Links 10/21/12

British engineers create petrol from air and water Science Daily

Citi’s Torch Has Passed. Now Find a Knife Gretchen Morgenson, Times

Financial ecosystems can be vulnerable too FT

Is Debt Free Money an Option? MacroBusiness

Forcing frequent failures Interfluidity

South Park Bailout Episode – “And…It’s Gone!” 

Analysis: Mortgage demand too much for banks, who respond slowly Reuters

Source: Backchannel talks but no US-Iran deal on one-to-one nuclear meeting ABC. Still October…

US sends carrier group into South China Sea FT

Benghazi Attack Brings Infantilizing Response Jeffrey Goldberg, Bloomberg

No-fly list strands man in on island in Hawaii AP

Stephen Colbert may be waiting for his own ‘October surprise’ The Hill

The Case for Irrational Voting David Swanson, FDL

The Year the Debates Mattered Nooners, WSJ

Young voters hold the key to victory Independent

Roll up your sleeves and find jobs, minister tells unemployed Daily Telegraph

Walmart supply chain: warehouse staff agencies accused of wage theft Guardian. Workers sleep in the woods, tents between shifts.

Binders, Stapling Things, Offshore Outsourcing and Women’s Work Economic Populist

The golden age Aeon. Why not a 15-hour work week?

The talent supply chain Understanding Society

Spain’s main labor unions approve general strike for November 14 El Pais

Poll Shows Golden Dawn Rising, PASOK Vanishing Greek Reporter. Adding, SYRIZA holding.

French firm opens ‘Hamster Hotel’ Digital Spy [cf.] (Furzy Mouse)

Models on Abercrombie Jet Had Rules on Proper Underwear Bloomberg

The great Stradivarius swindle Telegraph (RS)

Company Sells Post-Apocalypse Survival Shelters Yahoo. Complete with flat-screen TV!

Where Will The Next Pandemic Come From? And How Can We Stop It? PopSci

Game, set and match Economist. Alvin Roth and Lloyd Shapley’s Nobel.

Statistical significance John Quiggin. Keen climate denialism chart.

Mobile phones can cause brain tumours, court rules Daily Telegraph

There’s Less “Dark Social” Than Meets The Eye BuzzFeed

Brazilian newspapers leave Google News en masse Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas (Furzy Mouse)

The Implacability of Things Public Domain Review

Suicidal Threads Science News. Early abuse. More likely under austerity, of course.

Chooo-San art: Mind-bending Illusionary body modification art Digital Journal

The Dark Side of Thomas Jefferson Smithsonian. Must read.

Antidote du jour (Furzy Mouse):

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. ZygmuntFraud

    I read all of “The Case for Irrational Voting”, by David Swanson at FDL. I think he presents very good ideas for bringing about meaningful change in the progressive sense, bit by bit over time. What’s notable is that he presents briefly how women got the vote, how workers organized to get more from capitalistic employers, and so on.

  2. skippy

    The Dark Side of Thomas Jefferson Smithsonian is DEFIANTLY a must read. The comment section is pure apple pie cooling in a window, save for the obligatory fly’s, can’t spoil a good pie now…. eh.

    skippy… The engineering of human lives from birth, to make a profit… one nail at a time… human nails…

    1. bob

      Too funny-

      ” leftist revisionists desperately seek other ways to destroy Jefferson’s memory and the Founding seeds of American exceptionalism, for which they hold blinding contempt.”

      What came first, American exceptionalism, or the Founding seeds?

      1. skippy

        Well bob… the founders were not unlike ancestors that jumped in a canoe, of which, sexual rights was – top – of the list for taking such a huge risk. Land is just food… eh.

        Skippy… Sovereign Exceptionalism… such a height to fall from… severe injury or death could be the only result, ask the last mob[s.

        PS. Founding Fathers, yep no lady’s allowed club. The folks that cling to this trope should have to go back and live it… shez..

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      It’s crossed my mind that the Framers worked so hard to build political structures against tyranny because they knew very intimately what the exercise of tyranny meant.

  3. dearieme

    It has been discovered that Thos Jefferson was a politician – the USA reels in astonishment.

    By the way ” … George Washington, who freed his slaves …” is, I understand, plain wrong. It was his widow who freed the slaves. Geo Washington was a politician too.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Er, no. You did read the article?

      It’s been discovered that Jefferson was a slaveholder, deeply involved in his business. One might wonder whether there are parellels in our own day of debt slavery (or whether, as some aver, the term “debt slavery” hijacks the far greater evil of chattel slavery tendentiously0>

      1. bob

        “deeply involved in his business”

        Would an absentee slave owner be better?

        It was a great read, the economics and numbers were most intersting to me. 4% a year is a “very healthy” return. PE today wouldn’t touch that deal. Not enough meat on the bone.

        He also pledged his slaves as collateral to a Dutch bank in order to pay for/build monticello. Digging into this angle gets even more morally repugnant, quickly.

    2. Butch in Waukegan

      Did you read the article? It wasn’t primarily about Jefferson the politician, but Jefferson the capitalist. His capital — human beings.

      Jefferson: “A child raised every 2. years is of more profit then the crop of the best laboring man. in this, as in all other cases, providence has made our duties and our interests coincide perfectly…. [W]ith respect therefore to our women & their children I must pray you to inculcate upon the overseers that it is not their labor, but their increase which is the first consideration with us.”

      The article clearly shows Jefferson’s views on slavery changing changing as his exploitation of slave labor increases.

      This is a must read.

    3. Cavs!

      Guess it’s only fair that now they take Jefferson’s cherished university and buy and sell its faculty and figureheads like horses to make them lie about the climate and teach rote crap like pickaninnies pounding out more nails.

    4. Roger Bigod

      By the way ” … George Washington, who freed his slaves …” is, I understand, plain wrong.

      No, _this_ is plain wrong. I’ve read two biographies of GW this year and they agree that he planned to free his slaves in his will. There was a complication that some of the slaves were “dower” property that Martha had brought into the marriage.

      You could have found this out in a few minutes on wikipedia.

  4. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Rules on underwear…

    We have self-driving vacuum robots and self-driving cars.

    But no self-cleaning underwear yet.

  5. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Financial ecosystems vulnerable.

    Especially when you have wealth-giantism, which as we know, is a curable disease.

    Wealth-giantism can be shrink-cured by über-serfs who transcend the traditional limits of medicine by the will to power.

    Are you a über-serf?

  6. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Roll up your sleeves and find jobs.

    What is true at the personal employment level is not always true at the macro-employment level. The minister failed to see that.

    Similarly, every mother can tell her kid, ‘You can be whatever you want to be,’ but if a generation covers about 20 years, then there can, at most, 5 presidents from that generation, unless it borrows/steals/robs from other generations.

    There are only so many taxi-drivers, hair stylists, lawyers, dental hygienists. Not all can become what they want. It may be correct for a mother to say that, but it can’t be true for all mothers.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      On the other hand, for the foreseeable future, there will always be dishwashers, even if everyone in the world is college educated.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          I think in that ideal world, everyone is a college grad and everyone does his/her own laundry, cleans his/her own house, hauls his/her own garbage to the landfill, and cooks his/her ow meals, like Neanderthals used to do.

  7. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    The Golden Age. Why not 15-hour work week?

    Another idea for improvement is to have elections more often.

    Elections force the 0.01% to spend their wealth to buy victories. It’s good to see so much money pumped into the economy.

    Therefore, we should have elections as often as possible…every month or maybe even every week, when we face deflation. On the other hand, when we see inflation, maybe we should postpone elections.

        1. Bert_S

          I see potential for Modern Election Theory – MET.

          But there are still some important details to work out. If elections are continuous, do campaign contributions precede elections? Can politicians be made of anything? Even electrons?

          This is beginning to sound very Zen like.

          1. ZygmuntFraud

            The soviet cipher clerk Igor Gouzenko who defected to the West while posted to Ottawa, Canada around 1945. In an interview around 1966 he said that, basically, diplomats/spies:
            “Yes, tried to gather intelligence and secret documents, but also tried to influence the movers and shakers in the capital city, Ottawa”.

            Ref . on Gouzenko defection to Canada:
            “Igor Gouzenko, Russian spy buster, on Seven Days”
            CBC archives.

            Gouzenko is hooded for security reasons. It was
            in circa 1966. Towards the very end of the interview,
            Gouzenko mentions the importance of “influence”,
            “political influence”:

            So, I guess ideas and good arguments (or good “fake” arguments) can matter in shaping the zeitgeist.

        2. amateur socialist

          You may be on to something here. It would certainly help the plutocrats out -now they have to wait until election day to figure out which of their investments paid off.

          Once we manage to switch over to permanent sustained continuous referendums the POTUS would end up like any other CEO – too many quarters with lousy election returns and you’re out, loser. The scheme is just close enough to the existing one to be visualized.

  8. Jim Haygood

    The blue-haired AARPers of mainline protestantism finally screwed up their courage to (mildly) criticise Israeli apartheid:

    A letter signed by 15 leaders of Christian churches that calls for Congress to reconsider giving aid to Israel because of accusations of human rights violations has outraged Jewish leaders.

    “We asked Congress to treat Israel like it would any other country,” said the Rev. Gradye Parsons, the top official of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), “to make sure our military aid is going to a country espousing the values we would as Americans — that it’s not being used to continually violate the human rights of other people.”

    The Christian leaders wrote that they had “witnessed widespread Israeli human rights violations against the Palestinians, including killing of civilians, home demolitions and forced displacement, and restrictions on Palestinian movement.”

    The letter said that Israel had continued expanding settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem despite American calls to stop “claiming territory that under international law and United States policy should belong to a future Palestinian state.”

    The letter’s release came within hours of Israel hijacking another Gaza aid ship with half a dozen European MPs on board, underscoring the state of medieval siege which Israel imposes there.

    Like the antebellum confederate aristocracy, Israel don’t want northern agitators stirring up the human chattels on the Gaza plantation with civilized notions of a freedom and dignity that they aren’t ready for.

    1. amateur socialist

      Interesting. I’ve been wondering for about 35 years when our client might actually raise some questions regarding what they actually do with our money. Maybe that time is nigh in this bipartisan austerity quagmire.

      1. Noe G

        Vanilla assertions such as those on this thread – give the impression that there is dissent on the subject of Israel, her crimes against humanity, her responsibility for American wars, and her complete and total control of our government and media.

        American Jews, positioned in power slots across media, banking, Wall St, and Government keep a lid on dissent.

        These relatives of murderous Israelis are aided and abetted by an Evangelical Dog & Pony Show which gives the illusion of Christian support for Palestinian genocide.

        These conversations will have to become far far more provocative if we are to free ourselves from our Masters in Tel Aviv.

        Let the name calling begin… because you see, every website is controlled by this same mob — with ZERO tolerance for anybody sniffing around their game on Americans.

        Thank goodness the Europeans are tired of the yoke and are fighting back… but with an informational lockdown in America… we still think the Palis are the bad guys.

          1. ZygmuntFraud

            This comment is meant to share my opinion that the health and vigour of N.C. is excellent.

            I say this essentially because I find more interesting articles, links to stories and assorted comments than I have time to read over carefully, perhaps even more so at week-ends.

          2. Paul Tioxon

            Noam Chomsky and Harvey Pekar stand in different worlds as writers, but their same disillusionment with the Israel as a garrison state is not a limited, misguided minority view by a long shot.


            Harvey Pekar,the great graphic storyteller of everyday life, raised Cleveland and the humdrum details of a life lived to a universal statement of humanity. In his final work, posthumously published, “NOT THE ISRAEL MY PARENTS PROMISED ME” man’s inhumanity to man is still wrong and indecent assaults upon the innocent by a stronger and heavily armed military is seen for what it is. A sin, a crime and a disgrace to all of the good works now destroyed.


          3. amateur socialist

            Thanks for the pointer Paul I am somewhat aware of Pekar’s work but had never heard of this. Looks interesting.

  9. diptherio

    Brits can now turn air and water into gasoline? Oh frabjuous day, calloo, callay! Finally, now we’ll be able to do something worthwhile with all that useless air and water we’ve got laying around this place. I can’t wait until air and water prices skyrocket because of this (just like corn). One day, we may be able to choose between fueling our autos with any one of life’s essentials (I hear the Swedes are working on creating a syn-fuel using a combination of second-hand clothing and mid-priced houses).

    If there’s one thing we in the west are good at, it’s figuring out how to get the entire world, in one way or another, into our gas tanks.

    1. propertius

      Strictly speaking, it isn’t “air and water” – it’s “carbon dioxide and water”. And electricity. Presumably (the Second Law of Thermodynamics being what it is) a lot of electricity.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Yes, and yes. I wondered about scaling up and the ultimate power source. Right now they are going to market speciality fuels to the auto (racing auto?) industry, so scaling to the ocntinent is not on. They assume for ultimate viability lots and lots of solar. Which is a rational viewpoint, maybe: Many many fewer cars, but still lots, and petroleum is useful for lots of stuff.

        Then again, bringing the carbon cycle to a halt is the ultimate SF outcome here, isn’t it? Carbon from the air — What could go wrong?

        1. Bert_S

          This company looks like another “employment program” for [second rate?] research scientists and maybe a MBA or two to bilk investors.

          As far as the carbon cycle goes, the best case we can hope for is making it a closed cycle. Meaning we extract it from the air to make a store of energy, and when this energy gets used, it then releases the CO2 back into the air as a combustion by-product. At least that way we don’t add to atmospheric CO2 by merely burning hydrocarbons we dig up out of the earth.

          The most promising way of doing that is with bio-fuels.

          But the really neat way would be from splitting or fusing atoms – or having the sun do that for us and delivering it in a more sensible way.

          1. Birch

            Aren’t you talking about trees? That’s what they do, and I’ve heard they photosynthesize with an efficiency that baffles the physicists. They also clean the air while they do it.

          2. propertius

            I’ve heard they photosynthesize with an efficiency that baffles the physicists

            You’ve heard wrong – most plants are considerably less efficient at capturing and converting solar energy than commercially available photovoltaic cells (3-5% vs. 15%). The theoretical limit for photosynthesis is about 25%, but the theoretical limit for photovoltaics is about 80%.

            Of course, efficiency isn’t everything ;-).

        2. propertius

          There’s something to be said for converting carbon usage into a closed cycle. The biosphere has been doing this quite successfully for a couple of billion years, after all. It all depends on where your electricity comes from.

          The process AFS uses (as far as I can tell from the website, which is a bit vague) appears virtually identical to one patented by the US Department of Energy in 1978 (thank you, Jimmy Carter):

          My crude hand-waving guesstimate is that the electrolysis steps end up taking about 1600kJ per mole of CO2 processed into methanol (which is then further reacted to produce motor fuels). 1 mole of methane is produced per mole of CO2.

          It takes about 8 moles of methanol to produce 1 mole of “petrol” (depending on the exact mix of hydrocarbons in the “petrol”- I’m assuming pure iso-octane), so that’s around 12,800kJ/mol of electricity for the electrolysis steps.

          Burning 1 mole of iso-octane releases 5461 kJ, so that’s surprisingly (42.7%) efficient.

          That obviously doesn’t count the energy required by other steps in the process.

          12,800 kJ is 3.5 KWH. There are 23 moles of iso-octane in a gallon, so that’s 81.8 KWH for the electrolysis steps to produce a gallon of iso-octane (petrol). At the 2011 US average electricity price of $0.12/kWH that works out to roughly $9.81 in electricity to produce a gallon of gas.

          Not quite cost-effective at current prices. ;-)

          1. propertius

            “methanol” rather than “methane” in the above (although the process can be modified to produce methane).

          2. Bert_S

            I’m not a mole guy, but we went thru this all already with the hydrogen economy and fuel cells. After a year or two of cheerleading, the DOE started wondering where hydrogen was going to come from. Currently, 97% of industrial hydrogen come from coal gasification and only 3% from electrolysis. Electrolysis costs way more and the only place it does get used is in semi wafer fab becuase it is ultra pure.

            IIRC, the DOE estimated it would cost 3 times more for hydrogen than gasoline, tho I can’t remember now if they factored in differences in engine effy – 45% for fuel cell drive train vs 25% for gasloine drive train.

            There are stationary fuel cells built as backup power generation units in use now – but they are probably using cheap coal gasification hydrogen, so that doesn’t solve the CO2 problem.

  10. patricia

    Who made that beautiful and funny owl? Photo from Al Riyadh, Arabic news site, but can’t find it in there.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          To your original point: You confuse “a” with “the.”

          To the new point to which you shift: If you want to shred, instead of arguing from authority, do feel free. That’s what comment sections are for!

        2. Valissa

          Oooh, wow… Digby shredded it! Should we be impressed by this? Really who gives a shit what Digby thinks? I used to read Digby years ago, until she became a progressive hack like much of the rest of the netroots did when they sold out to the very establishment which they now whine about.

          The whole idea that there are authors who are acceptable to read and authors who are not is too author-itarian for my taste (and too much like religious propaganda). Tolerance of different point of views, even when I disagree with them is something I value.

          Personally I enjoyed the Jeffrey Goldberg article (which is not the same as saying I agreed with the whole thing). It was rather refreshingly nonpartisan for an MSM piece, and appreciate Lambert posting the link :)

      1. amateur socialist

        Any article titled “Benghazi Attack Brings Infantilizing Response” that includes this quote: “An ambassador is killed and Cutter thinks that the “entire reason” his death has become a political issue is Mitt Romney?” should probably be counted as an example of that which it decries.

        But maybe there was an editing error involving the title. Maybe they actually meant “Infantile Hack Peddles Benghazi Attack Nonsense”.

      2. amateur socialist

        In evaluating the use of a phrase like “pathologically politicized climate” is it not useful to consider the writer’s own storied and well documented role in that pathological politicization of the climate?

      3. amateur socialist

        My view is that when people I respect cite the work of people I don’t it makes me curious: Why?

        I’ve read that thing 3 times now and I still don’t get it. C’est la vie as they say in Oklahoma.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          First, even a blind pig finds a truffle every so often. Here, since you asked, is the passage that intrigued* me:

          Our leaders — of both parties — have systematically infantilized Americans to believe that perfect security is attainable. This is one reason the White House reacts so defensively to any intimation that its conduct of the war on al-Qaeda is less than perfect. It’s one reason Republicans cynically argue that the administration is incompetent in its prosecution of the war, and in its mission to keep U.S. personnel alive. So long as both parties react so small-mindedly and opportunistically to the terrorist threat, we won’t be able to have a rational, adult conversation about the best ways to wage this war.

          Now, I don’t accept the war on terror frame at all (in the way that I don’t accept “the bailouts were necessary” frame pushed by Taibbi yesterday). But one can’t have everything.

          Goldberg, in the underlined portion — and note “both parties” — is saying something that you don’t often hear said in the political class, and so it’s important to lay down a marker about it.

          If the constant extension of the security state bothers you, or the constant stress on compliance from kindergarten up, or the erosion and destruction of the Bill of Rights bothers you, then you might find the point Goldberg is making interesting, and even more interesting the fact that it’s Goldberg making the point. The infantilization is, after all, incredibly over-determined and very useful and profitable to many powerful constituencies.

          Note that Obama, when he says (too lazy to find the link right now) that a President’s first duty is to keep the country “safe”, as opposed to, say, upholding his oath of office, accepts this infantilizing frame.

          NOTE * If people who need their knees seen to want content they always agree with from figures they always find congenial, the door out to The Great Orange Satan is over there.

          1. amateur socialist

            To witness Mr. Goldberg’s concern with the plight of systemically infantilized Americans is analogous to Rmoney’s concern with the workers he so gleefully fired. Or Bogama’s sympathy for kids blown to bits by drone attacks.

            It’s novel I’ll give you that!

          2. Lambert Strether Post author

            @amateur socialist: You’re committing a pretty gross category error. Goldberg holds both parties responsible. So the article isn’t campaign speech, as you aver.

          3. amateur socialist

            Yeah I get it. You think he’s added something useful to this (cough) scandal. I’m still not seeing it but appreciate the attempt.

          4. Lambert Strether Post author

            @AS No, you don’t get it. You’re confusing the occasion of the piece with the content of the piece. The former is the scandal; the latter is what I quote.

            Perhaps you should consider calling in a professional?

          5. amateur socialist

            Are people who disagree with you routinely expected to seek counsel? I guess I understand the pointer elsewhere more clearly now.

        2. ministry of fear

          The incumbent’s obvious check and mate to all security attacks by challengers is: “See this?” [gives the football an affectionate smack] “10K warheads, 3 and a half Gigatons equivalent, BABY! So don’t be a pussy.” If we ever have a president who wants to win the election more than he wants to kiss CIA ass, we’ll hear that. Until CIA blows her brains out.

      1. amateur socialist

        Sadly, No. Maybe it’s a meta thing – not the content per se, but an attempt to bring more entertaining trolls to the site. The ones we have seem to be quite a bit more familiar with spell checking tools than the ones who favor Mr. Goldberg’s work.

        And now that he’s been deemed intriguing what next? Perhaps Pat Buchanan has something to add. Or Paglia. Hey let’s bring Ann Coulter into the mix, I bet her fans are quite fun commenters.

        I will resume my usual caution regarding links with Mr. Goldberg’s byline.

          1. ZygmuntFraud

            Under Roman Catholic rules, the Ok books were given the stamp of approval “Nihil Obstat” meaning “nothing stands in the way” …
            (and also I think an “Imprimatur”, or “let it be printed”).

          2. skippy

            Ha!… I was going to pull the – tribal – trigger up thread, then deleted the comment.

            Skippy… why – think – (ideolog) when you can just… accept… eh. Pol Pots specter lives!

  11. karl

    If you’re calling Weincek’s article on Jefferson a “must read” then I’d like to recommend Anette Gordon-Reed’s takedown of Weincek (on Slate) as a necessary corrective.

    1. Chris Rogers

      As a Brit, I find it sickening how many in the USA are brainwashed into venerating the Founding Fathers and the framing of the Federal Constitution.

      In my neck of the woods, anyone with an ounce of intelligence is taught to question that which we take for granted, indeed, in our Universities its refreshing to see so much debunking of what is a supposed proud history – basically, history is about facts – obviously some like putting a veneer of gloss over some events and it seems many in US intellectual circles suffer from this.

      Indeed, and as JS Mill that well known 19th Century philosopher pointed out, there can be no truth if there is no questioning or enquiry of supposed ‘truth.’

      Whilst I’ve always respected many a politician of the left, some as individuals were complete and utter bastards, womanisers and total drunks – among them Mr. Marx – its no good venerating our hero’s or making cults of them – we should accept them for what they are. And in the case of Mr. Jefferson, he was a hypocrite slave owner who abused woman and children and to say its okay because times were different is no defence, particularly given great strides were made in my own country to ban slavery whilst Jefferson was enjoying the deserts of being a slave owner.

      1. Synopticist

        Its high time American conservatives, at least, stopped fetishising those 18th century bandits, and returned to their natural allegiance to the Crown.

        1. ZygmuntFraud

          William Black (the Savings and Loan prosecutor) wrote a piece around 2000 about England/Ireland relations, around the time of the potato blight that produced a great famine.

          There are lots of books out there about the intertwined histories of Ireland and England/Scotland/Wales.

          It doesn’t make the British Crown and Government look so noble, in my opinion, at those times.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      I went and found the link: Thomas Jefferson Was Not a Monster. Well, for some definition of monster. Personally, I found the details of how Jefferson ran his plantation at Monticello compelling; he was, after all, a lifelong and commmitted slaveholder who did not, as Washington did, free his slaves upon his death.

      The primary source of scholarly controversy seems to center on the 4% return calculation. Weincek writes:

      The critical turning point in Jefferson’s thinking may well have come in 1792. As Jefferson was counting up the agricultural profits and losses of his plantation in a letter to President Washington that year, it occurred to him that there was a phenomenon he had perceived at Monticello but never actually measured. He proceeded to calculate it in a barely legible, scribbled note in the middle of a page, enclosed in brackets. What Jefferson set out clearly for the first time was that he was making a 4 percent profit every year on the birth of black children. The enslaved were yielding him a bonanza, a perpetual human dividend at compound interest. Jefferson wrote, “I allow nothing for losses by death, but, on the contrary, shall presently take credit four per cent. per annum, for their increase over and above keeping up their own numbers.” His plantation was producing inexhaustible human assets. The percentage was predictable.

      In another communication from the early 1790s, Jefferson takes the 4 percent formula further and quite bluntly advances the notion that slavery presented an investment strategy for the future. He writes that an acquaintance who had suffered financial reverses “should have been invested in negroes.” He advises that if the friend’s family had any cash left, “every farthing of it [should be] laid out in land and negroes, which besides a present support bring a silent profit of from 5. to 10. per cent in this country by the increase in their value.”

      Gordon-Reed (I edit out the snark*) responds:

      Of course, Weincek could not possibly know what “occurred to” Jefferson as he did his calculations. … The problem with what Wiencek calls the “4 percent theorem” or “formula” is that Jefferson was not speaking about his slaves at Monticello—he was speaking about farms in Virginia generally. …

      Jefferson had no “4 percent theorem” or “formula.” This lawyer and lifelong slaveholder had no epiphany in 1792, approaching age 50, that the babies of enslaved women increased his capital. Jefferson’s thoughts about slavery cannot be treated in such a reductive manner.

      Noting that Gordon-Reed bypasses Weineck’s qualifications (though also granting that “may well have” is a very well worn trope), Gordon-Reed’s critique seems to me to amount to the claim that a dedicated small business owner didn’t calculate the rate of return on his capital. That strikes me as extremely implausible, especially given Jefferson’s boundless curiosity about so many other aspects of existence.

      * * *

      As Doctor Johnson said: “How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?” A deep, sinful, terrible paradox that to this very day the country grapples with. Adding… The triangular trade included New England ship owners; IIRC that one of the deals cut to make the Constitution “work” as that slaves would be shipped in Yankee bottoms. So my own regional subculture and ancestors are by no means pure.

      NOTE * Gordon-Reed is reviewing the book; I’m responding based on the article; for all I know there’s a discrepancy.

      1. Roger Bigod

        It helps to consider some economic history. For the first 50 years or so, VA did well on growing tobacco on small farms with a few indentured servants. During the English Civil War the royalist governor encouraged members of the gentry to move in and rewarded them with land. The economy got seriously extractive, and when the supply of indentured servants faltered, they started importing slaves. The bonanza lasted until around 1750 when the tobacco price started falling and the problem of soil depletion forced the planters to retrench or move up the rivers to fresh land. With the interruptions caused by the French and Indian Wars and the Revolution, the gentry were in financial pain. After 1820 the whole VA economy tanked and there was an exodus to the south and west.

        There’s no reason Jefferson would have had an sudden insight about raising slaves as breeding stock in 1792. It’s a moronic suggestion. The cotton gin was invented around 1791, and it was at least 10 years before the demand for slaves picked up. In the early 19th Cent, VA did get a large income from selling slaves to the Lower South. Richard Henry Lee said that he knew slavery was wrong, but selling his slaves was the only way he could support his family.

        On top of this, there’s the problem of Jefferson’s money management. When his father-in-law died, he and his wife were free of debt, or close to it. Despite his obsessive bookkeeping, he couldn’t control his expenses. IIRC, he couldn’t free all his slaves because they were part of his estate, which was underwater.

        Washington showed more practical smarts, as you’d expect. Mount Vernon had been under cultivation long enough to be depleted by tobacco, so he couldn’t raise a decent crop and gave it up after a few years. He did grow it on some of Martha’s land. He shifted to wheat, but it isn’t a labor-intensive crop and there’s a low return on slave labor. He tried for years to find something remunerative for his slaves to do, with little success. And some of them were Martha’s property. His main motive for freeing them in his will may have been how he’d look to history. Hardly PC, but there are worse reasons.

  12. scraping_by

    RE: Gas from air

    Along with everyone else who took Freshman Chemistry and who raised their hand and asked about creating hydrocarbons from atmospheric carbon and aquatic hydrogen, it’s a moment of satisfaction that the professor’s put-down reply has turned out be intellectual snobbishness.

    Science and technology, which should be about the search, has become just another bulwark. It’s a relief the marginal characters who get things done are still out there.

    1. Bert_S

      Don’t hold you breath on this one (haha – pun intended).

      This article is a piece of crap – but here is their website with a little more info.

      The key process is electrolysis of water to hydrogen. This is hugely costly and needs a lot of electricity from somewhere. It’s why our “Hydrogen Economy” didn’t take off.

      The hydrogen to methane step is already done at commercial scale – there are large Coal-to-liquid fuels (and natural gas) plants in operation. Sasol is a world leader in that, but Exxon and Shell have processes too. In that case they gasify coal (or split natural gas) to get the hydrogen. Problem is it makes a huge amount of net CO2.

  13. craazyman

    Not THAT is what I call an antidote!

    This week was already a disaster with the Nibiru scare and then this thing about TJ. It was just, I don’t even know.

    I gave up on God a long time ago and replaced him with the founding fathers. TJ especially. He did in one page what it took the Bible a few thousand pages to do, and most of that is, frankly, beside the point.

    The fact that Ms. Reed appears to have a deep tan only makes it more effective as a medication. I doubt TJ was perfect in all respects but I noticed that even Jesus Himself didn’t flinch at slaves. That’s weird to me, honestly. Either he was misquoted or they just made that part up. But as I said up in paragraph 3 . . .

    1. craazyman

      well, I ddin’t mean the owl, I meant karl’s comment and link. yaya

      this is already hitting the Monticello web site. some dude is going on the attack over there under the flag of purification — he mut be a Puritan of some sort — and they’re fighting back with Ms. Reed’s ripost “absolutely nothing new here”, she didn’t say you’re trying to get PR to sell your book but it looks that way to me.

      I have a slight personal connegtion to this, being a Virginia native son and grad of “Mr. Jefferson’s University”. Mostly I spent my time there drunk or doing bong hits and never once went to Monticello. To this day I’ve never been to Monticello. So nobody can accuse me of favoritism. I frankly don’t know very much about TJ, except a lot of schools where I come from are named after him, high schools even, and elementary schools. And he was an OK writer. I’d say just OK.

      What did it say in the Bible, something about the Lord using crude tools. Or was that Dilsey in the Sound and the Fury. I know she said it about the preacher from St. Looey. She did, you have to read it. And didn’t David himself not get along always with Saul.

      And let’s not even mention Robert E. Lee. He had his chance to align with the Union. But he chose not to. There’s schools for him where I grew up. And streets too. Hard to believe it was all real. Right there across the same hills and fields and creeks and woods, where I walk and wonder into the trees. How can that be? Something that crazed and malignant and insane. Some things just are.

      You can take a man out of his time, but you can rarely take his time out of the man. So few measure up to what we now have. Certainly not Mr. Jefferson, fully, but enough to be a crude tool of something so much bigger than what he could ever imagine, that made what we have now, whatever that is, a step or two farther toward something absolutely undefineable but completely knowable without words. Lincoln too, while we’re at it. Funny how that works.

  14. Jackrabbit

    Tuesday, October 23rd

    Moderator: Larry King

    Invited and Confirmed for the Debate:
    Rocky Anderson, Justice Party
    Virgil Goode, Constitution Party
    Gary Johnson, Libertarian
    Jill Stein, Green Party

    Invited but Unconfirmed:
    Barak Obama, Democratic Party
    Mitt Romney, Republican Party

  15. amateur socialist

    Harry Shearer featured this delicious quote in his “Apologies of the Week” section this morning:

    “The truth is, Obama doesn’t call anyone, and he’s not close to almost anyone. It’s stunning that he’s in politics, because he really doesn’t like people. My analogy is that it’s like becoming Bill Gates without liking computers.” – Neera Tanden, former aide to Bill Clinton and Obama

    Looks like the RWNM is all over it, predictably.

    Great Clintonsomething segment this morning too.

  16. Bert_S

    Well, it’s official. An org to promote export of fracking LNG!

    Exclusive: U.S. LNG group to launch campaign for natgas exports;_ylt=ArqJxIiXnng830n4h6TLO46iuYdG;_ylu=X3oDMTNyYmljNWdsBG1pdANGUCBUb3AgU3RvcnkgTGVmdARwa2cDOGMwMzIzYTktNTIwZi0zYjc2LTg2MTgtMGNiZDFmZTJiY2ZkBHBvcwMzBHNlYwN0b3Bfc3RvcnkEdmVyAzFjNjEzMDcwLTFiZGQtMTFlMi1hYWZmLWFlMDZhMDc4ZWY4YQ–;_ylg=X3oDMTFpNzk0NjhtBGludGwDdXMEbGFuZwNlbi11cwRwc3RhaWQDBHBzdGNhdANob21lBHB0A3NlY3Rpb25z;_ylv=3

    yes, that is the yahoo link

    And this to explain why we should export LNG (my analysis)

    Al Jolson Yes, We Have No Bananas (sync corrected) – Opera Parody

  17. Aquifer

    Re “young voters” article

    “It won’t be pretty, but after four difficult years, a man who won office because of hope is likely to seek re-election through fear.”

    That about sums it up – as Stein woulds say that politics of fear has gotten us everything we were afraid of ….

  18. Lance N

    From “Debt-free money”:
    Private banks may own the Fed, but that does not necessarily equate with private bank control. The Fed acts like a central bank for the most part, even though it is not government owned. Ownership did not confer influence for Lehmann Brothers in 2009. (Lehman was thought to have been one of the owners, although which banks own the Fed seems to be a point of considerable dispute).

    So….. Sarbox, corporate finance regulations and banking regulations do not require a public company to divulge all of its holdings. What other secret assets are there?

  19. Roland

    The real ‘infantilism’ re: Benghazi is that neither D nor R dare consider the attack may have been made by Qaddafi loyalists.

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