Links 1/11/13

Photo: Evolution Less Accepted in U.S. Than Other Western Countries, Study Finds National Geographic (psychohistorian). Agnotology works.

Locals say shifting sea ice frees trapped whales (Update) PhysOrg (another). More hopeful than yesterday. Or not: Killer whales’ apparent escape from sea ice likely short-lived, expert says Globe and Mail (John L). The article has links to an amazing video of the whales crowding to breathe.

Poisoned Planet: Doubling of Ocean Mercury Levels Threatens Global Health Common Dreams (Aquifer)

Flu Widespread, Leading a Range of Winter’s Ills New York Times. Notice this is with lots of people getting the flu shot. I got the horrible novovirus last winter (the only good thing about it is you are seriously ill for 24 hours and feel bad for another maybe 12 after that) and a miserable fatigue-y flu for nearly weeks earlier this year. Yuk. Lots of Vitamin C and high gluathoine whey for me!

Settlement reached in Boston lawsuit claiming mom’s pregnancy drug caused 4 daughters’ cancer Associated Press

USDA declares drought disaster in much of Wheat Belt Reuters (Aquifer)

Desert groundwater dirtier than most MyDesert (Aquifer)

EU antitrust chief hints at forced changes for Google ZDNet

The abortion of unwanted girls taking place in the UK Telegraph

Libor scandal: RBS executives under pressure to resign Telegraph

Japan unveils Y10.3tn stimulus Financial Times

Surely We Have Learned Some Lessons Since 2001? Kevin Drum

Lew Reviews. Wish I had time to post. Initial comments: Any Obama pick is going to be bad for ordinary Americans, so the question is how bad. Lew seems to be less terrible than Erskine Bowles would have been, which is not saying much. He has been inside a bank (Citi, yuk) long enough to be tainted but not long enough to have learned much. So he will probably have a number two who is a hard core banker and defer to him on those matters. He apparently did do a good job on the Chrysler bankruptcy in negotiating the warrants (ah, but would he get as good a deal from a bank?). And for those who like to bash Sorkin (as I do on a regular basis), you have to recognize that he has his place. He was very early to call Lew as Obama’s nominee.

Jack Lew nomination hits snag as Republican vows ‘aggressive’ opposition Guardian

Mixed views on Lew as choice for Treasury Financial Times

Jack Lew’s union-busting past Salon

Will Jack Lew take on financial reform? Don’t hold your breath Heidi Moore, Guardian. In fairness, did you really think Obama would nominate anyone who took this seriously?

Catfood watch:

US Chamber chief: ‘Exploding debt’ is threat to economy The Hill (Aquifer)

Coins Against Crazies Paul Krugman, New York Times. The coin is now mainstream!

NRA vows to fight Biden’s gun control taskforce Guardian

Julie Williams, OCC’s Former No. 2, to Join Promontory American Banker (Michael C)

Bank Deal Ends Flawed Reviews of Foreclosures New York Times. More detail on how screwed up the process was.

Betrayed by Basel Simon Johnson. In case you labored under the delusion that Basel III was going to make a difference….

Learning to Be A Central Banker in 10 Easy Steps (Update) Cassandra

PAUL KRUGMAN ASKS A QUESTION: ON THE “AUSTRIAN” HATRED OF FRACTIONAL RESERVE BANKING, PAPER MONEY, ETC. WEBLOGGING Brad DeLong (Lambert). Archival, but while we are on the topic of Hayek and Austrians….you do have to give DeLong credit for this piece.

Antidote du jour (furzy mouse):

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  1. fresno dan

    “Details about Lew’s exact responsibilities at Citigroup, where he worked from 2006 to 2008, are scant. He declined to comment for this article.”

    And I keep saying Goldman Sachs runs the US Treasury – WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. Citibank runs the treasury and Goldman runs the US government…

    Memory lane:
    “The rapid growth in these new types of credit instruments is, of course, a sign of their value to market participants. For borrowers, credit market innovation offers the prospect of increased credit supply; better pricing; and a relaxation of financial constraints. For investors, new credit instruments bring the prospect of broader risk and return opportunities; the ability to diversify portfolios; and increased flexibility. And for lenders, innovations can help free up funding and capital for other uses; they can help improve credit risk and asset/liability management; and they can improve the return on capital and provide new and cheaper funding sources”

    Timmy Geithner

    Well, at least the new guy won’t misjudge risk as badly as Timmy….
    “In early 2008, he (Lew) became a top executive in the Citigroup unit that housed many of the bank’s riskiest operations, including its hedge funds and private equity investments. Massive losses in that unit helped drive Citigroup into the arms of the federal government, which bailed out the bank with $45 billion in taxpayer money that year….
    “The mismanagement of risk was comprehensive at that organization,” said Simon Johnson, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.”


    1. LucyLulu

      It looks like the Republicans have problems with Lew’s nomination, too. Sessions says he won’t rule out a filibuster on the nomination, saying Lew doesn’t stack up against a sterling character like Geithner??? Lord help us all.

      “I don’t think he brings to — certainly doesn’t bring the gravitas of former New York Fed chairmen like Secretary Geithner and other very prominent people we’ve had as secretary of Treasury, the premiere financial position of the United States government,” Sessions said.

      Read more:

        1. Brindle

          Lew gets all poetic about budgets–tapestry of beliefs–from the Heidi Moore Guardian piece:

          —“To the administration, Lew’s storied history in budgets is only a plus. As President Obama nominated him, he made sure to mention that Lew had presided over three budget surpluses. And Lew played to his real audience, giving a shoutout to the staff of the Office of Management and Budget: “I am delighted to see so many of my friends from OMB here today.” In 1999, he romanticized budgets: “Budgets aren’t books of numbers. They’re a tapestry, the fabric of what we believe. The numbers tell a story, a self-portrait of what we are as a country.”—

          1. Aquifer

            Obama singling out Lew’s experience with budget surpluses –

            Lordy – this guy combines the worst of Bush with the worst of Clinton – SS doesn’t have a prayer with this guy ..

            This will be interesting though – O has 2 outs to keep from having to “bargain” away SS/Med with the Reps – the 14th Amendment and the platinum coin – if he uses neither, it should be obvious to even his most stalwart defenders that he is not the victim but the tool of the corps for whom, as the Chamber tells us, the deficit is the number 1 threat to our very survival … His praise of Lew re surpluses is another proof, if one was needed, that he will look for a way to put himself in a position where he is “forced to compromise” with the Reps, who demand their pound of SS/Med flesh ( how sad that this is no longer merely a metaphor ….}

            This show will be popcorn worthy, methinks – he will have to “rise” to a higher level of “cleverness” than he has heretofore demonstrated … Methinks also, perhaps, that is why some of the MSM has jumped on the platinum coin bandwagon – not because they take it seriously as a legit way to deal with finance, but to see O, and the Reps, dance around … Good for ratings ….

            But – it seems that the facts of his duplicity have nothing to do with the fact of his support by his fans …. I had a conversation the other day with a nice fellow who understands a lot but was oh so reluctant to believe that O wanted to whack SS …. It was sad to see his distress at the thought … It will take even more crap from O to finally overflow the enormous diaper he has wrapped around him to the point where folks will finally have to notice it leaking from his plastic pants all over the WH stairs ….

          2. Aquifer

            ohmy – yeah, I’ve seen that video – but ya know what – the retort is “but Romney would be worse ….” Even when they don’t like the Dem, they will vote to keep the “scary Rep” out ….. They will not consider using their vote to support what they really want ….. I don’t know what to do about that …

      1. Aquifer

        Ha, ha, ha – i love the calm, almost blase, manner in which BB routinely rips these guys new AHs …. At one point you can hear MT chuckle in the background …

      2. LeonovaBalletRusse

        In the Democracy Now video, do you see what a deferent little puppet Jacob Lew is? In the first few minutes he stands like a sheep with his little triangle mocked up between his carefully placed fingers of his hands. Is it a an equilateral triangle or a lame pyramid symbol, actually? His performance reminds me of a kid in grammar school getting ready to recite a “pome”. He deserves to be skewered.

  2. liberal


    I love Krugman and despise the Austrians as much as the next guy, but people unhappy with fiat currency systems do have one quite valid point: banks are granted an extraordinary privilege (charging interest on loans based on money they create out of thin air) but don’t appear to either pay sufficiently for that privilege, or be properly regulated on it.

    1. Montanamaven

      Banks should not have the privilege of creating money. They should just lend money with 100% reserves. The creation of money should only be done by the government. Put the fed under treasury. A monetary system and banking system are two different things. A monetary system is needed to promote the general welfare.

      1. LucyLulu

        While I understand the objections to the Fed and the banks creating money, I’m not keen on the idea of Congress having control either. See comment above made by Jeff Sessions about Geithner and witness Congress’ recent inability to pass legislation to help victims of Sandy, desire to cut social programs, continual kicking the can to the edge of the cliff, and flirting with default. Do you really want these nutcases to control our money?

        1. financial matters

          If we can take these rentier profits out of the financial system they will have less control over our elected officials. Then maybe these officials can concentrate on the real economy.

          1. Susan the other

            I like to think this too, with reservations. I’d like to see some indication from Congress that they understand the mess they got us in. So if we do put banking under Treasury, I’m still afraid the private banks will morph into a position to benefit unfairly even as utilities. If we do the coin, we are not accomplishing a control over private banking. They’ll still be there, gaming the system. With writeoffs, tax loopholes, unaccounted-for bailouts, etc.

          2. LucyLulu

            Agreed, Susan. Tax breaks are the #1 perks sought by lobbyists according to an excellent and easy-read article in Time about lobbying maybe a year and a half ago called “The Best Laws that Money can Buy”.
            Banks are also far from the only entities corrupting politicians. Sadly, it will require far more than cutting profits to banks to clean up our political system. In addition, it isn’t just the corruption that is worrisome about Congress taking over the money supply. We have some truly ignorant nutcases roaming loose in the halls of Congress that if left to their own devices could take down our country in the name of “fiscal responsibility”.

        2. Montanamaven

          Zarlenga answers this(and as financial matters points out very elegantly): As always, if you look to history instead of imagining what might happen (like Von Mises saying “the proof of a theory is in the reasoning”), “…an examination of history, despite the current prejudice and massive propaganda waged against government,shows that government control of money has a far superior historical record to private control over money systems. [See “Lost Science of Money” Chapter 16 and the American Monetary Act brochure. The chapter of the German hyperinflation being caused by a privatized central German bank is an eye opener as is the chapter on the Greenback]
          The attack on government “started with Adam Smith himself in an attempt to block moves to take back the monetary power from the private Bank of England and put it back into government, which had done a good job in monarchical management of the money system, with only one exception under Henry VIII.”
          He says “Do you really trust the “ENRONS” to dominate our money? Look how they have abused that power! And YES Damn it! Enron was on the Board of the Dallas Federal Reserve!”
          Again, I’m not a monetary historian like Zarlenga and Alexander del Mar before him. I’m just a history buff. There are many great downloadable handouts, CD, and brochures at the site.

          1. Aquifer

            MM – how does Zarlenga’s analysis/system square with MMT?

            There seem to be so many “experts” out there, it’s hard for us “little guys” to figure it out – ….

          2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            It’s either government control, private control or some kind of hybrid.

            What are the advantages and disadvantages with any of the the systems?

          3. Montanamaven

            @aquifer – I am so out of my league here in talking about the American Monetary Institute and their work. I do like their ideas as they do not leave morality out of the equation. Because the history of money is the history of power. Who defines and controls the money system controls the society and what we spend our money on. If money is a commodity then it is the merchants and bankers who decide what to spend it on and if society defines money as credit like our present system, the bankers control the system. Inevitably they spend it on wars and speculative bubbles as history shows. But if it is abstract legal power, then the control can be put under our system of checks and balances. And then we can spend it on human and physical infrastructure that benefits society. This is how it worked in some of the colonies like Pennsylvania. Oh, and yes, the people over there have finally come out, it seems reluctantly, with their differences with MMT.

          4. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            It’s humbling to know to that there is no fortress so strong that money can’t take it.

            So, bankers spend it on wars and specluate in bubbles. Worst, they buy control of government and corrupt the system of checks and balances.

            It seems to me that the only defense, then, is to make te prize as small as possible – i.e. making the government not worth their while to own.

            One way to do that is to devolve power to the people.

            Government – small.

            People – big.

            That is, big people, small government.

          5. citalopram

            MLTPB – what’s to prevent bankers from taking over small government and making it big again? Small fish, meet a bigger one.

          6. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            There are 2 lines of defense there.

            First, they take over a small governmetn.

            We fight them to prevent that.

            Second, they have to make it big again.

            There we fight them again.

            Beat us once, shame on you.

            Beat us twice, shame on us…something like that.

          7. LeonovaBalletRusse

            M, let’s be clear: our GOVERNMENT has been USURPED by BIS “Governance”.

            Arrest Traitors.

          8. Aquifer

            MM – Thank you very much!! The “critique” of MMT by AMI was very interesting, but, being the pragmatist that I am, I can’t help wondering if, other than the necessity to actually pass new legislation, which is no small consideration, the differences amount to a tempest in a teacup ….

            In light of the fact that the legislation that AMI proposes would, so i gather, make the system work as MMT claims it already does, does it really matter, other than for academic purposes, how money is defined? Both sides seem to place considerable emphasis on it, but ISTM, if it is returned to/used by the public for its own purposes – what the heck does it matter what we call it – hell, we can call it Fred, for all i care (although I seem to call a lot of things Fred, for some reason …)

            I rather understand that if we call it “debt” we will think about it differently perhaps than if we just call it a means to pay for stuff – but if both sides agree that the underlying problem is that “Fred” is under private instead of public control – then ISTM we would all benefit if these guys joined forces …

            The stickler, it seems, is that one side might have to “concede” its definition of “money” and seeing as how careers and reputations are built around all this stuff, that gets tricky. With great consternation i saw this same dynamic in the last election – Anderson’s Justice Party and Stein’s Green Party competing for votes – with essentially the same platform …. Sometimes, when you are in the thicket, you can’t see the forest for the trees, and wind up whackin’ your fellow trees ….

            Now i realize that “Fred” appears to be making a mockery of the knowledge and expertise of all these folks – but that is not my intent. What i would like to see is all the folks who want to see the control of our money returned to public institutions to be used for the public good get together and push for what needs to be done. Would the MMT folks get on board with the legislation? Or do they claim it unnecessary? Is that a sticking point? And if pushing the legislation could unite these 2 schools, then what the heck? What is the point of this whole exercise for either “school”? Recognition? A Nobel? Or public purpose? If public purpose, then join forces, cause the public needs some real Fred ….

            Either way, ISTM, we will still have to put good folks in office to a) pass the legislation we need to set up the conditions both sides claim are necessary to achieve public purpose and/or b) help distribute Fred for that purpose, so let’s get these economic issues in line so we can get back to the REAL ball of wax – politics! LOL

          9. Montanamaven

            I’m with you, aquifer. Both groups come from a good hearted place. So I keep hoping they will join together.

          10. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            That’s another way. Here, we have to monitor it to make sure inertia doesn’t set in. It might be simpler to just empower the people.

          11. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            L, they’ve usurped a very powerful weapon that was made to meet some prior objectives.

          12. Yves Smith Post author

            The AMI folks are wrong, and their prescriptions do the opposite of what they claim. They annoy the hell out of me, they show up at Occupy Wall Street all the time, act like lobbyists, and are hugely destructive to process and understanding.

        3. diptherio

          A third option would be bottom-up local currencies created by people at the time of transaction. Something like time dollars. Bernard Lietaer discusses the concept here, along with how it relates to non-patriarchal social systems:

          What About Money?

          1. Aquifer

            dip – very interesting, but sounds a bit confusing, as though with many different kinds of money one would need to forever be needing to figure out the “exchange” rate when going from one to the other ..

            I found it interesting that although he had a problem with monopoly money and wanted many different kinds, he didn’t have a problem with “a few businesses controlling our future” (around minute 23:30 or so) and his idea for a global currency (the “terra”?) would seem to imply governance, of it at least, at the same level – his critique of the euro, ISTM, was the lack of such governance ..

            Just a couple of thoughts, though i undoubtedly failed to “get it”, i suppose …

        4. Aquifer

          LL – these nutcases do control it now, through the power of legislation, enforcement. So, ISTM, we need to replace these nutcases with some decent folk instead of merely nutcases with different nuts as we seem to have a habit of doing …

        5. Dictynna

          Could the ‘flirting with default’ be a game to scare money out of government bonds and back into the clutches of the banksters?

      2. Yves Smith Post author

        Anyone who issues credit creates money (the old M3), such as a store that lets you have an account and settle up monthly, or even a restaurant (they feed you, you pay afterwards). How are you going to stop that?

        1. LeonovaBalletRusse

          In the forties, grocery store owners and other merchants still offered their steady customers short-term credit without interest. Many a friendly bar still does this.

          1. Montanamaven

            That’s the key. No interest. That’s why usury is considered a sin in most religions. We can probably have more disinterested representatives if there was no profit or interest in the use of money as “financial matters” suggested.

          2. Optimader

            No interest=justification for tall margin , or in the case of the grocery store – delight in finally selling it

  3. fresno dan

    “The Kellers are caught up in a little-known horror of the U.S. housing bust: the zombie title. Six years in, thousands of homeowners are finding themselves legally liable for houses they didn’t know they still owned after banks decided it wasn’t worth their while to complete foreclosures on them. With impunity, banks have been walking away from foreclosures much the way some homeowners walked away from their mortgages when the housing market first crashed.”

    Considering how banks lose all the documents that get sent to them, I am highly skeptical….OH Hell, I JUST BELIEVE EVERY WORD A BANK SAYS IS A LIE, INCLUDING “the” and “a”

  4. rjs

    does anyone have a handle on whether these guys really believe crap like this?

    “As a nation and a people, we must finally face up to the single biggest threat to our economic future — and that is our exploding national debt, driven by runaway deficit spending, changing demographics and unsustainable entitlements,”
    — U.S. Chamber chief Tom Donohue

    is he real, or is he just shilling?

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      “As a nation and a people, we must finally face up to the single biggest threat to our economic future — and that is our exploding national debt, driven by runaway military spending, shrinking tax-paying demographics via loopholes and foreign tax havens, and unsustainable empire building.”


    2. diptherio

      Well, let’s see…he works for the US Chamber of Commerce which means that he is a real shill. Does he believe his own BS? Probably on some level, although he may just be a conscious-less liar. Hard to tell from just a quote.

    3. Stephen Nightingale

      “U.S. Chamber chief Tom Donohue:
      is he real, or is he just shilling?”

      He is ‘First Lobbyist’, staring across Lafayette Square at the White House. How could he possibly be real?

    4. jrs

      The single biggest threat to the economy and life on earth is climate change and other related and non-related environmental problems. But do you really expect him to say that?

  5. Jim Haygood

    Argentina gets its three-masted naval ship Libertad back from the yanqui hedge funds:

    It is summer now in Argentina, and for maximum effect Mrs Kirchner – whose popularity is at a historic low – chose to have the ship arrive in the coastal resort city [of Mar del Plata] rather than the capital because Buenos Aires is quieter than usual due to holiday season.

    “We are accustomed to withstanding pressure … and we are going to keep it up. Because nobody is going to take anything from Argentina by extortion or by force,” Mrs Kirchner said.

    … said Mrs Kirchner, who forcibly expropriated private pensions, Aerolineas Argentinas and the YPF oil company in recent years.

    Extortion is bad, except when the government does it.

    1. skippy

      Sovereignty… look it up Jim.

      Skippy… “Extortion is bad, except when the government does it.” Jim… Um Jim the private sector is full of extortion… its called credit… cough FICO scores… crappy products and services… pay to play.. et al. Whats you point again?

      1. Jim Haygood

        Ever had your SMSF confiscated, to be invested in ‘social projects’ sponsored by those who seized it?

        Or had your Telstra and BHP shares nationalised, with ‘fair compensation’ to be determined by the new monopoly owner?

        Or had to beg official permission to purchase euros or dollars for foreign travel?

        Skippy … lives in no. 3 ranked nation for economic freedom … too bad about the triple-digit global underclass.

        1. Aquifer

          Jim – if “economic freedom”, as defined by the Heritage Foundation, is your highest goal, it looks like Hong Kong is your best bet ….

          1. Chris Rogers


            Whilst according to The Heritage Foundation Hong Kong is supposedly one of the world’s most economically free nations, the fact remains that 5 out of every 6 HK dollars spent in the Territory lands up in the Bank Accounts of six families.

            Further, with all this freedom one would have thought competition and the cost of living to be cheaper than in the supposed socialist European economies – regrettably, this is not so, particularly given those six most wealthy families have their fingers in nearly every publicaly listed entity in Hong Kong from the MTR to Utilities.

            As such, Hong Kong is one of the most expensive places to live, particularly with regards foodstuffs and non-public housing.

            Indeed, not only does HK, like the UK and USA, have one of the largest wealth disparities globally, if it were not for a cheap transport and cheap public housing sector, the economy could not function – in effect, the wealth of these 6 families is underpinned by the limited state, specifically in regard to public housing provision, which is massive.

            The Heritage Foundation is just a shril for big money and private absolute wealth and it’s knowledge on economic freedom a travesty to say the least – still, if this is the type of freedom Jim desires, he’s most welcome to it, for me, whilst still a resident of Hong Kong, I’d prefer to live in socialistic Wales any day of the week, rather than a supposed free HK when nothing could be further from the truth!

          2. LeonovaBalletRusse

            Aquifer: “Hong Kong is supposedly one of the world’s most economically free nations”

            Really? The Heritage Foundation admits that Hong Kong is a nation?

          3. Aquifer

            Chris –

            While i am not up on the reality of HK, as you are, I guess i should have made my snark more clear – i wanted to highlight that Jim’s stuff was coming from the Heritage Foundation which i sort of figured would give it away for what it was worth, without actually spelling it out …


            “Aquifer: ‘Hong Kong is supposedly one of the world’s most economically free nations'”

            How did you get that out of what i actually said, to whit: – “Jim – if ‘economic freedom’, as defined by the Heritage Foundation, is your highest goal, it looks like Hong Kong is your best bet ….”

          4. Chris Rogers

            No issue, like you, I was actually responding to ‘Jim’ in relation to his ideas on economic freedom and the huge dichotomy that exists between the Heritage Foundations professed knowledge on what constitutes economic freedow and the reality we all find on the ground.

            given our understanding of neoliberalism and dialogue on these boards over the past three days, perhaps we should begin by discussing what actually constitutes democracy and issues of liberty in the shit world we find ourselves in – indeed, as a professed Socialist, I’d much prefer a dialogue on negative and positive freedom in relation to economic outcomes that benefit the majority in society, rather than a minority, the US Federal constitution itself more interested in minority rights and protection, rather than majoritarian government.

            that the few checks and balances that were incorporated into the original document, and amendments giving some lip service to the Anti – Federalists have all but been abandoned, I find it sad that government in most western nations is now in the hands of a monied elite who could not give a toss about the majority in their own nations, never mind mankind in general.

            All I can say is ‘greedy fuckers’ and whilst this may not be the language usually associated with NC, it’s time we spoke the truth and say what we think under our own names and bugger the consequences.

            Roll on the revolution for it seems only violence will finally free us from this monetary and debt slavery many of us find ourselves trapped in!!!!!!!!!!

        2. skippy

          “Ever had your SMSF confiscated” Jim

          Ever hear of investment risk?

          Skippy… plant a seed only to have bird eat it and fly away? Possession is 9/10 of the law thingy see:

          The principle bears some similarity to uti possidetis (“as you possess, so may you continue to possess”), which currently refers to the doctrine that colonial administrative boundaries become international boundaries when a political subdivision or colony achieves independence. Under Roman law, it was an interdict ordering the parties to maintain possession of property until it was determined who owned the property.[4]

          1. Valissa

            Squifer, you being able to post that link means that wasn’t the trip wire. That wormhole is a very tricky beast.

          2. LeonovaBalletRusse

            re discovery of Higgs Boson, now quest for g-spot — It may be of interest to some that the “evolution” of the fetus in the womb tells us what the g-spot is: the male body evolves from the female: The g-spot becomes the developed prostate gland, the clitoris becomes the penis, the labia become the scrotum.

  6. LucyLulu

    Yves wrote: “Notice this is with lots of people getting the flu shot.”

    Does this mean that lots of people are getting the flu in spite of having had the flu shot, i.e. its a strain of flu not covered by the vaccine?

      1. curlydan

        Flu vaccine effectiveness has always been a pet peeve of mine since I and many others get the vaccine and still regularly get the flu.

        Below is a recent view on this year’s vaccine effectiveness (62%). It’s worth noting that this effectiveness probably could swing a lot each year. Also, the effectiveness only controls for “site” differences and apparently does not control for other things such as age, income, health history, etc.

        So 32% of people who came to these medical sites with acute respiratory infection (ARI) _and_ tested positive for the flu had a flu shot. 56% of the people who came in with ARI _and_ did not test positive for the flu had the vaccine. After taking into account site difference, the vaccine effectiveness became 62%.

        If I were a rich guy, I’d do some more studies. I still don’t believe it’s that effective although it could be in a future year with a major outbreak. My company basically pays for it, so I’ll grudingly continue to do it.

    1. Eclair

      It probably means that the editor needed a photo to go with the story, and one of a group of people getting the flu shot was the most exciting one.

      Or, it may be the editor is hoping that the subliminal message, “get your flu shot”, will convince readers to …. get their flu shot.

      Unfortunately for those in the midst of an outbreak, the vaccine takes up to two weeks to confer immunity. And, if you are exposed to a strain of the flu virus that is not in the annual vaccine, and for which you have not developed immunity over the years, you might … get the flu.

      Choice of which three virus strains to put in the annual vaccine is based on educated guess work. And they are probably making decisions right now on the composition of next year’s vaccine, since development and production is a months-long process.

      More info here:

      Anecdotal evidence: my husband has always refused to get the annual flu shot. He came down on New Year’s Day with the full-blown flu and is, even as we speak, still creeping around at half-strength. I have had a flu shot every year for the past 7 years. I developed a mild flu-like tiredness this past week – although that may be the result of nursing my husband. Making gallons of chicken soup and role-playing Florence Nightingale for days on end will do that:-)

      1. Susan the other

        It’s probably a better idea to get the pneumonia vaccine because it protects you from the flu weakening you for a dangerous, life threatening complication.

        1. Eclair

          It is certainly a good idea to get the pneumonia vaccine, especially if you are over 65 or have certain other conditions.

          The current vaccine immunizes you agains certain strains of streptococcal bacteria that have developed resistance against the common antibiotics.

          It provides no protection against the viral form of pneumonia, which is more likely to fell you if you have a weakened immune system, say, from a bout with the flu.

      2. skippy

        The Flu shot is more about keeping productivity going and not saving lives these day IMO.

        Skippy… think about the increase in allergy’s, superbugs, not stressing the immune system to meet new challenge’s, same thing with the new position on fever temps in kids… don’t go suppressing a natural response until it becomes absolutely necessary.

  7. Aquifer

    STM that they could cut a series of breathing holes for the whales leading out to open water, couldn’t they?

    1. ambrit

      Dear Aquifer;
      It depends on how thick the ice is, and if one could lead the whales to the holes. Blasting holes in the ice could be very counterproductive. Shock waves from blasting would propagate out and possibly harm the whales, if they were nearby. As for leading the whales to safety; what about all that research into Dolphin communication done by the Navy? Could that give us a lead, no pun intended, to help free the whales?

      1. Aquifer

        Well, one wouldn’t necessarily have to blast – one could drill, chain saws etc … and they could be spaced within a reasonable distance – these guys aren’t dumb – I am sure they have been looking for more holes and their sonar could locate them …

        Or are there no ice cutting ships – for cryin’ out loud, we can mobilize the armed forces to rescue a POS drilling rig …

        1. Susan the other

          Can’t a big ice-breaker go in and just lead them back out? They are certainly smart enough to follow. Russia has big ice-breakers too. Where are they?

      2. LeonovaBalletRusse

        ambrit, don’t you s’pose that the U.S. Navy is harming and killing whales by its adamant continuation of application underwater of “radar” and other hugely vibrational sonic experiments unknown to us, said to be for our “defense”?

  8. from Mexico

    @ “Evolution Less Accepted in U.S. Than Other Western Countries, Study Finds National Geographic”

    One must take a look at the wording of the quesiton that National Geographic asks, which is designed to trigger a specific response. Here’s the actual quesiton:

    “Human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals.”

    That is a highly blinkered definition of evolution, conjuring up a specifically Huxlian viewpoint, which argues for human evolution from apes, and glosses over some obvious problems that inhere in much of evolutionary theorizing. The rub with evolutionary theorizing, even for Darwin’s early supporters, has always been with how the moral sensibilities of humans could be explained by natural selection. Humans do not live in despotic ape society, regardless of the mythologies being proselytized by the Darwinian fundamentalists.

    In a Science Network conference, Joan (formerly Jonathan) Roughgarden squares off against the Darwininan fundamentalists. Roughgarden is an evolutionary biologist, transgendered, Christian, and a feminist. Her presentation can be seen here:

    It is feminist theory — its notions of the use of power and its critique of the male-dominated structures in society and in science — which Roughgarden employs in her confrontation with the Darwinian fundamentalists. Roughgarden singles out Darwin’s sexual selection theory for special condemnation, which she blasts for its ludcriousness and idiocy. “Sexual selection theory is locker room bravado projected onto animals and then retrieved from animals as if it were a fact of nature,” she asserts. And it is the bias and prejudice that are built into science, she adds, that explain how such massively ficticious beliefs are perpetuated and sustained within the scientific community:

    The bigger issue is whether or not the suite of hypotheses that are being considered by scientists actually do explore the hypothesis space very well. The homogeneity of our peer group is definitely preventing us from laying on the table hypoetheses about nature which have a good chance of being correct. Those hypotheses almost invariably involve cooperation rather than competition. They involve cooperation rather than selfishness. They emphasise the body rather than the gene, the body and teams rather than replicators… Basically the sociology and the peer review and the grant-rewarding system rewards the generation of hypotheses that extend those held by the power centers.

    In conclusion, I would say that National Geographic is completely controlled by the Darwinian fundamentalists. As Stephen Jay Gould explained of the Darwininan fundamentalists, which he also called “the ultras”:

    Since the ultras are fundamentalists at heart, and since fundamentalists generally try to stigmatize their opponents by depicting them as apostates from the one true way, may I state for the record that I (along with all other Darwinian pluralists) do not deny either the existence and central importance of adaptation, or the production of adaptation by natural selection.

    1. cheale

      Which ape societies are despotic as you call them? Different species of apes live in societies with different social structures, which ones are despotic? I think this is trivialization of the complex behaviour shown by these animals.

      I don’t think the moral sensibilities of humans are a big issue in evolutionary theory either. It is impossible to know whether other animals have morals since we cannot ask them their purpose in doing something – we can only observe what they do and make guesses from it.

      Evolutionary theory has had many changes from the time of Darwin and although their may be problems with the male domination of science, and with Darwin’s view of gender roles, I don’t think Darwin’s views on this issue are in accordance with those of many modern scientists. How can they be, when scientists have observed fantastic variations in social structure and breeding in the animal world, including the praying mantis which eats her mate after sex (maybe she is sexually selecting the fattest one!).

      All in all I’m really not sure where your post is coming from or going to. Maybe I have completely misinterpreted it.

      Evolutionary theory is based on the theory that humans developed from earlier species of animals – but it is not based on the theory that humans evolved from other apes – but that apes and humans had a common ancestor – which is a very different thing.

      1. from Mexico

        Humans do not behave the same as apes, regardless of all the propaganda put out by the Darwinian fundamentalists.

        Joan Silk did the following paper which gives an overview of the difference between nonhuman primate societies and human society. As she explains, there is no reliable evidence of the existence of strong reciprocity in nonhuman primates:


        Strong reciprocity relies on the tendency to punish noncooperators. Among nonhuman primates there is considerable evidence of negative reciprocity. Thus, animals
        use aggression or other forms of costly sanctions to shape the behavior of group members (Clutton-Brock and Parker 1995a, 1995b) or to exact revenge (de Waal and Luttrell 1988; Silk 1992). But there is very little evidence that monkeys and apes use aggression or negative sanctions to shape the behavior of third parties or to punish deviation from social norms….

        To understand the role of strong reciprocity in primate groups we need to know more about the proximate factors that motivate cooperative behavior. Strong reciprocity
        in humans seems rooted in a deep sense of fairness and concern for justice which is extended even toward strangers, but we have no systematic evidence that other animals have similar sensibilities. Even those who have argued most forcefully for the emergence of moral sentiments in monkeys and apes have drawn their evidence from the interactions of close associates with long-term social bonds, not interactions among strangers
        Waal 1996; Flack and de Waal 2000). The idea of strong reciprocity emerged from carefully designed experimental
        studies that revealed surprisingly high levels of altruism in one-shot interactions with strangers. It is hard to imagine obtaining comparable data on interactions among strangers among nonhuman primates. Most primates live in stable social groups where they restrict peaceful social interactions mainly to known group members. Close
        associations with strangers are fraught with tension, generating aggression and avoidance, not cooperation.

        — JOAN B. SILK, “The Evolution of Cooperation in Primate Groups”

        A metaphor to express how the tyranny and despostism of alpha males is punished in primitive human society is this: “any nail that sticks up above the rest is rapidly hammered down.” Punishment of noncooperative alpha males can consist of subtle forms of social punishment, such as riducule and derision, all the way to physical punishment or expulsion from the group. Expulsion is a death sentence, as an individual human dies almost immediately when isolated from his group.

        In Evolution for Everyone, the evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson cites a great deal more evidence explaining how cooperation is enforced, and noncooperative behavior is punished, in primitive human societies, which were highly egalitarian.

        1. LucyLulu

          “The idea of strong reciprocity emerged from carefully designed experimental
          studies that revealed surprisingly high levels of altruism in one-shot interactions with strangers. It is hard to imagine obtaining comparable data on interactions among strangers among nonhuman primates. Most primates live in stable social groups where they restrict peaceful social interactions mainly to known group members. Close
          associations with strangers are fraught with tension, generating aggression and avoidance, not cooperation.”

          Last weekend on MSNBC they were running one of those most amazing video shows. They had a video of a child at a zoo who fell into the gorilla area. Everybody watched in horror as several large male gorillas came around to check the unconscious child out. After a few tense moments, the males left the child untouched and a female came over, with her baby on her back, tenderly picked up the child and took him to the entrance area (where staff would come in) of the exhibit and gently laid the child down. It was clear she was returning the child to the “humans” and seemed to know the child was hurt and needed to be handled more gently than a fellow gorilla. Not only was it a peaceful social interaction, it was highly altruistic.

          I’m far from an expert on evolution but I’d think that man’s superior intelligence would invariably lead to more complex social interactions than their ancestors. A sense of justice/fairness requires a higher level of intelligence than seen in other species. And for that matter, humans do exhibit tension, aggression, and avoidance towards those outside their group…….. we call it racism, prejudice, segregation, foreign wars, etc. Witness the history of blacks, Jews, Japanese in this country and now Muslims. Perhaps we haven’t evolved so much after all.

      2. from Mexico

        • cheale says:

        I don’t think the moral sensibilities of humans are a big issue in evolutionary theory either.

        Oh really? I think you need to get out more.

        • cheale says:

        Evolutionary theory is based on the theory that humans developed from earlier species of animals – but it is not based on the theory that humans evolved from other apes….

        I take it then you’ve never heard of folks like Thomas Huxley or Evidence as to Man’s Place in Nature.

    2. AllanW

      from Mexico said; ‘One must take a look at the wording of the quesiton that National Geographic asks, which is designed to trigger a specific response.

      Yes, the correct answer. The fact that more American citizens than anywhere else in the Western hemisphere got it wrong is a worrying datum.

    3. JohnL

      Do you think then that there’s a question that would yield the result “Evolution More Accepted in U.S. Than Other Western Countries”?

      1. from Mexico

        Well I don’t know about that.

        But if one wants to know how many Americans believe in evolution, one could simply ask: “Do you believe in evolution?” When the question is put like that, it solicits a very different result than the National Geographic question. Instead of 40% as in the National Geographic poll, the percentage jumps to 61%, as in this Pew poll:

        The veteran pollster Daniel Yankelovich in Coming to Public Judgment spends a good bit of time explaining polling science. The type of poll National Geographic, Pew and other MSM outlets conduct when it comes to evolution he calls inexpensive, headline-grabbing publicity polls. Polling that is designed to reveal what people really think is a complicated, and expensive, undertaking. It involves many dozens of questions that are crafted to peel back the layers of obfuscation and evasion that most people throw up in order to hide their true beliefs and convictions. Polling platitudes — trite, meaningless, biased, or prosaic statements, often presented as if it were significant and original — is the domain of propagandists and the MSM.

    4. Susan the other

      Good NOVA (brought to us by Charles Koch! – will irony never cease) last week about the Neanderthal genome results – yes we interbred and for our efforts we got very dear genetic defenses against certain viruses. More to come on this cutting edge evolution of evolution science.

      1. Stephen Nightingale

        Yes, but it was presented by a very irritating, racist narrator, whose emotive tone conveyed incredulity that, ‘wow, Neanderthals actually interbred with humans, so that mean, gasp! they must have actually been, sort of, human.’

        Had Neanderthals been around at the time the US Constitution was being written, they would no doubt have been defined as 3/5 human.

        1. Mark P.

          No doubt.

          Interestingly, the Neanderthals probably tended to be more socially virtuous than us Cro-Magnon types, according to current anthropological thinking.

          That is, the thinking runs, they were generally stronger than us but structurally this also meant that they tended to have skeletal problems and suffer spine injuries more easily. Hence, in situations like a mammoth-hunting foray, they watched each others backs and cooperated as a team very closely.

    1. Aquifer

      Interesting – must mean the public is starting to take it seriously, and the corps are getting nervous ….

  9. Hugh

    Krugman’s Coins against Crazies is almost like he read a comment I made on his previous posts on the platinum coin. He is edging toward the idea that it would involve the issuance of debt free money:

    Here’s how it would work: The Treasury would mint a platinum coin with a face value of $1 trillion (or many coins with smaller values; it doesn’t really matter). This coin would immediately be deposited at the Federal Reserve, which would credit the sum to the government’s account. And the government could then write checks against that account, continuing normal operations without issuing new debt.

    But perhaps not really. He then proceeds to say that if the Fed is included under government, it would borrow or sell off assets to fund calls on the account created by the coin, and so normal government borrowing would continue. This is completely wrong. The Fed creates money out of nothing and then purchases assets with that money. Usually these purchases are from banks. Consider the expansion of the Fed balance sheet from the purchase of T-bills and mortgage related dreck as part of its QE programs. It created the money ex nihilo to fund those buys. It is no different with the platinum coin. The Fed is essentially buying an asset with money created from nothing, however this time from the federal government.

    As Krugman notes correctly, this is an accounting maneuver. We have twin creations from nothing, the coin’s value and the money used to purchase it. The effect is simply to transfer the Fed’s money creating power back to the government without actually transferring the Fed back to the Treasury.

    Still it is interesting that Krugman continues to maintain that the debt gods must be appeased with sacrifices in the form of interest payments on debt, considering that those gods are really just the banks and the rich.

    1. ess emm

      Krugman needs to get on-board with MMT.

      As it is, he doesnt understand banking and is too caught up in being a tribalist.

        1. skippy

          The Titanic was a vessel for wealthy to stately ply the Atlantic ocean, abet with their slaves below… we know the ending of that story. Now if the slaves had been at the helm, would they have encouraged such disaster with haste?

          We already have MMT, its just to whom… it toils for, a political problem, not a tool problem.

          Skippy… a metaphor for the market these days… eh.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Still, one doesn’t want the basket, or the boat, to be too big.

            Spread your eggs or have the travellers take different planes or boats.

          2. skippy

            @MLTPB and Hugh,

            Whats there really to lose any more, shall we be so intellectually passive (bitter words) or finally shatter the mirror of delusion – illusion in our time… by our act.

            Shall we always cower to the sociopaths creed “I don’t care, let Gawd sort it out” or not only observe the emperor is naked… but he has no Koch… lest we bend over… for fear of other delights.

            Skippy… the planet is at a breaking point… time is of the essence… delay only increase’s risks opportunity… humanity is the only creator we have known… lets embrace it… and get the MFing focus knob back… are not sick of the fear?

      1. Synopticist

        On Krugman being a tribalist, I dunno.
        I’m not sure he’s wildly pro-democrat, but he certainly hates the republicans.
        But then he’s one of these fact based, reality community types, so he should.

    2. LeonovaBalletRusse

      Hugh, imagine the private profits through derivatives cubed on that coin, bought by debt on margin! This is more lucrative to insiders of the Monopoly Finance persuasion that all the gold the BOE “lent out.”


  10. Wendy

    RE: the coin – will it ultimately lead to (non-immediate) decline in value of the dollar vis a vis other currencies? In particular with those countries who hold a great deal of US debt/treasuries? It seems to me the value of the debt, and the dollar, should go down in those countries where creditors hold them but realize more dollars will be created whenever needed.
    why would the dollar’s value NOT go down outside the US economy?

    1. Ben Johannson

      Nothing will change should the government mint a platinum coin, since every penny government spends it creates anyway. The effect on the dollar’s value will be no different than if we had issued securities like we normally do. If you plot the rate of inflation against the quantity of money in circulation you’ll quickly see there’s little-to-no correlation. Even mainstream economists will (grudgingly) admit the Quantity Theory of Money doesn’t pass the empirical test.

      1. Wendy

        thank you for answering. I am not asking about inflation, though, I am asking whether there would be an eventual devaluation against other currencies, OUTSIDE the US.

    1. Aquifer

      Oh goody! So my SS check would be “a script” that “would become redeemable in cash only when the secretary of the Treasury was able to certify that there’s enough money available in the Treasury’s general fund to cover it.”

      In CA, where this was done, ….. “Those holders who needed immediate cash were usually able to sell their registered warrants to banks at face value, though some institutions limited such purchases.”

      I am soooo relieved- now all i would have to do is make sure my bank would trade my “script” for cash – course they would have to be sure the Treasury had enough to cover it and …. Meanwhile, back at the empty cupboard …

      This sounds like a terrific idea – no need to whack SS as part of a budget deal, just starve the SS folks out …

      Let ’em eat script …

      I’m sure Business Insider ate this right up ….

      1. djrichard

        I have to imagine the Fed Gov would accept the IOUs/scrip for payment of taxes. And if the Fed Gov does that, it becomes defacto currency, functionally equivalent to the Lincoln greenback.

        I’m guessing the author understands that, but is disguising that in how he pitches it, to make it more palatable to the powers that be. Or I could be wrong. But even if I’m wrong (and it doesn’t start out as a currency) a currency would be a natural evolution of this.

      2. diptherio

        “Finally, the scrip would be transferable, allowing financial institutions to buy it at a high percentage of its face value, knowing that the political crisis would almost certainly be resolved before long.”~NYT

        Read: …allowing financial institution to buy it below face value

        Meaning the banks get a cut of everybody’s government employee’s and SS recipient’s check. Wonderful. Wall Street should eat this right up.

        1. djrichard

          Well it could work that way. Or not. If the Fed Gov accepts the scrip for payment of taxes, then anybody who buys at a discount will be able to get par when they pay taxes with it. Which creates a market, which will reduce any arbitrage. In which case, it would be functionally equivalent to the Lincoln greenback, i.e. debt-free currency.

          1. Aquifer

            Ah, a market for my SS “scrip” – so if I want to eat I shall have to sell it and no one has to buy at face value, so …. another opportunity for the vulture capitalists ….

            This gets more perverse all the time, ISTM …

            So i think i’ll stick to “script” to describe this scene – let’s see if it gets an Oscar for best screenplay – the next Tarantino flick …

          2. djrichard

            Aquifer, let’s call it the Lincoln greenback. How do you propose we get the Lincoln greenback off the ground so that it addresses your concerns?

            Or are your concerns too much of an issue so it’s not worth pursuing the Lincoln greenback?

          3. Aquifer

            Who/what are you willing to sacrifice to get your Greenbacks off the ground? Maybe that’s the relevant issue here ….

          4. djrichard

            Sorry, onus is on you. Because I don’t see anyone being sacrificed – your concerns are unfounded.

            So, back to you. What needs to happen so that this meets your requirements?

          5. Aquifer

            “If the Fed Gov accepts the scrip for payment of taxes, then anybody who buys at a discount will be able to get par when they pay taxes with it.”

            “IF” and “if” it doesn’t?

            In any case, if the Gov’t is the only one who accepts it “at par”, how is this not a debasement for those who receive it in lieu of what they get now?

        1. Aquifer

          Ha, ha – you are right in a technical sense, although, methinks, “script” is a better fit with the nature of this play …

    2. djrichard

      Let’s face it, Obama wants the debt ceiling negotiations to occur without competing narratives. The platinum coin idea has penetrated the spin zone, but he can safely ignore it.

      I don’t think Obama will be to dismiss the scrip idea as easily. Plus I think it has a better chance of acceptance in the marketplace of ideas: not only by those who are “serious”, but also by the population at large. As long as they know they can treat it like currency and it means it’s just another spigot coming from the Fed Gov with another drain (taxes) on the other side, then it’s all good. Especially if it keeps the water flowing.

      1. djrichard

        And just to add to that, between:
        (a) cut spending to appease the debt ceiling gods vs
        (b) issuing a platinum coin
        Obama will say (a) is the more responsible thing to do (and he will have himself convinced of that)

        But if you add (c) into the mix
        (c) issue script so as not to raise the debt ceiling

        Obama will be harder pressed to say that (a) is the more responsible thing to do.

      2. Aquifer

        Yeah – well when “the population at large” realizes that that “scrip” can’t be spent for anything and must be sold, and that the buyer doesn’t have to pay face value – methinks they will be as “pleased” with that as a sharp stick in the eye, and if they aren’t too hungry by the time they get there, they will hie them themselves to DC and put that sharp stick somewhere else ..

        1. djrichard

          If the scrip is accepted for taxes, it will become a currency and generally accepted. You will be able to use it to buy things.

          If you wanted to roll out a debt-free currency, how would you do it? I suggest acceptance of the currency as payment for taxes is sufficient. Sounds like you want more than that. Should we let this window of opportunity pass by because your conditions aren’t being met?

          1. djrichard

            Umm, “window of opportunity” for all those proponents of a debt-free currency. NC is a heehive of them.

            See my answer further above.

          2. Aquifer

            “I suggest acceptance of the currency as payment for taxes is sufficient.”

            I’m glad you suggest it – but what about the rest of the country. You state above “a currency would be a natural evolution of this.” And we all know evolution is a slow process – so for those who have to rely on that scrip to meet their basic needs – how long before it becomes a “currency” – how long before it doesn’t have to be sold to be useful?

            “Finally, the scrip would be transferable, allowing financial institutions to buy it at a high percentage of its face value, knowing that the political crisis would almost certainly be resolved before long.”~NYT

            What the NYT is describing as what would be done – does not seem to be what you are describing – this scrip is NOT currency, it could not be used as currency, it would have to be sold, most likely at a discount ….

            Sorry man – those of us who would have to rely on this scrip WOULD be sacrificed in this scenario. You want to use it to slide Greenbacks in “under the noses of TPTB”. Fine, tell you what – if you and all those who like this deal will agree to exchange the scrip we will be issued for an equal amount of your “real” money, terrific – but to leave us stuck with this stuff, as it will be just about all we will have, as an experiment, in limbo, not knowing when or even if it will ever become “real” money, while you get to keep and use the “real” stuff you get paid in your job – doesn’t sound like “a plan” to me …

          3. different clue

            It’s late and I’m tired. But am I understanding this subthread to be about paying me Social Security Scrip instead of Social Security Checks in return for all the FICA taxes I have been paying from 1980 until my retirement?
            And the scrip may be sellable for money if I need money to buy the things that I can’t make or grow myself? And that only money will pay for? And that various possible buyers of that SSScrip will have a perfect right to pay as “less” than the “amount redeemable for” of the SSScrip as they please?

            If that is what this proposal is, then it sounds like a forcible exchange of “new money for old”, such as happened in Yeltsin’s Russia to destroy after-the-fact the ruble-denominated savings of millions of old Russians. I pay FICA taxes in money which is just as real as the work I have to do to be paid that money. I don’t get to emit or issue or “fiatize” my own money to pay my FICA taxes with. I don’t get to “lend it into existence”. I have to do real work-of-value and get paid for that work with money. I pay some of that money to the SSAdministration for decades. In return I was told I would be paid back in money to live on when I am too old and weak to work. Is it now suggested that I will be paid in Scrip which will be worth far less than the “money” it can be redeemed for “someday”? Why would I accept such an “evaporate my rubles” incineration of my Social Security . . . if I have a real choice?

    1. AbyNormal

      amphibious too…fastest mad dash i ever made.
      i’d have got away too had i not been laughing so hard.

      1. Susan the other

        I’ve heard they are formidable. They can drown big goofy labs with one firm wing over its head. Water winging.

    1. Aquifer

      Lloyd, in the AM, before he puts his make-up on …

      I saw this the other day and understand there’s a video somewhere – going to be on a show or something – wow underwater shots of GS in action – how appropriate …

    1. Aquifer

      What i got out of it was that trolls basically enforce confirmation bias – they make you defend what you already believe …

      ISTM, if that is true, then 1) trolls are entrenching rather than undermining, at least in the minds of advocates, the cause they are trolling against, and 2) they can be useful in the sense that, in feeling forced to defend your views against them, you polish and hone those views and also display them for the benefit of those who might be reading – displays that one might fail to produce in their absence ….

      The fact that they can create reinforce “doubt” in doubters minds is a problem for advocates – but ISTM the best approach is often the “pragmatic” one – OK, in the face of doubt, which side is it better/safer to err on …

      It also seems that sometimes one is tempted too soon to label an honest seeker a “troll” – of course one is free to do that, but methinks it diminishes the scope of conversation and also tends to make one look intolerant, which is not so good for onlookers …

      It’s a sticky wicket, no doubt – i guess i tend to be more tolerant in that regard than others might because the role of iconoclast or devil’s advocate, which i have decided is my lot in life, invariably invites the label of “troll” …

          1. Aquifer

            MLPB – do you think that iconoclasts and devil’s advocates have no useful function? I think they are necessary in any system to keep it on track – but they are not welcome in many circles – shooting the messenger and all that …

            People don’t like to be asked – “Why?” or “Hey, what about this?” or told “Watch out for that!” I suspect a lot of folks just keep quiet because they don’t want folks to be annoyed and isolate them. But i am used to being alone, have made peace with it, so i might as well “risk” being outcast if i think the thing that subjects me to that risk is a good or useful, though not popular, thing to say or do …

      1. diptherio


        Speaking of seekers, there was once a libertarian who used to come to my UU Fellowship (church for atheists). Sadly, he didn’t last long as I was just about the only one who didn’t shun him, rather blatantly, for his political views, which were sincerely held and pretty well thought out.

        On a related note, I heard a radio piece the other day about how google is now tailoring search results to individual IP addresses, so that someone who searches for/frequents conservative sites is will get different search results than someone who visits more liberal sites. For instance, search results for “Barack Obama” were apparently quite different, depending on where the search originated from.

        It hasn’t been confirmed by Google, yet, that I know of, but it seems reasonable. The interwebs can all too often serve to create a bunch of little echo-chambers. Like everything, it’s got its pluses and its minuses…

        1. Aquifer

          dip – maybe you can answer this – I have an old computer, a Mac Power Book G4 that i can’t upgrade re OS, Firefox or just about anything else, except AdblocPlus and No-Script – which i think is a way to bloc out all those Google and other thingys that track folks – is that so?

          It’s a bit of a pain because often i have to open it up and “allow” certain functions to get the site to work properly, but I almost never “allow” Google stuff or at least stuff that has “google” in the name ….

          Does that help keep me from being set up for this type of profiling, or doesn’t it matter?

          1. newView

            No. 1 is just to delete all cookies. Google and other trackers run mainly off cookies.

            They will track IP stuff too, but it’s not nearly as useful, because it only works when they can directly read it. e.g. don’t go to

            The simplest way to prevent most, if not nearly all tracking, is to not accept cookies. The only down side is you have to key in your account info more often. Occasionally you’ll have to turn them on to navigate account-based info on certain sites.

            The second thing you want to do to not be tracked probably is deleting your flash cache, if you allow flash. Some things can work in that way to track.

            After that for more privacy, it gets a little more complicated. But these main things are a good good start.

            And ‘yes’ to the other commenter. Google searches are ‘bubbled,’ meaning they give different results to different people. Check out, or ‘encrypted google,’ or several other ways to stay a step ahead.

          2. Aquifer

            NV – thanx! But i am still not clear on what No-Script actually does for me – is it worth the trouble?

          3. newView

            I’m not familiar with noscript — I’ve never worried about viruses, etc (knock on wood) using a Mac. Never run any kind of anti at all. Never noticed a problem, but bet it’s a good idea.

            The reason I never worried about, besides Mac’s relative immunity, is I don’t care about that. It’s funny maybe, but I don’t care at all about someone stealing identity, malicious this or that.

            The only thing I care about is being tracked by the built-in methods of the web. I don’t care about some rogue, only about what I feel is systematic abuse of the internet.

            It’s always amazed me how little info there is. The first thing I want to know about some cloud app, for example, is what info is gathered. Yet reviews never address privacy. Am I the only one who cares?

            Now I do use little snitch, because it lets you see what info your computer sends out. The demo version is free but you have to re-activate it. It seems pretty arcane, but leave it at the defaults, it will be ok.

      2. Valissa

        Good points. Personally I have never called anyone a troll and I don’t intend to. Part of that is I grew up with troll dolls (I blame my Danish ancestry), and the rest of it is that labeling another a troll is inherently an elitist (in the sense of acting superior to/better than another) or snobbish act, IMO. Why not call someone a jerk or obnoxious and be upfront about not liking or disapproving of what someone has to say. I’ve been called a troll here a couple of times over the years because someone just didn’t like what I said. I really would have preferred they say they disagreed with me. But I think when people are insecure they find that hard to do.

        1. Yves Smith Post author


          There is increasing, orchestrated propagandizing on blogs and even more on Twitter. I’ve been seeing it and so has everyone I know who runs a website or is active on Twitter. In many cases, these are not sincere people who just happen to have wandered into the wrong bar. These are people who are paid or self appointed to move politics in the US further to the right.

          1. skippy

            Troll is probably the wrong nomenclature as they are just agitators for shits and grins, maybe political – ideological operatives is a better term ie. they do not think for them selves but, accept the ideology hole cloth without introspection and willingly project it in a crusade like zeal (payed or not).

            Skippy… how some are so hollow inside… that they need to be filled… ownership snicker… they can’t even own them selves… cough responsibility… kids these days… sigh.

          2. bob

            The meaning connontated by “troll” has chaged in the last 10 years, maybe sooner than that. I never really liked using it for describing what are, essentially, whores.


            That is what I think of when I hear the word troll. A rentier, essentially. I don’t think I am “that old” or that unique in my early ‘understanding’ of the word.

            It’s use on the net is now the subjet of debate, many VSP have devoted pages to it’s usage and origin.

            I can only offer my own view. Trolls, originally, were the bully BBS operators and other like sysadmins. If you wanted to join a room, or dial in to a BBS, you had to deal with being harrased by a guy with a better computer, or higher access rights than you had. This is much more in line with the meaning ascribed in the goat story.

            What it’s become, I propose, is a bad spelling of trawl. Trawling for fish. Thowing a “line” out, and hoping for a completely emotional “hit” while you drive around the net.

          3. Valissa

            Yves, I am VERY well aware of how much professional and amateur level propagandizing goes on in blogs. I happened to be studying propaganda during the years I was on the netroots, and I found it fascinating how many professional “trolls” that came out during election season. Since I was researching and following a very wide array of blogs, I was amazed how often I could recognize the propaganda comments as the sentences were practically identical.

            I find it interesting that so many assumed by my comment that I was unaware of professional trolling… that I am basically an ‘idiot’ about this topic. But I was primarily responding to Aquifer who was pointing out how people are automatically called trolls for simply having a different opinion or trying to look at something from a new vantagepoint. And it is a personal philosophical position I take not to attack others on line by name calling… I choose a different way to letting someone know that they’re playing a game and not representing themselves truthfully.

            Back when I was on the netroots, I certainly accepted the definition of troll that many have here. But I am not a very different person now in how I position myself politically and philosophically, and how I interact with others online.

            I know most folks are very happy with the troll narrative and will continuee to use it. Vive la difference!

          4. Valissa

            Oops, meant to say I AM a very very different person now… and there are a few other typos and mis-phrasings (as usual)… but at lose make sense, hopefully :)

      3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        One way to combat confirmation bias is to doubt everything and I mean everything, including what one says/writes oneself.

        I think that’s one way…

  11. Brindle

    Interesting article from Tim Weiner way back in April,1999:

    — “Milton Bearden, a retired senior C.I.A. official who ran the agency’s war in Afghanistan and retired in 1995, said the Government had ”created a North Star” in Mr. bin Laden.
    ”He is public enemy No. 1,” Mr. Bearden said. ”We’ve got a $5 million reward out for his head. And now we have, with I’m not sure what evidence, linked him to all of the terrorist acts of this year — of this decade, perhaps.”—

  12. Jeff N

    the trillion-dollar-coin (which I support) only serves to give the right fodder with which to (falsely) paint Obama as a socialist. Because we all know Obama won’t issue it.

  13. b.

    Drum gobsmacking me:

    “They weren’t disastrous because of mismanagement—though obviously they were mismanaged—they were disastrous because their ultimate success depended on extensive postwar nation building in an alien society. And despite David Petraeus’s best efforts, that’s something we simply aren’t able to do.”

    Aside from grammar, this is also inane. Plus, at least one of those wars illegal, the other counterproductive from the get-go. Also, too, US declining, military incompetent (can’t even manage their adultery). Finally, 5th “strand” – we have no goddamn reason to intervene, let alone a “mandate” to “reshape culture in the Middle East” and all the other inanities that are being Drum-med up here.

    With “friends” like Drum, reelections like Obama’s become less of a mystery, and more like destiny. Why link to this drivel?

  14. b.

    Kurd-man crazy:

    “the U.S. government as a whole (which includes the Fed)”

    The Fed is not part of the government. It is a separate entity chartered by Congress (a Charter which it has been violating in several ways without Congress or the executive responding, pace Hussman). This is like saying the GSEs are part of the government. De facto does not make de jure.

  15. JeffC

    When I saw that DeLong was attempting something of a takedown of the Austrians, I dived in with relish, as the Austrians simply need a good whacking with reality.

    That said, it turned out that DeLong was shockingly unaware of Mises actual thought and writings for someone presuming to criticize. In my young and stupid days, I actually read Mises. Read his magnum opus, Human Action, twice in fact, along with nearly all of his many other books. And DeLong is simply wrong, over and over, when he presumes to explain what Mises thought, meant, believed, didn’t believe, or what the key Austrian arguments are. It’s way to big a topic for a comment though, at least for me. Anyone care to write a real critique?

    What I can say is that Austrians generally miss the boat on how money works, falling for the usual relending-reserves fantasy that is a relic of gold-standard days and that hinges on a misunderstanding of the fundamentals of bank accounting. (Snark alert: Sometimes it actually seems to me that economists love the relending-reserves argument simply because they are so proud at comprehending the notion of a geometric series.) In my view the reality is closer to MMT and Keen’s exogenous money.

    They also appear to buy into Say’s law uncritically.

    But more than anything, they go astray by attempting (as have many others) to derive macroeconomics from microeconomics in a fairly simpleminded way. Surely they have lots of company on that path, but no one pronounces the absolutely certainty of their “results” louder than the Austrians, who are so fascinated with their wonderful chains of deductions that they fail to notice the critically flawed assumptions scattered throughout.

    Obviously this is no proper critique, as I’m not backing up a whit of it with specifics. I’m just stirring the pot to see what floats up to the top.

    1. diptherio

      I don’t know, seems like you did a pretty good job to me.

      I agree with you about the wrong-headedness of basing macro analysis on micro foundations. It is ironic that main stream economists will bash on Hayek, Mises, et al for their faulty logic and flawed assumptions, but then turn around and teach their students the IS-LM framework with a straight face (despite also teaching that the Fed controls interest rates…).

      Samuelson is a more problematic economist, to my mind, than any of the Austrians, since his BS is accepted and taught as gospel, even by liberals.

      Samuelson:Hayek::Obama:Romney==>the more effective evil, imho.

    2. craazyman

      That’s pretty funny. about the geometric series.

      Economists take a good beating around here and I feel guilty for throwing a punch now and then myself, but not that guilty. haha. if you stir that pot what floats to the top are turds.

      Trying again now to read Max Born’s Einstein’s Theory of Relativity — which he explains starting from Galileo. This is what real men do when they think (not me, I mean Max Born et. al.). My oh My this stuff is not easy. What it took, imagination-wise, to conceive what mass and gravity are and how to math it right and to perceive & understand, even in simple thought experiments, the problems of interpreting space and time with Euclidean points, lines and planes, even Newton trying to reason out absolute time and space, believing it must be, but caving into abandonment of the principles of direct perception of it. A titanic genius in direct collision with an impossibility. At least they were honest with themselves. Even about the lumeniferous ether, the fantastic intelligence of the minds and experiments that struggled with it, with integrity, looking directly at nature with awe and humility, not fawning over conceits, delusions and ideologies.

      Einstein is good for quotes (especially for lay readers like myself, I don’t even pretend to understand this stuff, I’m just a tourist) but my favorite was his advice to physicists, roughly, if I recall “Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

      Economics always seems simpler.

  16. financial matters

    Platinum coin watch. (background)

    “”Today the world’s central banks are extending billions of dollars in computer-generated money to bail out their cronies, but these loans are just buying time, without restoring homeowners to their homes or preventing abandoned neighborhoods from deteriorating. So who is left to save the day? If Congress were to issue $3.77 trillion to fill the gap between purchasing power (based on productive full employment) and GDP, it could use one quarter of this money to buy defaulting mortgages from MBS holders, and it would still have plenty left over to meet its budget without levying income taxes. Adding a potential $1.7 trillion or more from a tax on derivatives (to help ferret out fraud here by creating greater transparency) would provide ample money for other programs as well. After reimbursing the defrauded MBS holders, Congress could dispose of the distressed properties however it deemed fair. To avoid either giving defaulting homeowners a windfall or turning them out into the streets one possibility might be to rent the homes to their current occupants at affordable prices, at least until some other equitable solution could be found. The rents could then be recycled back to the government, helping to drain excess liquidity from the money supply.”” (Web of Debt)

    1. diptherio

      Meanwhile, here in MT, we went from Spring (40 degrees plus and raining) to Winter (snow, wind, highs in the mid-20s), over the span of the last two days…

      Climate change is fun! Not.

      1. Montanamaven

        In south central Montana, we went from 45 degrees to 8 degrees in a day and a half. And we are not getting the warm weather from the typical Chinook i.e. southwestern warm winds. The warm wind last week came from the North. That is not normal.

    2. Marianne J.

      I see snow in the Middle East as an improvement there. Maybe another Jesus can shock and awe with a walking-on-water routine?

  17. Kim Kaufman

    I heard Michael Greenberger, who was on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission along with Brooksley Born, on the radio yesterday. His complaint about Lew that was different than just his ideology was that Lew knows nothing about “markets” which I guess means that if/when the s*** hits the fan, Lew will be completely over his head. So besides just his “centrist” ideology, he seems unqualified for the job as well.

  18. online game

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