Links 7/26/11

Amazing caves of giant crystals inside the Naica Mine in Chihuahua, Mexico Telegraph (hat tip reader Diogenes)

California man, who saved Japanese farms during WWII, turns 100 McClatchy (hat tip Buzz Potamkin)

Health Care Reform Aims to Cover 90% of Chinese Citizens by 2011 2point6billion (hat tip reader May S)

Hospitals look for Disney magic to make customers happy McClatchy (hat tip reader Buzz Potamkin). It used to be Mass. General was the model for excellence in service.

New Court Filing Reveals How the 2004 Ohio Presidential Election Was Hacked TruthOut (hat tip reader furzy mouse) This isn’t news per se; Christopher Hitchens wrote on how suspicious (as in impossible) the results were from Ohio voting machines in Vanity Fair not long after the election. But no one wants to admit to election corruption in America.

Americans increasingly unhappy with Washington’s effort on jobs, poll finds Washington Post

Shorter Obama Speech – July 25, 2011 Michael Froomkin

Forget the debt, its jobs that will define Obama’s future Martin Feldstein, Financial Times

Here’s The Larry Kudlow Interview With Eric Cantor That Everyone Is Buzzing About Clusterstock (hat tip reader Robert M). OMG, even Kudlow isn’t buying what the Republicans are selling. And Cantor sounds like a TV used car salesman.

Debt Drama Blocks Out Big Picture on Credit Andrew Ross Sorkin, New York Times. It feels weird to be on the same page as Sorkin.

Gawker Investigating Relationship Between Fox News And Chris Christie NewsHounds

Whatever happened to statecraft? Guardian (hat tip reader May S)

The costly errors of America’s wars Guardian (hat tip reader May S)

The Help-Wanted Sign Comes With a Frustrating Asterisk New York Times (hat tip reader Robert M)

The 400 Richest Americans Pay An 18% Tax Rate Forbes (hat tip reader May S)

Antidote du jour:

I think extra antidotes are in order these days (just don’t come to expect them) and Scott A sent this clip via e-mail. I must have been the last person in America to hear of Lady Gaga. I’m not sold on all her work, and managed to tune out Bad Romance when it was a hit, but that official video is brilliant. And I like Edge of Glory. Her acoustical work shows she’s a serious singer.

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  1. Cedric Regula

    I didn’t know Lady Gaga could sing. I thought she was a hair model. The hippo could use a shave, however.

    I’ve got a few good giraffe pictures I took at our zoo here. We’ve got desert giraffi here. We got a couple polar bears too, but I can’t find those pictures. Have to go back one of these days.

  2. Deb Schultz

    Just watched the Kudlow-Cantor exchange. It seems pretty clear the only sticking point now is whether or not there will be another debt ceiling drama before the 2012 elections.

    Cantor keeps saying the administration doesn’t want to get serious about cuts to ‘entitlements’. Kudlow never asks him if Republicans would agree to a deal that would include the proposed raising of Medicare eligibility and the tying of Social Security to chained CPI and would make them a part of the immediate deficit reduction package. I wonder if this is one of the outcomes Republicans are ‘negotiating’ for. It would work well for them, politically, because Obama would be the one who would take the blame for cutting these programs. Although he’s made it clear he’s perfectly willing to do these ‘modifications’, it’s probably important for his 2012 campaign that he not actually carry them out until after his reelection.

    This charade of ‘compromise’ and ‘negotiation’ is really sickening and saddening. The things being discussed as possible solutions all seem completely wrong-headed to me. The discussions one reads and hears on the conventional media seem mostly to be engrossed with the ‘politics’, as though politics were merely the interaction of opposing characters in some trivial farce.

    1. Rex

      The whole thing is revolting. There should never have been any trading at all. Just do it and move on.

      I have not seen any discussion or debate anywhere on the tube in the last couple of weeks that does not begin from the premise that ‘we really do need to get the debt under control’ or ‘since the debt needs to be addressed, what should… ‘.

      I think that de facto starting point is bull and it should have been argued before any horse trading began. Good ole President bipartisan is largely responsible, again, for starting from an incorrect position with a stupid initial concession and working down.

      But he is about the best at that. A consummate professional.

  3. aet

    So this is how they are planning to raise interest rates so that boomers can earn more on their savings?

      1. aet

        …or a way to cut back on Government help to the boomers just when they most need some of that health care??

        1. aet

          No, none of those: they cut back on Government services for the boomers, so that interest rates won’t go up: so that savings won’t pay anything except the now higher costs of living.
          That will stimulate the economy, I bet.

  4. wunsacon

    The Forbes article makes a useful observation but then says: “This reduction in the investment class’s taxes powered the bull market in stocks from the fall of 2003 until the fall of 2007.”

    No! The bull market in stocks came primarily from various crooks convincing laborers (via artificially low interest rates and designed-to-fail lending standards) to take on mortgages they couldn’t afford, resulting in a credit and fraud bubble the likes of which we haven’t seen since the 1920’s. The stocks of the companies riding that boom would’ve risen regardless of their shareholders’ personal tax rates.

  5. M.InTheCity

    Re: Lady Gaga. I saw her in concert December last year and was blown away. Her voice and songcraft are so much better than much of pop music today.

    Of course you can go much further down the rabbit-hole with Lady Gaga if you want. If you really want to get a good understanding of where she is coming from, watch Transmission Gagavision 1 through 15 on youtube. These were done before her first album and even her first single came out. She discusses influences and what she is attempting to do with her first album. She saw this (and still does) as a living performance art project (Lady Gaga is Stefani Germanotta; Stefani created and honours her initial creation – it is a fundamental part of her). Considering what she discussed back in 2008 and what she’s iscussed since the Monster Ball, her project has grown/changed quite organically. Also a good website to go to is Gaga Stigmata the literary journal concerning Lady Gaga.

    I think I’ve just outed myself as a big Lady Gaga fan (a Little Monster, perhaps?). I look forward to seeing her live show again. I’ve seriously never seen a performer (and I’ve seen Grace Jones and other amazing artists)give as much as she does to an entire stadium of people. She’s a real class act in my book.

    1. Charlotte W

      Gaga and her ilk can sing, and play instruments… but to what end?

      None of these ‘songs’ are memorable. Will anyone be humming “The Edge” in 10 years. Of course not.

      It reminds me of Broadway – terrific sets and costumes, and terrible writing. Nothing memorable here.

      We are in A Dark Age – a self mutilating culture of freaks and wannabee reality goons.

      With the exception of the dance shows… no talent here.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        1. You don’t judge popular music by the standards of more “serious” genres. It’s like comparing a really good action movie or Western to Truffaut.

        2. People said the music of the1960s and 1970s ad 1980s was garbage (and so on), Yet the better songs of each decade are still widely played and enjoyed now.

        1. Sock Puppet

          1. Depends whose popular music. I’d put some popular brazilian music in the same class as french art songs, for example.
          2. Let’s see if anyone is doing jazz or orchestral arrangements of Gaga songs in a decade or two.

          1. Sock Puppet

            Occuring to me that I may be being unfair. Jazz arrangements of Gaga are perhaps unlikely, but a Gaga themed Broadway show? Very possible! My opera and Broadway loving friends certainly like her a lot more than I do, so I’ll just leave it as she’s not my thing.

      2. BondsOfSteel

        I’m not a fan of Gaga’s music… it runs way too pop for me. (VNV Nation is more my style.) Still, I can’t deny Gaga’s talent. She is a true artist.

        The Edge, like most other songs will only be hummed by millions 10 year from now after it’s been used in some commercial.

      3. Art Nesten

        To what end? LG is trying to embody and perform arbitrary self-creation as the highest expression of freedom.

        Of course, this sort of adolescence only works for rich people who like her don’t give a damn about “oppressive” social conventions which the rest of us know as social goods necessary for life, which is why her mass therapy sessions are such a nasty phenomenon for teens trying to figure themselves out. It’s just another form of libertarianism.

        Remember folks, you’re awesome just the way you are! (Credit cards accepted)

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          She apparently lives very modestly (save all those crazy costumes). She lives in a small rental!

  6. Max424

    Got no problem with Gaga. She’s never dull, that’s for sure, and I’d like to think not being dull is viewed as a sterling human virtue by every homo sapien that ever walked this planet.*

    My personal favorite in the Gaga video canon — Telephone: Gaga’s withering examination of the disastrous unchecked expansion of privatized justice and cellphone texting.

    Note: Been looking all over for a pair of those two-pack a day solar shields Gaga’s sportin,’ but no luck so far (the Chinese haven’t figured out how to knock em off yet, I guess).

    * The one possible exception, was of course, that dull and interminable prick, Marcus Porcius Cato (aka: Cato the Elder).

  7. Jim Haygood

    ‘Now, with ten years of war behind us, we must redirect our foreign policy – before it becomes morally, politically and financially bankrupt.’ — Michael Shank in the Guardian

    ‘Before it becomes morally bankrupt’ — HA HA HA! Shank is a typical brainwashed, Boy Scout American, still believing his aggressor nation represents the good guys.

    His entire thesis is pragmatic — these wars ain’t makin’ us any money. And they aren’t, of course.

    But the notion that plenty of evidence already exists to haul Bush and Obama before a war crimes tribunal on capital charges never crosses his credulous mind.

    This is why the U.S. bus is going to be driven off the cliff. Even at this late date, narcissistic Americans are incapable of viewing themselves in an objective light. By participating in America’s imperial adventures via NATO, Europeans and Canadians do nothing to jolt Americans out of their rosy-tinted self congratulation.

    So enough with the ‘we’ nonsense, Shank.

  8. james baker

    I have to be very careful not to make any mention of lady gaga around my house mate. Even the slight mention of her, or glimpse of her on TV will drive him into a 10 minute rant.

    1. Charlotte W

      Me too! No talent, nothing memorable… nothing lasting in this culture of banality and self mutilation. Each of these creatures is more outrageous than the last…. but to what end?

      Will we be humming The Edge in a decade – two? She will be dead of an overdose by then.

      this culture is down the sewer… hell, even the 80’s produced more talent.

      1. craazyman

        It might be time to branch out from Perry Como.


        For me, Gaga is good but nobody beats Deborah Harry of Blondie. Even in her 60s, she’s somehow still hot.

          1. Cedric Regula

            I’m selling copies for one platinum coin, but you have to sign an agreement you didn’t get the jpg copy from me.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      I don’t know if you know anything about singing, but I do (I’ve produced Gilbert and Sullivan and auditioned singers including leads who were trained to sing opera and very accomplished).

      Gaga is technically quite a good singer. You seen remarkably unaware of that. You can’t deny her that even if you hate her music.

        1. Cedric Regula

          Yes. Tonal quality matters. Just ask fans of Peter Gabrial and “Fish” of Marillion.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            Peter Gabriel plays with the sound of his voice via resynthesyzing (that is not the right term of art, but what you hear is often not his actual natural singing voice, it’s the music equivalent of airbrushing). So the comparison is spurious.

          2. Cedric Regula

            I think he has been having trouble with his voice in his post Genesis years. I’ve seen Genesis live w/ Gabrial a couple of times and he was for real.

            Then “Fish” sounds more like than Gabrial than Gabrial.

      1. Dave of Maryland

        Dear Yves,

        I agree that GaGa can sing, which is a great relief from the wave of screechers we’ve had the last 20 odd years, but when did the arts become so flabby that mere technique was sufficient in itself? Great voice, but the song drones.

        Did you note the piano playing? Look at those nails! Some of those chords are wide spreads for thumbs with one inch nails on the end of them.

        Based on the syrupy song my 10 year old daughter plays over and over again (never realizing what the lyrics mean), Lady Gaga needs material. Let’s get her some. Let her dazzle us.

      2. Sock Puppet

        I know something about singing too, and agree that she’s a technically accomplished singer, especially by popular standards, but I also agree with Dave that her material is weak.

        Mariah Carey has had more number ones than Elvis and is catching up on the Beatles, but I couldn’t hum one of her tunes if you held a gun to my head. She has technique, but she abuses it by applying melisma to every other note.

      3. rps

        This woman is 25yrs old and has enormous depth and range in her vocals. Talent is an understatement. Lady Gaga’s Living on the Edge is simply astounding. Considering I’ve lived through 5 decades plus listening to generations of my parent’s music, mine, and my kids of syrupy, drippy love songs of your the man of my dreams to I love you please marry me, she loves you yeah yeah, Streisand’s nauseating high pitch scream, to Beatles I wanna hold your hand, to free love and drugs onto Madonna’s pop tunes of sex shock/Papa don’t preach to Britney Spears rolling back the women’s movement (imagine Gloria Steinem having seizures seeing Spears) brainwashing a generation of women to dress and cater to men fantasies. Lady Gaga doesn’t drip syrup much less cater to the man’s barbie dream of women. Over the top in costumes?, sure but definitely an icon of her generation; tattoos and breaking taboos.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          No disrespect to the lady, for what I will say relates to celebrity-hood in general.

          Celebrities need their fans like vampires need blood.

          For a Zen man, that’s all natural and good.

          The paradoxical thing I see, though, is that while a celebrity needs his/her fans as an existential requirement, the celebrity is higher on the financial totem pole – he or she profits from what is in reailty a need, for without fans, he or she is not a celebrity, kind of like there is no sound in the forest when the tree falls if there is no one around.

          The same paradox exists on the emotional plane. The celebrity somehow turns around an existential need to propel him or herself higher on the emotional hierarchy – he or she is adored and worshipped by his/her fans.

          1. Valissa

            It looks like a “consensual” hierarchical relationship to me. The fans also need their celebrities. Certainly the fans have the free will to decide which celebrities to lavish their attentions upon… it’s all about dreams, isn’t it? On both sides? If people wish to “dance with Maya” what is the harm in that?

    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      One good thing about living in a cave is I am not exposed to brilliant singers like Lady Gaga.

      The name is familiar but unfortunately, I have not been blessed with her magnetism yet.

    4. curlydan

      Only hearing of Lady Gaga, I finally caught her Monsters’ Ball tour special on HBO. She seemed like a more talented Madonna (maybe not as good looking), so the show was decent from a non-fan perspective although a bit heavy on the talk therapy for the audience. I suppose that is where the “performance art” someone mentioned up thread comes in–not just a musician but going for something a bit more, but the talking interludes dragged a bit for me.

      I think the improvement in singing in the past few years maybe a results of (hold your hats) American Idol. At least for me, that show showcases and raises the bar for singing talent even though most of the winners or semi-successful participants are put in artistic boxes the sizes of suitcases.

  9. Valissa

    Soros to return outsiders’ hedge fund money

    In a letter to investors, Soros’ two sons cited impending industry regulation as a reason for returning the money the fund still oversaw for outsiders, which is a relatively small percentage of the roughly $25 billion Soros oversees.

    Bloomberg first reported the news.

    Under the new Dodd-Frank Act, hedge funds will be forced to register with financial regulators, giving the Securities and Exchange Commission fresh insight into exactly how these generally secretive portfolios make money. But family offices are treated more leniently under the new regulations.

    How can Dodd-Frank be so mean to the poor innocent hedge funds? Cry me a river

    1. rps

      Me thinks Soros doth protest too much citing “onerous regulations” as the culprit. I don’t believe him. My crystal ball sees Madoff with a new bunk mate. The untouchable rats are running for cover as an untouchable–Murdoch’s empire twists in the winds of exposed treachery. The rats are listening for the sounds of the bell, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…… I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” Donne

      “…how a race of men came into the world so exalted above the rest, and distinguished like some new species, is worth inquiring into, and whether they are the means of happiness or of misery to mankind.” Common Sense

    1. Cedric Regula

      It’s obvious to me polling directors never look at cartoons.

      I like how the scrawny guy is pushing the paper-mache Godzilla into battle with the da Vinci-muscled King Kong.

      1. Valissa

        I love the clever complexity of the cartoon… most cartoons these days are more simply constructed. Each time I look at it I notice something else… this time it was the square wheels on the stim-u-rail. This might be my favorite bit… “The flame is dying!! Add more zeroes!!”

        1. Cedric Regula

          Or just the general idea that all the Kings men and Ben’s helicopters too are propping up the paper mache godzilla.

  10. docG

    I’m continually surprised and impressed by your range of interests, Yves, and your imaginative use of those marvelous “antidotes.” I happen to be a trained musician, a composer, musicologist and theoretician. I’m an unrepentant highbrow, I gotta admit, with a strong interest in both classical and world music — and not much interest in current developments in the world of pop. But I for one really enjoyed the Gaga video. I hadn’t paid much attention to her, since her “image” turned me off, but the video makes it clear that this woman has a genuine gift and I’ll be paying more attention to her in the future — thanks to you.

  11. Alex

    I can’t see the hippo as an antidote for anything. They are, in fact, responsible for more human deaths than any other animal in Africa. The males are intensely territorial, and the females become vicious when they feel their young are threatened. They’ve got 20 inch canines and can kill alligators.

    Worse, they look so cute. They’re kind of like Obama – harmless in appearance, and horrible to deal with.

    1. Alex

      Sorry, that should read, “can kill crocodiles.” There are no alligators in Africa, but I’d guess a hippo would be happy to kill a crocodile.


  12. PQS

    Re: 100 YO man who tended Japanese farms during WWII.

    I had a great uncle and aunt in So Cal who did the exact same thing: tended the farms in their neighbor’s absence and returned them after the war. When my great aunt died, (at age 100 +\-), the families that they helped sent flowers to her funeral. They were still grateful after almost 50 years.

  13. Foppe

    Painful as it feels to have a lot of hard-earned income taken from your paycheck for taxes, a new Illinois law does something Americans may find surprising. It lets some employers pocket taxes for 10 years.

    You read that right — in Illinois the state income taxes withheld from your paycheck may be kept by your employer under a law that took effect in May. Continental Corporation, the big German tire maker; Motorola Mobility, the cell phone maker; and Navistar, the maker of diesel trucks for industry and the military, are in on the deal. State officials say a fourth company is negotiating a similar arrangement.

    Chrysler and Mitsubishi arranged deals with the state in the depths of the Great Recession in 2009; Ford got one in 2007, since revised to let it keep half of its Illinois workers’ state income taxes. (See chart below.)

      1. rps

        Thanks for the link. The breathtaking audacity of our complicit representatives with the corporations holding the citizens of this country as hostages and demanding ransom of the public coffers as they ravage the safety nets and infrastructure of our society. It’s past time to enact the right of states to revoke the charters of corporations and sell off its assets to another who will service the public good

        “The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. …And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not
        warned from time to time…The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.” Thomas Jefferson

  14. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    But so far, oddly enough, nothing has happened. Despite warnings that a deal would need to be brokered by Sunday night before the Asian markets opened, stocks merely stumbled on Monday — the type of weakness usually associated with soft corporate earnings instead of an economic apocalypse.


    From the Sorkin article.

    Obviously, someone didn’t get the memo.

    Wall Street is not coopeating with itself in its own attmept to scare people into cutting Social Security and Medicare.

    Of course, the whole no-panic charade could be a reverse psychology scheme to make people like me think they have no hand in the mess.

  15. Anon

    I find Gaga a little surface, TBQH. She has extremely strong visual imagery, but I don’t find a similar degree of emotional impact musically, or much lyrical depth there. (I don’t like the way voices get so treated these days, that singers start to sound like machines rather than humans. That said, (Poker Face is ridiculously catch.) Then However, I’m very old and not her market, so haven’t heard her in the environment she’s predominantly designed for – the clubs – where I imagine she tears the place up.

    A more profound musician IMO was the late, great Amy, who died this weekend just gone, in London. Her best work is from a few years back, before she was crippled by the addictions that appear to have killed her. She not only had the chops as a singer, but also wrote some extraordinarily powerful lyrics, with a poet’s true eye for detail/metaphor.

    Back to Black, 2006

    Love is a Losing Game, live/acoustic, 2007

    You Know I’m No Good, 2006

    My favorite song by a chanteuse of the past few years, however, is Françoiz Breut’s Derrière le Grand Filtre. EMI has blocked the CD version on YouTube, although there’s still a really sound quality-challenged 2009 live performance up, which doesn’t do any justice to the lyrics (which are indecipherable) or to the subtlety of the backing (drums are too high in the mix for a start). The original is on this CD. (I once won a game of Scrabble in French on the basis of knowing the lyrics of this, triple word score nacre = mother of pearl!)

  16. Valissa

    Larry Summers writes “Economic specialization is a feature, not a bug”

    This article is part of a series, starting with Mark Thoma; Krugman has an article too (The Summers and Baker posts supply links to others). Dean Baker “There is zero accountability in economics”

    IMO, Baker and Thoma have something of value to say… Krugman and Summers not so much. Summer’s article was really lame… have always found it hard to believe in his brilliance.

  17. Cedric Regula

    File: Boehnergeddon – Interruptus

    Mr. B’s Plan B – fund the USG until elections start – has already been deemed to fail in either the house or senate and Mr O says he will veto it.

    So Congress has decided not to vote on it tomorrow, but will pick it up again on Thursday.

    S&P 500 futures take the day off.

    Asian markets flat to disappointed.

    Gold flat, platinum flat.

    Elsewhere, AP reports banks in Asia still making loans before obtaining reserves/deposits.

    The Peterson G. Peterson Foundation issues an urgent message:

    Peter Peterson picked a peck of pickled peppers;
    A peck of pickled peppers Peter Peterson picked;
    If Peter Peterson picked a peck of pickled peppers,
    Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Peterson picked?

  18. SH

    I can’t wait for the episode of “How the Earth Was Made” on those crystals. Probably has something to with volcanoes, glaciers, or plate tectonics. Just a guess.

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