Links 6/4/11

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Female australopiths seek brave new world Nature

What’s your cell phone’s maximum radiation level? Interactive database ComputerWorld

We should end our disastrous war on drugs Martin Wolf, Financial Times

Lombardi et al. Wittemore Peterson (hat tip reader Jim) A research dispute on the XMRV virus.

Yoga guru begins fast to fight corruption in India Washington Post

Consensus decision making in Puerto de Sol Square, Madrid Lambert Strether

Hillary Clinton Hosts “Iraq Opportunities” Party For War Profiteers Jane Hamsher

Economy to shift Obama ’12 strategy Politico

US unemployment unacceptably high, White House advisers admit Guardian (hat tip Philip Pilkington)

The Political Quandary of Barack Obama Immanuel Wallerstein. Aside from the fact that this starts with the premise that Obama cares about doing “good”, a useful piece.

In Alabama, a Harsh Bill for Residents Here Illegally New York Times

Florida witnesses said they were forced to hide video after South Beach shooting McClatchy (hat tip Buzz Potamkin)

UK economic gloom among worst in world Telegraph

Private equity debt cycle is wobbling again Financial Times

Is There an Echo in Here? Streetwise Professor. If you aren’t current on why clearinghouses are no magic bullet, this is a good one-stop catchup.

Banks May Need More Capital Wall Street Journal

Volcker Named to Panel That Will Advise on Too-Big-to-Fail Bloomberg. It’s encouraging that Simon Johnson and Anat Admati are on the panel too.

Five Misconceptions Squashed Niels Jensen

On Neoliberalism Sherry Ortner (hat tip reader Foppe)

It’s not just Dominique Strauss-Kahn. The IMF itself should be on trial Johann Hari, Independent (hat tip reader Externality). Today’s must read

Antidote du jour:

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  1. Billions for me, None for you

    Ever wanted to get your hands on some of the Iraq loot, but found you weren’t invited to the Iraq Opportunities party?

    Well, now there’s a way.

    Introducing the Iraq Opportunities Fund A.

    We seek short term explosive growth from corruption and corrupt practices in Iraq.* From Cargill to Tupperware, our managed fund keeps abreast of the latest corruption and looting and invests accordingly. Ask for a prospectus today!

    *past explosive growth is not a predictor of future success, but with the government we have now, the sky’s the limit.

    1. Small Time Bankster

      There’s no use in denying it: this has been a bad week. Tupperware got invited to the Iraq War Profiteers Party, but I did not receive an invitation. As a result, I’ve started drinking my own urine.

      My only consolation is this: I did get a small cut out of the $14 trillion bankster bailout package. This works out to $46,662 stolen from every man, woman and child in the country. Or $186,648 stolen from every family of four.

      My take of the spoils was a little over $186 million, or $186,664,800, as if 1,000 families of four had mailed me a check for $186,664 out of their hard-earned money. Eat your heart out, middle class workers!

      So I take some small consolation that I’m one of the looters instead of being a lootee. Still, what I got is pocket change compared to what the Big Dawgs got. I will not be able to afford a fleet of Concordes. I can barely even afford a Lear Jet. Sorkin and Lowenstein do not mention me in their books and never return my phone calls. I’m not even a billionaire, for christ’s sake! I never get invited to Iraq War Profiteer Parties! And *that* pisses me off. This is why I’m reduced to drinking my own urine.

  2. Jim

    Thanks for posting Whittemore Peterson link. If you took the time to read that WPI link, or were confused. You may want to read this.

    “It is time for an end to the corruption that is destroying the health of Americans.”

    “What is the medical industrial complex? It is no simple thing to describe, but our working definition is the partnership between the medical and pharmaceutical industry on one hand and the public health establishment on the other. This “public private partnership”–one which includes vaccine manufacturers like Merck and GlaxoSmithKline, associations of doctors like the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association and the British Medical Association, and government agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health—has steadfastly resisted the rising evidence of a crisis in human health, denying its existence, defending its prerogatives in the face of the crisis and pressing its own expansionist agenda in spite of widespread evidence that the medical model its members are advancing has failed consumers. The moral failing of this partnership agenda becomes all the more egregious as one reflects on the notion that the primary precept of medical ethics was once, “First, do no harm”.”

    1. Jim

      The WPI and canary party are two seperate entities. However, the Canary party is saying something researchers can’t.

      To anybody who follows the XMRV news closely. Something is REALLY wrong with the governments are handling research not only in CFS, but other research like Autism, Lyme disease, and probably many more…You will never get the truth in the news media.

    2. Foppe

      Amusing conspiracy site, but a bit vague on specifics. It’s nice how they attribute everything (increase in diabetes/allergy incidence) to the medical profession, though, rather than the food profession and the spurious medicalization of pregnancy.. The fact that something like half of all Americans do not have access to vegetables (if only because the supermarkets outright refuse to carry them), combined with the move to the city (and the sources of allergens that come with having highly insulated homes, with children only playing inside) explains much more of the current problems than some vaccine conspiracy ever will, though.

      (This is not to say that there aren’t problems with our current rather malign drug overlords, but they have more to do with neoliberal capitalism in general than the drug/medical profession in particular.)

      1. JTFaraday

        Anecdotally, as I am not myself diabetic, it seems to me that the medical establishment has up until *very* recently been religiously promoting the standard grain and cereal heavy “food pyramid” as the desired diet for Type 2 diabetes, which generally drives up blood glucose levels.

        It looks to me that it was only with the re-examination of the Atkins influenced low carb school of thought earlier in the 2000s that they were more or less forced to start revising received opinion.

        I think there is a case to be made that the medical establishment *is* partly responsible even for things like the diabetes epidemic (and not just processed food manufacturers, etc).

        1. Foppe

          Oh, sure. But that has more to do with the fact that the arrogant sods figured they knew everything about nutrition (and felt that only they speak authoritatively on these issues) while ‘laymen’ could never do so, than with outright corruption and bribery (let alone a conspiracy). There’s lots of politics going on in the sciences, and this is one of the best examples of where the establishment is now being shown that political concerns (the authority of the ‘health care’ officials) often trumped epistemic ones (figuring out what a healthy diet actually might be). Foucault (e.g. The Birth of the Clinic) would be the guy to read for the classic texts on these matters, while the most useful contemporary analyses come from the field of science and technology studies.

          1. scraping_by

            It’s an interesting question on whether the grand masters of the New World Order and more or less to blame than the local practioners of neoliberal oppression. The small guys often have a naive surprise that everything is slanted toward their benefit. And, of course, when things get a little thin or they’ve performed their part, they’re thrown off to the side of the road. Wider theft has to involve wider vision, and therefore, wider knowledge.

            As for me, I think that little piggies smell just the same as big fat hogs, but I don’t despair cleaning them up.

    3. scraping_by

      The money quote in the Lombardi letter is when Mikovits says:

      “The authors are aware of ten negative CFS papers listed in PubMed on the subject of XMRV. Most of the negative studies failed to find any evidence of XMRV in any sample type. This would suggest that the methods and materials used in the non-replication studies are insufficient to use when attempting to detect human gammaretrovirus in the blood of human samples. The methods, processes, and materials of Lombardi et al. need to be followed precisely. The Alter and Lo study is the only study which has attempted a partial replication of the methods and materials of the
      Lombardi study, which confirmed evidence of MLV related viruses. Studies using multiple different methods are not replication studies, and studies optimized to detect
      murine gammaretroviruses and not human gammaretroviruses must be seriously questioned.”

      In other words, the opponents of the XMRV research came up with tests that couldn’t find the virus, and used this negative finding as proof there was no retrovirus involved in the disease. Think of looking for a noise with a telescope, or trying to take a photo with a metal detector, or the old joke about the drunk looking for his keys under a streetlamp. The only real confirmation/contradiction test is precisely following the original steps. Anything else can only indicate, not define.

      Mainstream medicine is full of provable facts that were rejected rather than tested. The viral theory of cancer, the bacterial theory of stomach ulcers, anything that threatens the establishment is undermined and opposed rather than explored.

      While an MD is the best choice to set a broken leg or for an appendectomy — well, not that so much; it’s usually treated with antibiotics rather than surgery in the early stages — much of the rest is catch as can. Medical professionals use their greater learning to club people into compliance, not to support them in their ostensible goal of healthy lives. It no wonder most people feel they’re on their own.

  3. attempter

    Re Spain:

    Ask anybody who doubts anarchistic decision-making: Don’t reasonable people do that every day, in almost all places? Other than a few jerks (who should be ostracized), aren’t all people really anarchists at heart?

    Yes, we are. Only illicit economic and political hierarchies seek to efface this truth and replace it with a pathological mindset. But this mindset is what’s shallow, and what can easily be overcome, the moment we choose.

      1. attempter

        That people who actually work decide among themselves in a non-coercive way what to do. I defy anyone to give an example of where a “manager” (let alone “owner”) adds anything constructive.

        For example, I’m part of a relocalization organization where things get done: Usually by volunteering, and usually by consensus, sometimes by majority vote. No one’s ever coerced. We do all we can within the parameters of mores and the law. There are only political obstacles, not reality-based ones, to our doing far more good for the community. Although the others, so far as I know, don’t consider themselves anarchists (some, unfortunately, still identify with the Democratic Party), that’s really what we are in practice.

        1. attempter

          I should add that we do what we do in an environment which is usually neglectful at best, and sometimes hostile.

          Imagine what we could do in a friendly environment.

  4. Doly

    From my mother in Spain, on how the protests of the indignants are progressing in La Coruña (remember, this is a provincial city):

    Yesterday I didn’t go to the general assemby in the Obelisco, because I went to the neighbourhood one in Monte Alto. We were about 200 people, I didn’t expect so many people. I got together with three other women of my age.

    I didn’t expect people to be so aware. I had already heard that people in this neighbourhood were fighters. One could put oneself on a list of people to help with specific things in the neighbourhood, as part of the indignant movement (for example, if a family is going to be evicted because they aren’t paying their mortgage, go there to stop the eviction, because when there are people around, the court people go away), or various needs, from talks to young people (drugs, equality…) to even growing vegetable gardens on abandoned land. I understood the idea is to start weaving a net of solidarity among all to work together in the improvement of the neighbourhood: Act locally, improve globally.

    When I added myself to the list there were already about 40 people in there. A lot of people for such a small neighbourhood. Things will be done, no doubt. We’ll meet again next week.

    This Saturday we’ll make noise with pots and pans in the Obelisco, then we’ll go to Maria Pita and write on the floor with people the word “CHANGE”.

    1. psychohistorian

      I want to suggest that these new political entities familiar themselves with the Delphi technique for consensus generation. This is a tool that I used in college in the early 70’s and I think the UN has computerized the process. It would be great for the computer open source community to create a public version of this tool for the world’s struggling masses.

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  5. doom

    Ah Hari, it was a nice day and now you wrecked it. Very sad. IMF’s fundamental institutional problem may be that its charter lets it support external deficits only and not budget deficits. The ECB is playing that card now to make sure IMF doesn’t break ranks on Greece. CEPR is smart to focus on the wiggle room provided by the cyclical/structural distinction. Internal work linking inequality to stability is another clever workaround. But poverty reduction may turn out to be ineffectual without a close look at the Bretton Woods mission. The G-20 work might come to something but it doesn’t sound promising so far, . It would be great if they tried to make IMF function more like ECOSOC or UNESCO, but then it too would be demonized and stripped of all clout.

  6. Philip Pilkington

    Re: the IMF piece — which is excellent:

    “Look, for example, at Hungary. After the 2008 crash, the IMF lauded them for keeping to their original deficit target by slashing public services. The horrified Hungarian people responded by kicking the government out, and choosing a party that promised to make the banks pay for the crisis they had created. They introduced a 0.7 per cent levy on the banks (four times higher than anywhere else). The IMF went crazy. They said this was “highly distortive” for banking activity – unlike the bailouts, of course – and shrieked that it would cause the banks to flee from the country. The IMF shut down their entire Hungary programme to intimidate them. ”

    I’d never heard of this one before. Really interesting.

    Amazing that the Independent are running this stuff — they’re usually quite conservative. I will say that their most popular Irish commentator is now all but on board the MMT paradigm.

    There’s a sea-change taking place… quietly, but its taking place.

    1. Foppe

      See Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine for more. (Today’s link ‘on neoliberalism’ by Ortner quickly summarizes her main argument.)

    1. BondsOfSteel

      Hmm. I don’t see what his 20 year old touge-in-cheek paper on interstellar trade has to do with totalitarianism or other liberal technocrats.

      1. attempter

        Yes, it’s all a big joke.

        I suppose the paper “In Praise of Cheap Labor”

        is a joke as well.

        Seriously, I don’t get Krugman sycophants. If I were going to be a suckass, I’d find someone cooler than Krugman to suck up to. He can’t even get in Obama’s door. He’s a loser. So how much worse are the losers who’re his suckups?

        1. Danny Partridge

          I think it’s pretty clear by now that access to Obama doesn’t determine whether you are a loser. It’s all about the money attempter, and not about anything else.

    1. Foppe


      The scion of a wealthy Chicago-area family pleaded guilty in a South Florida court Friday to killing two British businessmen with his Porsche but avoided prison after agreeing to pay an undisclosed sum to the widows.
      Ryan LeVin, 36, will spend two years under house arrest in his parents’ oceanside condominium.
      Given that LeVin’s sentencing guidelines called for up to 45 years behind bars, some legal experts say the case seems to be an unsettling example of checkbook justice.
      At the time of the crash, LeVin was on probation in Illinois for a 2006 case in which he had driven into a Chicago police officer and instigated a chase on the Kennedy Expressway. Court records show LeVin has more than 50 traffic violations and a long history of drug abuse.
      “I think he hardly bought his way out of this,” Bogenschutz said after the court hearing. “We have two victims who have an absolute say in what should happen in their case. All the judge did was follow the law.”

    2. Externality

      Cases like this are increasingly common in the US. From Colorado:

      The District Attorney’s office in Colorado dropped felony charges against a Morgan Stanley Smith Barney private wealth manager who allegedly hit a bicyclist with his car [and fled the scene] in Eagle, Colo., instead choosing to press lesser misdemeanor charges.


      “Felony convictions have some pretty serious job implications for someone in Mr. Erzinger’s profession, and that entered into it,” Hurlbert told the paper. “When you’re talking about restitution, you don’t want to take away his ability to pay.”

      Erzinger reportedly manages more than $1 billion in assets and would have to publicly disclose any felony charge under the North American Securities Dealers regulations.

  7. Valissa

    re: Wallerstein article on Obama

    Have tried to read it several times in the past 15 minutes, but the site is currently experiencing a Denial of Service attack. Perhaps someone in the gov’t doesn’t like what is said at this site?

  8. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    If you don’t want violence in the world, the first thing to do is stop doing violence to your own body.

    Neither indulgence nor violence is the way to go.

    Set a good example and take care of your body. No fasting to near death.

    And don’t assume you’re so special that when you are dying, people will care more about that than other dying millions involuntarily or voluntarily. That’s not that way to solve your problem.

    Qeustion Du Jour:

    Why does the guru claim he’s not a guru?
    Why does the Zen master say he’s not a Zen master?

    1. Valissa

      If You Meet The Buddha On The Road, Kill Him ;)

      Sakka asked the Buddha: “Do different religious teachers head for the same goal or practice the same disciplines or aspire to the same thing?”

      “No, Sakka, they do not. And why? This world is made up of myriad different states of being, and people adhere to one or another of these states and become tenaciously possessive of them, saying, ‘This alone is true, everything else is false.’ It is like a territory that they believe is theirs. So all religious teachers do not teach the same goal or the same discipline, nor do they aspire to the same thing.

      “But if you find truth in any religion or philosophy, then accept that truth without prejudice.”
      -Digha Nikaya

  9. Pat

    I recommend a good radio interview of Greek professor Yanis Varoufakis on the show “Behind the News with Doug Henwood”, June 4, here:

    Varoufakis talks about Greece and the Eurozone crisis. He says that even if Greece were to fully comply with the ECB’s demands, it would still owe 200% of GDP, which would make the situation completely impossible. Varoufakis says that it is absolutely inevitable that the Eurozone will break up in 2013, and that European leaders are simply buying time until they figure out what to do.

    1. Valissa

      Thanks for the heads up! The first interview with pol-sci prof Morris Fiorina was quite interesting too.

    2. Hugh

      Buying time is the plan. Again we are talking kleptocracy here. Kleptocrats don’t fix things. They loot them. The only plan is to keep the casino open and the looting going as long as possible. What needs to be done has never been terribly difficult to understand, just do. The kleptocrats need to return their ill-gotten gains and the European banking system needs to be put through bankruptcy and cleansed. As part of this, the euro which was a German-French scam needs to be rethought, recast, and democratized, –or eliminated.

  10. Externality

    The IMF officials and other bankers who cause suffering and death across the planet should be tried for crimes against humanity. Using financial manipulation to cause deaths by hunger, disease, and violence is little different than using governmental authority, force, or the threat of force, to cause deaths by hunger, disease, or violence.

    There is precedent: After World War II, two bankers — Dresdner Bank director Karl Rasche and Reichsbank vice president Emil Johann Puhl — were tried and convicted by a US military tribunal(*) for actions such as loaning money to the SS, financing the forced sale (for less than fair value) of Czechoslovakian assets to benefit German companies and the German government, laundering stolen gold in international markets, and offering what were essentially slave-labor backed securities to investors.

    Should we not also hold legally accountable bankers whose actions caused people in Africa and Eastern Europe to die of AIDS and tuberculosis, to be trafficked as sex slaves, to have their assets stolen or devalued to benefit the bankers, or killed in conflicts instigated or financed by international banks and institutions?

    According to a published study, the IMF’s requirement that Eastern European countries stop funding TB treatment in order to get loans led to 100,000 excess deaths from TB. (A horrible way to die.) Countries that refused to comply with the IMF did far, far better. How is denying, directly or indirectly, entire populations medical treatment not genocide? How are the IMF officials who orchestrated this any different than Adolf Eichmann, who was “just following [and issuing] orders” regardless of the consequences?

    * (After World War II, the US felt that the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg did not go far enough to hold Germany accountable for its actions. As one of the victors, it had the right to conduct subsequent tribunals, both at Nuremberg and elsewhere (e.g., Dachau tribunal) in the name of the United States. One of these, the so-called Ministries Case, led to the imprisonment of the two German bankers and numerous other officials.

  11. Jackrabbit

    Banks May Need More Capital

    Ii>Banks would have to boost their capital reserves using common equity—a stricter form of capital than many want to use

    It was clear that the Fed was looking toward capital raises when they allowed Banks to start paying dividends again earlier this year.

    Since 2008, Job#1 for the Fed has been returning banks to good health. In that light, I am suspicious of any talk by the Fed of helping the real economy (duplicity as policy choice?!?!?) and I would EXPECT that retail investors that buy into any Bank equity offering will be fleeced as Fed-supported bank profits leading up to the offering will then disappear.

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