Links 4/30/11

Pigs have ‘evolved to love mud’ BBC

Why an ancient symbol of love is heading for an unhappy ending Independent (hat tip Buzz Potamkin)

Why Is Damning New Evidence About Monsanto’s Most Widely Used Herbicide Being Silenced? AlterNet (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

DOJ: FBI digital counterintelligence weakened by focus on child porn IT World

Nude dancers successfully sue ‘exotic gentlemen’s club’ over minimum wage McClatchy

Quotas and women-only shortlists aren’t popular, but they work Guardian. I’m not a fan but am prepared to hear the counter-arguments (after all, there IS a reason I blog under a man’s name!)

McCain, Graham, Lieberman and the Congressional Assassination Caucus McClatchy (hat tip Buzz Potamkin)

Dynastic lessons from the familiar Windsor flourish Simon Schama, Financial Times

Powerful Women as Likely to Cheat as Men, Study Finds Bloomberg. “Powerful” or financially independent? I wonder if there is confirmation bias in this study but have not tracked it down.

What I learned in econ grad school NoahOpinion (hat tip reader John M)

Protesters drive Koran-burning pastor out of Michigan Raw Story

Union busting in Massachusetts?!? My Left Nutmeg

Lloyd Blankfein, John Mack, Dan Loeb Et Al Sign Marriage Equality Letter DealBreaker

The Party’s Over for Buffett Joe Nocera, New York Times

Thrivent sues lenders for ‘massive frauds’ Star Tribune (hat tip reader Hillary)

A Reversal for Real Estate After Some Mild Gains Floyd Norris, New York Times

Scheme: Grow Pot, Avoid Foreclosure CBS Denver (hat tip Lisa Epstein)

Antidote du jour:

Screen shot 2011-04-30 at 2.50.55 AM

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  1. craazyman


    Strange moments of the mind this morning. Strange disconnects from the familiar stream of knowing. I never thought “Yves Smith” was a man. Never. Never gave a shti one way or the other. Always thought of “Yves” like “Eve”, a woman’s name, like people I’ve known, made me think of a soft autumn evening and diamond-like city lights , and limousines, stepping out of a black car into a black-tie party, trailing a gown of some kind, heading for the cocktail bar and intelligent talk of summer sailing and world affairs. This channeling hit me within a second or two. I wasn’t all that far off, although it was the usual channeled mix of signal and noise. It takes real signal discrimination to separate the two. I’m not that discriminating so I usually rough it out, right or wrong. I don’t think anyone really cares anymore who’s a man or a woman, unless its time to do some real business and then that’s all that matters. Otherwise, who gives a flying you know what. LOL.

    re: what I learned in grad school
    I get the uncomfortable feeling that economics is a natural branch of contemporary analysis (CA), which I’ve described as the study of reality through the perception and analysis of the structural relation of energetic metaphors. CA produces descriptive imagery similar to drawing and painting and probabilistic assessments of future events based on chanelling from accurate holistic models of natural forces. But it is not Cartesian analysis, it doesn’t lay claim to that degree of formal predictive power, which it sees largely as limited to Newtonian physical phenomenon and simple statistical analysis of normally distributed population characteristics. So anyway. It makes me uncomfortable. Now I feel weird to have economics creeping into this tent. But if these guys realize that all they’re really doing is channeling, it might make them see the light and recognize that signal and noise are sometimes two separate variables, and that it takes a real master to channel and know the difference. LOL. Maybe there’s a class they can take somewhere, on Remote Viewing. That would be a good first step.

    1. kevin de bruxelles

      On the gender quota issue, an hilarious example of it all going wrong occurred recently in Sweden. Radical feminists, reasoning through an ideological rather than a power politics frame, demanded that gender quotas be established so that areas of study dominated by men could be brought into balance. The men said sure, only that it should work both ways and that disciplines dominated by women should also be split 50-50. The dumbass women agreed.

      The problem is that 60% of Swedish university students are women. If you are overrepresented in an area, like for example blacks in the NBA or the cornerback position in the NFL, or Jews on Wall Street or in the media, the last thing you want are quotas based on proportion of population. So sure enough, once the program was put into place, when all was said and done, and hardly any women applied for the male dominated subjects, while tons of men applied for the female-heavy fields like veterinary programmes, psychology, etc, and so in the end 95% of the affirmative action adjustments went in the favour of men.

      In response did the feminists happily applaud the implementation of the 50-50 principle that they so often sing praises to? Hell no! They sued and screamed foul that lots of lazy no-good men who refused to work hard in school were stealing places from more highly qualified women! And of course this time they were absolutely correct. So the quota system has been scrapped for the time being until they can find away to implement it in a way that only benefits women.

      1. craazyman


        I guess Larry Summers was right.

        bowaa ahaha ahahahaha ahahahahahah!

        (just kidding)

        Ecce Homo, said Fred.

    1. Jimbo

      Great piece on Ireland. Thanks.

      From the piece…

      Meanwhile, figures published by the Central Bank showed that deposits in all banks in Ireland declined by a further €16 billion in March compared to a month earlier.

      Household deposits fell by just €438 million, the smallest decline since December. In total, they stood at just below €93 billion in March.

      Total deposits, which include those of households, businesses, and financial institutions, stood at €630 billion. This is almost one-third down on August, immediately prior to the most recent bout of jitters about the banking system.

      Most of the withdrawals have been accounted for by foreigners pulling their cash out of banks here.

      I’m surprised that more Irish households haven’t pulled their money from the banks. In Argentina, many who hadn’t pulled their deposits from the banks woke up one day to the news that their dollar deposits had been converted to peso deposits on government decree.

  2. Dan

    I never could figure out what gender an “Yves” was. I just assumed it was some type of Eastern European name. But by far one of the best collections of information and commentary out in the blogosphere. I just wish you had more influence. I just wish I felt like I had more influence.

    1. Philip Pilkington

      It’s not her real name — although she is a ‘she’. Her real name is… no, I’m not going to tell you. But you don’t exactly have to root through her garbage to find out…

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        I didn’t implement them until the blog had been up a while. In retrospect, it was a response to the crisis.

        1. russell1200

          If I recall correctly, people were complaining that reading your site was too depressing, so you put in the cute pictures to shut them up.

    1. DownSouth

      Chris Hedges, in the article you linked, said:

      The body politic was mortally wounded during the long, slow strangulation of ideas and priorities during the Red Scare and the Cold War. Its bastard child, the war on terror, inherited the iconography and language of permanent war and fear. The battle against internal and external enemies became the excuse to funnel trillions in taxpayer funds and government resources to the war industry, curtail civil liberties and abandon social welfare. Skeptics, critics and dissenters were ridiculed and ignored. The FBI, Homeland Security and the CIA enforced ideological conformity.

      I think the “body politic was mortally wounded” from the very start, well before the Red Scare and the Cold War. Two historical enemies, the aristocratic Tories (Hamilton) and the oligarchic Whigs (Madison and to a lesser degree Jefferson), came together to draw up the U.S. Constitution, and the non-propertied workers were left out in the cold with no vote and no place at the table.

      Somewhere along the way labor finally got its act together. It organized, demanded, and got a place at the table. So instead of the aristocrat-oligarch duopoly having a monopoly of political power, we now had a triangle: aristocrats at one corner, the oligarchs at another and non-propertied labor at the other.

      Later the aristocrats (whose ideology evolved into neoconservatism) and the oligarchs (whose ideology evolved into neoliberalism) united under a single banner to make war on non-propertied labor, or what in today’s parlance we call “liberals.” The 18th century liberal is what we today call a neoliberal. What we call a liberal today, and the ideology which informs her, did not exist in the 18th century.

      Jacques Barzun explains what he calls liberalism’s “Great Switch” in From Dawn to Decadence:

      What Shaw and all the other publicists who agitated the social question helped to precipitate was the onset of the Great Switch. It was the pressure of Socialist ideas, and mainly the Reformed groups in parliaments and the Fabian outside, that brought it about. By Great Switch I mean the reversal of Liberalism into its opposite. It began quietly in the 1880s in Germany after Bismarck “stole the Socialists thunder”—-as observers put it—-by enacting old-age pensions and other social legislation. By the turn of the century Liberal opinion generally had come to see the necessity on all counts, economic, social, and political, to pass laws in aid of the many—-old or sick or unemployed—-who could no longer provide for themselves. Ten years into the century, the Lloyd George budget started England on the road to the Welfare State.

      Liberalism triumphed on the principle that the best government is that which governs least; now for all the western nations political wisdom has recast this ideal of liberty into liberality. The shift has thrown the vocabulary into disorder…

      The ability of the Republican Party and the Democratic Party to unite neoconservatism and neoliberalism, two ideologies entirely antithetical to each other, under a single banner represents a triumph of class interest over ideology.

      Hedges interjects the question of empire into the mix, which only adds to the complexity and confusion. Neoconservatives tend to line up in the pro-empire column, liberals in the pro-empire column, and neoliberals in the anti-empire column. The idea that labor is not nationalistic and militaristic is a pious fiction. As Hannah Arendt explains in Crises of the Republic:

      Marx may have said that the proletarian has no country; it is well known that the proletarians have never shared this point of view. The lower classes are especially susceptible to nationalism, chauvinism, and imperialistic policies. One serious split in the civil-rights movement into “black” and “white” came as a result of the war question: the white students coming from good middle-class homes at once joined the opposition, in contrast to Negroes, whose leaders were very slow in making up their minds to demonstrate against the war in Vietnam. This was true even of Martin Luther King. The fact that the army gives the lower social classes certain opportunities for education and vocational training naturally also plays a role here.

      1. Foppe

        Personally, I find Naomi Klein’s rendering of what’s going on more convincing, because it’s less single-mindedly focusing on cultural aspects, than Hedges’s account. Certainly Hedges is on to something, but he doesn’t really seem to understand (or at least he strongly underemphasizes) the non-cultural mechanisms that enable the cultural changes. And because you stick to Hedges’s mode of analysis too much, by trying to emphasize the similarities between the old tory/whig/aristocrat/oligarch ‘classes’, you’re missing out on the fact that there need not be much historical continuity between these traditions.
        But other than that, I agree.

        1. DownSouth

          Foppe said:

          And because you stick to Hedges’s mode of analysis too much, by trying to emphasize the similarities between the old tory/whig/aristocrat/oligarch ‘classes’, you’re missing out on the fact that there need not be much historical continuity between these traditions.

          I plead guilty.

          That’s because my theoretical framework is one of evolution. I believe there’s continuity in both our biological hardwiring as well as cultural software that goes back millions of years.

          I suppose my beef with Hedges is I don’t believe we can start the clock in 1945. To me you have to start two millions years ago. Hominids lived as hunter-gatherers for the vast majority of their evolutionary history, which has lasted over two million years. This is the environment in which our biological hardwiring evolved, and our cultural software to a significant extent. Agriculture originated only about 10,000 years ago and has been practiced by the majority of the world’s population for only two or three millennia.

          Cultural evolution certainly happens much more rapidly than biological evolution. But to think that culture can be changed overnight, or can be created out of thin air, are ideas to which I cannot agree.

          1. Foppe

            Agreed. However, you appear to be using a fairly broad definition of ‘culture’ here..

            A bad way would be to start from the premise that the dimension under consideration is the master
            discourse, the domain that ‘things really all boil down to’, the logic that unlocks all else. A better way would
            be to identify the specific way of describing the world that is contained within an economic, a political or a
            cultural discourse, and to try to draw out an understanding of globalization within these terms, whilst always
            denying them conceptual priority: pursuing one dimension in the self-conscious recognition of
            multidimensionality. This sort of deliberately anti-reductionist analysis should also make us sensitive to the
            points at which different dimensions interconnect and interact.
            So it must be for cultural analysis. Particularly so since the concept of culture is so ‘encompassing’ that it can
            easily be taken as the ultimate level of analysis – isn’t everything in the end ‘cultural’? Well, no. Or, at least it
            gets us nowhere to think of culture in this way, as simply a description of a ‘total way of life’. For, as Clifford
            Geertz once memorably described it (Geertz 1973: 4), this leads to ‘pot-au-feu’ theorizing – the throwing of
            anything and everything into the conceptual stew that is the ‘complex whole’ of human existence. (Tomlinson, Globalization and Culture, “Introduction”

  3. skippy

    In the spirit of above^^^^William was not wearing a ring, was not offered one, yet Kate did.

    Skippy…discuss….common have a stab…lol…extra NC points!

    1. skippy

      Sigh…nothing, nothing — can *bind* a Sovereign…not even marriage before their father, a sacred contract with an escape clause for one.

      Skippy…I find it not unlike DownSouths observations with Tories and Whigs, self appointed Sovereigns. DS this is why I have a bitter time with the well of their power, its feel good genuflections for the peasantry (surrender of ones self) to a self elevated few (un-bound contract writers). These systems always devolve into tow tier class systems and history is littered with their remains. Elevation of buildings over others is a favorite of mine, so many alters of power, residential or commercial…sigh.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Most Americans don’t get the royalty bit but that is an intriguing factoid.

  4. DownSouth

    Re: “What I learned in econ grad school” NoahOpinion

    • Noah said:

    But when it came to all the other theories, empirics were only briefly mentioned, if at all, and never explained in detail.

    Economists may not do factual reality, but they do greed very well. As Amitai Etzioni explains in The Moral Dimension:

    Such effects are evident in a series of free-ride experiments conducted by Marwell and Armes. In eleven out of twelve experimental runs most participants did not free ride and contributed from 40 percent to 60 percent of their resources to a public good. However, a group of economics graduate students contributed only an average of 20 percent. And while the other subjects were motivated by a strong sense of fairness and near unanimous definition of what it is, economics students refused to define the term, or gave very complex answers, and those who did respond stated that making little or no contribution was fair.

    • Noah said:

    …if he had spent that semester teaching us Kindleberger and Bagehot and Minsky, Professor House might have given us better ways to think about history, but he would have been effectively driving us out of the macroeconomics profession.

    No surprises there, since economics is not a truth-seeking but a purpose-driven endeavor. Since economists serve little other purpose than to give a fake scientific patina to greed and selfishness, if they don’t fulfill that purpose, what good are they?

      1. Philip Pilkington

        That’s right — she’s as naked as the capitalism she rails against…

        With that kind of cryptic layering of meaning if she wasn’t a financier, she might have made a good psychoanalyst… provided she’d put some damned clothes on!!!

    1. iveS myth

      ‘Eve Smith’ as a counter to Adam Smith…

      You should be Cain-ed. What a rib-off!

  5. Goldman S***s

    Not so much a counterargument but the system of putting people into positions of responsibility is completely FUBAR. If there were more utterly corrupt, evil and incompetent women, I’m sure they’d get a crack at the Big Jobs, sort of the way Clarence Thomas became a supreme or Nancy Pelosi became house speaker.

  6. Goldman S***s

    From the marriage equality letter article:

    “in an age where talent determines the economic winners,…”

    Which age was that? Maybe they mean a talent for getting away with financial crimes?

    1. DownSouth

      As a gay person, I find that letter to be highly embarrassing.

      It’s clearly an example of where the quest for status and glamour trumps common sense and self-interest. It’s similar to elitist Jews allying themselves with the Nazis. As Hannah Arendt explains, not only was this “the beginning of the moral collapse of respectable Jewish society,” but it was based on a lie. “Needless to say,” she said, “the Nazis themselves never took these distinctions seriously, for them a Jew was a Jew.”

  7. scraping_by

    Re: l’affaire Lubrizol

    The first time most of us in Omaha heard about David Sokol was when he headed the committee to replace our serviceable Civic Auditorium with a new arena down on the old Union Pacific shop yard. The messages he pounded out that it would be huge, cost at the low end, be a public property, pay for itself in a few years, and they never sell the naming rights. The rumor was that Berkshire wanted a larger hall for the climax of Warren Week, and that certain unnamed people might kick in.

    The morning after the bond issuance election, Sokol was quoted in the local paper saying it was going to be half as big as promised, cost half again as much, that it would be run and functionally owned by a private corporation, it would always need a government subsidy, and they were going to sell the naming rights to Qwest. The rumor about a rich uncle turned out to be a little exaggerated, too.

    People outside the rarified realms of twelve figure finance are unsurprised when the weasel turns. We tend to identify and avoid dishonest people on the theory that what they’ve done is what they’ll do. I suspect the constant deference the megarich receive and grow used to keeps them unprepared when the deception used to harvest wealth out of the common herd is used on them. As the Captain Kangaroo of the Kleptocracy, Buffet uses this “well-beloved” tag to cover other manager’s grinding and loophole diving. Uncle Warren probably fell for his own bullshit.

    It’s always entertaining to watch people with money discover there’s no such thing as class loyalty. Or, that loyalty is received, and never given.

  8. Jim

    I would argue that liberalism, in its fullest meaning, was the emergence of new principles of collective order.

    Liberalism was a response to the issue of the conflict of jurisidiction inherent in the double authority of the spiritual and the temporal–we no longer knew which to obey.

    Liberalism was initiated when the notion of the rights of the individual were philosophically articulated during the second half of the seventeenth century (see Hobbes in particular)

    With liberalism, legitimate order springs from the individual and remains with him.

    The sovereign state is the condition of the possibility of the liberal order–supposedly only a state that is thus elevated above society can govern us while also leaving us free.

    At the same time that this “vertical” state was constructed it was noted that men tended to produce spontaneously a “horizontal” order. The state and the market therefore became the two poles of the liberal order.

    We have been in a financial/economic crisis which may be shaking the foundations of this liberal order.

    Up to this point liberalism has been a doctrine so powerful that it has defeated all other political, philosophical and religious doctrine.

    But has the doctrine of liberalism so “devalued” ccllective bonds that we no longer know where to turn when global rules fail us?

    Does this present economic/financial crisis risk hiding from us the deeper weaknesses of liberalism–that external liberty may not be enough–that we, as human beings, are subject to deep internal weaknesses that require as much attention as reorganizing our economic/political structure?

  9. Philip Pilkington

    Check out this extremely clever plan for an alternative development strategy in Africa… It’s being implemented too.

    It’s about developing alternative development policies for African governments. The basic idea seems to be, broadly speaking, to deficit spend on infrastructure. However, keep an ear open just past the 10 minute mark. They’ve developed what appears to me to be a fairly ingenious strategy to pull informal sector workers into the tax bracket.

    I thought this was particularly clever — they use these long-term relatively high-yielding bonds to finance government spending and this in turn encourages the population to save in these bonds which in turn pulls this part of population — which makes up the majority of workers — into the taxation system.

    With all these mechanisms in place the governments then have all the tools at their disposal to implement finely tuned fiscal policy. Clever.

    1. lambert strether

      Man, I hate short urls. Real URLs give the reader a reason to click through. And they don’t break the internet, either, by littering content URLs that will break when the service that used to map them goes out of business. Sure, twitter, because tweets are ephemeral and the 140 character limit. But here, at NC, which is the “record” in the way that the newspapers once claimed to be, they’re pernicious. Just saying.

      1. craazyman

        since I’m home with a slight cold today and a little worn out from the week . . . I clicked on that little URL anyway.

        Actually, it was quite interesting. And, Phil you are correct. That’s an interesting twist on the “debt is bad” mantra. It seems that a truckload of productive debt is a good palliative for 10 truckloads of unproductive debt. Even though “debt” goes up.

        But one dispairs a bit that the economic model is Growth, Growth, Growth, Arrow, Arrow, Arrow, Messiah, Messiah, Messiah. And not Sustain, Sustain, Sustain, Circle, Circle, Circle, Gaia, Gaia, Gaia.

        I’m not a new age circus freak. But it reminds me of all those empty buildings in China on that Australian video the other day. They changed in my mind to upright carcasses of beached dead whales, with their rib bones stuck like barren trees in the sand. Those buildings looked as though they weren’t at the beginning of their lives, but at the end, facing an immortal death.

        And so it goes. More cultures forgetting their own sources of imagination and copying “industrial development” in search of some new living system. It’s understandable, considering how most living systems have failed, spectacularly. But one still strains for a ray of hope. LOL.

  10. anon

    I love this comment from Jim on the CBS Denver story “Scheme: Grow Pot, Avoid Foreclosure”. Jim responds:

    “Oh my god, what terrible people….burn them at the stake! After hearing this story, I had a polycarbonate bubble put over my big SUV and reconfigured my cable package so that my television only allows reruns of “Everybody Loves Raymond” to be shown. Headin’ on over to the Costco in Castle Rock to buy the same patio set as my neighbor two doors down, mine is three years old and the HOA says its purple cushions are making kids in the development consider “alternative lifestyles.” Thank God that CBS4 investigated this further, what’s next, growing baby-ruining machines? I say give them the death penalty… when they die All American, I mean Almighty God will throw an apple pie in their face, force a Big Mac down their throat, and then quote John Wayne while hitting homerun to win the World Series! What an unconscionable crime, why can’t everyone live a wholesome suburban life with well thought out priorities like all the good people do?”

    Well said, Jim, and funny too.

  11. Sundog

    This is a good read. De Soto situates the MERS mess in the broader context of the role of public information practices in economic life, reaching back to the 19th century.

    As Stuart Brand (less famously) said, “Information wants to be expensive.” Unfortunately it seems that our economy is organized such that after the grifters in finance have extracted vast sums by manipulating information, the expense is passed from these nominally private actors to the general public in the form of millions of jobs destroyed and a doubling of the national debt.

    Hernando de Soto, “The Destruction of Economic Facts”

  12. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    I am still waiting for the ‘All you can feed buffet is over for Buffett’ story.

    1. skippy

      Like watching an old bull, challenged by younger but tempered individuals, all whilst the carrion smell a feast…they care not the age of the carcase.

      Skippy…does history have it right, noble giving at the end, or scattering of ones deeds, so as not to be pilfered…like a kings tome by commoners.

  13. wunsacon

    >> there IS a reason I blog under a man’s name

    Uh, and I thought “Yves” was a *woman’s* name!

  14. watercarrier4diogenes

    Book for a not-so-quiet weekend read:

    Liquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street by Karen Ho

    From a recent review:
    Legend has it that the famous sociologist Erving Goffman’s last words were “we should have studied the rich.” Whether or not he actually voiced that sentiment, the fact is that since his death in 1982 there have been a number of anthropologists and sociologists who have committed themselves to “studying up.” One of them is Karen Ho and her amazing ethnography of Wall Street, Liquidated, is one excellent reason why learning more about those who literally control the world that you and I live in is important.

  15. chris

    So quotas work. Fine. The question becomes, why are there only some kinds of quota? Why are the high-salary jobs going disproportionately to the children of upper middle-class people? When will there be a quota requiring the fat salaries to be proportionately given to the children of working-class people?

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