Links 7/9/11

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Scientists discover the point of sex Telegraph (hat tip reader Swedish Lex)

Hyper- arid Atacama desert hit by snow BBC

Hope of the Lone Pine: As Tree Clings to Life, So Does Japanese City Wall Street Journal

Worries over Italy fuel eurozone crisis Financial Times

Vladimir Putin ‘sent to Russia by God’ Telegraph (hat tip reader Swedish Lex). But is that really a good thing? If I remember my Bible correctly, God visited all sorts of travails on people because they deserved it or even just for sport (Job).

The European project is doomed without reform Credit Writedowns

£1bn wiped off BSkyB shares over fear of News Corp bid collapse Telegraph

Phone hacking: Police probe suspected deletion of emails by NI executive Guardian. Three arrests today, including Coulson.

James Murdoch could face criminal charges on both sides of the Atlantic Guardian. In America? Surely you jest. We don’t arrest powerful businessmen.

Some older but germane News of the World/Murdoch stories:

The bugger, bugged Hugh Grant, New Statesman and Hugh Grant: How I exposed hacking BBC

News of the World surveillance of detective: what Rebekah Brooks knew Guardian

Obama’s Raw Deal? TruthOut

Has Nancy Pelosi Been Marginalized in the Debt Debate? Swampland. Question bogus assumptions and you get pushed aside.

Bigger government is needed for the US economy – OSO’s New Deal One Salient Oversight. What is intriguing is that a former austerian is now arguing for significant spending.

Philadelphia Saves $2 Million By Not Prosecuting Pot Smokers Consumerist (hat tip Ed Harrison)

Economists Blame Seasonal Variations for Jobs Miss Bloomberg

The Boom and Crash Cycle of I.P.O.’s Floyd Norris, New York Times

From skate ramps to chocolate fountains: Why dotcom offices still party like it’s 1999 Independent

California Cuts Weigh Heavily on Its Colleges New York Times

Caterpillar Said to Demote Whistle Blowing Exec Bloomberg

Antidote du jour. This is reader Bill’s Daisy:

She always used to assume this coy pose whenever I came into view of her bed.

She’s older now but just as sweet natured, and a beautiful Tricolor Beagle.

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  1. Cedric Regula

    Scientists discover the point of sex Telegraph

    I’m quite glad they did, because I’ve been sooooo confused all these years.

    This part sounds like a plausible model for bachelorhood, but the part about asexuality in the rest of the revelation sounds painful:

    Biologists have described the situation as “Running with the Red Queen” in reference to the character in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, who tells Alice: “It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.”

    P.S. They tell us engineers we should listen to scientists – and I do.

    1. Ignim Brites

      “the point of sex” – isn’t that teleological? Maybe the advantage of sex but that doesn’t seem plausible since the bugs have had a long time to catch up as evidenced by STDs. And can we say that what applies to worms applies to other species now and forever? Or is evolution truly only a science of natural history subject to the same epistemological problems as the “science” of human history?

    2. justanobserver

      Parasite Rex

      terrific book mentions the conjecture that sex may be an evolutionary strategy to deal with parasites.

      The book was talking “parasites” as in worms and other complex organisms.

      1. Cedric Regula

        I’m still grappling with how do we have evolution without sex? Keep hitting a brick wall there.

        Not just me, I mean. Going all the way back to those plankton thingies or whatever.

          1. tyaresun

            Without sex you do not have two genomes but there is still mutation from one generation to the next and hence evolution.

            I believe the scientists as well as God did not give asexual evolution enough of a chance. If asexual evolution carries on long enough, asexual mutation will work out strategies against the parasites. That is the path we are on and perhaps in a few more million years you will find that asexual evolution dominates nature.

  2. Cedric Regula

    Shit. I’m sitting her listening to Porcupine Tree and drinking my new batch of wheat beer I just made. If you are too up or or too down, Porcupine Tree will fix it. Sorry about the wheat beer, I only made 4 gallons.

    Porcupine Tree

    Try In Absentia, Deadwing and Stupid Dream for starters.

    1. Cedric Regula

      After 2 aspirin and 5 cups of coffee this morning, I decided my wheat beer recipe deserves publication.

      9 lb. American 2-row

      1 lb. oats (use instant oats and cook per instructions, then pour into the mash. Adds creaminess.)

      3 lb. flaked wheat

      1oz Cascade hops, half in the boil pot at 60 minutes, half at 15 minutes.

      Add .5 oz cracked coriander seed and 1 oz dried orange peel at last 10 minutes of boil. Cover pot.

      Any ale yeast will do. I used Coopers from Oz. It’s the cheapest and also has the highest recommended temp range, and we need the help here in AZ.

      Add a half teaspoon of lactic acid to the mash. Helps get the PH in the proper band when using light grains, and will give a slight tartness to the beer.

      If memory serves, this was very, very tasty.

      1. justanobserver

        Thanks very much for posting the recipe.

        Your fellow brewers appreciate it !

    2. James

      Actually, a Stone IPA or Ruination IPA will cure what ails you – GUARANTEED! And you can actually just BUY it, provided you live within their distribution network. Thank GOD for distribution networks in which I live!

  3. Foppe

    Not sure if you’ve seen this:

    The hotel maid who accused former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault filed a libel lawsuit Tuesday against the New York Post and five reporters over recent articles that said she had worked as a prostitute.
    The lawsuit was filed in the State Supreme Court in the Bronx, where the woman lives, and uses only her initials. According to the suit, the newspaper and its reporters “falsely, maliciously, and with reckless disregard for the truth stated as a fact that the Plaintiff is a ‘prostitute,’ ‘hooker,’ ‘working girl’ and/or ‘routinely traded sex for money with male guests’ of the Sofitel hotel located in Manhattan.”

    “All of these statements are false [and] have subjected the Plaintiff to humiliation, scorn and ridicule throughout the world,” the lawsuit says.

    The Post cited “a source close to the defense investigation” in a July 2 article saying she received “extraordinary tips” and had expenses “paid for by men not related to her.” The article didn’t explicitly quote the source saying the woman was a prostitute, instead reporting that the newspaper “has learned” she worked as one. Benjamin Brafman, a lawyer for Mr. Strauss-Kahn, declined to comment.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I did, and we’ll see how this plays out.

      There are a couple of aspects that make this interesting. The woman’s attorney must assume that the Post has little/nothing to stand on, and will settle this quickly out of court. Given her boyfriend and the hundred thousand dollars deposited into her accounts, I don’t think she’d want discovery (as in her suing the Post allows the Post to do full bore discovery on her to try to prove its allegations on her).

      Second, if the Post decides to fight (per either the theory above, it can inflict pain on her, or a belief that its sources had dirt that was close enough to the truth and its sources stand by their stories), will this somehow hurt the defense?

      Longwinded way of sayin’ if the Post doesn’t cave fast and settle, this could provide further intriguing revelations about everyone concerned, the woman, the defense, and the Post.

  4. Philip Pilkington

    Adam Curtis did a new article yesterday that is pretty weird — but also pretty damn good:

    Oh, and the sex thing… what a load. First of all, the research appears to be Friedmanite, philosophically speaking. What I mean by that is that correlation is confused with causation. We make certain assumptions based on a priori theorising (usually in line with some dominant paradigm — in this case: evolution) and then we try to support this assumption with empirical data. Of course, the original assumption may seem impossibly arbitrary — not to mention vague — but its unverifiable, so now worries.

    Scientists have been trying to find out the ‘meaning’ of sexual difference for years. In this they’re following tribal cultural patterns and religious myths — think Adam and Eve. Even though his theories were weird CG Jung was quite good on the history of this. He showed that societies often project their myths about sexual difference into the cosmos itself. In our day scientists do the same. Except they replace metaphysics and crude astrology with evolutionary theory — which has become a religion onto itself (it tells us the ‘meaning of life’ blablabla).

    The great thing about these myths is that they propagate (excuse the pun) indefinitely. So you can be sure some other scientist will come out with another, completely different myth about the origin of sexual difference in the next ten years. Its all about how imaginative you can be coming up with a priori theories.

    Its funny how scientific discourse continues on the explanations that we used to leave to our religious leaders. And the general populace are just as devout now as they ever were. To be agnostic about these arbitrary scientific metaphysical propositions is to be a heretic today. There’s an irony somewhere here…

    1. ambrit

      Mr Pilkington;
      Surely you don’t mean…
      No one expects the Office for the Propagation of the Myth! Ta da!
      (Inquisitional Minds Want To Know.)

      1. Philip Pilkington

        Ever read up on Chinese astronomy?

        The Chinese developed a fine system of astronomy — one that could be used to predict all sorts of astronomical events and could chart all sorts of stars and the like. The systems they used however were heavily ‘codified’. What I mean by that is that their astronomical systems borrowed heavily from other ‘discourses’ inherent in Chinese society at the time — political discourses, ethical discourses etc. etc.

        What contemporary science seems to do is precisely the opposite. Instead of drawing aspects of culture and ‘projecting’ it into the heavens or onto physical reality, it tries to apply scientific theories derived from physical reality onto our culture. The most obvious are the ‘social evolutionist’ and ‘evolutionary psychology’ narratives. But the above is another example in that every culture tries to form narratives about sexual difference and now scientists have quote-unquote ‘discovered’ the secret.

        Its a very bizarre and sometimes dangerous phenomenon. It turns science into a sort of religion that can be used to ‘unlock’ cultural truths. Not only does it denigrate real science; it has cultural backlashes against science itself (I believe the evangelical movement in the US can be largely attributed to this).

          1. Valissa

            Thanks Philip… looks like a very interesting book! I put on my ‘future buy’ list at Amazon.

  5. scraping_by

    Re: Congresswoman Pelosi

    This actually answers an earlier question: Why don’t women get caught in sex scandals? The answer: women can easily be dismissed, so they don’t need to be destroyed.

    Time magazine, which was Fox before there was Fox, is giving everyone the vocabulary of disdain to ignore a party leader. It’s really that jr. high sneer, cool kids isolating a wannabe, only translated into the common wisdom and what everyone knows and serious analysis. And by freezing out the politician, they’re freezing out the politics. The fog of truthiness continues unabated and becomes the basis for the law.

    On the one hand, she speaks as if she’s uncoopted, which is good. On the other, she shows no recognition she’s dealing with amoral antigovernment fanatics, which is bad for all of us. They can’t be debated, only destroyed, because they’re not out to deliberate, only destroy. Her smiles and hugs as majority leader were the path of their success.

    As long as she treats their sabotage as serious policy, she’s kicked to the curb and deserves to be. Their only goal is to end this country, so if she’s pc instead of a patriot, she’ll be sent out to chatter with the women instead of listened to in the front room.

    1. Valissa

      “she speaks as if she’s uncoopted” HUH?

      Now that she’s lost power she’s attempting to be more truthful to recapture attention. This is a typical pattern. Pelosi grew up in a political family in Baltimore and she’s been in politics herself now for almost 25 years. She knows the game she is playing quite well… knows when to be a tiny bit truthful and when to spout the spin(propaganda). She is a power player and she’s not on top right now, poor thing. Karma is a bitch.

      Nancy’s finest hour? Hank Paulson: Kneeling Before Pelosi

      1. scraping_by

        Yes. speaks as if…

        I, too, am agnostic about performance vs. profession. It’s just nice to hear someone go outside the policy noise and speak to reality. It makes the slogans of the antiAmerican campaign waged by Barry and the Rethugs sound even darker and sillier than it would if the real world was entirely silenced.

        1. scraping_by

          Oops. Damn closing tag.

          I, too, am agnostic about performance vs. profession. It’s just nice to hear someone go outside the policy noise and speak to reality. It makes the slogans of the antiAmerican campaign waged by Barry and the Rethugs sound even darker and sillier than it would if the real world was entirely silenced.

  6. Frank White

    Vladimir Putin ‘sent to Russia by God’

    So Vlad is the Russian equivalent of Michelle Bachman?

    1. Foppe

      Unlike Bachman, Putin is actually trying to undo some of the oligarchs, whereas Bachman would love to make America safe for them.

      1. Valissa

        Putin is a longtime KGB/FSB man and bigtime world power player. If there are oligarchs he’s going after, it’s for reasons of his own empire building and strategizing… and that they are in his way. Bachman is nowhere near his league, and as far as I can tell is just another power wannabe, who for some reason is getting way more MSM attention than she warrants.

        1. Foppe

          I have no desire to defend every action Putin has ever made, but I would offer two suggestions:
          1. given that the reporting on Russian affairs is extremely shoddy, and a lot of it happens by journalists who buy into the Washington Consensus, I would be wary of ‘news’ that says ‘russia is going down the tubes, and Putin is to blame’.
          2. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that Bush and Obama and Sarko and Blair and Cameron are also ‘power players’ who are mostly in it for their own gain, and mostly in it to help their pals. So why is this argument especially powerful when leveled at Putin?

          1. Valissa

            Most of what I have read about Putin comes via STRATFOR and foreign news sources. And I have to say I’m not clear on what your point is about him. Of course he is just one power player among many. Did I miss some context?

          2. Valissa

            Furthermore… based on STRATFOR’s assessment, Putin is considered one of the best geopolitical power & strategy players currently in the game (STRATFOR is based in Austin, TX). Of course they have not been so blunt as to say this directly, but it comes through loud and clear in their analyses. The Russians themselves recognize this about him as Russia was in a deep pit for some years when the USSR fbroke apart, which is what’s behind the wacky deification comment in the news article.

          3. Dave of Maryland

            Russia has a history of powerful leaders & whenever one arrives, they tend to work him to death. Lesser wannabes are tossed aside. All in all, it’s not a bad system.

  7. Doug Terpstra

    From “Obama’s Raw Deal” (Truthout), with the GOP on the ropes, Obama waves the white flag:

    “President Obama wants ‘significant’ cuts to Social Security and Medicare in exchange for Republican agreement to let tax breaks for the nation’s wealthiest families expire at the end of this year.”

    When polls showed overwhelming opposition to the GOP’s position, Obama acted quickly in a desperate act of premature ‘capitulation’. When the wing nuts showed signs of waffling and progressive Democrats uncharacteristically pressed their obvious advantage, Obama stepped in to chasten Nancy and shore up GOP resolve. In the end of course, like the vanishing public option, billionaire tax cuts will remain, while Social Security is turned over to his Wall Street investors.

    Jane Hamsher has an excellent related piece on this at FDL: “Breaking Point: Obama and the Death of the Democratic Party”

    “What we’re watching is the death of the Democratic Party … As recently as 2006, Democrats retook the House in a surprise wave election because the public feared that George Bush would destroy Social Security, and they trusted the Democrats over Republicans to secure it. Just like George Bush, Obama now wants to ‘save’ Social Security … by giving those who want to burn it to the ground the very thing they’ve wanted for decades.”

    “… The amount of damage that the Democrats under Obama have been able to do has been immeasurable, by virtue of the fact that they are less awful that George Bush. But where George Bush failed, Obama will probably succeed.”

    “Which means we’re watching another casualty here … the illusion that we live in a democratic society. The public, regardless of party, overwhelmingly opposes cuts to Social Security and Medicare. But elected officials of both parties are hell-bent on conspiring to bring the programs to an end. They seem to have come to grips with a fact that the public has not: their tenure in office depends on carrying out the wishes of oligarchical elites.”

    Hamsher is unusually blunt:

    “We’ll fight this, because it’s the right thing to do. We will probably lose. But we will make it as painful as possible for any politician from any party to participate in this wholesale looting of the public sphere, this “shock doctrine” for America. And maybe along the way we’ll get a vision of what comes next. Because what we believe in as Americans, and what we stand for, is not something the Democratic party represents any more.”

    1. Paul Tioxon

      Without resorting to figuring out what the fuck is the Obama administration’s problem, it seems clear that a democratic tidal wave of votes would be heading DC way in 2012, including a rerun of House Speaker Pelosi. Unless, of course they snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. My concern is that it should be apparent that things are so bleak, there is so much unemployment, so many fertile criminogenic social spaces, that the social order is under unmanageable stress. This is translating into more and more radical demands for change that just do not fit into anyone’s agenda in DC right, middle or left. And the few authentic Great Society warriors left are considered UFO abductees on their best day.

      So, why does Social Security get offered up on a silver platter? Who knows, but the one source of analysis, that I strongly disagree with, Ralph Nader sees radical republican over reach as a source of energizing and swelling the ranks of democratic voters, activists and forceful, if not violent street actions, forcing the more egalitarian social welfare programs that eat into corporate profits. Basically, burning the village down, in order to save it. FDR had over 4000 strikes, and they were not card games, among other even more violent reactions from busted farmers protecting their own from bank attorneys showing up to foreclose. Bottom line, it takes a blood bath to make an act of congress, and we are not anywhere near that point yet. But who knows, the creative minds of republican thinks tanks, emboldened with so many successes may decide to bring back indentured servitude to solve unemployment and make toxic assets have a new stream of revenue in automatically garnished wages, of course withOUT payroll taxes because the property is a capital gain and NOT W-2 employment, for the sake of generally acceptable account practices and the UCC.

      1. Dave of Maryland

        The 2012 elections will be a fraud. Democrat or Republican, no choice. Everyone knows this already.

        So what do we do?

        What do we do?

        I’m stumped. Picket polling places? Force would-be voters to cross the line? Physically shut down the vote?

        1. ambrit

          Dear Dave;
          One good idea I’ve heard lately is based on the recent reports of hacking of some state electronic voting systems. In it, some ‘civic minded’ hackers do just that to all stste voting systems and post running talleys of vote counts from the points of origination. Then, when the ‘Official’ vote counts come out, the public will have an accurate check to hold the ‘Official’ counts up to. Nothing like a little “Participatory Democracy” to hold the B—–s feet to the fire!

          1. Dave of Maryland

            But you’ve still got Bad Choice vs: Bad Choice. Which is no choice.

            The American system prohibits third parties. It’s not even worth bothering. If, in rage & frustration we do not vote at all, we will be condemned.

            The choices next year are evil, hateful Republicans, or Quisling Democrats as their enablers. In memory of Vikdun, I suggest the party be renamed Obamacrats, and condemned and vilified in perpetuity.

            So on Election Day, why not protest?

      2. Doug Terpstra

        From Ex-National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski:

        “I don’t want to be a prophet of doom — and I really don’t believe that we are approaching doom — but I think we’re going to slide into intensified social conflicts, social hostility, some forms of radicalism, there is just going to be a sense that this is not a just society.”

      3. Cedric Regula

        Yup. One thing that never gets brought up in popular history is that FDR really wasn’t idolized by all the “working men”. There were in fact strikes in the 30s while building the Hoover Dam. And that was hard work. And lets face it, pay and bennies weren’t that great in the 30s. I contrast that with what we would get today and wonder what a BLS economist would do when informed that the government proposes to keep the HVAC system set at 75F year around as part of an austerity program to save the country.

        All hell will break loose, methinks.

        But yeah, social security is a terrible problem. Good riddance there. You can always move back in with mom and dad and make more babies. That’s always worked in the past.

      4. Cedric Regula

        And I still can’t help thinking that our Persons of Quality that run this country may still fear Third Rail Politics enough that they will cook up some diversion to fill the MSM with soundbites in that empty time the MSM have between commercials and so any news about the gutting of SS can no longer find any empty spectrum.

        So I’m pondering if there are any middle east or north african countries that we haven’t invaded yet and have potential for the usual reasons.

        Can’t think of any.

        This makes me worry about the Monroe Doctrine. We could push south, but then again, we are sort of there anyway.

        That leaves Canada.


        Tar Sands!


        A healthcare system to privatize and a social security fund to raid with marketable assets in it! (tho some may still be US Treasuries)

        Sorry Canada – you are next.

        1. ambrit

          Poor Yanks;
          Beware messing with Canada, eh? They’ll sic the Toronto Arts Council on ye. Not to mention the Mounties. I can see it now; John Boehner gets up in the Senate and declaims: “Ottowa delenda est!”

  8. Don

    For those who think the bad job report was just due to seasonal adjustments, read John Mauldin’s latest piece, “What Happened to the Jobs?”

    1. bob

      I have a bias against anything from texas, so I will will not be reading it.

      But, I would point out that the school year just ended. Lots of schools are laying off LOTS of teachers this year. This will be a drag for a long time, some teachers will get paid through the summer, then “technically” be unemployed.

      Every district has different polices (and choices) for how wages are paid. It makes forecasting impossible.

      One thing is for sure, lots of new unemployed 20-30 somethings with lots of debt over the next 6 months.

  9. Susan the other

    If OSO, One Salient Oversight, is a former austerian he/she doesn’t sound terribly contrite for changing horses. It just seems to be a question of expediency. So it should. It was an encouraging piece because it was such a matter-of-fact changing of the mind. Why can’t everyone see it this easily, we ask. Clearly infrastructure is what this article is talking about, fiscal spending on the right things, including a new ecological soundness. The least ecological pursuit of the US, a carry over from the last century, is war. For every town we flatten, every village we pogrom, every banking system we impoverish, we could instead be spending far less by creating a world for all those people and ourselves that meets the needs of us all and advances our chances of survival by fixing the big fat messes we have created. It is such a good choice. Stop war. Call it quits. Use our impressive military to tackle environmental problems. And rescue us from natural disasters too.

  10. anon48

    Regarding “The European project is doomed without reform”

    I agree with the title… but not the conclusion.

    The author, Mr. Galbraith, an economist, makes of use of history( the Soviet Empire and American Confederacy of the 1860’s) to state his case as to why the current model of the European will also eventually fail. OK I agree there’s probably some truth to those analogies.

    Unfortunately, his conclusion carries no substance.

    “Along the other road lies the assumption of common responsibilities for sustained convergence, based on a new economics of mutual support.

    Along this path sovereign debts below the Maastricht ceiling will be taken over and converted to European bonds and there will be a public-private investment program to restore growth and employment – as some of Europe’s wisest leaders demanded in a manifesto just a few days ago. There will follow in due course the constitutional reforms needed to adapt Europe and its policies to the conditions of the post-crisis world…”

    Yeah right… and if I click my heels three times I’ll be back in Kansas.

    Many consider the current EU to be extraordinarily unwieldy. So let’s conduct a thought experiment utilizing a much smaller scale. Let’s say five guys in Florida decide to start a business- two money partners and three working partners. They’ve agreed to work together to form this new economic union because each of them can visualize the potential benefits of the endeavor. They each realize the potential value that their partners also bring to the table.

    The author confidently asserts at the macro level with regards to the EU – “There will follow in due course the constitutional reforms needed to adapt Europe and its policies to the conditions of the post-crisis world.”

    OK, so this can happen automatically if the process is underpinned by the author’s perception of certain specific appropriately negotiated economic agreements? And he further implies that economics is still the bedrock upon which a successful union can ultimately be grounded.

    Let’s consider how the process evolves on the micro level- after the five Fla guys agree to form their mini union. Assuming all five were well informed they’ve each been able to negotiate a fair share of the pie relative to what they brought to the table(since this is an ECON-omic thought experiment we’re allowed to make whatever assumptions we want- and they’re always true). Further we can further assume that being well-informed, they each understood the inherent risk of their endeavor(e.g. risk of loss, potential disputes between themselves and with outside parties, etc.) Consequently they decided to mitigate this risk and encapsulate their union within a limited liability company.

    Five years later, with the company being mostly profitable but still struggling at times, the two money partners have concluded that they had overestimated the potential benefits when originally entering into the mini- economic union. While receiving some return on their investment, it was much less than what was originally anticipated. And because the cumulative benefits over the past five years of operations were below projections, the company does not have the reserves or staying power to continue on without the support of the two money partners.

    You can guess how the mini-union turned out. Certainly not an idealistic and unrealistic “…assumption of common responsibilities for sustained convergence, based on a new economics of mutual support…” as confidently asserted by the author. It folded.

    My experience tells me that economic relationships are generally based upon continuing evaluations of the risks v rewards of maintaining the relationship. Most times when relationships based solely upon economics, become too risky to maintain, some of the members will almost always seek to withdraw from the relationship.

    To me, the moral of the story is- what is really desired of a potentially enduring European Union is one whose bonds are strong enough to sustain it through the toughest economic times. that’s the real test. Otherwise, what is the value of the Union?

    The values and principles that draw members together in the first place and underpin the relationship, must be those of a higher order than just the plain old economics. These higher level shared values, whatever they may be, must be critically important enough for members so that each when called upon, would be willing to make the financial sacrifice to support the greater good. Therefore, the economics of any enduring union while important are still only of a secondary nature, to the higher level values that can bind people’s hearts.

    Economists that consistently lecture on the organization and economic operations of the EU are generally considered to be really smart people. Why can’t they understand that economic agreements undertaken as part of the creation of an enduring union,should never be used as the cornerstone upon which its structure must rely?

    1. Philip Pilkington

      My understanding is that economists generally comment on economic aspects of the union (or whatever other object they choose to study), just as lawyers generally comment on legal aspects and political analysts comment on political aspects.

      Division of labour and all that.

      (It should also be pointed out that Europe has actually overcome constitutional/legal/political issues in the past [Nice treaty, Lisbon treaty etc.] with relative ease and it is the present ECONOMIC crisis that has called the project into serious question. This would indicate that the major flaws in the EU are, in fact, almost purely economic.)

      1. anon48

        “My understanding is that economists generally comment on economic aspects of the union … just as lawyers generally comment on legal aspects and political analysts comment on political aspects.”

        My experience is that most economists state their conclusions as if no other aspects exist. Read Galbraith’s conclusion.

        “It should also be pointed out that Europe has actually overcome constitutional/legal/political issues in the past [Nice treaty, Lisbon treaty etc.] with relative ease and it is the present ECONOMIC crisis that has called the project into serious question…”

        Really? Many people think these treaties to be not much more than the superficial consolidation of previous treaties. Aren’t there still two separate European entities – The EU & the EC? Why haven’t those already been consolidated? What enforcement powers do they have at the community level to enforce the continued cooperation of the member nations? We’ve already seen much written on this blog and elsewhere that rules without appropriate enforcement eventually become meaningless.

        What are European core values that hold everything together? Have these values been internalized by all the people within its borders so that the leaders of the individual member states have appropriate political stamina to conclusively support member nations currently experiencing extreme financial difficulties? Of course not. That’s precisely why no one can predict how the Greek situation will ultimately play out. Even the people of Greece may ultimately decide to withdraw if the financial demands placed upon them become stringent enough.

        1. Philip Pilkington

          You’re still avoiding the key point.

          The EU may not be perfectly politically integrated and it may lack ‘core values’ (the same could be said for the US, but we won’t go there…). However, the fact of the matter is that the EU has not suffered from serious crises arising directly out of these problems. It HAS however suffered from a serious economic crisis.

          While the economic crisis may have dragged the other skeletons out of the closet, there is no doubt about causality here. The causes were economic — the two main causes being (a) lack of fiscal consolidation (or, if you’re anti-union, lack of fiscal sovereignty) and (b) dodgy regulatory practices regarding capital flows.

          1. anon48

            “You’re still avoiding the key point. “

            Forgive me, but I don’t think so. I believe that you’re missing the point.

            The true test of any relationship (union) comes not when things are going well but rather when the relationship is put under extreme stress. My read is that the European Union/ Community are facing that situation as we speak. Regardless of how it came about, whether the causes were economic or otherwise, it’s imperative that the bonds holding the structure together can be maintained during a crisis. Unfortunately, they do not have the framework in place that provides all of the aspects of the equivalent of a strong central government. Nor do I think that they have a population that assumes the union will be maintained at all costs. In the US we used to have both, which may no longer be the case. But I firmly believe we still have a population, ultimately willing to sacrifice for the greater good.

            So the point is that while I’ll feely admit that I have no way of knowing how the current crisis will play out for them nor know for sure how an EU should be structured to sustain itself through future crises, economists, on the other hand, always seem to be unequivocal in their beliefs. According to them, the problem and solution can always be defined solely in economic terms. (Galbraith’s article had a similar tone.) That’s preposterous. Their writings, rants and lectures probably do no more than sow confusion among those who are truly trying to find the critical solutions to the current crisis.

            BTW- I absolutely believe that we in the US have a set of core values to which we should aspire. What I won’t say is that we’ve been doing a good job as a country in recent years living up to those values.

          2. Philip Pilkington

            EU crisis aside for a minute — I’ve said what I wanted to say on that, let it stand or fall — I don’t the US has a set of ‘core values’. The US is still deeply divided culturally. This should be obvious: ‘moral majority’ vs. ‘pinko liberals’.

            No offense, but we in Europe have consensus over what we teach in schools. You guys can’t even agree on that. The US is far more culturally divided than Europe ever will be.

            I’m not bashing; I’m not into ‘Euro-elitist US bashing’. But you cannot deny the facts. And the facts are that the US is, and always has been (going right back to the Civil War and even prior to that) a deeply, deeply divided society with a polarised value-system.

          3. anon48

            Nor were comments on this end an intent to bash anyone.

            Rather, if there’s a single criticism of the people of the EU (and this is intended as constructive) it’s that they may have relied too heavily upon the opinions of economists during the formulation process of their union. The mistake on this side of the ocean has been to rely too heavily upon those same opinions allowing TBTF institutions to arise.

            Point of clarification- I wasn’t saying the shared beliefs that we value are better, just that they work for us. I don’t think you’ll ever be able to create a sustainable union unless you do something similar. My sense is that If you did, those values would be consistent with European culture, be different than ours, and if the people of Europe believed they had a say in the selection of those values, you’d have created a union that could withstand the stresses of any future crisis. There’d be no uncertainty as there is now.

            And that durability would have nothing to do with economics.

          4. Valissa

            Philip, here is a book suggestion for your consideration…

            Made in America: A Social History of American Culture and Character, by Claude S. Fischer. He follows up on Tocqueville and others. Quite an excellent book and a fun read. I’m not saying it’s definitive, as I don’t think that’s possible… but Fischer is a sociologist who is a great storyteller and I think he captures some aspects of what it is to be American quite well.

            It does appear from the media that the US is a deeply divided country. The whole Red vs Blue media narrative overstates things somewhat and also exacerbates differences as part of the divide and conquer strategy that keeps the little people on both sides from teaming up. But I think that is deceptive. There are many ways of framing these divides. One of my favorites is a book called The Nine Nations of North America, by Joel Garreau.

            Having lived in several sections of the US and traveled to most states in the US, I have to say that there are many more similarites than differences. Once or twice a year, I drive from Boston to southeastern NC to spend some time there on business (it’s a great road trip if you avoid the I-95 corridor). There are certainly regional and cultural differences, but I generally find those easy to adjust to and charming rather than problematic.

            Have you ever done a long road trip across any US regions? I think you would find it very educational.

          5. Philip Pilkington

            No, I’ve never really traveled the US and I accept the argument that ‘on the ground’ it may be less divisive than the TV might make it seem.

            However — and this is a BIG HOWEVER — the very fact that the TV and politics might generate such factionalism is a point in itself. This doesn’t exist in most First World countries. When such factionalism is drummed up successfully in the media it says something quite specific to me. And that is that the US is a very divided society.

            Perhaps day-to-day its different — frankly, I couldn’t imagine otherwise — but the media IS your culture (Irish media IS our culture), and your culture is VERY divided.

            In the last analysis: if people didn’t like it… they would watch it. I hate to be tough on this — but, as far as I’m concerned, facts are facts. You guys have two very different ideas of what America is running through your country: (1) Land of the free etc. and (2) Puritanism.

  11. ambrit

    After reading “Pelosi Marginalized?” at Swampland, I cross clicked to “‘Hell No’ Caucus.” In it was a

    1. ambrit

      “D— and Blast!” Dept;
      Why are the ‘transformational keys so close to the communications keys on most keyboards? Let me try again:
      After reading “Peloci Marginalized?” on Swampland, I cross clicked to “‘Hell No’ Caucus” in which was a quote fron freshman Republican Congressman Jeff Landry, purporting to demonstrate the mind set of the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party. Landry told Politico, “If I don’t get exactly what I want, I’m not voting for it (the Debt Ceiling extension.)” Doesn’t this sound exactly like a spoiled brat, a schoolyard bully, an unregenerate ideologue?
      These people were elected supposedly to be politicians, not tiny despots. If nothing else demonstrates the bankruptcy of the modern Conservative Movement, this does.

      1. Valissa

        There’s a modern Conservative movement? Surely you jest… I think it’s become as extinct as the modern Liberal movement. Instead we have pro-wrestling style politics which is geared for media consumption and playing to the base. Say one thing for the reporters and the camera to get attention, which includes tough talk for the rubes, while behind the scenes another game is played jockeying for power and influence. Too bad the that power is not being used to help the little people.

        It is hard to know if Landry really believes what he says or not… as with almost all our politicians today. I pretty much assume everything that comes out of their mouth is spin/propaganda and evaluate it accordingly.

        1. Cedric Regula

          I know I would never make a peep in public about anything without running it thru focus group first.

          1. Cedric Regula

            And that goes double for any public position on broccoli. There’s the broccoli growers assoc. and the spinach growers assoc. You just can’t win that one.

        2. ambrit

          Dear Valissa;
          Even if we posit that all politicians ‘guage the wind’ before opining, we must first understand that even such degraded speech is informed by a world view. It’s like decyphering hermetic writings. Codes and allusions are the medium of expression. They still communicate a message. In this case, an almost intransigent opposition to ‘liberal’ social policys. When you factor in that the freshman and freshwoman class of Representatives fit the parameters for “True Believer” status, you get an ominous prognostication indeed.

  12. Hugh

    Pelosi once contemptuously said of liberals: “They are advocates. We are leaders.” Pelosi signed off on Obama’s Cat Food Commission. Does anything more need to be said? There is no such thing as a “good Democrat” or a “good Republican” officeholder.

    There are only good kleptocrats, which brings me around to Obama’s Raw Deal. I wish I had thought of that. It makes such a great contrast with FDR’s New Deal.

    As for “economists” explaining yesterday’s bad job numbers as the result of seasonal variation, the headline would be more truthful if it had read “Clowns who haven’t been right about anything to do with the biggest economic events in 80 years blame . . .” I mean what part of this is hard to understand? The stimulus is long gone. Speculation in commodities erased the effects of mini-stimuli, like the payroll tax reduction. First quarter growth sucked. It would have been more surprising if jobs had been up in June. I was predicting back in March and April, that there would be a fall off beginning in May-June. I think these forecasters get paid the exorbitant salaries they do, not to be right, but to cheerlead a non-existent recovery. It’s such a useful cover for looting: yeah, the recovery is just around the corner. No, really, trust us.”

    1. curlydan

      Pelosi’s question, if true, was vapid considering as Obama purportedly said, “that train left the station” weeks ago. I mean, why not ask a real question like, why are we retreating on SS and Medicare? Where are the radical cuts in defense spending? If she wants to put Obama on his heels, ask a question with some chance of changing the negotiations.

      1. ambrit

        Mr curlydan;
        It’s a shame that American political parties can’t have formal leadership fights like parliamentary parties do.

  13. Valissa

    Economists display little interest in ethics code

    Nope, they don’t even feel they have to bother with a little window dressing. All sorts of corporations and organizations have ethics codes, despite often not following them. It’s called PR/Public Relations (aka propaganda for the public) which is something economists as a whole seem to be terrible at.

    There’s a reasons economist jokes are what they are…

    Q: What do you get when you cross the Godfather with an economist?
    A: An offer you can’t understand.

    An economist is someone who doesn’t know what he’s talking about – and make you feel it’s your fault.

    The definition of “waste”: a busload of economists plunging over a precipice with three of the seats unoccupied.

    Q: How can you tell when an economist is lying?
    A: His lips are moving.

  14. financial matters

    Worries  over  Italy fuel eurozone crisis Financial Times

    uh oh..

    “Italy is increasingly seen for what it always was – a peripheral economy with too much public debt and not enough growth.”

      1. financial matters

        I would pick control alt delete. A debt reduction start over with the central bankers out of the free money game.

  15. rps

    Vladimir Putin ‘sent to Russia by God’ and before that Bush looked into Satan’s err I mean Putin’s soul and saw a kindred spirit and lastly Blankfein doing god’s work….I mean really what’s with all these freaks felicitious claims of the chosen few other than to fleece and oppress civilizations?

    “….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.” T. Paine Common Sense

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