Links 1/14/13

‘Dog who wouldn’t die’ home after surgery Yahoo News

Experts still split about what quantum theory means Nature

Aaron Swartz, z”l Stop Me Before I Vote Again

The Truth about Aaron Swartz’s “Crime” Unhandled Exception

Welcome to The Aaron Swartz Collection Internet Archive

The Bright Shiny Object of Change New Economic Perspectives

There’s no such thing as base money anymore Interfluidity

Wells Fargo’s loan-margin pressure highlights bankers’ plight: Too much money San Francisco Business Times

2013: When economic optimism will finally be vindicated Anatole Kaletsky, Reuters

Goldman’s Hatzius: 10 Questions for 2013 Bill McBride, Calculated Risk

Sweden’s back-to-the-future banker FT. Boringbanken.

Union leader warns of civil unrest in face of austerity programme Independent

The Problem with the Second Amendment Angry Bear

Millennials Occupy TransCanada Offices Across the US Truthout

Attendance likely to drop by a million for second Obama inauguration McClatchy

How Obama used Biden to undercut Reid on fiscal cliff deal AmericaBlog. Taking The Coin off the table fits neatly into Frame #3.

China Export Surge Spurs Data Skepticism at Goldman, UBS Bloomberg

Analysis: Japan’s Abe rolls out strategic PR, policy campaign Reuters

The Genius of Samsung Slate

FAA’s Dreamliner probe may lead to key Boeing supplier McClatchy

Despite Sanctions, Iran’s Economy Limps Along

A history of hubris and flawed hypotheses FT. Agnotology.

“[M]ore than five years since the outbreak of the credit crunch, most mainstream economic models still have no financial component.”

Fed’s mapmaker charts central bank rethink Gillian Tett, FT

Visualizing Improvement Atlanta Fed.

“The interest in the Fed’s reaction, always acute given the employment half of the Fed’s dual mandate from Congress, has been heightened since the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) announced, first in September, that it will continue its asset-purchase programs as long as “the labor market does not improve substantially.” But what constitutes substantial improvement is a matter of some art. [W]e have been experimenting with our own method for summarizing the general state of the labor market. Though this project is very much a work in progress, the idea is to highlight variables that look at employer behavior, signals of employer and employee confidence, measures of labor resource utilization, and leading indicators of labor market conditions.”

Starting Data Analysis with Assumptions Another Word For It

Data Update 2013: The Dark Side of Numbers Musings on Markets


It’s Man Summers: Versace’s male lingerie for autumn/winter 2013 Telegraph

It’s the moral thing to do London Review of Books

Antidote du jour:

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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. MIWill

    The Swartz prosecution team, I imagine, will soon have powerpoint charts extolling the efficiency of threat elimination sans trial costs.

    But first, cocktails. Cruelty isn’t a bennie, it’s the point.

  2. rjs

    almost didnt click “THE NORMAL WELL-TEMPERED MIND” and it turns out to be one of the most important links posted here…

    key lines:

    each neuron, far from being a simple logical switch, is a little agent with an agenda, and they are much more autonomous and much more interesting than any switch. The question is, what happens to your ideas about computational architecture [of the brain] when you think of individual neurons not as dutiful slaves or as simple machines but as agents that have to be kept in line and that have to be properly rewarded and that can form coalitions and cabals and organizations and alliances? This vision of the brain as a sort of social arena of politically warring forces seems like sort of an amusing fantasy at first, but is now becoming something that I take more and more seriously, and it’s fed by a lot of different currents.

    1. Garrett Pace

      Indeed, though after hundreds of words about the complexity of the brain and the mistakes he and other scientists have made as they’ve grappled with the issue, he says this:

      “How can it be that so many influential, powerful, wealthy, in-the-public people can be so confidently wrong about evolutionary biology?”

      If you’d just read the first half of the article you might think he’s talking about evolutionary biologists and their factions, foolishness, and marvelous pile of discarded orthodoxies. But it’s not – he’s taking a swipe at Creationists – people who believe that humans possess a certain dignity that would not survive thinking of us as animals, above average or no.

      Mr. Dennett views himself and other scientist/thinkers as “midwives of thinking”, and it’s a role he takes really seriously. Very generous of him, we must admit, trying to help people to become smart like him. Though I can’t help but question his methods:

      “It really is a bit of a puzzle if you think about how they’d be embarrassed not to know that the world is round.”

      Some midwifery. This won’t turn anyone into an impartial logician. Instead we should shame people into believing as we want them to? Embarrassment at not holding fashionable views is about the worst sort of motivation I can think of in determining how to believe.

        1. Garrett Pace

          The epistemology may be different, but I think creationists are every bit as “reachable” as anyone else, which is to say almost entirely unreachable.

          1. Maximilien

            The problem with creationists is the Bible. When your only source of “knowledge” is a book of myths, you’re unreachable.

        2. diptherio

          What do you mean by reachable? Convincing them that they and everyone they know are wrong and that I am right about what happened billions of years before any of us existed? No, most people aren’t reachable like that.

          Reachable in that I can have a rewarding and open conversation with them and end up liking the person and vice versa, even though both of us think that the other is gravely mistaken in particular ways? Yes, actually, many Creationists are open in that way. More than you would probably expect.

          1. datch

            from the article:
            Everything I just said is very speculative. I’d be thrilled if 20 percent of it was right. It’s an idea, a way of thinking about brains and minds and culture that is, to me, full of promise, but it may not pan out. I don’t worry about that, actually. I’m content to explore this, and if it turns out that I’m just wrong, I’ll say, “Oh, okay. I was wrong. It was fun thinking about it,” but I think I might be right.

    2. Susan the other

      I enjoyed Daniel Dennett’s well tempered mind too. His take on the brain as a trillion moving parts especially. And also especially in view of the recent post here describing how neurons, large cells with branches, communicate across the entire surface of the brain as if they are holding an Entmoot. Maybe quantum computers will approach this kind of “intelligence”. But considering the recent conference of quantum physicists whereat they couldn’t agree on what quantum theory means… maybe not! Sounds like the beginning of a classic paradox.

        1. diptherio

          Ha! Yeah, Dennett’s got some faulty reasoning going on there. I didn’t even know “evitable” was a word…

          Being somewhat familiar with Conway’s Game of Life, I have to say his equating that “avoiders” in Life with free-will is somewhat bizarre. It’s not like the “avoiders” have a choice of whether or not to avoid, they’re just following the rules.

          That said, I still liked the linked-to article here.

        2. Mark P.

          Aaron S. was correct.

          Go and look at some actual neuroscience from people like Rodolfo Llinas, Antonio Damasio, Gerald Edelman, and Antonio Damasio. It’s very clear that theorizers like Dennett, on the one hand, and computer scientists like Kurzweil and Minsky, on the other, are all a bunch of ignorant, arrogant twats who haven’t done their basic homework before sounding off.

    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Did he also talk about the mind’s plasticity, where one part would take over another part what is not in use?

      The question that follows is this: If we use less the part that is associated with rational thoughts, will the part that deals with compassion grow bigger?

      I think Zen monks, by doing zazen where they deactivate the thinking part of the brain that deals with things like quantum theory, etc., and enlarge the part that deals with compassion, can tell us more about that.

      Should we just think less and say less (haiku-ize our comments)?

  3. LucyLulu

    With all the depressing news, its such a relief to know that Bambi and Thumper are still around. Thanks, Lambert!

  4. frosty zoom

    “Though questions concerning the reason for Jackson’s resignation still loom, environmentalists are elated over the nomination of John Kerry for Secretary of State to replace Hillary Clinton. While Clinton has been criticized for having close ties to Paul Elliot, a top TransCanada lobbyist and former deputy director her presidential campaign, JOHN KERRY HAS BEEN KNOWN AS A VOCAL CLIMATE HAWK.”

    “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”

    “If Saddam Hussein is unwilling to bend to the international community’s already existing order, then he will have invited enforcement, even if that enforcement is mostly at the hands of the United States, a right we retain even if the Security Council fails to act.”

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      In Texas, it’s pronounced Satan Hussein.

      Perhaps that’s why he was referred to on a first name basis every time he was mentioned on TV, whereas no one ever called Pinochet by his first name, Augusto.

  5. frosty zoom

    Attendance likely to drop by a million ¡AND ONE! for second Obama inauguration*

    “The federal government estimates that it will spend roughly $49 million on the inaugural weekend. Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland have requested another $75 million from the federal government to help pay for their share of police, fire and medical services.

    And then there is the party bill.”


    (*the estimated cost of $135,354,265 will buy 246,098,663.64 cans of FANCY FEAST! cat food from

  6. rich

    More on meaningless bank capital: Bragging banks keep mum on this number

    In his Wall Street Journal Heard on the Street column, David Reilly exposes the vast gap between the banks’ claim to ‘fortress balance sheets’ and the reality.

    Regular readers know that bank capital is meaningless for several reasons. As pointed out by the OECD, the level of bank capital is meaningless for several reasons including:

    Regulatory forbearance has allowed the banks to engage in ‘extend and pretend’ and turn losses on bad debt into ‘zombie’ loans; and
    Suspension of mark-to-market accounting has allowed the banks to engage in ‘mark-to-mythology’.

    Besides overstating book capital levels, the Basel-based bank capital ratios have their own reasons for being meaningless starting with

    Banks use their own internal models to value their securities.

    In his column, Mr. Reilly looks at how banks brag about what a great meaningless bank capital ratio they have and remain silent on the tainted leverage ratios when the banks’ risk adjustment of their assets is removed.
    Although European banks generally have far lower levels of risk-weighted assets to total assets, it is still too bad U.S. banks aren’t being pressed by regulators to follow suit. None of the big U.S. banks so far have chosen to disclose estimates of their leverage ratios under the new Basel rules.

    Until banks do so, it will be easy for investors to assume they are playing coy because the figures might not be as flattering as their Tier 1 common ratios, which in most cases are now close to or have met minimum thresholds. That is especially the case because the biggest U.S. banks are likely to see their assets rise under the new Basel leverage-ratio rules.

  7. Aquifer

    On quantum theory:

    “Question 14: How much is the choice of interpretation (of quantum mechanics) a matter of personal philosophical prejudice?

    a) A lot – 58%

    b) A little – 27%

    c) Not at all – 15%

    Debates about the foundations of quantum mechanics are sometimes perceived as an ideological battle where the ob jectivity of the scientific enterprise succumbs to philosophical and personal preferences. In our poll, a clear ma jority sees at least some influence of philosophical prejudices on the choice of interpretation of quantum mechanics. Whether we should be pleased with this realization and the situation in quantum foundations it reflects is difficult to say. ………………..

    Quantum theory is based on a clear mathematical apparatus, has enormous significance for the natural sciences, enjoys phenomenal predictive success, and plays a critical role in modern technological developments. Yet, nearly 90 years after the theory’s development, there is still no consensus in the scientific community regarding the interpretation of the theory’s foundational building blocks.”

    Vewwy intewesting …..

    1. toxymoron

      Like economics, quantum theory is based on lies, errors and false assumptions. One example. Max Planck got a Nobel prize in physics for demonstrating that light, heat and electromagnetic radiation were all the same. So he demonstrated that one could derive the laws of thermodynamics from Maxwell’ electromagnetism, or vice-versa. That’s why one of his parameters (‘the Planck constant’, h), is used as the basis of quantum mechanics, which set out to prove the opposite.
      (I won’t repeat the 120 orders of magnitude difference between quantum theory and relativity theory :)

      1. Mark P.

        toxymoron: ‘Like economics, quantum theory is based on lies, errors and false assumptions.’

        You’re posting on the internet via a couple of technologies — semiconductor-based transistors, enabled by quantum tunneling, and fiberoptic networks, enabled by the fact that lasers emit energy at discrete quanta as Planck predicted — that are entirely based on quantum theory.

        You have an apt ID, toxymoron.

        You’re funny, I’ll say that for you.

      2. smokethebarbecue

        “Like economics, quantum theory is based on lies, errors and false assumptions”

        This is just nonsense (about quantum theory, anyhow).
        Also, Plank got the Nobel prize for discovering that the spectrum of blackbody radiation is quantized. It was Maxwell who showed that light is a form of electromagnetism, one of the greatest AHA! moments of all time.

        Are there false assumptions behind economics?

        1. toxymoron

          Maxwell had the big AHA indeed. Planck delivered the proof. This link gives a nice description: “Then, he suddenly changed the story, moving to a totally nonclassical concept, that the oscillators could only gain and lose energy in chunks, or quanta. (Incidentally, it didn’t occur to him that the radiation itself might be in quanta: he saw this quantization purely as a property of the wall oscillators.)” It is easy to prove that the oscillators can only gain/lose energy in chunks (if you use Maxwell’ laws), without having to resort to quantised light.

    2. craazyman

      yeah but it’s great because every Crank with time to daydream can think of their own take on it. haha.

      I’m not saying who that might be. I plead the 5th.

        1. craazyman

          Not enough, it’s been a busy day at work. Also I’m trying to really understand this stuff by reading Max Born’s Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. I’m halfway through but my Christmas break is over, so it’ll be slow going from here and there’s lots of algebra.

          I realized for the first time, something any physics major knows of course, that the classical physics equation Force = Mass * Velocity squared was extended by Dr. Einstein to Energy = Mass * Speed of Light-squared, which produced E=MC2. To me, that’s a revelation. That shows you how sophisticated I am.

          I just want to see how Einstein did it, because relativity is so obvious once you know how to look. I really do, and not just by reading stuff like “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Einstein”. I’m already a complete idiot with this stuff. I mean I want to understand “real man” physics. haha. Maybe I’ll even understand quantum theory. If I do, I’ll let you know.

          1. Hypothetical_Taxpayer

            Glad to see you are developing an interest in physics. Once you got money knocked, there is no limit to what you can understand.

            Don’t know how good this Max Born dude is at explaining things but in my case Ms. Mobeus and her twin sister Esha Print at the strip club in LA did a great job explaining curved space, Einstien dynamics, and the attraction towards gravity wells to me and my buddies.

            We learned one thing Einstein didn’t know and that is that money is not conserved! But knowledge like this shouldn’t come cheap.

            Anyway, quantum mechanics is kinda a bitch.

            Looking at the pictures of the expert quantum dudes in Wiki suggest, to me anyway, that you may need very special hair to truly understand quantum physics.


    3. Susan the other

      Vewwy. Thinking about time and space yesterday did me in. Strange pleasure. Then I linked to today’s funny survey and then to the article on atomic clocks and atomic time. It occurred to me in my ignorance that atomic time is also space time in that the atom must shrink, contract as it loses its electrons and dissipates into, what?- entropy? The sound of one atom of cesium collapsing. Then I wondered, so do photons dissipate, disintegrate, or what? They have no mass. So how does a beam of light stop? Nevermind. Time is a wave.

      1. Aquifer

        Yeah – i was reminded of that the other day when the young toddler waved at me – and i, the old toddler, waved back …

    4. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      ‘…foundational building blocks.’

      When you dig at that level, nothing is firm…not because of what we can say about what is out there, but because our brain is perhaps at fault here due to the brain’s faulty nature.

      Maybe we are all robots but are not designed with the ability to know that for sure. We can only suspect.

      1. Mansoor H. Khan


        Buddhist conception of conscious life is that it is a thinking machine which has become confused and believes in a continuing self (a soul) and this confusion leads to all suffering..

        good news is… the suffering can end via the eight-fold path in this lifetime if one strives for nirvana.

    1. Maximilien

      I drove taxi for 8 years in Vancouver. When it was raining heavily, many drivers stopped taking calls from dispatch and started cruising, because they could make more money picking up flags.

      Advice to city-dwellers: When the weather’s bad, don’t bother calling for a cab. Just walk to the nearest busy street and flag. You’ll probably get one a lot quicker.

      P.S. to Lambert: I found most customers preferred to chat and yes, that meant chatting with me, a taxi-driver. The horror! But believe it or not, they actually seemed to enjoy it. Many took me to be some sort of well-spoken, well-educated person who was driving hack to support his writing career. Ha!!

      P.P.S. to Lambert: I met many wonderful friendly people from the US. They didn’t seem to mind conversing with me either.

  8. Valissa

    Fascinating… How the ‘Red October’ Cyber-Attack Campaign Succeeded Beneath the Radar
    Kaspersky Lab released the first of a two-part report on “Red October,” a malware attack the company believes is infesting high-level government systems throughout Europe and could be specifically targeting classified documents. According to the report, the stolen data is on the order of “hundreds of Terabytes,” and went largely undetected for about five years.

        1. smokethebarbecue

          My bad! I should’ve checked them out first. I guess even a stopped clock can be right once.
          I’ve also noticed that much of the criticism of psychiatric drugging comes from the far right. Liberals seem to have bought into the idea that there is something scientific about what is really drug company propaganda.

          1. Valissa

            I don’t know that it breaks down that neatly. There are many liberals who are very much anti-psychiatric drugs and labeling too, esp. the very food and health conscious types. But I think it’s one of those issues that people can unify around regardless of political orientation. How much does it matter if the underlying reasoning of another is different if you are seeking the same outcome?

          2. Aquifer

            Val – can’t help wondering how different the lives of older misfits, like myself, would have been if those diagnoses/drugs had been around when we were young ..

            Life is always a precarious thing, at best – maybe the drugs only make it precarious in different ways ….

          3. Maximilien


            Best criticism of psychiatric drugging I’ve ever read is the book “Manufacturing Depression” by Gary Greenberg (who also writes occasionally for the NYRB). Solidly reasoned and beautifully written. Required reading for anyone interested in the topic.



    Since then, I have been feasting on piping hot, delicious home cooked pizzas, which I have eaten whilst sitting on the beach at night.
    Never try to remove a pizza stone from the oven until it is completely cooled.
    Photo: Lei, Kaui holding baby Arya, Mike and Anthony.

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