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Lessons from Empires Past

October 8, 2009

They did it to themselves

Archaeologists have determined that the collapse of the Mayan civilization came from their own poor land resource management. They over exploited the land that sustained them.

“The Maya are often depicted as people who lived in complete harmony with their environment,’ says PhD student Robert Griffin. “But like many other cultures before and after them, they ended up deforesting and destroying their landscape in efforts to eke out a living in hard times.”

A major drought occurred about the time the Maya began to disappear. And at the time of their collapse, the Maya had cut down most of the trees across large swaths of the land to clear fields for growing corn to feed their burgeoning population. They also cut trees for firewood and for making building materials.

No single factor brings a civilization to its knees, but the deforestation that helped bring on drought could easily have exacerbated other problems such as civil unrest, war, starvation and disease.

Many of these insights are a result of space-based imaging, notes Sever. “By interpreting infrared satellite data, we’ve located hundreds of old and abandoned cities not previously known to exist. The Maya used lime plaster as foundations to build their great cities filled with ornate temples, observatories, and pyramids. Over hundreds of years, the lime seeped into the soil. As a result, the vegetation around the ruins looks distinctive in infrared to this day.”

“Space technology is revolutionizing archeology,” he concludes. “We’re using it to learn about the plight of ancients in order to avoid a similar fate today.”

Some people look to the Mayan calendar below and believe the world will come to an end on December 21, 2012. I tend to think that this end of the world should be viewed in a mythological and poetic context instead of factual.

Apparently this Mayan Elder agrees.

Chile Pixtun, a Guatemalan, says the doomsday theories spring from Western, not Mayan ideas.

A significant time period for the Mayas does end on the date, and enthusiasts have found a series of astronomical alignments they say coincide in 2012, including one that happens roughly only once every 25,800 years.

But most archaeologists, astronomers and Maya say the only thing likely to hit Earth is a meteor shower of New Age philosophy, pop astronomy, Internet doomsday rumors and TV specials such as one on the History Channel which mixes “predictions” from Nostradamus and the Mayas and asks: “Is 2012 the year the cosmic clock finally winds down to zero days, zero hope?”

The lessons from the Mayans are less from their calendar and more from the evidence of their deeds. Their rulers were tyrannical and corrupt and their cities too overpopulated and greedy. They did not adapt to nature’s response to their exploitation. This is the lesson we of the twenty first century should heed or we are indeed doomed to repeat the mistake and suffer the same fate.

48 Comments leave one →
  1. Stemella permalink*
    October 8, 2009 6:48 am

    Heretofore undiscovered in Mayan mythology…

    Take note of the creature along the bottom border of the second image, second from the left.

    Tis a squid, preparing to wrap its blood funnel and tentacles around the mayan civilization! The nearby rabbit, parrot and dog are mere interlopers. ;)

    • cometman permalink*
      October 8, 2009 8:27 am

      Nice post! And where did you find that picture with the squid glyph on it? I did a quick search to see if I could find anything about squids depicted in Mayan art but I came up empty.

      Somehow along the way I did find this Squid Hunter game which really doesn’t have much to do with anything.

      • Stemella permalink*
        October 8, 2009 10:46 am

        I searched on Mayan art and the squidly one appeared on the page. It was luck.

        Nice sound effects on that game! Who knew that speared squid sounded like monkeys!?! :)

    • triv33 permalink
      October 8, 2009 3:40 pm

      Man, have you read any Chalmers Johnson? He did a thing on c-span a little while back and lately I’ve been thinking about it a lot. End of our empire, oh, how come we can’t see it?

      • cometman permalink*
        October 9, 2009 8:31 am

        We can’t see it because it ends not with a bang, but a whimper.

      • Stemella permalink*
        October 9, 2009 8:40 am

        Yes, I’ve read several of Johnson’s pieces posted on Tom’s Dispatch. Either c-man or I post those links here. He is excellent. Speaking of Tom, he has a really good article up at Common Dreams about our imperial misadventures in Af-Pak zone.

        War of the Worlds: London, 1898; Kabul, 2009

        There is a brutal discussion of Obama’s chosen one for the region, the “Procounsul”, Richard Holbrooke:

        Packer describes Holbrooke on a flying visit to Afghanistan this way: “He seemed less like a visiting emissary than like a proconsul inspecting a vast operation over which he commanded much of the authority.” When that same proconsul makes it out of impoverished, shattered Afghanistan (where the U.S. Embassy, at one point, had to deny he had engaged in a “shouting match” with Afghan President Hamid Karzai) and into Pakistan, a fractious, disturbed, unnerved country of genuine significance, he packs the proconsul away and, according to Packer, becomes Washington’s cajoler-in-chief. As Packer writes, “In moments when I overheard him talking to Pakistani leaders, he took the solicitous tone of someone reassuring an unstable friend. ‘It’s like dealing with psychologically abused children,’ a member of his staff said. ‘You don’t focus on the screaming and the violence — you just hug them tighter.'”

        So, if Afghan and Pakistani peasants in the mountainous tribal borderlands are so many ants or rabbits, Pakistani leaders are “children.” It matters little that Holbrooke has a reputation himself as an egotist and a screamer who demands his way. (Among diplomats back in the 1990s when he was negotiating in the former Yugoslavia, one joke went: What’s the most dangerous place in the Balkans? The answer: Between Dick Holbrooke and a camera.)

        • cometman permalink*
          October 9, 2009 12:10 pm

          That was a really good article and a great analogy he made with War of the Worlds. I hadn’t heard about the new generation of “Reaper” drones the US now has and the first thing that springs to mind is “What the fuck are the retards in the Pentagon thinking?!?!?!?!” You claim to want to “win hearts and minds” and you name these machines Predator and Reaper???? Do the people who come up with this stuff really think that no one in foreign countries can understand English???

          The hubris of the US will be its undoing. The Greeks knew this 2500 years ago and the US is ripe for a reminder.

  2. cometman permalink*
    October 8, 2009 8:33 am

    Speaking of bloodsuckers, Paul Craig Roberts evoked that metaphor with a Marx quote in this post reminding us that real wealth comes from labor and not from financial shenanigans.

    “Capital is dead labor, which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks.”

    –Karl Marx

    I really don’t know all that much about Roberts, but when a former Asst Sec of the Treasury under Reagan starts positively quoting Marx, maybe that is a sign that the current financial regime has gone just a little bit too far.

  3. cometman permalink*
    October 8, 2009 9:34 am

    Couple days ago I ran across a story about a fucked up cop getting himself some oral stimulation from veal. Eww. This Counterpunch post puts some perspective on that rather disturbing story by noting that the same judge who dismissed charges against Mr. Man-On-Calf (who is also facing human child molestation charges) had previously denied child visitation rights to a marijuana legalization activist because of his political beliefs.

    That is one screwed up moral code this judge has.

    • Stemella permalink*
      October 8, 2009 10:50 am


      WHOA! What the fuck is it with people from Jersey?!?!?!?!???????




      Santorum alert.

      • triv33 permalink
        October 8, 2009 3:43 pm

        I’m just planting this link wherever I think it’s appropriate.

  4. cometman permalink*
    October 8, 2009 10:19 am

    Good article here which touches on the function of deficits in an economy. Not sure I agree with all his premises, especially when he argues that government can and should print as much money as it needs to. I think he’s arguing that this would allow for wealth to be spread around more equitably, but unless there is a mechanism in place to prevent the few from capturing most of this wealth for themselves, I don’t see how it would work well for the average person. Because right now we are seeing exactly that- trillions of dollars being printed and the majority of it going to the banksters, who aren’t exactly lending it back out.

    This part at the end may be his mechanism for getting cash into the hands of the working class – a plan for full employment, which is something we are definitely not seeing right now.

    We would start by eliminating the notion that society requires a buffer stock of unemployed people to discipline wage demands and protect profits. Not only is this immoral and inhumane, but economically inefficient. We can have both full employment and price stability via a Government as Employer of Last Resort. This new class of government employees, which could be called supplementary, would function as an automatic stabilizer, the way unemployment currently does. A strong economy with rising labor costs would result in supplementary employees leaving their government jobs, as the private sector lures them with higher wages. (The government must allow this to happen, and not increases wages to compete.) The reduction of government expenditures is a contractionary fiscal bias. If the economy slows, and workers are laid off from the private sector, they will immediately assume supplementary government employment. The resulting increase in government expenditures is an expansionary bias. As long as the government does not change the supplementary wage, it becomes the defining factor for the currency- the price around which free market prices in the private sector evolve. It will also enhance the effectiveness of traditional policies designed to improve aggregate demand because it will create a buffer stock of EMPLOYED personnel for the private sector to draw upon, rather than a reserve army of unemployed.

    • Stemella permalink*
      October 8, 2009 11:35 am

      About that money printing thing and its impact on the economy, Zero Hedge has been discussing this phenomena for a while now. The last few days the dollar has been tanking and gold is reaching record highs. It is at $1055/oz at the moment.

      Here’s a post on the subject from today from ZH with a couple of interesting videos Some Additional Opinions On The Consequences Of The Dollar’s Imminent Demise

      As the dollars go down, the factories and jobs move overseas.

  5. cometman permalink*
    October 8, 2009 10:36 am

    Really starting to like this new congressman Alan Grayson. He’s been tough in demanding accountability for the banksters and I just noticed today that he ripped into republicans about their plans for health care:

    …he [Grayson] dramatically declared the GOP health care plan is “Don’t get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly.”

    Not only that, but he refused to apologize! They must be wearing parkas in hell today.

    He’s also calling on the Senate to postpone Bernake’s reappointment until he comes up with some information about what exactly the Fed has been up to. The link includes a nice video of him countering the pissy Maria Bartoromo.

    • Stemella permalink*
      October 8, 2009 11:39 am

      He is good. I remember him being one of the few to ask the banksters some decent questions back when they were lined up before congress to justify the swindle by TARP. Of course they obfuscated in their answers.

      His outspokeness in the healthcare debate has been such a refreshing contrast to the mamby pamby pussy footedness of Reid and Obama. I hope he emboldens more of his colleagues.

  6. Stemella permalink*
    October 8, 2009 11:55 am

    It can’t happen here? Mais oui, it is happening here. All that’s missing is the protests.

    • cometman permalink*
      October 9, 2009 6:27 am

      Damn I’d love to see a little of that in the streets soon here.

  7. cometman permalink*
    October 9, 2009 7:51 am

    Well whaddya know. In bizarro world it seems that if you help cover up the torture practices of the Bush administration, you render people to Bagram where the have no rights whatsoever, you continue a war in one country while escalating hostilities in a second and rain down predator drone strikes on innocent women and children in a third, but do it all with a smile instead of a smirk, you get to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

    From what I understand this prize comes with a fairly substantial cash award and I’m a little short right now. Maybe if I can just call up Tim Geithner and get a no interest “loan”, I can get some predator drones myself, fire them off at anyone who looks at me crosseyed, and as long as I promise cross my heart and hope to die to stop killing people some indeterminate time in the future, I can cash in with a Nobel prize too. And I swear I’ll pay back Timmeh as soon as the check clears…

  8. cometman permalink*
    October 9, 2009 8:09 am

    Very good essay from Arthur Silber – Fools for Empire (Part II). He discusses the stupidity of the “intelligence” community and chides us to grow the hell up and stop naively believing that daddy knows best.

    All of the facts concerning Iran’s activities lie in plain sight in the public domain. Here’s an additional fact: the same is true of the overwhelming majority of information that is allegedly so vital to intelligence work. That is not my contention; it is the observation of Ray McGovern, who worked for the CIA as an analyst.


    You can thus see that, just as I maintained, you indeed can be an intelligence analyst. I will go further than that: if you are at all concerned with political issues and foreign policy, you must be one. But most people will still claim that the government generally and the intelligence agencies in particular have access to “secret” and “special” information, which means that they, and only they, are capable of making the most critical decisions.

    To put it plainly, this is a refusal to grow up and be an adult. In most significant part, this refusal proceeds directly from the deference to authority and to perceived authority figures that is beaten into almost every single child (physically and/or emotionally) from the time he or she is a small infant.


    Here’s some news: you aren’t a kid any longer. And Mommy and Daddy, and the intelligence agencies (with extraordinarily rare exceptions, and even they don’t matter in the end), don’t have “special, secret knowledge” that you can’t access. You’re an adult, and you can make these judgments as well as anyone else. If you are conscientious and honest, you can make far better judgments. So be an adult, and do it.

    I’m reminded of the run up to the illegal invasion of Iraq when the US demanded that Iraq produce proof that it had gotten rid of its most dangerous weapons. Iraq released a document that was at least 12,000 pages long which spoke in great detail about their discontinued weapons programs. I remember this report being brushed aside by US officials the very next day as being inconsequential and yet nobody bothered to ask how anyone could have even read a 12,000 page report in a day, much less how they could have processed and checked all the information contained in it. Some of us knew the US was lying then and it should be obvious to everyone now that there was a massive conflagration in the trousers of all those who were so sure there were weapons to be found. And yet many years later you’d be hard pressed to find anyone in a position of power who is willing to admit the obvious and call a liar a liar.

    • Stemella permalink*
      October 9, 2009 10:11 am

      Very good article. I too was thinking how Cheney held that attitude (all neo-cons and war hawks tend to) about the unwashed masses being unworthy of knowing truth or participating in policy debate, because the govt knew all the secrets and the world was too scary a place. The unwashed masses needed an authoritarian and Cheney wanted to be that Daddy. Our Hobbesian Daddy. ewwww.

      I will always remember the contrast between Hans Blixen and Colin Powell during the WMD ‘proof’ phase. Blixen was the only one I believed had any veracity. The neo cons defanged him, however, and put puppet Powell up on the world stage, immolating whatever shred of credibility he may have had left. The act and actor sufficed for the propaganda machine to run with it.

      The same is happening now and the words of warning by people like Silber, Chris Floyd, Digby, Greenwald, etc, let alone those of us here in the microblogosphere, will be summarily ignored. We are collectively powerless except to document our perceptions and suspicions.

      • cometman permalink*
        October 9, 2009 12:25 pm

        Silber has another post up regarding Obama being given the Nobel.

        Almost no one will acknowledge the single, fundamental truth about Barack Obama, the truth of greatest and most terrifying consequence:

        Barack Obama is a war criminal.

        Many facts overwhelmingly and conclusively compel this judgment, and no other. Not because I say so, but because an honest application of the relevant language of international law, as well as of the Nuremberg Principles, necessitates the conclusion.

        And speaking of hubris and arrogance, Silber also notes at the end that Obama used his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech to make thinly veiled threats against Iran by saying the spread of nuclear weapons to other nations cannot be tolerated. Of course there seems to be no mention of why other nations should tolerate the thousands and thousands which the US possesses.

        Here’s a transcript of the speech. Lots of talk about what shouldn’t be acceptable in this world without any acknowledgment that the US is largely responsible for perpetuating policies which make life miserable for so many others.

  9. cometman permalink*
    October 9, 2009 8:28 am

    Righteous rant from the Hofstra guy today. Ouch. That one’s gonna leave a mark.

    • Stemella permalink*
      October 9, 2009 9:26 am


      “You won’t have ruffled any feathers while being president.” Great epitaph for the Barryministration to date.

      I watched him give his Nobel announcement speech this morning. He says its a call to action. It would be awesome if the intent of that prize did just that, motivated the self styled commander of cool to set his internal flywheel in motion and ruffle the fuck out of some feathers and at least start taking on all the corruption.

      I think the Nobelists wanted to influence the course he will take in Af-Pak, but I think the gesture will fail. The MIC and the associated financiers and banksters have injected the blood funnel deep into Squobama’s spine and gelatinized it.

      Ever see that horrific and hilarious monster flick called the Tingler, with Vincent Price? The tingler is the vampire squid shapeshifted into a weird slug shaped centipede thing.

      I recommend getting stoned before seeing it.

  10. cometman permalink*
    October 9, 2009 9:04 am

    Apocalypse delayed! Looks like the asteroid Apophis will not be slamming into our little blue marble any time soon. And here I was planning on quitting my job in light of the impending doom and following the Zappa plays Zappa tour to fritter away my last few years. Back to the old grind I guess. Son of a bitch :P

  11. cometman permalink*
    October 11, 2009 8:04 am

    In case you missed it, Bill Moyers was excellent this week and had Marcy Kaptur and Simon Johnson as guests talking about the asshole bankers who are running this dog and pony show these days. Check it out here.

    • Stemella permalink*
      October 12, 2009 10:08 am

      I saw that. It was most excellent. It is good to know there are a couple of decent people in Congress who will tell the truth, to the Jaimie Dimons and the media. She was also featured in Moore’s new film. A good egg, that one.

  12. cometman permalink*
    October 12, 2009 8:38 am

    Is there any part of our government that isn’t corrupt? Pam Martens details how Citigroup got help from HUD in its predatory lending practices. Truly disgusting.

    • Stemella permalink*
      October 12, 2009 10:11 am

      And more fun news from Shittygroup

      Citigroup Fined $600,000 by Finra Over Tax-Linked Stock Deals

      “Citigroup’s inadequate supervision resulted in improper trading,” Finra enforcement chief Susan Merrill said in the statement. “Increasingly complex trading strategies must be governed by supervision that is equally sophisticated.”

      A U.S. Senate inquiry last year found that Wall Street firms concocted derivatives and stock-loan deals to help clients including international hedge funds avoid hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes. New York-based Citigroup, aware that the Internal Revenue Service might deem its transactions improper, voluntarily disclosed them and paid $24 million for 2003 through 2005, the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations said in a report released in September 2008.

      Why are these assholes not in prison? Fuckers, all of them.

      • cometman permalink*
        October 12, 2009 10:27 am

        The article says they helped people avoid hundreds of millions in taxes and they get hit with a fine of less than a million. Sounds about par for the course for FINRA. And I thought FINRA only made suggested regulations anyhow. Let’s see how long it takes the check for that pittance of a fine to clear.

  13. cometman permalink*
    October 12, 2009 9:17 am

    More hypocrisy about foreign elections, this time in Afghanistan. It appears the US can’t quite figure out whether or not they should keep the corrupt and largely powerless Karzai or if they should install some other marionette in that “sovereign” nation. Meanwhile investigations into fraud are starting to look like another whitewash. Peter Galbraith, son of Jon and brother of James, was already dismissed from the UN group looking into the election for pointing out the obvious fact that Karzai had stuffed the ballot box. Now one of the only actual Afghans on the commission looking into irregularities has quit.

    A member of a UN-backed panel set up to investigate complaints of fraud in Afghanistan’s presidential election resigned today, blaming the “interference of foreigners”, in a setback to attempts to restore legitimacy to the electoral process.

    Maulavi Mustafa Barakzia, one of only two Afghans on the Electoral Complaints Commission, claimed that the three foreigners on the panel – one Canadian, one Dutch and one from the US – were “making all decisions on their own” without consultation.

  14. Stemella permalink*
    October 12, 2009 10:14 am

    The Cubs are filing for bankruptcy. Signs of the times. That and a crap baseball team.

    First bb team to file since the 1970’s

  15. cometman permalink*
    October 12, 2009 10:39 am

    The Cubbies are one I wouldn’t expect to go under. They are in a big city and sell out every game. And they have some sort of agreement with WGN to broadcast most of the games which you’d think would boost their revenues. I do know that the parent company has been trying to sell them for a while now. This reuter’s article has more details. It sounds like the Cubs’ bankruptcy is part of some convoluted legal process to keep the Cubs separate from the Tribune Company’s own bankruptcy, and not so much because the Cubs organization itself was in so much trouble.

    The Chicago Cubs baseball team filed for bankruptcy on Monday as part of the team’s planned sale to the Ricketts family by the Tribune Co, according to court documents.

    The Cubs bankruptcy is aimed at shedding any claims on the team related to the bankruptcy of Tribune Co, a media conglomerate.

    As part of the agreement that received the approval of a bankruptcy court last month, Tribune will contribute the Cubs, Wrigley Field and its stake in a sports television network to a new company.

    Interesting to see that JP Morgan and Merrill Lynch are also involved. Xrist almighty, it looks like nobody can exchange two nickels anymore unless one of these vulture financial companies gets a cut somehow.

  16. Stemella permalink*
    October 12, 2009 1:49 pm

    The world is a vampire, sent to drain
    secret destroyers, hold you up to the flames
    and what do I get, for my pain
    betrayed desires, and a piece of the game
    even though I know-I suppose I’ll show
    all my cool and cold-like old job

    despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage

    The lyrics for the Smashing Pumpkins song inspire this very interesting and incredibly sad article about gambling in America, the old style gambling of casinos, lotteries and race tracks.

    Rats in a Cage

    I have known a few people with the fever, poker players mostly, but a few others who got a bit crazed on the slots too. None of them could afford to lose. Thankfully it isn’t an addiction that afflicted me. It isn’t surprising how politics plays into this efficient tax on the poor. The world is a vampire indeed. Tentacles everywhere.

    • Stemella permalink*
      October 12, 2009 1:53 pm

    • cometman permalink*
      October 13, 2009 7:37 am

      The way these casinos have proliferated is absolutely ridiculous. But the industry representatives come up with every excuse in the book to try to get them built and they don’t go away easily. One argument that I found laughable was that 85% of the money spent in a casino came from people who visited from out of state or lived more than 50 miles away or some such bogus argument. That may be true for Vegas casinos, or even for Foxwoods when it was the only thing in the Northeast. But once you start putting one in every damn state, I can guarantee you people that want to gamble are going to go to the one closest to them so that argument becomes moot the more casinos are built. But it doesn’t stop the bloodsuckers from repeating it anyway.

      The other thing that galled me was touting all the tax revenue a casino would bring in. What they neglect to mention was that casinos create a need for more government services and thus more tax dollars. From the basics like more roads to accommodate the traffic when a huge casino is built in a rural area, to more police needed in the area around the casino, to more social services needed to support the poor who had their money removed by the casino.

      I do like to gamble but mostly in low stakes poker games at home or rolling dice in a bar, and that is more of an excuse to have a few beers with friends than to win any money. I don’t mind a few casinos here and there but plopping one in every area of every state to extract as much of people’s hard earned cash as possible is just foolish.

      Fortunately, I think the casino owners’ attempts to make gambling respectable and create a family friendly environment in which to gamble will be their undoing. It’s hard to lose money when you just throw up a few blackjack and craps tables and cater to the real gamblers. But when you try to turn a gambling destination into Disney world to attract people who wouldn’t otherwise gamble and build huge hotels with lots of expensive restaurants and entertainment venues, suddenly you have a lot more overhead in your operation which is why I think some of these huge gambling operations are starting to go under. Hotels and restaurants aren’t consistent money makers and often lose money even in the best of times.

      And thanks for the cat video! That was funny.

  17. Stemella permalink*
    October 12, 2009 4:27 pm

    Don Fucking Quixote has an apprentice of sorts. Sancho Panza? Sockratease? ;)

    Nunchuck-Wielding ‘Ninja’ Arrested After Threatening Lieberman

  18. Stemella permalink*
    October 13, 2009 5:23 am

    “The end of U.S. economic supremacy is at hand.”

    “Currencies that have the lack of support of petroleum, metals, and have a liberal central bank posture toward printing money are currencies that will continue to be punished,” said Peter Kenny, managing director in institutional sales at Knight Equity Markets in Jersey City, New Jersey. “The U.S. dollar is a classic example of that.”

    Commodities “insist on validation and validity,” while currencies “are subject to politics and perception,” he said.

    HSBC Holdings Plc economists Stephen King and Stuart Green said in a report this month that the end of U.S. economic supremacy is at hand.

    Their report predicted the “demise of the West” amid “ongoing struggles in the developed world” and said that “emerging market nations are set to dominate world economic activity in the years ahead.” Titled “The Tipping Point,” the report said currencies will be weak in countries “still pondering exit strategies and faced with multiple years of debt repayment.”

    The legal tender of this empire is toast. It appears that the point of no return has been met, economically speaking. It is only a matter of time for the militaristic vestiges of the empire to follow suit.

    For more on the emergence of China, here’s a recent article:
    China calls time on dollar hegemony

    The new order may look like the 1920s, with four or five global currencies as regional anchors – the yuan, rupee, euro, real – and the dollar first among equals but not hegemon. The US will be better for it.

    • cometman permalink*
      October 13, 2009 7:54 am

      Who knows how it will all turn out since China has its problems just as the US does, but China at least seems to have a plan which has a chance of succeeding. As that second article mentions, they are shifting their focus from export markets to domestic markets and they certainly have a large one to sell things to. Here in the US the plan seems to be to flail around and throw as much shit against the wall as possible and hope some sticks.

  19. Stemella permalink*
    October 13, 2009 5:41 am

    Time to take up juggling

    Learning to juggle grows brain networks for good

    Juggling boosts the connections between different parts of the brain by tweaking the architecture of the brain’s “white matter” – a finding that could lead to new therapies for people with brain injuries.

    White matter describes all areas of the brain that contain mostly axons – outgrowths of nerve cells that connect different cells. It might be expected that learning a new, complex task such as juggling should strengthen these connections, but previous work looking for changes in the brains of people who had learned how to juggle had only studied increases in grey matter, which contains the nerve cells’ bodies.

    • cometman permalink*
      October 13, 2009 7:46 am

      I learned how to juggle the basic three balls several years ago but hadn’t done it much for a long time. Lately I’ve taken it up again because the squidlet seems to enjoy watching it. Not sure if I’ve gotten any smarter though. ;)

      I saw the Karamozov Bros. in Seattle several years ago and they were pretty amazing.

  20. cometman permalink*
    October 13, 2009 8:13 am

    This is leaning towards libertarian whackjob land but here it is anyway since I really don’t like the FED either.

    End the Fed

  21. cometman permalink*
    October 13, 2009 8:23 am

    Nomi Prins takes a look at Hank Paulson’s phone records and comes to this conclusion:

    What’s wrong with this picture? Absolutely everything.

    • Stemella permalink*
      October 14, 2009 7:12 am

      Vomitous. I have no words to define the extent of my disgust.

  22. cometman permalink*
    October 13, 2009 8:52 am

    Nice essay/theatre review touching on the recently awarded Nobel prize in economics and a new play about Thomas Paine – Putting the Spine Back in the Commonwealth.

  23. Stemella permalink*
    October 14, 2009 6:53 am

    This one is a blood boiler. It is nothing we didn’t suspect from the Elvin one and his minions, but it is so damn blatant and there is nothing we can do about it.

    Geithner Aides Reaped Millions Working for Banks, Hedge Funds

    Some of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s closest aides, none of whom faced Senate confirmation, earned millions of dollars a year working for Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Citigroup Inc. and other Wall Street firms, according to financial disclosure forms.

    The advisers include Gene Sperling, who last year took in $887,727 from Goldman Sachs and $158,000 for speeches mostly to financial companies, including the firm run by accused Ponzi scheme mastermind R. Allen Stanford. Another top aide, Lee Sachs, reported more than $3 million in salary and partnership income from Mariner Investment Group, a New York hedge fund.

    As part of Geithner’s kitchen cabinet, Sperling and Sachs wield influence behind the scenes at the Treasury Department, where they help oversee the $700 billion banking rescue and craft executive pay rules and the revamp of financial regulations. Yet they haven’t faced the public scrutiny given to Senate-confirmed appointees, nor are they compelled to testify in Congress to defend or explain the Treasury’s policies.

    Adding insult to injury:

    Wall Street On Track To Award Record Pay

    Major U.S. banks and securities firms are on pace to pay their employees about $140 billion this year — a record high that shows compensation is rebounding despite regulatory scrutiny of Wall Street’s pay culture.

    Workers at 23 top investment banks, hedge funds, asset managers and stock and commodities exchanges can expect to earn even more than they did the peak year of 2007, according to an analysis of securities filings for the first half of 2009 and revenue estimates through year-end by The Wall Street Journal.

    JPMorgan Profit Surpasses Estimates on Fixed Income

    JPMorgan Chase & Co., the second- largest U.S. bank by assets, said third-quarter profit rose almost sevenfold, beating analysts’ estimates as fixed-income revenue surged.

    Earnings climbed to $3.59 billion, or 82 cents a share, from $527 million, or 9 cents, in the same period a year earlier at the height of the financial crisis, the New York-based company said today in a statement. Twenty analysts surveyed by Bloomberg estimated earnings of 51 cents a share.

    Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon, who repaid the firm’s $25 billion of government rescue funds in June, is capitalizing on his 2008 acquisitions of Bear Stearns Cos. and Washington Mutual’s banking business. Investment-banking revenue from fixed-income jumped to a record $5 billion, compared with markdowns of $3.6 billion a year earlier.

    grrrrr 10 to the infinity nth.

    • cometman permalink*
      October 14, 2009 9:52 am

      Grrrrrrrr is right. Maybe for our own health we’ll have to start charting our outrage on a logarithmic scale rather than an exponential one. Rat fuckers, all of them.

  24. Stemella permalink*
    October 14, 2009 7:08 am

    Deforestation. The beetles have been ravaging the Conifers for years now, killing off forests all over the West. Now it is the aspens’ turn. Life out of balance.

    Aspen Trees Die Across the West


    • cometman permalink*
      October 14, 2009 9:50 am

      It would be nice if articles about the health of forests could leave out passages like this one:

      Also, decades of logging restrictions and a policy of fighting most fires rather than letting them burn have left the forests full of the century-old lodgepole pines that are the beetles’ favorite nosh.

      Sure fires are healthy for forests and putting them out so they don’t burn the multi-million dollar vacation homes probably doesn’t help, but the idea that they would somehow be healthier if only they’d been logged more often is maddening. If that were the case, then how did so many trees ever manage to grow on this earth before human beings decided to start cutting them all down?

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