Links 7/30/11

Presidential Commission Seeks Volunteers to Store U.S. Nuclear Waste Scientific American (hat tip reader propertius)

Twitter emerges on Washington front line Financial Times

The Downfall of a Press Baron Adam Curtis (hat tip Philip Pilkington)

House passes GOP debt bill over objections of Obama, Democrats; Senate votes to table Washington Post

Tell President Obama: Invoke the 14th Amendment and stop the contrived default crisis Credo

Veteran Lawmakers Doubt Aug. 2 Deadline Is Possible New York Times. Why is the Times still invoking August 2? It is now widely known the real drop dead date is August 10.

Auerback: Obama Closer to Tea Party Than Democrats FoxBusiness

Regulators willing to go easy on banks Financial Times

Dodd-Frank Update Jon Stewart (hat tip reader helllloooooo)

California Counties Reel From Tax Hit Wall Street Journal (hat tip reader May S)

America and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad GDP data One Salient Oversight

Merck looks to cut up to 13,000 jobs Financial Times

The top-end-of-town have captured the growth Bill Mitchell (hat tip Philip Pilkington)

The Madoff Trustee’s Bad Day Joe Nocera, New York Times

Stucknation: Schneiderman’s Mission to Restore Faith in the American Mortgage Bob Hennelley

Rating move shocks CMBS investors Financial Times

In Steinbeck’s footsteps: America’s middle-class underclass BBC (hat tip reader Neil Wilson)

Depression in Command Wall Street Journal. See also our The Dark Side of Optimism

It’s really annoying that they resort to the label “mentally ill”. Even though Churchill’s dark moods were intense, it isn’t as if they didn’t have a foundation in reality. He was a has-been in his middle age and early 60s after having been a star in his youth and always fending off creditors (he supported himself through writing). This piece reflects the US having defined the threshold for “mental illness” down so that people who respond emotionally of the vicissitudes of life (and they are aplenty) are pathologized when someone would have to be pretty disturbed NOT to be affected. Notice the emphasis on how annoying Churchill was. The subtext, that of an ideal of bland normalcy, is to keep people from impinging on the socially acceptable neuroses of the general population.

Opinion: GOP’s ‘alternate universe’ Matt Stoller, Politico

Antidote du jour:

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  1. attempter

    Schneiderman says his mission is no smaller than restoring faith in the system

    That’s just what we need – restored self-destructive faith in the mortgage system. It worked out so well the first time.

    How about this – all mortgage-holders should jubilate the debt, stop paying, stay in the house, keep paying property taxes, become intensely involved in the community.

    Perhaps Schneidemann’s a more insidious criminal than e.g. Tom Miller. I find it hard to believe he doesn’t know the mortgage regime was context-specific to the heyday of the oil surplus and then the exponential debt scam of neoliberalism. Neither applies any longer, so it follows that the mortgage regime is unsustainable.

    After you destroy everyone’s jobs, who’s supposed to be able to afford these mortgages? Nobody, but they’re sure going to try to keep this sucker game going for as long as they can.

    The greed-induced crisis has undermined public confidence in the concept of “owning” real estate.

    Gee, that would be awful.

    Land ownership is obviously illegitimate on the rational and moral levels. We can add that agronomy has proven that smallholder organic agriculture outproduces corporate monoculture, and that this difference will become extreme as Peak Oil and energy descent set in. So if we plan to continue to eat, we’ll need to transform our food production system to smallholder agroecology.

    But this won’t be possible under the current dispensation where the land is hoarded in the hands of corporate and wealthy parasites. So it follows that if we plan to continue to eat, we need to restitute the land to those who will work it on autonomous and cooperative stewardship bases. Which, by the way, is not just the anarchist way of looking at things, but is close to the same Lockean labor theory of property which was the original basis of propertarian theory, but which was abrogated long ago.

    So land propertarianism is not only morally and rationally invalid, but doesn’t work on a practical level either, for this definition of “work”: The people have food to eat.

    1. Cedric Regula

      All I know is Killer Bees have reached AZ, so I’m working on my food source. Have an preliminary Killer Bee Ale recipe.

      This is for a 5 gallon batch of Killer Bee Ale.

      Alcohol: 8.5% v/v (6.7% w/w)

      Grain: 12 lb. American 2-row
      1 lb. American crystal 20L

      Mash: 70% efficiency
      Single infusion 155F. Sparge 180F.
      Boil: 60 minutes SG 1.065 6.5 gallons

      2 lb. Honey
      Whirlflock at 15m. Add honey at end of boil – turn heat off.

      Hops: .5 oz. Centennial (10.5% AA, 60 min.)
      .5 oz. Cascade (6% AA, 30 min.)
      .5 oz. Centennial (10.5% AA, 30 min.)
      .5 oz. Cascade (6% AA, 15 min.)

      Yeast: Coopers Ale yeast. Add champaign yeast and nutrient in secondary.

      Log: Honey takes a long time to ferment. Go 4 months min. Rack to glass carboy secondary.

      I’m ready.

      1. ambrit

        Yum, yum! Also, how about some Killer Bee Mead! Now there’s a potation that’ll “knock your d— in the dirt!”

        1. Cedric Regula

          That’s a possibility too, except it takes mead a year to finish fermenting! Not that patient.

          1. Birch

            Mead can finish off way faster than that. Use lower sugar content (go for 10% potential alcohol) and it’ll be done as fast as wine. Mix it like a cidre or strong ale and it can be ready to drink in a month (or less if you like it slightly sweet and bubbly). Of course, mead never finishes aging so you can let it sit as long as you want it to get better. Yeast nutrient additives can help with fermentation speed. C. bayanus works good.

            The trick to good mead is a lower sugar content so it finishes dry. Dry mead is the best, and always feels way stronger than the conversion math would suggest. Using 1.5 to 2 pounds honey per gallon it takes about six weeks before it is dry and very drinkable.

            Your killer bee ale sounds good though. Wish I could try some.

          2. Cedric Regula

            I’ve never tried making mead, but a guy that works at our local brew supply store makes it and he told me he lets his go for a year. But it’s good to know shorter is possible in case I get the urge to try it sometime.

            If you can make mead, I would think you can make honey beer. It doesn’t have to use killer bee honey. OK results with orange blossom honey, mesquite honey (tho I’d probably use a non-fruity hops in that case), etc…

            The important thing is you don’t want to boil the honey at all – the flavors boil off/break down. So it goes in the boil pot at flame off and then you do the cool down.

          3. Birch

            You know what you’re doing. My local brewery makes a very nice honey pale ale. I’ve always thought they could use more honey, but it does add a very nice flavour.

            I can’t devy that long fermentation of mead is a good thing. I once had a 5 gallon batch ferment for two years! The last bottle was drunk about four years after I bottled it, and it was rather impressive – very clean yet complex flavour with mild sweetness and gentle bubbles. That said, if you set it up for quick fermentation you can still get great results; generally more oomph and heavy flavours but far from unpleasant. Then there are the many different varieties of honey…

            I’m always careful to avoid pasteurizing it. Lots of good microbes and nutrients in there to keep everthing healthy.

            Happy brewing!

    2. Greg

      “Perhaps Schneidemann’s a more insidious criminal than e.g. Tom Miller.”
      Yes, we shouldn’t forget that Miller was once viewed as Schneiderman is now.
      Watch the Jul 30 Citizen Warriors and see what is going on down in Florida. The is no low that our politicians cannot sink to.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        I don’t recall Miller ever being regarded they way Schneiderman is. MIller made it clear in Congressional hearings barely after the 50 state effort was underway that he was great buddies with the Treasury. He walked back his promise to put people in jail almost as soon as he made it.

        Schneiderman has the AG job despite the Democratic party. That means he does not owe them any favors. As a state senator, he pushed through tough anti-corrpution rules which did not make him popular. They redistricted him to try to kill him and he won anyhow. Cuomo was never a supporter of his.

        Schneiderman is ALSO doing real investigations, something Miller refused to do.

        There is no comparison.

  2. Sock Puppet

    Depression in command: Thanks for the link to “The dark side of optimism”. A breath of fresh air. I thought it was just me!

  3. tranchefoot

    Errr, Eve, Churchill cycled between bouts of mania and intense, sometimes suicidal depression. Suicide is bad for your health. How can you NOT consider suicidal depression to be illness?! Depression may be a normal reaction to the vicissitudes of life, but the impulse to throw oneself under a train- not so much.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      If you look over Churchill’s career (I’ve read several biographies) his depressive bouts, although intense, appear to have been short lived. And as I indicated, he had a massive career reversal when he became a backbencher (in 1929, at the age of 55) and was always struggling financially. He took big losses in the Great Depression, so that was a second blow at the time he was relegated to the wilderness.

      And in his circle, being borderline broke all the time and juggling creditors (which he did almost constantly, or more accurately, he’d just not pay bill until they made serious noise) had to have been draining. He was expected to maintain a lifestyle that was really beyond him. And he had to keep writing all the time to survive. I saw one account that argued he was the most financially successful journalist from a financial standpoint ever (I’d imagine that is no longer true given what journalists can get paid for screenrights) and some of that was a function of how much copy he cranked out.

      I’m not convinced it is a sign of mental illness as conventionally defined to crack under a certain amount of pressure. That isn’t to say people under a lot of stress don’t need help, but there is a big difference between situationally induced maladaptive behavior and deeming someone to be mentally ill, which says it is ever present.

      Suicide in men over 50 is not uncommon, BTW.

      1. David

        Not all illness is “chronic”, in mental health or otherwise. An acute illness may look similar to a reoccurrence condition during a relapse. There lots of possibilities. Cases of a cold are illnesses, as are cases of depression, regardless of how contracted.

      2. Yves Smith Post author


        What is “normal”? I’d hazard that most men over 50 would have succumbed to the personal pressure Churchill was under long before he did. We pathologize it because it took the form of sharp depressive bouts that he seemed somehow able to put aside, as opposed to the more gradual slope downward into hopelessness. But the fact is (which is ignored in this “mentally ill” label) that he was far more resilient than normal people, and quite often able to brush off personal defeats that would have sent most other people into a tailspin (Galliipoli. for instance).

        We don’t have any model for physical health and we don’t have one for mental health either. The implicit one behind the pathologizing of what used to be considered not abnormal behavior (such as rowdiness in boys) is that people are supposed to never be rocked by anything, and the implication is that the emotional equivalent of a flatline is the idealized state. Is that healthy?

        1. ambrit

          Just look at the emerging generation of permanently damaged youth, all from the rush to prescribe methamphetamines to kids to ‘normalize’ their classroom behaviour. (Ritalin, Adderol, etc.) The semi wrecks resulting from this reckless experiment with real people are showing up everywhere. This is our future? God help us, Big Pharma can’t.

  4. No Nukes

    Every American taxpayer, especially Teabaggers, should familiarize them self with the Price Anderson Act.

    This is where we taxpayers guarantee the costs of cleaning up nuclear power plant disasters after the owner pays a ridiculously small deductible. Of course, the health consequences of the nuclear disaster are never calculated, only the immediate property damage.

    If nuclear power, “new nuclear”, the hallucinogenic thorium reactors, the whole mess–if it’s so safe, and so much improved over “that Soviet Junk” as my right wing friends have called Chernobyl, then the nuclear power industry and all its affiliates, can buy their own liability insurance.
    Let them put their money where their mouth is.

    1. Up the Ante

      What part about “We will pay you.” don’t you understand? lol

      Your town can “volunteer” to store nuclear waste for the interim.
      And if the govt. crashes, what to do with that ‘unusual’ visitor in your back yard, the one calling himself “interim”?

      Volunteer Towns Sought for Nuclear Waste Sites, Panel Says

      .. and note,

      “.. Damien LaVera, an Energy Department spokesman, said .. “The Obama administration is committed to “restarting the American nuclear industry,” “

  5. Ron

    Opinion: GOP’s ‘alternate universe’

    We use to call these folks Southern Democrats and John Birchers but over time they have morphed into the main stream of the Republican Party. The social conservatives focused in the bible states continue to be a significant part of the political landscape and by some quirk of nature driven to various ideology extreme. My own view is the so called Tea Party reflects most of this political stream and over time will probably bolt the Republican party creating an interesting element in U.S. politics. While the Democrats may find this idea pleasing my guess is they will over time fracture in similar fashion as American politics become less big tent.

    1. No Know

      I would describe the GOP’s actions as not being able to see the trees for the forest. Kind of a don’t confuse me with the facts approach. Ironic isn’t it that Adlai Stevenson, a democrat, first said, “These are the conclusions upon which I base my facts.” Just another one of those pesky cyclical things ya think?

  6. Valissa

    re: The Dark Side of Optimism

    Nice piece! There is a great book on this theme by Barbara Ehrenreich called “Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking has Undermined America.”

    It was published in 2009, which implies it was current up to 2008, the year of your piece… so some kind of intellectual synchronicity going on there.

  7. personal pronoun

    I appreciate the link to the BBC article on America’s middle-class underclass. I’m certain we’ll get through this one way or the other, but who knows what we’ll be like on the other side…

    “This is the thing to bomb. This is the beginning — from “I” to “we”. If you who own the things people must have could understand this, you might preserve yourself. If you could separate causes from results, if you could know that Paine, Marx, Jefferson, Lenin were results, not causes, you might survive. But that you cannot know. For the quality of owning freezes you forever into “I”, and cuts you off forever from the “we”.” ~ The Grapes of Wrath

  8. Doug Terpstra

    Who could possibly resist such a come-hither porno pose? Our Russian Blue Jezebel practices the same art of relaxed seduction to lure involuntary tummy rubs from passing victims.

    1. No Know

      I wrote a comment related to the GOP alternate universe that questions if they can’t see the trees for the forest. The thought also came to me when reading about how the top tier has somehow managed to reap virtually all of the economic gains of the past couple of years. It seems economists might also have caught the same bug. Most I read seem to cheer “productivity gains” which they define generally as making the same number of goods with less labor input. Trouble is they are not able to notice that there may be a huge difference depending on just how these good things are achieved. To use a drastic example, repeal of child labor laws would probably lead to a dramatic increase in any number of industries. Economist’s focus on their forest would be unconcerned with that tree! The two articles dovetail in my mind. To the extent that the GOP does recognize a tree, you can bet that when it relates to the economy, they have an economist on the payroll who planted and is taking very good care of it.

  9. SR6719

    re: The Dark Side of Optimism

    “The uninterrupted production of positivity has a terrifying consequence. Whereas negativity engenders crisis and critique, hyperbolic positivity for its part engenders catastrophe, for it is incapable of distilling crisis and criticism in homeopathic doses. Any structure that hunts down, expels or exorcizes its negative elements risks catastrophe caused by a thoroughgoing backlash, just as any organism that hunts down and eliminates its germs, bacteria, parasites or other biological antagonists risks metastasis and cancer – in other words, it is threatened by a voracious positivity of its own cells, or, in the viral context, by the prospect of being devoured by its own – now unemployed – antibodies.”

    Anything that purges the accursed share in itself signs its own death warrant. This is the theorem of the accursed share.” – Jean Baudrillard, “The Transparency of Evil”

    (Note: La Part maudite is a book by Georges Bataille, written between 1946 and 1949. It was translated into English and published in 1991 with the title The Accursed Share.)

    1. No Know

      The Chinese philosophy Yin Yang deals with the optimism/pessimism condition. It teaches that when things are good they are in the process of going bad, and when things are bad they are in the process of going good. It seems that we are determined to change or ignore many of life’s cycles. American’s seem to believe that when things are good, they will keep on being good, and when things are bad, the government will bring out a policy that will transform them instantly.

      1. craazyman

        all these links are too depressing. even after the red wine and the xanax they impinge upon my happiness and contentment. the antidotes are cute, but it’s like an asprin for a migraine.

        you know things are bad when even the links about depression are depressing. how could that be? isn’t depression bad enough? I mean really.

        But it’s weird that way. Because If it gets bad enough it almost becomes optimism because you think — things just can’t get any worse — and when they do, you’re sort of amazed in a lighthearted way. And then you think, wow, if things get even worse, maybe they’ll become hilarious. And then you realize it wasn’t depression all along but just reality and you’re perfectly sane, and then you think, Oh Lord, If I’m sane, what about everybody else? They must all be total lunatics. And then the ontological shit hits the brain fan and splatters everywhere ahahahahah ahahahaha haahahaha

  10. Foppe

    That discontent is starting to seep into the deepest corners of Obama’s base. A Washington Post/ABC News poll released this week showed the president’s poll numbers falling, even among liberals and African-Americans — his most loyal backers. Only 31 percent of liberal Democrats expressed strong support for Obama’s record on jobs, a severe drop from 53 percent last year. And slightly more than half of blacks believe Obama has helped the economy, compared with 77 percent of them in October.

    To his liberal supporters, Obama’s concessions on the debt plan were just his latest failure to defend core Democratic principles. Last year, he extended the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and gave up the public option in the health care debate.

    “Most progressives who care about what the central legacy is of the Democratic Party — like the creation of Social Security and Medicare — are astounded by what the president was willing to put on the table,” says prominent liberal activist Robert Borosage, president of the Campaign for America’s Future. “These are not progressive policy reforms, nor what the president campaigned on.”

    Obama sees it differently. “I view Social Security and Medicare as the most important social safety nets that we have,” he said at a press conference on July 15. “I think it is important for them to remain as social insurance programs that give people some certainty and reliability in their golden years. But it turns out that making some modest modifications in those entitlements can save you trillions of dollars. And it’s not necessary to completely revamp the program.”

  11. lefteyeonbooks

    Yves did you see this?

    “The spinal cord of the nation rests in Springfield, MA. Here, on July 18, the City Council passed two ordinances that try to inoculate this city, which has the largest number of foreclosures in Massachusetts. The first ordinance denies banks the right to foreclose on a home unless they have participated in a city-facilitated mediation, and earn a “good faith participation” certificate from the city. Every day that the banks fail to go to mediation earns them a fine of up to $300. The second ordinance requires banks to pay $10,000 in a cash bond if they wish to foreclose on a property. Councilman Amaad Rivera and the Springfield No One Leaves/Nadie Se Mude Coalition proposed these ordinances. “The Springfield city council has given residents real, tangible tools to fight back against the damage banks have done to our city and our country as a whole,” said Sellou Diaite of the coalition. The Council and the Coalition have put down a marker against the war economy, and against the economic draft.”

  12. hhhellllo

    a little time warp from the past.

    U.S. Will End Regular Sale Of Long Bond
    Published: November 01, 2001

    The United States retired the old faithful of the bond market yesterday, ending the regular sale of 30-year bonds after a quarter of a century.

    The Treasury Department said that despite the prospect of federal budget deficits this year and next, it expects surpluses to return soon. With that in mind, borrowing for 30 years is too costly and imprudent, it said, because shorter-term debt can be issued to cover its needs at lower rates.

    1. Cedric Regula

      I think they started selling them again in 2005.

      If you can’t believe the Treasury Department, who can you believe?

  13. Cedric Regula

    File: Boehnergeddon – Be home before midnight!

    Venue changed to Senate. Reid folds like cheap chinese lawnchair. Mr. B’s Bill is in the Senate.

    Mr. O still says he wants $2.4 Trillion all at once, and wants nothing to do with a budget debate in the middle of an election campaign.

    Regurgatating the real news:

    Timmy says bondholders will be paid, but SS recipients better ready that cat food stash (suggests letting the cat fend for itself – they’re good at that).

    All markets closed everywhere. This is considered normal on a Saturday.

    Elsewhere, AP reports banks in Asia still making loans before obtaining reserves/deposits. Not so much in Europe from the looks of CDS spreads.

    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?

    1. ambrit

      Mr Regula;
      “Barak and Bill went up the Hill,”
      “To fetch a bunch of money.”
      “Barak fell down, and lost his Crown,”
      “Bill laughed, it was so funny.”

    1. KnotRP

      Externality, the article lost me in the first sentence….

      > BARACK OBAMA can’t catch a break from the American
      > public on the economy, even though he prevented a
      > depression and saved global capitalism.

      He’s done neither.

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