Links 9/20/11

Crows use mirrors to find food BBC

Study suggests weight may affect food impulses Washington Post. I have trouble with this notion. We as a culture did not have so many overweight people all that long ago. The main culprits look to be diet (bigger portion sizes, more sugary/fatty foods, sedentary lifestyle) but making it all stuff allegedly in the brain is a rationale for the first line of defense being drugs rather than lifestyle changes.

Light at End of Afghan Tunnel Recedes With Brazen Taliban Attacks, Army Desertion, and Flourishing Opium Trade FPIF Blog (hat tip reader Carol B)

15 demands from the IMF/ECB/EU Troika which could be the Greek Default trigger Joe Lynam, BBC

Greece Nears the Precipice, Raising Fear New York Times

Greece should default and abandon the euro Nouriel Roubini, Financial Times

Siemens shelters up to €6bn at ECB Financial Times

The European Bank Run Ed Harrison

SURPRISE: Italy Rallies After Downgrade, World Markets Making Big Comeback Clusterstock. Go figure.

Can China escape as world’s debt crisis reaches Act III? Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Telegraph

The Pillaging of Latvia Jeff Sommers and Michael Hudson, CounterPunch (hat tip reader Carol B)

Obama and the left back in sync Politico and Obama Debt Reduction Plan Calms Democrats’ Concerns On And Off Hill Huffington Post. If you believe the “hopey-changey” act a second time around, you deserve to be victimized. Per the old Yankee saying: “Fool me once, shame on thee, fool me twice, shame on me.”

On and Off the Table: Leaving the Door Open to Medicare Cuts Jon Walker, FireDogLake

AT&T Launches Ad Blitz in DC to Push T-Mobile Deal WSJ Deal Journal. Hah, they are wasting ad dollars trying to sell the notion that AT&T has good service.

Five questions the UBS investigations must answer Reuters (hat tip Richard Smith) and UBS Loss Highlights Loophole Wall Street Journal. OMG, I am really out of loop. Modern banks will do trades with no confirms with some counterparties? That is asking for trouble and that is exactly what they got.

Inside Amazon’s warehouse: Lehigh Valley workers tell of brutal heat, dizzying pace at online retailer Morning Call (hat tip reader Balaji)

U.S. Probes Rating-Cut Trades Wall Street Journal

A Solyndra Insider’s Words Bruce Krasting. I had wanted to write about Solyndra, since it was very clear that this was a typical VC “shit happens” deal failure, but it would have taken a ton of getting into the weeds to argue that. The fab making sense depended critically on silicon prices staying high, and they fell sharply. The late-stage money coming in was a sign that the DoE lending had not been a bad decision (remember, good decisions can still have bad outcomes; and the fact that the DoE was diluted was standard; new money in a troubled deal is always senior).

Coming Apart: After 9/11 transfixed America, the country’s problems were left to rot George Packer, New Yorker (hat tip Crocodile Chuck). From last week but still very much worth reading.

Antidote du jour:

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  1. Maju

    I sincerely believe that the main culprit of obesity is sedentarism, including cars and non-physical jobs. Of course there are other factors: individual genetic and psychological diversity and what not (diet too) but the main culprit is no doubt lack of exercise: not so long ago people walked many kilometers every day, today they are lucky if they walk a single km (roughly 1500 steps), not to mention climbing stairs or slopes, moving weights, etc.

    Emphasizing everything else is just a distraction: if you walk for one or two hours every day (3-10 km), you are not obese (at least in 99.99% of cases).

      1. aet

        High-fructose corn syrup came into use in 1973.

        The stuff tastes as sweet as all get out, and is so cheap and easy to use that it greatly increases profits for the food processors; but its metabolism by the human body does NOT trigger those gastro-intestinal neuronal messages which tell, that you you have eaten enough: and thus, people eat too much, and of that sweet sweet stuff to boot.

        And high-fructose corn syrup is in EVERYTHING, nowadays.

        1. the nurse

          yes agree about high fructose corn syrup – very, very bad for you. Just buy Mexican soft drinks – have real sugar and a lot of the sth american products use sugar instead. And then there is the case of “less in the cake hole” equals less obese! And do some form of exercise – whether it be gardening or running or anything in between.

          After all – if you want to be a big, fat slob – well expect to have the limbs cut off like a turkey when you get diabetes mellitus. And those obese little kids running around – will now be destined to a shortened life and legless to boot(pardon the pun).

          So feed your kids fresh food, drop the processed crap and take responsibility for your life. And if you can’t afford it – grow food in containers! Big is not beautiful – it is a shorten lifespan with secondary, preventable associated disease. So …. lose the weight and be a role model for your kids/grand kids/friends. And don’t pull that disability crap with me – unless you have lupus.

          1. optimader

            Mexican soft drinks are the best and deserves some wider recognition. When you treat yourself to a soft drink try this:
            and you will realize american soft drinks taste like gasoline.

            A vry simple rule, stop or at least reduce eating anything that requires a three color offset print label/ package.

            People that say they dont have time to cook just dont know ) to cook..
            Make two different soups every weekend until your freezer is full of lunch size and dinner size portions..

            cook a roast beef, pork tenderloin, chicken , fresh fish on the grill on sunday while drinking a beer and slice it up for the week.. People delude themselves about time constraints because they are in lifstyle ruts…

            They do apparently do have time to watch alot of TV tho?

            Does not compute

        2. Yearning To Learn

          There is absolutely no question that the primary drivers of obesity in the US are (poor) diet and (lack of) exercise. There is hordes of research to this point, but there are 2 HUGE practical examples of this:
          -“The Biggest Loser”. Take a 600 lb man, put him on that show, and he loses hundreds of pounds.
          -Gastric surgeries (lap band, etc). People get these and lose hundreds of pounds. (until they can eat through it, which they often do).

          we haven’t changed their genetics by doing this, and yet they lose hordes of weight. in one case we change their life habits, in the other we force them to stop shoving garbage in their mouths.

          besides, we can’t change people’s genetics anyway… might as well do a treatment that works without side effects (exercise and diet).

          Obviously, if you take two people and give them the same diet/exercise regimen, one will have better progress. This is the genetics/metabolism side of the weight argument. However, it is considerably secondary to the role of the diet and exercise itself.

          And this is why Americans get fatter and fatter and fatter every decade. Not due to some rapidly morphing anti-Darwin evolutionary principle. but because of cars and McD’s and huge portion sizes and subsidized corn/soy (and by extension beef).

          That said, once a person has lived the American lifestyle and become morbidly obese, there does seem to be a mechanism that impairs fat loss… specifically the fat cells may secrete “evil humors” which increase appetite, decrease activity level, and also promote breakdown of muscle over fat during times of negative caloric balance.

          but some people look to that emerging evidence and state “see, I can’t lose weight” which is not true.
          but its metabolism by the human body does NOT trigger those gastro-intestinal neuronal messages which tell, that you you have eaten enough:

          True. However this is true with almost any high glycemic index foodstuff, including regular table sugar.
          I do not defend high fructose corn syrup, there is no question we eat too much of it. However: our problems are not restricted to that. we also see it with our drinks (sodas and also JUICE), regular table sugar (even “sugar in the raw”), the types of breads and pastas we eat, and also the way we eat PEELED potatoes and PEELED apples (the rare time we do so).

          The American diet is an abomination against God and nature. We were NEVER meant to eat it. Our diet should be
          -high in vegetables. (US diet= extremely low)
          -moderate in fruits. (US diet= extremely low)
          -Low amount of lean meat like chicken and fish. (US diet= extremely high)
          -low amount of breads and pastas (US diet = sky high)
          -extremely low to no amount of fatty and/or red meats (US diet = unbelievingly sky high)

          in America we subsidize certain foods (corn/soy) to the exclusion of others (veggies). The crap food lobby is very powerful and intertwined with government. Thus crap is cheaper than healthful foods, a partial reason for our inverted food pyramid.

          1. the nurse

            don’t blame it on genes. Blame it on fast food, accessibility to to fresh fruit and veg, access to transport to get to a supermarket, advertising and the worst of all – the US school lunch system and their reliance on garbage to feed kids. Throw in the reliance on the school system to procure monies from drink companies to subsidize their curriculum.

            This is a social problem which will cost far more money from health consequences of an unhealthy diet than anything else.

            Get real American – start lobbying for health care, access and public transport. Throw in bike paths and proper lighting to make it feasible. Because otherwise – the young will die young, and the old will be wondering what the hell happened to their carers.

          2. optimader

            ..-”The Biggest Loser”. Take a 600 lb man, put him on that show, and he loses hundreds of pounds…………you make my point, who has time to watch this intellectually flatline stuff while lamenting they dont have, say ~15 minutes hands on time to make a couple gallons of split pea soup? You can actually just throw the raw ingredients in a crockpot and come back to it in the morning..

            Most people create their own limitations and choose to commit slow motion suicide

          3. Pelle Schultz

            Do blame it on genes–at least in part. To not do so would be naive beyond all sense of reason. You can’t undo millions of years of evolution (in generally food-scarce environments) in the space of 1-2 generations.

        3. readerOfTeaLeaves

          I’m in contact with people who focus on research related to metabolism. There is now plenty of evidence that the chemicals in soft plastic bottles (as are used for juices, milks, food products) seep into the liquids and are absorbed into the bloodstream. Researchers are concerned that these are turning off certain genes involved in metabolic regulation.

          A doc who works in this area told me that she has patients who are 100+ overweight, very careful about what they eat, doing an hour on an elliptical machine 6 days/week (she monitors all this, so is confident this is their profile). However, blood samples reveal that their leptin levels are signaling their brains that they only weigh 50 lbs, which means the hormonal signals in the bloodstream that tell the body how to metabolize nutrients at the level of the cell are all whacked. Getting their leptin levels back into the normal range can take 3 years… after which, they have a biochemical shot at losing weight without compromising their health.

          It’s a fascinating area of research, but current health care models are not at all equipped to support the diagnostic and long-term wellness models that are required to address this kind of health problem. It doesn’t fit into an insurance paradigm that emphasizes short term profits; it’s a several year process for most patients. OTOH, successful treatment prevents diabetes — which is one reason the research is so important right now.

          Very interesting stuff.

          A link for the interested:

          1. TunoInCA

            Yep, good old bisphenol-A. it’s even in your diet soda – the acid of the soda leaches it from the metal can’s plastic lining. It makes baby rats fat and diabetic.

            “nurse,” I hope you’re never the nurse of anyone I care about. Your hatred of fat people is really sick.

            I’m nearly vegan, never eat out, eat no HFCS, consume no liquid calories, and little that is processed. And I get HUGE amounts of exercise. I’m the only person in my family who is not obese. Overweight, technically (but it’s partly muscle and an hourglass figure), but not obese. You know what, it’s not easy to live this way. I’m very, very lucky to have the time and resources.

            People who are a “normal” weight love to critique what other people eat and how much exercise they get. I wish that they could inhabit the body of another person for a day or two. They might discover that it’s not all that simple.

    1. Paul in TO

      Obesity is all about what you put into your body. It’s conceivable that if you exercise like a madman you can fight off obesity, but control what you eat and exercise will merely add to your well-being. The vast majority who eat poorly end up obese, whether they exercise or not.

    2. Graveltongue

      One thing that you can’t ignore is the size of the average American fridge. If you place a huge shiny metal box in any kitchen, folks are going to feel compelled to fill it. I went down a couple of fridge sizes and I now buy less but fresher foods, simple.

    3. Abelenkpe

      I have a desk job but walk three miles everyday at lunch, plus swim four times a week. That pretty much keeps me the same size I’ve been since a teenager. But I know others who get an equivalent amount of exercise but still struggle with weight issues so diet must play a role as well.

    4. sleepy

      Sedentary lifestyles are certainly a factor.

      I had an aunt and uncle who were both farmers and were born in 1910 and passed away 5 years ago.

      For 75 years my aunt would fry bacon and sausage in lard, biscuits were made with lard, lard went into just about everything–tasted great.

      But they both did backbreaking farmwork. Before that 7 am breakfast, my uncle had probably burned 1500 calories since 5 am. And both of them would burn another 1500 calories before the noon meal.

      1. optimader

        traditional food is what the human metabolism evolved with. Your aunts cooking also included portion control because the food was satiating.
        Food that come from a process plant not unlike an oil refinery margarine, HFCsyrup saccarin etcetc have only been around very breifly.
        The american population is an engineered food experiment and our physiology is ill prepared to cope w/ it.

        1. sleepy

          You’re exactly right. Homemade food is far more satiating than the processed stuff. You just won’t eat as much because the homemade satisfies–both nutrionally, and with the tastebuds. And too there is the quiet joy of picking your own snapbeans and tomatoes and prepping them yourself which I can’t help believe makes the ritual of eating somehow more healthy.

          Snack food for those relatives was soda crackers crumbled up into buttermilk or oatmeal with mashed bananas.

    5. Gordon

      Each of the comments here seem to be variations on the conventional wisdom that obesity is caused by eating too much and not exercising enough. This idea is the sort of founding myth of the current science of nutrition and obesity, which appears to be in as dismal a state as that of economics.

      As in economics, there is also a vibrant community of authors, bloggers, and a few scientists which have produced an enormous amount of fascinating material which turns the conventional dietary wisdom on its head.

      Briefly, the dietary change that appears to be essential to reversing obesity as well as other diseases of civilization is the avoidance of what the blogger Kurt Harris ( calls the “Neolithic Agents of Disease”: sugar, wheat, and vegetable oils.

      Others also emphasize a low carbohydrate intake, especially in the current or formerly obese. The low carb intake being necessary to restore insulin sensitivity and force the body to make changes resulting in increased fat-burning machinery in the cells.

      What this translates into is a diet high in saturated animal fats. Therefore, it is only possible to eat this way if you disregard many of the pillars of conventional wisdom on diet, such as that saturated fat is bad for you (it isn’t), whole grains are healthy (they aren’t).

      If you want to read more of these Yves-like nutrition bloggers there are many but Kurt Harris, Peter Dobromylskyj (, and of course Mark Sisson ( are good ones. Also check out Gary Taubes “Good Calories Bad Calories” for a detailed history of the science of nutrition and health.

    6. Jim

      I blame virtual social networking, to a high degree.

      Thirty years ago, during the summer, you’d see youngsters at the park, playing cops and robbers. Today, those same youngsters are exchanging music while playing games in front of a monitor.

      Do the math.

    7. mk

      I think Dr. William Davis is on to something:

      Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health

      A renowned cardiologist explains how eliminating wheat from our diets can prevent fat storage, shrink unsightly bulges, and reverse myriad health problems.

      Every day, over 200 million Americans consume food products made of wheat. As a result, over 100 million of them experience some form of adverse health effect, ranging from minor rashes and high blood sugar to the unattractive stomach bulges that preventive cardiologist William Davis calls “wheat bellies.”

      According to Davis, that excess fat has nothing to do with gluttony, sloth, or too much butter: It’s due to the whole grain wraps we eat for lunch.

      After witnessing over 2,000 patients regain their health after giving up wheat, Davis reached the disturbing conclusion that wheat is the single largest contributor to the nationwide obesity epidemic— and its elimination is key to dramatic weight loss and optimal health. In Wheat Belly, Davis exposes the harmful effects of what is actually a product of genetic tinkering and agribusiness being sold to the American public as “wheat”—and provides readers with a user-friendly, step-by-step plan to navigate a new, wheat-free lifestyle.

      Informed by cutting-edge science and nutrition, along with case studies from men and women who have experienced life-changing transformations in their health after waving goodbye to wheat, Wheat Belly is an illuminating look at what is truly making Americans sick and an action plan to clear our plates of this seemingly benign ingredient.

      About the Author William Davis, MD, is a preventive cardiologist whose unique approach to diet allows him to advocate reversal, not just prevention, of heart disease. He is the founder of the program. He lives in Wisconsin.

  2. Foppe

    Study suggests weight may affect food impulses

    The implicit premise of the article (that something that is biological would have started to matter only recently) is indeed utterly stupid, but it is not at all unexpected that the brain behaves differently in obese and thin people — in fact, such changes are very common: at the cognitive level we generally call it “learning”. Given that, this article seems to me to be saying little more than that there is a “biological reason” that brains exhibit learning behavior. (Perhaps the researcher implicitly subscribes to the whole mind/body duality nonsense?) If he meant to say something more, then it didn’t make it into this article. (Having said that, it is therefore quite possible that people who have been overeating for years will find it much more difficult to quit the habit than people who haven’t — but note that anorexics have exactly the same problem, just the other way around.)

    1. attempter

      The implicit premise of the article (that something that is biological would have started to matter only recently) is indeed utterly stupid

      In the modern era our bodies have been under an unprecedented assault of toxicity, so it wouldn’t be surprising if this triggered non-linear changes.

      As for the circular reasoning of the study managers, well duh that people mired in a particular action rut will experience neurological changes which reflect that rut. We’ve known that for a long time.

      All of this, as usual, is wrenched out of context. People are obese, obesity is increasing, but there’s no systematic socioeconomic reason for this, like say economically enforced poor diet and sedentarism.

      The truth is that obesity was a temporary and perverse effect of corporatism. (It might sound superficially odd that hunger and obesity would increase at the same time and for the same reason, but the difference is generally one rung on the “ladder” the other post refers to.)

      The solution to both hunger and obesity is economic democracy on the foundation of relocalized agroecology.

      1. aet

        The problem is bio-chemical (ie chemistry of the food has changed and our biological response has as a result changed in response): NOT ideological (ie “the only problem here is that fat people are just lazy”).

        And judging from people’s idiotic responses to other people’s drug use, I cannot expect much or any good on this issue to come from the politicians; as this issue too will be fitted into the useless, damaging and non-sensical template of “left vs right” or ‘”corporations vs people”.

        This is a public-health issue, and deserves a public-health response: anything else just won’t work. In other words, this is NOT a political or ideological problem, but a technical problem. A problem with food-processing.

        1. attempter

          Are you doing some kind of routine, like a parody of the standard wonk idiocy? You confess that corn syrup is a main moving part of the problem, yet pretend to be completely ignorant of the politics of corn syrup, how it couldn’t exist at this magnitude other than as the result of decades of corporatist policy. How corn syrup is a moving part, food corporatism is the machine.

          Unless, of course, you’re intentionally lying.

        2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          More display of science working for rich corporations – first food scientists came up with the product and then brain scientists developed advertising campaigns for people to crave for it or to overcome the brain’s natural resistance to the craving.

  3. dearieme

    My doctor; “What exercise do you take?” Me: “I cycle everywhere and I garden.” Him: “Stop cycling and walk everywhere”. Result – buggered feet and knees. Beware of puritans and their one-size-fits-all doctrines.

    1. Yearning To Learn

      can you elaborate? a doctor told you to stop cycling and to walk instead? Fire him/her.

      Now if you always bike INSTEAD of walking and it is relatively short distances, then I might recommend increasing one’s biking time… but not to stop bicycling!

      disclosure: I’m a doc who bikes 12.3 miles each way to work weather permitting (should be biking now but it’s raining).

    2. justanotherobserver

      buggered feet and knees ?

      didn’t they start bothering you at some point before they became “buggered”. You just woke up one day after walking for a while and they were done ?

      Walking is not very hard on the body – I’d like to know how it caused problems since the wife and I walk everywhere.

      1. carping demon

        “but making it all stuff allegedly in the brain is a rationale for the first line of defense being drugs rather than lifestyle changes.”

        This line in the op, and the comments following, approach the perceived problem (increasing obesity) from a purely moral (or cultural) position. Whenever that position is questioned, (e.g., maybe it’s physically chemical, and not moral/culturally behavioral) it is immediately and vociferously defended. This is the same reaction that those who favor economic “austerity” display when presented with pro-stimulus policy suggestions. It is the same emotional evasion of personally unacceptable theory.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Did you read what I wrote? When I said “diet” I included portion sizes (bigger her than in Europe, BTW, and restaurant portions are ridiculously large) as well as the type of food (highly refined foods).

          1. LucyLulu

            Portion sizes is one thing that has jumped out at me when I’ve traveled in Europe. Whether eating in homes of relatives in France or restaurants, the portions served are TINY compared to what we are accustomed to. It answered the question, for me, of how the French could eat butter cream sauces and remain thin. There’s no super-sizing or 16 oz steaks or plates piled high with food. We really have gotten ridiculous, and unhealthy) with the servings we’ve become accustomed to.

            For example, one cafe meal in Lyons included a beef entree, on the plain side, about 3-4 oz. A side was potatoes au gratin, a 2 in square, at most 1 in high. I’m not exaggerating. The entire meal was a la carte, and ran me 28 euros I believe. I got dessert, perhaps something else, and shared some wine, not a lot, not expensive. You can’t afford to eat too much!

            The other thing one observes is how much lower the rate of obesity is. I’ve also fielded questions from relatives about “why are all Americans fat”? I would add that they do more walking, cars are inconvenient, while mass transit is convenient. Private parking spots are considered luxury items for condos and apts. They shop frequently and buy small amounts which adds to total walking and activity levels, and seem to have more cities with hillside neighborhoods

          2. bmeisen

            As Yves notes, American portions are big. Culture is the determiner here and American culture says: pile it high. This applies to restaurants as well as groceries. Furthermore Americans value efficiency, i.e. they are trained to think economically, which, in concert with still relevant elements of the Protestant work ethic, means: eat all of that enormous pile on your plate. Finally the American standard is 3 warm meals a day: A mess of eggs, a burger and fries, and pork chops and mashed potatoes. These are not the eating habits of humanity. These are the eating habits of Americans.

          3. carping demon

            Yves, yes, I read what you said. Several times while composing my comment. I’ve read it again. My remark was not intended to disagree with what you think about the causes of obesity. It was to point up your complaint that the study offers “a rationale for the first line of defense being drugs rather than lifestyle changes.” I see no difference between insisting that a problem must be solved by “lifestyle changes” and insisting our economic problems must be solved by “austerity” which, of course, is also a lifestyle change.

          4. Anon

            Ah, Lyon, home of the boudin blanc, the bouchon, and bottles of blessed Saint-Jo.

            And it’s an easy town to walk around in the center, plus a variety of public transports – métro, tram, bus, even the cable car at Fourvière – if you don’t fancy life on foot.

            Obese humans are the neoliberal dream of the human – consumption’s natural limits are overriden – and the rise in obesity rates is the result of a nexus of interlinked economic/political factors including:

            -failure to regulate the industrial food complex for the benefit of consumers, rather than for the profit margins of producers/sellers

            -time-poor, overstretched workers, often living in food deserts, with little inclination, knowledge, or resources available that would allow/stimulate them to cook nutritious food

            -lack of public transport options (A recent study has shown that people who use public transport in the UK tend to walk on average around 250 miles a year – the equivalent of more or less 11 marathons a year,

            -children being born into families where obesity already has a hold; the kids don’t have a chance, they eat what they are given, and end up like their parents.

            Pointing the finger at individuals when there is a panoply of factors in play here doesn’t seem useful.

            By all means, institute preventative programs for kids so that obesity is nipped in the bud, but what about preventative steps aimed at the bastards who produce all this crap?

  4. YankeeFrank

    Re Obama’s reawakening as the populist hero for the workers of America — for several years I’ve been thinking about what the big O was going to do when everyone remembered how he campaigned last time as compared with how he has governed, as compared to how he will campaign in 2012. I was baffled as to what he was going to do, as in, if he just did a rewind and ran like he did in 2008, the juxtaposition of that to his presidency would be so jarring he would be laughed out of town. I also thought that nobody has THAT MUCH chutzpah. Oh I’m so naive. So he’s doing a 180 again, this time back to the populist instead of away from it. I guess I’m just not that cynical but I can’t believe that most people will buy it this time. If he wins it will be because the repug candidate is so awful no one comes out for him/her. Since most won’t come out for Obama either I predict this presidential election will have the lowest voter turnout in American history, and whoever wins will have won based on something other than popularity. That’s why all the crap the repugs have been pulling for the last couple years — all the new voting requirements, and now the push for proportional electoral votes — is so shrewd. These tactics might just bump their candidate ahead — of the 12 people who actually vote for president in 2012, Romney will win 7 to 5.

    1. attempter

      Since most won’t come out for Obama either I predict this presidential election will have the lowest voter turnout in American history, and whoever wins will have won based on something other than popularity.

      That’ll certainly be a stark metric for whether the people have learned anything from four years of the most clear refutation of pseudo-democracy imaginable.

        1. attempter

          As you’re probably just pretending to be ignorant about, the same phenomenon goes back throughout the history of “representative” government, and anyone paying attention didn’t need the Obama evidence. That’s part of why voter turnout has rightly been declining for so long. People are gradually catching on to the scam.

          I said here that this culminating example is so extreme and brazen that it must penetrate all but the thickest skulls.

          1. ambrit

            Dear attempter;
            I suggest that you are underestimating the density of the average cranium. Wasn’t it Barnum who said, “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the public?”
            Turning away has always been the way to defeat, especially when the ‘forces of evil’ are H— bent on making everyone else ‘toe the line.’

    2. justanotherobserver

      and I _know_ that saying the republicans are worse is not very good motivation, but regardless of Obama’s lameness a Perry as president, or even Romney is going to be an unmitigated disaster.

      The only silver lining in that cloud is that it might galvanize opposition.

      However as the results in Wisconsin and Ohio show the latent fascism in the American psyche is strong.

      1. Binky the Bear

        We are the children of the immigrants who made this country, most of us. Half German, slightly less UK, smaller proportion “other.” Our Germanic insanity has been a recurring issue in our history.

        Corn syrup is poison. Fast food and processed foods are drugs and poisons. Just say no!

        1. ambrit

          Dear Bear;
          Wait just a minute pardner! Germans and English and Dutch and Waloons and everyone else from Europe are all Cousins! And where, pray tell, do our Oriental bretheren come from? Mars? (Although Stirling could be on to something there.)
          Insanity is an equal opportunity affliction.

    3. LucyLulu

      Oh, I’ve very much noticed the 180 in Obama, both immediately after he was elected, and recently. However, somebody will be elected as president in 2012, whether one voter turns out or 300,000,000. And given a choice between a Perry and an Obama, what is one to do?

      Perhaps we need to all become Republicans and nominate a suitable opponent?

  5. Jim Haygood

    The New York Times-Titanic finally wakes up to what many of us knew (and plainly said) last year:

    Some economists believe default may be inevitable — and that it may actually be better for Greece and, despite a short-term shock to the system, perhaps eventually for Europe as well. They are beginning to wonder whether the consequences of a default or a more radical debt restructuring, dire as they may be, would be no worse for Greece than the miserable path it is currently on.

    A default would relieve Greece of paying off a mountain of debt that it cannot afford, no matter how much it continues to cut government spending, which already has caused its economy to shrink.

    Better late than never! My name is Tim Geithner, and I authorized this press release.

    Meanwhile, the media captains of the Times-Titanic seem unaware they hit an iceberg several knots back, and the forward compartments are taking on water.

    Hope they don’t plan on a government-sponsored restructuring, a la General Motors.

  6. Jim Haygood

    Re BBC’s ’15 demands from the Troika’ article: even as we speak, someone is writing a parody version of Paul Simon’s pop song … Fifteen Ways to Leave Your Lender. Illustrated version:

    Business Insider article: ‘Despite Italy getting downgraded, the Euro is higher, the FTSE MIB (Italy) is up over 1%, the DAX is up over 2%. Dow futures are pointing to a gain of around 100. Markets are weird.’

    Not really. Guy Lerner (who called the 9 Mar 2009 bottom to the exact day using sentiment indicators) published this comment two days ago:

    The “dumb money” and Rydex market timers remain extremely bearish, and corporate insiders have increased their buying. These are bullish signs.

    ‘Fear fatigue,’ comrades — buy the default apocalypse!

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I wonder if it’s not a case of Rydex market timers actually becoming ‘dumb’ only after they have thrown in the towel now to this feint maneuver and get trapped with their new long money.

      Is that a possibility?

  7. Brendan

    ‘DoE lending had not been a bad decision’? Why did they need government money at all? I’m sure if a Republican admin had so favored the company of a large contributor, Yves, you would have been equally understanding.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Boy, you must get all your information from Fox.

      1. Per the comment above, the loan was approved by a Bush holdover and DoE staff (as in careerists, not political appointees).

      2. You’ve got the donor bit wrong, it was the Kaiser Foundation. No individual political donor benefitted.

  8. AR

    See Stephen Guyenet’s ‘reward theory’ of obesity:

    …in which he hypothesizes that the dopamine pathway which is involved in other addictions overrides satiety signals, impelling ‘food addicts’ (obese people) to continue eating beyond satiety. David Kessler implied as much in his The End of Overeating. Food technologists design foods for ‘hyperpalatability’ with a combination of high fat, sugar (HFCS) and salt, which studies show can lead to addiction similar to alcoholism, cocaine, etc.

    1. liberal

      Makes total sense to me. I’m not overweight by much, but overeat all the time out of frustration/desire/etc. I know damn well that I’m already sated, and when I don’t eat because I’m too busy, I don’t get hungry unless I’m exercising really hard or doing manual labor on the house.

  9. Wade Leftwich

    ‘Per the old Yankee saying: “Fool me once, shame on thee, fool me twice, shame on me.”’

    Or as we say down South:
    Don’t let the same dog bite you twice.

      1. inhofe

        Or as the legendary GWB would have said

        “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on you. Fool me three times, gosh darn it, I got fooled again. Fool me four times…aw shucks…I forgot how the rest goes.”

        1. ambrit

          A lot of us Sothrons got bit by a bunch of Blue Dogs. Well, looky here, we threw a lot of them d— dogs out and got, Tea Baggers! Finally, someone who looks a lot dumber then the stereotypical Southern Dumbass! (Which is another of them equal opportunity things, ya hear?)

  10. Abigail Caplovitz Field

    Yves you’re absolutely right that making obseity about the brain in the way the article does is a prelude to drugs as a solution, and the article and more to come like it undoubtedly have roots in a drug marketers’ launch plan.

    I lost and kept off the pesky 20 lbs by getting more exercise, switching to smaller plates, increasing the proportion of fat in my diet (butter, whole milk, bacon, yum!), nearly eliminating highly processed foods and eating because I was hungry, not because I was bored, stressed or otherwise wanting comfort.

    That is, I became a conscious eater. Which is all about the mind, but not in the way that researchers are focusing…

  11. Jim Haygood

    From Reuters:

    Greece will probably default but will not leave the euro zone, Fitch credit ratings agency said on Tuesday, as pressure increased on the Greek government to push through with fiscal reforms.

    Fitch did not expect Greece to leave the euro zone, as some in markets have speculated in recent weeks.

    “Concerns over the risk of a break-up of the euro zone are greatly exaggerated,” David Riley, Fitch’s head of global sovereign ratings said in a news release.

    Admittedly, some straws in the wind (such as public remarks) are pointing in this direction, of Greece defaulting but remaining in the euro zone.

    I cannot imagine that this will work. It would leave Greece dependent on external funding, without the safety valve of being able to monetize its deficits during the crisis.

    In practice, such a doomed policy would only be a stepping stone to the introduction of a New Drachma pegged to the euro (not unlike the Swiss franc), after it becomes clear that membership in the euro zone would keep Greece mired in quasi-depression for the rest of the decade.

    Greece is being badly advised. Is that the ubiquitous Goldman Sachs, whispering seductive deceptions into Greece’s ear?

    1. Jessica

      The key to understanding what is going on here is that it is not Greece being advised or making the decision. It is the Greek elite making decisions that are very harmful for the rest of Greece, but not for themselves.

  12. xct
    Russian Ripoff

    “So Russia simply dismantled its industry. The west said, oh, you’re not competitive and what the Russians didn’t realize is that all of this was very self serving to the west. The West, especially the American planners- the Harvard boys that went over said, well, we really don’t want is for Russia ever to be a military threat. We’d like to conquer it, to break it up, let’s now just slam them at the end of the cold war.

    So without an industrial, manufacturing base there can’t really be much of a military. So the first thing they did was say – get rid of your manufacturing, get rid of your engineering, begin charging for your schooling, close down the schools – you don’t need engineers all you really need to do is make a hole in the ground.

    But none of this export revenue from the hole in the ground should really be turned over to the state – we want to make sure that you only tax labor and tax business, but don’t tax natural resources – let it all be privatized. And so Russia thought, gee this sounds like a funny way to get rich but that’s what they did. And so they followed the Harvard advice to give away the oil, the nickel companies, the mineral resources, and that’s how they got the money to begin sending it all to the west.

    There wasn’t any Russian money to buy these companies because the IMF and World Bank wiped out Russian savers with a hyper inflation by getting rid of all the capital controls and letting the rouble float. So it was just one bad advice after another and now the Russians realize they’ve been taken.

    And they’re trying to figure out how on earth do we get out of this mess following the West’s advice. They thought, and the Baltics thought, that they were been told how to develop in the way that the West did.

    Neo-liberalism is the exact opposite of how Britain and the United States, Germany, Japan, and now China, got rich by progressive taxation, and having public infrastructure provided at much lower cost than privatized infrastructure and a resource fund tax, basically a land tax which is how Europe and America – states and localities – have been financed all throughout their history.”

  13. ep3

    ” If you believe the “hopey-changey” act a second time around, you deserve to be victimized. Per the old Yankee saying: “Fool me once, shame on thee, fool me twice, shame on me.””

    heck yeah yves. the major left blogs are all rallying around “candidate obama”. yet they even admit that these two proposals (jobs and buffett tax) are just carrots to ‘change the tone of the debate’.

  14. justanotherobserver

    Exercise will protect you from many of the punishments that you inflict on your body. Not that you can’t ignore diet, but exercise is really, really important. From calorie burning to preventing high cholesterol it is not possible to maintain a healthy body without exercise. Well it is for some who won the genetic lottery.

    As a friend of mine says: your body is a ferrari, and most of us just back it out of the garage, let it idle for a few minutes, and put it back in the garage.

    You gotta race down the roads with it !

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      it’s understandable that a Ferrari-like rabbit needs to move about in order to be healthy.

      But I think even a turtle would need to scurry about a bit to stay out of health trouble.

      I guess what I am saying is that one should not ignore one’s non-Ferrari clunkers.

    1. Tertium Squid

      I find it positively charming that, even as he was losing them billions, his superiors and colleagues at SocGen seemed so concerned about his mental health and whether he might hurt himself. I certainly hope it’s true…

      Good luck that happening at a US company.

  15. citalopram

    So Obama is all progressive now. He still hasn’t fired his staff and so far, once again, all we have is talk. It’s good talk though, but we all know the cliche: talk is cheap. And Obama sure can talk.

    My prediction is that if he wins the election, he’ll go back to being a neoliberal austerity champion. If he had come out swinging like this from the get go after his election, he would have some credibility. Watch all the useful idiots on the left hand him another victory like the abused wives they are,Stockholm syndrome indeed.

    1. curlydan

      All he needs to do is talk because the R’s will oppose all his proposals, and then the automatic cuts from the SuperCongress will kick in.

      Everyone can throw their hands in the air, blame the other guy, and say they stayed true to their priciples but had to follow the law…although the Prez’s priciples will still be in question.

  16. Jib

    Elizabeth Warren now leads Scott Brown in the latest poll. You people need to wake up. The commentors on this site show the narrow defeatist mind set that has condemned the left to the sidelines while the right wing drives the country into the ground. But you get to keep your pure beliefs untainted by actually having to accomplish anything. Your political fundamentalism makes you feel morally superior so you keep it, the nation be damned. Luckily, you represent the old left, the defeatist left. We will win despite you.

    You got your primary challenge to Obama, Nader and West. Jesus, you people deserve each other.

    1. citalopram

      The new left? As that the left the constantly compromises and concedes their social democratic ideals until there’s nothing left? Do you think we should compromise on Social Security and Medicare? What about single payer? Wars in Iraq et. al.?

    2. ScottS

      Moral superiority? I think history has shown that pressure from outside the cathedral is worth ten times any effort from the inside.

      I’m quite curious what you think a senator with no one to sit with at the Senate cafeteria except maybe Bernie Sanders is going to achieve.

    3. skippy

      Warren a lefty, is that like Obama is a progressive? Please check her stated political position.

      Skippy…here we go again.

    1. barrisj

      Amen, mate. Packer has been trying to walk back his original pro-war/pro-invasion hoo-hawing for a few years now, and continues mightily in the NYr piece at further air-brushing.
      Well after the debacle in Iraq was consecrated as the biggest blunder of US foreign/military policy in decades, Packer then justified his earlier stance by amending it to embrace “saving ‘our’ Iraqi counterparts who signed up with ‘us’, but now will be abandoned to sectarian revenge killings”. Sorry, George, but the time is long past to accept the consequences of your cheer-leading.

      1. curlydan

        Although seemingly strange bedfellows, Packer and David Brooks pretty much top my “Never Read” list–just can’t do it.

  17. abelenkpe

    “If you believe the “hopey-changey” act a second time around, you deserve to be victimized. Per the old Yankee saying: “Fool me once, shame on thee, fool me twice, shame on me.””

    Because we won’t be victimized if republicans take over the white house?

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      With my cats, it’s ‘Trick me once, I want more! Trick me twice, I am bored.’

      I think that’s why a lot of smart cats don’t get excited often.

    2. ScottS

      I tempted to pull the lever for Rick Parry. We waste our time putting fingers in the dike (heh). Might as well let the whole thing crumble and start anew.

      1. ambrit

        Dear ScottS;
        Please, don’t! Read more about the absolutely ruthless nutcases Perry associates with. If Perry wins, we stand a real chance of falling into an official Police State run along theocratic lines. Then the Al-Quieda bunch will have truly won. We’ll be just like them.

  18. alex

    Yves: I had wanted to write about Solyndra, since it was very clear that this was a typical VC “shit happens” deal failure, …

    Good luck convincing the anti-stimulus government-is-always-wrong crowd of that. For them Solyndra has already become a rallying cry as memorable as “remember the Alamo”. Yet the same folks often support tax breaks for already profitable businesses.

    I’m not convinced a high risk business like Solyndra was a good candidate for loan guarantees, but considering the trillions in giveaways to the banksters the Solyndra loss isn’t even a rounding error. And if you want to drag the country out of the 20th century there are going to be a few ideas that just don’t work out. Of course I’m sure that historically that was never the case.

  19. readerOfTeaLeaves

    From Nicholas Shaxson’s Treasure Islands blog today — he links to several previous NC posts that highlighted New Zealand’s efforts to promote (wink, wink) ‘financial services’ by catering to tax havens and money laundering:

    Definitely worth a quick read.
    I was left with the impression that Panamanian money launderers are still calling the shots in New Zealand.

  20. Pwelder

    That Morning Call piece about Amazon’s Lehigh Valley (PA) warehouse reads like Upton Sinclair ex the packinghouse gore.

    I have some first-hand knowledge of that area and am still in touch with friends there. Two pieces of background:

    First, Allentown and Bethlehem within living memory were solidly union towns. Mack Truck, Bethlehem Steel, Western Electric, and General Electric were major employers, and there were dozens of foundries, metal fabricators, textile mills and etc. all of whom as a rule were organized once they required more than a few dozen employees. The presence of these industries – all of which are effectively now gone – provided an umbrella that supported wages and working conditions throughout the economy. A sweatshop such as Amazon seems to be running couldn’t have found decent help.

    Second, ISS – the temporary staffing service which has been facilitating Amazon’s dance around the labor laws – on the morning the story came out bought a full-page ad in the Morning Call. Imagine that!! The Call has been pretty hungry lately. In addition to the problems all newspapers share, they had the special bad luck to be caught up in Sam Zell’s adventure in financial engineering. Will there be any more reporting like this? I’d like to think so, but am not holding my breath.

    1. Jim

      Most UnderReported story of the day.

      I’m shocked that it wasn’t given more exposure.

      (maybe I shouldn’t be)

    1. Albert W

      Shocking, but not surprising.

      What a bunch of thugs, no different than the thugs of the Mubarak regime that blocked communication for protests in Tahrir Square. So it is the same in America.

      Yves — give this story attention!!

  21. Marc Richter

    Obesity rates can be directly attributed to the government’s shift to push food groups to kids. Wheat, rice, and corn have been so genetically modified that it’s poisoning us and is the primary contributor to weight gain, heart disease, and diabetes.

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