Links 6/6/11

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Texas Still Has Its Rustlers, and Men in White Hats Chasing Them New York Times (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Adam Curtis interview on Machines of Loving Grace Pulse

A personal anecdote on why the facts don’t really matter Ed Harrison

More Than 1 Billion People Are Hungry in the World Foreign Policy. Reader alert: my posting this is NOT meant to signal agreement, merely to alert readers that this thesis is now making the rounds. And I have to say this looks like horribly conducted research. Anyone who has every done this sort of thing knows people lie about how they spend their money and they typically lie in ways to please or impress the questioner. The only way to get really reliable answers is actual data on expenditures or getting people to keep diaries.

“Every 30 Minutes”: Crushed by Debt and Neoliberal Reforms, Indian Farmers Commit Suicide at Staggering Rate Democracy Now (hat tip reader May S)

UN report calls for regulation to curb speculators pushing up food prices Guardian (hat tip reader May S)

Greeks realise how it will play out John Dizard, Financial Times (hat tip reader Hubert). This makes it crystal clear that leaving the Eurozone is the best option for Greece.

Abused teenager appeals to Cameron over the closure of children’s homes Guardian (hat tip Philip Pilkington)

U2’s Glastonbury gig targeted by tax protesters Guardian (hat tip reader Joe M). Wow, the Guardian is on a roll today.

Ingredients of a European political union Wolfgang Munchau, Financial Times (hat tip Swedish Lex)

Arundhati Roy: ‘They are trying to keep me destabilised. Anybody who says anything is in danger’ Guardian. Reader May S writes:

Roy talks about the resistance as an “insurrection”; she makes India sound as if it’s ripe for a Chinese or Russian-style revolution. So how come we in the west don’t hear about these mini-wars? “I have been told quite openly by several correspondents of international newspapers,” she says, “that they have instructions – ‘No negative news from India’ – because it’s an investment destination.

China Has Divested 97 Percent of Its Holdings in U.S. Treasury Bills Warren Mosler (hat tip Philip Pikington). Big time reader alert: I’m not sure you can conclude any such thing. This appears to be based on the Treasury International Capital report, which is notoriously inaccurate as far as China is concerned (China makes most of its Treasury purchases via London, which are NOT reported as Chinese purchases). Brad Setser would do a considerable amount of massaging of the Treasury data to make any sense of it. and I’d be very leery of taking it at face value.

Seymour Hersh on Iran’s nuclear capability, the Arab uprisings and Obama’s isolation Energy Bulletin (hat tip reader Scott)

Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin: An Insider Exposes How Palin Is Focused on Riches, Not Governing Alternet (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

When a Nobel Prize Isn’t Enough New York Times (hat tip reader furzy mouse). Richard Shelby apparently does not think the Fed has an anti-unemployment mandate.

We must rebuild structure to create U.S. jobs Andy Grove, Bloomberg (hat tip reader Carol B)

The Overton Window, Illustrated Lambert Strether. Since this is the phrase du jour in comments, a wee primer.

Circling the Drain Tim Duy

Goldman Plans to Fight Back Against Senate Report Wall Street Journal. I was on a call with the staffers who did the work, and they were impressive. By contrast, anyone who has every done pitchbooks or any deal “analysis” (which is a pitch in another form) knows how to lie with numbers. I’d bet on the Senate on this one, but let’s see what Goldman puts up. The fact that they are bothering says they perceive the risk here to be meaningful.

About Those Notes…Evidence of Securitization Fail Adam Levitin, Credit Slips. Reminding everyone of the sword of Damocles over the mortgage market.

Bank Shares Take a Beating, and It May Not Be Over Yet New York Times

Dan Balz and the Washington Post STILL Don’t Understand the Housing Bubble Dean Baker. Baker outdoes himself.

I-Team:Man gets a $0 foreclosure notice WWLP (hat tip Lisa Epstein). And the banks keep insisting their records are fine and everyone who is being foreclosed upon is a deadbeat.

Vouchercare Is Not Medicare Paul Krugman. Krugman eviscerates some Republican propaganda.

Antidote du jour:

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  1. Philip Pilkington

    Re: Harrison’s post:

    Schumpeter once argued — pretty sure it was in the Marx section of ‘Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy’ — that economists’ arguments always stem from their own personal idiosyncrasies. I think Schumpeter was wrong about most things — not to mention extremely unreflective (I’m convinced he was a closet Marxist in denial) — but I think he was largely right about this.

    Confirmation bias is inevitable. We will always try to argue in favour of what we believe. The key is to ensure that we do not fall into solipsism. We must — if we are to be honest — allow the world to prove us wrong time and again. To go one further, we should always be actively seeking out the flaws in our arguments as much as possible.

    (P.S. I often like to point out that if we apply Schumpeter’s argument to him we find an interesting correlation. Schumpeter suffered from some sort of manic depression (i.e. bipolar disorder). And he was also the prophet of creative destruction and the necessity of the business cycle. Hmmmm…)


    I’ve often criticised Harrison’s psychological pieces as they appear to me to be too strongly influenced by behaviorist voodoo.

    It should be pointed out that my gripes with behaviorism — and hence, Harrison’s psychological posts (barring this one) — can be shown to be in keeping with this confirmation bias argument.

    If we all have an innate tendency toward confirmation bias, we will inevitably see this appear most strongly when it comes to building pictures in our heads of other people and their personalities. It’s well known that even if someone LOOKS like another person that we dislike we will attribute these same negative aspects of the personality to that person. (This is, broadly speaking, what psychoanalysts used to call ‘transference’).

    Psychological evaluation of another person then becomes the most emotionally loaded act imaginable. Far more so than detached economic argument (for some… although you’d have to wonder about this for others who seem to think of the economy as an extension of their ego…).

    Much psychology then becomes a mirror-relation (an ‘Imaginary relation’ to use the current psychoanalytic parlance), in that it’s simply a process of building imaginary ‘pictures’ in our head of what makes others tick — and yet these pictures more often than not stem from our own innate biases. Most of the time these ‘pictures’ are constructed more so out of ‘pictures’ from our own past or aspects of our own personalities.

    1. DownSouth

      So once again the knives come out for psychology. One has to wonder why you harbor this exaggerated hostility to psychology.

      In The Mask of Sanity Hervey Cleckley argues that those afflicted with certain psychological disorders dawn a mask of psychological normality. The pathological face must be hidden from the world somehow, since recognition of the psychological deficiencies would result in censure and ostracization. Maintaining the “Mask of Sanity” is thus of utmost importance for certain psychological deviants.

      Asthenic psychopaths are singled out in this regard by Andrew M. Lobaczewski in Political Ponerology. As Lobaczewski explains, asthenic psychopaths’

      behavior towards people who do not notice their faults is urbane, however, the same people manifest a preemptive hostility and aggression against persons who have a talent for psychology, or demonstrate knowledge in this field.

      Lobaczewski goes on to explain that asthenic psychopathy

      appears in every conceivable intensity, from barely perceptible to an obvious pathological deficiency.

      These people, asthenic and hypersensitive, do not indicate the same glaring deficit in moral feeling and ability to sense a psychological situation as do essential psychopaths. They are somewhat idealistic and tend to have superficial pangs of conscience as a result of their faulty behavior.

      On the average, they are also less intelligent than normal people, and their mind avoids consistency and accuracy in reasoning. Their psychological world view is clearly falsified, so their opinions about people can never be trusted. A kind of mask cloaks the world of their personal aspirations, which is at variance with what they are actually capable of doing…

      The asthenic psychopath is relatively less vital sexually and is therefore amenable to accepting celibacy; that is why some Catholic monks and priests often represent lesser or minor cases of this anomaly. Such individuals may very likely have inspired the anti-psychological attitude traditional in Church thinking.

      The more severe cases are more brutally anti-psychological and contemptuous of normal people; they tend to be active in the processes of the genesis of evil on a larger scale. Their dreams are composed of a certain idealism similar to the ideas of normal people. They would like to reform the world to their liking but are unable to foresee more far-reaching implications and results. Spiced by deviance, their visions may influence naïve rebels or people who have suffered injustice. Existing social injustice may look like a justification for a radicalized world view and the assimilation of such visions.

      1. Philip Pilkington

        Wow! Did you just basically accuse me of being a deranged psychopath? Why am I not surprised? When you disagree with someone — hell, just insinuate that they’re mentally ill.

        What a disgusting thing to do…

        “One has to wonder why you harbor this exaggerated hostility to psychology.”

        I have a hostility to behaviorism and its offshoots — not to psychology per se (some might argue that behaviorism isn’t even a psychology as it evaluates persons on behavior rather than what’s ostensibly going on ‘inside their heads’; one might then point out that behaviorism in its purer forms is ‘anti-psychological).

        I have such a hostility because it rests on a bad, unreflective epistemology.

        You might have noticed that when I criticise certain strains of psychology I usually invoke psychoanalytical arguments. You might have drawn from this that I think psychodynamic approaches are far more powerful than behaviorist approaches.

        Instead you drew the conclusion that I am mentally deranged — well, I figure that’s the conclusion you drew, because that’s what you seemed to insinuate. I guess that’s an easier argument to make and doesn’t require engaging with the fundamentals of the argument that I put forward — and we all know, DownSouth, you love to make those simple arguments.

        But then, why should we listen to me? I might be a psychopath…

        Now excuse me… I have animals to torture and elderly people to assault…

        1. DownSouth


          You say: “You might have noticed that when I criticise certain strains of psychology I usually invoke psychoanalytical arguments.”

          Well no, I haven’t noticed that at all. What I have noticed is a litany of arguments that are muddled, contradictory, internally inconsistent and illogical, replete with irrationality and paramoralisms.

          Take this from your instant comment, for instance:

          …some might argue that behaviorism isn’t even a psychology as it evaluates persons on behavior rather than what’s ostensibly going on ‘inside their heads’

          That sounds a lot like the latest talking point emanating from the bankster apologists. We heard it first from Anonymous Jones when he argued we can’t condemn the bankers’ behavior because we can’t go inside their heads to know what their intentions were. Courts, however, make these subjective determinations every day as to what perps’ intentions were. And psychologists make similar determinations. Can you name something other than a person’s words, actions or corporal comportment—-that is behavior—-that is used to determine what the person is thinking or feeling? And of course these determinations, based on bodily behavior, are subjective. But does that mean the determinations are invalid? No, at least not nearly to the degree you would have us believe they are. We all make these sorts of judgments every day and consider them to be valid.

          As my main body of evidence, however, I offer “Exhibit A” as your post Philip Pilkington: Debt, public or private?: The necessity of debt for economic growth along with your comments.

          I think anyone interested should go take a look, compare it to the symptoms outlined by Lobaczewski, along with a healthy dose of their own common sense, and come to their own conclusions.

          1. Philip Pilkington

            Incredible… I’ve never seen anyone diagnose psychopathic disorders in cyberspace before. I know quite a few psychiatrists and psychologists who I’ve often discussed theory and diagnoses with (no, they’re not MY psychiatrists, DownSouth… LOOOOLZERS!), but I’ve never heard of online diagnoses before.

            You should open a website and do this professionally —; something like that. Imagine all the money people waste on psychiatric consultations. Now they could just log-on and receive a diagnosis in minutes (that could be the flash ad for the site).

            One thing though, you should probably put aside a few bucks for a litigation lawyer… you know, just in case.

          2. DownSouth


            This is fun.

            So let’s play some Philip contradicts himself.

            In the above comment you said:

            I have a hostility to behaviorism and its offshoots — not to psychology per se…

            But a couple of weeks ago you made the following comment, which sounds pretty much like blanket condemnation of psychology to me:

            Philip Pilkington says:

            May 21, 2011 at 12:53 pm

            That psychopath piece is absolutely magnificent.

            “Becoming a psychopath-spotter had turned me power-crazed and a bit psychopathic.”

            And with those words Ronson sums up the problem with psychology/psychiatry as a discipline. When we start making lists that’s all well and good — but WE judge whether people possess these traits.

            What if I have a psychological tendency to see people acting in a grandiose and superior manner everywhere? Well, a psychologist would say that I have an inferiority complex, right? But what if I never had this quote-unquote ‘diagnosed’ and then became a psychologist? Well, I’d start diagnosing ‘grandiose sense of self-importance’ — a very common ‘symptom’ in many ‘disorders’ — in a disproportionate amount of people.

            Psychoanalysts used to be keenly aware of this problem. They called it ‘counter-transference’. But as psychoanalysis was gradually dropped, this problem faded into the background.

            I worry about the psychology profession today. I really do. I know one psychiatrist who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia — but without a proper screening process (as the psychoanalysts tried to have), this is inevitably going to happen. It’s deeply, deeply concerning…

          3. Philip Pilkington

            You might read that as a ‘blanket condemnation’ of psychology, but that’s because I suspect that you don’t read things properly.

            I point to a problem in contemporary psychology — one which, in a sense, I pointed to again in relation to Harrison’s piece. I then pointed out that this problem used to be front and center in psychoanlytic theory…

            “…but as psychoanalysis was gradually dropped, this problem faded into the background.”

            I then went on to say that the direction psychology and psychiatry were taking today is worrying me.

            How on earth is that a ‘blanket condemnation of psychology’? I mean, it seems to me to be so far from a ‘blanket condemnation’ that it’s not even funny.

            If I simply ‘condemned’ psychology then why would I worry about it’s future? Why would I advocate a ‘screening process’ for psychiatrists? And above all, why would I point out that many psychiatrists and psychologists were in the past aware of the very problems I highlight?

            I’m not arguing with you any more because you don’t even read things properly before you quote them. You’re just irrational — or illiterate. One or the other. And frankly I don’t care which.

          4. Carole Lindholm

            Philip Pilkington (to DS): “You’re just irrational — or illiterate. One or the other. And frankly I don’t care which.”

            If DownSouth is illiterate and/or irrational, then what does that make the rest of us? Those among us who have trouble even understanding such simple (and perhaps illiterate?) writers such as Hannah Arendt or Reinhold Niebuhr?

      2. Philip Pilkington

        Actually, let’s use DownSouth’s ‘argument’ (slander?) as a starting point to highlight what I was talking about.

        DownSouth has negative feelings toward me because of certain pieces I’ve run and certain arguments I’ve made on this site.

        DownSouth then quotes from a work of psychology to discredit my argument.

        DownSouth insinuates that I am deranged — but is this not probably subject to ‘confirmation bias’?

        Is DownSouth not projecting/transferring his/her negative feelings toward me, but rationalising these feelings into a psychological argument?

        Therefore, has DownSouth not proved precisely the problems I pointed out that can be inherent in psychological arguments?

          1. Little Boy

            The fundamental problem with economists (and particularly those who write on blogs) is that the majority of their work is based on “science” that they must they must contort to meet their needs. Starting with Mr. Harrison: He concludes that the underlying data he cites in his discussion of the effect, on young men, of playing video games, demonstrates that he is guilty of confirmation bias. (I agree for other reasons) To make this contention, his logic implies that the data demonstrates his wife is not. (I disagree) The problem is that economists are constantly taking samples of data which are incomplete and making inferences about the whole, without drawing the proper conclusions. In this case the Fallacy of Composition provides that one can make no such scientific argument. To use a popular analogy: Ms. Harrison’s data reflects some white swans. Mr. Harrison’s data reflects a smaller number of black swans. Does that prove that there are only white and black swans? No. Confirmation bias is more about the work that humans are willing to do to arrive at a conclusion given that the data are not complete and there are time limitations. We cannot possibly see all of the data so we must find a workable way for us to draw the conclusions we need to live our lives. There need not be a sinister motive for this behavior. On the other hand, ad hominem attacks used as “facts” in support of a person’s argument (through defeat of your opponent’s)are equally false and irrelevant. But it is hard to argue that there are not mean spirited motives involved. Assuming that there was no malicious motive, possibly DownSouth is someone that George Bernard Shaw was thinking of when he said: “If all the economists were laid end to end, they would not reach a conclusion”. The point here is that it is a mathematical certainty that all economists engage in confirmation bias. The question is, So what? When they address this issue, there is hope for progress on the subject. Until they do, we are doomed to lots and lots of noise, and not much more.

          2. Philip Pilkington

            First of all, I believe that neither economics nor psychology are or ever will be ‘sciences’. They are both, as the Germans say ‘Geisteswissenschaft’. This is opposed to ‘Naturwissenschaft’.

            The key terms here are ‘Geist’ and ‘Natur’. The latter means ‘Nature’ — as in, the study of nature (chemical properties of rocks and the like). The former means ‘Spirit’ or ‘Mind’.

            Economics and psychology are tied up with the evolution of ‘Spirit’ or, more accurately, ‘Kultur’ — ‘Culture’. And in that they cannot be a wholly objective sciences.

            However, I’m getting a bit peeved at people knocking around the comments section here claiming that economics is all relative and the like.

            Look at a sectoral balances chart. How is that relative? It’s not. That doesn’t make it scientific — but then, for something to be factual it doesn’t have to be scientific.

            To be honest, I think that a lot of the naval-gazing is just a sort of deferred action. People just want to pick holes in everything because they’ve lost faith in any ideas. It’s a sort of nihilism. A solipsistic obsessing over epistemology — usually, accompanied by a tenuous grasp of actual epistemology.

          3. Little Boy

            Well, for anyone who may not have picked up on my subtlety, I put “science” in quotation marks because the mathematics and logic used by economists is anything but that. Maybe I should have called it “so-called science”. In any case, the scientific rigor of the economics profession was summed up in a statement made by Frederick Mishkin in the movie Inside Job. When asked how he concluded that the economy in Iceland was essentially rock solid just prior to it’s implodsion, Mr. Mishkin’s answered, “Well, everyone knew they were”. Economists live in a self-contained world where virtually everything they say is based on unsupportable conclusions that “everyone knows”. Their so-called science is not scientific at all. The problem isn’t what they do know, it’s what they don’t(or won’t admit) they don’t know. From this, they formulate theories that do enormous harm to all us plain folk, while they conduct business as usual. But of course, “everyone knows” that I’m wrong about all of this.

          4. Philip Pilkington

            I think some people on this site need to become a little more comfortable with the difference between ‘neoclassical economics’ on the one hand and other approaches.

            I’m sure most post-Keynesians, most Austrians and even, perhaps, most Marxists would have told you that Iceland was charting dangerous waters.

          5. Skippy

            Qubble@PP and others…The usage of terms and of definitions see “Iceland was charting dangerous waters.”

            Would it not be helpful *too not* casually lump a hole nations citizenry in the burlap bag being tossed over the debt bridge[?], for it would seem only a few (internationally) had any clue to the impending financial fracas, its origins, the seemingly hesitant (stink sticks) attitude to remedy (let it blow up and then apply advantage) or the most frighting possibility…as a means to an end[s.

            Gezz does not every one remember the last 10 years of incessant MSM / Banking sector / Government backed / Megaphone propaganda…GET ON THE DEBT TRAIN NOW OR BE LEFT BEHIND FOREVER!!!!! Hell and those that did are now the fault, heading their master call[?????].

            On another note Economics[?], Darwinian evolutionary synthesis evaluation or just one metaphysical city built upon another, validated purely on its age (belief trumps all), having subjugated noble math[?] validity’s breath. For instance, I find sailing terms and definitions quirky and in the beginning an impediment to learning, where economic terms are far beyond quirky, more like smokey opaque terms used for the lack any empirical option[s (could be better fleshed out but not, why? {resistance>>>>!). All of this (economics), is an historical repetitive exercise…eh…why is so much measurable fail, dressed up as full of win, but, for a few.

            Skippy…legally, morally, ethically the driver of a vehicle is ultimately responsible for its operation…even if the kids in the back seats are creating a ruckus.

        1. Tao Jonesing

          By all means, get lawyered up because somebody questioned your character.


          1. Philip Pilkington

            You think I was being serious?

            “Hi… yeah… I want to sue DownSouth. [Pause]. Yeah, it’s this guy on an internet comments section. [Pause]. No, I don’t know his real name but… [Pause]. But he said such horrible things… Hello? Hello? Answer me or I’ll sue you!”

          2. craazyman

            If I have to read any more of youze guys cyber catfights I’m going to check myself in to DownSouth’s pyschiatric clinic and have about 10 Tecates with Lime before I puke and then pass out and piss on the floor while unconscious.

            Yes Phil you are correct about people losing faith in all systems of thought. This means there is something new brewing in the universal mindspace. I think what is brewing is a Massive Sun Shot that will come close to deranging our collective consciousness with a nearly omnipotent blow — like the an Angry Lord of Lords meeting a Sinner.

            What has happened is that the internet has magnified all states of personal ID consciousness into nearly an unbearably heavy force, like the sun through a magnifying glass toasting an ant.

            One more sun shot and we’re going to blow up in mind space into fragments like a Pinata. And then all sorts of weird shti will happen, like interdimensional awareness and the perception of strange forces of intelligence — possibly like the somewhat demonic Greys who fly around in silver crafts and flit in and out of our reality — but we won’t know what to make of it. And then the intellectual reconstruction will begin, creating a truly revolutionized understanding of space, time and consciousness itself. This might take a few years though, so best to keep the money flowing in so the pub tabs don’t become a problem.

            All of this will, of course, produce a strange mutation in our understanding of what money is. I personally have reached this understanding but it’s the sort of thing people have to figure out for themselves for it to go viral.

          3. Little Boy

            Chill Crazy. Try to remember that half of all the people in the world are below average.

      3. F. Beard

        What is all this jabbering about psychology?

        Our problem is a government backed counterfeiting cartel using a government enforced monopoly money supply. One need look no further for the problem.

  2. russell1200

    On the Arundhati Roy piece. I agree that we don’t see much of it, but I did learn about this rebellion from the Economist. They seem to be one of the few major news sources that will report on these types of conflicts.

    1. tyaresun

      I believe that India will break up in less than 50 years if the growth is as unevenly distributed as it is today.

      There are plenty of articles in the Western media covering the maoist uprising. The problems are most acute in the mineral rich states which happen to have significant tribal populations. Read about how mining is done in these areas and it will make fracking sound like a picnic.

      Here is one example that received global attention and resulted in the release of Binayak Sen:

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Zen started as Chan in China before it was absorbed by Tiendai and other schools. Today, you only find it Japan and America.

        I wonder if there are any Maoist guerrillas left in the forests of China?

        1. tyaresun

          No Maoists but the equivalent marginalised tribal groups in China would be the Tibetans and the Uighurs for example.

    2. craazyman

      She is a brave and inspirational lady, but she seems a bit nuts. I think any sane person would go nuts living in India. And I don’t mean that to be a slight, my ex was Indian by birth and she was a dream as long as she was sober, but that’s human and not an India thing.

      The other thing, is, I was having a Chicken Gyro at a little Lebanese hole in the wall in mid-town New York City and the owner proudly said in Lebanon you could get domestics from the Phillipines for $100 a month and they’d do anything.

      I said that sounds like slavery to me. That ended our conversation, and he looked at me suspiciously from that point on, without saying much. I think he had a brief Sun Shot, then he recovered and was somewhat short with me when I paid the bill. I could feel his wounded huffiness sniffling around my aura. It’s a problem being sensitive, sometimes.

      But the food was excellent and I went back the next day, with a newspaper so I had an excuse not to chat.

      It’s not a surprise that Ms. Roy is a bit wacko, with all the insanity over there. I’m amazed she’s as lucid as she is.

  3. joebhed

    On the Mosler piece on China’s holdings – it’s only referring to short term T-bills.
    The story says that China moved into longer-term for most part, but having reduced its overall holdings of US government debt by 2.6 percent over 5 months.
    Why shouldn’t they?

    The article also states:

    Before the end of March 2012, the Treasury must redeem all of the $1.7 trillion in Treasury bills that were extant as of March 2011 and find new or old buyers who will continue to invest in U.S. debt.

    The redemption part is correct, but I don’t know about finding new buyers.

    I guess it’s either that, or the US government could recall its Constitutional right to exercise the nation’s money creation privilege now in the hands of the international bankers at the Fed, and thus simply credit to the bank accounts of the holders of these T-Bills the total sum of $1.7 Trillion, forever ending that little episode of our parasitic monetary history.

    Just saying.

  4. walt

    “Every 30 Minutes”: Crushed by Debt and Neoliberal Reforms, Indian Farmers Commit Suicide at Staggering Rate

    At what staggering rate are babies born in India?

    1. Malthusian Reaper

      Suicide at Staggering Rate

      At what staggering rate are babies


      Although World Overpopulation Dilemma expands exponentially, the exponential expansion in India has reached a much more advanced stage. It has reached the stage of Population Bomb. When you have that many malnourished compromised people compacted into limited space, disease travels fast. Foreign relief efforts crawl slowly on as epidemics strike with force of thunder. Would you guess that new diseases there are evolving faster than C. Darwin could say J. Robinson’s Wife’s Joe D.? Is it way too late for birth-control?

      What do you think

  5. Valissa

    re: An Insider Exposes How Palin Is Focused on Riches, Not Governing

    I’m SHOCKED, just SHOCKED, I tell you! OK, please explain how this is any different than about 80% or so of politicians, or the elites in general. oh… that’s right, many fauxgressives need Sarah Palin as a punching bag to deflect from the fact that they ‘believed’ in Obama, whom the banksters had already bought. I’ll bet when Obama leaves office he’ll be quite wealthy despite his poor governing ability.

    1. Francois T

      Have you ever seen a politician, who after refusing to admit a mistake as big as the Everest on a topic near and dear to the heart of a whole nation, have his/her worshipers head on to Wikipedia to alter a history page about the topic of the gaffe?

      Sarah Palin’s gaffe about Paul Revere caused her worshipers to try to edit mistake into Wikipedia

      This psycho-broad is a freaking cult for crying out loud!

      1. Valissa

        It’s frickin’ hilarious to see the reactions that woman triggers! Political entertainment doesn’t come much better than that ;)

        1. Valissa

          btw, many politicians have operatives that attempt to change reality on Wikipedia. All kinds of info wars are played out there, with history, economic definitions and much much more. Make’s life interesting :)

          1. shoogie

            I don’t find either revisionist history nor wikipedia wars at all interesting but then I’m more interested in learning the truth than I am being entertained.

            Perhaps I shall rewrite the present wherein Ms. Palin becomes suddenly inspired to pursue a more humanitarian public life starting with a soup kitchen … and then perhaps some bipartisan guinea worm disease eradication … and how about those landmines in Sudan? That would be interesting.

          2. Valissa

            For shoogie, a fellow truth seeker:

            “Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.” -Albert Einstein

            “There are many truths of which the full meaning cannot be realized until personal experience has brought it home.” – John Stuart Mill

            “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” — Arthur Schopenhauer

            “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall drive you mad.” — Aldous Huxley

            “Do not accept anything simply because it has been said by your teacher, or because it has been written in your sacred book, or because it has been believed by many, or because it has been handed down by your ancestors. Accept and live only according to what will enable you to see truth face to face.”
            – Buddha (via Thich Nhat Hanh)

    1. Rex

      Missing post already submitted.

      I had that happen once too. Not recently. Pretty frustrating.

      1. aet

        Just tried to post twice on another thread, and a similar story…comment gone, but it does not appear.
        Oh, well. Words are cheap.

  6. Frowner

    Hi there. On the China thing:

    I happened across this comment thread the other day, which has some useful links. The take-away appears to be this quote from the FT:

    Though far from a full-fledged retreat, the latest data indicate that Chinese Treasury holdings have been declining slightly since a peak in October 2010. The decline is more significant in the context of booming issuance and Federal Reserve purchases [i.e. massive amounts of liquidity]. In late January, the Fed passed China as the single largest holder of Treasury debt, a little more than two years after China passed Japan. At $1,140bn, up from $70bn a decade ago, China’s holdings remain massive but their stash has stopped growing – something that might have sent yields higher a few years ago. Instead, QE2 has allowed 6 month T-bills to drop to their lowest-ever yield even as China has reduced its share of outstanding debt to below 8 per cent, the same level as two years ago.

    China has been critical of the Fed’s funny money purchases. They may protest too much though. After all, it has given them a way to trim exposure without incurring paper losses.

    Add bureaucrats in Beijing to the list of those who may lament the end of QE2.

    Apparently, too, Chinese holdings have fluctuated a lot in the past.

  7. Walter Wit Man

    Krugman’s piece suffers from the same fatal mistake his work always suffer from: his extreme partisanship.

    Yes, the Republican plan intends to “end” Medicare by claiming to “save” it, which is propaganda. But the Democrats do this too! In fact, the main usefullness of the Democrats is that they provide the justification for enacting these very same conservative policies, like the privatization of social programs, or simply cutting them; the Democrats are masters of privatizing or cutting in order to “save” something. In fact, Democrats are negotiating cuts to cut Social Security and even Medicare itself, at this very moment, in order to “save” it from the Republicans. And yet Krugman does not call the Democrats on their propaganda for claiming to “save” programs they are cutting (in fact, he will be probably be making excuses –saying that Obama and the Democrats had no choice).

    In fact, Obamacare, like the Republican plans, uses government subsidies to insurance companies to expand care. Krugman in playing semantics with the Republicans about vouchers and subsidies, but in essence, the Democrats and the Republicans both use the same mechanism.

    Yet Krugman finds a huge distinction between Obamacare and Ryancare; he thinks there is some huge cost-savings mechanism in Obamacare that doesn’t exist in Ryancare, which justifies the use of subsidies to insurance companies in one instance and not the other.

    But he’s utterly mistaken about that:

    Did the Democrats end the prohibition on importing drugs from other countries so Americans have access to the “free market” for drugs like other countries? Did the Democrats end anti-trust protection for the health insurance industry? Did they do away with the tort-reform-style laws in ERISA that make it impossible to sue a health insurance company? Did they create anything with teeth in it to protect patients from abusive action by insurers? Did they finally decide to put real teeth in regulating what insurance companies can charge in premiums? Did they allow the states to regulate what type of care insurance companies have to provide? Did the Democrats stop taking insurance money to fund their campaigns?

    The answer is no, yet Krugman harbors the illusion that the Democrats have good intentions and really wanted to expand health care.

    What it comes down to is Krugman simply trusts the Democrats when they promise to use privatization to “save” a social program or expand social programs–while he mistrusts similar Republican promises to “save” social programs. There is no basis in fact to give the Democrats the benefit of the doubt. He’s foolish if he thinks that Obamacare is actually going to bring costs down. All the evidence so far points to a lot of exaggerating the benefits (like the trumpeting of 20 year-olds going on their parents’ policies), while premiums are going through the roof while the government sits on it hands claiming it can’t do anything to regulate the premiums. Obamacare does almost nothing to require a minimum level of care. We are just supposed to trust that forcing more customers to buy products from a an anti-competitive industry will bring costs down for everyone. No need to regulate it to make sure this happens–the market will simply make it happen.

    1. Walter Wit Man

      And Krugman is not being forthright about what the Medicare cuts in Obamacare actually contain. Democratic and Obama partisans claim the cuts to Medicare are actually cutting “waste and fraud” from the system (usually a conservative justification for cutting benefits). Krugman claims they are gaining efficiencies but he doesn’t describe how this is going to occur. It cuts payments to hospitals, for instance, and cuts care in other ways, and yet the Democratic partisans insists these cuts will come out of doctors’ salaries or something when in fact it probably means less care for beneficiaries.

      Can he show me how these cuts are going to be implemented in a way that cuts fraud and waste? How does a few hundred billion less dollars going to hospitals to cover care for Medicare beneficiaries translate into more efficient care?

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        The best way to rob or steal from a man is to pretend to be helping him.

        Nothing is more painful than being betrayed by someone you thought was on your side.

        The ones publicly criticized are easy enough to deal with.

      2. curlydan

        Krugman also overlooks the fact that Medicare cuts are necessary not because Medicare costs are “out of control” and everything else is peachy, but because Medicare is buying its services from the private health market where costs are out of control. To make that point, he’d have to get off the partisan bandwagon and admit that the 1.5 years spent on Obamacare only dealt with one of the snowballs rolling down the mountain.

        Until medical costs are contained industry-wide, there’s little the govt can do (although letting Medicare negotiate drug prices could save $24B/yr) besides (i) raise taxes to pay for it (ii) repeal Obamacare, start over, make Medicare for all or (iii) make cuts that curtail health services to the poor.

  8. kevinearick

    The nexus is circling the drain; don’t get sucked in…

    Speed vs. Resonant Acceleration

    From the perspective of the universe, the speed of light across space is quite slow. You want to travel the neutral line, but you have no idea what is in there. You must anticipate.

    The fulcrum of fulcrums is a stack / hash table connected to the neutral pendulum line with pivots, creating waves relative to the angle between the platform and the line as it swings. Resonance and orbit are symbiotic.

    If a sub-fulcrum gets too far out of balance, it is automatically collapsed, with its constituents falling onto the ready platforms below, for filtering to their recycling destinations over processing time, to restore equilibrium.

    The big land “owners” are on top of the skyscraper, but on bottom of the human part of the pendulum line, and the species below them have seen this show several times. In August, the existing nexus goes into the red, permanently, and we will be focusing on the interest on the debt, which means bankruptcy. Decisions, including 0s, omission (the most expensive kind), have consequences. Life is unfair in the short term, but extremely fair in the long term. For the herd in the nexus, who bet all in the TBTF casino, it is Armageddon at that point.

    The start of the line had to be reconfigured before the end, to re-establish prime. How long it takes to get the economy flowing again depends on how long it takes a middle class to reform around the new assembly line, to re-establish a semi-neutral insulator with the required conductive pathway for the new amperage required. Yes, we will be discussing currency.

    If you are expecting major defense cuts without a functional economic replacement, which is the best defense, you are waiting for something that is not going to happen. The kids are going to do all the heavy lifting. It would be helpful to have some competent mangers around, in the form of a market, but they are not necessary.

    Beginning in August, it will be unlawful for any of us to fix anything on the global IC chip anywhere in the world, and we will obey Caesar. The machine will run on auto, until it doesn’t. Careful what you wish for.

  9. Max424

    Andy Grove: “The first task is to rebuild our industrial commons. We should develop a system of financial incentives: Levy an extra tax on the product of offshored labor. (If the result is a trade war, treat it like other wars: fight to win.). Keep that money separate. Deposit it in the coffers of what we might call the Scaling Bank of the U.S. and make these sums available to companies that will scale their U.S. operations.”

    Sounds good. Sounds like master plan!

    The only problem is, the United States no longer has any interest in working for the United States. The fact of the matter is, it got bored with that, years ago, and now prefers to do other less, mundane things.

    Sovereign duties; yawn, how prosaic. How 20th century.

    1. curlydan

      BTW, that article seemed very familiar to me, and then I noticed that it was published 7/4/10…too bad Andy Grove didn’t get the Jobs Competitiveness role that was bestowed on Jeff Immelt.

        1. Floyd T. Bankster

          It’s not about that at all. It’s about pitting labor against other labor allowing us to grab all the dough for ourselves.

    2. Tao Jonesing

      It is nice to hear that Andy now wants to undo what he helped create so that he could line his pockets.

      1. Rex

        The things he said rang pretty true to me, having lived in Silicon Valley since the late 70’s.

        I think most of Andy’s work at Intel was centered on the early growth and innovation period. The dismantling of the US high-tech industry didn’t really kick in until the mid 90’s but it sure exploded in a hurry. I could almost hear the “giant sucking sound” Ross Perot warned about. Free markets and globalization have done pretty good for the guys on top and wall street, but not so much for the middle class.

  10. Praedor

    Philip Pilkington:

    I share many of your opinions about both psychology in general AND economics (I acquired my B.S. in Psychology). Economics is not and never will be science. It will always be a “science” the way that political science is “science”. Psychology is on firmer ground but still problematic.

    I mean, c’mon, you gotta give neuropsych some credit. Or modern iterations of sociobiology (with its strong ties to genetics, behaviorism, AND evolution).

    Just sayin’.

    There’s a reason that economics has its own separate but not equal Nobel committee and system. The real sciences have the real Nobel, economics has its also-ran “Nobel”. Perhaps it should be called the No-Bell to clearly distinguish it from the real thing.

    Economics is merely political science and greed obfuscated with contingent mathematics (with little connection to objective reality – so long as the equation balances, viola! must be true!)

    1. Philip Pilkington

      No, I think that, while both are not sciences, psychology is actually LESS objective than economics.

      I just finished writing a piece on Japan. I could look at plenty of objective measures — net savings rates, employments rates, sectoral balance spreads etc.

      However, every ‘fact’ that psychologists look at is always already ‘interpreted’. As I pointed out above, from meeting people who deal in this field and from reading papers, it strikes me that, more often than not, psychologists have an emotional stake in their ‘research projects’ which de facto skews the results. But even when they don’t, the results are always already, for want of a better term, ‘hermeneutically determined’.

      “I mean, c’mon, you gotta give neuropsych some credit. Or modern iterations of sociobiology.”

      They’re the most pretentious approaches of them all. They rest on very primitive epistemological assumptions about physiological phenomena somehow ‘causing’ or ‘determining’ psychological and sociological phenomena.

      Every now and again the neurologists stumble upon phenomena that they simply can’t deal with properly — a good example at the moment are ‘mirror neurons’.

      ‘Scientists’ — quote-unquote — don’t seem to understand why these and other like phenomena are so difficult to deal with. But the difficulty is to be found in the very assumptions that found the ‘science’ — namely, assumptions of biological, genetic or physiological changes ‘causing’ psychological and sociological changes.

      If every neuroscientist was forced to take a course in continental philosophy and actually listen, there wouldn’t long be so many neuroscientists. And those that did remain would be a lot more cautious in their proclamations.

      1. Philip Pilkington

        “…neurologists stumble upon phenomena that they simply can’t deal with properly…”

        Sorry, that should read ‘neuropsychologists’. Neurologists — at least the brighter ones that I’ve met — don’t draw ‘psychological’ or ‘philosophical’ conclusions from studying brains.

        The ones that do — and there are a few stragglers, I’m sure — are, together with the neuropsychologists, the modern day equivalent to the phrenologists of yore.

        1. Philip Pilkington

          Ooooo… thank you Wiki — in your naive innocence I thank you very much:

          “In 1843, François Magendie referred to phrenology as “a pseudo-science of the present day.”[3]

          Phrenological thinking was, however, influential in 19th-century psychiatry and modern neuroscience. Gall’s assumption that character, thoughts, and emotions are located in the brain is considered an important historical advance toward neuropsychology.”

        2. alex

          “Neurologists — at least the brighter ones that I’ve met — don’t draw ‘psychological’ or ‘philosophical’ conclusions from studying brains.”

          So for example, no intelligent neurologist would even bother talking about possible psychological effects of traumatic brain injury or Alzheimer’s.

          1. Philip Pilkington

            Perhaps I should have written ‘general psychological or philosophical’ conclusions.

            I never said that biology/physiology DOESN’T EVER ’cause’ psychological or sociological changes.

            But there’s a big difference between admitting that bashing someone on the head with a hammer might make them stupid and assuming that ALL psychological and sociological phenomena are reducible to biology/physiology. Neuropsychology has a marked tendency toward the latter.

      2. foppe

        I just finished writing a piece on Japan. I could look at plenty of objective measures — net savings rates, employments rates, sectoral balance spreads etc.

        Sure, but GDP is problematic methodologically, so are unemployment figures, so is PPP, so is a net savings rate (if it includes equity from housing). And when you have macroeconomists and pundits who use the height of the stock market index as an indicator of economic health, who use profits posted as an indicator of health of the company (or the employment it must be providing in the country under whose tax regime it is posting its profits), then it quickly becomes obvious (as you yourself have noted as well) that these “objective” measures are also highly problematic when used too glibly or uncritically.

        Note that my point is not to make any specific claims about specific measurement devices here; but simply to point out that these ‘facts’ are also subject to a heavy amount of interpretation, so that it is very easy in both fields to jump to the wrong (or simply unjustifiable) conclusions.

        1. Philip Pilkington

          You’ve completely and utterly missed my point.

          Every discipline needs definitions of something before it can function, even true sciences — think medicine and symptomology (although I’d argue that medicine is more so an art).

          My point is that while economic measures — like unemployment — are fairly clear to define, psychological measures are not as. This is because we get caught in a sort of mirror-world with our subject. Everything he does invokes psychological reactions in me and vice versa. It quickly becomes unclear whether the reactions are being ’caused’ by me or are ‘innate’ in me.

          Yves linked to a Guardian piece a while back where the writer said that, as he started to search out psychopathy everywhere he started acting like a bit of a psychopath. That pretty much summarises my point perfectly.

          1. foppe

            Yes, it was quite obvious from your (oddly abrasive) tone that you make a lot of the fact that the (entire?) discipline of psychology has its problems in the data collection phase — problems you all attribute to confirmation bias on the part of the observer.
            Therefore, I had hoped to remind you of the fact that economics (I am curious why you do not specify this further, given, e.g. Friedman’s proud assertion that you should ignore any data that does not fit your theory) has its own set of issues, albeit that they are to be found in slightly different places.

          2. Philip Pilkington

            Yeah, I got that. But I don’t think they’re as serious. Psychology, due to the nature of the material studied, is far more prone to ‘confirmation bias’ because you’re dealing with other people, which always means that your own psychology gets thrown in the mix.

            When you’re asking people if they’re unemployed or if they’ve had any limbs fall off recently, there simply is not the same amount of psychological involvement. So, it’ll be easier to diagnose unemployment and leprosy than it will to undertake psychological research.

            Anyway, there’s different types of methodologies. I’m not attacking psychology as such — I’m pointing out the problems it has.

            I think Friedmanite neoclassicism is hokum — but I think behaviorism is just as bad.

          3. alex

            Pilkington: “Psychology, due to the nature of the material studied, is far more prone to ‘confirmation bias’ because you’re dealing with other people, which always means that your own psychology gets thrown in the mix.”

            Obviously true, and hardly a new observation.

            Another example of confirmation bias would be someone who notices the admittedly numerous turds in psychology or economics, and then makes the sweeping generalization that it’s all turds.

          4. Philip Pilkington

            You may think that it’s obvious, but I don’t think most psychologists take this into account properly. Also, I clearly said that this was not a novel observation on my part — I pointed out above that psychoanalysts, psychologists that adhere to psychodynamic theories and many philosophers recognise this.

            Also, I didn’t sweepingly denounce either economics or psychology.

            Perhaps I’ll be accused of having a ‘persecution complex’, but there’s a lot of people around here who seem to be trying to make me say things the opposite of which I have just said. Looking back over the comments it really is a bit surreal.

          5. alex

            “I didn’t sweepingly denounce either economics or psychology.”

            Hmmm …

            “behaviorist voodoo”

            “neuropsychologists, the modern day equivalent to the phrenologists of yore”

            So strictly speaking your reasoned criticisms of psychology have (at least on this thread) been limited to behaviorism and neuropsychology. Please forgive an unsophisticated reader for seeing the above phrases, combined with your lack of mention of any school of psychology which you don’t so offhandedly condemn, to make the not strictly supportable inference of a general denunciation of psychology. Also please feel free to correct the misunderstanding by mentioning which schools of psychology you hold in anything other than dismal regard.

            “Phrenological thinking was, however, influential in … modern neuroscience.”

            Exactly how far back can one go and still call it modern?

      3. Philip Pilkington

        Oh, and for those of you who speak zee French, here’s an interesting interview with the French philosopher Michel Foucault.

        While I rarely agree with M. Foucault’s conclusions, I think he raises some interesting points about psychology in this interview (until he starts talking about philosophy and Truth — unless you’re interested in continental philosophy, I’d suggest you switch off there).

      4. alex

        “They rest on very primitive epistemological assumptions about physiological phenomena somehow ‘causing’ or ‘determining’ psychological and sociological phenomena.”

        What you call “very primitive epistemological assumptions” are called “hypotheses” in scientific jargon.

        1. Philip Pilkington

          Yes, I’m aware of that. I’ll stick with my terminology as I think it’s far more accurate.

          1. alex

            More accurate? “Very primitive epistemological assumptions” sounds a lot more damning and philosophical than “hypotheses” or even “incorrect hypotheses” (with which the history of science is unabashedly littered). It’s arguably good rhetoric, but “more accurate” is an assertion you’ve made without argument.

    1. JCC

      Now that is some refreshing news! It would be interesting to see if this Judge is still sitting on the Bench in a year or so.

  11. Praedor

    Note to Yves…my previous post is in no way to denegrate YOU. Some economists actually DO tend toward the light and humanity. I count you among those few (but I gotta go with economics ain’t science nonetheless).

    Too many are religious followers of the politico-religious belief otherwise called “The Chicago School”. They bend the results of ANY economic “research” they do to support their Chicago School required results. Thus, it ain’t science in the way that Creationism or “Intelligent Design” will never be, can never be, science.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I’m not an economist, although I get mistaken for one, since I’ve become pretty buzzword compatible.

      1. Philip Pilkington

        economist (ɪˈkɒnəmɪst)

        — n
        1. a specialist in economics
        2. archaic a person who advocates or practises frugality

        Doesn’t say anything about Phds… The lady doth protest too much?

        (I dunno if you advocate or practice frugality though — but if you do, then so much the better…).

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Hhhm, the economists’ union says you need an advanced degree. I didn’t even do an undergraduate major in it, just the intro course with Otto Eckstein lecturing and an Australian section leader who had a great fondness for the word “horseshit”. I learned years later was studying under Debreu and thought he was an educated idiot, and in keeping, Debreu was completely horrified when he joined the faculty of Stanford Business School. So I may have gotten my skepticism from my early influences.

  12. Floyd T. Bankster

    re: “China Has Divested 97 Percent of Its Holdings in U.S. Treasury Bills”

    Asian currency crisis part II, here we come!

    The currency raid starts at midnight (EST) tonight boys!

    1. F. Beard

      Eh… am I the only one who thinks that 21st century feminism might have… I dunno… hit a bit of a brick wall? Philip P

      I agree with you Philip but since you are a fascist and I am not, I must reject your analysis as an obvious fascist diversion from the fascist banking and money system which you defend.

  13. Doug Terpstra

    Dean Baker on WaPo and the housing bubble: “It was bad enough that the Washington Post could not see the housing bubble on the way up. As a result, it totally missed the most predictable economic disaster in the history of the world.”

    Indeed, it was blindingly obvious, especially in Phoenix where over 30% of all house sales were investors placing their bets. You didn’t have to understand economics or finance to see the housing bubble clearly, just as you don’t need an MBA to see the next ticking bomb, commercial real estate, or to understand that commodity (energy and food) inflation is a direct result of the Fed’s QE. The people who didn’t see it (or pretended not to see it) were those paid not to, like Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke, mortgage bankers and realtors.

    Unfortunately, these same blind mice are still in charge and are now hyping economic recovery. The entire Ponzi economy is now far more precarious because of them. Thanks, Obama.

  14. Foppe
    Nice excoriation by Greenwald of the WaPo:

    The Washington Post Editors work in a city and live in a nation in which huge numbers of poor and minority residents are consigned to cages for petty and trivial transgressions of the criminal law — typically involving drugs — and pursuant to processes that are extremely tilted toward the State. Post Editors virtually never speak out against that, if they ever have. But that all changes — that indifference disappears — when political elites are targeted for prosecution, even for serious crimes:

  15. Praedor

    Uh-oh. Magical thinking.

    Philip Pilkington doth spoke: But there’s a big difference between admitting that bashing someone on the head with a hammer might make them stupid and assuming that ALL psychological and sociological phenomena are reducible to biology/physiology. Neuropsychology has a marked tendency toward the latter.

    Err, you ARE your biology. Surely you cannot believe in magic, that you are separate from your biology, that your “mind” is an independent inhabitant of your brain, separable and distinct from the biology that defines the brain? All you have to do to wreck/alter “consciousness” or the “mind” is expose the biology of the brain, the neurons and glia, to various chemicals. You can also completely generate visions, false memories, thoughts, feelings just by stimulating this or that part of the physical brain.

    Everything your brain does is biological. Hell, you aren’t really conscious in the classical sense! It has been demonstrated that one “makes decisions” to act BEFORE one is actually consciously aware of the fact. You become conscious of the decision to do x or y AFTER the decision is already made!

    You are your biology.

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