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Not Even Wrong

September 22, 2010

In a nation awash in junk politics and trashy culture where the greatest virtue is considered to be consuming as much as possible and never mind the waste, that a dying industry would continue to devote a few dead trees per week to provide column space for a wretched piece of refuse like Jeff Jacoby seems somehow appropriate.

His latest – The Waste of Recycling – reads as if it were hurriedly written in the short time elapsed between polishing off a few packages of individually wrapped cheesefood and the rush to the commode necessitated by the previous action. In short, Jacoby feels recycling is a waste of time and resources because the free market told him so.

Garbage in, garbage out.

Evidently he hasn’t gotten the memo that free market capitalism is writhing on its deathbed but nobody could bring themselves to up the morphine drip just yet.

78 Comments leave one →
  1. cometman permalink*
    September 22, 2010 9:35 am

    Jacoby’s article is only worth reading for the comments tearing him a new one for his abject idiocy.

    The second link is one of the better critiques of capitalism’s failures I’ve seen in quite some time and well worth reading in full. Too bad it comes from a book review at the back of The Nation and won’t get nearly the eyeballs as the turd Jacoby dropped this morning. The author notes that blaming greed for the financial collapse is a lame excuse at best since everyone acting in their own self interest, ie greed, is what is supposed to make free market capitalism the greatest thing ever conceived by the mind of man. The flaw in the system is not greed, it’s the system’s own inherent contradictions, like believing you can extract ever higher and higher profits from finite resources.

    Just in case it gets a few eyeballs that otherwise might not have seen it, here’s a lengthy excerpt from the end –

    Among the many acronyms of the great bailout, certainly the most significant were TARP and TALF: the Troubled Asset Relief Program and the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (together they’re the Public-Private Investment Program for Legacy Assets). Different in many regards, they share a core purpose: to assist in the purchase of “toxic assets” that are otherwise unsellable, so as to pump liquidity back into markets.

    Ponder this for a moment. The market, functioning freely as Hayek would have hoped, has assigned a value to these assets: zero. There they should rest. But instead the government steps in to pay people, in effect, to buy things they think are worth nothing. By people I still mean corporations.

    We could complain that this is another handout to the financial sector, and that is inarguable. But this is to miss its true significance: the price signal is dead. Capitalism’s virtue has survived its greatest modern rival by scarcely a generation. At a minimum, the triumphalism of the post-’89 era lies in tatters at our feet. The much-bruited Project for the New American Century didn’t last a decade and has been replaced by shivering anxiety about what China will do next. (A Chinese company moved to purchase the bankrupt Hummer brand, DOB 1992, and was blocked by Chinese regulators: an allegory worth reflection.) And yet somehow we want to tell a story about a few bad banks and rogue financiers, a glitch in the human spirit, the resiliency of Team Regulation.

    The time has come, all of this makes clear, to assess capitalism again from the outside. We should begin by understanding that it is the utter discrediting of capitalism’s most basic premises that explains the return of Karl Marx as spectral bogeyman. Not the current president’s (staunchly pro-corporate) proclivities, not ACORN and not China’s nominal communism. Marx’s Capital reached an all-time high in sales in the same season that the Public-Private Investment Program was announced.

    Capital is the strangest of books: not a work of political economics but, per its own insistence, a “critique of political economy.” It is a concerted effort to understand the faux objectivity of modern economics not as an explanation of a system but as its apologia. At the same time Capital is economics as such; a landmark in materialist philosophy; a theory of history larded with empirical studies. It can be intractable.

    David Harvey has been teaching courses on Capital for more than three decades; his seminar is freely available at various sites online. Now it arrives in published form. A geographer by trade, Harvey is particularly brilliant on the spatial dimensions of economics (as in his landmark earlier work, The Limits to Capital). But A Companion to Marx’s “Capital” is at once sleeker and more lucid, communicating the theoretical nuances of dialectical thought and the history of struggles over the length of the working day with marvelous grace. It is without a doubt one of the two best companions to Marx’s pivotal work (the other is Ben Fine and Alfredo Saad-Filho’s Marx’s “Capital”). One can glean much of the primary text’s character from reading Harvey’s companion alone; Harvey is rightly insistent that they be read in tandem.

    At our conjuncture, we must ask of these texts one simple question: can they help us tell the story of capitalist crisis better? The answer is, certainly. Perhaps too well. As the old joke goes, did you know that Marxist economists have predicted ten of the last three crises? This is pretty funny.

    Marx’s Capital is, among its cornucopia of analyses, a theory of crisis: how capital, with its immutable compulsion to expand or collapse, pushes itself via self-destructive competition into disaster—at which moment it endeavors to shake apart and reform itself even more grandly. This is, at least, a story. And a pretty good one: it narrates usefully the development of a market economy out of the Renaissance and eventually into the British Empire, yielding to an even more global US order. It also reminds us of the simplest fact, yet one seemingly elusive to most of the recent crackup’s commentators: greed is an irrelevancy. When the investment bank across the street leverages up to a debt/equity ratio of twenty-nine to one, you leverage up to thirty or get out. Greenspan’s account, and those of Lanchester and Johnson and Kwak, and an army of like cases, are pure hoodoo. Your moral sentiments have nothing to do with it.

    Moreover, Marx’s 150-year-old guide renders specifics of the current crisis that appear only as intuition in the other books. Something really did happen in the 1970s. The long postwar boom played itself out; intensive competition born in that period pushed industries to accept lower and lower profit rates. Eventually they got too low, and capital itself needed another profit center if it was to continue its requisite expansion. Enter finance, on the heels of creeping deregulation, among other things, seeming to provide not just its own profits but a broader cycle of consumption-fueled growth.

    This raises our last question; fittingly, it is the same as the first, the part Lanchester never quite answers. We know why everyone owes everyone: because there was fresh dough to be made in extending credit, until there wasn’t. What we don’t know is, Why can’t anyone pay? Why didn’t property values ascend forever? Why didn’t the market just keep expanding? This is not a question answered by Johnson and Kwak either. It is, let’s say, above their pay grade (or perhaps far below). To tell the story, one would need an account of where value actually comes from. This is not impossibly complex; unlike the niceties of derivatives, it’s not rocket science. If value is generated by people laboring to produce stuff that gets sold, and profit comes from exploiting the productive value of labor—this is a simplification, of course, but not a mistake—sooner or later people will have to labor productively to make good on any extended credit. By people I mean people.

    But this becomes decreasingly likely, until it is impossible. Promises to do all that work later will reach limits, particularly as companies cut labor costs, replace workers with machines and outsource work to overseas markets. New value, arising only from the discrepancy between wages and productivity, appears elsewhere when it appears at all (witness the growth of India and China). Or it appears to glimmer in the future: credit is the name for spending it now. But even the future has a limited number of hours, technically. Meanwhile, over in the finance sector, where the money seemed so recently to reside, there is only a genteel, bloody struggle over how existing value is divided; no new value is created. The gap between value that can be realized and “fictitious capital”—claims on future value, all those derivatives purling through the purportedly new economy—has become a chasm. No one can vault over it any longer.

    But the economy made its tiger’s leap out of the stale factory and into the open air of finance for a reason; we can’t just return to the fading industrial base with an oops shrug. We have no new line of widgets to labor over and sell. This is why ours is a real crisis, not just a panic. This is why we have seen exactly what the analysis grimly promised: shortages cheek by jowl with surpluses, unemployed workers stacked up next to unused factories. We deferred this reckoning once, twice, three times, depending on your measure. Certainly the most recent credit bubble was pure deferral, pure delusion: Wile E. Coyote out over the gap, legs spinning. He hovered there for a while, and lots of people pretended the laws of physics had been revised, even as he started to plummet. Boom. By boom I mean bust.

    Versions of this plaint have been made frequently enough by “mainstream” economists, seemingly unaware they’re borrowing the lineaments of an account they’ve spent careers disavowing as a mystery cult. Well, there are no atheists in foxholes. Or, as a friend says, Marxism is like gold; in an economic crisis, everybody runs to those who have it. Not surprisingly, economists cannot borrow, even at low levels of interest, the insights most needed: the basic understanding that capitalism’s flaws are internal to its own logic and can’t be whisked away by another round of financial regulation or everybody promising to be less of a creep. It is indeed a compulsion, and it ends poorly.

    Maybe one of these days governments can stop trying out various -isms and ideologies and just stick with what actually works best for the greatest amount of people. Probably not though until after everything collapses.

  2. cometman permalink*
    September 22, 2010 11:06 am

    More clunkers.

    Saw another harebrained article at Science Daily yesterday about a “scientific” explanation for the parting of the Red Sea. Just perused the foolishness briefly thinking it was another of the articles from not very reputable sources that slips through the cracks there once in a while. I missed that it was originally published at PLos One.

    PZ Meyers didn’t.

    Then there was this one at Counterpunch – The Real Problems With Wind Energy. The only way the author can make the argument is by assuming that the “free market” is always right and completely ignoring the consequences of what will happen if people continue to believe in it. No mention of what the cost of not converting to greener power would be, no mention of ways to cut the need for so much power, no mention of the external costs not computed into cost per kilowatt hour, no mention of the massive subsidies given handed out for fossil fuels that make them unrealistically cheap, no mention that perhaps paying people more would be a way to alleviate the current higher cost of wind power, etc, etc. This bit stuck out as particularly foolish –

    Huge increases in wind energy capacity would also require huge increases in high-voltage transmission lines, and the fights over transmission lines are perhaps even more vicious than the fights over the siting of wind turbines.

    Um, if we create a lot more wind power, that would reduce the need for oil power, coal power, etc meaning that we wouldn’t necessarily need more transmission lines. And even if the assumption is that there will be an increase in the total power needed and wind power will only be in addition to increasing fossil fuel power, that power would also need more transmission lines too so why would it be a problem for wind power alone? Then he tops it off by saying that the reason wind power is not doing well all boils down to math and physics.

    Again, not even wrong.

  3. cometman permalink*
    September 22, 2010 12:16 pm

    Larry the Cane Toad is out but not due to the colossal financial clusterfuck he had such a large hand in causing. He would have left earlier but Bushwa Barry requested he stay on to fuck things up even further. Now he’s got to get back to Harvard or he loses his cushy lifetime tenure position.

    Reading the initial tea leaves, sounds like he’ll be replaced by somebody equally as bad if not worse. This part brought some guffaws –

    Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who was the top economic adviser to Republican nominee John McCain during the 2008 presidential campaign, said the Obama White House has “a serious problem” in relations with U.S. businesses.

    “They need an ambassador to that community, and a visible appointment that says they respect and care about business in the United States would be very important,” Holtz-Eakin said in an interview with Bloomberg Television.

    Handing out trillions with no strings wasn’t being a good enough ambassador?!?!?!

    On a related note, Jon Stewart was spot on last night. Some hedge fund douchenozzle asked Barry when he was going to stop “whacking at the Wall Street pinata” to which Stewart quipped, “maybe when the fucking candy comes out”. Clip here.

  4. cometman permalink*
    September 22, 2010 12:29 pm

    Some unrelated links –

    If the economy is “fixed” then why are corporate insiders dumping so many shares of their companies? Sounds like the smart money knows the latest “rally” was just a dead cat bounce.

    More revelations on how health insurance companies are skirting the health care “reform” laws.

    Woo hoo! The Large Hadron Collider may have recreated the conditions present at the Big Bang although nobody knows for sure yet. Better figure it out quick because budget cuts are forcing CERN to shut down all its accelerators for a year in 2012. Says the LHC was planned to go offline that year anyway, but still not a good development.

    New cable reality series in the making – Flip this cat!

  5. artemis54 permalink
    September 22, 2010 3:08 pm

    Serenditpous title, considering I was just reading this insanity: The Meat Eaters

    We start out:

    Suppose that we could arrange the gradual extinction of carnivorous species, replacing them with new herbivorous ones. Or suppose that we could intervene genetically, so that currently carnivorous species would gradually evolve into herbivorous ones, thereby fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy. If we could bring about the end of predation by one or the other of these means at little cost to ourselves, ought we to do it?

    and wind up here:

    It would be good to prevent the vast suffering and countless violent deaths caused by predation. There is therefore one reason to think that it would be instrumentally good if predatory animal species were to become extinct and be replaced by new herbivorous species, provided that this could occur without ecological upheaval involving more harm than would be prevented by the end of predation. The claim that existing animal species are sacred or irreplaceable is subverted by the moral irrelevance of the criteria for individuating animal species. I am therefore inclined to embrace the heretical conclusion that we have reason to desire the extinction of all carnivorous species . . . .

    There is a lot of crap bein written about this . . . this thing. I have seen it referred to several times as a substantive philosophical essay. Nonsense. It is merely long.

    You don’t go this far wrong without considerable help. Among the problems: the injection of bits and pieces of Judaeo-Cristian thought at random, as if they were irrelevant. Drag in a few quotess from Ronald Dworkin, a few kitchen sinks, shake vigorously.

    The worst part of it stems from the author’s obvious ignorance of fundamental ecology, indeed of biology. Because that is the subject to which he is applying Isaiah and various philosophical koans like so many leeches to a patient with a broken bone.

    Numero uno, he misses the forest in his analysis of these theoretical trees. The point is the continued health of the global genome, which requires among other things predators at various scales, not just the monsters of god that seem to haunt this guy. Individuals do not count.

    • cometman permalink*
      September 23, 2010 12:13 pm

      Heh. And if a frog had wings he wouldn’t bust his ass a hoppin’.

      And what to make of the dastardly pitcher plant?

      I can only assume the author, when not writing feel good new age tripe, is working out the final details of his perpetual motion machine.

  6. cometman permalink*
    September 23, 2010 12:36 pm

    Couple on the Cane Toad’s departure.

    The Boston Globe goes out of its way to make the hometown boy look good – Summers prepares to exit, but his policies may yet bear fruit. Interesting to note that this is one of those editorials that nobody will put their name to.

    But the outspoken former Harvard president may have less to fear than it currently appears. The verdict on Summers’ policies, from bailing out the auto industry to imposing curbs on the financial-services industry to greenlighting a nearly $800 billion stimulus plan, will be delivered in the next few years, not months. And there’s still plenty of reason to believe those policies helped the economy.

    Paradoxically, Obama’s and Summers’ most unpopular program — the Troubled Asset Relief Program — is the clearest success. The plan, initiated by former President George W. Bush and continued with crucial support from Obama and Summers, has succeeded in stabilizing the banking industry, thereby stemming far more serious job losses. This accomplishment is invisible, since the much-worse economy that it prevented never materialized. But most of the funds paid out by the government have already been returned, attesting to the improved health of the banks, and taxpayers will likely be out under $100 billion, far less than predicted. Most economists and policymakers agree that the program averted a catastrophe.

    So when the economy finally improves several years down the road long after Summers has departed, he’ll get the credit. Bullshit. And if you only listen to the talking heads who are allowed on TV, maybe the second paragraph is true. If you listen to anyone who knows their ass from a hole in the ground, it’s bullshit. The banks have never been forced to come clean about their actual financial positions and likely never will be thanks to Summers.

    This next one has a much better assessment of Summers’ tenure – Summers Gave Obama Cover.

    In short –

    Summers saw to it that the talk was talked, but the walk was never walked.


  7. cometman permalink*
    September 23, 2010 12:42 pm

    Here’s one discussing the GE salmon the FDA is currently deciding whether to approve – Tipping the scales genetically.

    It sounds like they are taking steps to insure that these fish won’t contaminate the wild populations, but I don’t think it’s nearly enough.

    Some take issue with the research and the evaluation process. The salmon is being treated as a drug rather than food, with the FDA’s Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee overseeing the public hearings. Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, says that is an inappropriate way to deal with a new product and a new technology.

    “We’re very concerned that the Food and Drug Administration is using a process for veterinary drugs,’’ she says. “They need to develop a process that keeps up with science and actually looks at genetically engineered foods. We’re also very concerned about the science they based the food safety assessment on. In their risk assessment, they used only four studies, and three were not peer-reviewed. They were submitted by the company. The fourth was from a peer-reviewed journal, but was 18 years old.’’

    Even if it were found to be perfectly safe, I don’t think planning for a world with 9 billion people who need this type of food is the answer. How about trying to do something about runaway population growth? Or as suggested in the article, how about preserving wild stocks rather than wiping them out?

  8. sisdevore permalink
    September 23, 2010 7:22 pm

    I am in total despair for this country. Inability to repeal DADT, because, among other things…..the DREAM act???? An “illegal” can become a citizen if you will feed the war machine. Native born gay Americans will remain 2nd class citizens.

    I cannot process all this idiocy.

    As taxpayers, should we not deny John McCain’s medical coverage for pre-existing conditions? Not to mention Cheney…

    I continue to hate my new position at work. It is isolating and boring in the extreme.

    • cometman permalink*
      September 24, 2010 7:29 am

      I hear you Miss D. We’re in the midst of a constant deluge of media constructed insanity which does not represent reality at all. There are plenty of reasonable people but they don’t get on the TV. You feel like you’re constantly being shouted down by nutjobs, even when you aren’t, which is probably by design.

      Our current government reminds me of a bad boss, something I am a little bit familiar with. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel to fix the problems facing this country, we just need to look for what has worked in the past and duplicate it. Other countries have better education, better health care, better plans to assist ailing banks. We don’t even need to look to other nations either – there was plenty of good that came from the New Deal. But much like a bad boss, the powers that be are not going to listen to suggestions from anybody else because that would be admitting that perhaps they don’t know everything.

      Here’s an interview with Joe Bageant I saw last night. Made me feel a little better about things, maybe you’ll like it too. Even if he doesn’t have all the answers, he knows where the problems are and it’s nice to know there are some kindred spirits out there.

  9. cometman permalink*
    September 24, 2010 7:40 am

    Some links –

    Anybody ever going to get to the bottom of what went on at Lehman Brothers? Bueller?

    James Galbraith with a nerd smackdown. That should fog his opponent’s glasses.

    Obama with a much deserved heckling by gay activists at a recent fundraiser. Perhaps if he’d spend less time fund raising for corporate candidates and more time governing he might get something done.

    And some justice for New Orleans. Former NOPD officer gets three years in the federal pen for his role in gunning down innocent and unarmed people in the aftermath of Katrina. The first of what ought to be many convictions.

  10. cometman permalink*
    September 24, 2010 7:48 am

    Massachusetts was one of the “winners” in Barry’s corporate styled education program and they will be getting $27 million to dole out in merit pay bonuses to teachers.

    Evidently Mass. didn’t get the memo.

    Yet again, researchers have determined that paying teachers a bonus based on student performance does not improve the achievement of those students.

    A pay-for-performance study released today by Vanderbilt University and the RAND Corporation followed nearly 300 Nashville Public Schools fifth- through eighth-grade teachers from 2007 to 2009. The result? No overall effect on student achievement across the entire treatment group.

    “We sought a clean test of the basic proposition: If teachers know they will be rewarded for an increase in their students’ test scores, will test scores go up?,” said Matthew Springer, executive director of Vanderbilt’s National Center on Performance Incentives. “We found that the answer to that question is no.”

    But hey, if the government is going to throw millions of dollars around for no good reason, I’m glad teachers will be getting some rather than more to Lloyd Blankfein and the like.

  11. artemis54 permalink
    September 24, 2010 8:55 am

    From Biotropica: SPECIAL SECTION: 2010 INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF BIODIVERSITY – 18 free, open access articles. These are mostly reflections on the state of things, but from interesting people with vast experience in the field. Some good writing too:

    Diamonds or Dragonflies?

    Consider the value we attach to a diamond exhumed from the Earth’s bowels, as compared with a dragonfly darting across a sun dappled pond. Consider, first, the diamond—cold, hard and unchanging—as compared with the Brilliant emerald dragonfly Somatochlora metallica—a beautiful jeweled insect that is active and exciting in its behavior, exquisitely adapted as a hunting machine, a unique product of many millions of evolutionary years, yet rare, hard to find and, sadly, ephemeral. It is not a treasure that we can ever call our own. Neither will it persist without our investment in its survival. How different it is to the diamond, which can be owned and coveted, occasionally brought out to dazzle but just as quickly hidden from view in a bank vault or secret drawer. The diamond displays no fascinating behaviors, and the simplicity of its form hardly enlightens much lasting curiosity or wonder in child or adult.

    Yes indeed, how different is the diamond to the dragonfly. Yet society as a whole appears to value the diamond far more than the dragonfly. A single 1 carat diamond that adorns the finger of a lady is valued at anything between US$2000 and US$30,000 (and upwards). What value is attached to the single dragonfly that briefly adorns the finger of my son? The dragonfly has no market value, and I would hazard a guess that for many members of our society it has little other value. Yet to others, dragonflies are integral components of life on Earth, which collectively contributes to the richness of our lives and cultures. I certainly would feel considerably poorer without dragonflies to admire on my summer walks among the Scottish moorlands and mires.

    Greenwashing invades PLoS ONE: Unexpected Ecological Resilience in Bornean Orangutans and Implications for Pulp and Paper Plantation Management finds surprising numbers of orangutans living in plantations and logged off areas. While the authors are quite curcumspect – despite that title – you know how this is going to be used. I would merely point out that people manage to live under bridges and in cardboard boxes too. For a while.

    In the Year of Biodiversity – unremarked in the US – 95% of the Philippines’ corals have died.

    It’s election time: voting is now open for the 2010 Rubber Dodo Award. The nominees are: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar (my choice); BP’s Tony Hayward; Idaho guv “Butch” Otter for his persecution of wolves; and Alaska guv Sean Parnell for his continuation and even amping up of all his predecessor’s ruinous environmental policies.

    • cometman permalink*
      September 24, 2010 10:16 am

      I think the Dodo should be co -awarded to Salazar, Hayward and Bushwa Barry for the clusteruck BP debacle with extra credit given to Obama for presiding over a government that did less than nothing regarding climate change in the hottest year on record.

      That piece on dragonflies was very nice and reminds me of something I was trying to teach the squidlette earlier this week. Couple days ago we saw a beautiful big iridescent greenish black beetle in the front yard that looked a lot like this one – not sure exactly what kind it is. When I brought her in for a close up look she started saying “step on it step on it”. Made me chuckle a little – probably some of the little boys she runs around outside with at daycare had been squashing some bugs. I told her that we only kill bugs if they are bothering us and she was very curious to follow the bug around for a while. She came out the next day looking for it again wondering where it went.

      Got her the first book in this series – Ladybug Girl – for her birthday recently and she loves it. Probably read it to her 50 times in the last couple weeks. Nice little passage in it where the little girl helps some ants in distress by moving a big rock out of their way.

  12. artemis54 permalink
    September 24, 2010 10:06 am

    There is no embarrassing some people.

    The President of Ireland has refused an invitation to be Grand Marshal of the 250th St Pat’s Day parade in NYC.

    Because parade organizers – still – won’t allow open gay participation.

    An interesting throwaway in that article refers to a survey showing two thirds of Ireland now supporting gay marriage.

  13. sisdevore permalink
    September 24, 2010 5:52 pm

    I got an email from some “progressive” organization, asking me to rec a diary on daily pus….Markos must be availing someone the emails of his 2 billion subscribers, banned and all.

    • cometman permalink*
      September 27, 2010 8:03 am

      Interesting. I’ve been getting emails from one of the diarists there with a link to every diary they post recently, not anybody I remember communicating with either. Guess they didn’t get the message that Dear Leader whacked me with the banhammer a few years ago.

  14. artemis54 permalink
    September 25, 2010 10:13 am

    Photos from balloon rally this morning

    The town holds a number of various booster events throuh the year. This is the most fun, although it does involve an extra 6-8000 people running around in a town of 5000. There are lots of photos to be had if you “chase.” However I was alone this morning and driving on these suddenly overcrowded roads does not mix well with staring at the sky.

    • cometman permalink*
      September 27, 2010 8:06 am

      I don’t know how facebook works. I guess you have to sign up for an account to view them? Can you just make quick throwaway accounts there like you can with email accounts?

      • artemis54 permalink
        September 27, 2010 10:46 am

        I forgot about that. To yr question yeah I guess. I don’t know much about it and they are always changing things around. I mostly just use it to send private messages.

        There is a feature where you can email photo albums to people who aren’t on fb. I was thinking that would work here too but guess not.

        • cometman permalink*
          September 27, 2010 10:58 am

          It prompted me to sign in before I could see anything. I’ll try signing in with somebody else’s facebook account later and check them out. I really don’t want to sign up there after all I’ve heard about privacy concerns, not that it really matters since pretty much everything is being monitored these days. More on that in a minute.

  15. cometman permalink*
    September 27, 2010 8:40 am

    Stephen Colbert testified before Congress about the plight of migrant farm workers last week, but only after convincing a tone deaf Conyers and other Dems that he should actually speak publicly rather than just leaving them his prepared remarks. Saw a little blurb that Hoyer criticized the appearance over the weekend. Evidently Colbert wasn’t serious enough for the some of the “very serious people in” Congress. Because when you’re ostensibly trying to help the underprivileged, that last thing you want is some celebrity who also wants to help coming along and actually bringing public attention to an issue that otherwise would have gotten none. And the Dems wonder why they’re getting their asses handed to them lately.

    I particularly enjoyed Colbert’s crack about unemployed Dems maybe finding a new job doing migrant work after they become unemployed in November.

    Some more videos of his appearance here.

  16. cometman permalink*
    September 27, 2010 9:03 am

    I was a fly on the wall several years ago at a meeting with the CEO of a clothing company who had once been the CEO of a chemical company as he tried to sell some crap to the execs of a large department store chain where I was working at the time. The execs were a bit concerned about this former chemical guy’s knowledge of the clothing industry, but he assured them that being a CEO was the same no matter what product your company sold. Evidently the invisible hand could take care of all the details.

    Didn’t sound quite right to me, and I’m sure there is a lesson about capitalism in the following story that will be completely lost on the Titans of Industry. The guy who bought the Segway company a few months ago despite seemingly not knowing a whole lot about Segways has died after accidentally driving his Segway off a cliff.

    Or perhaps the invisible hand gave him a push.

    • artemis54 permalink
      September 27, 2010 10:43 am

      Ha! I just came running over here to tell you about that.

  17. cometman permalink*
    September 27, 2010 10:09 am

    The British Library makes digitized ancient Greek manuscripts available online for the first time. Very nice.

  18. cometman permalink*
    September 27, 2010 11:19 am

    As the pom pom girls continue to cheer for Mo’bama and mo’ Democrats in what will likely be a futile attempt to bolster their favored party’s chances in a few weeks, one has to wonder if they realize what they’re asking for more of.

    Because what they’re going to get (among other things they likely don’t want) is mo’ erosion of all of what remains of our civil liberties, and it probably won’t matter which party gets a majority.

    Last week Barry’s FBI raided the homes of several anti-war activists for no apparent reason other than intimidation of those who disagree with government policy.

    This week comes the news that Bushwa Barry would like Congress to make it legal to spy on even more private internet communications.

    Greenwald notes the hypocrisy in these actions, mentioning that Barry had condemned the UAE and Saudi Arabia not long ago for similar actions and now turns around and asks for the same powers for himself.

    But as the Constitution continues to be ripped into ever smaller pieces, don’t expect any aid to come from our incredibly corrupt Justice Department. Scott Horton mentions a new study showing just how corrupt and politicized the department currently is – An Ethics Meltdown at the Justice Department.

    Despite his promises to clean the situation up, Eric Holder has done nothing other than arrange some ethics training courses. The Department steadily resists disciplinary action against prosecutors who misbehave and attempts to block public exposure of their misconduct through congressional probes with claims of prosecutorial immunity. Holder refuses even to take questions on the subject at public events (as occurred just this week at an event marking the fiftieth anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird in Alabama). The U.S. attorney who is perhaps the worst single Bush-era offender remains in her position as Republican senators block efforts to appoint a replacement, and the Justice Department continues to stonewall an investigation into some of the most serious cases of abuse. In recent testimony before the House, Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine has acknowledged (PDF) the damage these disclosures have done both to the Department’s morale and to its reputation. Fine’s own office has revealed significant evidence of prosecutorial misconduct, particularly in political cases. Moreover, his reports often show how even his internal team is often blocked from getting to the bottom of abuse stories.

    Couple of related opinion pieces –

    Chris Floyd (quoting extensively from Paul Craig Roberts) – Domestic Disturbance: FBI Raids Bring the Terror War Home .

    David Michael Green – The Dismantling of Civilized Society .

    • cometman permalink*
      September 27, 2010 11:24 am

      Since nobody in this country wants to change a damn thing, maybe we ought to look south for a model of government that is at least trying to make things better. Brazil is about to elect a former “terrorist” as president and Dilma Rousseff (fuck you Hillary) may soon be the most powerful woman in the world.

      Her widely predicted victory in next Sunday’s presidential poll will be greeted with delight by millions. It marks the final demolition of the “national security state”, an arrangement that conservative governments in the US and Europe once regarded as their best artifice for limiting democracy and reform. It maintained a rotten status quo that kept a vast majority in poverty in Latin America while favouring their rich friends.

  19. cometman permalink*
    September 27, 2010 12:22 pm

    Despite my general pox on both your parties attitude, I was at least considering maybe voting for just one Democrat in November.

    Not any more.

    U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree fired back Sunday evening at allegations she improperly used billionaire Wall Street financier S. Donald Sussman’s private jet for travel, asserting she’s done nothing wrong and that the criticism is politically motivated.

    Pingree, a Democrat running for re-election in Maine’s 1st Congressional District, responded publicly for the first time to charges that she traveled on the 2007 Dassault Falcon 2000EX jet owned by Sussman, to whom Pingree said she is engaged.

    Pingree was criticized by Republicans for traveling on Sussman’s jet because she had spoken out in the past against members of Congress flying on corporate jets, when she was head of Common Cause, a campaign-finance reform group.

    “It seems these are politically motivated attacks on my personal life. For the three years I’ve been dating Donald, every opponent I’ve had has tried to make him an issue,” Pingree said in an interview. “We’ve had people who skulk around, who follow us home at night and knock on our door.

    Guess I haven’t been paying attention because that’s the first I’d heard of her relationship with Sussman. More about it here.

    I don’t think Pingree did anything wrong either by riding in her boyfriend’s private jet. But it does indicate her utter tonedeafness and cluelessness when it comes to how these types of things are perceived by the vast majority of voters who aren’t billionaires and don’t bump uglies with them. Especially when you’re a person who has specifically spoken out against Congresspeople riding around in private jets. Now for a billionaire, Sussman doesn’t seem like all that bad of a guy. He’s supported some decent politicians and causes. But he’s also a billionaire hedge fund manager whose company (one of them anyway) benefited enormously from the AIG bailout and it appears he’s no stranger to the offshore tax dodge. Hard to claim you’re fighting for the little guy with a billionaire on your arm.

    So while there may have been nothing “wrong” with this from a legal standpoint, I’d really prefer to be represented by somebody who wasn’t getting down on their knees for a billionaire, no matter how nice a guy Sussman supposedly is.

  20. artemis54 permalink
    September 27, 2010 12:56 pm

    Good god. The CNN newstainmodel moron was just talking about Dilma winning in Brazil and stated that no woman had ever led such a large country – 200 million people!

    Does the name Indira ring a bell?

    • cometman permalink*
      September 27, 2010 1:07 pm

      Not surprising. Just read about a newly released study on the state of US education which shows we’re getting dumber all the time. Was it Sanchez? Perhaps CNN could boost it’s flagging ratings by allowing intelligent viewers to stand by and taze him on air every time he says something that stupid.

      • artemis54 permalink
        September 27, 2010 8:43 pm

        No it was one of the female equivalents. I doubt Sanchez knows where Brazil is.

  21. cometman permalink*
    September 27, 2010 1:03 pm

    Some financial links –

    Bailouts aren’t just for banks anymore. Little noticed news that credit unions are getting some pretty hefty bailouts as well.

    Friday’s moves include the seizure of three wholesale credit unions, plus an unusual plan by government officials to manage $50 billion of troubled assets inherited from failed institutions. To help fund the rescue, the National Credit Union Administration plans to issue $30 billion to $35 billion in government-guaranteed bonds, backed by the shaky mortgage-related assets.

    Officials said the plan won’t cost taxpayers any money.

    Won’t cost any money! And when do I get my unicorn?

    Pam Martens with another excellent piece, this time documenting how a former industry insider and rocket scientist (I shit you not) has been tasked with finding out what happened when the stock market melted down for a couple hours a few months back – Scientists, Secrets and Wall Street’s Lost $4 Trillion . She quotes Taleb extensively in describing why this strategy is completely ass backwards wrong.

    Yves Smith has been doing a tremendous job recently documenting the gross incompetence and fraud currently going in in the foreclosure industry.

  22. cometman permalink*
    September 27, 2010 2:36 pm

    Speaking of the corrupt US DOJ, turns out BP has violated its probation for the 2005 refinery explosion that killed a bunch of people, which means it could be prosecuted. Except the DOJ refuses to even revoke their probation, much less prosecute the bastards. Just a slap on the wrist fine with a promise to do better next time – move it along people, nothing to see here.

    Again, if Barry and the Dems really wanted to get re-elected, prosecuting BP for violations it has actually committed would seem to be a no-brainer. That would be something the public could get behind. So of course they won’t even consider it and just hope we’ll be scared of the Tea party bogeyman.

    • artemis54 permalink
      September 27, 2010 8:57 pm

      The cameras have moved on. Show’s over.

  23. artemis54 permalink
    September 27, 2010 8:50 pm

    Scotland the Green!

    Alex Salmond is confident that by 2025 Scotland will be generating 100% of its electricity from renewable sources and exporting a surplus. NB: without nukes, which Scotland has ruled out.

    This is that rare – maybe unique – case of a European country meeting its environment goals and pushing into new territory.

  24. artemis54 permalink
    September 27, 2010 9:13 pm

    Too much. Palin is getting booed on Dancing with the Stars. (She’s there to root for one of her spawn that is competing.) The host should have talked to Jamie Lee Curtis, also in the audience. At least she might have something intelligent to say.

    • cometman permalink*
      September 28, 2010 9:41 am

      I might watch if they put Jamie Lee on – one of my first movie star crushes from the teenage years. I’ve since replaced her with Anjelica Huston though.

      • artemis54 permalink
        September 28, 2010 9:57 am

        Mine was Julie Christie. Well, after the early disastrous Elizabeth Taylor/National Velvet thing. My sister took a little too much delight in explaining the age difference to my ten year old self.

  25. artemis54 permalink
    September 28, 2010 8:19 am

    Here ya go: U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey (of Americans only) finds that atheists know more about religion than believers.

    Two items in particular just leap off the page: 45% of Catholics have not the faintest idea what they are putting in their mouths at communion, and 53% of Protestants have no clue who Martin Luther was.

    In religion as in politics, Americans don’t like to be bothered with information or facts, they just pick a team to root for and check their brains at the door.

    • artemis54 permalink
      September 28, 2010 8:39 am

      Of course, one could argue that that’s why it’s called faith rather than knowledge. The only Xtian argument that ever made any sense to me was Credo Quia Impossibile (I believe because it is impossible). That is Coleridge’s corruption of Tertullian, not mine, and I suppose it says something that the only argument I could find was one from the rather suspect STC. There are still Xtians who would argue that it is quite sound.

    • cometman permalink*
      September 28, 2010 9:34 am

      Ha! I have a Bible and a Koran on my bookshelf right next to each other. Right next to them is a copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Bertrand Russell’s “Why I am not a Christian”, purposely juxtaposed in an attempt to get a rise out of any of my bible thumping family members who happen to notice it. So far they haven’t :)

      On a related note, the US doesn’t fare much better in a recent study of math and science knowledge. We’re #48! Not sure what to make of this finding –

      •49% of U.S. adults don’t know how long it takes for the Earth to circle the sun.

      – I find it almost unbelievable that so many adults could be quite that ignorant.

      • artemis54 permalink
        September 28, 2010 9:50 am

        One more odd remembrance re Xtianity and school: in another high school lit class, the teacher pulled several of us aside early in the year and said forget it, I want you guys to just do whatever you want, report back to me on occasion. When I came back a couple weeks later and told him I didn’t know what to do, he handed me a box of Emanuel Swedenborg‘s writings and said here, see what you make of this mess.

        • cometman permalink*
          September 28, 2010 10:12 am

          Never heard of Swedenborg until a few years ago when I ran across this article originally from the Boston Globe describing how a Boston Swedenborgian church got seriously ripped off by a mob affiliated con man who claimed the scales had fallen and he’d seen the light. The church made the guy treasurer!

          Couple years later I attended a wedding at one of their churches in California. Overall they seem like fairly nice people as far as Xtians go, if a little credulous. But I guess that is redundant.

        • cometman permalink*
          September 28, 2010 12:07 pm

          That brought to mind something I hadn’t thought of in years. My 5th grade teacher couldn’t find anything for me to do so she set me up at a table by myself to play Wff n’ proof. Can’t say that I remember particularly enjoying it. I could figure out the problems but they weren’t all that exciting. That, and setting a ten year old apart from classmates to do something “special” doesn’t always sit too well with the rest of the class.

          Later in life I do appreciate it quite a bit more though, especially after being in the workforce for a couple decades. It would be nice if those who showed a particular acumen got moved along fairly quickly before being bored to tears with their current job. Not challenging a dimwitted manager seems to work a lot better as far as getting promoted goes.

    • artemis54 permalink
      September 28, 2010 9:36 am

      I got a perfect 15 of 15 on the little inline quiz linked at the above site. Number 15 thanks to a high school lit teacher who assigned me an extensive stiduy of Jonathan Edwards. I thought it was punishment at the time; he later told me that he thought I needed something to do.

      My reward, as usual, will be in heaven.

      • cometman permalink*
        September 28, 2010 9:53 am

        I became familiar with Edwards through the modern day fire and brimstone minister I used to have to listen to every week who idolized the guy. That’s where I learned that people who mow their lawns on Sunday are going straight to H E double hockey sticks.

        I would have answered all the questions I saw correctly except the one about Maimonides. Would have had to guess between Catholic and Jew on that one. Other than that one, I think most viewers of South Park would have gotten them all pretty easily. Perhaps that’s why atheists scored so well. I imagine that show is banned or self-censored by most true believers.

        And I don’t know what reward you’re referring too. I’m sure Edwards will cast you into the lake of fire as soon as he catches a glimpse of you besmirching the pearly gates :P

  26. cometman permalink*
    September 28, 2010 12:25 pm

    Some links –

    All the high profile leaks and the publicity surrounding them has led to a pretty big shake up at Wikileaks. This story gets weirder all the time.

    At least half a dozen WikiLeaks staffers have tendered their resignations in recent weeks, the most prominent of them being Daniel Domscheit-Berg, who, under the name Daniel Schmitt, served as WikiLeaks’ German spokesman.

    Looks like the Dems are doing a 180 on their promise to preserve net neutrality.

    Legislative text put forward by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) under the banner of mandating network neutrality would instead prevent the government from requiring broadband providers to treat all Internet traffic equally.

    Waxman, who has vowed that he would support the so-called ‘Net Neutrality’ policy proposals favored by most Democrats and progressives, has instead put forward an as-yet-unsettled legislative framework that explicitly prohibits the Federal Communications Commission from regulating broadband Internet under Title II of the Communications Act: a caveat key to implementation of what’s been called the Internet’s First Amendment.

    Should the president sign a bill containing Waxman’s language, it would effectively kill ‘Net Neutrality’ efforts and make key parts of a hotly contested proposal by Google and Verizon the law of the land.

    Hugo Chavez’ party loses some seats but maintains a pretty hefty majority in recent Venezuelan legislative elections. Really like to see this bloc of more socialist countries forming around Chavez hold it together. If Brazil takes an even more socialist turn and solidifies the bloc of Latin trading partners that is forming, I think it would behoove Chavez to start looking for an appropriate successor in the next few years.

    One hundred protesters calling for an end to mountain top removal coal mining were arrested in front of the White House yesterday. The Rev. Billy had a sit in at a nearby branch of PNC bank which finances some of these operations. Found a little video of that –

  27. cometman permalink*
    September 28, 2010 12:38 pm

    The utter fecklessness of the Democratic party continues unabated. This time Bushwa Barry trotted out Joe Biden to dump on liberals some more and tell them to stop whining. That ought to fire up the base.

    Saw this mentioned quite a bit around the interwebs today and of course it’s going over like a lead balloon. Someone had the temerity to take Biden to task about it at the Tangerine Dream where it made the wreck list and quickly devolved into an argument about whether Biden and Obama or those who call them on their bullshit were in fact the biggest whiners. Keep crashing those gates!

    Biden does deserve a lot of credit for telling the truth with this statement –

    “If we make this a referendum on the current state of affairs, we lose, and so that’s why we’ve got to make this a choice.”

    Nothing to run on, so it looks like another 2+ years of shaking the tea bag boogeyman. Didn’t take long for Mr. Hope to turn into Mr. Fear.

    But after letting a little truth slip out (soon to be labeled a “gaffe” I’m sure) Biden quickly reverted back to form with a bald faced lie.

    “This president has done an incredible job. He’s kept his promises,” he said.

    • artemis54 permalink
      September 28, 2010 2:36 pm

      Funny I;ve tried twice now to email re my unhappiness with this fucking mess and this chiding of the dem electorate – the general idea being that it isn’t a matter of their failure to accomplish this or that, but a failure to even try.

      Somehow it keeps hanging up, but always after a suspiciously long time. Weeding out all the critical emails, are we? Would that surprise anyone at this point?

      Still plan on voting for Patty Murray, but only out of sheer hatred of Rossi. They can’t count on this everywhere, and there is absolutely no reason for anyone to vote dem as an endorsement of these fucking whores (Obama, Biden, etc).

      • cometman permalink*
        September 28, 2010 3:24 pm

        That’s what the leadership doesn’t seem to grasp. It isn’t that they’ve failed, it’s that they give up without a fight on things that matter A LOT. If they’d fought for a public option and it got filibustered, and Harry Reid had made the republicans actually filibuster in public at length about why Americans couldn’t have what the rest of the world had, rather then just folding as soon as he saw the preliminary vote count, I’d have no problem voting for the Dems. But they haven’t done that or anything like it for decades now.

        Obama was joking around recently about people who are whining because some derivative rules in the financial reform weren’t to their liking, as if that were some small, arcane, inconsequential matter. It’s the derivatives which caused the entire meltdown and the problem has not been fixed at all. How fucking stupid is that? He really sounded like Bush doing his “Where are the WMDs?” routine, which was just about as funny.

  28. cometman permalink*
    September 28, 2010 1:07 pm

    Oh for fuck sake. Just got an email from photobucket saying they yanked the image I used here due to copyright infringement. Of course I noticed that the image was copyrighted and contacted the artist before using it asking for permission to post it which she granted. WTF? I want my picture back. Just emailed photobucket telling them I had been given permission to use it. We’ll see if it gets a response. If not, I suppose I can send another email reminding them of the ease with which I could sign up at a different image sharing site. Please don’t tell photobucket that I couldn’t figure out flickr ;)

  29. cometman permalink*
    September 29, 2010 10:10 am

    Couple articles tangentially related to net neutrality or what looks to be the coming lack thereof –

    A guy who knows a thing or two about the intertubes speaks out against laws that would deny access to the web.

    Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the world wide web, warned Tuesday of the “blight” of new laws being introduced across the globe allowing people to be cut off from the Internet.

    “There’s been a rash of laws trying to give governments and Internet service providers (ISPs) the right and the duty to disconnect people,” he told a conference on web science at the Royal Society in London.

    The “current blight” includes a French law that comes into effect this year that threatens to cut people off if they illegally download from the Internet, and a new British law passed in April which could see similar action, he said.

    “If a French family can be forcibly disconnected from the Internet by law for a year because one of their children downloaded something that some company asserts that they should not have downloaded, without trial — I think that’s a kind of inappropriate punishment,” Berners-Lee said.

    And this is just ridiculous and a bit chilling at the same time – Progressive political forum fights lawsuit over five sentence news excerpt.

    …if the so-called “copyright troll” company Righthaven LLC is successful, a vibrant political forum for American progressives could be shut down, all thanks to a five sentence excerpt from the Las Vegas Review-Journal that caught the paper’s attention.

    The forum Democratic Underground (DU) which frequently reposts news excerpts for users to discuss, was sued in August for quoting and linking to the Nevada paper. Backed by Internet freedom advocacy group Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF), DU filed a counter-suit on Monday, accusing the paper and Righthaven of engaging in copyright fraud.

    “Righthaven has brought over 130 lawsuits in Nevada federal court claiming copyright infringement, even though they do not create, produce or distribute any content,” EFF explained. “Instead, they create lawsuits by scouring the Internet for content from Review-Journal stories posted on blogs and online forums, acquiring the copyright to that particular story from Stephens Media LLC (the Review-Journal’s publisher), and then suing the poster for infringement.

    “As part of its lawsuit business model, Righthaven claims damages of up to $150,000 under the Copyright Act’s statutory damages provisions and uses that threat to attempt to push defendants into a quick settlement. In the answer and counterclaim filed Monday, Democratic Underground asked the court to affirm that the excerpt of the article does not infringe copyright and is a fair use of the material, with no damages due to Righthaven.”

    Another instance of something that should not be legal to do, but for some reason is. IIRC, I read about something similar being done with patents a while ago. Some jackass would set up a company that bought unused patents with no intent to develop the ideas themselves. Then when the shell company found another individual doing something similar to what was already patented, they’d sue the other party for infringement on a patent they didn’t develop themselves and had no intent of ever using. Purely a corporate vehicle to generate money through lawsuits.

    On another related note, here’s a list of words Google would prefer you not search for – The Google Blacklist. Just tried it out with one of the terms and it happens just like the article mentions. You do have to be at though, same thing doesn’t happen just using the google search on the firefox start page.

    • artemis54 permalink
      September 29, 2010 2:16 pm

      Pamela Anderson!

      I think I mentioned getting tangled up in a crazy alleged copyright infringement, involving carrying frozen coconut desserts across state lines – somehow carrying it across the line before consumption convinced the court of the validity of the prior copyright.

  30. cometman permalink*
    September 29, 2010 10:14 am

    Another study in the debate to figure out what the “hobbit” fossils really are – ‘Hobbit’ Was an Iodine-Deficient Human, Not Another Species, New Study Suggests.

    The University of Western Australia’s Emeritus Professor Charles Oxnard and his colleagues, in a paper in PLoS ONE have reconfirmed, on the post-cranial skeleton, their original finding on the skull that Homo floresiensis in fact bears the hallmarks of humans — Homo sapiens — affected by hypothyroid cretinism.

    You can read the PLoS ONE paper here.

  31. cometman permalink*
    September 29, 2010 1:09 pm

    Some links –

    The latest rolling Stone article from Matt Taibbi on Rand Paul and the tea bag crowd – Tea and Crackers.

    I disagree with his contention that the “brutally complex global economic system” is “an irrevocable fact of our modern life” – it’s only been around for a fairly short time and sure looks like it’s set to crumble without some serious restructuring. It can be made simpler and be made to work for everybody if there was the political will to do so. I do agree with the last bit though –

    The bad news is that the Tea Party’s political outrage is being appropriated, with thanks, by the Goldmans and the BPs of the world. The good news, if you want to look at it that way, is that those interests mostly have us by the balls anyway, no matter who wins on Election Day. That’s the reality; the rest of this is just noise. It’s just that it’s a lot of noise, and there’s no telling when it’s ever going to end.

    While out tea bag “protesters” are unwittingly doing the bidding of those who would exploit them, the Europeans don’t have the same lack of focus and are hitting the streets again to protest austerity measures. Maybe the disconnect in the US comes from the fact that while “austerity” measures are definitely being imposed, they aren’t explicitly called “austerity measures” as they are in Europe. The US just calls it massive unemployment that nobody seems to want to even try fixing.

    While there is no help on the horizon for those whose lives have suddenly become more austere, there is still plenty of help for the likes of AIG. Any idiot who thinks the government will be repaid for the massive financial industry bailouts should check this out for starters – Sorry Spectacle of Team Obama “Peace With Honor” With AIG.

    Team Obama is trying to present its shameful exodus from what it deems to be a hopeless losing cause, AIG, as a similar victory of sorts. The Journal tells us the US is going to “pare its stake” in the troubled insurer; the New York Times’ formula is “sever ties“; the Financial Times calls it an “exit plan“. But these sanitized phrases deliberately mask what the Administration is so keen to hide: that it has been badly overmastered, whether by incompetence or design, by the world’s biggest deadbeat. And the government’s eagerness to distance itself from a $182 billion sinkhole means it is yet again giving more unwarranted financial concessions.


    But the deal has been retraded a full four times, each time with the Uncle Sam putting up more dough and worsening its footing, through a combination of lowering its interest rate and taking a less senior position.


    Let’s not kid ourselves: all this fancy financial footwork is to divert public attention from the fact that AIG will deliver big losses to the taxpayer. The latest Congressional Oversight Panel report contained estimates of losses on the AIG financing, with estimates from separate government sources ranging form $36 to $50 billion. Do you see this acknowledged ANYWHERE in the New York Times, Bloomberg, or Wall Street Journal? (To its credit, the FT does pick this up). No, which means this propagandizing, sadly, is proving to be quite effective.

    Michael Hudson has another excellent article about how the US would still really like the rest of the world to follow its financial example despite the fact that it has been a spectacular failure, but China isn’t biting – America’s China Bashing – A Short Tour of Junk Economics

    Lots of good stuff in there, but he gets to the heart of it by reiterating that debt creation (which the US currently favors to make it look like the financial system isn’t completely insolvent) isn’t the same as wealth creation. Also enjoyed him taking Krugman to task for trying a little too hard to toe the Obama line. The end of the piece which touches on the news making the rounds a lot lately that China has been severely limiting its exports of rare earth metals was also good-

    China is trying to help by voluntarily cutting back its rare earth exports. It has almost a monopoly, accounting for 97 per cent of global trade in these 17 metallic elements. These exports are “price inelastic.” There is little known replacement cost once existing deposits are depleted. Yet China charges only for the cost of digging these rare metals out of the ground and refining them. They are used in military and other high-technology applications, from guided missile steering systems and computer hard drives to hybrid electric automobile batteries. This has prompted China to recently cut back its exports to save its land from environmental pollution and, incidentally, to build up its own stockpile for future use.

    So I have a modest suggestion. If and when China starts re-exporting these metals, raise their price from a few dollars a pound to a few hundred dollars. According to a theory put forth by Paul Krugman and the U.S. Congress, this price increase should slow demand for Chinese exports. It also would help promote world peace and demilitarization, because these rare metals are key elements in missile guidance systems. China should build up its national security stockpile of these key minerals for the future – say, the next prospective five years of production. Let this be a test of the junk paradigms at work.

  32. artemis54 permalink
    September 29, 2010 11:35 pm

    BBC’s Richard Black covers the iLCP’s Great Bear Rainforest RAVE and FIrst Nations opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline.

  33. artemis54 permalink
    September 30, 2010 4:10 am

    Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie

    Have to get my hands on this even if it means braving the contraband sniffing beavers at the border.

    Interiview at the premiere:

    I am a shit disturber.

  34. artemis54 permalink
    September 30, 2010 4:39 am

    It’s raining mice.

    Poisoned, frozen mice on cardboard trays with paper streamers. All part of a USDA effort to eradicate or at least get a handle on the brown treesnakes that have overrun Guam.

    The attachments are designed – and tested for some time already – to entangle the poisoned mice high in the tree canopy, where the snakes spend most of their time. Presumably the odd choice of poison – acetaminophen – is meant to reduce the threat to nontarget species?

    • cometman permalink*
      September 30, 2010 1:15 pm

      Hmmmm. Not sure how they can guarantee no mice will make it to the ground and poison whatever rodent-eating species live there. Or maybe the Tylenol will kill the snakes but not other mouse fanciers?

      I’m thinking they need to foloow Australia’s lead and bring in some meat ants as ground troops to send against any mice that make it down :)

      • artemis54 permalink
        September 30, 2010 1:23 pm

        I assume it’s a matter of playing the odds. If they don’t do something about these snakes, there won’t be anything else left.

  35. cometman permalink*
    September 30, 2010 6:42 am

    We’re getting closer to finally being able to get off this rock. Pretty astounding discovery of a potentially habitable planet orbiting a nearby star. This planet may not have what it takes for life similar to that on earth, but it’s discovery around such a nearby star certainly implies that other planets like this are fairly common.

    • artemis54 permalink
      September 30, 2010 11:56 am

      Makes a likely goal, being just down the road and all. I wonder who whill go? Certainly not the US; under current conditions it would take 300 years to get authorization from our govt.

      • cometman permalink*
        September 30, 2010 12:15 pm

        With some more advances in technology, I expect somebody will give it a whirl. This is one of the few areas where I’d like to see private industry take charge with limited government oversight. Besides the cost, what keeps government from more manned human spaceflights is the danger posed by an accident. Blowing up on the launching pad never looks good, especially if the taxpayer is footing the bill. But the astronauts know the risks they’re signing up for and if exploration was privately funded, I don’t think people would mind the accidents nearly as much.

        Who knows what will become possible within the next few decades. If better engines are developed that allow for travel at a higher percentage of light speed, a trip to a close planet like this could be done within one current human lifetime. If the technology is there, somebody’s going to launch a ship just because they can and no government will be able to do a damn thing about it once they’ve taken off.

  36. cometman permalink*
    September 30, 2010 12:22 pm

    Strange things afoot in Ecuador. Correa is calling it an attempted coup. Hard to piece together what’s going on from the initial reports which all have slightly different details. From what I can gather, police were protesting potential wage and benefit cuts and some of them accosted Correa who had gone out in public to try to quell the growing disturbance. One report said Correa claimed his government had already doubled wages since 2007. Another claims any reports of cuts were a fabrication started by his opposition. Too much fog to tell right now. A few initial reports here and here and here.

    Maybe Correa is just overreacting to a few police who got out of hand. And maybe somebody needs to check what USAid has been up to in Ecuador lately.

    Any successful coup would sure put a damper on Correa’s attempt to keep Ecuador’s oil in the ground.

    • artemis54 permalink
      September 30, 2010 12:26 pm

      I smell a big oily rat.

      • cometman permalink*
        September 30, 2010 12:38 pm


        Just checked Common Dreams to see if they had an update but all they had was a reprint from one of the sources I already posted. Haven’t seen anything more in depth yet, but I certainly had heard of any huge dissatisfaction with Correa at all. The timing, with Brazil likely to elect another socialist president next week and Chavez keeping a strong majority in recent Venezuelan elections, is definitely suspicious. Funny how this happens just when it appears that the socialists are strengthening their hold on power in the Southern hemisphere.

  37. cometman permalink*
    September 30, 2010 12:32 pm

    One more decent reporter gone. Ken Silverstein will continue contributing to Harper’s and will continue doing investigative journalism work but he’s calling it quits as a Beltway reporter . Looks like he finally got disgusted with it all.

    I moved to Washington in 1993, when a young, new Democratic president replaced George Bush and promised to reform politics and be a transformative leader. Backed by huge majorities in Congress and with public opinion squarely in his corner, he had the opportunity to shake things up and change American politics. Instead, he and his party squandered their chance through timidity, weak leadership, a lack of any original ideas and their refusal to confront special interest groups.

    Here we are seventeen years later and there’s a young, new Democratic president who replaced George Bush and promised to reform politics and be a transformative leader. Backed by huge majorities in Congress….

    Well, by now you can probably guess where this is heading.

    I had low expectations for Obama as I always viewed him as a fairly conventional insider. But by any measure, his presidency has been a huge disappointment. It’s true that Obama inherited a terrible economy, but his policies were timid — which is no surprise given that his economic team was composed almost entirely of the same bankers and Wall Street insiders who paved the way for and profited from our bubble economy. There are now 43.6 million Americans living in poverty and more than 15 million out of work; that’s a scandal, and when there’s a Democrat in the White House and the party has ample majorities in Congress, it’s not credible to blame everything on obstructionism by the Republicans.

    Then there was the health care reform bill, that took more than a year to pass and whose primary beneficiaries were the lobbyists who got paid billions to water it down. The bill does almost nothing to control costs and left the insurance industry in charge of the system. And for that very reason, the industry will be able to contrive loopholes that minimize the impact of the few good measures left in the bill.

    Joe Biden and Robert Gibbs have recently been attacking the “left” and saying that it doesn’t appreciate all the great things the administration has done. For my part, I have lived in Washington long enough to have realistic hopes; for example, given political realities, passing a single payer bill was not going to happen. But I also don’t think it’s my job, as a journalist or a citizen, to blindly repeat the mantra of the administration (and its supporters in the blogosphere), that we should “not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Fine, but let’s also not treat the administration’s health care plan as a grand achievement. The bill is widely unpopular, and not only because of the hyperbolic attacks on it by Republicans and Fox News. It’s unpopular because it’s a terrible piece of legislation.

    The current GOP is truly a scary party, but if not for that it would be impossible to care about the midterm elections. When you’re reduced to rooting for soulless hacks like the current Senate majority leader—and he’s typical of today’s Democrats—you’ve lost something fundamental at the core of your humanity.

    So as you can tell from all this, I just no longer have the energy to cover Washington. I’ve loved working for Harper’s, but, as I told Mediabistro, “Washington and Washington politics has worn me down. Every time I write a story I feel like I wrote it a year ago and five years ago and 10 years ago. Nothing ever changes here.” I frequently find myself numb to political news and, even worse, to the lifeless, conventional wisdom peddled by the Washington media. When you can read an entire column by the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz and never once feel the urge to cut out your own heart with a dull knife, you know that you no longer have the sense of outrage that is essential to reporting from our nation’s capital.

    And as if they were trying to prove Silverstein right in his assessment of their complete uselessness, Senate Democrats have joined with republicans to block any recess appointments Barry may want to make in the next few weeks. This would be the same republicans who were of course blocking appointments while Congress was actually in session. Can’t get much more retarded. As Silverstein said, the Dems can’t blame everything on republican obstructionism, especially when they’re aiding and abetting the supposed obstruction.

  38. artemis54 permalink
    September 30, 2010 1:09 pm

    New strategic plan from the USFWS: Rising to the Urgent Challenge — Strategic Plan for Responding to Accelerating Climate Change

    What have we got here other than yet another branch of the govt flailing on its own to address the climate change our new senate will most likely deny exists (“The Earth’s climate is changing at an accelerating rate that has the potential to cause abrupt changes in ecosystems . . . . “)?

    We’ve got Vision, we’ve got Three Progressive Strategies, we’ve got Seven Bold Commitments (Five Goooolden Rings . . . ) In other words, we have a power point presentation padded out with the usual USFWS horn tooting and self justification and festooned with large type quotes from Rachel Carson to fill up the pages. At first glance, the only real thing I see here is a professed commitment to reducing the Service’s own carbon footprint. One and a half cheers.

    The rest is all from 30,000 feet. How about something on the ground? How about a commitment to biological corridors like the Siskiyou Wilderness that would create half a chance for wildlife?

    Adaptation and mitigation. That’s what you do once you’ve thrown in the towel.

    • cometman permalink*
      September 30, 2010 1:18 pm

      Yeah, but the document is really pretty. That must mean this time they’re serious ….

  39. cometman permalink*
    September 30, 2010 4:53 pm

    Couple that tickled the funny bone a little.

    The Teamsters are currently unionizing legal California pot growers.

    And the architects who used a concave design for a Vegas hotel with lots of reflecting glass didn’t take into account that it would focus the light and turn the place into a tourist frying heat ray.

  40. artemis54 permalink
    September 30, 2010 7:53 pm

    This Lawrence O’Donnell is the most pathetic piece of crap to appear in a long time.

    At the end of the daily MSNBC lineup, it’s the same shit the channel’s viewers have heard all day, and that anyone who cared heard about the night before.

    Then there’s his bullying, over directed interview style. So far he has made me feel sorry for Levi Johnston – what does Pakistan have to do with whatever issues face Wasilla? – and Megan McCain as he steamrolls over them to his predetermined, and oh so clever in a Joe Scarborough, Harold Fraud Jr. kind of way. Go home you tired old fuck and write a screenplay, where it is appropriate to exercise total control.

    Get the hook and pull this shit off the air.

  41. artemis54 permalink
    October 1, 2010 8:02 am

    TRNN report on Ecuador – no real bombshells here, but a little perspective.

    • cometman permalink*
      October 1, 2010 9:59 am

      Have to agree with what he said near the end – what we’ve heard so far at least are pretty flimsy reasons to launch a coup. Usually takes a little bit more than one department being denied a raise before all hell breaks loose. Found a couple other things which I’ll mention in the new post.

  42. artemis54 permalink
    October 1, 2010 8:38 am

    Ig Über Alles

    Ig Nobels announced

    Among the winners:

    The Peter Principle Revisited: A Computational Study finds that the most effective way to manage personnel is to promote individuals at random.

    we explore different promotion strategies and we find . . . the best ways for improving the efficiency of a given organization are either to promote each time an agent at random or to promote randomly the best and the worst members in terms of competence.

    Fellatio by Fruit Bats Prolongs Copulation Time

    Males never withdrew their penis when it was licked by the mating partner. A positive relationship exists between the length of time that the female licked the male’s penis during copulation and the duration of copulation. Furthermore, mating pairs spent significantly more time in copulation if the female licked her mate’s penis than if fellatio was absent. Males also show postcopulatory genital grooming after intromission. At present, we do not know why genital licking occurs, and we present four non-mutually exclusive hypotheses that may explain the function of fellatio in C. sphinx.

    Hard to beat, but my personal favorite has to be Preventing winter falls: a randomised controlled trial of a novel intervention

    Wearing socks over shoes appears to be an effective and inexpensive method to reduce the likelihood of slipping on icy footpaths.

    • cometman permalink*
      October 1, 2010 10:06 am

      Ha! I notice that the study about how drinking water makes you less hungry didn’t make the list. Maybe next year….

  43. artemis54 permalink
    October 1, 2010 9:03 am

    Joint Statement by Secretaries Clinton and Sebelius on a 1946-1948 Study

    The sexually transmitted disease inoculation study conducted from 1946-1948 in Guatemala was clearly unethical. Although these events occurred more than 64 years ago, we are outraged that such reprehensible research could have occurred under the guise of public health. We deeply regret that it happened, and we apologize to all the individuals who were affected by such abhorrent research practices. The conduct exhibited during the study does not represent the values of the United States, or our commitment to human dignity and great respect for the people of Guatemala. The study is a sad reminder that adequate human subject safeguards did not exist a half-century ago.

    Some apology, with most of the victims long since dead and monetary compensation offered to their families.

    Shades of Tuskegee – and some of the same monsters were involved: “patients” were purposefully infected with gonorrhea and syphilis in various ways. Some, like the direct spinal injections, remind one more of Mengele than anything recognizable as medical treatment. They were encouraged to infect other people, and many were never offered treatment of any kind.

    Moron extraordinaire Chuck Todd is quack-quack-quacking away about how it was Guatemala’s fault because their government cooperated. For this ignoramus, history began when he woke up this morning, and the fact that the country was entirely under the thumb of US interests never comes into it.

    I notice it is now impossible to email pmsnbc.

    • artemis54 permalink
      October 1, 2010 9:05 am

      Should read:

      No monetary compensation offered

    • cometman permalink*
      October 1, 2010 10:12 am

      Chuck Todd and the rest of the talking bimbos who have never read a history book or seen a map – United in Fruitlessness.

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