Links 6/17/13

Morris the cat runs for mayor of Mexican city AP (Vallisa)

Readers of literary fiction are more creative and exercise better judgment, claim scientists Daily Mail

Defending the One Percent Greg Mankiw. Put down your coffee.

*Confessions of a Sociopath* Marginal Revolution

Chilean nanny claims Upper East Side socialites kept her as a slave NY Post

Mexico’s Spoiled Rich Kids Online WSJ

The importance of redistribution ataxingmatter

A quick note on “helicopter drops” Interfluidity

Big Brother Is Watching Watch

3 NSA veterans speak out on whistle-blower: We told you so USA Today

The Snowden Principle John Cusack, HuffPo

GCHQ intercepted foreign politicians’ communications at G20 summits Guardian. I’m sure G8 is pleased to know this.

Here’s (Possibly) the Whole Truth About How PRISM Works The Atlantic. This is the current version of the official story. So far, Team Obama has managed their surveillance scandal far better than Bush did.

US spy agencies say they checked under 300 phone accounts in 2012 FT

Obama does not feel Americans’ privacy violated: chief of staff Reuters. But secret law? Jake with the angels!

The Big Money Atrios. Secret laws, huge budget, no oversight, body shops galore. What could go wrong?

Investigate Booz Allen Hamilton, not Edward Snowden Guardian

Private Spy Agency Booz Allen Hurting Following Snowden Leaks Gawker

Coups, Corporations, and Classified Information NBER (MS). Oldie but goodie. Note front running possibilities.

How the NSA Kept Us From Knowing About a Previous, Illegal Domestic Spy Program in 2006 Green Is The New Red

China army newspaper hits out at PRISM The Age

U.S. Operating Massive Online Spying Program The Onion

Bid to relaunch synthetic CDO unravels FT. Good Lord, why?!

What the bond market is telling the Fed Gavyn Davies, FT

Lenders seek court actions against homeowners years after foreclosure WaPo

In Countrywide Case, Watchdogs Without Any Bark Gretchen Morgenson, Times

Philadelphia Closes 23 Schools, Lays Off Thousands, Builds Huge Prison Gawker. 

How The American University was Killed, in Five Easy Steps The Homeless Adjunct (Avedon)

Forget MOOCs–Let’s Use MOOA Minding the Campus. Gut the overpaid, parasitic, and corrupt administrative layer (Exhibit A: Cooper Union) and return the universities to teaching and research.

U.S. shale is a boon to manufacturers but not their workers Reuters

How Much Stress Can We Take? Massochio (CB)

Obama Military Sexual Assault Comments Were ‘Unlawful Command Influence,’ Judge Says HuffPo (CB)

Wanted: Health-Care Legal Experts Online WSJ. Jobs! For lawyers!

Choice of Health Plans to Vary Sharply From State to State Times

Modern Monetary Theory vs. The Austrian School (video). Commentary.

How Napoleon’s semaphore telegraph changed the world BBC


Opt out of PRISM, the NSA’s global data surveillance program (also; and also; hmm). Geeks, thoughts?

Happy Bloomsday!: Hear James Joyce read from his Modernist classic ‘Ulysses’ Dangerous Minds

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. nobody

    Maybe MOOA doesn’t go far enough. Instead, let’s use MOOAA: Massive Opt-Out of All Administration. Just get rid of it altogether.

  2. Juneau

    Re: Sociopath Next Door

    I will digress to DSM of all things-it was much easier to understand sociopaths under the old DSM nomenclature-they were sorted into socialized non-violent (white collar criminals), or socialized violent (Tony Soprano et al), and poorly socialized non-violent (probably hackers of some variety) and violent (Unibomber).

    The current classifications make it harder to see that there are many types of sociopaths. I think that’s why it’s so confusing sometimes to classify them as a group. The common thread is that they care not a whit for you and will hurt you and sleep well at night if it suits them to do so.
    They are all dangerous and one needs to protect oneself and family from them.

    1. AbyNormal

      just the persona i hoped would chime in.
      few weeks ago i read PT and walked away still confused(probably a good think’).

      Juneau, do sociopaths know they’re sociopaths?

      from PT: The sense of entitlement that comes with sociopathy is astonishing to those who abide by the social laws and conventions of our culture. Where does the entitlement come from? *It stems from an underlying sense of rage.* Sociopaths feel deeply angry and resentful underneath their often-charming exterior, and this rage fuels their sense that they have the right to act out in whichever way they happen to choose at the time. Everything is up for grabs with sociopaths and nothing is off limits.

      but then it flips and says this: In the media, I’m often asked what causes sociopathy. “Are they born this way?” is one of the most frequently asked questions. The truth is that we don’t know. Stout (2005) sums up the research well, explaining that as much as 50% percent of the cause of sociopathy can be attributed to heritability, while the remaining percentage is a confusing and not-yet-understood mixture of environmental factors. (Notably, a history of childhood abuse among sociopaths is not always present.) Similarly, Ferguson (2010) conducted a meta-analysis and found that 56% of the variance in Antisocial Personality Disorder, the formal disorder of sociopathy, can be explained through genetic influences.

      i found this comment to Tylers piece to be pivotal:
      Sociopaths will thrive in environments where there is no consequences.

    2. from Mexico

      “Socialized non-violent (white collar criminals)”

      That’s a pretty accurate description of about 90% of our political class.

        1. AbyNormal

          i just can’t handle anymore abnormals today ‘ ))

          “Interestingly, it’s not just childhood abuse and abandonment that sets neurotypicals off but (wait for it) — power and the sense of moral superiority, inter alia, to which it leads.”

          “Hypothesis: neurotypicals are currently in power as a mob/group. They are easily corrupted by that power in ways that make them behave more like sociopaths, but unlike sociopaths they unquestioningly assume that they are always acting for the good of humanity because they are “good people,” whereas sociopaths can never do “good” because they are “bad people”.”

          1. from Mexico

            Here’s something that wunsacon linked to yesterday that seems appropriate:

            One might think that a period which, in a space of fifty years, uproots, enslaves, or kills seventy million human beings should be condemned out of hand. But its culpability must still be understood… In more ingenuous times, when the tyrant razed cities for his own greater glory, when the slave chained to the conqueror’s chariot was dragged through the rejoicing streets, when enemies were thrown to the wild beasts in front of the assembled people, the mind did not reel before such unabashed crimes, and the judgment remained unclouded. But slave camps under the flag of freedom, massacres justified by philanthropy or by a taste for the superhuman, in one sense cripple judgment. On the day when crime dons the apparel of innocence — through a curious transposition peculiar to our times — it is innocence that is called upon to justify itself.

            –ALBERT CAMUS, The Rebel


          2. AbyNormal

            appropriate indeed! i remember it b/c *the tell* shot my eye out…

            *it is innocence that is called upon to justify itself.*

          3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            That would similar to ‘the virtuous are often called upon to busy themselves with good deeds.’

            What can they do but accept gladly?

  3. Jim Haygood

    From a WaPo article about the developing national facial recognition network:

    On a recent patrol, when a scruffy-looking man he did not recognize walked up to one of the motels, Pinellas County Deputy Jeremy Dressback stopped him on suspicion of trespassing and asked for identification. The man did not have a driver’s license but gave his name — James A. Shepherd, age 33, from Kentucky — and said he was staying at the motel with his girlfriend.

    Dressback pulled out a digital camera, asked permission to take a picture and then snapped a shot. When the image did not match anyone in the facial-recognition system, Dressback downloaded the picture to his laptop computer and attached it to a field report on Shepherd as a “suspicious person.”

    Shepherd, who said he was a roofer returning from work, grumbled at the intrusion, even though he had agreed to have his picture taken. “I’m not a criminal, so there’s really no reason for me to be in a criminal database,” Shepherd said before adding, “But I have been arrested quite a few times.”

    When his girlfriend walked by moments later — they were indeed staying at the motel — Shepherd directed her toward their room. “Get out of here,” he said. “You’ll be in his database in 10 seconds.”

    Lesson: dress for success. And smile — you’re on StasiVision!

  4. David Lentini

    Why Mankiw?

    What’s the point of passing links to the neo-classical propaganda and laissez faire Lysenkoism like Mankiw’s article? He clearly is either a moron or a liar, depending on his sincerity. Adding links to his self-serving, ignorant, specious, and sophomoric arguments is just a waste of time.

    What we really need is a concerted effort to rebut this crap and broadcast the rebuttals.

    1. harry

      So we know to slap the bitch if you meet him in public.

      If someone was putting out racist views you would have no problem in outing them would you?

      1. David Lentini

        My point is that readers of this ‘blog already know Mankiw is a prick or seriously warped; so reading more of his tripe isn’t helpful. Instead, I’d like to see the ‘blog provide more criticisms that we can share. A major factor in our current sorry-ass state of economic thought is the lack of serious rebuttal to the dog shit published by the MSM every day.

        1. Susan the other

          Nobody likes Mankiw. But more so now. His convolutions on the weirdness of productivity actually (however) make an excellent argument for serious downsizing the TBTFs; a tripling of the minimum wage; promoting Transition Towns, and rejecting all global-corporate trade pacts. Maybe there is hope for him. As far as careful what you wish for – it appears we are already paying a stealth marginal tax in favor of China, Africa, India, Isn’t that where all our money is going?

      2. from Mexico

        harry says:

        If someone was putting out racist views you would have no problem in outing them would you?

        Well I certainly don’t, and that’s why I call out Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens every time I get a chance.

        1. spooz

          “I’m no longer desirous of defending myself, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, or other public atheists against the charge of “Islamophobia.” It’s been widespread on the Internet these past two weeks, but I’ve ignored it. In the end, I’ve concluded that those charges come from borderline racists themselves: people who think that bad ideas, threats of violence, or religious oppression should be ignored, but only when they come from people with brown or yellow skin. Jesus in the cartoon above [link] has it right”

          1. from Mexico

            For those who worship at the altar of ignorance, racism, and dizzying narcissism, all dressed up in scientific drag, there can be no better pantheon than Dawkins, Harris, and Hutchins.

          2. Synopticist

            from Mexico…
            I’m not a big fan of the New Atheist ranters, they seem a perfect example of the fundamentalist mind-set they claim to be opposed to.
            But having said that, I know there aren’t many jihadi takafiri types in Mexico. If there were, I suggest you’d be a little less comfortable about their attitudes.

          3. spooz

            So, Mexico, you decided to leave out Dennett this time? Is he okay in your book now because he hasn’t been as vocal as the other three? Does this mean you’ll no longer be using the “four horsemen” epithet?

          4. from Mexico

            @ Synopticist

            When did I ever say Islamic fundamentalism is not dangerous? The answer of course is never, because I have never said any such thing. Quite the contrary, I have always held that it is extremely dangerous, which the article from The Independent from yesterday’s links makes clarion.

            However, I consider all fundamentalism to be dangerous, whether Islamic, Jewish, Christian, or the kind of stealth fundamentalism practiced by Hitchens, Dawkins, and Harris.

            If one listens to these guys and their acolytes speak or debate, it is a veritable showcase of errors and manipulaiton of rhetoric and logical thinking. They use every rhetorical and logical trick in the book.

            One such trick, which I know from experience the hurtfullness of, because it robs one of all individuality and individual self-worth, is what is called the spotlight: assuming an observation from a small sample size applies to an entire group. Glenn Greenwald, for instance, cites the following quote from Sam Harris:

            “The only future devout Muslims can envisage — as Muslims — is one in which all infidels have been converted to Islam, politically subjugated, or killed.”

            But, as Greenwald goes on to point out:

            [T]hese claims from Harris about how Muslims think are simply factually false. An AFP report on a massive 2008 Gallup survey of the Muslim world simply destroyed most of Harris’ ugly generalizations about the beliefs of Muslims:

            “A huge survey of the world’s Muslims released Tuesday challenges Western notions that equate Islam with radicalism and violence. . . . It shows that the overwhelming majority of Muslims condemned the attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001 and other subsequent terrorist attacks, the authors of the study said in Washington. . . .

            “About 93 percent of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims are moderates and only seven percent are politically radical, according to the poll, based on more than 50,000 interviews.


            Adam Curtis, in The Power of Nightmares, came to the same conclusion: the Muslim street resoundingly rejected Islamic extremism.

            And then there’s the poignant interview that Bill Moyers did with Greg Mortenson, who has spent years building girls schools in Afghanistan:


            What Mortenson makes clear is that the biggest victims of Islamic extremism are Muslims, since they are the ones closest to it and live face-to-face with it everyday.

          5. spooz

            Mexico, why Dawkins gets dragged in everytime you criticize Harris and Hitchens? Makes me think your real target is the theory of evolution.

          6. from Mexico

            spooz says:

            Mexico, why Dawkins gets dragged in everytime you criticize Harris and Hitchens? Makes me think your real target is the theory of evolution.

            Oh I think Dawkins did a pretty good job of dragging himself into the fray, as becomes quite clear in Nathan Lean’s Salon article:

            Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens: New Atheists flirt with Islamophobia: Twitter rant by Richard Dawkins re-exposes a disturbing Islamophobic streak among the New Atheists


            Dawkins, true to the passive-aggressive behavior which is a hallmark of New Atheist argumentation, loves to woller in an orgy of victimhood, as if he did absolutely nothing to provoke the firestorm of criticism his bomb throwing provokes.

            And as to the charge of believing in creationism, that’s another automatic no-thought reaction rolled out ad nauseam by the New Atheist faithful. Anyone who doesn’t march in lock-step with their pseudoscience gets this treatment. And since Stephen Jay Gould does such a superb job of hitting that ball back to the “Darwinian fundamentalists,” I will defer to him:

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

            “Straight is the gate, and narrow is the way.” Fundamentalists of all stripes live by this venerable motto, and must therefore wield their unsleeping swords in constant mental fight against contrary opinions of apostates and opponents (who usually make up a sizable majority—for, as Jesus also noted, “Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction.)

        2. spooz

          WSJ: Ayaan Hirsi Ali: The Problem of Muslim Leadership;
          Another Islamist terror attack, another round of assurances that it had nothing to do with the religion of peace:

          “I do blame Muslim leaders. It is time they came up with more credible talking points. Their communities have a serious problem. Young people, some of whom are not born into the faith, are being fired up by preachers using basic Islamic scripture and mobilized to wage jihad by radical imams who represent themselves as legitimate Muslim clergymen.

          I wonder what would happen if Muslim leaders like Julie Siddiqi started a public and persistent campaign to discredit these Islamist advocates of mayhem and murder. Not just uttering the usual laments after another horrifying attack, but making a constant, high-profile effort to show the world that the preachers of hate are illegitimate. After the next zealot has killed the next victim of political Islam, claims about the “religion of peace” would ring truer.”

          1. harry

            I dont know much about Sam Harris. But I know Hitchen’s (RIP) to be a fraud – master of the bait and switch, and recently beloved for his low brow arguments in favour of bombing other people for their own good.

            I know Dawkins, and I like his writing on evolution and hate his anti-intellectual claptrap on religion. Another one who loves a straw man.

            I am pretty sure Mankiw doesnt know better. There is a breed of economists like him. They work hard. They like tautology but struggle to identify it. And they proselytize the one true Marshallian faith. I hope he loses all his money in a Nigerian con.

    2. YankeeFrank

      I read the first two pages. The number of blind assumptions, outright impossibilities and gross over-simplifications are truly awesome. Since this is what passes for “thought” at the highest levels of US economic erudition, its safe to say the field of economics, as currently constructed, is simply a fig-leaf (and a particularly dessicated one at that) for transfer of wealth to the 1%. Not that I’m saying anything new with that thought.

      I do marvel at the blandness of utopia as portrayed by the Mankiws of the world: imagine a world where all economic activity is of completely equal value. Not: imagine a world with peace, brotherly love, abundance, shared empathy and lack of fear. Its economic utopia that Mankiw “cogitates” upon. Somehow it never occurs to him that an economic utopia would, by definition, be a place where money had no meaning or value. Or put another way, an economic utopia is a contradiction in terms.

      Another thing I find particularly loathsome is the strict adherence to the “great-man” view of history and society. In Mankiw’s mind, the ipod is solely the product of Steve Jobs’ brilliant mind. All of the technicians, designers, manufacturers, salespersons, infrastructurists, etc., simply DO NOT EXIST. All the economic activity, and profit, that flows from the ipod is owed to Steve Jobs and no one else. Just like all the economic activity (for better or worse) that flows from our multinational behemoths are the sole result and reward of the CEO’s (and a little upper management). It never seems to occur to Mankiw that the guy at the top gets the most money because he is the one who decides how much everyone gets paid, not because he is of most value. Its fascinating how Apple is managing to continue innovating and breaking new technological ground long after Steve Jobs’ contributions totally ceased. The company should’ve collapsed by now.

      It must be sad to see the world in such a limited way. Nah, its just disgusting. Up against the wall.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      Know your enemy. Also for fun. And there’s at least one blog that “rebuts this crap” on a regular basis, I’m trying to remember the name. I know it’ll come it to me…

      1. Synopticist

        Great link, because it reminds us of how intellectually weak those tosspots really are. This guy is supposed to be one of the great minds of the US right, but he’s clearly writing complete drivel.

    4. Montanamaven

      I couldn’t make it past a couple of pages. Sophomoric indeed. This is what happens when you destroy people’s ability to think for themselves and put mediocre people in high positions as per the article on higher education i.e. ” a lot of sound signifying nothing.”

      1. Klassy!

        As for the openining paragraph– who the hell is making the argument for absolute equality?

        1. Massinissa

          The Stalinist straw men that the right wing brings out of the closet every so often clearly.

          Certainly noone in the US left for a good 30+ years. Not even the socialists (like me) or even many modern american communists call for ‘complete’ equality. Even Marx didnt really call for that.

        2. jrs

          Everyone things they know what absolute equality would be (something noone much argues for). Absolute inequality OTOH, what would it look like? Is the current system approaching absolute inequality?

          1. Klassy!

            Dear Mr. or Ms. 1 Percenter,
            I know you think I want complete equality, but this is not the case. I understand a physician should make more than a convenience store clerk. A physician has social utility. You, 1 percenter, probably don’t have more utility than a convenience store clerk. But that’s OK. You can still have some stuff. Maybe just less?
            I’m sure you believe my antipathy towards you is rooted in envy. Wrong again! It is precisely because I am content with what I have that I fail to see why you need to continue hoarding all that stuff.
            At this point we’re not even talking about inequality. We’re talking about some basic security.

    5. bob

      I couldn’t make it past the first line-

      “Imagine a society with perfect economic equality. Perhaps out of sheer coincidence….”

      Now it’s coincidence? I thought it was fact, a law of nature- equilibrium always comes out of “the market”, by definition.

      Trying to read a little further it’s just more navel gazing with the assumption that the navel in question represents the perfect god given specimen which came fourth out of the ether. Pure.

      1. sporble

        Mankiw, Bottom of page 8:
        “To the extent that our society deviates from the ideal of equality of opportunity, it is probably best to focus our attention on the left tail of the income distribution rather than on the right tail. Poverty entails a variety of socioeconomic maladies, and it is easy to believe that
        children raised in such circumstances do not receive the right investments in human capital. By contrast, the educational and career opportunities available to children of the top 1 percent are, I believe, not very different from those available to the middle class. My view here is shaped by personal experience. I was raised in a middle-class family; neither of my parents were college graduates. My own children are being raised by parents with both more money and more education. Yet I do not see my children as having significantly better opportunities than I had at their age.”

        And then I ran to the toilet.

        I suppose that was the reason for providing this link: it makes it all the easier to simply shit all over anyone who would listen to – or revere! – this twit.

        1. sporble

          Sorry, missed the following paragraph:
          “In the end, I am led to conclude that concern about income inequality, and especially growth in incomes of the top 1 percent, cannot be founded primarily on concern about inefficiency and inequality of opportunity. If the growing incomes of the rich are to be a focus of public policy, it must be because income inequality is a problem in and of itself.”

  5. David Lentini

    Much More to the History of the Death of the University

    The idea that the so-called “Powell Memo” is the root of all evil today seems to be catching on, which is a shame, becuase history didn’t begin in 1971; much of our current educational disaster has roots that go back more than a century. Powell and Right, while key players, were often just riding the cultural tide.

    The disintegration of the universities into MOOCs and intellectual whorehouses really began at the turn of the 20th Century when Charles Eliot, Harvard’s president, initiated the elective system and began dismantling the traditional mandatory curriculum. Eliot’s argument was that students should choose classes in a market-like atomosphere. Also during that time, the traditional colleges began to expand into the sort of applied research that had been the focus of the land-grant universities, thus further diluting the traditional education. Moreoveer, industry began to make inroads into university and colleges by funding such research. By the 1920s, the universities were becoming increasing Balkanized, with students choosing classes and majors more on the basis of getting high-paying jobs at graduation than developing a well-rounded education.

    A few stood up to warn about the implications of this trend. Roberty M. Hutchins, president of the Univerty of Chicago, repeatedly spoke of the dangers inherent in abandoning a fundamental curriculum in favor of electives and the rise of industry and government research funding. Hutchins warned that those who pay are those who ultimatly will dictate what the schools teach. And the elective system and emphasis on early undergraduate research will create graduates who will be unable to communicate with each other, creating a technocracy instead of strengthing our democracy.

    The rising inchoherence in undergraduate education came to a head in the ’60s and ’70s campus revolts, as noted by Alan Bloom. The demands of the students for more “freedom” and “modernized” education actually did severe damage to the intellectual rigor of the schools. The faculty lost control of the campuses and became still more depedent on the whims of the campus “marketplace”. The inane culture wars of the ’80s, especially the corrosive effects of post-modernism only further splintered the schools and faculties.

    Is it any wonder then that our campuses are for sale? Is anyone surprised that the neo-classical chickens these campuses created by pandering to the Right starting with the McCarthy witch hunts in the ’50s and the growth of business and law schools in the ’60s–’90s, have come home to roost? Now the schools that vomited up generations of neoclassical economists and neo-con political scientists, who understand no history, philosophy, mathematics, or science, who destroyed our democracy, our industry, and our military, must face their destruction at the hands of their very graudates.

    Yes, Powell and the Right have a lot to answer for in the destruction of American education. But we have to admit that much of what the Left takes for granted as good—the GI Bill, the “multiversity” of U.C. Berkeley’s president Clark Kerr, and the loss of intellectual standards under the banner of “academic freedom”—fertized the ground for this bitter harvest.

    1. from Mexico

      David Lentini said:

      …the corrosive effects of post-modernism only further splintered the schools and faculties.

      Why the hostility to post-modernism?

      When the old myths and superstitions (e.g., the self-interest axiom, classical economic theory, selfish gene theory, the greed-is-good theory, rational choice theory, the tabla rasa, positivism) depart so far from known reality, and lose their effectiveness as tools of social organization, why should they not be discarded?

      I was watching more of the Annenburg-Met series of films on The Western Tradition that someone here on NC linked a couple of weeks ago. #23 in the series is about the late middle ages. It deals with the demise of feudalism and Medieval Christianity during the 14th and 15th centuries, which set the stage for the Renaissance and then Modernism.

      I personally believe we’re in a period very much like the late middle ages, when the myths and superstitions of Christianity had departed so far from known reality that it was no longer possible for most people to continue believing in them. Layered on top of this were massive changes in the social and economic order. One is left wondering: Did science drag society and economics in its train? Or did society and economics drag science in its train?

      1. moosesnsquirrels

        Why the hostility to post-modernism?

        I think in American schools, postmoderism created a leftist anti-intellectualism that, in my view, has hobbled many literature programs. Just look at Alan Sokal’s famous hoax on the journal Social Text.

        1. Synopticist

          I think a lot of the attraction of post-modernism, back in the day, was predicated on the (false) assumption that Liberalism and intellectually rigorous objectivity would continue to be the main driver of contemporary thought.

          So it was OK to reject “classical” thinking to an extent, because it’s better parts would always remain. It’s exponents didn’t realise that the Greg Minkiws of the world would replace what they were attacking.

      2. spooz

        Okay, hold the phone. Selfish gene theory? Do you have any idea what that is? You left me hanging with your misquoted Stephen Jay Gould the other night, got me believing you were one of those “God In The Gaps” guys that Gould would be disavowing. So tell me, Mexico, do you believe in evolution or not?

        1. from Mexico

          @ spooz

          Do you know what selfish gene theory is?

          Richard Dawkins finds his historical parallel in Lord Barron, who serves to highlight the weakness, even fragility, of the scientific method. Because of Barron’s towering eminence in the sciences, coupled with his arrogant parochialism, rejecting all field data and bullying geologists with his theoretical calculations based totally on a naive model of simple heat conduction, he delayed for half a century acceptance of the most important unifying principle in geology and arguably of science in the 20th century: continental drift. (Naomi Oreskes, The Rejection of Continental Drift: Theory and Method in American Earth Science)

          The rather pathetic reality is that Dawkins, like Lord Barron, staked his career on an empirical claim that has proved to be false. But instead of admitting that, and moving on, he has instead dug in his heels and clings to his false claim as if it were a life raft in turbulent waters.

          Here is the false empirical claim, which Dawkins made in his 1982 book The Extended Phenotype:

          The intervening years since Darwin have seen an astonishing retreat from his individual-centered stand, a lapse into sloppily unconscious group-selectionism … We painfully struggled back, harassed by sniping from a Jesuitically sophisticated and dedicated neo-group-selectionist rearguard, until we finally regained Darwin’s ground, the position that I am characterizing by the label ‘the selfish organism…’

          –RICHARD DAWKINS, The Extended Phenotype

          Recent scientific findings, such as those V.S. Ramachandran and Paul Zak present here concerning the existence and distribution of empathy in the human population, have rendered Dawkins’ empirical claim untenable:

          So what does Dawkins do?

          Well, he no longer defends his earlier claim characterizing humans as “the selfish organism.” Instead, what he now asserts is that humans should behave as selfish organisms, because empathy and other-regarding behavior are no longer adaptive in present-day society.

          In the following presentation Dawkins gave to The Science Network in 2006, he condemns empathy as a “mistake,” a “bi-product” and a “misfiring,” since “under ancestral conditions it would have enhanced survival,” but in present-day society it no longer does. Furthermore, he offers no evidence or explanation as to why empathy is no longer adaptive. His version of the truth is merely presented as self-evident and beyond dispute.

          Dawkins’ presentation begins here at minute 46:20

          1. spooz

            In response to Nathan Lean’s criticism of Dawkins, Michael Luciano writes:

            “Where Lean goes wrong is his use of the phrase, “invectives against Muslims.” Anyone familiar with the writings of these men will know that their invectives are directed against Islam as a religion, and not Muslims themselves – save for those who have engaged in violent and destructive behavior, such as the 9/11 hijackers, an ayatollah who ordered a writer killed because he wrote a book disrespecting Islam, protesters who attacked embassies because somebody drew a cartoon mocking Muhammad, and other fanatics.”

            In the responses to your SJ Gould quote from his NY Books review of Dennett’s “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea”, Steven Pinker writes:

            “So where’s the controversy? Gould claims his targets invoke selection to explain everything. They don’t. Everyone agrees that aspects of the living world without adaptive complexity—numbers of species, nonfunctional features, trends in the fossil record—often need different kinds of explanations, from genetic drift to wayward asteroids. So yes, we all should be, and are, pluralists. But we should not be indiscriminate pluralists.”
            Read the rest of his rebuttal here:


          2. from Mexico

            spooz: Dawkins’s “invectives are directed against Islam as a religion, and not Muslims themselves…”

            This is another rhethorical/logical fallacy frequently used by the New Atheist true believers: the outright lie.

            RICHARD DAWKINS: “Maybe these odious religious thugs will get their come-uppance.”
            –from Nathan Lean’s Salon article

          3. spooz

            Regarding Dawkins claims about empathy (altruism in the lecture you linked to), it seems some disagreement stems from his review of E O Wilson’s “The Social Conquest of Earth”.

            Steven Pinker, in his essay “The False Allure of Group Selection” from last year, defends Dalkins side. It includes responses from the other 24 members of The Reality Club, including Dennett and Dawkins. Not a single mention of pseudoscience regarding Dawkins from that crowd.
            “I am often asked whether I agree with the new group selectionists, and the questioners are always surprised when I say I do not. After all, group selection sounds like a reasonable extension of evolutionary theory and a plausible explanation of the social nature of humans. Also, the group selectionists tend to declare victory, and write as if their theory has already superseded a narrow, reductionist dogma that selection acts only at the level of genes. In this essay, I’ll explain why I think that this reasonableness is an illusion. The more carefully you think about group selection, the less sense it makes, and the more poorly it fits the facts of human psychology and history.

            Group selection has become a scientific dust bunny, a hairy blob in which anything having to do with “groups” clings to anything having to do with “selection.” The problem with scientific dust bunnies is not just that they sow confusion; … the apparent plausibility of one restricted version of “group selection” often bleeds outwards to a motley collection of other, long-discredited versions. The problem is that it also obfuscates evolutionary theory by blurring genes, individuals, and groups as equivalent levels in a hierarchy of selectional units; … this is not how natural selection, analyzed as a mechanistic process, really works. Most importantly, it has placed blinkers on psychological understanding by seducing many people into simply equating morality and culture with group selection, oblivious to alternatives that are theoretically deeper and empirically more realistic.”


            I would appreciate some references from equally established members of the academic/scientific community for the “pseudoscience” label you pin on Dawkins. No selected quotes, please. I prefer to see context so I don’t have to research your editing.

          4. from Mexico

            @ spooz

            Nice try at changing the subject. If we take a look at the statements and arguments of the New Atheists faithful, what we get is a veritable showcase of every error and manipulation of rhetorical and logical thinking in existence. This is the only way the New Atheist true believer can defend his pseudoscience, because the evidence certainly doesn’t. You offer no exception to this rule. What you’ve trotted out now is called the ad hoc rescue: trying to save a cherished belief by repeatedly revising the argument to explain away problems.

            The issues are these: 1) Does empathy exist? And 2) Is empathy adaptive? In neither my comments nor Dawkins’s lecture was group selection ever mentioned.

            It is with the demonstration of the existence of empathy toward strangers that Dawkins’s pseudoscience has been utterly destroyed. Scientists have even been able to pinpoint the material/physical activity in the brain that causes empathy. It is no longer possible for Dawkins to deny its existence.

            There are other sentiments that seem to exist that also take a wrecking ball to Dawkins’s pseudoscience. As Joan B. Silk writes in “The Evolution of Cooperation in Primate Groups,”

            Strong reciprocity in humans seems rooted in a deep sense of fairness and concern for justice that is extended even toward strangers.

            However, the existence of the sentiments of fairness and justice toward strangers has not been demonstrated to the extent that the existence of empahty has. But the demonstration of the existence of empathy towards strangers was sufficient to bring down Dawkins’s pseudoscience.

            The reason what Dawkins practices is pseudoscience and not science is because there never was any evidence, if all the evidence was examined, that supported either the self-interest axiom or the greed-is-good doctrine. Neither of these were ever exercises in the use of the scientific method, but of theology and philosophy.

          5. from Mexico

            @ spooz

            As an aside, I might point out that you do your cause no favor by invoking Stephen Pinker, who long ago was exposed as yet one more political polemicist – just like Dawkins, Harris, Dennett and Hitchens — trying to float his purpose-driven political agenda under the guise of “science.”

            Pinker’s arguments, just like those of Dawkins, boil down to an abiding faith in genetic determinism. Pinker’s book, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature, as Newitz explains in “Right-wing Darwinism,” is “a kind of rejoinder to the work of pundits like the late Stephen Jay Gould, who argued that human beings are as much a product of their environments as they are of their genes.” And as Newitz goes on to conclude, in Pinker’s “portrait of human nature” in which “all of human nature is, in fact, biological,” there “was not room for social justice” nor for structural factors to play any role in determining or explaining social and economic realities. “There was only the status quo.”

            This abiding faith in genetic determinism is also what drives Dawkins’ selfish gene theory, which is merely the regurgitation for a popular audience of the average effects in population genetics theory refined decades earlier by theoretical biologists such as Seawall Wright, Ronald Fisher, and J.B.S Haldane. “Average effects become selfish genes and individuals became lumbering robots controlled by their genes.” (David Sloan Wilson, “Beyond Demonic Memes”).

            What is amazing is how successful Pinker and Dawkins have been in passing off their politics as “science” — the enormous success enjoyed by what Stephen Toulmin in Cosmopolis: The Hidden Agenda of Modernism called “cosmopolitcal arguments.” As Toulmin explains, all the way from Plato down to folks like Pinker and Dawkins:

            The function of cosmopolitical arguments is to show members of the lower orders that their dreams of democracy are against nature; or conversely to reassure the upper class that they are superior citizens by nature.

          6. from Mexico

            @ spooz

            And “The Reality Club”?

            Is that what the confederacy of paid liars and bumsuckers for the lords of capital calls itself these days?

            Really, spooz, you couldn’t make this shit up.

  6. ohmyheck

    For those of you who were called “racists” at DailyKos because you dared criticize the President, this is how far the place has sunk. From a Front Pager “shanikka”:

    Yet, she did get her comeuppance—

    Of course, she is still a Front Page contributor. I guess being disingenuous, uniformed and bullying is a great way to get your name on the marquee.

    1. Goin' South

      As one of the proud and banned, it’s been interesting to watch the level of the disinfo effort rise as the numbers of readers and participants drop at Kos’s fiefdom.

      I’d be surprised, ohmyheck, if you didn’t agree with me that your cited commenter, shannika, was not long ago one of the best and most interesting writers at DK. For a time, she stood against the Deo tyranny’s worst excesses, and that took a lot of courage. No one took more abuse from that group than African Americans who dared to criticize Obama and/or refused to join the Deo/OFA drive to shut up all critics with all kinds of misdirection and misinformation.

      As bad as that group is, and as much as they’ve tried to divide the Left along racial lines for the sake of protecting Obama, the bulk of the fault for that site’s failure still lies with Kos and his “team sport” concept of politics. The irony is that my chief criticism of the place for the past 10 years has been that it’s a for-profit dictatorship. It turns out that the shortsightedness of the dictator is now impacting the profits.

    2. Ned Ludd

      “I guess being disingenuous, uniformed and bullying is a great way to get your name on the marquee.”

      That’s been true a long time. One of the first people that Markos allowed to post on the front page was Dana Houle, originally known as DHinMI. This thread from the health care fight gives you an idea of how Houle bullied people. It starts when dclawyer06 remarks:

      Perhaps you should disclose your own..

      conflicts of interest Dana.

      How odd that a campaign manager for House democrats is constantly in diaries crapping on discussions designed to hold House democrats accountable.

      Do you feel a disclosure is appropriate?

      1. ohmyheck

        Ah yes, Ned, the famous “Houle Hoop”.

        Goin’South, Yes, I do agree with you on your perceptions, especially about the Deo Tyranny. I guess cognitive dissonance can go on for only so long, before it effects ones brain.

        Doubling down today: “As far as you telling me the order in which I can discuss things, you’re once again clearly displaying the white privilege that so many of you folks display each and every day when it comes to interacting with us Black folks who you think you’re better and smarter than.”
        And:”Now you’re putting words in my mouth and that’s some bullsh#t I simply won’t have from you or anyone else. Show me where I accused Snowden of “working for the Chinese”. Do it or shut the f#ck up. I’ll wait.”…”So once again, p#ss off.”…and more. On the Front Page.
        Wow, no Joan McCarter there…

  7. dearieme

    “one million American university professors are earning, on average, $20K a year gross, with no benefits or healthcare, no unemployment insurance when they are out of work. Keep in mind, too, that many of the more recent Ph.Ds have entered this field often with the burden of six figure student loan debt on their backs.”

    They are being mugs. A sense of entitlement won’t do them any good, they should go off and do something else instead. They probably shouldn’t have done PhDs in the first place.

    I don’t mean that I don’t feel sorry for them as individuals, because I certainly do; knowing that they are being wrongheaded doesn’t reduce my sympathy for them. The current incentives in universities, especially for the tenured and tenure-track staff who supervise the PhD students, are mad, and these poor sods are the victims.

    But a million victims can be wrong. That’s what the “$20K a year gross” is telling them, unambiguously.

  8. rich

    Rigged-Benchmark Probes Proliferate From Singapore to UK

    The probe of Libor manipulation is proving to be the tip of the iceberg as inquiries into assets from derivatives to foreign exchange show that if there’s a chance to rig benchmark rates in world markets, someone is usually willing to try. Singapore’s monetary authority last week censured 20 banks for attempting to fix interest rate levels in the island state and ordered them to set aside as much as $9.6 billion. Britain’s markets regulator is looking into the $4.7 trillion-a-day currency market after Bloomberg News reported that traders have manipulated key rates for more than a decade, citing five dealers.

    Along with Libor, ISDAfix and energy market prices, Iosco flagged measures used in markets for overnight lending and repurchases, equities, bonds and alternative investments such as hedge funds.

    “It’s happened time and again: all of these markets have been influenced by major market-makers, which is a polite way of saying they’ve been rigged,” Charles Geisst, a finance professor at Manhattan College in Riverdale, New York, said in a telephone interview.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Luckily, it’s legal to rig the core inflation index…and unemployment numbers.

      It’s not the end of the world for them.


    1. Doug Terpstra

      Snowden is devastating the NSA/USA in real time — increasingly impressive every time he surfaces. The promise of more electrifying disclosures to come must have the criminal cabal seriously off balance and in desperate need of clean briefs. Greenwald and Snowden’s progressive revelation strategy is extremely well-played.

      Even despot Cheney emerged from his secure and undisclosed spider hole to preside in preemptive judgment, ominously implying in his trademark crooked leer that Snowden is a Chinese spy. (Be very afraid!) These psycho creeps are increasingly comical as they swallow their own panic-mongering propaganda.!

      1. from Mexico

        Notice that Fox News pulled the same trick that Time Magazine did with its lead-in quote.

        A post at Firedoglake explains why this is such a distortion and a half-truth:

        Then, there is this particular paragraph:

        Manning’s statement is a radical one, since it directly undermines the rule of law, something both men seemed to recognize. “When you are subverting the power of government, that’s a fundamentally dangerous thing to democracy,” Snowden said of his actions. And in official Washington, the broad consensus is that the impulse is dead wrong and likely to cause real harm. “What this young man has done, I can say with a fair amount of certainty, is going to cost someone their lives,” said Georgia Republican Saxby Chambliss, who is vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Neither the Obama White House nor the leaders of either party are much concerned about the legality or the effectiveness of the sweeping data-collection programs; both sides, however, seemed quite keen to track down Snowden and bring him to justice. The public, according to a new TIME poll, echoed that impulse, with 53% of Americans saying Snowden should be prosecuted, compared with just 28% who say he should be sent on his way.

        Anyone reading it would get the idea that Americans do not approve of these people, who think it is okay to defy the law. Manning believes it was acceptable to “undermine” the rule of law and even Snowden admits that what he did is dangerous to democracy. However, Scherer cherry-picked a quote and altered the meaning.

        Here is what Snowden said, when interviewed by The Guardian‘s Glenn Greenwald, who wrote stories on his disclosures:

        The public is owed an explanation by the people who make these disclosures that are outside the democratic model. When you are subverting the power of government, that is a fundamentally dangerous thing to a democracy and, if you do that in secret consistently, as the government does when it wants to benefit from a secret action it took, it’ll kind of give its officials a mandate to go, hey, tell the press about this thing and that thing so the public is on our side. But, they rarely, if ever, do that when an abuse occurs. That falls to individual citizens, but they’re typically maligned. It becomes a thing of these citizens are against the country, but I’m not…

        Snowden was talking about officials who go to the press undermine democracy by not explaining their motivations for disclosing information on secret programs or policies that they know will be beneficial or make government look good. He recognized that this is an abuse of authority and did not want to do the same, which is why he came forward and explained his motives in an interview with Greenwald.

        1. Doug Terpstra

          Right, snipping Snowden’s quote to turn it upside-down is brazenly dishonest, but Fox’s clumsy editing and obvious cutoff only highlight the incompetence of propaganda. It’s just too obvious that Snowden was referring to the primary criminals, Obama and co-conspirators.

          Also weird is pulling the dick, Cheney, out of his hidey-hole to pronounce his premature verdict and defend Obama. Could any self-respecting person ever trust anything that man says about anything at all . . . really? And wouldn’t his endorsement cause the Obamabots excruciating, terminal dissonance? Sigh, I suppose it’s good enough for the Fox audience, but the post-democracy caliber of propaganda has just grown so insultingly inept.

      2. Massinissa

        Next thing you know, when people get bored of the ‘Hes a Chinese Spy!’ schtick, Cheney&Friends will start saying Snowden is some kind of USSR sleeper agent that was in waiting for 20 years to destroy the USA after the USSR’s demise.

        Sounds retarded but its not much more retarded than anything Cheney/Feinstein/whoever else calling Snowden a traitor have said.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          There is a rumor going around that the Martians, the enforcers of the United Planets of the Solar System, are going to intervene in a certain country on planet Earth for spying on her citizens.

          The Martians have already declared a no-eavesdropping zone there.

  9. harry

    In reply to Greg Mankiw’s piece. I would just like to say that I have never read anything quite as persuasive. I now feel I can state with absolute certainty, that Mankiw is a total prick, and deserves to be randomly bitch slapped by anyone who meets him.

    I promise that if the opportunity arises I will give him a slap, just for being his odious self.

    1. Klassy!

      I read 11 pages before I bailed– “I’m not a philosopher, I’m an economist. Now, let me cherrypick studies that (not entirely convincingly) support my philosophy.”

      1. Susan the other

        Mmmm. Me too. I kept thinking how his glowing endorsement of mindless productivity as an ultimate good thing (because it implies that the producers are also mega-consumers) really puts producers in a tough spot. Those poor producers. Like International Harvester and Big Ag. Those guys are going to have to eat till they puke all day long and reinvest their profits in lots (like millions) of sewage treatment plants.

        1. AbyNormal

          !The capital amassed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries through various forms of slave economy is still in circulation, said De Jong, still bearing interest, increasing many times over and continually burgeoning anew.!

          (this is what pissants like mankiw are paid to coverup)

          1. harry

            I know this is a rather heavy presentation of his argument, but I imagine the argument being presented by an 18th century plantation owner to one of his brighter slaves.

            ” You see, I have a much higher marginal revenue product, which is why I am rich and you are not”. In this overwhelming competitive New World economy, economic rents are not significant, and there are no frictions or asymmetries of information. So through the wonders of Arrow-Debreu we can establish that our wages reflect our productive capacity. Django, you are shaking your head? What is it that you didnt understand?

    2. ChrisPacific

      The thing that strikes me the most about the Mankiw article is that while he’s perfectly capable of debunking the idea of a universal utility function if it serves his purpose (see the end of page 12) he nevertheless defends to the death the idea that the value an individual provides to society is exactly correlated with how much money they earn. (With certain rare exceptions, such as gains from HFT). This is the same chain of reasoning that leads to the idea that the poor are poor because they’re lazy, and if they don’t have enough money for food it’s because they don’t deserve to eat.

  10. from Mexico

    @ “Mexico’s Spoiled Rich Kids”

    I don’t really run in those circles, but I do know a number of people in it. And I believe the NY Times engages in some pretty serious stereotyping here.

    To begin with, impunity may be the word when it comes to the country’s criminal justice system, but that doesn’t hold true with the country’s underworld of criminality. The juniors are the #1 targets of kidnappers. No one is safe in Mexico, and the insecurity touches the lives of everyone, from rich to poor and everyone in between. No one is immune.

    Second, I think the article paints with too broad a brush. Even though some of these kids from rich families are pills, I have known a number of them are very decent human beings.

    El Niño Verde, as the article said, is the country’s #1 junior. He became famous in 2004 when a video was released of him offering a state official in Cancún a $2 million dollar bribe to make some zoning changes on a piece of property he had an interest in. Bribery in Mexico still comes in the form of suitcases full of cash, and not in the form of campaign contributions and the revolving door as it does in the Untited States.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Spoiled rich kids – they seem to be everywhere.

      I don’t imagine a country without them.

  11. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    The importance of redistribution.

    Where the Chi is blocked in your body, that’s where it hurts. Wealth is like Chi – it needs to circulate all the time.

    Redistribution – a temporary, transitional, measure to correct past wrongs. Wealth moves from the 0.01% to 99.99%

    When we reach a steady state, under GDP sharing, no one is taking anything from anyone. What you get is what your share is – you are not taking anything from anyone. There is no RE-distribution. It’s distributed once (every quarter, month or week)) fairly. There is no need for re-d.

    1. Massinissa

      Instead of Chi, wouldnt Blood be a better metaphor?

      Like a much much better metaphor?

      If wealth clots, the economy collapses like the human body in a stroke.

    2. Jimbo

      And wouldn’t “recirculation” be a better term, as well as more politically palatable?

      Redistribution implies a permanent societal structure change while recirculation describes the progressive taxation approach.

  12. AbyNormal

    Americans Sent Over a Hundred Million Father’s Day Messages, Says N.S.A.
    WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Americans sent over a hundred million Father’s Day messages on Sunday, the National Security Agency reported today.

    The hundred-million number, while robust, falls short of the hundred and twenty million Mother’s Day messages collected by the N.S.A. in May.

    The difference between the two figures is “not surprising,” said N.S.A. director General Keith B. Alexander. He added, “On the whole, mothers take Mother’s Day more seriously—if the e-mails we read by mothers whose children forgot are any indication.”

    General Alexander said that the agency collected in the neighborhood of two to three million such e-mails from angry mothers this year.

    The N.S.A. director added that the agency had not foiled any terror plots over the weekend but did uncover between thirty and forty thousand extramarital relationships.

    When sorrows come, they come not single spies, But in battalions.

    1. AbyNormal

      thanks Klassy…forgot this ruling was on the table.
      (ironic the article chose a testosterone gel as an example)

      1. Klassy!

        Don’t worry! It does not qualify as a “major SC decision” according to Jeffrey Toobin.

  13. Hugh

    I think Mankiw is on to something with his just deserts approach. My question though is do we have enough lamp posts to implement it?

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Everything aside, you want people to be happy and I am glad he’s moving on.

      I noticed he mentioned ‘gold-diggers.’

      I don’t know if people still use the term, but I would say he digs gold, as in, he likes gold.

      And that’s good, we should all dig gold…and demand Congress to release gold from Fort Knox.

        1. Massinissa

          I know right? I know a bunch of them at the local mine. They drink, and smell funny, but they work hard!

          1. Valissa

            I have to admit I surprised there weren’t more gold digger cartoons…

            Because he’s too old to be labeled a gigolo

            The truth is finally revealed

            How sweet it is

            Words from the wise

            Words from the wise-ass

          2. ambrit

            And, if they were Placer miners, it would give a whole new meaning to the phrase “want to get wet?”

  14. Hugh

    Re universities, higher education and education in general should be encouraged. They lead to the twin societal goods of personal fulfillment and an informed citizenry. The current structure driven by student debt and “economic” value is a complete perversion but typical of the kleptocracy we live in.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I would like see more non-traditional programs in our multi-versities:

      BS in Peace, for example.

      MS in Sharism.

      Ph.D. in Wisdom.

      Maybe a department of non-Ponzi Sciences or a school of Universal Love.

      1. bob

        Be careful what you wish for.

        BS in Reason, sponsored by reason. A double major or reach around?

  15. Susan the other

    Not on Links, but relevant. CNBC headline about John Paulson now betting on the housing industry. Gee thanks John. He has invested in several mortgage insurance companies AND one mortgage title insurer: Fidelity National Financial. Gee, what a surprise. You don’t suppose even the half-smart money was sidelined because titles were hopelessly trashed, the chain of interest was untraceable, and the notes were intentionally shredded in order to justify an occasional missing note because the ends justified the means. The ends being CDOs squared and all that money coming in to the servicers (aka the banks) for ever and ever. So cool. Problem solved. Except for approximately 12 million devastated former homeowners who never did anything wrong.

  16. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Readers of literary fiction…more creative.

    I believe writers are more creative than readers.

    If you spend all your time readying, you will never be creative.

    And I believe everyone is an artist.

    I don’t believe in demigod artists.

    I believe everyone can be great at writing, and thus everyone can be ‘more’ creative than everyone else.

    But maybe we don’t want everyone to be more creative than everyone else.

    Maybe we want everyone to know he/she/it is, or can be, creative, period.

    1. AbyNormal

      Imagination does not become great until human beings, given the courage and the strength, use it to create.

      Since it has been seen to be necessary to give so much to the child, let us give him a vision of the whole universe. The universe is an imposing reality and an answer to all questions. We shall walk together on this path of life, for all things are part of the universe and are connected with each other to form one whole unity. This idea helps the mind of the child to become fixed, to stop wandering in an aimless quest for knowledge. He is satisfied, having found the universal centre of himself with all things. Maria Montessori, To Educate the Human Potential,

    2. ambrit

      Dear MLTPB;
      “I believe writers are more creative than readers.”
      That is one masterful koan Master!

  17. AbyNormal

    McD’s worker sues: Don’t pay by debit card
    – Gunshannon, a single mother of one daughter, quit her job at McDonald’s and went to see an attorney, Mike Cefalo of West Pittston. A class-action lawsuit was filed Thursday in Luzerne County Court by Cefalo on behalf of Gunshannon and other employees, seeking damages, fees and costs.

    The suit seeks an unspecified amount of monetary damages and asks for punitive, compensatory and liquidated damages, plus legal fees and litigation costs against the company for its “ill-gotten gains contrary to justice, equity, good conscience and Pennsylvania law.”

    Gunshannon said she didn’t sign the card and chose to not enroll in the payroll system offered because she felt the fees would be exorbitant and actually drop her earnings below minimum wage.

    She was to be paid about $7.44 per hour – her paystub didn’t list her hourly rate. Minimum wage is $7.25.

    According to the complaint filed, the JP Morgan Chase payroll card lists several fees, including a $1.50 charge for ATM withdrawals, $5 for over-the-counter cash withdrawals, $1 per balance inquiry, 75 cents per online bill payment and $15 for lost/stolen card.

    Gunshannon said she had taken her concerns to the main office of the franchise holder – Albert and Carol Mueller, trading as McDonald’s, in Clarks Summit. She was told that the card was the only option, she said

    bloody psychopaths!

    1. bob

      Chase is the worst with respect to cashing checks. I had just moved and finally got my first paycheck, drawn from chase. I go down to a branch to cash it. The teller was visibly upset. Then, she would not accept a US PASSPORT as valid ID. Manager had to be consulted, and I am the jerk holding up the line.

      That was a while ago, I bet it’s much worse now.

  18. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    How much stress can we take?

    I don’t know, but I am doing some research on a related subject – I am trying to find out if there was a Goddess of Stress.

    1. ambrit

      Dear MLTPB;
      I believe that the late Dr. Asimov would nominate Hari Seldon for that role.

  19. p78

    Sharing a link found @the guardian:

    A transatlantic corporate bill of rights
    “Leaked draft versions of the EU negotiating mandate for a far-reaching free trade agreement with the US… reveal the European Commission’s plans to enshrine more powers for corporations in the deal. The proposal follows a persistent campaign by industry lobby groups and law firms to empower large companies to challenge regulations both at home and abroad if they affect their profits. As a result, EU member states could soon find domestic laws to protect the public interest challenged in secretive, offshore tribunals where national laws have no weight and politicians no powers to intervene.”

  20. spooz

    Two of my comments (links to a blog post from Jerry A. Coyne, Ph.D, Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago and a member of both the Committee on Genetics and the Committee on Evolutionary Biology, and the other an opinion post from the Wall Street Journal) were recently removed. The posts were made in response to a gratuitous remark against two scientists whom I respect highly, and to which I took offense. Please explain to me what I said that was wrong? Are there some guidelines I was unaware of? I hope that Nakedcaptitalism doesn’t feel that some opinions are inherently unacceptable.

      1. from Mexico

        @ spooz

        Is it possible for you to make an argument that is not dishonest?

        I challenge you to show me where I described Daniel Dennett as an “Islamophobe.”

        I called him a “Darwinian fundamentalist” and noted that Stephen Jay Gould called him “Dawkins’s lapdog,” but I don’t think I ever called him an Islamophobe, becasue that’s an issue that as far as I know Dennett has been silent on.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Still, the worry is that MMT arrvies before virtuous government.

      If fact, I sense a virtuous government would not need MMT – as a virtuous government would implement GDP sharing.

      1. Massinissa

        IMO, I think a virtuous government only exists in fairy tales.

        The only governments that do well by the people are governments that are scared shitless of rebellion and uprising if they fail. See: Roosevelt, Franklin Delano

      2. Calgacus

        Still, the worry is that MMT arrvies before virtuous government.

        If fact, I sense a virtuous government would not need MMT – as a virtuous government would implement GDP sharing.

        MMT has already arrived. We already have MMT. MMT is not ZIRP, printing money instead of bonds. We already basically have that too.

        The predators and most of the Republican party understands that we have an MMT system already.

        The crazy idea that we do not have an MMT system ALREADY is one of the biggest obstacles to rational economic discussion and policy.

  21. charles sereno

    This relates to “Confessions of a Sociopath” (the Link, sort of)
    Torture redux: Sensory deprivation, stress positions, waterboarding? Bah, humbug! Call a man cold who personally murders 20 fellow human beings, e.g., John Martorano, currently a witness at Whitey Bulger’s trial in Boston. What did it take to force such a person to confess to those heinous crimes? None of the aforementioned traditional techniques. However, when the authorities informed him that his boss (Whitey) was a stoolie, John crumbled and fessed up because, in his words, “it broke my heart.” Mind you, this cost him dear. For each of his murders, he spent 7 months of hard time behind bars. Here’s the lesson. Hard-hearted folks like Bradley Manning or convicted, 83 year old Sister Megan Rice, who committed “the biggest security breach in the history of the nation’s atomic [sic] complex” (NYT), while packing a flashlight, are not easily broken the old-fashioned way. Go for the heartstrings!

  22. down2long

    I have just spent the last half hour crawling through the comments, and I am ashamed to say I didn’t understand almost anything anyone said. The level of discourse is at an all time high. I am going to have to hit the books, not the least of them on the novo-atheists. (Okay I did understand the person who said Mankiw is lucky he doesn’t live next to the guy with the gun.)

    To bring things down into the sewer where I am more comfortable, I have it on good authority Mr. Mankiw is quite gay, and thus presents yet another obstacle to my group achieving equality in this country.

    1. AbyNormal

      D2L, there’s NO room for shame among friends ‘ ))

      It might, too, have been the singular cold that alienated me; for such chilliness was abnormal on so hot a day, and the abnormal always excites aversion, distrust, and fear.

  23. from Mexico

    spooz: Dawkins’s “invectives are directed against Islam as a religion, and not Muslims themselves…”

    This is another rhethorical/logical fallacy frequently used by the New Atheist true believers: the outright lie.

    RICHARD DAWKINS: “Maybe these odious religious thugs will get their come-uppance.”
    –from Nathan Lean’s Salon article

    1. spooz

      Regarding the Salon hit piece, a little background on that tweet, here is part of how Dawkins describes it:

      “When he got to the meeting he discovered that actually the seating in the auditorium was indeed segregated by sex. There was a men’s section, a women’s section, and a “couples” section. Did the “couples” have to produce a marriage certificate, one can’t help wondering? And, while wondering such things, what would have been the reaction of the audience if they had been segregated, as in apartheid South Africa, into a black section, a white section and a “coloureds” section?”

      The tweet, from which you edited, was referring to individuals, not MUSLIMS IN GENERAL. Selective editing is intellectual dishonesty, imo.

      “Sexual apartheid. Maybe these odious religious thugs will get their come-uppance”

      Here is the rest of Dawkins’ description of the events:

      Also, in all fairness, here is a hit piece on the author of the Salon article you rely so heavily on, from a Pakistani, ex-muslim atheist:

      1. from Mexico

        Once again, in true New Atheist form, you’ve trotted out the ad hoc rescue: trying to save a cherished belief by repeatedly revising the argument to explain away problems.

        The argument your fellow New Atheist true believer made, which you cited and I responded to, was this:

        “Where Lean goes wrong is his use of the phrase, “invectives against Muslims.” Anyone familiar with the writings of these men will know that their invectives are directed against Islam as a religion, and not Muslims themselves – save for those who have engaged in violent and destructive behavior, such as the 9/11 hijackers, an ayatollah who ordered a writer killed because he wrote a book disrespecting Islam, protesters who attacked embassies because somebody drew a cartoon mocking Muhammad, and other fanatics.”

        In response, I cited this quote from Nathan Lean’s Salon article:

        RICHARD DAWKINS: “Maybe these odious religious thugs will get their come-uppance.”

        Was Dawkins’s invective against Muslims triggered by “violent and destructive behavior”? Such as “the 9/ll hijackers”? Such as “an ayatollah who ordered a writer killed because he wrote a book disrespecting Islam”? Such as “protesters who attacked embassies because somebody drew a cartoon mocking Muhammed”?

        Well no, not at all. Dawkins’s invective against Muslims was triggered because a University College of London debate, hosted by an Islamic group, offered a separate seating option for men and women for conservative, practicing Muslims.

        And as Lean goes on to point out, “the fact that the Barclays Center in New York recently offered gender-separate seating options for Orthodox Jews during a recent concert by Israeli violinist Itzhak Perlman didn’t compute in Dawkins’ reasoning.” Dawkins was silent on that one, and we heard no hate-filled invective about how “Maybe these odious religious thugs will get their comeuppance.” The only difference between the University College and Barclays cases is that in the Barclays case Dawkins would have been singling out “Jewish thugs” instead of “Muslim thugs.”

        But hey, if you’re into willful ignorance, racism and over-the-top arrogance and narcissism, then by all means Dawkins is your man.

      2. spooz

        Once again, selective quoting. You quote the Salon article:
        RICHARD DAWKINS: “Maybe these odious religious thugs will get their come-uppance.”

        The actual tweet was:

        “Sexual apartheid. Maybe these odious religious thugs will get their come-uppance”

        He was standing up, along with Lawrence Krause, in protest of the sexual segregation that the Muslim organizers who

        “A debate at the University College in London between atheist academic Lawrence Krauss and Islamist extremist Hamza Andreas Tzortzis ended abruptly after the hosting organisation, the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA), enforced gender segregation amongst the audience. Krauss, stating that he had been promised no such segregation would take place, walked out (see video, above).

        The iERA is an extreme Islaimist organization, whose staff includes Islamist hate preachers such as Abdurraheem Green, Hamza Tzortzis (the opposing speaker at the debate) and Yusuf Chambers.

        Tzortzis has previously been associated with Hizb-ut-Tahrir, another extremist organisation that campaigns for a global Islamist caliphate and is viciously hateful of Jews. Tzortzis chaired the launch event of the iERA. He is on record condemning democratic principles and advocating for a Sharia state:”

        read more about the Muslims Dawkins was referring to here:

        He is also critical of the Jewish faith regarding sexual segregation, but that fact doesn’t suit the Salon writer’s agenda. Another Dawkins tweet:

        “Islam doesn’t have monopoly on sexual apartheid. El Al sometimes connives at orthodox Jews’ seat segregation efforts”

        1. from Mexico

          So what are you saying, spooz, that allowing women who want to sit in an area separate and away from men to have their wish is the equivalent of “violent and destructive behavior, such as the 9/11 hijackers, an ayatollah who ordered a writer killed because he wrote a book disrespecting Islam, protesters who attacked embassies because somebody drew a cartoon mocking Muhammad”?

          Again, this is the sort of false equivalences that the New Atheist true believers are notorious for.

        2. from Mexico

          And by the way, the debate described in your link is the only sort of debate — where New Atheist fundamentalism is pitted against religious fundamentalism — in which the New Atheists stand any chance whatsoever of holding their own.

          When the New Atheists are pitted against atheists from the scientific community, their biases, prejudices and disdain for fact and reason become immediately apparent.

          1. spooz

            Still waiting for examples of respected members of the scientific community who call Dawkins a pseudoscientist. Not going back into the weeds about the finer points evolutionary theory, no time for your games today.

            And The Reality Club, which Dawkins, Dennett and Pinkett are members of, was a group of mostly New York City-based intellectuals that met regularly from 1981 through 1996 for seminars on a variety of topics. In January 1997, it reorganized as a web-based publication maintained by the Edge Foundation. The site is an online magazine exploring scientific and intellectual ideas.
            On a related note,The Third Culture is the growing movement towards (re)integration of literary and scientific thinking and is a nod toward British scientist C. P. Snow’s concept of The Two Cultures of science and the humanities. John Brockman published a book of the same name whose themes are continued at the Edge website. Here, scientists and others are invited to contribute their thoughts in a manner readily accessible to non-specialist readers. In doing so, leading thinkers are able to communicate directly with each other and the public without the intervention of middlemen such as journalists and journal editors. (Wikipedia)

            So, no its not a “confederacy of paid liars and bumsuckers, but I’m sure you can dig up some dirt on them if you try hard enough. You’ll see a contribution from “pseudoscientist” (your words) Dawkins on the main page:


      3. spooz

        Protest for discrimination doesn’t have to be for extreme forms of it, though in this case the organizers of the event are advocates of sharia law. And three men were forced to move from their seats in the women’s section, which would qualify as gender apartheid. Do you feel that there should be no protest from anybody about sharia law or just the atheists?

        Here is an eye witness account:

        “1) The organisers clearly and repeatedly violated UCL’s Equality and Diversity policy. Not only did they enforce gender segregation, but five security guards of the organiser intimidated and attempted to physically remove audience members who refused to comply, falsely claiming that these attendees had been disruptive. Both male and female audience members felt intimidated by the actions of the organiser’s security guards.

        Only after Professor Krauss threatened trice to leave the debate if the organisers should continue to enforce gender segregationthe organisers cleared one row of the women’s area and allowed the male attendees to sit there, thereby maintaining forced gender segregation. Notably, the women who were sitting in that row were not asked by the security guards whether they would feel comfortable with a man sitting next to them, or whether they would be willing to move. Forced gender segregation was thus maintained.

        2) Separate entrances were in place for women and men, although ‘couples’ were allowed to enter via the men’s door. Several members of the organiser’s security team directed people to stand in either the male or female queue based on their sex, both at the entrance to the building and the lecture theatre. Signs pointing to “men” and “women” areas were in place. There were no signs for a mixed seating area, and attendees were guided by the guards to either the “female” or “male” area. Only attendees who insisted not to be separated were guided towards a “mixed” area, which only comprised two rows.

        A woman who identified herself as a Chemistry teacher at UCL said the segregation had been agreed with UCL. She also stated, that “I’m actually booking this room on behalf of UCL Chemistry, I’m Dr Aisha Rahman”. Dr Rahman repeatedly refused two male attendees access to the “women’s” seating area. When asked if the event was segregated another security guard said: “It’s slightly segregated.”

        4) There were only two UCL security guards on site and they at first declined to help two audience members who were being denied access to the “women’s” seating area. They said that the only instructions they had received were to follow the instructions of the organisers. They specifically told the attendees who wanted to sit in the woman’s area to comply with the instructions of the organiser. Only after pointing the UCL security guards to that fact that they might be complicit in a breach of UCL’s Equality and Diversity policy, they reluctantly agreed to “look into the issue”.I cannot tell you how disappointed I and many other attendees are that UCL did not live up to its promise to make sure that its Equality and Diversity policy was enforced and that the event was inclusive for all attendees.

        Overall, the atmosphere of the event was intimidating for both male and female attendees. Attendees were shocked to see that although concerns about the plans to enforce gender segregation had been raised before with UCL, the organisers were able to violate UCL’s Equality and Diversity policy, discriminating attendees by their apparent gender and creating a threatening and divisive atmosphere that was not inclusive to all attendees.”

  24. ScottS

    Re: (also; and also; hmm). Geeks, thoughts?

    TAILS is awesome. It’s like a “burner” phone for your computer. It also has PGP built in.

    You get a semi-secure email host like rise-up, but if you don’t have PGP, why bother? Do you send your secret, naughty mail to a private post office box, but use a post card?

    I’ve always found it quite suspicious that Outlook, Gmail, et al. don’t have PGP turned on by default. It always seemed too paranoid that G-men were lurking behind potted plants in all the tech companies’ conference rooms and jumping out to wag their finger at every naïve intern who suggested adding and enabling PGP by default. But there are no technical reasons why it should be so difficult to add it and enable it.

    A shout-out for the StartPage search engine and their Ixquick proxy.

    TrueCrypt is a fairly good way to store your data securely, but be sure to read the caveats.

    And HTTPS Anywhere is a fantastic idea in general, and for using public Wi-Fi in particular. You should VPN to your home or office network (and route ALL your traffic over VPN) while on public Wi-Fi.

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