Links 7/31/11

Dear readers, I am glad to see that many of you are happy with the cross posts of the last few days. The high proportion of them is due to a confluence of good material and a lot of non-blog demands. I should be back to normal programming in the next day or so.

Pollinators ‘lured away by farms’ BBC

Arctic scientist who exposed climate threat to polar bear is suspended Guardian (hat tip Buzz Potamkin)

Southampton engineers fly the world’s first ‘printed’ aircraft University of Southampton (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Poor countries fight for reform of global tax systems Guardian

Fighting back against the CIA drone war Aljazeera (hat tip Lambert Strether)

Gaddafi is stronger than ever in Libya Guardian (hat tip reader May S)

Foxconn to replace workers with 1 million robots in 3 years Xinhua

Obama Faces Grumbling On The Left NPR (hat tip reader Foppe). It’s going to take more than grumbling to have any impact

The Costs of War CounterPunch (hat tip reader lefteyeonbooks)

Legislation to Phase Out Private Military Contractors is Filed in Senate and House Bernie Sanders (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Why Voters Tune Out Democrats New York Times (hat tip reader Externality)

Could Apple pull a J.P. Morgan and bail out the U.S. government? Los Angeles Times

The #trilliondollarcoin meme Ed Harrison

A Mobilization in Washington by Wall Street New York Times. Summary: Washington wasn’t as bought and paid for as they thought and now they have a full court press on to get it back into line

Some Bankers Never Learn Gretchen Morgenson, New York Times

Judge threatens to sanction CEO of HSBC for ‘robo-signing’ Seeking Alpha (hat tip Lisa Epstein)

NC chicken plants closing, laying off 1,000 Associated Press (hat tip Buzz Potamkin). “Lack of discipline” here appears to mean the reverse of the usual “price discipline”.

Antidote du jour:

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    1. Birch

      Boy, can’t wait for a Deepwater Horrorizon to blow out in the Beaufort in below-freezing water, well beyond the middle of nowhere. They’ll never get it capped. Dead floating polar bears will be the least of the disaster.

      But I’m happy to hear they have the oil slick shills doubling as environmental researchers. This will ensure that when the disaster strikes we’ll never know what we lost or how far the disaster spread. Ignorance allows peace of mind (and contamination of body). Might as well drink it straight from the pump.

  1. Foppe

    Re: Why Voters Tune Out Democrats

    Gods that article is obnoxious. Starts with a decent-ish description of a number of problems, and then only deals tripe in the second part. The author writes (among other things):

    President Obama understood this essential lesson when he decided to unveil his own plan for long-term deficit reduction. The fog of the debt-limit debate has obscured that commitment, and his determination to raise taxes on the most fortunate to reduce our indebtedness and fund his priorities. Polls show that the public is with him, scornful of the Republican demand for no tax increases. Rather than treating deficit reduction as an “eat your peas moment,” progressives should embrace the liberal think tanks’ bold deficit plans, which would raise taxes more and defend progressive priorities.

    But nowhere does he dare to even suggest that one can also ‘cut the deficit’ by reducing military spending, or private contractor subsidies; no, voters have to be reasonable, and ‘given that voters care deeply about the size of the deficit, they should now be happy that his huge problem is being addressed.’ Yet never does he bother to go into the question why this has become a priority now, rather than during the Bush years, etc..
    It seems an article worthy of the NYT.

    Anyway, the Sanders bill seems nice, though I doubt it’ll go anywhere.

    1. Foppe

      (Seeing the nonsense he starts out with — about break-catching by “democratic” leaders — I’m disinclined to trust any of his poll results, though.)

    2. ambrit

      Dear Foppe;
      Right on my man! The tone of this ‘article’ screams ‘Aparatchik!’
      For instance: He trots out the old “family budget” canard. Or, Obama “prevented a depression and saved Global Capitalism.” Saved, from what? Why, itself of course! While ‘we’ the taxpayers foot the bill. (Sighs and rolls eyes.)
      And, lest we forget, Bill Clinton as the Sir Galahad of the “Center Left.” !?!?! Coming as he did out of the odious DLC, this is about as demonstrably false an assertion as one can find. Bait and Switch is the term we want here.
      Finally, and I’ll need wiser counsil to weigh in here, he states that his firm ran a “standard Web survey of 2000 people” to come to their latest results. Isn’t that a huge built in bias? Just being ‘on the Web’ requires a substantial investment of resources. Is this method a tech savvy form of Gentrification? Looks suspiciously like they skewed their ‘poll’ towards potential small scale campaign donors. As for the end piece of this screed, lots of ‘suggestions’ and no practical suggestions for implementation. Full of “Sound and Fury” it is, plus a lot of fertilizer.

      1. Abelenkpe

        Family budget? When families fall on lean times they cut what they can easily get rid of first, the things that hurt the least like vacations, or cable TV. They don’t cut needed medical care, education for children or their food budget. The government wants us to believe that we need to cut Medicare, lay off government workers (which will ripple out into communities causing more layoffs in the private sector and lead to more families looking for government assistance unable to pay taxes and bills), and reduce social security while protecting subsidies for big oil (which enjoys record profits while all others suffer) and tax breaks for the wealthy. Media needs to retire the family budget analogy.

    3. Tertium Squid

      I admire your fortitude in finishing it. I stopped on the first paragraph when I read

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

      1. Doug Terpstra

        I hope you hadn’t just eaten. That tripe from the professional left always triggers the involuntary retch reflex. Just your short quote instantly raises bile to potentially toxic levels.

        1. ambrit

          Mr terpstra;
          Let’s stand this one on its head and complain to the FDA! Political hackery of all types is demonstrably an ‘artificial additive.’ As such, it falls in the perview of the FDA, and can be banned as a health risk! Espacially when we present the evidence establishing a causal link to ‘involuntary retch reflex!’ Thinking outside the (cereal) box is so much fun!

  2. wunsacon

    >> I am glad to see that many of you are happy with the cross posts of the last few days.

    We’re glad to see every post on this site!

    1. G3


      My 2 cents : Cross-posts or not, I don’t care as long as they are informative. And they sure were.

  3. G3

    Oh lordy, did someone tell us that we will be in and out of Libya quick? Technocrats I mean.

  4. KFritz

    Re: Libya

    No one can claim that the war against Gadaffi being waged by the insurgents and NATO under cover of a paper-thin UN mandate is going well. It’s going badly.

    That being said, the Guardian piece is ideologically driven and full of skillful manipulation.

    The government controls 20% more land land than it did in the immediate aftermath of the February revolt…..Factual, except that the rebels’ high water mark WAS in the first month after the revolt, and Tripoli’s high water mark was perhaps 2 months ago. There have been territorial gains for the rebels on all fronts in the last month.

    The Guardian piece seems to imply that Gadaffi remains in power because he’s recovered legitimacy in the eyes of his populace, and because some defectors have returned to the fold. As I’ve read the news, he’s held on because:

    1)His army was built around a small highly trained tribal kleptocracy who could be counted on to support him no matter what, surrounded by rings of weaker forces. The core has never wavered.

    2)He holds a technological edge in weaponry over the rebels.

    3)He’s intelligent and astute. He’s adapted brilliantly to the tactics and strategy of his opponents.

    4)His rebel opponents are an ad-hoc assemblage making themselves up as they go along. Terry Gross’s Thursday interview illustrated this point brilliantly.

    Gadaffi does have the loyalty of the Sirte area and some other tribal groupings. All reports I’ve seen indicate that he has lost the support of a majority of all city-dwellers, including the people of Tripoli, which he could not rule without terror.

    The comment is NOT a claim that the war is going well. It’s a mess. From a long-term geopolitical point of view, it might have been wiser to allow the Gadaffis to massacre a portion of Benghazi in February and March. Plainly NATO and its military people were overconfident about the air campaign and guilty of underestimating Gadaffi. All this is still no excuse for Seymour of the Guardian and Sengupta of the Independent to misrepresent fundamentals of the situation.

    1. Jessica

      “Plainly NATO and its military people were overconfident about the air campaign and guilty of underestimating Gadaffi. ”

      Were they overconfident or had they been waiting for a chance to take out Gaddhafi for a long while for any number of reasons and couldn’t bear to pass up the cover provided by the real threat of a slaughter in Benghazi? Perhaps they didn’t directly lie, but perhaps their desire to intervene allowed them to half believe the untruth that they needed us to swallow in order for them to get away with the intervention?
      I don’t know. I mean these as actual questions.

    2. ambrit

      Dear KFritz;
      Seeing as most of the States in Africa are remnants of the Colonial Period, the eventual disolution of said states and recombination into more homogenious and stable political enteties would follow naturally. The best long term result for this ‘crisis’ would be the break up of Libya and the parcelling out of various pieces to neigbhouring countries. This process can be applied to all of Africa, and indeed most of the world. Sound sort of far fetched, you say? Well Pilgrim, you all did it right here in America two hundred odd years ago. You’re still around I notice.

    3. russell1200

      Point Number 1 – Holding the support of the military – appears to be the critical variable. Syria, Bahrain, and Libya have all kept the military loyal. In all three places the military was also part of a minority. Bahrain and Syria are a religious minority, and Libya is a clan-kleptocracy minority. Thus if the rulers went down, the military would go down with them.

      1. KFritz

        The Libyan Army was designed primarily to keep Gadaffi in power. Absent the NATO intervention, it would have finished off the rebels some time ago. It’s created a stalemate since the intervention, but in the last month it’s lost territory incrementally throughout the country. Combined with resupply problems, the incremental losses which are likely to continue, would seem to make its long term prospects not very good. Except for the fact that the politicians of NATO aren’t thinking long term because we, their people, want the war over. Not to mention that it’s costing money.

        I can’t think of a better illustration of von Clauswitz’s (paraphrased) dictum that war, diplomacy, and politics are a continuum.

  5. ambrit

    Re the NC chicken plants, a Ukrainian billionare buys an American business “out of bankruptcy” and tries to “turn it around” by applying “cost cutting and other methods.” When the profit point doesn’t materialize, he cuts his “losses” and pulls the plug. This sounds mysteriously like what we here in the West used to do to Second World countries. This, if nothing else, is proof that America is already a “Banana Republic.”
    Also, the article was light on useful information. Such as: What was the investors time line? Did he give the plan enough ‘wriggle room’ to work out an acceptable final structure? Why did the company go ‘belly up’ in the first place? Was it bad management, old equioment or good new fashioned ‘financial manipulation’ by the front office? The basic question is, was this company, or portion thereof, saveable under any reasonable scenario? So many questions, so little time…

      1. ambrit

        I’m not so sure, dear heart. There is still a huge economic driver in the “Hole Food” movement. Genetically Modified Organism covers a lot of territory now.

          1. ambrit

            Mr Regula;
            Indeed, such are a favourite of ‘State Security’ personnel worldwide. Thus, you get added support from the Military Industrial Complex too. A Better Life Through Science!

  6. ambrit

    What am I missing here in regards to the ‘robo-signing’ bank executive threatened fines? The best quote is at the end; “A Trustee in these cases plays a very limited role.” Huh? I thought the responsibility to prove legitimacy and or preserve same was the essence of a Trustees role. Who is trying to fool whom here? Those of you who deal closely with this financial quagmire please enlighten me.

      1. ambrit

        Dear Skippy;
        I’m going to have to go sit in my Meditation corner and contemplate that wonderful Zen Aphorism you’ve presented me with.
        Q: What is the sound of one hand clapping?
        A: That deafening roar you hear after the trigger is pulled.

  7. Foppe

    Greenwald: “Obama’s whistleblower war suffers two defeats”

    As the transcript of Drake’s sentencing hearing published by Secrecy News reflects, Judge Richard Bennett of the U.S. District Court for Maryland was infuriated by two aspects of the DOJ’s conduct: (1) after the Bush DOJ executed a search warrant of Drake’s home in 2007, the Obama DOJ — 2 1/2 years later — finally indicted him, meaning he had to live with that cloud of criminal uncertainty over his head for that outrageously lengthy period of time; and (2) despite dropping all of the serious charges right before the trial was about to begin, the DOJ demanded that Drake be forced to pay a $50,000 fine as “a deterrent” (on top of the tens of thousands of dollars he spent in legal fees until he had no money left and had to use public defenders, as well as the fact that he was five years away from earning a federal pension when he was fired and ended up working at an Apple Computer store to support his family); to justify the requested fine, the prosecutor cited a $10,000 whistleblowing prize Drake was awarded earlier this year.

    As for the first issue, the court condemned what it called the “extraordinary position taken by the government, probably unprecedented in this courthouse” of dropping the whole case on the eve of trial after “an extraordinary period of delay.” Judge Bennett added: “I find that unconscionable. Unconscionable. It is at the very root of what this country was founded on against general warrants of the British.” As for the second issue, the court reviewed the difficult circumstances of Drake’s childhood (he was raised in poverty and sent himself to school with risky military service), his complete lack of any prior criminal record, and — most of all — the multiple ways in which the failed prosecution destroyed his life (“the financial devastation wrought upon this defendant”), and flatly refused to impose any fine at all, explaining: “I’m not going to add to that in any way.”

    What is most notable about this hearing is that the prosecutor candidly described not only his reasons for wanting a substantial fine imposed on Drake, but (without his saying so) also the motive for the Obama DOJ’s broader war on whistleblowers: namely, an attempt to send a “message” of intimidation to future would-be whistleblowers (click on image to enlarge)

    1. Dave of Maryland

      This morning I had a thought:

      What if every man-jack lawyer and attorney in town filed to run for Congress?

      What if instead of two or three indifferent primary challengers, there were 50 ? Or 90 ? Or 170 ? Per seat?

      What if the ballot was so long that it couldn’t be put on a machine at all?

      What if there were so many candidates, the vote so split and fragmented, that no incumbent could guarantee he might win?

      I spent a few minutes looking this up. First, there doesn’t seem to be a maximum number of candidates. Second, filing all the necessary forms is a job best left to the legally trained.

      I’ve mentioned this before: We have the means to defeat the ogres, but we must abandon Washington and, instead, seize power with our own two hands. We can do this.

  8. alex

    re: Foxconn to replace workers with 1 million robots in 3 years

    Quelle Surprise!

    ’tis the nature of manufacturing to become ever more highly automated. While this puts people out of work, it also leads to higher productivity. What we see here is China, touted as unbeatable due to its low labor costs, following the inevitable path. Meanwhile the US has lost much of its manufacturing, even though we’re competitive when things are highly automated. Coming back to the US? Maybe, but path dependencies are tough to deal with.

    In other words, the US enjoyed only temporary consumer bargains due to cheap foreign labor (and not even real bargains, due to the trade deficit). In the long run we’re getting screwed. Folks like Gomory & Baumol, and even Paul Samuelson, warned about this, but their wisdom was drowned out by chanting from the Cult of Free Trade. Like most cults it’s simple-minded, and based on the absurd notion that relative advantages in factors of production are as static as the climate and soil in that simplistic wine and wool example.

    Gosh, people can learn new things about production? New industries can develop in a country? Hysteresis and path dependency can be hard to overcome? I guess some Serious People missed such obvious points. But hey, the folks who made fortunes outsourcing and offshoring can just take the money and run, and tell the US of A to go screw itself.

  9. Jumpjet

    Hey Yves, or anyone else with knowledge, I’m looking for reading material regarding the postwar economic development of Japan and East Asian nations as a whole. I am not a big economics or finance student; I am willing to learn, but I’d prefer something that’s geared as much toward a student of history as a student of economics. Do you have any recommendations?

    Just doing some preliminary searching, I was thinking of starting with Chalmers Johnson’s MITI and the Japanese Miracle.

    1. Philip Pilkington

      For Japan (and West Germany) this book contains some excellent information and contextualises the rise through the prism of Western ‘financialisation’:

      My only problem with it from an historical point-of-view is that the author seems to imply that Japan went through a ‘good’ expansion that was ‘non-financialised’ while the West went through a ‘bad’ expansion that was ‘financialised’ — of course, this couldn’t be true as Japan crashed out in ’91.

      Apart from that though, its an important contribution to the rise of Japan.

      I’m afraid I’m not so good on East Asia. Sorry. Maybe someone else can chime in here…

      1. Mark P.

        The recommendations above are good. But an interesting historical perspective — one I recommend — is found in the highly readable WE WERE BURNING: JAPANESE ENTREPRENEURS AND THE ELECTRONIC AGE by Bob Johnstone.

        This book, published in 1999, isn’t just a good read but is the only comprehensive, well-researched history in English (that I know of) that explains how the commercialization of semiconductor technologies — usually, derived from research by scientists at Bell Labs, RCA and other U.S. companies — in the consumer electronics realm came to be dominated by Japanese companies like Sony, Canon, Casio, Seiko and Sharp.

        Johnstone also presents a different take on Japan’s success than the standard MITI/”Japan Inc” account, stressing that there were pivotal individual visionaries — engineers, scientists and scientists — who drove much of Japan’s post-war success in technology.

  10. Philip Pilkington

    On the Gaddafi piece: this has been obvious for ages and anyone remotely clued into Libyan politics would have understood it. Britain et all should never have gotten involved in Libya and yet the Left in many countries bought into the narrative hook, line and sinker.

    The only people who consistently pointed out that this was not an uprising ala Egypt and Syria were the hard-left — including Seymour and his other Marxist friends at Counterpunch. That says an awful lot about just to what extent the not-so-hard-left has bought into the ‘humanitarian intervention’ line of argument — an oft-times despicable line of reasoning that gives off some of the worst stenches of ‘ressentiment’ and victimology that the left is capable of.

    As for the rise of The Coin (all hail The Coin…), I like the way its referred to by The Economist as a ‘harebrained idea’. The Economist only say this because they don’t understand why such an unusual measure would work. If they scratched beneath the surface they might learn something interesting about the monetary system. But then we all know that The Economist are allergic to scratching beneath the surface…

    1. Eureka Springs

      SImple solutions for the benefit of the masses put them out of work. Or at least the intentionally myopic convoluted neoliberal work to which they are accustomed.

    2. John

      The Economist blog was quite positive about that proposal. It’s the kind of proposal that looks harebrained when you first see it, but then you realize it’s so crazy it just might work.

      In the past, Karl Rove and his ilk have been catching us by surprise with their creative malicious tactics. It’s high time our side gets creative.

    3. Cedric Regula

      If we don’t win a war one of these decades I’m going to get impatient and begin to question what good is it having the world’s most expensive military.

      Yes, I saw them celebrating in MMT land about saving the country with The Coin. They are playing a “let’s re-name hollywood movies in a coin format” game. They forgot one – “Inglorious Bastards’ Coins”.

      1. psychohistorain

        Dear Cedric,

        You are looking at wars all wrong. Wars are there to keep the rubes in line, kill off all the high end talent against us, prune the masses to reduce population pressure, guarantee cheap access to raw materials, make massive amounts off war ordinance, etc. and direct all profit to the global inherited rich.

        Cedric, tell me of a war where the global inherited rich have not made out like the bandit scum they are?

        Peace brother……

        1. Cedric Regula

          Who’s gonna wanna do that? I thought we learned that way back in ’74 and the movie only cost a million to produce!

          In the year AD 2293, a post-apocalyptic Earth is inhabited mostly by the “Brutals”, who are ruled by the “Eternals” who use other “Brutals”, called “Exterminators”, as, “the Chosen”, warrior class.

          The Exterminators worship the god Zardoz, a huge, flying, hollow stone head. Zardoz teaches:
          The gun is good. The penis is evil. The penis shoots seeds, and makes new life to poison the Earth with a plague of men, as once it was, but the gun shoots death, and purifies the Earth of the filth of brutals. Go forth … and kill!

          1. Valissa

            Ferengi Rule of Acquisition #34. War is good for business

            A few months ago, I got curious about the Remington Gun company and if it trades on the stock market and how it was doing with all this infinite war. Found this scary piece of news… in 2007, Remington was acquired by private investment firm Cerebus Capital Management.

            Remington is part of this CCM subsidiary, the Freedom Group

  11. aeolius

    Re: Debt reduction.
    What a con job between Boener and Obama.I am sure like any good Ad campaign, the whole thing was orchestrated. before hand. Just like the health bill. It tied up the media and congress for months so nothing else got done.
    I feel like such a fool the last few years believing that democracy still had a chance. We are a corporate state and one our way toward a totalitarian one. The two parties are like two brands of soap both owned by P&G.
    Obama was the a new start-up bought out by the Company. Re member his ad campaign started when as a State Senator he was given the Keynote speech at the Dem. convention.Then when nominated all the little PC ducks followed him into the pond.

    At this point I would rather have the Tea Party in 2012 then the “House Negra”

    1. Valissa

      Obama was’t bought out, he was brought in!

      George Soros Interview: A Very Good Crisis,28124,25211027-5018057,00.html

      [NOTE: this excerpt is from my own archives, as the original article is no longer available at The Australian]

      That new engagement on the policy front coincides with a remarkable improvement in the political environment for Soros, who spent $US25 million in a failed effort to help Democrat John Kerry defeat George W. Bush in 2004. Some Wall Street donors jumped onto Barack Obama’s bandwagon just before last November’s election, when he was comfortably leading John McCain in the opinion polls. Others can boast that they backed Obama before he stitched up the Democratic nomination in May and there are a few who can even say that they were on board before he won the Iowa Democratic caucuses in January.

      Soros held a fundraiser for Obama at his New York home and donated the maximum legal amount in June – June 2004, that is, before Obama had even been elected to the US Senate. Two years later he urged Obama to run for president, and when he did become a candidate Soros organised a meeting with other financiers in Soros’s own Wall Street office. The result is that after being a political outcast under the Bush administration and having little influence under Bill Clinton, Soros is confident that “at least I will get a hearing” in Washington. And he will use it to advocate radical regulatory and financial reform to rein in financiers like himself.

      Bwahahahaha you sucka.. on anyone believing that Soros wanted “to rein in financiers like himself.” Soros is not really so different from Pete Peterson or the Koch Brothers. I do not trust his INET organization anymore than I trust anything the Koch Brothers or the Pete Peterson funds. Yes, there are good hearted and well meaning people being paid salaries by these men, and some interesting research and ideas generated… but it pays to remember that the uberwealthy are not on the side of the rest of us and have their own long term agendas.

      Here is Donna Brazile basically admitting the Obama plan was born early on…

      Why Americans Hate Democrats—A Dialogue, Tapping into the “Obama” factor.

      This is a new moment to identify and recruit better messengers. Perhaps it’s time to tap into the “Obama” factor: Scour statehouses for young, energetic, inspiring, and emerging leaders with the ability to connect the head and heart.

      Note that this article was written in Nov 2004, so Obama had already captured the hearts of many with his amazing speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention. If anyone thinks it was just luck that he spoke there, then perhaps you need to look again. Soros through the big Obama fundrasier in June 2004 and the convention was in late July. Heck, when I first heard of Obama I also thought he was wonderful and brilliant and all that. But starting in 2007 I started having second thoughts the more I learned about his background.

      Of course anyone who did not believe in Obama in 2008 was pretty much labeled a raycist [some blogs won’t allow posts with the regular spelling] by the netroots and the MSM, and although some folks undoubtedly had that reason, most didn’t support Obama for other reasons having to do with his character and background. I think the race card has backfired big time on the Dems, and rightly so.

  12. optimader

    OT , I clicked on msnbc against my better judgement and I see a B&W photo journal shilling some nbc propaganda about “special access to the hill” or some such and I see a backlit kennedyesque cuban missle crisis B&W photo of Boehner apparently in deep discussion w/ some other parasite (speculating about whats for lunch in the cafeteria?)
    The simulated gravitas-lite made me throwup in the back of my throat a little..

  13. Jim Haygood

    “There is no question that [former CIA general counsel John Rizzo] is liable for the crimes he is committing. The only issue is whether he will face the music or be kept hidden by the authorities”.

    Similarly, under the principles established by the Nuremberg tribunal, responsibility goes all the way to the top.

    Let us hope that like other notorious mass murderers such as Kissinger and Blair, Peace Laureate O’Bomber is obliged for the rest of his life to plan his international travels very carefully, for fear of being seized and brought to justice in countries which prosecute war crimes (as opposed to committing them).

    1. Philip Pilkington

      A physicist tackles urban planning? When I clicked on this I made a bet to myself:

      “If this guy turns out to be a Malthusian and a crank, I’ll go in and get a delicious ice-cream out of the freezer. If he doesn’t I’ll clean up my desk.”

      Well, I’m enjoying my ice-cream as we speak.

      Physicists need to stick to what they’re good at: physics. All urban planners — and I know a few — know exactly what is the root cause of most bad planning. No, it’s not ‘entropy’ (whatever that term means in such a vague context). It’s being constrained to short-term planning due to governments curtailing the available funds.

      Fiscal rectitude and balanced budgets do more to wreck cities than any notion of ‘entropy’ captures (or doesn’t, because its just a bad metaphor when applied in this context).

      Anyway, back to my ice-cream. Mmmmmmm…

      1. Philip Pilkington

        By the way, is anyone else coming to see these TED talks as a sort of resurrection of that philosophical ‘bad egg’, the Mathesis Universalis?

        What’s next? Am I going to see these folks at a stall on the side of the street trying to convince me of ‘the tru and nobel Wonderment of their Success in the field of Perpetual Motion.’

        And we look back on history and laugh… Shame on us…

          1. Philip Pilkington

            Eeeeek! Putting people in love into an MRI brain scanner. I’m surprised she didn’t clear the room with that one. Kind of tells you what place our culture is at right now.

            Some time in the future, maybe 100 years from now, maybe 50, a social historian will look back on our era and ask himself (or herself) the question: why were people of this period so terrified of themselves that they had to debase all their experiences and scrutinise them in crude biological ways?

            A great book will be written on that someday. If I were to suggest a title I’d try: ‘The Fear of Psychology and the Descent of Western Man into Terrified, Self-denying Meaninglessness’.

            In an excellent interview three years ago Robert Hullot-Kentor (who translated a lot of the brilliant German philosopher Theodore W. Adorno’s work) made a statement that I thought was one of the most precise I’d ever come across:


            “Because, academics included, the U.S. verges on homogeneity in its denial of psychological reality. Hardly anyone wants to know what goes on inside themselves. There is strikingly little trust that intelligence is capable of understanding what transpires internally or that thought itself is even apposite to what the self is…. Even the word “anxiety” has largely been forced to the mum perimeters of the language, as touching too closely on a sore spot, in favor of “stress,” a now much heard term from mechanical engineering. Only what blocks psychological perception is permitted to serve a psychological purpose.”

            Ouch! If that doesn’t cut to the bone of the contemporary Zeitgeist, then I don’t know what does!

          2. Foppe

            One person who has a lot of interesting stuff to say about stress is this guy (though he doesn’t mention the term stress directly in this lecture).

          3. Philip Pilkington

            I think Hullot-Kentor’s implicit point is that the term ‘stress’ as we use it says something very specific about our culture. He points out that it’s a term taken over from ‘mechanical engineering’. As we’ve come to view ourselves increasingly as (neurological) machines, we have begun to discuss our psychologies in ways conducive to this.

            We become machines which ‘push through’ the stress. Or are overstressed (presumably in this case we might, to follow the metaphor, ‘bend’, ‘break’ or, in keeping with contemporary American English, ‘suffer a breakdown’).

            The metaphors we use tell us rather a lot about the ways we implicitly view ourselves. Today we are but little machines. Brains inside vats. A collection of neurons capable of experiencing X amount of stress.

          4. Foppe

            There is a decent amount of truth to that. However, this is not to say that stress isn’t interesting to study as well. :)

          5. skippy

            @ Phillip….

            Pillip, is it not strange the harbingers attached to those that would call for a reduction in humanity’s speed. Once applied to all, western or 1st/2nd living standards, Malthus observations would seem conservative

            Froppe, it would seem many are afraid of measurable and repetitive observations, which would give insight to our species capacity for duality. And yes, it is assured any data would be politicized, mythologized, et al, for personal gain…sigh.



            Behold, the elusive species of human known as the Fox News flouride zombie!


            The Resident: Why People Hate The USA


            PS. Devo knocking boots


      2. okie farmerd

        Why didn’t West point out that cities are not cost effective as they increase in size, ie, the larger the city the more it cost to run them on a per capita basis. Having higher taxes to keep them operating, or transfering taxes from country to city, is necessary to have the other economies of scale” he points to.

        But my main question/thought is whether he’s suggesting cities will inevitably die like corps? What’s the point of this TED?

  14. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    What is the difference between a robot and a slave?

    The employer keeps the robot well maintained, well oiled and in good shape…i.e. lifetime living cost and healthcare. In return for this benevolence from above, the robot never complains, unless it’s genuninely sick.

    I think that’s Foxconn’s idea of an ideal Confucian society.

    1. Tertium Squid

      They are also competitors.

      “Let us remember that the automatic machine is the precise economic equivalent of slave labor. Any labor which competes with slave labor must accept the economic consequences of slave labor.”

  15. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    With respect to the Darkside of Optimism, I am hopeful, that is, I am optimistic that I can be more pessimistic in the future…again.

    I had it in me before when I wrote here a while back that the only fear we have to fear is that we don’t fear enough. Some people didn’t like that.

    So, again – the only fear we have to fear is that we don’t fear enough.

  16. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Chicken plant laying off 1,000?

    Interesting that humnas get laid off but those egg-laying chickens are always fully employed.

  17. wunsacon

    Yves, I think Oceania is slowing down the pace of advance against Gaddafi IN ORDER TO spend more time developing relationships with the rebels and, in turn, to ENSURE the eventual rebel leadership represents Oceania’s interests.

    IOW, I argue we can EASILY defeat Gaddafi but choose not to.

    As the Wicked Witch of the West said: These things must be done delicately — or you hurt the spell.

    1. psychohistorain

      If the killing is stopped too early then the smart and passionate leadership that emerges during the event is allowed to live and question existing authority too much….and we can’t have that.

      So, best to have these things be a bit messy for a while to cover the killing of the talent against the global inherited rich.

    1. Tertium Squid

      So I read such things and have a hard time taking it all seriously.

      THIS is a major problem America faces? THIS is a threat to electoral democracy?

      Even if the claims in the article are perfectly true, it seems more like scary stories to tell progressives at bedtime – “vote for Obama or you’ll get this!!!”

      1. wb

        Oh, I don’t know, Tertium, I’m not American, never been there, I just thought that the sheer bizarre spookiness was worth the click and worth sharing, I mean

        “Ground level spiritual warfare is casting out demons from individuals. Occult level spiritual warfare is a confrontation with demons operating through witchcraft and esoteric philosophies (examples are Freemasonry and Tibetan Buddhism). Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare is the highest level, dealing with confrontation of territorial principalities that control entire communities, ethnic groups, religions, and nations. “

          1. Valissa

            The best political, social, and spiritual work we can do is to withdraw the projection of our shadow onto others. –Carl Jung

            In times of trouble some people find comfort in hate and fear. – Odo (DS9, Season 7 #551)

          2. Birch

            Here’s the crux of it:
            “…Wagner saying that the Japanese stock market collapsed because the emperor had sex with a demon (the sun goddess)”

            When you make the sun a demon, you demonize everything that keeps you alive, with the possible exception of fungi. Try living on mushrooms alone. There is nothing in this *solar* system more powerful than the sun – no, not even a sky-god. Make it an enemy and die. Seems like a remarkably stupid religo-political move to me; but then religion is all about being more stupidly religulous than the last group.

          3. Cedric Regula

            Yes. Doesn’t sound very Egyptian. Better to believe in Sun Ra.

            Then they even got their pharaohs to believe that if they pull their brains out though their noses, pharaohs live forever.

            Think what we could do with that!

          4. Valissa

            The Japanese goddess of the Sun, is hardly a demon… like the Egyptians Pharoahs who claimed descent from the gods, the Japanese royalty did the same at one time (it was a cultural trend in many parts of the world).


            one of the principal Shinto deities. The meaning of her name, Amaterasu-ōmikami, is “the great august kami who shines in the heaven”.[1] She was born from the left eye of Izanagi as he purified himself in a river and went on to become the ruler of the Higher Celestial Plain (Takamagahara).

            She is also said to be directly linked in lineage to the Imperial Household of Japan and the Emperor, who are considered descendants of the kami themselves.

            Amaterasu images


            Amaterasu has become very popular with Wiccans and neopagans.

          5. Skippy

            @Valissa… At least the skin cancer rate would sort out_that belief system-over time or would it evolve to the moon goddess? BTW whats up with the Sexualization of gods, especially Monotheocracys…The Handmaid’s Tale?


            alternatively it would seem that such a deity would be non sexual or better yet a hermaphrodite, its just so confusing, always changing etc.

            Skippy…ahh…the wisdom of the Universe, should I walk across a neutron stars surface, it would…all…be so meaningless.

          6. Valissa

            Hey Skippy… theocracies of some sort or another are a common sci-fi plot theme. My favorite has always been “If This Goes On” by Robert Heinlein I’ve read it a number of times over the years.

            Plotting is much better than The Handmaid’s Tale, IMO, and a more exciting read.

          7. Cedric Regula

            If you really want to understand how things work, you could try Dan Simmons Illium and Olympos.

            Some background characters, but it has main characters too:

            Achaeans and Trojans: the heroes and minor characters are drawn from Homer’s epics, as well as the works of Virgil, Proclus, Pindar, Aeschylus, Euripides, and classical Greek mythology.

            Ariel: a character from The Tempest and the avatar of the evolved, self-aware biosphere. Using locks of Harman’s hair, Daeman’s hair, and her own hair, Savi makes a deal with Ariel in order that they might pass without being attacked by the calibani.

            Caliban: a monster, son of Sycorax and servant of Prospero, whom one reviewer describes as “a cross between Gollum and the alien of Alien.[2] He is cloned to create the calibani, weaker clones of himself. Caliban speaks in strange speech patterns, with much of his dialogue taken from the dramatic monologue “Caliban upon Setebos” by Robert Browning. Simmons chooses not to portray Caliban as the “oppressed but noble native soul straining under the yoke of capitalist-colonial-imperialism” that current interpretations portray him, which he views as “a weak, pale, politically correct shadow of the slithery monstrosity that made audiences shiver in Shakespeare’s day… Shakespeare and his audiences understood that Caliban was a monster — and a really monstrous monster, ready to rape and impregnate Prospero’s lovely daughter at the slightest opportunity.” [3]

            Odysseus: Odysseus after his Odyssey, ten years older than the Odysseus who fights in the Trojan War. In Olympos, he adopts the name Noman, which is a reference to the name Odysseus gives to Polyphemus the Cyclops on their encounter, in Greek, outis (ουτις), meaning “no man” or “nobody.”

            Olympian Gods: former post-humans who were transformed into gods by Prospero’s technology. They do not remember the science behind their technology, save for Zeus and Hephaestus, and they are described both as preliterate and post-literate, for which reason they enlist the services of Thomas Hockenberry and other scholics. They dwell on Olympus Mons on Mars and use quantum teleportation in order to get to the recreation of Troy on an alternate Earth. Though the events of the Trojan War are being recreated with the knowledge of Homer’s Iliad, the only ones who know its outcome are the scholics and Zeus as Zeus has forbade the other gods from knowing.

            post-humans: former humans who enhanced themselves far beyond the normal bounds of humanity and dwelt in orbital rings above the Earth until Prospero turned some into Olympian gods. The others were slaughtered by Caliban. They had no need of bodies, but when they took on human form they only took on the shape of women.

            Prospero: a character from The Tempest who is the avatar of the self-aware, post-Internet logosphere, a reference to Vladimir Vernadsky’s idea of the noosphere.

            Setebos: Sycorax and Caliban’s god. The god is described as “many-handed as a cuttlefish” in reference to “Caliban upon Setebos” by Robert Browning and is described by Prospero as being an arbitrary god of great power, a September eleven god, an Auschwitz god.

            Sycorax: a witch and Caliban’s mother. Also known as Circe or Demyx or Calypso.

            The Quiet: an unknown entity (presumably, God, from the Demogorgon’s speeches and the words of Prospero) said to incarnate himself in different forms all across the universe. He is Setebos’ nemesis, which could create a kind of God-Against-the Devil picture as Setebos is the background antagonist and Prospero and Ariel, servants of The Quiet, are the background protagonists.

            zeks: the Little Green Men of Mars. A chlorophyll-based lifeform that comes from the Earth of an alternate universe. Their name comes from a slang term related to the Russian word sharashka, which is a scientific or technical institute staffed with prisoners. The prisoners of these Soviet labor camps were called zeks.[4]


        1. Cedric Regula

          They were wrong about the gods being Japanese, tho.

          But Zeus used to decend on Royalty all the time!

  18. Foppe

    It seems as though Greenwald is waking up to the fact that politics is about more than the (mal)function of law:

    How can the leader of the Democratic Party wage an all-out war on the ostensible core beliefs of the Party’s voters in this manner and expect not just to survive, but thrive politically? Democratic Party functionaries are not shy about saying exactly what they’re thinking in this regard:

    Mark Mellman, a Democratic pollster, said polling data showed that at this point in his term, Mr. Obama, compared with past Democratic presidents, was doing as well or better with Democratic voters. “Whatever qualms or questions they may have about this policy or that policy, at the end of the day the one thing they’re absolutely certain of — they’re going to hate these Republican candidates,” Mr. Mellman said. “So I’m not honestly all that worried about a solid or enthusiastic base.”

    In other words: it makes no difference to us how much we stomp on liberals’ beliefs or how much they squawk, because we’ll just wave around enough pictures of Michele Bachmann and scare them into unconditional submission. That’s the Democratic Party’s core calculation: from “hope” in 2008 to a rank fear-mongering campaign in 2012. Will it work? The ones who will determine if it will are the intended victims of that tactic: angry, impotent liberals whom the White House expects will snap dutifully into line no matter what else happens (even, as seems likely, massive Social Security and Medicare cuts) between now and next November.

  19. Cedric Regula

    File: Boehnergeddon – I don’t care about Asian markets. It’s you I care about.

    Well, it’s basically Mr. B’s bill and Mr.O sort of gets all his money.

    Oddsmakers say it gets final WH and House approval tomorrow.

    SS and medicare safe till end of 2012, then we do it again.

    Regurgitating the real news:

    S&P 500 futures gurgling in anticipation of a done deal on monday.

    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. propertius

      SS and medicare safe till end of 2012, then we do it again.

      With, Deo volente, a different Congress (both houses) and a different President.

      Fire them all.

  20. i like watching the bbc

    “I keep thinking; if Barnie Sanders wasn’t completely irrelevant, it would be necessary to eliminate him.”

    sadly bernie sanders is irrelevant. i never thought (pre-Obama) that the “third rail” could be so easily chipped at.

    There are only two political parties in America–Republicans and the religious fundamentalist right.

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