Links 2/16/13

Oakland Cat Stuck in Washer, Survives Cycle NBC (Lambert). OMG!!!

Evolution to blame for bad backs, dropped arches and impacted wisdom teeth, say scientists Telegraph

A New Vaccine For Drinking Could Keep Alcoholics Sober CoExist

Farmer’s Supreme Court Challenge Puts Monsanto Patents at Risk New York Times. Keep your fingers crossed.

A visualization of migration flows peoplemovein (Lambert). This is really cool.

Dash-cams: Russia’s Last Hope for Civility on the Road (Richard Smith). In case you wondered why so many people were recording their drive and hence got pix of the meteor.

Hundreds hurt in Russia after meteorite falls to Earth Guardian. Take note of the article subhead…

Environmental ‘failings’ spark Gladstone port probe as dolphins depart Australian (skippy)

South Americans Face Upheaval in Deadly Water Battles Bloomberg

Surprise UK retail sales drop fuels triple-dip recession fears Guardian. Austerity works, just not the way its backers claim it does.

Finland has an education system the US should envy – and learn from Guardian

Is This Fucking Afghanistan?!?! Arthur Silber (Lambert)

Nominee’s Drones Answer Unnerves Rights Groups Wall Street Journal


Very Junior Senator Delivers a Jolt New York Times. That’s the front page headline…

Notes From a Gun Buyback Joe Nocera, New York Times

Campaign to recall “America’s toughest sheriff” Real News Network. Maricopa County as the leader in the move towards militarized policing.

The Age Rating Game: Will Older Americans Pay More Under Health Reform? Maggie Mahar (Angry Bear)

RealtyTrac: U.S. Jan. foreclosure filings down 28% MarketWatch. You need to read through to the part about how the California homeowner bill of rights is the big driver of this decline

U.S. Homeowners Are Repeating Their Mistakes Bloomberg. The hidden assumption of this article is that Americans are overhoused. That’s certainly true in a lot of cases, but the competition to get housing in good school districts makes this not as straightforward as the authors would have you believe.

Check-stealing ring used Syracuse homeless people, drug addicts as fronts Syracuse. Bob:

They don’t say it in that story, but I remember from the time that it was solely BAC they were using to cash these checks. The North Carolina “base of the operations”. Why wouldn’t they mention the bank by name in this story?” And, at what point does BAC being that “easy” to fleece become a crime? And I missed the best part…it wasn’t police who did the investigation, or the DA’s, the OCC, the fed, the secret service…It was postal inspectors.

Wal-Mart Executives Sweat Slow February Start in E-Mails Bloomberg. Walmart is a huge barometer for the economy. It accounts for 2.3% of GDP.

CFTC Examines Gas Trades Wall Street Journal

Accounting control fraud: Not just “Mitch and Murray,” but “Blake,” too Corrente

NYSE Margin Debt Is Creeping Toward All-Time Highs Right Along With The S&P 500 Clusterstock

The Pettis primer on imbalances Macrobusiness

Antidote du jour (furzy mouse):

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  1. kimyo

    re: the telegraph/evolution story:
    “Our development of large and complex brains, for example, resulted in a narrowing of our mouths which in turn caused the pain of impacted wisdom teeth. ”

    our problems with teeth are due to diet, and especially to calcium-deficient, gestational diabetes-prone pregnancies.

    when weston a. price studied cultures following a diet without grains, in locations where mothers-to-be were vitamin d-replete, he found healthy, wide, toothy smiles.

    more here:

    1. Ned Ludd

      According to USDA data, there has been a precipitous decline in the mineral content of U.S. produce since the 1950s:

      • Broccoli:Iron -27%, Calcium -60%
      • Tomatoes:Iron -29%, Calcium -59%
      • Carrots:Iron -40%, Calcium -37%

      For packaged food, a Canadian study found that nutrition labels can be horrendously wrong, understating the amount of bad nutrients and overstating the good ones.

      Regarding Vitamin D, I told my father that taking a 1,000 IU supplement each day of Vitamin D3 might not be enough. He got tested by his doctor and found that he was Vitamin D deficient in the middle of summer. He spends an hour or so outside each day, and lives in the country, so I would guess he gets more sun than the typical office worker. The Globe and Mail had a good article about Vitamin D back in 2008, which no longer seems to be at their site but is still available through the Internet Archive.

      A U.S. study in 2007 found that overall risk of cancer in women was cut by 60 per cent when they were given 1,100 IU of vitamin D per day, plus a calcium supplement.

      Another study estimated the dose to cut colon-cancer risk in half: 1,000 IU daily. The amount estimated to cut breast-cancer risk in half: 4,000 IU daily.

      I would guess that, compared to hunter gatherers living in habitats suited for human beings, modern humans are deficient in all sorts of nutrients and minerals. “In an article in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1985, Drs. Eaton and Konner estimated that the Paleolithic diet provided about 400 mg/day of vitamin C to our human ancestors, much more than the 90 mg/day or less presently consumed dietarily by most Americans.”

        1. kimyo

          raw kale may be problematic:

          “Certain foods are associated with disrupted thyroid hormone production. Foods belonging to the cruciferous family are called “crucifers,” and include broccoli, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, mustard, kohlrabi, and turnips. These foods appear to reduce thyroid function by blocking thyroid peroxidase, and also by disrupting messages that are sent across the membranes of thyroid cells. Cooking these vegetables greatly reduces these negative effects.”

          1. different clue

            Would eating seawead and other hi-iodine food counter the crucifer effect by providing the thyroid more iodine to work with?

    2. direction

      As far as evolutionary biology goes, this is all very old news. regular curriculum material from the 80s, as far as I can recall.

  2. Richard Kline

    The WalMart results are real news, and should have been a headline leader on print rags.

    On Bloomberg, we get paragraphs and paragraphs blowing fog regarding how ‘new taxes’ from the rollback of payroll tax rates is to blame. Until faaaaaar own in the piece we get to this: “[CEO]Simon cited negative economic growth, declining consumer confidence and rising unemployment as challenges facing the company. The U.S. economy shrank at a 0.1 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter, and the unemployment rate rose 0.1 percentage point to 7.9 percent in January. The Conference Board’s measure of consumer confidence declined last month to the lowest since November 2011.” Hey, imagine that, declining employment, declining income, and attendant decling confidence in the previous quarter (and even earlier). And those declines of course fall far more heavily on the low income customers of WalMart because as we know the 1% made out like bandits last year, so that means the declines for the rest are actually _greater_. Gee, could THAT have impacted spending? Dunno: we’ll have to wait for the ‘analysis.’

    1. Can't Help It

      But the most recent consumer confidence (Michigan) showed an increase. Sometimes I am not sure what to read from those confidence numbers. I think they are only indicative when a recovery/recession is already in progress.

      1. Nathanael

        It’s not like Michigan could get LESS confident. That’s what we call a “dead cat bounce” in consumer confidence.

    2. Georgann

      Just this week my family was lamenting how February felt like January. Usually we are quite busy in February. We have been in business many years.

      We had a zero day this week. Unheard of. Family members took on the hours, giving our two employees the week off… fortunately neither is dependent on a paycheck. They are part time people who just want to get out of the house, and enjoy the small business we are in.

      We enjoy “last man standing” status in our town. Thank God or we would be homeless. Positioning is everything in this economy. The biggest threat to local Main Street business is competition from nationals who don’t depend on the local economy. A local office supply store is put out of business by Staples or Office Max… who may not be profitable in that location either… but has the national economy to put the little guy out of business.

      To me, that’s the greatest crime of this economy. Our malls force independents to subsidize the new big stores… like Anchor Blue… who paid NOTHING .. but percentage rent.. justifying it with the “traffic” from such a brand.

      Well, Anchor Blue is bankrupt. And the small stores in the mall paid for them for several years. The whole system is bankrupt.

      Again, we survive only because we pay little rent in a destination strip mall. If we weren’t a destination retailer, we would be dead and gone.

      1. Georgann

        for those who don’t know what a ‘destination’ business is.. it’s like an insurance company or a bike shop… people find you… they don’t have to be in the high traffic malls and strips…

        so a gift store, or lady’s shop .. pays TOP dollar for high traffic commercial real estate. Whereas the religious book store, bike repair shop, or tattoo parlor fields customers by other means.. they can be anywhere.

        That’s the only thing keeping some shops in business. And I”m not sure how long even that advantage will accrue to certain industries. It seems the big guys have all the advantages – and none of the problems but their own corrupt, top heavy strategies.

        1. different clue

          One hopes that people “who can afford to choose” would/will choose to spend more at the various independent “last man standing” stores rather than spend less at the Big Mall’s National CrapCo outlet. Such socially and politically targeted spending is a kind of sullen persistent economic rebellion right there . . . like paying bills by mail rather than electronic payment.

          Prisoners of Walmart have no choice anymore. But people who still have a choice and CHOOSE to “pay less” at Walmart deSERVE to become Prisoners of Walmart.

  3. down2long

    LPS settles foreclosure fraud criminal probe

    I continue what is missing in their headline:

    [FOR ONLY $35 MILLION DOLLARS on what the DOInjustice says involved over 1 MILLION fraudulent documents filed over a SIX YEAR period.]

    This follows a $135 Million CIVIL penalty levied by the DOI two weeks ago.

    By Jonathan Stempel

    Feb 15 (Reuters) – The mortgage servicing company Lender Processing Services Inc has agreed to pay $35 million to resolve a federal criminal investigation into foreclosure fraud, the U.S. Department of Justice said on Friday.

    The settlement resolves allegations over the Jacksonville, Florida-based company’s involvement in what the government called a six-year scheme to prepare and file more than 1 million fraudulently signed and notarized mortgage documents in property recorders’ offices nationwide.

    It followed a guilty plea last November by Lorraine Brown, the former chief executive of LPS’ DocX LLC unit, to a felony charge of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud over the scheme, which ran from 2003 to 2009.

    LPS entered into a two-year non-prosecution agreement that requires it to meet many conditions, including cooperating in federal probes, and alert the government to any abuses in mortgage or foreclosure documentation services at the company.

    The $35 million payment includes criminal penalties and forfeiture and must be made within 10 days to the U.S. Marshals Service and the U.S. Treasury, the Justice Department said.

    An LPS spokeswoman did not immediately respond to requests for comment……

    The usual reiteration of how the banks paid $25 billion, yadda yadda follows. No mention of the LPS civil settlement.

    Lenny Breuer strikes again: “Now our CRIMINAL penallties are much smaller than our CIVIL penalties. You guys said you wanted CRIMINAL cases. Be careful what you ask for. See how that worked out? I’m outta here.”

    1. Emperor Wang of Market Mongo

      Not bad. That only works out to $35 per document in direct cost. Adding LPS overhead, postage and handling should result in low[ish] passthru fees for your borrowers. Government you can afford, at least in this case.

      You Earthlings are making progress. Keep that up and I may be impressed.

  4. different clue

    I believe the story about Farmer Bowman suing Monsanto about whether its patent over Roundup Ready soybeans extends to seed saved from first-growout of those beans was run here before, but not in such detail. Perhaps I should soften my firm hope that Mr. Bowman lose this case.

    On the one hand, if he wins, the incentive to develop these purely tollgate-creating seed-jacking traits will diminish, thereby diminishing the danger of new such traited
    seed being rolled out at all. That could be good. On the other hand, if he wins then the high seedprice disincentive for using Roundup Ready soybeans will disappear and the use of these beans will become even more re-entrenched in mainstream agriculture. Since the only reason to use Roundup Ready soybean seed is to be able to spread glyphosate on the crop, glyphosate will be spread on these millions of acres of soybean land for years to come. And glyphosate is not a benign soil-friendly chemical. Professor Emeritus of Plant Pathology at Purdue University Don Huber has spent years doing his own research and reviewing the research of others into emerging risks of glyphosate in soil/ag systems and he has begun to speak about what he and others are finding. In this interview in Acres USA, for example, Prof. Emeritus Huber warns about what is happening (and what even more of will happen if Monsanto loses this suit).

    If anyone ends up reading this interview . . . these problems are what we will get MORE of if Mr. Bowman wins this suit.

    1. patricia

      The Genie is Out of the Bottle.

      Once there was a king whose kingdom had more citizens than the land could support. He hired alchemists to create a genie to solve the problem. And it was done: the alchemists made a genie who left behind heavy-producing fruit trees wherever he walked.

      The king sent the genie over the highways and byways of the land. Being a typical king, he didn’t allow the people to grow seeds from the fruits because he wanted to grow his treasury by selling them. He hired inspectors to search out miscreants and took their homes and land.

      Because they’d been in a hurry, the alchemists were unaware that the trees would poison the ground in which they grew, such that nothing would grow around them. They also didn’t know that the trees would become vulnerable to insects and disease. More alchemists were hired to create and apply chemicals. But even though the king sent the genie out 24/7, it was a losing battle. Then illness began to appear among those who ate exclusively from the trees.

      Because there were hardly any non-magical fruit trees left in the country, and because the king charged high prices for the fruit, the citizenry began stealing seeds en masse, and mixing them with their own remaining few. Strange hybrids appeared. But the king merely hired more alchemists, soldiers, and inspectors, and increased the grabbing of money, land and homes.

      One day the queen went to the king. “Oh Great and Frightening Husband,” she said, “Our land has become spare of people and there are vast muddy tracts on which we can no longer grow plants. This is not working as intended. We must let the fruit be free.”

      But an advisor said to the king, “If we simply allow the citizenry to plant and harvest freely, the people will become sicker and the whole land will become poisoned. This must not happen.”

      The king called the alchemists. They said, “No matter how hard we’ve tried, we cannot create another genie with better quality magic. Moreover, we have discovered no way to kill the genie we made. There is nothing more we can do. At least there are no longer too many citizens.” And no one would look the king in the eye.

      So the king murdered the queen for her obstreperousness and went on as he had. Eventually, he married a queen from a neighboring land and moved to her castle. He built a high wall around his old kingdom and burned everything. Then he forgot about it.

      Moral: When one looks for magic, genies will do all the work.

      1. anyone

        Excellent! And in the end the stolen “magic” of the “genies” will be revealed to be nothing more than the stolen labor of the people and the natural benevolence of mother earth raped. And so it goes.

      2. different clue

        A good warning story. But reality is not that bad yet. The roundup ready soybeans do not themselves poison the soil.
        The spraying of glyphosate to which the roundup readiness of the soybeans gives permission . . . is what is poisoning the soil. It is still possible to buy GMO-free soybeans. They are no guarantee of non-use of glyphosate, but at least they are no open-door permission for massive glyphosate overuse-abuse. The only reliably GMO-free domestic soybeans are Certified Organic (and products made from them). But some foreign countries ban imports of GMO-soybeans and they enFORCE their ban with testing of every alien lot seeking entry into their territory. I believe Japan to be one of these countries. So any soybean product from Japan whether organic OR conventional is as GMO-free as Japanese enforcement can make it.

  5. down2long

    Another shocker – a two-fer from Reuters Legal.

    First shocker:

    Lehman brothers, fresh out of bankruptcy wants to sue JP Morgan Chase for what it says were The London Whale’s mismarking of trades which apparently were mismarked by Iksel to grab more Lehman cash collatoral as Lehman was crashing – money which JP Morgan kept (sounds like the precursor to Chase’s grab at MF Global)

    From Reuters:

    Lehman accused JPMorgan in the lawsuit of hastening its bankruptcy by using its “unparalleled” knowledge of its distress, through its role as the main clearing bank handling third-party dealings, to extract $8.6 billion of collateral in the four business days prior to the Chapter 11 filing.

    Second Shocker from Federal BK judge James Peck overseeing the Lehman Chapter 11 – and this may call for – as Lambert says – “bringing out the fainting couches” at the FED, The DOJ, The OCC, The FDIC:

    Reuters continues “Last April, Peck narrowed Lehman’s lawsuit but let stand some claims, saying that protections given to “systemically important” banks such as JPMorgan did not excuse them from acting in a “commercially unreasonable” manner.

    The led: Despite being given immunity in almost every instance, they still must act in a Commercially Reasonable manner. This is earth shaking news – I don’t think anyone thought that banks had to do that.

    You know that Iksil, who is now in France using international law to dodge this, will be given protection from every US agency known to man to prevent compelling him to testify. Correct me if I’m wrong.

  6. Nathanael

    So Dorner nailed four murderous thugs before the thugs killed him — and the thugs managed to shoot three random people while panicking.

    The next people who decide to war against the criminal gang called the LAPD will be more successful.

    Because politics and even war are all about the public relations, and the LAPD just lost.

    1. Tiresias

      “Because politics and even war are all about the public relations.”

      Politics, yes, but the first casualty of war is…?

      Of course politics and war are fast becoming indistinguishable.

    2. anyone

      In Amerika? Sorry, I’m not so sure. I’m thinking this just spawns another best selling video game.

    3. different clue

      Were Dorner’s LAPD adminstrative case “defender”-loser’s daughter and her fiancee, the first two people Dorner (allegedly in legal speak) shot . . . murderous thugs? Were they even LAPD members? Or were they bystanders, killed as rage-bait to begin Dorner’s Psy-Op against the LAPD?

      And Dorner’s Psy-Op appears to have been ill-thought-out and ill planned. No pre-arranged quietly aquired and arranged for hidey-hole even?

  7. from Mexico

    @ “Is This Fucking Afghanistan?!?!” Arthur Silber

    Are we seeing a seachange in the US?

    I ask this because, if one peruses the thousands upon thosands of comments to the Dorner stories in the LA Times, you find people solidly aligned with Dorner, certainly not with his methods, but with his characterization of the LA police department, and his belief that something needs to be done.

    The comments seem to be running about 100 to 1 in favor of Dorner’s take on the LAPD: that it is corrupt beyond all imagination, led by a police chief who is a pathological liar, and is a greater danger to society than the criminals it was put in place to police.

    Welcome to Mexico!

    1. AbyNormal

      We can still holler and shout but we have to light the lamps that shed the light on corruption, injustice, ineptitude and abuse of power. When we do, you will see the villains scurry into the woodwork the way roaches do when you turn on the light. serpico

      1. Susan the other

        Arthur Silber was refreshing. So was Mark Ames’ Assassination for Dummies. Thanks Lambert. Mark Ame’s retrospective reminds us all of our long-standing national assholiness. This is why Obama keeps saying he hasn’t destroyed American Justice. But 6 wrongs don’t make a right.

          1. reslez

            I like the other headline on that page: “Nation’s 24 Middle Class Citizens Glad To Hear Obama Looking Out For Them”

      2. Georgann

        Hollering and shouting doesn’t help when the STATE has paramilitary goonies enlisted to war on the population.

        What I’ve seen in places like Colorado – is returning military to cities like Colorado Springs – and these guys are really scary. They are used to murder and pillage – and they really don’t care who the victims are. A returning Ft. Carson goonie is as likely to murder his wife and kids as a driver who didn’t genuflect before his badge.

        My theory is that enough of us has seen enough, even honest middle class former conservatives are wary of TSA, local police, and prison guards. Anyone who’s known someone who spent a night in jail understands the industry condoned sadism of prison workers. What is truly frightening is that the people who gravitate to “enforcement” are very often so damaged, and so eager to punish and violate their charges, that they are creating an atmosphere where even law abiding bedrock citizens are afraid and angry at their governors.

        I root for bank robbers.. and am not ashamed to admit it .

        I rooted for Dorner… and wished he got away. I wonder what I would have done had he hidden in my cabin in the woods. I might have been tempted to tell him to tie me up, and take my car… I would promise to not call anyone until he was safely away. I really believe I am capable of this –

        I’m truly truly over the “land of the Bree” — and home of the stooges.

        1. Georgann

          read “land of the Brie” … or Free…

          typos make everybody crazy… especially the loose lose phenomenon

  8. AbyNormal

    re: Environment & Dredging (Skippy)

    as bad as the dredging is (kicking up cadmium and other poisons) the transporting and dumping of sledge creates damage, exponentially

    i have a front row seat to republican on republican

    When the Savannah port is dredged, Georgia plans to dump the mud from that project on property it owns jointly with the Palmetto State in South Carolina. That tract is where South Carolina officials want to develop another port near Jasper.

    “You’re telling me the cadmium-laden sludge is up the river, that it’s going to get dumped on the South Carolina side, and it’s going to get dumped on the site where we can build a port or get private enterprise to come in and build a port?” McConnell, R-Charleston, asked during a discussion with Grooms and Davis.

    Davis, a Beaufort Republican and champion of the Jasper port project, said Georgia wants to pile the cadmium-polluted mud on the property for about 50 years.

    Cadmium is a poisonous metal that can cause kidney disease and breathing problems for people who inhale the material, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA says cadmium also is a probable human carcinogen, meaning it might cause cancer.

    The senators did not say where the cadmium came from. But the toxic metal can get into the air from coal-burning power plants and incinerators and fall with rain back to earth. South Carolina and Georgia have numerous coal-burning power plants. For years, the Savannah River Site nuclear complex, up the river near Aiken, burned coal to produce power.

    (oh the irony)

  9. JGordon

    Ah, considering that gun manufacturers are running production full-bore and that fire arms are now being stripped bare of weaponry almost the instant new shipments come in, you all might want to consider that it’s at least plausible that all your efforts to snatch guns is back firing splendidly. And that’s really annoying, because when I can find a decent gun these days, it’s at least 2x the price it was last year before you nuts started whining on about the psycological issues you have with people being able to defend themselves.

    By the way: the NRA and gun manufacturers are far richer today than they were last year. In this good old corrupt USA where money = political power, what do you think that means?

    1. Skippy

      Look… as long as you kill each other, with accurate aim, and leave the innocents alone… I’m all for it.

      Skippy… free ammo and funeral pyres… methinks!

        1. anyone

          Been catching up on the old HBO series Deadwood of late. Very illustrative series, that, on the American “frontier mentality” in general. And we’re only a half dozen or so generations removed from those lawless times. Could be coming around again very easily on the ragged/rugged down slope of peak energy.

          1. anyone

            Well, of course, as that series so well illustrates, in those days, quite unlike today, agendas were worn on one’s sleeve (to say the least!). Obama no doubt would have been a Hearst “surrogate”, if indeed, he could have been fit into a framework so limiting of his admittedly “otherworldly” gifts. Although, the more I think about it, the more the shoe fits.

          2. Skippy

            Ahhh the good old days when stuff like this was said…

            Some letters Herbert Spencer had written to the English weekly The Nonconformist were republished as a pamphlet, THE PROPER SPHERE OF GOVERNMENT. Government does more harm than good the moment it goes beyond the simple upholding of natural rights.

            It is wicked to attempt to prevent the poor from perishing.
            Wicked, wicked, wicked. It is cruel. Cruel, cruel, cruel. Do not interfere with God’s will, but be an English gentleman, and stand aside and watch! Get this, God wants you to enjoy your cigar.

            Skippy… lite-um up boys!

    2. anyone

      Well, I’m with you on the ramifications of gun control anyway. Effective gun control will never pass in the US, but the effort to do so will only increase the number of guns out there, drive up their prices, and make their owners (and everyone else too for that matter) more hysterical. Gun control policies run directly parallel to effective climate change policies, among others. Both should have been addressed decades ago (at least) if we were serious about minimizing their negative effects. Now? Simply too late. Too much inertia built up and too many accumulated bad effects from both. We’re all just along for the ride now. Reality is still reality, new age digital fantasies notwithstanding, and these are both major warnings for the technology and/or American exceptionalism crowds that still stubbornly insist that “we can fix anything,” when in fact sometimes the correct answer is “no we can’t.” Not, at least, with more of the same technology and/or legislative band aids that got us into our current predicament in the first place.

    3. Lambert Strether

      You need more guns but can’t afford them? Maybe you should take up a collection or have a yard sale.

      * * *

      As far as “protect yourself,” well, sure. Increase your odds of suicide. Darwin would applaud, and so do I.

      1. Skippy

        Did someone say Darwin?

        Go read the comment sections of banner MSM rags, Darwin… cough… Herbert Spencer is defiantly at work!

        Spencer was educated in empirical science by his father, while the members of the Derby Philosophical Society introduced him to pre-Darwinian concepts of biological evolution, particularly those of Erasmus Darwin and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. His uncle, the Reverend Thomas Spencer, vicar of Hinton Charterhouse near Bath, completed Spencer’s limited formal education by teaching him some mathematics and physics, and enough Latin to enable him to translate some easy texts. Thomas Spencer also imprinted on his nephew his own firm free-trade and anti-statist political views. Otherwise, Spencer was an autodidact who acquired most of his knowledge from narrowly focused readings and conversations with his friends and acquaintances.[7]

        As both an adolescent and a young man Spencer found it difficult to settle to any intellectual or professional discipline. He worked as a civil engineer during the railway boom of the late 1830s, while also devoting much of his time to writing for provincial journals that were nonconformist in their religion and radical in their politics. From 1848 to 1853 he served as sub-editor on the free-trade journal The Economist, during which time he published his first book, Social Statics (1851), which predicted that humanity would eventually become completely adapted to the requirements of living in society with the consequential withering away of the state.

        “Its publisher, John Chapman, introduced Spencer to his salon which was attended by many of the leading radical and progressive thinkers of the capital, including John Stuart Mill, Harriet Martineau, George Henry Lewes and Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot), with whom he was briefly romantically linked. Spencer himself introduced the biologist Thomas Henry Huxley, who would later win fame as ‘Darwin’s Bulldog’ and who remained his lifelong friend. However it was the friendship of Evans and Lewes that acquainted him with John Stuart Mill’s A System of Logic and with Auguste Comte’s positivism and which set him on the road to his life’s work. He strongly disagreed with Comte.[8]

        The first fruit of his friendship with Evans and Lewes was Spencer’s second book, Principles of Psychology, published in 1855, which explored a physiological basis for psychology. The book was founded on the fundamental assumption that the human mind was subject to natural laws and that these could be discovered within the framework of general biology. This permitted the adoption of a developmental perspective not merely in terms of the individual (as in traditional psychology), but also of the species and the race. Through this paradigm, Spencer aimed to reconcile the associationist psychology of Mill’s Logic, the notion that human mind was constructed from atomic sensations held together by the laws of the association of ideas, with the apparently more ‘scientific’ theory of phrenology, which located specific mental functions in specific parts of the brain.

        Spencer argued that both these theories were partial accounts of the truth: repeated associations of ideas were embodied in the formation of specific strands of brain tissue, and these could be passed from one generation to the next by means of the Lamarckian mechanism of use-inheritance. The Psychology, he believed, would do for the human mind what Isaac Newton had done for matter.[9] However, the book was not initially successful and the last of the 251 copies of its first edition was not sold until June 1861.

        Spencer’s interest in psychology derived from a more fundamental concern which was to establish the universality of natural law.[10] In common with others of his generation, including the members of Chapman’s salon, he was possessed with the idea of demonstrating that it was possible to show that everything in the universe – including human culture, language, and morality – could be explained by laws of universal validity. This was in contrast to the views of many theologians of the time who insisted that some parts of creation, in particular the human soul, were beyond the realm of scientific investigation. Comte’s Système de Philosophie Positive had been written with the ambition of demonstrating the universality of natural law, and Spencer was to follow Comte in the scale of his ambition. However, Spencer differed from Comte in believing it was possible to discover a single law of universal application which he identified with progressive development and was to call the principle of evolution.

        Herbert Spencer

        In 1858 Spencer produced an outline of what was to become the System of Synthetic Philosophy. This immense undertaking, which has few parallels in the English language, aimed to demonstrate that the principle of evolution applied in biology, psychology, sociology (Spencer appropriated Comte’s term for the new discipline) and morality. Spencer envisaged that this work of ten volumes would take twenty years to complete; in the end it took him twice as long and consumed almost all the rest of his long life.

        Despite Spencer’s early struggles to establish himself as a writer, by the 1870s he had become the most famous philosopher of the age.[11] His works were widely read during his lifetime, and by 1869 he was able to support himself solely on the profit of book sales and on income from his regular contributions to Victorian periodicals which were collected as three volumes of Essays. His works were translated into German, Italian, Spanish, French, Russian, Japanese and Chinese, and into many other languages and he was offered honors and awards all over Europe and North America. He also became a member of the Athenaeum, an exclusive Gentleman’s Club in London open only to those distinguished in the arts and sciences, and the X Club, a dining club of nine founded by T.H. Huxley that met every month and included some of the most prominent thinkers of the Victorian age (three of whom would become presidents of the Royal Society).

        Members included physicist-philosopher John Tyndall and Darwin’s cousin, the banker and biologist Sir John Lubbock. There were also some quite significant satellites such as liberal clergyman Arthur Stanley, the Dean of Westminster; and guests such as Charles Darwin and Hermann von Helmholtz were entertained from time to time. Through such associations, Spencer had a strong presence in the heart of the scientific community and was able to secure an influential audience for his views. Despite his growing wealth and fame he never owned a house of his own.

        The last decades of Spencer’s life were characterized by growing disillusionment and loneliness. He never married, and after 1855 was a perpetual hypochondriac who complained endlessly of pains and maladies that no physician could diagnose.[citation needed] By the 1890s his readership had begun to desert him while many of his closest friends died and he had come to doubt the confident faith in progress that he had made the center-piece of his philosophical system. His later years were also ones in which his political views became increasingly conservative. Whereas Social Statics had been the work of a radical democrat who believed in votes for women (and even for children) and in the nationalization of the land to break the power of the aristocracy, by the 1880s he had become a staunch opponent of female suffrage and made common cause with the landowners of the Liberty and Property Defence League against what they saw as the drift towards ‘socialism’ of elements (such as Sir William Harcourt) within the administration of William Ewart Gladstone – largely against the opinions of Gladstone himself. Spencer’s political views from this period were expressed in what has become his most famous work, The Man versus the State.” – snip

        Some letters Herbert Spencer had written to the English weekly The Nonconformist were republished as a pamphlet, THE PROPER SPHERE OF GOVERNMENT. Government does more harm than good the moment it goes beyond the simple upholding of natural rights.

        It is wicked to attempt to prevent the poor from perishing.
        Wicked, wicked, wicked. It is cruel. Cruel, cruel, cruel. Do not interfere with God’s will, but be an English gentleman, and stand aside and watch! Get this, God wants you to enjoy your cigar.

        Hitler on natural selection

        In Mein Kampf (1924-25), Hitler expressed his views on the natural world, largely as an analogy and justification for his racialist views on human society. It is clear that he saw struggle for survival, and natural selection based on this struggle, as crucial to the lives of animals, as outlined these excerpts: “”Whatever survives these hardships of existence has been tested and tried a thousandfold, hardened and renders fit to continue the process of procreation; so that the same thorough selection will begin all over again. By thus dealing brutally with the individual and recalling him the very moment he shows that he is not fitted for the trials of life, Nature preserves the strength of the race and the species and raises it to the highest degree of efficiency.[2]

        “”By leaving the process of procreation unchecked and by submitting the individual to the hardest preparatory tests in life, Nature selects the best from an abundance of single elements and stamps them as fit to live and carry on the conservation of the species.[2]

        However, this view of “natural selection” as applied to society, has little to do with biological evolution. Rather, it has more in common with Social Darwinism, which originated from Herbert Spencer, not Charles Darwin. To link Social Darwinism with Darwinian evolution simply because of the name similarity would be just as absurd as linking the Christian Identity movement to Christianity simply because they both have the word “Christian” in it. And, by the way, even the name “Social Darwinism” was mostly an invention by outsiders, and just to add to the confusion, Herbert Spencer differed from Darwin by assigning much less importance to natural selection in biological evolution, with views closer to those of Lamarck.

        Skippy… The poor races… cough… not super wealthy… are to be allowed too – exterminate – one and another, whilst the true race (ultra-wealthy) make hay… self fulfilling prophecies thingy!

        PS… Free market = global extermination camp… ie free market… think about it… eh… such a powerful marketing ploy… snicker…

          1. Emperor Wang of Market Mongo

            If those are what I think they are, on Market Mongo we train all of them to speak at least 15 words.

  10. Thorstein

    Higher pay for teachers, smaller classes, less standardized testing, and bilingual education in K-6 are all good ideas, but the story on Finnish education overlooks other factors that bless Finland.

    First, at 26.8 Finland’s GINI index is the tenth-best in the world, so all children come to school from materially secure families. Second, Finnish has a highly regular orthography, so second language or not, children learn to read early and quickly. Third, like many European and smaller language communities, Finland’s TV isn’t saturated with the advertising, propaganda and mores of imperialistic, supernational English-speaking corporations.

    English-speaking corporations and their English-speaking armies and police have total control of the United States. Their cultural mission is to prevent the education of citizens. In this way they can destroy democracy, which always threatens to limit their power, and install aristocracy, which is the consolidation of their power. For the first 2000 years of European civilization, the Church was the propaganda machine that the aristocracy constructed and deployed to limit and control the serfs’ access to education and information. Now it is the press and especially English-speaking television. Over the past twenty years, the supernational corporations have made great strides translating their propaganda into minor languages like Finnish, but those efforts have not yet been reflected in the test scores of minor-language countries.

    1. Jennifer

      Yes it’s very important to remember a lot of the “problems” in the US come from society, not the schools. There is only so much schools can make up for, especially in low-income areas.

    2. anyone

      The Archdruid’s had a couple good posts of late regarding the U.S. education system by way of addressing the overall downsides of centralization.

      The main question I always ask when the subject of teacher salaries comes up is: for what? More money for (granted) underpaid teachers to continue to blindly perpetuate the current status quo curriculum? That strikes me as a band aid to start. I think the overall curriculum and whether or not it should be centralized/standardized in the first place should be the first issue on the table, and I’m not sure (actually, I’m sure that we’re not) that we’re even remotely ready to deal with any of those two issues just yet.

      In short, I’m not sure that any of the current measures of “educational effectiveness” produce any answers that aren’t largely predetermined and politically loaded, and thus, for the most part, totally worthless.

  11. financial matters

    The Pettis primer on imbalances Macrobusiness

    Great interview with Michael Pettis. I think these are a few of the key points..

    ‘ but as often happens when you have tremendous capital inflows and extremely low interest rates, the investment becomes increasingly misallocated’


    ‘The problem is that investment levels have been so high for so long that China began misallocating investment.’

    A lot of the world’s problems seem to be that it is too easy to spend money foolishly. ;) We saw money going into building way too many houses at the over $400,000 level. This was good employment for construction workers etc and it made homeowners feel richer but it was not sustainable similar to much ‘investment’ going on in China. We could have spent that money on improving our infrastructure such as roads and bridges, making education less costly and giving incentives to be involved in productive spheres such as engineering rather than unproductive financial careers, improving access to basic medical care to increase the health of our workers, building factories to put more Americans to work etc etc…

    And importantly he mentions wage levels in China which need to increase to foster more domestic consumption. This will hurt their exports and drive up prices at Walmart somewhat but will put more Americans to work as Chinese exports become less competitive. So this helps both Chinese and US workers but hurts the large Chinese export magnates and the US financial magnates. We need to refocus our money on productive investments rather than financialization.

    1. Susan the other

      “Productive” is such an oxymoron. It is thus the most misused term. There is nothing productive about productivity. The solution is to create a world where there are lots of low productivity jobs with very high social value.

      1. financial matters

        Productive in the sense of industry rather than finance. Marx thought the battle would be between industry and labor with finance coming around to support the demands of industry. Instead finance won out with the FIRE sector and co-opted industry. As a result we have CEOs who are more interested in mergers and acquisitions using borrowed money and using their profits to service this debt rather than having CEOs who are interested in investing in producing goods and using their profits to reward workers. That is why we have had stagnant real wages since the early 70s and income inequality has grown so much.

        As Michael Hudson put it so well in ‘The Bubble and Beyond’

        ‘By rejecting the classical distinction between productive and unproductive labor and credit, today’s national income accounts classify rentier gains as “earning’ on a par with wages and profits, adding to the national product rather than simply being transfer payments. This approach treats all wealth as being earned as part of the production process, not extracted from the economy in the form of a free lunch (“economic rent”) by rentiers.”

        “Contrary to textbook free-market theory, interest rates are not based on the expenses of creditors or linked to the production of real output. Interest is a transfer payment, much like a tax. It is predatory rather than productive, adding to price without reflecting intrinsic cost-value. It is a form of economic rent.”

        It would be better if lenders took more of an equity interest in industry. Then their goals would be more compatible with each other. It is difficult for ‘productive’ activity and ‘real’ profits to keep up with the relentless demands of steadily compounding interest rates on debt.

        1. Susan the other

          Right. We should have the language police. I know that sounds draconian. But consider that finance has now created, by subterfuge, its own definitions. And their words do not have any root words or meanings founded in reality. Grief.

      2. anyone

        Capitalist Econ 101: Anytime any variation of the word “productive” appears, always reflexively ask, “for whom?” Productivity invariably equates to profitability.

        1. Lidia

          The word “productive” is even more meaningless at its fundament, since nothing, ultimately is ever produced, especially at a net level, but rather a combination of appropriated and materially transformed with an energy expense to boot!

          Sometimes I think I’ll go mad if I hear about oil “production” one more time. My teeth are worn down from the gritting of them.

          I was listening to a podcast with some Marxist economist, and I just couldn’t force my mind to follow the discussion. It’s not only capitalists who are willfully ignorant of where wealth comes from; the Marxists are clueless, as well!

          1. anyone

            Even so, one devil at a time, eh Lidia? I don’t see too many Marxists imposing their will these days. Something tells me that a century down the road all this capitalist/socialist horseshit is gonna seem pretty comical, assuming humans are still around discussing such trivial shit in the first place.

          2. different clue

            They spent decades trying. And they ended up losing popular support in most of the countries they took over. That’s why Marxococcal Leningitis has such a small following nowadays.

          3. jrs

            marxists don’t have much power these days, but if the opposition is as out of touch with environmental constraints as the dominant system, it ensures disaster, even if by some miracle, come a revolution, it would fail.

    2. anyone

      A lot of the world’s problems seem to be that it is too easy to spend money foolishly. ;) We saw money going into building way too many houses at the over $400,000 level. This was good employment for construction workers etc and it made homeowners feel richer but it was not sustainable similar to much ‘investment’ going on in China. We could have spent that money on improving our infrastructure such as roads and bridges, making education less costly and giving incentives to be involved in productive spheres such as engineering rather than unproductive financial careers, improving access to basic medical care to increase the health of our workers, building factories to put more Americans to work etc etc…

      Granted, but equally important, and almost universally forgotten these days, is that those misallocated resources still must be accounted for and dealt with. And not just from an accounting and finance standpoint either. Those were REAL resources that were spent foolishly and now must be dealt with in their current wasted form; some, perhaps most, totally unrecyclable for current generations.

      The more you look at global capitalism (even without considering its ugly late casino aspects), the more you have to wonder what in the fuck it’s supporters were thinking.

  12. Eureka Springs in Tulum

    Anyone know the antidote critter species? I’m almost certain we saw an adult deep in mayan country coastal mangroves a couple days ago.

      1. Eureka Springs in Tulum

        Thanks! Coati (red) is definately what crossed our path. We had a good laugh debating whether we saw a member of a racoon or aardvark familia.

      1. docG

        I was referring to the chubby little cubs in Yves’ antidote, not human babies. Human babies don’t have a clue as to who or what they are, all they wanna do is wail their little hearts out and suck.

  13. Doug Terpstra

    NYT:”Very Junior Senator”, Ted Cruz, blocks Hagel. “Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, offered a biting label for the Texan’s accusatory crusade: McCarthyism.”

    No, Barbie, that’s the wrong ism. It starts with a ‘Z’. From the esteemed Senator Ted Cruz, who recently returned from a junket to Israel, where he met with Netanyahu:

    “I will point out that right now this committee knows absolutely nothing about the personal compensation Chuck Hagel received in 2008 and 2009 or 2010 . . . We do not know, for example, if he received compensation for giving paid speeches at extreme or radical groups. . . It may be that he spoke at radical or extreme groups or anti-Israel groups and accepted financial compensation. We don’t know.”

    No, but we can certainly insinuate.

    1. Georgann

      I”ve been a critic of Israeli control in the US for a long long time. And I must admit the atmosphere for criticism has changed dramatically.

      It used to be that any insinuation that Jews and evangelicals controlled policy was met with censure – and erasure.

      The change, however is indicative of the same sickness, however. It wasn’t until Jews themselves questioned Israeli policy that criticism was “allowed”… before that, owing to the muscle of that 2% — no measure of their influence was tolerated. Web mods were threatened… and as I’ve seen even on this web site.. Jewish posters threaten the owner.. by saying they “allowed” this to be a forum for speech unacceptable to their delicate sensibilities.

      Same sickness… different application.

      I am always struck by how Americans are fearful of this contingent. Their ability to wreak destruction on any who speak ill of them or theirs is truly shocking. I come from a part of the country where the ‘influence’ is not so pronounced.. but even here in the West – they wield a club to reputations – should anyone ‘step out of line’.

      See, for me, that’s reason to question everything else about this muscular minority. They make people hate them.

      If I were Mr. Hagel, I would certainly be a card carrying anti semite – if only because of the destruction of his reputation for wanting a fair shake for Israel’s sad inmates.

      Why don’t Jews get it? The smallest perceived slight means careers end, businesses closed… an Aspen restaurant who ‘allowed’ [read didn’t fact check] a private party by holocaust deniers put them out of business. The local bank was forced to reconsider their line of credit. The owners of the building were muscled not to renew the lease.

      How does one survive such tyranny without becoming a card carrying neo nazi?

      It is group think and muscle…it is a group characteristic. Anybody think the Irish could effect such outcomes? Croatians? Chinese?

      This subject is ripe for discussion… but I fear all it will do around here [or any other weak kneed independent web address] will cause the same over reaction as what happened to the hapless Aspen restaurant.

      1. Massinissa

        Somehow the idea of Croatians shutting down businesses for being anti-croatian sounds absolutely hilarious.

        And of course thoroughly impossible.

      2. anyone

        Historical victimization as a means of future success. AKA, the poor me/us mentality. For me, having already inflicted Judaism and Christianity on us already, I wonder how they could even possibly fuck us in every available orifice even more? And yet…

    2. different clue

      The method Cruz uses is strictly McCarthyism. So whatever Cruz’s motive, there is nothing wrong with accurately using the correct word McCarthyism to describe Cruz’s McCarthyist methods.

  14. PQS

    Well, well, well. Walmart’s employment policies are finally coming home to roost: union busting, low wages, no benefits, dependence on government programs for their employees, and massive imports of cheap stuff from China have apparently now ensured that Walmart’s own employees cannot even afford to shop at Walmart. I’d say it is a ripple effect from their business practices – they are the world’s largest employer with over 1M workers. I’m kind of surprised it took this long for their punitive policies and maurading brand of capitalism to start to affect their own bottom line.

    Clearly the answer is to cut Social Security and Medicare and make sure the Waltons have even more money to boss us all around with.

  15. rich

    More on wealth transfer, the Social Security shortfall, and rule by billionaires

    The kick-off for the interview is this set of posts:

    ■ Our growing income inequality causes 43% of the projected Social Security shortfall

    ■ America faces more than a dozen deadlines, all caused by billionaires and wealth transfer

    America doesn’t have a Social Security problem, or a climate problem, or an energy problem, or an infrastructure problem. America has a “billionaire problem.”

    1. Paul Tioxon

      David Harvey was saying we don’t need a war on poverty, we need a war on wealth.

      “Harvey suggests any anti-capitalist movement must a) incorporate an “anti-wealth” politics within anti-poverty organizations; b) come to terms with and reverse the “clear and immanent dangers of out-of-control environmental degradations”; and c) challenge and abolish the “socially constructed” law of endless capital accumulation, reproduction, and growth (127-128). He then cites several resistance movements, perhaps most notably the recent Occupy Wall Street uprising, all of which hope to prove that the “collective power of bodies in public space is still the most effective instrument of opposition when all other means of access are blocked” (161-162). That is, “it is bodies on the streets and in the squares, not the babble of sentiments on Twitter or Facebook, that really matter” (162).”

    1. AbyNormal

      im half way thru and had to race back to Thank You
      woe to me to think i might’ve missed this treasure

      H/T to YOU!

    2. AbyNormal

      the article comments are helpful

      “My preliminary judgement is that the decision by the captain to go south was not inherently reckless, but was near the outside of of the envelope of prudence.”

      1. Skippy

        As a bit of a sailor, I found the hole “the hull is fooked” disconcerting.

        Skippy… in my youth I was going to crew on a old BIG schooner for a around the world trip (paying customers the majority). I was advised by an old salt to ask for the maintenance records before climbing aboard.

        Long story short, I never saw the damn thing as the skipper/owner always seemed to be occupied by other pressing matters. It sailed with out me and some where of the coast of Mexico lost its entire Keel….

  16. Lambert Strether

    On the Walmart downturn:

    Gee, it’s almost like taxes are used to regulate the economy, isn’t it? The POTB want another recession because confidence, and by gawd they will have it.

    1. Emperor Wang of Market Mongo

      Ming The Merciless believed in Mongo Monetary Theory (MMT).

      He taxed the poor and let the rich buy food and energy futures on margin with with low interest rates. He claimed he controlled inflation AND stimulated the economy that way.

      It was quite easy to hire my Liberation Army. Haha.

      Now, under my rule, everyone is paid in photon credits, redeemable only in products and services available at the Fiat Online Catalog of Mongopoly, Inc. Or they may step outside and take payment in state owned sunshine. Ha.

      1. anyone

        And so the old saw about the sun shining on even a dog’s ass from time to time (for free) has been repealed. Love it! Let no dog’s ass see the sun without paying tribute from here on out! And thus it was proclaimed.

    2. grass mud horse covering the middle

      What happens when conventional loony austerian economic ideology and Wal_Mart’s bottom line come into clear and irrefutably undeniable conflict? Not that that didn’t happen some time ago. Exploding brains?

    3. cwaltz

      I wonder how long it will take the Walmart heirs to realize that hoarding money is not helpful to the economy and that by raising wages for minimum wage employees their customers would have more discretionary income to buy stuff with?

      1. different clue

        WalMart heirs are prepared to lose half of what they have if they can make the rest of us lose two halves of what we have. They are primarily motivated by sadism rather than greed.

  17. diane

    It is all gut wrenching, ..when the majority of us are against it …… yet it continues as the same old, same old path …

    1. anyone

      Same old equation. In order for the majority of us us to get our way, a substantial minority of us must be first willing to pay the price. Thus it was written, thus it is, and ever will be. Nothing worth attaining ever comes free. And sometimes it never comes anyway, regardless of price. But in the effort, you find yourself (if you’re lucky). Hard lesson, that last. And thus, reserved only for the privileged few.

  18. anyone

    RE: Russia’s purported “incivility on the roads,” perhaps we in the US could do with a little bit more “spontaneous incivility” in the name of increased civility as well. Let me raise my hand as the first volunteer. Nothing increases civility like it’s total absence, applied in moderation of course.

    1. different clue

      But are the uncivil Russian drives uncivil to their social class betters . . . obviously government or mafya or biznismeni? Or quite carefully only to eachother? And if so, how do the benefit eachother by driving uncivily against eachother?

      Incivility should be social-class-targeted, I should think.

Comments are closed.