Links 8/15/11

Homosexual zebra finches form long-term bond BBC (hat tip Buzz Potamkin)

Why Is Sean Hannity So Mad You’re Having Sex? 5 Ways Conservatives Attack Sexual Freedom AlterNet (hat tip reader Dr. Kevin)

You (YOU!) Can Take Stanford’s ‘Intro to AI’ Course Next Quarter, For Free Spectrum IEEE (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

The Social Economics of a Facebook Birthday New York Times. At first, I thought this was satire, but this seems to be straight up. Lordie.

How Meditation Makes You More Rational AlterNet (hat tip reader Dr. Kevin). I’ve been meditating for eight years (a high tech version that a 30 year meditator told me was more effective than what he had been doing) and did it for two year stretch earlier. I dunno re rational, since tons of research says people who are mildly depressed are more realistic than most of the population. But it has markedly reduced the severity and amplitude of my stress reactions (even friends have noticed).

J&J To Settle Criminal Charge Over Risperdal Marketing, While 40 States Plan Lawsuits Pharmalot and FDA: JOHNSON & JOHNSON WRONGLY MARKETED RISPERDAL TO KIDS Voice of Detroit (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Pakistan lets China see US helicopter Financial Times

Mushrooms Join Radiation Threats to Japan Food Bloomberg

H.K. Apartment Sellers Cut Asking Prices Bloomberg

Germany and France rule out eurobonds Financial Times versus German government no longer rules out euro bonds Reuters. My buddies point out that the Reuters piece is based on German press reports, which they have found over time to be more reliable.

The people’s Ponzi scheme Asia Times. Reader Nathan wanted me to highlight this as an “amazing in its arrogance and obfuscation.” I agree but I don’t have time to shred it, and I’m not sure Links is the best way to name and shame, so consider this particular link to be an experiment.

Budget Buster: Pentagon Unable to Account for “Trillions,” Glain Says Daily Ticker (hat tip reader May S). Not new, Cynthia McKinney made Rumsfeld squirm on this topic, but an important reminder given the debt ceiling theatrics.

2012: Big Oil vs. Big Money: The Case for Rick Perry Lambert Strether. This is like debating over whether to be killed via strangulation or being thrown of a cliff.

Welcome to Election Hell Democratic Underground (hat tip reader Scott A)

Banking: Again on the edge Financial Times. Big banks (finally) hoist on their own petard.

Krugman Taken to the Modern Money Cleaners Randy Wray, Huffington Post

Macro 101 – Reserves and interest rates MacroBusiness

Stop Coddling the Super-Rich Warren Buffet, New York Times. He endorses austerity (eek) but most of the piece is on taxing people like him more.

Antidote du jour:

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  1. ambrit

    To a semi-economically educated person on the ‘Street,’ such as myself, the MMT vs Other economic theory proof is in the pudding; such as who has it, and how much. The results ‘on the ground’ translate readily into personal and social malaise. Herin lies the political opportunity. Much (unfairly) maligned Jimmy Carter was way ahead of the curve. One more economic ‘shock’ and the ‘Masses’ will be ready for a full bore populist political movement. The reactionarys have stolen a march on the rest of us, and now’s the time to catch up. Someone know of a good real Liberal with political experience enough to start a true Progressive political campaign? Even enough of one to pull that infamous ‘box’ back towards the true centre? Enquiring minds want to know.

    1. Paul Tioxon

      You know the Green Party actually exists in the US? It just started it most recent state chapter in Kentucky this past July 23. The Green Party of the US is in almost every state with over hundreds of thousands of members. They regularly field candidates on a local, county and state level and win some elections. They are growing. They have multiple caucuses for labor, Latinos, Women, Gay and Lesbians etc. I am surprised with all of the heart attacks spilled out in the post here on a daily basis, that no one brings them up with regularity. It’s not like America died and became a banana republic because of Lehman Bros a few years ago, this country has been collapsing politically and economically for decades.

      1. Sol Man

        “They have multiple caucuses for labor, Latinos,
        Women, Gay and Lesbians etc”–
        and all the other divisive catch phrases that
        reflect the fragmentation of our society that
        doom them to mediocrity and ridicule.

        If we are supposed to be unified in our opposition
        to our financial parasite overlords, why do we have
        to accept people whose chosen values we may not accept as a condition of our opposition?

        Wells Fargo is a proud sponsor of various gay and transgender causes in the Bay Area. Nice distraction
        from what they and the other banks hiding under the
        tarp are doing.

        Americans need to unify as citizens against Wall Street, not shackle themselves to some risable socio-sexual psychobabble.

        1. dcblogger

          I hardly regard caucuses for labor, Latinos, Women, Gay and Lesbians etc. as psychobabble. If you want to win elections, you have to reach people where they live and then bring them into the larger coalition, or walk and chew gum at the same time. There are Greens, Independents, and other emergent political parties. We need to start looking at the ones in our respective jurisdictions and start voting for them.

          1. Sol Man

            Right, and while you project your personal values onto the
            rest of America, for every transgender or alternate
            whatever you attract to the Green Party, you will repel a thousand Americans that are desperately seeking
            some kind of political relief from the two party
            system. While he would be a disaster for the environment, abortion rights and other things, I think Ron Paul is
            the only one that can save the economy, as least as
            far as a national politician can.

          2. ambrit

            Dear sol man;
            Much as some of his proposals have that pragmatist cachet, Rep Pauls underlying philosophy, (as I understand it,) is full bore Libertarianism, which has never functioned well for the ENTIRE populace. A complete acceptance of Classical Libertarianism leads inevetably to Feudalism; the strong coercing the weak.
            Highly complex modern societies are vast balancing acts. The push and pull of competing interests are the dynamic. Government, when done right, acts as the balancing mechanism. Whitle away government and you are left with raw power struggles, which usually end up as wars of one sort or another. The strong are not known for their forebearance, thus government acts to curb the power of the strong. The end result is generally a healthier, happier polity. No more droit de seigneur and forced labour equals far fewer peasant revolts and vendees.

          3. Sol Man

            But I like droit de seigneur! You counter is well
            spoken and articulated. My point is that appealing
            to the fringe may alienate the majority that you
            are trying to bring into your new tent.

          4. ambrit

            Dear sol man;
            Yeah you rite! It’s good to be the King! Yuor point about overemphasizing ‘fringe’ groups speaks to the whole point of democratic politics. I’m with you there.

  2. Dave of Maryland

    How meditation makes you more rational.

    There are people who are tone deaf. There are people who are color blind. Thankfully I’m not one of them.

    And there are people who are impervious to meditation. That’s me. I have read a number of books on it. I have sat in many different meditation groups, guided, unguided. I once lived with a meditation instructor and for a year took part in her weekly half hour sessions. I previously sat for a year in sessions with her teacher. There was (still is, he’s quite elderly) a famous New Age guy who has a fancy pyramid with gold wires and all the guys on this side and all the girls on that, all holding hands. I was a part of that, too. And two of his sub-groups in New York.

    In the end I had exactly one of two responses: Initially I mostly slept, despite myself. As I progressed I eventually became enormously nerve-wracked, which forced me to end a 15 year effort. I’m frankly glad I did.

    There is, so far as I am aware, no such thing as a “Buddhist meditation”, unless you mean “not thinking of anything at all”, which is impossible. I in fact know the solution to that one, and “meditation” is never going to get you there. As for the observed effect, that “Buddhist meditation” makes you more likely to take the money and run, is that a good thing?

    My experiences were not typical. My former girlfriend said my failure was because I’m in some sort of “permanent meditative state,” which sounds like a cop-out. I’m curious if others have tried and had the same experience.

    1. wb

      Crikey, Dave of Maryland, you kept going all that time for no reward ?

      When I started, following 5 minutes vague advice from a Westerner who’d spent most of his life studying yoga etc in India and the Far East, I sat for 15 minutes every day for a week. On the last day, nothing had happened and I resolved I’d try once more, and then give it up as a load of crap. So, I’d given up, and just sat for no reason with no expectation. Then I had one of the most awesome experiences of my entire life, absolutely life changing, pulses of light rushing up my spine and exploding into my skull, etc, and I was absolutely astonished… took me another 6 months to sit comfortably in full lotus, and a few years later I learned formal zazen. Best thing I ever found !

      “Thinking of nothing at all, which is impossible..” Nonsense ! I do it anytime I wish, so how can it not be possible ? It’s a skill to be learned. You use the breath and tanden. In Japanese, Mushin.

    2. skippy

      Try remedial deep-diving technique. 60 seconds at side of pool in rest, 7 complete inhale and exhales with the last three increasing to near hyperventilation, last inhale max out, allow about a quarter out. Immerse self in water over head, utilize weights or position self to remain under with out much effort. Starting with toes imagine total relaxation of body parts up to head, allow a trickle of air to escape lips. Now you will start to hear you heart more defined, use this condition to effect a slowing change in its rate,
      rinse repeat.

      Skippy…in a very short time you should increase your down time, start doing laps underwater. The first breath you take upon breaking the waters surface, will be the most relaxed you have ever taken. Free diving, the best way to check out kelp beds off palos verde or now, barrier reef. Hell you can do it in the tub, just not as manly, lol!

      1. wb

        Nice one, skippy.

        I discovered I could cease breathing, with a watch on the floor in front of me, for ten minutes. Everybody tells me that’s impossible, ‘You’d die ! ‘ Okay, I suppose I must be dead, if they say so… hahaha.
        Also noticed my heart rate suddenly speed up following a certain alarming thought, so I learned how to use that, and another thought which slows it down… people have known how to do this stuff for millennia.

        1. skippy

          Be careful with stressing unaided, especially with the cardio system, aneurisms, hypoxia et al, near certain death or diminishment if any thing goes wrong, one aw-shit wipes out a thousand ata-boys…eh.

          Skippy…at least he won’t have to learn technique by overly pumped up volleyball to the side of the head, if one breaks surface before time is up. Now its called combat diving school I think or how many times can you almost drown in one day school…lol.

          1. ambrit

            IIDear skippy;
            Someone I once worked for briefly was a genuine Navy Seal in the long ago. (He had the scars to prove it.) When asked by silly bugger employee what happened if one drowned during training, he replied; “They revive you, make sure you won’t die right away on them, and throw you back in the water and tell you, ‘Do it right this time!'”
            He’s the one who told me about the Polynesian method of training babies to swim,throw them in very young. When babies learn this at young age, they never panic and usually don’t drown later on in life. I think, (but can never be sure,) that I convinced my sister and daughters to do this with their children.

    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Dave, I was told that the Eastern concept of emptiness of nothingness is not quite the same as the Wesetern one.

      It’s more about impermanence than emptiness.

    4. Jessica

      There is, so far as I am aware, no such thing as a “Buddhist meditation”, unless you mean “not thinking of anything at all”, which is impossible

      One approach is to aim for the state of non-thinking. Another approach is to notice that the state of non-thinking is always present. It is like a field in which the thoughts appear and disappear.
      So think of it like sitting next to a highway with cars racing by. You are just watching the concrete. There may be many cars, there may be few. You are watching the gaps between them. Often if you do this patiently, the number of cars decreases. The gaps between them become smaller. But the real point is the road they ride on.
      Eventually, one can become capable of being aware of the road no matter how many cars are driving by. Coming back from the metaphor, the real point is the state, which is always present, but mostly not noticed, that has no relationship with the thoughts. The state that stays the same when there are many thoughts or few or none.
      Although practically speaking, the most common way to gain the ability to access that state of non-relationship with the thoughts is to spend time in the state with few or no thoughts.

      1. wb

        Yes, nice description, Jessica. If you peer inward and try to see where the thoughts originate, it’s almost like a fountain. If you persevere, there comes a time when the mind stills. But the ‘no thought’ stage is only a beginning, isn’t it, there’s much much more to explore. There are hundreds, probably thousands, of things one can do in meditation. One of my favourite maps of the territory is the ancient texts on the jhanas. Google will provide masses of accessible stuff for anyone whose interested.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      For me, watching TV is the best way to empty my mind of thoughts.

      Nothing thoughtful there at all.

  3. Dylan

    The “The people’s Ponzi scheme” piece should be roundly ignored as should anything else by “Spengler”/David Goldman.

    He is an unrepentant Straussian/Neo-Con/Likudo-Zionist, i.e. a perfect example of one category of the power elite that got us into this fine mess we are in.

    1. BetaSheep

      Actually, I believe he’s Catholic. But yah, all that article did was cast the lion’s share of the blame for the financial crisis on the general public. As far as I’m concerned, the subject’s been tapped and otherwise refuted.

      True, nobody was holding a gun to the head of John Q. Public, who was not exactly the financial sophisticate the bankers made him out to be, to take out a loan he couldn’t afford. The true financial sophisticates in the picture, the mortgage brokers and the bankers, could have done some basic mortgage underwriting and maybe questioned those over-inflated appraisals. But then again, no one was holding a gun to their heads to practice due diligence.

  4. BDBlue

    You can watch McKinney grill Rumsfeld here – (although I don’t think this is the only time she did so, heh).

    In addition, McKinney did us all a favor by introducing in the record on her way out the door the evidence for impeachment against Bush.

    And if you want to see what happens when you challenge the Washington consensus, as McKinney repeatedly did, especially if you’re an African American woman, see here, here and here.

  5. Skippy

    Yves you sure have one big fan over at Salon, pathetic usage of widely known info in bumbling smear campaign. You must be pissing off someone…eh.

    Skippy…PO’ed…even used methinks, in a mind too, naw let them marinate in self inflicted buffoonery.

  6. devsterd1

    I found “The Peoples Ponzi Scheme” absolutely insulting. Thanks for the reminder of what a bunch of arrogant d**ks inhabit wall street.

    Great blog. It’s my first read in the morning. If you’re short links, try this….……It’s about the Fed’s recent reverse-repo announcement, money market liquidity and the the second biggest spike in M1 in history. I would have sent it to you but couldn’t find a “suggestions” link.


    1. Doug Terpstra

      Agreed! What I managed to read was insulting and disgusting. Spengler, channeled by David Goldman, excuses the greed of Wall Street by the usual tiresome divisive victim blame — like was done with subprime/minority borrowers, ACORN, and the Community Reinvestment Act —only now it’s all of us. How’s this for a despicable close?

      That is why the national narrative that Westen proposes [a crisis by Wall Street’s disaster capitalism] is ill-informed, innumerate, vituperous, malicious and false. American households levered a $6 trillion net inflow of foreign savings during the decade 1998 through 1997 into a bubble that benefited them far more than it did Wall Street . . . The bankers got no more than they deserved, to be sure, but there is not much left to beat up in the exsanguinated financial industry. To propose a national witch-hunt against ‘Wall Street gamblers’ is a stupid and wicked thing to do.”

      So many lies, but the prize goes to: “The bankers got no more than they deserved, to be sure, but there is not much left to beat up in the exsanguinated financial industry.”

      Oh yes, “we all did it; no one is to blame; who could’ve known; now is not the time for fingerpointing; now is the time for all true patriots to come together and destroy the last vestiges of the New Deal social safety net.”

      Spengler is a contemptible and shameless shill.

  7. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Does Stanford offer Natural Intelligence courses?

    Don’t know about extrinsic value, but NI should have a lot of instrinic value.

    1. ambrit

      Dear MLTPB;
      Yes indeedy, they, and every other university do. It’s called “Course Load Design,” and is offered in a very narow timeframe at the beginning of every semester.

  8. Jim Haygood

    It’s fitting that Randall Wray’s chest-thumping victory lap for Magical Monetary Theory appears on the fortieth anniversary of Nixon’s decree making the dollar an unredeemable currency — a tragic event which MMTers celebrate as ‘monetary autonomy.’

    Fat lot of good it did — real wages have been flat ever since, while the price level increased by 5.57 times (CPI basis).

    Since Nixon’s executive ukase 40 years ago, the U.S. dollar has fallen from 1/35th of an ounce of gold to 1/1750th of an ounce of gold today. You can’t even redeem a dollar for the crappy Treasury debt that ‘backs’ it.

    MMT ultimately is a big-government-friendly theory which grants total discretion to central planners, while absolving them of any accountability for their destruction of the currency unit.

    Ordinary folks are destroyed by monetary machinations, while the super-rich who are regularly deplored in this space profit mightily from it via their hedge funds.

    MMT and a prosperous middle class of prudent savers are mutually exclusive concepts.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      People think only they can have nuclear bombs, until they find out their opponents can too.

      I think the Reaganites will thank the MMTers for informing the world that as we cut taxes, the deficit will increase…as will private sector savings.

      If that’s not a case for cutting taxes, I don’t know what else to say.

    2. Hugh

      Not an MMTer, but most monetary and fiscal policy since 1971 has been based on a gold standard view of the world, not an MMT one. The only time when policymakers set aside their gold standard thinking and do things that look, and I emphasize the word “look”, like MMT is when they are doing tax cuts for the rich, bailouts for the banks, and, of course, the wars. The pattern has been gold standard for us, MMT for them. When it’s about something for us, like jobs, healthcare or entitlements, we are told the money is not there, and more, we must face big cuts in spending, but when it is a question of our elites, the money is always there. My short form of this is: Tax cuts for the rich, budget cuts for us. MMT has very little to do with this other than to expose the nature of the scam. The real culprit is kleptocracy and the kleptocrats.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Klepcrats will abuse MMT and the gold standard both.

        ‘You want deficit? Let’s cut more taxes!’

      2. Blissex

        «My short form of this is: Tax cuts for the rich, budget cuts for us»

        Well, said like that sounds like «the rest of us» have just been milking the rich as they claim.

        But it is not at all about shrinking government, but redirecting it towards the financial, military and health sectors and asset owners.

        To pursue that the Republicans follow a trivially simple strategy:

        * When the President is republican, they want primarily federal taxes cut and local taxes increased and secondarily spending on the financial, military and health sectors increased.

        * When the President is a democrat, they want primarily spending cuts on anything else than the financial, military and health sectors, and secondarily federal tax cuts and local tax increases.

  9. Sol Man

    Japanese food? No thanks.
    Not to mention Walmart and Whole Foods imports from nearby China? Want some melamine, lead, cadmium and now cesium with your “organic California Mix”?

    “Japan may join a U.S.-led treaty under which governments agree to prevent excessive claims against other members for compensation from nuclear accidents, the Nikkei newspaper said yesterday, without giving the source of the information”

    Oh great.
    Does that mean extending the Price Anderson Act to Japan? As it stands now, you have an explicit exemption from damage from radiation on your homeowners insurance. We taxpayers are liable to pay all costs from damage by
    reactors after the owner pays a small deductible.

    Where is the Tea Party on this?
    Where are the free marketeers?

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      It’s unfortunate that those particle scientists didn’t worry enough about the unforseen damages (caused by good guys and bad guys) when they dreamed of their Nobel prizes.

      A reasonable and humble position would have been ‘I better not poke around too much because I am not sure what negative consequences there might be.’

      Think about this – What if, as I try to light a torch to show mankind the way in this Platonic cave of darkness, the cave is full of dynamite and I am stand next to/on top of it?

      Would you still try to ‘enlighten’ mankind?

      1. Typing Monkey

        “A reasonable and humble position would have been ‘I better not poke around too much because I am not sure what negative consequences there might be.’”

        But if you don’t do it, someone else may. And once they do it, you would be at a disadvantage. I think it’s one of those damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t situations.

        1. ambrit

          Dear T M; (Love your monikeyer.)
          That’s precisely the arguement that Szillard , Fermi, et al used to get Einstein to ‘front’ for the ‘virtuos physicists’ and send the fateful letter to Roosevelt.

  10. anon62453

    Was I the only one who read the title to the zebra article and thought, huh, I wonder what kind of yield zebra-finch bonds have?

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Is it a mistranslation when I read ‘Do unto animals what you would have animals do to you?’

      1. F. Beard

        It is sad that we eat the higher animals but I note the smarter ones are classified as “unclean” in the Bible.

      1. F. Beard

        Call it what you will, it calms me down and is good for a occasional miracle when I need one.

        1. wb

          I’m happy that it does that for you, Mr Beard, it resonates with me also, having had it burned into my brain in childhood.
          I think that the problems and divisions will arise when we try to talk about that ‘YOU’ in conceptual terms.
          My position would likely be very different to yours, being ‘There is nowhere where God is not’, so, maybe it’s a different YOU, or maybe it’s the same YOU, just a different ‘me’ :-) Perhaps we are all varieties of heretic ?
          My position is more or less as described here, ( to save me writing it out ).

          1. F. Beard

            “To believe that God is “out there” is to believe that God and oneself are separate. This is a basic error. There can be nothing other than God.”

            Wrong, otherwise there is no difference between good and evil when there clearly is a difference.

          2. wb

            I was talking about the nature of God. Now you’re talking about good v. evil ? My God is big enough to contain All, including what humans conceive of as good and evil. But, alas, we’ll get into interminable theological dispute and bore everyone, so I’ll leave it there, if that’s ok with you.

          3. F. Beard

            My God is big enough to contain All, including what humans conceive of as good and evil. wb

            So is mine:

            The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these. Isaiah 45:7

            But yeah, let’s not bore folks.

  11. Typing Monkey

    Re: Buffett’s op-ed.

    I don’t really care for the guy, but I am always amazed at his ability to so clearly and concisely express his thoughts. Even when I disagree with him (which is almost always when it comes to macro or general policy views), his writings are always a joy to read.

    As a side note, he normally tries to include witty one-liners in his comments. The lack of them in this case suggest either that he views this topic as particularly serious or (more likely, IMO), he wrote this in 15 minutes on the back of a napkin or something…

    1. Typing Monkey

      Come to think of it, it’s interesting that he wrote this now, and not a few weeks ago when there was a sham showdown on the debt ceiling.

      1. Anonymous Jones

        It is interesting, I agree.

        At the same time, I do hear he has a small side business that cuts into his writing time; so I think there might be multiple explanations from which to choose regarding timing and intent.

        Also, not really sure that he said anything different in this article than he’s said for years and years.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Why not just tax the super-rich?

      They will give their money away anyway building musuems. Why not take the money now and let the taxpayers build them instead? But instead of having names like Bankster So and So Musuem, it can be properly named Looter So and So Musuem.

  12. Elaine

    Another person interested in your “high tech meditation” technique – you can’t just mention it and not share!

      1. ambrit

        Now wait just a wool gathering minute there pardner! I’ve yet to encounter two bonzes playing a ‘good’ master, ‘bad’ master act. Besides, I much prefer Arthur Clarkes’ version of the founding of Zen by the master Kalidasa, told in “The Fountains of Paradise.”
        Alright class, as you weren’t!

  13. funkright

    I’m quite curious about what you mean by “high tech” meditation…? Could you provide some insight! Thanks :)

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I think it’s a Zen koan.

      THere is no answer really.

      We are supposed to meditate on that.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Some people are so competitive that they want to excel in anything they do.

        I think that’s what happened when I graduated number one from the Self-Confusing School of Writing my parents enrolled me in.

        It probably reads better like this, We are supposed to JUST meditate on that.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      I didn’t want to go into it because profit making companies sell disks based on this technology. I’ve used theirs and also had a college senior make disks that do the same thing for much cheaper.

      You need to wear headphones. The sound is either something not offensive or white noise. It is played at slightly different frequencies into each ear. The brain trying to reconcile the sound forces the brain into a delta wave.

      1. Roger Bigod

        The jargon is “binaural beats”. There’s a thorough wikipedia article. There used to be one on scholarpedia, which is extremely reputable, but it’s been removed. The problem with the area is that reports of subjective “out-of-body experiences” attract a certain sort of person who confuses this with _real_ OOB experiences, astral planes, crystal power und so weiter. And naturally, commercial operators who cater to them. The RationalWiki includes it in an article on “brainwave woo”

        But I’ve seen reviews by people who had no axe to grind who said favorable things. And Yves is anything but a placebo reactor.

        I’m surprised at the delta frequency being the most effective. This field started in the late 1950’s when researchers hooked up EEGs to Zen monks and observed high power alpha waves all over the brain. Alpha freq = 8-12 Hz. This led Western minds to try to shortcut the whole arduous effort of meditation disciple by piping in stimuli of the appropriate frequency. It’s effective, but the results vary hugely between individuals.

        Interested readers who have reached an appropriate stage in their personal enlightenment may be interested in my forthcoming book “Trade Your Brain Waves to Millions.” You will learn how to align your chakras with the planetary influences that guide the markets. The chapter on astral power charting is worth the price of the book.

        1. ambrit

          Mr Bigod;
          Sign me up! Yes, I too want to join that ultra exclusive club of high minded, high worth paladins! (Do you accept Enron shares as payment?) I most definitely want to be one of the “Smartest Guys in the Room!”
          I really liked your “Fundamentals of Financial Malfeasance,” and have yet to be convicted on any of the charges arising out of my applying those lessons to my business dealings. Kudos!

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          You don’t get the classic meditation feeling while doing this, but I noticed a pretty strong change over time in my startle reflex. I used to get the heart in my throat reaction with any computer anomaly, now I don’t freak out until I’ve ascertained that it’s serious.

          And the people who make these disks can produce any brain wave, there are alpha and gamma disks.

          1. Roger Bigod

            Sounds like the “flight or fight response” which is related to autonomic nervous system activity. It’s mediated in part by the amygdyla, which can’t be studied non-invasively, because they’re tucked away under the frontal lobes.

            If you were curious, you could have an EEG done during the meditation to see if you produce delta, and where. Unfortunately, there’s no baseline literature to compare it with.

  14. Hugh

    Buffett’s op-ed is sugar-coated cyanide for the rubes. He is a successful financier. He knows jack about marcoeconomics. So when he starts to opine about it, hold on to your meager wallet because he is going to be talking his book.

    The rich in this country own 90% of the stock and bond markets and 70% of the country’s private wealth. They own the politicians and so control the government. When Buffett says to tax him a little more, it’s just to make us rubes feel a little better, to diffuse and defuse our anger against kleptocrats like him. First, it’s not going to happen. Those politicians in Washington already do what the Buffett class tells them to do, and that class has not been telling them, beyond some atmospheric editorials, to raise taxes on it. Second, small changes in the tax code would not reverse the transfer of wealth to the very rich. It would only marginally change the rate at which it happened. And as I pointed out above, the rich already own almost whatever there is that can be owned in the country. So the transfer is already virtually complete.

    How would Buffett feel about a wealth tax of say 10% on assets of the wealthy over $50 million? All wealth to be reported, no havens, no shelters. A marginal tax rate of 90% for income over $1 million. A 90% rate for estates over $10 million. Again no loopholes.

    And that brings us to the subject of philanthropy. Philanthropy doesn’t exist at his wealth level. Rather it is about control of and tax avoidance for his billions. In a functioning non-kleptocratic state, it should be we the people who receive back in taxes the majority of the resources Buffett has amassed. Indeed in such a state, Buffett would never have been allowed to have piled up such excessive wealth and monopolized so many of society’s resources. Buffett’s philanthropy is about keeping his wealth out of government hands and for him, not government, to make the decisions about how it is used certainly after he’s dead, but actually well before that time. His position is understandable. He knows if his wealth goes to the government, it will simply be divvied up by other kleptocrats. That it might go back to the rest of us does not even enter into his calculations. It’s his money and he plans to control it as he always has. Why would he surrender it to other thieves when he can make a grand “charitable” gesture, and still retain control?

    Then we see how Buffett circles in for the kill. The mega-rich like him are not just decent. They are very decent. With his tax spiel, he has established the bona fides of his class, their good faith. So what do these very decent people have in store for us when we cut through all the claptrap about minor increases in tax rates on them?

    Job one for the 12 [the New Cat Food Committee] is to pare down some future promises that even a rich America can’t fulfill.

    That’s right, those future promises are code for entitlements. Slash entitlements big time, raise Buffett’s taxes a little, and he will call that a good deal. Well, he would, wouldn’t he?

    1. barrisj

      Another member of the plutocracy who has had his Come to Jesus moment re: wealth accretion is Bill Gates, Sr. He has not only co-authored a book on why there should be an estate tax, but also was a major contributor to Initiative 1098, in WA (failed to get a majority vote), to impose a “wealth tax” on individual incomes exceeding $200K and couples incomes exceeding $400K.
      Gates pere has often spoken out against the obscene excesses of the wealthy elite in America, and clearly understands that a rupture in the social contract is virtually guaranteed unless major tax reform is enacted to reverse the headlong transfer of wealth that has been a feature – not a bug – of the US economy since the 70’s.

      1. Doug Terpstra

        Compelling arguments for increasing inheritance taxes to pre-JFK levels include GWB, Jr. and Paris Hilton. Another: if untaxed inheritances were best for a meritocracy and a most dynamic economy, then why not also forego Olympic games trials? Simply appoint the offspring of Olympic champions 20-years prior.

      2. wes mouch

        You have got to be kidding. Gates Sr is talking his book. He is an estate planning attorney. The higher the estate tax the more money he makes. If these boobs really believed this tripe they would die without estate planning so the government would get half their money.

        1. barrisj

          So, is it just a simple case of quaint Whiggish noblesse oblige.? Well, why not? Perhaps, at a deeper level, these guys recognise that the free (feral) ride is about to end?

          1. ambrit

            Dear Sir;
            Inherited wealth is an addiction, and acts upon the individual like any other addiction. How much is enough would be a better starting point for this debate.

    2. MichaelC

      Buffet says “Tax Me”, I say “You’re on”.

      I’d start with his income tax suggestions, but I’d also like to tax his estate, while he’s in a mood to be taxed.

      And to flip his Job one statement on its head.

      “Job one for the 12 is to pare down some future promises that even a rich America can’t fulfill”. Such Chutzpa from a goy!

      A better candidate for Job one is “Only cut ‘future promises’ that will be funded by a those “philanthropic” promises made out of the Giving Pledge pool. Presto, Rich Americans can fulfill those promises easily after all. What is he talking about?

      Since he brought it up as a virtue I noticed other philantropists, like John D. Arnold,also took the Giving Pledge.

      (See this in case you missed it

      For a fuller picture here’s the organizations current list of ‘philantropists’

      So yeah let’s take him at his word and tax him and his buddies income as he proposes. That takes care of the current debt non crisis.

      But let’s also get to work debunking the Giving Pledge nonsense. It’s a Takings Pledge on a par with the Gilded Age robber baron’s philantopic foundations. How’s that working out for the rest of us?

      Tax me a little today, but don’t lay a finger on the fully funded programs I’ve define as critical for the future.

      1. MichaelC

        I’ve been thinking about the timing of Buffet’s Op Ed.

        And about how little scrutiny it’s getting. (other than the R’s-unimagitive counterpoint- ‘Piss off Warren.You can contribute whatever you want if its that important to you, we have prnciples (err ideology) that prevent us from being so free with our loot. You don’t see Bill Gates agreeing with you too much about taxing his income while he still draws breath, do you?)

        At the moment, WB has a more than passing interest in the fate of the ratings agencies, and while he reminded us last week that he was confident the US is AAA+ (Super senior CDS were also AAA+, but….that’s another story), perhaps he was talking Moody’s book a bit, while having some fun naming and shaming his less interested billionaire buddies.

        He piled on against his S/P rivals (who are certifiably nuts and invited the piling on. and clearly went too far). Yet Moody’s sanguine rating is intact, while Fitch and S/P are getting all the press.

        The ratings silliness last week, followed by his magnanimity this week could (?) be seen as a predictable move in a plutocrat pissing contest at the gentlemen’s club between Warren at Moody’s, and whatshisname from the roundtable at S/P, gone wild.

        Since I feel like a spectator at the circus of the gods anyway, it doesn’t seem too far fetched to picture WB in the arena,trident poised at S/Ps throat, gazing at O, looking for the thumbs down.

        O gets the signal. WBs signal is clear. (I’ll get those other fools to agree to a small tax increase during my dotage and I’ll rid you of this odious priest.(S/P, hence the roundtable) You’ll leave our fortunes intact, to spend ad infinitum, as we see fit. You’ll be dead, I’ll be dead. You get it. Thumb down, I’ll get you reelected, What do you say? And the rubes love me, double whammy!)

        Or not. Maybe WB is that benign despot the world has been longing for for eternity.

        On a related note, the meme that O is serving GWBs third term seems a bit off. It’s more like he’s been serving the Clinton’s third term to perfection. That 3am phone call came in 9/08 and O hasn’t put down the phone down since. Why else is the Clinton money machine in service to O getting headlines today?

  15. Jesse

    There is really nothing Modern or New in Modern Monetary Theory.

    It is the grandchild of Jekyll Island, and the stepchild of Alan Greenspan, the non debt based version of fiat currency,
    viable so long as one ‘maintains the appearance of a standard” to paraphrase Easy Al.

    The problem is that they never do.

    It is money printing feed of the constraints of the banking system. More Orwellian than at first appearance, it is Andrew Jackson on LSD and with a frontal lobotomy.

    1. YankeeFrank

      Fiat money is only as useful as those who get to decide where it goes. If they are corrupt or incompetent, or both, we eventually find ourselves in a pickle like the one we are currently in. If we were under an MMT regime (insofar as money could be printed without issuing debt) instead of the current neo-liberal claptrap the government wouldn’t be bleeding money to the uber-rich in interest payments, so there’d be that benefit. But we’d essentially be in the same pickle due to incompetence and corruption. If we had money backed by some other stuff — gold or silver, platinum or my favorite — dogs, well then we’d be in another trap. A much worse trap. That trap is exemplified by the EU countries that do not have currency sovereignty. They are in much worse shape than the US and UK who do have currency sovereignty. All I see gold-backed money doing is forcing countries into deflationary traps at the worst possible times. Get over the idea that money has value intrinsic to itself and that the governments of the people should be constrained in how much of it can be printed. All something-backed money does is limit the things governments can do when a crisis occurs. Not a good thing. We’d never have developed a middle class, the history of the 20th century would’ve been completely different and not in a good way if we didn’t leave the gold standard. Get over it already and start demanding that our governments stop bailing out criminally corrupt private enterprises and start using that wonderful money-creating power to actually benefit the people, ya know, the ones who the government governs in the name of!

  16. Jim Haygood

    Speaking of naked capitalism’s Bank of America deathwatch (still in effect, presumably), B of A is heaving assets over the gunwales as fast as it can:

    NEW YORK (MarketWatch) — Bank of America Corp. is exiting its international consumer card business, reaching a deal to sell the third unit this year and announcing plans to shed its much larger consumer credit-card operations in the U.K. and Ireland.

    The nation’s biggest bank by assets said Monday it has reached an agreement to sell its C$8.6 billion Canadian card portfolio to Toronto-Dominion Bank for an undisclosed amount. TD Bank, in a separate release, said it would pay a “modest” premium on the receivables.

    The bank still holds a sizeable stake in China Construction Bank Corp., though it did sell the right for it to purchase more shares. Analysts have said they expect the bank to eventually sell the whole stake. Moynihan declined to comment on speculation of sales during last week’s appearances.

    Presumably, a more exclusively domestic focus will make B of A’s next bailout request more politically palatable.

  17. Jesse

    Hugh’s takedown of Buffett was the darker version of my thoughts on it that I did not wish to write just yet.

    Why? Because anyone who does at least stand up and speak a little truth here gets shouted down by those he tries to ‘help.’ And I am not quite sure I am willing to go out on a line of thought that relies to some extent on someone else’s motives.

    But Hugh is right in what he says, and pretty much what I would have said, without some of the ‘getting personal’ on Warren.

    The loopholes are broad and large. The accumulation of wealth is problematic. The charitable trusts need reforms as well about how much at a minimum they are required to disgorge to legitimate causes over time. I am familiar with these charitable trusts, as tax free sinecure for the funder.

    I might use Hugh’s response. I don’t think I can link to a single comment, and so if not I will use it and attribute it. I hope that is enough.

  18. jim3981

    Regarding the “budget buster” article. Trillions missing? Hmmmm. I believe it.

    If one considers Bin Ladin may have been trained and funded by the CIA during Afghanistan.

    Makes sense if one looks at how the CIA dealt drugs and poisoned cities with drugs during the Iran Contra Affair.

    Wrap that up with Operation “fast and furious” ATF gun Running scandle.

    Then the Hanging chad elections for bush in 2000, and the rigged 2004 Bush Ohio election machines.

    Then throw on some tax cuts and a part D medicare Plan on an already busted budget.

    Starts to make sense or our officals can’t do anything in the best interest of the people.

    The picture is becoming clear! Maybe some powerful people don’t want to do what is best for the people!

    Maybe it is all rigged?????

  19. Francois T

    Re: J&J To Settle Criminal Charge Over Risperdal Marketing

    This headline needs a serious makeover:

    Corporation-friendly DOJ allows J&J execs to, once again, escape criminal charges.

  20. Francois T

    On Buffett: 23 polls show that on taxes, Republicans are totally oblivious to the will of the People.

    I mean, Reichpubliscums are such geniuses that everyone is wrong, but them!

    Yet, a lot of people will vote for them, even if GOP WON’T listen to voters. Talk about masochism!

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