Links 5/8/13

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Supernova! See Nasa for pix and description (psychohistorian)

Cold War hope for bats under attack BBC

4th Grade Science Quiz Snopes (John L). Only in America.

IBM Wearable Computer Commercial From 2000 DaringFireball. Lambert flags what may be a coinage: “glasshole”

Man Trusts GPS More Than Own Eyesight And Drives Down Some Stairs Jalopnik (YY)

Researchers Find Process to Turn Natural Gas into Energy 70 Times Faster OilPrice

Chinese trade stats goosed by hot money MacroBusiness

Once upon a time in the East Gary Greenberg, Investments & Pensions Europe. On China.

China, yuan to really do this? Kate Mackenzie, FT Alphaville

Pentagon Steps Up Cyber Espionage Accusations Against China AFP

Really? One Basis Point? Tim Duy

The German model is not for export Martin Wolf, Financial Times

German Euro-Skeptic Party Gaining Ground Der Spiegel

The Only Occupied European Country to Save Its Jews from the Nazis Recognizes Palestine EdwardTeller, Firedoglake (Carol B)

See for Yourself: Syrian Government Likely Did Not Use Chemical Weapons George Washington

Sinister or silly, protest politicians are united in grievance John Kay, Financial Times

House Moves To Gut Derivatives Regulations Again DSWright, Firedoglake (Carol B)

Dimon Looks to Keep Reins Wall Street Journal. A marvelous bit of soft commentary via the photo chosen.

Small Firm Could Turn the Vote on Dimon New York Times

Citi Didn’t Stress Too Much About That Whole Lehman Bankruptcy Thing Matt Levine

Leaner Airlines Mean Fewer Routes and Higher Fares Wall Street Journal. Um, “leaner”? How about “more oligopolistic”?

Federal judge questions constitutionality of Colorado foreclosure law Denver Post

Housing Market: Where are the ‘Missing Households’? Global Economic Intersection

New York State Investigating Pension-Advance Firms New York Times. Go Lawsky!

Hydrofracking foes opposing gas-storage plans in NY’s Finger Lakes Syracuse (bob)

The Cost of (Equity) Capital James Kwak

The link between interest rates and financial instability is asymmetric information Carolyn Sissoko (Richard Smith)


The Economics of Over-Ripe Capitalism Counterpunch. Important.

What Does It Take for Traumatized Kids to Thrive? Pacific Standard (Chuck L). Today’s must read.

Antidote du jour:


And a bonus (Richard Smith)

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  1. AbyNormal

    man drives down stairs using GPS…and we wonder why the financial industry won’t get a collective rise out of us…we’re doomed.

    “You see the mistakes of one system—the surveillance—and the mistakes of the other—the inequality—but there’s nothing you could have done in the one and nothing you can do now about the other. She laughs wryly. “And the clearer you see that, the worse you feel.”
    Anna Funder, Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall

    1. Lidia

      My fave was the German folks who drove straight into a river, not having seen what one would think to be obvious indications that the route involved a ferry.

  2. AbyNormal

    re gas storage in NY: “Some in the community supported the project in recent letters to the ***Department of Environmental Conservation***.

    Chris Franzese, owner of the Villager Motel in Watkins Glen, said it would create jobs, generate tax revenues and strengthen the local economy. Jamie Wade, owner of a local fuel company, said it would create a reliable, affordable source of propane in Schuyler County, where more than 20 percent of residents rely on propane for heating and cooking.
    i backed into a site this morning that im still learning to navigate…maybe some of you will have better luck at breaking down the mula

    LETS GET REAL…here’s a slide from the New York Department of Environmental Conversation

    NY, your cooked

  3. Inverness

    What is going on at school in Washington state is remarkable. The principal, teachers, and staff at this school are succeeding because they didn’t just go along with all the cookie-cutter programs you see across the country, such as mind-numbing test-prep and increased suspensions. They actually studied their student population, which includes many traumatized kids, and personalize the treatment of them. What should be an obvious solution isn’t these days. I had to laugh when other schools requested training from the principal. Can’t you get to know your students and staff in a holistic, organic way? Does everything require a pre-packaged manual/opportunity to charge consulting fees?

    Case in point: “WHEN I ASKED THE staff at Lincoln about the secret of their success, I was frequently met with the warning “There is no list,” and the frustratingly vague phrase “It’s about a paradigm shift.”

    1. Brindle

      Re: “What Does It Take For Traumatized Kids….”

      When a child who has experienced trauma at home (also includes witnessing) finds him/herself the next day in school it can have a surreal quality to it, a kind of fuzzy disconnected reality where you’re relieved that you will not experience the trauma there—in the school, but at the same time the child feels a distance from the other students and teachers as no one knows of the “episode” he has just witnessed/experienced.

      The Lincoln school sounds like a step in the right direction.

      —“It’s a cliché, but students at Lincoln seemed to know they weren’t alone, if only because trauma, stress, and household dysfunction were so out in the open as matters of discussion and concern. When I interviewed several students in the cafeteria, they spoke openly about their troubled home lives while classmates sat within earshot munching on their lunches (which have been improved since Sporleder became principal).”—

  4. Jim Haygood

    Wounded dinosaur Microsoft struggles to fix its latest colossal screw-up:

    Just six months after the official release [of Windows 8], Microsoft – which relies on Windows licences for about half its profits – is getting ready to make compromises to key aspects of the software.

    The biggest expectation is that the update to Windows 8, codenamed Blue and due within a few weeks, will revive the start button that had been familiar to users for 17 years but which was removed from the new version.

    If correct, it will be a U-turn as momentous in its way as Coca-Cola’s abandonment of “New Coke” in 1985 just three months after its launch following consumer protests.

    Tami Reller [head of Microsoft’s Windows division] announced that Microsoft has now sold 100m Windows 8 licences in the six months since it was launched, matching the previous figure for Windows 7 at the same time in 2010. Though she didn’t explain it, business customers are buying Windows 8 licences but actually install the older Windows 7 – with its familiar start button.

    Turns out that on computers with keyboards — ubiquitous in offices — a touch-tile interface is about as useful as a convertible top on a hearse.

    Coca Cola never repeated its ‘new Coke’ mistake. But Microsoft subjects its captive customers (so it imagines) to such abuse again and again.

    The Guardian article includes a quote from Bill Gates, spewing marketing baloney and not even acknowledging a problem, much less apologizing for it. He never got it, and never will.

    1. Ned Ludd

      Windows PCs have shrunk for the past four quarters, declining sharply year-on-year by 11.4% between January-March to about 74m.

      When I started using MS-DOS back in the 1980’s, the primary people buying computers that ran Microsoft’s operating system were office workers. In the 1990’s, there was a big burst of home users buying computers for calendars, schoolwork, email, games, music, and web surfing. Those home users no longer need desktop computers (now that they have smartphones and tablets and Blu-Ray players with on-line video built-in); and the education market has always been a stronghold for Apple.

      Microsoft is becoming (is already?) a niche player in the software industry.

      1. Ned Ludd

        I meant to add this quote after my last sentence.

        Meawhile the traditional PC business is merging rapidly with that of tablets and smartphones – in which Microsoft is barely visible. IDC said that while PC sales were plunging, tablet sales in the first quarter of 2013 hit 49.2m, overtaking desktop-based PCs. Smartphones passed that mark long ago, having outsold PCs since the end of 2010, and in developing countries they are becoming many peoples’ first computing device. But Microsoft’s Windows Phone has less than 5% share worldwide, compared with 70% for Google’s Android and 20% for Apple’s iPhone. Microsoft only has about 1% of the tablet market, according to IDC.

    2. BondsOfSteel

      A lot of people haven’t upgraded either their OS or hardware in some time. (OS upgrades and hardware upgrades are tightly coupled these days.)

      What’s interesting is all the Windows XP users:

      These people will probably have to upgrade by 4/8/14 when Microsoft will cut all support for XP. (No more security updates!) Will they update to Win8, iOS, or some Linux (Chrome OS?) version?

      My guess is that most of these machines are corporate, and upgrades will be driven by hardware updates as well.

      If that’s the case, don’t count Microsoft out: Enterprise is Microsoft’s bread and butter. iOS and Linux are making progress, but Win8 will be the path of least resistance in terms of compatibility, support, security, and time/cost.

      P.S. This has got to be good news for Intel and PC makers as well. The hardware update cycle has been slow because of the marginal improvements of newer hardware/OS. Lack of security updates will be a forcing function.

    3. bobw

      I am using Linux – Ubuntu 10.04, which is no longer supported as of this month. That is what was on my laptop from FreeGeek when I got it 3 yrs ago. Ubuntu seems to have gone touch screen/tablet mad now too. Thinking of Debian or maybe Mint as next OS. Mint for easy, Debian for more challenging. FOSS = free open-source software.

  5. Skeptic

    Man Trusts GPS More Than Own Eyesight And Drives Down Some Stairs

    There is a larger problem here and that is that Governments/ Institutions/Humans trust computers/technology more than ever.

    One example: I challenged my Property Tax. In my jurisdiction, you are not allowed to see the actual calculations the computer system performs when determining your property’s value. The excuse is that this is proprietary information. So, the computer’s calculations are accepted as being accurate without even examining what they actually are. I call this Black Box Taxation or Taxation Without Calculation. (Imagine going to a Stupormarket, loading up the cart, and then just being given an unitemized bill on checking out. Maybe coming soon!)

    I also observed a legal case involving GPS evidence and the Defence was not able to question that evidence as the Judge accepted it as being true. I researched this and found that more and more Judges accept computer evidence as being true. If you question it, you are ridiculed or considered weird.

    Much of our current Financial Debacle can be attributed to an unabiding faith in computers and technology. For instance, computers allowed the traditional mortgage process of a local bank vetting the borrower to be broken. Whirling trillions of derivatives are another example, only possible because of computers.Oh yes, and how much of the accounting is computerized, computers checking computers? NC might want to look more deeply into this subject.

    In the long run, it may be proven that the benefits of computers will be severely outweighed by their liabilities. So far, we certainly seem unable to control them.Some futuristic gurus believe that when computers finally achieve Artificial Intelligence, they will take over and either enslave or eliminate us. Are you slave or master to your latest computerized gadget?

    1. Jim Haygood

      ‘In my jurisdiction, you are not allowed to see the actual calculations the computer system performs when determining your property’s value.’

      Sounds like the system is licensed from a vendor who forbids releasing proprietary code. Otherwise the details could be FOIA’d.

      After all, for city and county workers to succeed in programming a complex valuation model is about as likely as the Nigerians putting a man on the moon.

      1. b2020

        ‘In my jurisdiction, you are not allowed to see the actual calculations the computer system performs when determining your property’s value.’

        If you think this type of incident is merely misplaced “faith” or some other form of incompetence dodge, I think you are missing the point. I see this as the mirror image of the issue of the “right to personal computation”.

        Specifically, consider an (actual) incident where a bank refuses to serve a new customer, stating not “This is because of section XX.X of our policy, which you can see here” but stating “our computer says it would be against policy, but we cannot say which part, and cannot show you the policy”.

        What you have here is software-as-policy. A commercial, closed-source, 3rd Party product replaces a written, legally relevant document, and serves to prevent any and all review short of a court suit filed leading to successful discovery permitting expert review of algorithms likely subject to trade secrets, Non-Disclosure Agreements, and, most importantly, frequent change. Accountability is outsourced, responsibility is cloaked by cost trade-offs of quality control and bug maintenance.

        There is an astonishing blindness with respect to the implications of “The Cloud”, or even the use of “free” services like Google or Facebook. We are living in the founding period of the Opt-In Pervasive Surveillance State. The inability to process and store information in the relative privacy of your own hardware is eagerly sacrificed.

        Its complement, software-as-policy (or its possible judiciary equivalent, algorithm-as-law) in the context of “discrimination by policy” is already happening in the ultimate ratio context of “executive” killing. Whether or not the Obama administration actually *has* a policy or “framework” for its drone “culling” campaign, the “signature” strikes are largely and increasingly relying on computer processing of drone-collected signal “intelligence”. At the end of a chain of software filters, results are presented to “operators” that practically implement a Chinese Room. The selection and placement on kill lists becomes automatic (but not automated) as man-in-the-loop is not the same as brain-in-the-loop, and as targets are “serviced” the machinery is not only unaccountable, even its stately-secret “owners” cannot determine reliably whether its “output” is to policy “spec”, or faulty by accident, subversion, or design.

        In a more subtle way, the “intelligence” failures preceding 9/11 demonstrate that no accountability (let alone constructive change) can be expected if software-gated filtering of information – combined with indiscriminate automatic collection of all available data, asymptotically one-hundred percent irrelevant – fails to facilitate, let alone trigger effective response. Instead of fixing broken strategy, policy, or process, the organizational response begins and ends with “bug” fixing and outsourcing contracts for even more dysfunctional software implementing the same spec, tackling the same ill-posed problem description.

        In a more general sense, you can consider sentencing guidelines and other legislative interventions in the independent judiciary another example of the engineering of a “Chinese Room” process in which the citizen and individual – intentionally emphasized by the Founders, to the point of e.g. jury nullification – are replaced by algorithms and rules. A good case could be made that the use of expert systems in legal affairs would be more “fair” (e.g. affordable), but the example of tax law and co-evolving tax DIY software shows that the effect is only more automation and less transparency and accountability. Worse, law and tax code demonstrate that there is another feedback loop of automation being required by mind-numbing complexity, allowing for that dysfunctional complexity to be increased even further. The system cannot be reformed, only patched.

        The case can be made that this combination of incomprehensible complexity and opaque automation is incompatible with accountability, open society, and democratic institutions. Trust, consent and participation are impossible if data, models, or software implementation is either “secret”, or inaccessible to the point where even an oligarchy of qualified experts can acquire only partial understanding, with unacceptable delay and at prohibitive cost. Bureaucracy would have collapsed under its own weight without IBM.

        The occasional GPS “diversions” are a metaphor. Maybe the answer to Fermi’s Question can be found in the implications of Moore’s Law for unsustainable bureaucracy? In that case, if the dysfunctional output of our auto-pilot civilization does not correct itself in hot air and acid waters first, the end of Moore’s Law and increasing (power) cost of computation will bring this period of “growth” to an end.

        1. b2020

          Legislation – its design, negotiation, review and implementation – is equally affected, adding opportunities for corruption by interests too-big-too-be-democratic.

        2. ambrit

          re: “Bureaucracy would have collapsed under its own weight without IBM.” The ur example of that phenomenon is the Reichs “Final Solution,” which was facilitated by IBMs European subsidiary before and during WW2, with the connivance of the New York headquarters.
          This phenomenon is fertile ground for Arendts “Banality of Evil.”

      2. Thisson

        These types of agreements not to disclose proprietary information don’t hold up in court when a judge wants the information. A & B agreeing not to disclose X does not prevent A from disclosing and/or testifying concerning X when the judge requires it.

    2. Watt4Bob

      You’re right of course.

      We’ve put all our eggs in one basket, and we’ve not only forgotten the warning to watch the basket, we expect the manufacturer’s warranty to cover any potential losses.

      And that’s the ‘honest’ side of the coin, now let’s consider the MERS system for instance…

  6. hondje

    Over 100 people marched on my local police dept to protest their uselessness and corruption. This is what passes for coverage of the event in the local rag.

  7. fresno dan

    “The Economics of Over-Ripe Capitalism Counterpunch. Important.”

    If I’ve said it once, I have said it a thousand times: yammering about making bigger pies doesn’t help most people if a few people are eating all the extra pie…

  8. b2020

    “Lambert flags what may be a coinage: ‘glasshole’

    Lambert needs to goog out more?

    I got this:

    which has some good links:

    If this type of device ever catches on, I predict “Don’t be such a glass” for all kinds of zoned-out behavior, glass-wiped or not.

    1. craazyman

      Back in the 70s there were glasses that let you see through clothes.

      you’d see them advertised in the classifieds in the back of magazines. you’d see a line drawing of an attractive woman in loose dress, just so you wouldn’t have to think what they were for.

      They were $7.99 a pair or something like that. You’d send the check to a PO Box in a mid-western state and then you’d wait for the mail.

      I never bought any, mostly because I was young and embarrased at the very idea. I also thought they’d never work, but it piqued my curiosity, just what you’d see if you looked. Was it a scientific marvel revealed only to those bold and imaginative enough to send in the check? That occured to me. That the joke wasn’t on the buyer, but on the timid and the cynics.

      If somebody bought a pair, they’d be the original glasshole. Nevertheless, that wouldn’t stop me now. I still wouldn’t buy them, but I’d sure as borrow a pair to see how they did it.

      1. AbyNormal

        really? for that scientific observation…where would you look First??
        foot-stompin tears craazy

  9. petridish

    RE: Traumatized Kids

    Interesting that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is involved in a project that is discovering an “enthusiasm for brain-based approaches to education.” Whew, who could have seen that one coming? I thought the benevolent apostles Gates were all about establishing as dogma that all educational ills would be cured by pulverizing the evil Teacher’s Union, burning Randi Weingarten at the stake and providing school “choice” for private profit.

    It seems to me that this article is as much about inspiring teachers and administrators as it is about brain science. It is a PUBLIC school principal who was inspired by an idea and ran with it. The Gates’ and their ilk have been vilifying and blaming teachers for so long I wonder if they’ll pull the funding once they realize that these results may not fit the preferred narrative. Maybe that trauma thing affects both sides of the educational equation.

    1. Inverness

      Petridish, nice observation. The principal is doing good work because his approach is holistic, not corporate (buying pricey equipment, test-prep books brought to you by Pearson, etc). Teachers and administrators (those who make it out of their offices) know students, and the community-specific needs they have. In New York City, similarly traumatized kids have been suspended and arrested in record numbers, brought to you by Mayor Bloomberg.

  10. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Supernova explosion – Nature’s answer to mass or wealth concentration.


    Spread it around a little.

    When you let it go like that, you shine bright – in fact, the brightest for a brief moment in the entire universe…maybe they can also see it in other universes…

      1. psychohistorian

        We, as in the matter that makes us up, has that supernova moment to look forward to……….assuming we don’t find a safe way off this rock to take “our matter” somewhere else before our solar system goes supernova.

        1. Roland

          Our type of star doesn’t go supernova. Our star will go “red giant,” then dwindle to a white dwarf.

          If the same be true of our society, then we can expect a flare of globalist imperialism, followed by centuries of whimpering Byzantine-style decline.

  11. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    The link between interest rates and financial instability.

    Low rates are like low friction.

    In a ZIRP or a frictionless world, you see

    1) good things like the perpetual motion machine


    2) bad things like, ‘how do I stop my car from smashing into the garage wall?’

  12. russell1200

    Per the Danes being the only country to rescue its Jews.

    Some Rumanians, at least, tried to get away to Palestine, but the British refused to let them enter and a Soviet sub sank the Motor Schooner Struma after she was set adrift in the Black Sea with the loss of almost 800 people on board.

    Although the passengers funded the voyage, the Romanian government gave the voyage approval to depart.

    1. john c. halasz

      Bulgaria was not an occupied country, but rather an active Axis ally. However, they adamantly refused to turn over any of their Jewish citizens to the Nazis. On the other hand, they actively assisted the Germans in liquidating the Jews of Thessaloniki, then likely a majority Jewish city, motivated out of old nationalist claims on the city against the Greeks.

  13. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Speaking of coinages, a Zen koan is now a new word (not necessarily its answer, as koans have no answers).

    Koan: How does one throw Windows out of the window?

    New word: fenestradefenestration.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        That’s a good one.

        I will need to meditate on it every time it happens…and it happens often, offering many opportunities to achieve enlightenment.

        Thank you, Windows.

  14. Massinissa

    I really love this quote from that FT article, Sinister or Silly…

    “Contrary to many expectations, the most traditionally international of political groupings – the left – derived no benefit from the crisis. Socialist movements, which had waited a century for capitalism to collapse from its own global contradictions, were so horrified by the prospect that this might occur on their watch that their only thought was to avert it by shovelling public money at the capitalists.”

    I have never heard Francois Hollandes policies described so brilliantly.

  15. AbyNormal

    Lunchtime Lovelies – Taste like Chicken but…
    pg.7 Average total arsenic in uncooked chicken products
    (Perdue’s boneless breast 21.2, Golden n Plump 20.2)
    pg.13 Using the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s online “Green Book,” we identified 93 FDA-approved arsenic products for broiler chickens—94 percent containing roxarsone (Appendix A).35
    Five products contain arsanilic acid and one, nitarsone.
    One company, Alpharma, accounts for over half of
    these roxarsone products, while just six companies are
    responsible for a combined 93 percent (Table 5)

  16. JustAnObserver

    Over-Ripe Capitalism: Seems to resonate with the FTAlphaville’s End-of-Scarcity series from last year.

    1. Christapo

      Seems like a good argument for people to not bother saving any money… and to tax capital like crazy since it’s basically pure rent extraction at this point.

  17. bulfinch

    As a formerly traumatized kid, I’m a little freaked out by the findings in that ACE study. I just thought everyone had black moods.

    In as much as I can be objective, the one thing I find that’s consistently different from myself and friends who had more wholesome suburban upbringings is that I’m (apparently) extremely sensitive to the feelings/wellbeing of other people/creatures. I qualify that with the word apparently, becuase I feel just averagely sensitive, and see others as strangely detached. I wonder if this has anything to with my rough upbringing?

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