Links 4/16/11


    1. Max424

      No, it’s real. Squirrels pick flowers for their truelove all the time.

      What we’re looking at, is a just another lovestruck suitor.

      1. rjs

        max424, its a chipmunk, and they often pick possible edibles up…the little critters always grab my nearly ripe strawberries & run with them…so that flower might have developing seeds that it could eat…

        1. Max424

          My bad. It is indeed a chipmunk.

          Still, I say it’s just another dude hoping not to shot down. I mean, look at him. He doesn’t look too confident. I think he’s thinking, “I should have splurged, gone with the dozen long stemmed. She’s gonna take one look at this pathetic offering and tell me to quit stalking her.”

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I am sure there are readers who are allergic to animals and there are some who, by choice, prefer only vegetable antidotes, either everyday of the week, randomly or on certain day(s) of the week, like say, Saturday.

      I hope, one day, change will come.

      Hope for change…

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          People forget but once we worshipped tomato, broccoli and other powerful vegetable gods and goddesses alongside crocodile, dragon and other animal gods and goddesses.

          There’s nothing wrong with desiring cute vegetable photos. Lets be progressive about this.

    3. KFritz

      Upscale grocery stores sell zucchini flowers as food. They’re orange as I recall. Why wouldn’t chipmunks eat flowers?

    4. F. Beard

      My brother and I climbed Pike’s Peak. We sat down to rest at a picnic table. A chipmunk ran up my brother’s chest and stole a cigarette from him! I remember he took it right out of his mouth but my brother claims he took it out of his pocket. Anyway my brother was mad but I thought it was a hoot.

  1. Rex

    Yesterday’s “Too Much Finance?” post got me thinking back.

    In the early 90’s I remember I had to jump ship on a couple credit cards I had held for a decade or so because they had been gobbled up by bigger fish and were starting to treat me less as a client and more as a monetary milking cow. Fees, penalties, interest hikes, etc.

    This was one of the early symptoms I began to notice. It came in parallel with the early disease of dismemberment and off-shoring of the core of viable, creative companies.

    Years later I discovered the identity of one of the innovative financial wizards who killed my credit cards. Meet Andrew Kahr…

    Chilling stuff in that interview, a trivial example…

    Q: So you and I, if we pay our bills off at the end of every month, the bank isn’t really making any money on us?

    A: If we always pay them off on time every month, then we’re not profitable card customers.

    Shades of the stuff that was tried and proven later at Enron and then cleaned up, safety belts attached, and became the economy from 2000 till now.

    So back to Andrew Kahr, the credit card genius. Did you see his picture on the Frontline page? I knew he reminded me of someone and I figured out who. This guy…

    Perhaps it is no coincidence that the younger people, today, are fond of watching shows about his kin. They are running our world.

    1. Dean Sayers

      Frontline has some damn good investigative journalism. Anyone know of Lowell Bergman., the journalist that helped expose the big 7 tobacco giants? Movie “The Insider” was about him & Jeff Wigand. He does Frontline eps now. Recently saw his one documenting graft between S. Arabian royalty, a luxury firm and US/UK gov’t. Interestingly, laws governing whistle-blower protection and transparency were fought for in Switzerland by the US – and the US has also been a pioneer in breaking these same agreements down.

    2. skippy

      Thanks, I’ve been looking for that video for a long time.

      Skippy…loan bar dropping with limited individual balance exposure and over due /fee based income flows.

      Skippy…It worked so well for T1 bonuses that they went after the housing market. Easter Island trees comes to mind.

  2. rjs

    re: Coverage of Levin-Coburn Report

    Matt Taibbi: “Justice Department Has No Appetite To Take ANY Cases Against Wall Street Executives”

    Anderson Cooper: Eliot Spitzer, Matt Taibbi and Carl Levin go after Goldman Sachs (video)

    i think taibbi’s analogy of a car dealer selling cars with defective breaks and then buying life insurance on the drivers was as close to the truth as i’ve heard yet..

    1. craazyman


      great interview.

      Eliot Spitzer is completely rehabilitated in my book. I say unleash him and let him go at it!


      I never had a problem with massage parlors anyway, so I’m not one to judge. LOL.

  3. Jim Haygood

    ‘Everything that I did to demonstrate problems with [Universal Travel] could be done without visiting China – and yet the stock was never suspended, kicked to the Pink Sheets or anything else. Nah – the NYSE kept collecting listing fees. The NYSE it seems has no concern for its reputation.’ — Bronte Capital

    By far the largest NYSE listing scandal occurred in connection with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, after they ceased financial reporting several years ago. As I recall, in Fannie Mae’s case a team of 1,200 accountants descended like locusts to scour the books and retroactively restate earnings. During their Sisyphean ascent of the paperwork mountain, Fannie Mae went into radio silence, skipping one quarterly report after another.

    But NOTHING HAPPENED. The GSEs kept trading on the NYSE, flying blind with no current financials available … until their insolvent penny-stock shells ended up being rescued by the US Treasury, at an ongoing cost approaching $200 billion. How were fiduciaries such as pension funds able to hold securities from companies with no current financials?

    Given that the GSEs were Congressionally chartered companies, neck deep in lobbying, one might suspect that political influence helped retain their NYSE listings, despite their glaring disqualification.

    Today the U.S. ‘justice’ system is prosecuting online poker sites for the victimless crime of ‘money laundering.’ But the enormous Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac scams, large enough to systemically rock the financial system, have gone unpunished. Corruption runs deep, evidently.

  4. financial matters

    Keeping the options open.. At least Congress is talking about these things..

    Skimpy Coverage of Levin-Coburn Report From WSJ, NYT Ryan Chittum, Columbia Journalism Review

    That Senator Carl Levin, who chairs the subcommittee that released the report, wants to refer Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and other Goldman executives to the Justice Department for prosecution for lying to Congress and for defrauding investors

    The committee found that Goldman invested $6 million in the equity slice. Meanwhile, Levin said, it bet “more than 300 times more” — $2 billion — against the deal.

    WaMu selected delinquency-prone loans for sale in order to move risk from the banks’ books to the investors in WaMu securities

  5. Philip Pilkington

    Here’s an interesting article on monopoly and competition in 21st century capitalism:

    I’ve been thinking about this rather a lot recently, after reading Steve Keen on the idea that even firms in non-monopolistic markets tend to price their goods in line with the model that economists reserve for oligopoly.

  6. Philip Pilkington

    As for that article on language universalis (the link to which is incorrect, by the way…):

    “A study reported in Nature has borrowed methods from evolutionary biology to trace the development of grammar in several language families.

    The results suggest that features shared across language families evolved independently in each lineage.

    The authors say cultural evolution, not the brain, drives language development.”

    Well now… the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze and the French psychoanalyst Felix Guattari said this years ago. From their 1980 book ‘A Thousand Plateaus’:

    “A semiotic chain is like a tuber agglomerating very diverse acts, not only linguistic, but also perceptive, mimetic, gestural and cognitive: there is no language in itself, nor are there any linguistic universals, only a throng of dialects, patois, slangs and specialized languages….. Language stabalizes around a parish, a bishopric, a capital.” (p. 8)

    1. craazyman

      “A semiotic chain is like a tuber agglomerating very diverse acts, not only linguistic, but also perceptive, mimetic, gestural and cognitive: there is no language in itself, nor are there any linguistic universals, only a throng of dialects, patois, slangs and specialized languages….. Language stabalizes around a parish, a bishopric, a capital.” (p. 8)

      I’ll give this quote the WTF Award for incomprehensibility.

      Must be a local linguistical phemomenon.

      1. hmm

        A Thousand Plateaus is an experimental text, very very playful, and it looks very really strange without context. It’s a great read though. This video breaks down the oddity of metaphors and concepts in that quote:

        Deleuze and Guattari try to present a non-hierarchical, heavily materialist theory of language in the chapter the quote is from, so they investigate the relationship of different dialects within individual languages as they developed geographically (hence the tuber metaphor) to show that grammars are much too dynamic and complex to express in a systematic hierarchy. They talk a good deal about major and minor languages. What your English teacher tried to cram in to your brain as “proper” grammar would generally be the major language, of which they essential accuse Chomsky of not looking outside in his linguistic work. What language “should” be rather than how it is actually used, in a sense.

  7. Hugh

    There was some truly epic linguistic work done in the 1800s many of them Germans, like the Brothers Grimm of fairy tale fame. Then the field went quiet until Chomsky, yes the liberal political critic, revolutionized the field back in the 1950s with a formal approach that was rule-driven and based on language universals. I always thought that Chomsky’s main contribution was not his theory but the focus it brought to the study of all the world’s languages. The theory part was always creaky. But it and its practitioners had a massively dominant position in the field. It is both funny and ironic that Chomsky the champion of the left who railed against the ideological rigidities of the right should have presided over such a rigidly ideological paradigm in linguistics. There have been attempts to challenge Chomskyan linguistics from time to time within the formal mold but most of these, in substance, varied only marginally from the Chomskyan core. The real challenges to Chomskyan linguistics have always been in pragmatics/speech act and historical linguistics. They just don’t fit into the Chomskyan paradigm no matter how much they have been forced to, that is how people actually speak and how languages change over time. The result is that their importance has been demoted and marginalized within the field. If you want a comparison, think of non neo-classical economics in academia and the political and financial spheres.

    So in one sense I am sympathetic to those questioning language universals, but, although the details are skimpy, the methodology they are using to challenge them is appalling. It rather looks like another case of those bought up within the Chomskyan paradigm challenging it without really being able to think beyond it.

    1. Philip Pilkington

      Eh… dunno about any of that. The 18th century German school — of which Nietzsche was a part — was that of philology, not linguistics. Port-Royale grammar was much closer to modern linguistics, especially in the Chomskyian variety — that was a French innovation in the 17th century:

      Linguistics, in its modern form came into being at the beginning of the 20th century with the pioneering work of Ferdinand de Saussure — who is conspicuously absent from your account. Saussure primarily focused not on the history of words — which was what the philologists were keen on — but on the way they interact with one another.

      Chomsky — who is an anarchist, not a liberal — then innovated by turning linguistics back to the study of grammar.

      As for the critics of Chomsky, many of them are a dubious bunch — behaviorists, for example, whose entire psychology is based on the most shaky logical and philosophical grounds (read Chomsky’s excellent essay on BF Skinner). The European critics were far more astute — but they’re generally ignored outside the English departments, which is unfortunate.

      1. Philip Pilkington

        Here’s the Chomsky article on Skinner for anyone interested. It’s not the easiest read, but it’s very good. Chomsky shows how Skinner’s theories are based on a misuse of language.

        This is extremely important regarding the emergence of Behavioral Economics. While I have yet to see any research in this field that runs up against the very serious problems that Skinner ran into, the possibility is — due to this research using essentially the same framework as Skinner — constantly on the horizon.

      2. Hugh

        Actually when I was talking about critics of Chomsky I was thinking more along the long lines of head-driven phrase structure grammar.

        I have never accepted these artificial distinctions between philology and linguistics. Philology is linguistics, just on the historical side. And as I said, the tendency in modern formal linguistics is to devalue this because it cannot be made to fit into their schema, a point which historical linguists tend to make. As for de Saussure, he comes very much out of the historical tradition, but his ideas hardly had the effect of the German historical linguists before him or Chomsky after him.

        1. Hugh

          I should add that de Saussure did have a big impact outside of linguistics in laying the foundations for structuralism and inside linguistics by his successors in the area of phonology. But again a lot of this was inherent in the work of the historical linguists who preceded him. There is a kind of contradiction, to be sure, between his linguistics which were synchronic and their historical foundations, but that contradiction lies with de Saussure, not me.

        2. Philip Pilkington

          “I was thinking more along the long lines of head-driven phrase structure grammar…”

          “As for de Saussure… his ideas hardly had the effect of the German historical linguists before him or Chomsky after him.”

          De Saussure had a major impact on HDPSG — specifically in its conception of the sign. De Saussure’s work also had a major impact in Europe — on philosophy, psychology, literary theory, anthropology etc. As I said, in the Anglosphere it’s hard to find this outside of the English department and that’s unfortunate — but nevertheless the influence is there… in a huge way.

          “Philology is linguistics, just on the historical side”

          That doesn’t matter to what I was arguing. I pointed out that the Chomskyian study of grammar bears more similarities to Port-Royale than to the German philologists — I believe Chomsky himself has recognised this.

          “And as I said, the tendency in modern formal linguistics is to devalue this because it cannot be made to fit into their schema…”

          Yes, that does follow. Chomsky’s analysis shares the rigidity of the Port-Royale.

          Still, your historical overview wasn’t sufficient. This is what I was really criticising. For example:

          “There was some truly epic linguistic work done in the 1800s many of them Germans, like the Brothers Grimm of fairy tale fame. Then the field went quiet until Chomsky…”

          That’s just untrue. Not have you left out de Saussure — who is certainly NOT the minor figure you seem to think him — but it leaves out ALL the structural linguists; Jakobson and Hjelmslev come to mind…

          Chomsky’s work was a critique of this type of linguitics — so to think that linguistics just disappeared between the philologists and him is just plain wrong.

          1. Hugh

            There are hills and there are vallies in the history of linguistics. The German historical linguists and Chomsky were high points. You may like to fill in the valley between them with Bloomfield and the Prague School and, of course, de Saussure but the first half of the twentieth century was just not a great period in linguistics. I would say much the same for the last 20 years, depsite the proliferation of ancillary linguistic fields.

            ginnie nyc, I’m really not sure what you mean. Generativists dominate most American university departments. Even among his detractors there are few who were not heavily influenced by his work. I haven’t followed this field closely for a while but I know of no serious alternatives that have come along. Indeed the BBC article that started all this looks like a pretty tentative challenge to the established Chomskyan orthodoxy. In general, you don’t go around feeling the need to challenge orthodoxies if you have already overthrown them so I’m thinking the Chomskyan orthodoxy is still very much in place. It certainly was when I did follow the field closely.

        3. ginnie nyc

          I think you are underestimating, or misunderstanding, the extent of de Saussure’s influence. Most of Chomsky’s teachers (at UPenn) were Saussurian structuralists. Chomsky’s effort was to rebel against, or disprove, de Saussure. I think he succeeded, but he himself stands alone in the field; outside of the US, Chomsky the linguist is respected but has few followers.

  8. craazyman

    The story on the Aborigines and uranium shows how it’s possible to apprehend the essence of things by simple forms of mental telepathy.

    They were able to channel the nature spirits and receive direct perception of just what power and danger uranium possesses. But they also encounter the trickster aspect of the nature spirits, the same that chained Prometheus to the cliffs. Because it did not give them the entire truth about uranium. And so that proves that the nature spirits are real and fully alive.

    It’s a scientific fact that many cultures receive knowledge directly from plants. So people can actually commmunicate with plants.

    I think everyone possesses these abilities as natural phenomenon, sort of like electric eels possess the ability to produce electricity.

    But the aborigines are a fascinating and very enlightened people in many respects. It shows their spiritual maturity that they’d turn down the riches just so the uranium stays in the ground and they get to keep their creeks and streams the way Nature made them.

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