for a flower bed or some thirstier kind of bush.”

            Meanwhile, here in NJ, in the enlightened northeast, we’re busy fertilizing the Barnegat Bay:


        1. Cedric Regula

          We need to get rid of those.

          Our golf course per capita is a little misleading. Our full time per capita is only 6.5M. Golf courses is another service we provide for fureners and conventioneers.

          I hope we can keep the golf courses, but water is our Achilles heel.

        1. Cedric Regula

          Wasn’t aware of that, but nevertheless, much of the water goes to the CA side. They irrigate lots of farms in SE CA.

          1. Cedric Regula

            OK, looked it up on a map. It takes a sharp turn towards CO and cuts across the NW corner of AZ for about 200 miles. Forgot about that part, even tho I have been to the Grand Canyon(rather off the beaten path).

  2. rjs

    Droughts, Floods and Food Paul Krugman, New York Times versus Yes, world food prices are higher because of speculation Clouded Outlook

    alice cook’s argument falls apart when she suggests: “a speculator can take out a loan at 1 percent, buy a few tonnes of wheat at $200, stash them away in a warehouse and sell them six months later at $325. Does that not sound like a familiar wheeze?”

    when in fact it has been governments from india to indonesia entering the market to buy stockpiles of rice and wheat…

    a whole different animal than she suggests…

  3. Ina Deaver

    Thank you for that article on UK Uncut: I feel a little better about facing my week. I think it is likely we’ll have to see the final cuts on the ground before people will mobilize: our austerity programs are not fully in place yet, despite the fact that they have been stealth-implemented for a long time now. Being able to make that concrete connection between kids with no school lunch and Rupert Murdoch is a really powerful tool.

    But I hope it WILL happen here. It needs to happen here.

  4. Richard Kline

    Re: Parisians vs. Gehry, god I’ve have rejected any of his bloated carbuncles on _aesthetic grounds_. Paris has seen enough to know a fraud when he wheels his reputation into town and drops a load. Aside from his Bilbao one-off, which I’m convinced was an unrepeatable accident, I’ve never liked Gehry’s work.

    We’ve got Santiago Calatrava, Isozaki Arata, Zaha Hadid, and Daniel Libeskind practicing now, many at the height of their talents; or, say, Ranzo Piano, Imre Makovecz, or Massimiliano Fuksas still around. Given that kind of talent, I’m forever astounded that Gehry gets a major commission. —Or not: he specializes in vanity projects for the ultra-rich, where the ‘designer’ label matters more than the coprolite pulsing with the luminescene of artistic decomposition inflicted on one urbis after another. There’s always another moneyed fool basking to be photograhed next to Gehry, so he’ll go on grinding out his excrudesences till he drops.

    1. J

      I’m not familiar with his full body of work,
      but egads, the Stata Center at MIT threatens
      to make the eyes bleed, and insults any sense
      of engineering aesthetics, to boot. I’d fire
      anybody on the spot who even proposed such a
      thing. Plus, near as I can tell, it’s not
      exactly a nice building to work in, with lots
      of useless space, since equipment doesn’t
      come in crazy angles that happen to fit just
      so in a place with arbitrary geometry.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      He did make very cool cardboard furniture (I owned some and sold it at a tidy profit) and his fish lamps are very nice (but even 25 years ago, way beyond what I could afford).

    3. Richard Kline

      In one sense, I’m being too harsh on Gehry. And aesthetic assessments are heavily weighted toward personal rather than universal harmonies. Gehry does have a clever sense of design, and I’ll admit to seeing more of it in his earlier work. And, in the comment of my sister on his work, Gehry explicitly shows that the skin of a modern building is artificial to the point of a matter of whim since not load-bearing.

      What of it, though? I find Gehry’s use of space blindingly ugly and bordering on the incoherent. This is a perception widely shared by the public at large, I might add; calling them philistines for having a different sense of form is fatuous. Gehry’s designs clash violently with their sites and other structures, deliberately so in their use of color quite apart from their structural parameters. They had a deserved reputation for wasted and difficult interior spaces, exactly as J says, and some of them need excessive maintenence because their construction makes them inefficient. Gehry’s buildings are conceits more than they are designs. If architecture is about an intersection of space, function, and engineering, Gehry’s designs seem to me all about bending these to the whim of one ego, are explicitly ‘inorganic’ in conception.

      I see Gehry’s designs as ephemeral jokes. Now, there is a good sense and a bad sense to that assessment. If you can secure professional success spending nine figures of other peoples money to make huge and often flatulent jokes on artistic and functional expectations, I’ll bet it’s a hoot. One may notice though that he gets little in the way of public commissions, but relies on billionares to conspire in his practical jokes on the surrounding public. I’d rather have a beautiful building which would last 500 years. A different conception of value . . . .

  5. russell1200

    Krugman is blaming global warming to a degree. But I think he would do better looking at the erosion of the wheat surplus over the last few decades versus increasing world population and wealth.

    A thin tight market of course allows a lot of room for speculation. Much harder to corner a market with a surplus.

    1. Whelks

      I could normally understand the thin margins argument. It was certainly used to explain the last spike, with claims of crop failures. Except it turned out to be a record year for harvests and only Australia had suffered from drought. Krugman is using the poor harvest argument this time, but it doesn’t explain what happened last time.

      To me it seems obvious that when the markets began to wobble investors went desperately in search of anything that could give a decent return for their money. As commodities had been under mild but sustained price pressure it became very easy to buy into the narrative of impending shortages. And so money flowed into the sector, and others saw the prices rise and wanted a piece of the action too. The end result was a market that was very speculative and not built on fundamentals. A bubble was born.

      And note also the bubble was across the board in commodities. You would expect many commodities to still be available in large enough quantities to keep prices depressed.

      1. Robert Dudek

        More dollars means more dollars needing to find a home. A bunch of them found it in various commodities. This is MOST of the explanation.

  6. Jim the Skeptic

    Vision: Everyday Brits Are in Revolt Against Wealthy Tax Cheats — Can We Do That Here?

    My favorite line from the article: “Toward the end of the last Labour government, officials increased the top tax rate to 50 percent. (This is still far short of the 90 percent levied on US taxpayers by President Eisenhower, during the biggest boom in American history.)”

    So I am not the only one to notice that high taxes on the rich do not have the negative effect that the rich claim.

    My 2nd favorite: “On a more prosaic level, many countries have integrated into their law something called a General Anti-Avoidance Principle, which stipulates that any act contrary to the spirit of the nation’s tax laws is illegal. It slams shut most loopholes overnight.”

    Of course we would have to overthow the US Supreme Court which is in bed with the oligarchy.

    And how about this: ”Indeed, tax expert Nicholas Shaxson says that in many ways “America itself is a tax haven for many rich people.”

    We have become a tax haven and the price is that this country cannot provide the universally available medical care that the rest of the developed world considers the norm.

    Most of all, I really like this idea of protests.

    It is obvious that politicians have acted the same way here that they are acting in the UK. They ignore the problem as long as the public is not in a complete uproar. So, the public will have to create an uproar. And nothing says uproar like shutting a store down for a few hours or days!

    And the whistle was a stroke of true genious. Schedule the protest, blow the whistle and congregate around the cash registers. If you got a crowd then stay, if not just walk away! Absolutely brilliant! After a few of these demonstrations just blowing the whistle would cause shoppers to wonder if this store was run by crooks!

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Everyone must must must read Treasure Island when it comes out in the US. I was lucky enough to be asked to blurb it, which mean I read it in galleys, and it is a super important book as well as very readable.

  7. JTM

    Clouded Outlook does not answer Krugman’s essential point, which is that there is no evidence of hoarding. They provide no such evidence, just speculation, about speculation.

    But very cute, calling Krugman as “supply-sider”.

    1. attempter

      Why not? He’s been one of the worst globalization ideologues, supports the Bailout, supports corporatism in general, was hack number one shilling for the health racket bailout…

      It looks like he never met a corporate thug “solution” he didn’t like. (Well, he didn’t like the war when it was Bush’s war. But he doesn’t seem to mind it so much now that it’s Obama’s war. A corporate war whose benefits are going to start trickling down from all those Pentagon and State contracts any day now…sounds pretty supply-side to me, just like all of Krugman’s other beloved corporatist assaults.)

  8. ChrisTiburon


    No surprise here. HuffingtonPost was great a first and then it degenerated into mostly political celebrity gossip and then the inevitable slide into what degenerate film star was seen with whom wherever, lesbian marriage etc.
    There are still a few interesting political articles there if you can machete your way through the untergrowth.

    I really like this site. No slick graphics, just always slightly out of reach and therefore educational information and text based comments with the honor and decency to link to other more specific sites off to the right.

  9. Jackrabbit

    “Revealed: US envoy’s business link to Egypt” brought to mind today’s NYT’ article about Mubarak (Prizing Status Quo, Mubarak Resists Pressure to Resign).

    NYT coverage has not been all bad, but this seemed flawed in many ways, especially as there was no mention of the great wealth that Mubarak and his crony’s have accumulated during Mubarak’s 30 years in power. A more skeptical press might question how Mubarak and/or his crony’s, might benefit financially from his remaining 6 months as power-broker instead of lauding Mubarack’s conservative nature.

  10. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Puzzle du jou.

    Our body’s defense, the immune system, it works without our conscious being aware of it. It has an unlimited budget from our body, but it’s honest, that is, it doesn’t ask the body for weapons the body can’t afford. It’s a true defense system in that it doesn’t invade another body’s immune system, it doesn’t war on others.

    Can a nation’s defense be like that? So honest that the people of the nation don’t need to know anything about it consciously and so honest that it doens’t ask for exotic weapons the nation can’t afford? Truly defensive that it doesn’t invade another nation?

    Yes, sometimes a person has to kill a lion, a rat or another human to survive, but that’s a conscious effort and the entire body is engaged. That’s would be like the whole nation is consciously aware and engaged in going to war with another nation.

    So, who is smater – Mother Nature or humans?

    1. paper mac

      “Our body’s defense, the immune system, it works without our conscious being aware of it. It has an unlimited budget from our body, but it’s honest, that is, it doesn’t ask the body for weapons the body can’t afford. It’s a true defense system in that it doesn’t invade another body’s immune system, it doesn’t war on others.

      Can a nation’s defense be like that? So honest that the people of the nation don’t need to know anything about it consciously and so honest that it doens’t ask for exotic weapons the nation can’t afford? Truly defensive that it doesn’t invade another nation?”

      Not a great analogy. The human immune system, while necessary for survival, pretty routinely maims or kills the body in which it resides, either by misidentifying its enemy or by overreacting to it. It is also a thoroughly totalitarian security system. “Immune surveillance” is no joke- T cells literally have the ability to order other cells to commit suicide. It’s also worth noting that the only reason the immune system is able to detect such a wide range of pathogens, toxicants, etc is due to a combinatorial system which produces B cells able to detect thousands of different threats, in essence collecting information from thousands of different sources. The immune system has a lot in common with the kind of brutal panopticon security regimes we see sprouting up all over the world.

  11. vlade

    Re UKUncut.
    While in general I sympathize with them, I believe that the problem of cuts and tax avoiders are orthogonal.

    The reason being that I quite a bit of first and second hand experience of the huge inefficiencies in the UK public services – it really wastes huge amounts of money that could be better spent elsewhere.

    If you are a business, you tend to know that throwing money at a problem indiscriminately tends to be the most expensive solution – if it even solves the problem. Unfortunately, that is what the Rust Chancellor (=Gordon Brown) did for quite a while.

    That said, the way lots of cuts in the UK are made just doesn’t make sense. There’s some drive to get rid of the dead wood, but it’s incredibly hard to even identify who the dead wood is in the first place…

  12. Hugh

    Krugman always opts for the supply-demand explanation over unbridled speculation. If memory serves, he did it during the 2007 oil spike and only belatedly admitted that speculation might have played some part in it. About that time too, there was similar price speculation in staples like rice that led to riots in various countries. He’s just playing the same tune again. I often say to understand Krugman you need to see him as a card-carrying member of the Establishment. He may criticize its policies here and there but he is never going to question its legitimacy. This kind of pure speculation divorced from price discovery, indeed antithetical to it, is another form of elite looting, i.e. kleptocracy. Krugman can’t call it that or accept that it exists because such an admission would undercut the Establishment which has given him his honors, money, and prestige.

    That’s why even though Democrats and Republicans are virtually identical on policy he plays the game of look at those crazy Republicans, good thing we have these sensible Democrats, why he will talk depression in one columen and praise Obama and Bernanke in the next, or why he will begin a scathing criticism but stop it just short of indicting the whole system. He has done this again and again. This column is just another example of it.

    1. attempter

      Some examples of the real Thugman:

      A globalization manifesto, “In Praise of Low Wages”

      Here’s another one goofing on the Seattle protests and praising factory farms among other things:

      And he recently assured us that corporate power is not a problem, just a few (Republican) bad apples:

      That’s similar to his whitewashing of speculators, biofuel mandates, IMF-ordered degradation of agricultural investment, and other critical reasons for the new stagflation.

      Then there’s his post from last spring where he proclaimed that there’s no such thing as class war. “I don’t think you can resort to class war explanations” for austerity, was his exact quote. I didn’t have that link immediately available but can fetch it if anyone wants it.

      Krugman’s a criminal. One of the worst.

      1. Cilly

        You moron. Krugman is not defending corporations in the last piece. He is pointing out that we have moved past the faceless borg corporation to the narcissistic, greedy, celebrity CEO as being the primary culprit.

        1. attempter

          Um, that’s what I just said – he wants to misdirect attention away from structural analysis and toward personalizing a few bad apples.

          But since we can see how well that misdirection has worked on your level of intellect, I’ll leave it to the reader to recognize the moron here.

    2. Cynthia

      Krugman was wrong when he claimed that the surge in commodities prices back in the summer of 2008 was largely driven by supply and demand, so I’m not so sure why he think he’s right this time that the surge in commodities prices is again being driven by supply and demand.

      More often that not, history repeats itself, especially when nothing was done to change the course of history, as is the case with today’s economy as it relates to the shadowy world of market speculation. From this I gather that a speculative bubble is forming in the commodities market, as it did back in the summer of 2008. And no doubt that Ben’s double dose of quantitative easing has added even more hot air to this bubble.

      Assuming I’m right on this, the question we should all be asking is: when the commodities bubble starts to crash and burn again, where will all of these speculators flee to safety? Before they fled to the dollar. But since the dollar isn’t looking so safe these days, all bets are off as to where they’ll flee to.

      I suspect they’ll flee to the underworld economy where there is still a lot of profits to be made in all things illegal — anything from drugs, sex and human organs to gambling, firearms, and cyber crimes. Then they can hook up with the banksters to help them launder their illegally earned profits. The banksters have proven time and time again to be experts at putting a clean face on dirty profits.

      1. Cedric Regula

        Nobody knows anything until someone orders the commodity exchanges to do a study and determine what percentage of contracts are end users vs. intermediaries(speculators).

        After the 2008 oil run this happened and I read the result was 80% speculative contracts and the two biggest players were…tada… Goldman and some large swiss hedge fund.

        Then we also know that institutional investors buy commodity ETFs, hard and soft, because these are now considered an “asset class”. (pass the rice asset, please, dear)

        Then we started finding out oil supertankers were really being used as storage containers and sitting in port with no end users.

        But even this approach gives a foggy picture because ICE in Britain is a very large exchange as well. We also know end users in developing countries are stockpiling and the Chinese government has a big hole in the ground and they are filling it with oil instead of buying all of Timmay’s and Ben’s treasury bonds.

        As far as Krugman following the markets, first things first. A while back I left a comment on his site suggesting that he should stop reading econ books because that stuff will rot your mind. I recommended taking up sci-fi novels instead and gave a list of authors to try. Charles Stross was one and, believe it or not, recently Krugman posted a excited blog about what a great sci-fi author Charles was and that he now comments on Charles’ blog!. He then went on to critique some economic position Charles used (Charles was wrong, of course), which I took as a minor relapse, but maybe Krugman is on the path to slow but steady recovery.

        So that’s my contribution to the science of economics.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I want your sci fi book list! I barely have time to read books anymore, but I read a lot of the classics (including but not limited to Bester, Asimov, Ellison, Spinrad, Clarke, Dick, Herbert) when I was a kid, and more recently Vinge and Stephenson (Gibson does not float my boat but Pattern Recognition was pretty good).

          1. Cedric Regula

            Sure! One of my favorite things to do is recommend sci-fi and speculative fiction since Stephenson and Dan Simmons are two of my contemporary fans and refuse to be pigeonholed into just the sci-fi space.

            Looks like we had the same childhood reading list, and Stephenson wrote circles around Gibson when he came out with Snow Crash.

            Since I tend to sleep at night and be awake during the day, I’ll put together my top list tomorrow and post it here.

  13. Max424

    YS: “I’d rather have the trees.”

    “If you’ve seen one tree, you’ve seen them all.”

    Have any dumber words ever been spoken?

    There’s a medieval-looking willow that sits in the valley on the corner of a dogleg on the first hole of my old town course; and no matter where you go off the first tee, that willow impedes progress.

    Well, I don’t think I’ve ever played the hole where someone in the group isn’t stuck behind the willow so bad, he has no other option than to kick out sideways. You can be middle-of-the-fairway, 75 yards back, but the big willow is so awesome and majestic — blotting out the damn sun and the green — you still gotta kick out sideways.

    More often than not, the player in that situation (and a dozen times that player has been me) bellows to no one in particular; “I swear I’m coming back tonight with a chainsaw and cuttin’ that evil motherf+cker down!” And everybody in the group guffaws and snickers and secretly wishes maybe he should do just that.

    But three years back, we had a once in a millenium ice storm that caught the autumn trees with their leaves still on, and it killed or mutilated the innocent green bastards by the millions. And the one the first things I did when I got the chance, I drove by the old course to see if my willow had made it through. Peering down the valley, it was clear something resembling a logging operation was under way. Saws barked and roared, and everywhere big machines piled broken and dead trees across the fairways as high as boxcars. But there on the corner of one was the evil willow — heavy bowed by ice sure but seemingly not that much worse for wear.

    Now I have to admit, seeing that bent but enduring willow created one of those little tug of the heart string moments. But, as always, when I’m looking at a tree, or just thinking about trees in general, the name “Ronald Reagan” popped in my brain — oozed and festered — and ruined everything.

  14. lorac

    Living in Seattle and suffering the Gehry monstrosity called the EMP (Experience Music Project), I think that Parisians are right.

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