Links 5/28/11

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New York Times (hat tip reader John M)

Time (hat tip reader John M). Note I found the video hard to watch.

Independent (hat tip Buzz Potamkin). OMG, only a member of the Royal Family would dare to be so appalling. But I have to say 46, 53, 67 are really funny.

Guardian (hat tip Buzz Potamkin)

Felix Salmon (hat tip reader John M)

Guardian (hat tip reader Philip Pilkington)

Guardian (hat tip reader Philip Pilkington)

Bill Mitchell (hat tip reader Thomas R)

Bloomberg (hat tip Buzz Potmakin)

Golem XIV

Paul Krugman

Antidote du jour:

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89 comments

  1. Diego Méndez

    It is legitimate to ask ourselves whether democracy is real. People go to the streets to protest peacefully against corruption and for more democracy and politicians answer with beating policemen and rubber bullets.

    1. DownSouth

      Let me use this as an opportunity to put in another plug for , the PBS documentary released last week.

      It provides an excellent case study of how nonviolent protest works, and how highly effective it can be.

    2. DownSouth

      I found in comments—-the poster child for democracy in the EU. As the comment says, it shows a fully armoured riot cop attacking a man in a wheelchair.

      And I thought things were better in Europe than in the US. Silly me.

      1. Diego Méndez

        DownSouth,

        the Spanish r-evolution is well and alive. There have been mass attendance to popular assemblies in every neighbourhood and town around Madrid.

        As expected, most mainstream media are not reporting it. But critical mass is already achieved, so does it really matter?

        There is a growing consensus among participants to demand political reform and specific measures against corruption and more citizen’s participation in the decision-making process.

        I am pretty sure we’ll get our aims before next general elections (at most, 10 months from now). The timing couldn’t have been better.

        I’d be most delighted if this movement spread throughout Europe.

        1. DownSouth

          Well why don’t you send it across the Atlantic too?

          On this side of the pond we’ve fallen into such a state of torpor that I honestly don’t know what it’s going to take to awaken “the great gorilla in the politcal jungle” from her long hybernation.

        2. auskalo

          Great writer and economist J. L. Sampedro talking about 15M:

          And interesting article by a Probrelberg member of Barcelona in El País (Spanish, use google translate):

  2. Re food price speculators:

    There’s no arguing with that data, although crooks like Krugman will continue to join George Bush in calling it a combination of bad harvests and the eating habits of the new middle classes of India and elsewhere.

    But the facts are:

    1. The goal of capitalism is to generate artificial scarcity out of natural plenty. That is, it’s the exact opposite of the Big Lie of economics, all the nonsense about allocating scarce resources. It’s a Big Lie because the truth is so evidently the opposite.

    2. In this case, even though the world produces far more than enough food for everyone to eat a basically good diet, capitalism strives to generate mass scarcity and therefore mass hunger. This was always a core goal of globalization, for example in the way the IMF targeted public agricultural investment in developing countries.

    3. Similarly, food markets are naturally local/regional. Food commodification is naturally a small appendage of the market. To put it another way, a “free market” in food would be overwhelmingly local/regional.

    But corporations and government have systematically forced all food markets into the artificial strait jacket of commodification practices. This has artificially rendered food prices volatile and susceptible to non-linear jumps from relatively small inputs. The ethanol onslaught (another massive government intervention) has greatly aggravated the whole effect.

    Food commodification and its effect on all food markets is the tail wagging the dog, just as the finance sector has done with the real economy.

    4. So this sector’s food speculation is the tail of the tail wagging the whole thing. It’s the most pure distillation of the logic of food commodification in general.

    I raised this issue because many readers have been writing in asking me about price manipulation in international commodity markets – which is aka how financial markets caused a jump in world starvation and death.

    Food commodification itself is malevolent, and speculation in it is a capital crime. As Mitchell says here, a food speculator, in addition to his capital robbery, is literally a mass murderer.

    1. Hugh

      I agree. Commodification was supposed to be about smoothing price and availability, an optimization of local markets, but instead we have seen many local markets optimized out of existence. This has been true at each step in the expansion in the size of markets, from the local to the regional, from the regional to the national, and from the national to the international. This has not made the overall system better and more robust. We have seen the rise of monocultures and a decrease in diversity. Along with this, we have seen an increase in uniformity and a decrease in quality. This is the “You can get a peach that tastes like wax anytime of the year” effect. There has also been the unsustainable extension of certain kinds of agriculture into marginal areas: the depletion of the Oglala aquifer to grow grains in Nebraska, wasteful water practices and salinity problems growing vegetables in the deserts of California, or internationally, deforestation in Brazil, for examples.

      At each stage in the expansion of agricultural markets, there has also been an increase in their financialization. This has led to a near divorce between the commodity as physical quantity and its existence as financial instrument. The result is the very opposite of that originally intended. Prices aren’t smoothed. They’re distorted. Availability is restricted. This has real world consequences: death, malnutrition, and impoverishment. Speculators aren’t cute and clever. They are, quite simply, murderous.

      1. Here’s an article I wrote in March which counters the conclusion of the food speculation article from billy blog:

        Yves, I always read your links and have watched you cover both sides of this commodities speculation debate.

    2. craazyman

      Some months ago I sold my position in DBA, for that reason, and I won’t buy it ever again. It’s like owning shares in a child brothel.

      When I told a friend of mine who’se a semi-retired money manager, he asked, “You don’t want to get rich first, then give to charities?”

      “You can’t sin your way to grace,” I said.

      But if GLD and SLV double, I won’t feel guilty. Although the banksters should.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Hey, money is money.

            It’s not like I can create it out of thin air.

        1. doom

          It’s sort of an ethical investment, in that Deutsche is screwing you while you’re screwing the poor.

    3. Anonymous Jones

      No matter how many practitioners of economics are idiots (or how daft the entire project of economics is), the idea that “idea of scarcity” is not real is completely and totally (truly beyond the pale) insane. It’s a concept, not a theory to be disproven.

      Yes, at certain times, some things may be jiggered to appear more scarce than they actually are, but that does not mean there is not a limit on the availability of any given resource. I mean, this conversation is so daft and so incredibly insane I can’t even believe I am wasting the time to type this right now.

      I mean, think of how scarce a commodity you are! There’s no one else on earth who understands everything you do! You *and* your wisdom are the most precious and scarce commodities on the planet! Think about it. We are all idiots, but you know everything. How can we possibly access all your knowledge and intelligence given the time constraints you must face in dispensing your wisdom and cruel and unnecessary epithets every day?

      QED.

      1. craazyman

        yeah, AJ, what I do is I put 1 shot of attempter in the mixing glass, add 2 parts water, pour it on the rocks, and add a slice of lime.

        If you drink it straight it’s like battery acid.

        But when mixed appropriately and imbibed in a gentlemanly way, it cleans your head out, ha ha.

        1. Bar Tender

          My recipe for a complicated NC drink

          1 part DownSouth (special reserve with Arendt quotes)
          1 part Hugh for depth of flavor
          a dash of Attempter on the rocks
          a smidge of Phil Pilkington
          a olive

          You shake it with ice for 30 minutes, put it into a hollowed out coconut, and put a little umbrella into it. Then serve it to kleptocrats on their private islands, and watch them throw up all over the place.

      2. F. Beard

        Yes genuine scarcity exists but money need never be scarce yet it often is. And because money is often scarce and because we have a government enforced money monopoly for private debts then money scarcity = an artificial scarcity of goods and services.

      3. To me, AJ, your reading of scarcity is totally beholden to the discipline you think daft in its entirety. Your conflation of scarcity with uniqueness is a clue. Marshal Sahlins took a fresher look at scarcity in “Stone Age Economics”, and the opening essay of that collection, “The Original Affluent Society” is available online if you’re interested. Sam Vaknin, an economist no less, has an online essay on the scarcity fallacy here: , though his conclusion is silly.

        Very basically, scarcity is in the eye of the beholder, much as value is, and beauty of course. A man lost in a desert would call me a twit for saying such a thing since his need for and the absence of water in his immediate environment is genuine evidence of scarcity. But no man is just in a desert as in the mental exercise here. There is water on the planet. We can store it. We can distribute it. Because we can plan stuff, organize ourselves, assess carrying capacity, adapt, create, solve, etc., including primitives like the Piraha who, despite seeing absolutely everything as unique and who cannot therefore count above one yet share everything and presume abundance, we need not endure scarcity in the way we do. But to transcend the nonsense attempter rightly castigates, we must transcend this criminal ‘free market’ system.

        You’re correct that there is real scarcity. But your perception fails to rise beyond the system that has caused you to think that way. There are other ways. Don’t believe the hype.

      4. paper mac

        If you started with the proposition “capitalism generates artificial scarcity” and ended up with “scarcity doesn’t exist”, you’re either arguing in bad faith or you’re concussed. Next time you get the feeling that you’re wasting time writing a post, you should probably just stop- chances are, you’re right!

          1. aet

            And who can remember such times, when money was not scarce, and the times could not be said to be hard?

            Money is and has ever been scarce, for that is its nature.

            Money is but a means to multiply the ends of human endeavour: and it does its job tolerably well.

            But there was never a time when it was being given away.

          2. Money requires scarcity because it’s function is to ration out scarce goods and services. No scarcity, no money. More scarcity, more money; more money, more scarcity. Air has a price of zero for example. As water stocks diminish, it too is being commoditized, and we see its price rising. Hence money, and now capitalism particularly, generates artificial scarcity as a matter of its own survival. Crops were destroyed during the Great Depression because there wasn’t enough money around with which to distribute the food to the needy. That is a crime against humanity we repeat today over and over, globally. Over-supply is a perennial problem for capitalism, even when people are forced to go without for simple monetary reasons, even with high unemployed and under-capacity factories. With capitalism it’s not about cohesive resource-management and sustainability, it’s about profit maximization for its own sake, aligned with the Hail Mary of The Invisible Hand magically wiping our collective butt. That is not a very intelligent system. And people think it pragmatic and talk of realpolitik!

            Money is the fuel of the engine of perpetual growth, but because growth cannot go on forever–and we are facing the challenges of that now (boy, don’t we hate it, fussing and whining like spoiled teenagers, “It’s not faaaair!!”)–money, in it’s current form, is a big problem.

            Money is not a dastardly invention of purely evil intent, but it did have unforeseen consequences, as do all inventions. Now that we are at the dangerous limits of growth we need a new money and a new economics too. That this is as laughable a suggestion here as it appears to be, despite a general consensus that economics is bunk, tells me how unlikely it is that humanity will deal with this issue pragmatically and impartially, and instead drive itself over the tipping point blaming everyone and everything in a rage of bloody finger pointing, while ignoring the obvious, mathematically and ecologically simple facts.

            What really astounds me, over and over again, is that people who obviously consider themselves hard-nosed pragmatists refuse to address the problem of perpetual linear growth, and that it is required by The Corporation, Capitalism and interest-bearing debt-money alike. Failing to address that means one fails to look at exactly how defunct mainstream economics is, at how it is but a propaganda tool for the financial elites. How much of a beating does this sham discipline have to take before people start treating it with the irreverence it deserves?

          3. And people think it pragmatic and talk of realpolitik!

            When they use terms like that it’s usually just the gutter worship of force. They’re snivelling, malicious little cowards who crawl and scrape before power, and are even too morally cowardly to openly avow the Might Makes Right they support. So they invent rationalizations for their own despicability and worthlessness. Their ideology boils down to agreeing that if you shoot someone in the head, that proves whatever he was trying to do “couldn’t have worked”.

            That’s one of the main drivers of the Status Quo Lie.

            That this is as laughable a suggestion here as it appears to be, despite a general consensus that economics is bunk

            They don’t really think economics is bunk. That’s just concern-troll rhetoric. But anyone who still believes in the “growth” which already ceased to exist years ago is a cult fundamentalist, so anything he ever says will never be anything but cult rhetoric. Nobody is more of a pathological liar than a fundamentalist on behalf of a Big Lie, because by definition he’s incapable of interacting with truth.

            The truth is that nothing is more utopian and less pragmatic (using that as an English language term) than corporate capitalism with its continued claim that infinite exponential growth is desirable, possible, and inevitable; or with its call for universal altruism (indeed anarchism) on the part of the people while it reserves total egoism and capitalist prerogative for an elite few. Every promise it ever made has long since been proven to be a lie. It failed at every thing it claimed it would long since have accomplished by now. It was promised that the “invisible hand” of trickle-down capitalism and representative government would bring broad-based middle class prosperity amid social stability and widening political participation.

            We now know that all of this is a lie. So to still believe this lie is to be one of the malevolent cowards and cultists I described above.

          4. A powerful passage on over-supply from Rudolf Rocker’s “Nationalism and Culture”:

            “In America four million bales of cotton are being destroyed by order of the authorities by leaving every third row in the plantation unpicked. In Canada they are burning enormous stores of wheat for which there is no market. Brazil destroyed in October, 1932, over 102 million sacks of coffee, and in Argentina they are burning dried meat. In Alaska 400,000 cases of salmon were destroyed, and in New York the authorities had to halt the pollution of streams where fish were dying from the great quantities of dumped milk. In Australia over a million sheep were killed and buried to prevent “over-production.” Great catches of herring were returned to the sea because no buyers appeared. Even in so poverty-stricken a land as Germany great stores of cucumbers and other vegetables rot every year, or are used as manure, because no customers can be found for them. And this is but a short extract from a long list. Its mute accusation cannot easily be misunderstood.”

    4. KFritz

      Krugman is wrong on a couple of issues and he’s a “crook?” Whoever said it was right when he said, “The final luxury is to be envied.”

      1. Speaking of arguing in bad faith (as paper mac correctly, though probably in vain, assesses the troll above), you know perfectly well that the indictment against Krugman goes far beyond “being wrong about a few issues”. His aggressive advocacy of neoliberal globalization in the 90s (many years after its intent and effects were manifest) is enough to put him in the Nuremburg dock, and is the baseline for assessing all his other actions. That’s the core Krugman – a “New Democrat”-type neoliberal predator.

        But we have more recent data points, like Krugman’s support for the Bailout and his aggressive shilling for the health racket bailout, a viciously reactionary bill.

        In the past year he’s also advocated making the tax code more regressive (the VAT), explicitly denied the class war, and explicitly denied that corporatism is even one of the primary issues let alone the main one it actually is. He consistently insists that the system is basically sound, and just a few bad apples are abusing it. And of course it’s all the Republicans’ fault, while people should support the Democrats.

        So he’s also one of the main sheep-herders trying to keep the “two-party” pseudo-democracy scam going.

        It’s in the context of all these criminal lies that we must assess his defense of speculators. A “mistake”, just by coincidence? Occam’s Razor would say no.

        The reason it’s worth attacking Krugman is that he’s not only one of the most influential of corporate liberals, but is typical of the whole pernicious ideology and propaganda.

        Similarly, being a Krugman sycophant is an indicator of malice, since his record is absolutely clear going back decades. He’s a corporatist flack, albeit a liberal one. If anything that’s even more pernicious than a conservative one.

  3. Foppe

    “How to destroy the web of Debt Golem XIV”
    It seems to me that such a debt jubilee can only happen after all the banks have been nationalized, though. But by all means, let’s.. It would be lovely for bank employees to truly become public servants, as it would mean that they finally get to take the pay cuts they deserve.

    1. DownSouth

      How is giving even more power to an already extremely corrupt, anti-democratic state going to solve anything?

      All our experiences—-as distinguished from theories and ideologies—-tell us that the process of expropriation, which started with the rise of capitalism, does not stop with the expropriation of the means of production; only legal and political institutions that are independent of the economic forces and their automatism can control and check the inherently monstrous potentialities of this process. Such political controls seem to function best in the so-called “welfare states” whether they call themselves “socialist” or “capitalist.” What protects freedom is the division between governmental and economic power, or, to put it into Marxian language, the fact that the state and its constitution are not superstructures.

      What protects us in the so-called “capitalist” countries of the West is not capitalism, but a legal system that prevents the daydreams of big-business management of trespassing into the private sphere of its employees from coming true….

      If I were to judge these developments from a Marxian viewpoint, I would say: Perhaps expropriation is indeed in the very nature of modern production, and socialism is, as Marx believed, nothing but the inevitable result of industrial society as it was started by capitalism. Then the question is what can we do to get and keep this process under control so that it does not degenerate, under one name or another, into the monstrosities in which it has fallen in the East….

      Fundamentally, it is a question of how much property and how many rights we can allow a person to possess even under the very inhuman conditions of much of modern economy… The worst possible owner would be government, unless its powers in this economic sphere are strictly controlled and checked by a truly independent judiciary. Our problem today is not how to expropriate the expropriators, but, rather, how to arrange matters so that the masses, dispossessed by industrial society in capitalist and socialist systems, can regain property. For this reason alone, the alternative between capitalism and socialism is false—-not only because neither exists anywhere in its pure state anyhow, but because we have here twins, each wearing a different hat.
      ▬Hannah Arendt, “Thoughts on Politics and Revolution”

  4. Anon

    Turns out that filing a risk assessment with the national nuke regulator for your action plan if a tsunami were to hit your six-reactor nuke site was “voluntary”.

    AP Exclusive: Fukushima tsunami plan a single page

    TOKYO (AP) — Japanese nuclear regulators trusted that the reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex were safe from the worst waves an earthquake could muster based on a single-page memo from the plant operator nearly a decade ago.

    In the Dec. 19, 2001, document — one double-sized page obtained by The Associated Press under Japan’s public records law — Tokyo Electric Power Co. rules out the possibility of a tsunami large enough to knock the plant offline and gives scant details to justify this conclusion, which proved to be wildly optimistic.

    Regulators at the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, or NISA, had asked plant operators for assessments of their earthquake and tsunami preparedness. They didn’t mind the brevity of TEPCO’s response, and apparently made no moves to verify its calculations or ask for supporting documents.

    NISA’s request for tsunami risk assessments did not have the force of law and thus the operators’ responses technically were voluntary, but in Japan’s often-informal regulatory structure, regulators would expect such a request to be obeyed.

    Now, where can I get me some of that Fukushima-style deregulation? Such benefits all around.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      This is misleading. Culturally, the Japanese aren’t big on long documents. They don’t create long operating manuals and they don’t write long documents for meetings. They make deal decisions on a one-pager, but that will be an 11 x 17 with a very dense handwritten outline on it.

      I’m NOT saying their prep was adequate. Clearly it wasn’t. But Japanese often rely on non-written means, such as drills or training, rather than ass-covering long documents. For instance, how many managers and employees get documents from the HR department that no one reads?

      1. Francois T

        That raises a question I’ve wanted to ask you for a while now: Do Japanese corporations have HR departments? By that, I mean, like, you know, Dilbert-kinda HR stuff?

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          No, since they have social safety nets and don’t have 401 (k)s, HR in Japanese companies only looks like Western HR in dealing with Western employees.

          Personnel is one of the most powerful departments in Japanese companies because it determines where you are assigned, ie, whether you are on the fast track or not (remember, Japanese companies move people around every 2-3 years). If you are assigned to Personnel at any time in your career, it means you are an up and comer.

          I can’t generalize beyond Sumitomo, but Sumitomo had an interesting approach to sexual harassment. You know most Western companies have BS policies (they go tell managers and employees once what sexual harassment is and hope it doesn’t happen. Doesn’t really matter much whether it does or doesn’t unless it’s egregious. But they’ve shifted most of the blame by having a policy and informing potential offenders about it).

          Sumitomo’s policy was very simple. Sumitomo really did not like dating among employees, which is pretty common in Japanese firms (when I was there, pretty much all the Japanese women were there to get married. Japan has just passed a law requiring there to be a professional track for Japanese women, and they just had hired the first batch of female college grads). Sumitomo thought the gossip was bad for productivity and morale. So that basically meant you could date but you had to be discreet and keep romance out of the office.

          So what was their stance on sexual harassment? If a woman complained to Personnel, the man was fired.

          You might say, gee, that seems really one sided, what’s to keep a woman from making something up or exaggerating? Remember, pretty much all the women are there to get married and don’t have real careers. So the incentives against complaining are pretty high. And Japan is homogeneous, so there is a shared understanding re what is OK and not.

          The bank was so serious about it that in the one month training of new college hires, the “pink purge” was the subject of the Chairman’s talk to the incoming class. They had lost too many talented hires to it.

      2. Anon

        Sorry, Yves, I wasn’t particularly interested in the length of Tepco’s risk document – I bolded the bits about the fact that there was no legal requirement for it to submit a risk assessment at all.

        That may be fine in Japan, but are those in adjacent countries happy about this? China? the Koreas? Because when nuclear anywhere goes bad, pretty fast its effects are international.

        But the IAEA’s 1996 Convention on Nuclear Safety is purely “an incentive instrument. It is not designed to ensure fulfillment of obligations by Parties through control and sanction but is based on their common interest to achieve higher levels of safety. (see )

        How are other countries to protect themselves against Fukushima-like incidents, particularly those with no domestic nuclear programs of their own, if international controls are so weak?

        Because both Japan’s oversight of its domestic nuke plants, and this sanction-free, IAEA regimen, have failed – catastrophically – to secure the “common interest” of anyone at this point.

    2. Susan Truxes

      Nuclear Regulators have clearly been as effective as the SEC. Shiela Bair continues her campaign in the spirit of good faith. She might be the only person who has any. She is emploring regulators to have the “political courage” to do their job! Maybe we should put regulators of crucial institutions at the same level as judges. Above retaliation. It sounds a little drastic. Think of the new abuses, right? But if regulators had the tools they needed, would they also need to find their political courage to hold them up. All they should need is the factual findings of any situation. And the power to act on those findings in a legal and meaningful way.

      1. Francois T

        The total insanity in this country id to have regulators under the thumb of the Taj Mahal of REMFs that is the Bought-And-Paid-4-Rent-A-Congress.

        Just look at their extreme reactions when they realized that every time their handlers come to them to cry a river about rule XYZ, ONE woman (Prof. Elizabeth Warren) could tell them to go to hell because they wouldn’t control her budget of the CFPB.

        You don’t see that kind of shit anywhere else in the western world.

  5. rd

    The “Big Lie” in the Medicare debate is that handing out vouchers for private health care insurance will cut health care costs. If that were the case, we would have seen employer-based health care costs come under control over the past decade.

    The real issue is that we need a radical re-thinking about what health care is in the United States and how it should be structured. “Cutting costs” would be the end result of that rethinking, not the starting point.

    However, we do know that other countries appear to have pretty good health care systems that provide universal or near-universal coverage at a fraction of the cost of the US system. We also know that there are similar local examples in the US. How they do this should be evaluated carefully. My suspicion is that we would find a number of ideological bubbles popping as well as

    1. Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

      Actually, the “big lie” in Medicare is that the federal government cannot afford to support Medicare. As a Monetarily Sovereign nation, the U.S. has the unlimited ability to support Medicare and every other federal agency.

      In fact, if FICA fell to zero (See: ) this would not affect by even one dollar the federal government’s ability to support both Medicare and Social Security.

      Trying to understand economics without understanding Monetary Sovereignty, is like trying to understand mathematics without understanding arithmetic. Monetary Sovereignty is the basis of all economics.

      Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

      1. wunsacon

        >> As a Monetarily Sovereign nation, the U.S. has the unlimited ability to support Medicare and every other federal agency.

        That oversimplifies and won’t persuade many people.

        All else being equal, no matter how much money you print there will be only so many doctors and nurses. The price for these resources will simply rise in proportion to your printing. However, if you reduce military spending, you can divert resources from training generals/soldiers to training doctors/nurses.

        1. F. Beard

          The price for these resources will simply rise in proportion to your printing. wunsacon

          Not necessarily. If the ability of banks to create new credit was reduced to compensate then prices need not rise.

          1. wunsacon

            >> Not necessarily. If the ability of banks to create new credit was reduced to compensate then prices need not rise.

            By engineering an increase the value of the dollar, sure, you can keep the nominal price down.

            So, “you win”, Beard.

            [eye roll]

          2. F. Beard

            By engineering an increase the value of the dollar, sure, you can keep the nominal price down.

            So, “you win”, Beard.

            But it’s an important consideration should we decide to do the right thing and bailout the entire population. The deficit hawks will scream “Inflation!” but we can reply “Nope, not if it is done correctly.”

          3. wunsacon

            >> But it’s an important consideration should we decide to do the right thing and bailout the entire population. The deficit hawks will scream “Inflation!” but we can reply “Nope, not if it is done correctly.”

            Okay, I see your point.

            (I suppose I instinctively think in “real” terms, instead of nominal. Or perhaps I really dislike nominal discussions…)

        2. Philip Pilkington

          Here’s a suggestion: government program to train disadvantaged high-achievers in the medical procedure, backed by government money. That would almost certainly raise the level of ‘resources’ available — if that is truly a problem (which I suspect it isn’t).

        3. Philip Pilkington

          Here’s a suggestion: government program to train disadvantaged high-achievers in the medical profession, backed by government money. That would almost certainly raise the level of ‘resources’ available — if that is truly a problem (which I suspect it isn’t).

          1. wunsacon

            In a way, that *is* truly the problem. But, I would describe the matter differently: government subsidies of the finance industry draws young talent from other fields into finance.

            If we were to just stop subsidizing the highly-negative-ROI FIRE sectors, we’d see bright young talent look for work elsewhere — in places where we prefer more help.

        4. craazyman

          at some point there’ll be too many doctors and nurses and they’ll just tend to themselves and the whole economy will collapse.

          Unless each one specializes in a specific disease, and each person has their own personal disease, so every doctor has their own personal doctor.

          and then you’ll need as many as there are. weird logic, but at least it’s internally consistent. it’s an equilibrium.

          it’s almost like that now, with lawyers. except there are more lawyers than diseases and one lawyer can treat many patients, so it gets lopsided. and the money flows to the lawyers and the diseased people die from bankruptcy.

      2. craazyman

        I think you are correct, sir.

        and I would add, trying to understand monetary sovereignty without understanding how they make movies is like trying to understand a talking parrot without understanding language. sometimes, nobody can explain things just right, so just have to see for yourself, usually in a dream.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          If you watch enough movies, you will believe the movies.

          If you still don’t, obviously you haven’t watched enough.

          1. craazyman

            sometime they depict the Truth behind the reality.

            everyone on a movie set cooperates with each other, guided by the Pilot Wave of an ethical and inspired imagination. the murders and the killing are acts of fiction, the cast and crew is co-dependent, and works for a common purpose, which can be loosely described as the creation of something beautiful.

            it is a metaphor for the activity that underlies a successful sovereign and that empowers its currency — distilled to its theoretical essence. IN fact, it is the embodiment of what money is — distilled to its theoretical essence.

            and you thought I was just kidding. ;)

            and the talking parrot. If you can’t understand language, then the sounds coming out of the parrots beak will seem like the noise of a bird, not the startling dissociation that they are when they are human language coming from a bird, which seems impossible because language creates its meaning by evocation of emotionally potent imagery which is both personal and cultural in its vocabulary, like a dream.

      3. moneyforfree

        Rodger,

        Please explain to the rest of us who don’t understand why it is the govt has the money to support all these programs but can’t simply give us all an income of 100k/year.

        I don’t think you’ve ever addressed this.

    2. RDE

      According to the World Health Organization overall health system performance rankings, () the country of Columbia ranks #22 in the world. Isn’t that the country riddled by narco-terrorism, famous for its cocaine cartels and right wing death squads? The ranking for the USA? #37. Of course we are #1 in medical care expenditures per capita.

      Isn’t the free market a wonderful device for providing efficiency?

      1. Doktor Evel

        Many people are under the delusion that medical care is supposed to treat illnesses. In reality, the purpose of medical care is to strip your assets until you become bankrupted while threatening your life.

        Once the proper purpose of medical care is recognized, the freemarket is readily seen to be the best method of accomplishing it.

  6. john

    “Are U.S. physicians sufficiently visionary, public-minded, and well led to respond to this ethical imperative?”

    Um, no.

  7. Three Wickets

    Appreciate Krugman’s consistent takedown of Ryan’s plan. As to his endorsement of the White House plan and IPAB, saving 25 billion a year won’t put a huge dent in a one trillion annual healthcare budget growing at twice GDP rate.

  8. Philip Pilkington

    Re: Food speculation. Link doesn’t work.

    Bill Mitchell:

    “Dear Readers: My blog database has become corrupted and I have lost a week’s blogs. The Saturday Quiz for this week is also lost. I will do what I can to restore it but at this stage I think the week is lost. Sorry to disappoint. If anyone has actually cut and paste the text or stored them somehow I would appreciate receiving the text.”

    So what do you think? Conspiracy by Big Food and Big Oil to silence Bill… I’m thinking, yeah… absolutely.

    Now, where did I put my tin-foil hat?

      1. Philip Pilkington

        You should Bill with those links — I think he’d really appreciate it. He’s probably give you gold:

      2. Philip Pilkington

        Oh, and can I just point out here. Yesterday I was complaining about Krugman and his crappy, theoretical analyses where he pops in a graph from an undergraduate textbook to explain food price volatility.

        Someone put in a comment from Krugman on his graphs. Basically he said that his blog was only a side-project and that’s why his graphs were weak.

        Well, Bill Mitchell’s blog is also a side-project. Yet he manages to publish high quality every day. When he weighs in on food price speculation, he REALLY weighs in.

        What does this mean? Simple. Krugman is too well fed by the media and by academia. He doesn’t seem to do real economic analyses most of the time. Instead he spouts lazy rhetoric.

        Bill Mitchell writes like an actual economist — Krugman writes like a schoolteacher.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Mitchell also sleeps only 3 hours a night. No joke, I heard that from a house guest.

  9. xct

    SPIEGEL ONLINE speaks to Dutch sociobiologist Johan van der Dennen about the relationship between sex and power. Powerful men, van der Dennen says, “just take what they want.”

    Sociobiologist Johan van der Dennen conducts research at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. In his more than 200 publications, he has examined various aspects of human and animal aggression, sexual violence, the neuro- and pyschopathology of human violence and the causes of war and genocide.

    1. DownSouth

      Oh well, wasn’t this to be expected?

      This certainly isn’t the first time social Darwinism has been invoked as an excuse for predatory behavior.

      1. Philip Pilkington

        Strauss-Kahn: “Oh, but you don’t understand monsieur. You see I am what biologists call an ‘Alpha Male’. Therefore I am hardwired to act in a certain way”

        Judge: “That won’t hold up in court, you must be responsible for your actions”

        Strauss-Kahn: “But if the sociobiologists are correct — and loads of people buy Richard Dawkins’ trashy novellas, so they must be right — then I am not in control of my behavior. All my behavior can be explained as an ‘automatic’ response to the human evolutionary process. To lock me up would be to deny evolution itself”

        Judge: “Eh… no it wouldn’t…”

        Strauss-Kahn: “Oh, yes it would monsieur. A German sociobiologist told me so”

        Judge: “If this were true our entire system of law would fall apart. There would be anarchy and chaos”

        Strauss-Kahn: “Yes, but monsieur, this is science. You aren’t anti-science are you?”

        Judge: “No, but I think that science has to take a backseat to questions of culpability and morality. Morality cannot be cast in a scientific mold. Nor can law”

        Strauss-Kahn: “Oh monsieur, you are nothing but a philistine. What you speak of is outdated. Here, have a copy of Dawkins’ new book”

        1. DownSouth

          Given the great success the corporations have had corrupting the harder sciences—-tobacco and global warming come to mind—-the softer sciences never had a chance.

        2. Susan Truxes

          Just remembering the details of the research on testosterone reported a decade or so back in Science News: The study was to determine what effect testosterone had on male behavior. The men with consistently higher levels of testosterone were mellower, more rational and slow to anger. They didn’t pick a lot of fights or behave aggressively. The men with low levels of testosterone were eager to pick fights and behaved badly. Probably a tad paranoid? Strauss-Kahn might benefit from an infusion.

          1. Philip Pilkington

            Okay, that’s not quite sociobiological research. Sociobiology simply imposes an evolutionary framework on human behavior. Evolution being a theoretical paradigm that is only as true as the novel facts that it highlights, this is complete nonsense.

            The way it works is that you pick a piece of human behavior — say aggression — and ‘explain’ it through an evolutionary framework. This usually means that the authors will determine what they interpret evolution to mean and impose it on the findings. This sort of ‘research’ doesn’t highlight novel facts, instead it forces novel facts (in this case psychological observations) into theoretical straightjackets.

            The British philosopher Mary Midgely consistently points out that this is taking the evolutionary paradigm as a sort of religion which is then used to explain human behavior (). So, while a fundamentalist Christian will explain bad behavior with reference to the devil, the sociobiologist will explain it with reference to some equally conjectural evolutionary theory. She points out — quite correctly — that both thought processes are essentially the same. Both aim to efface the original psychological observation and impose instead the observer’s own ideological framework on the observed person.

            The type of research you cite is somewhat different. It doesn’t try to impose ideological frameworks on the facts. Instead it tries to correlate biological traits (testosterone levels etc.) with certain psychological traits (aggressiveness etc.).

            This is problematic from the start. No one knows how much aggressivity — say in childhood or early adolescence — actually affects testosterone levels. This may seem unusual but consider this: you lose a loved one and your dopamine levels fluctuate. Here we have the classic mind-body problem. Chicken and egg all over again. Does aggressive behavior — or being raised in an aggressive environment — affect testosterone levels in the developing adult or does it work the other way around? Or is it a dynamic process?

            Anyway, leaving this aside, consider for a moment the point of the research. Let’s say we do find a correlation between testosterone levels and aggressiveness. Is this in any way useful? I would argue not. Unless we want to establish a totalitarian society in which we lock up people with low testosterone levels, the research doesn’t seem to go anywhere.

            Maybe then we could give angry people testosterone shots? Altering behavior through biological intervention… do you really want to go there? Will it even work? (I’d say: probably not).

            Once you broach these questions it becomes rather obvious in what direction this research tends to lead. Either its almost completely pointless — or it’s the beginnings of a very scary totalitarian project. Personally, I don’t think the quacks are going to take over society any time soon, so the research is probably pointless.

          2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Unless the research shows that in a group of primates, when a natural disaster reomved all their alpha males, the survivals experienced less stress.

            Long live zebras!

          3. F. Beard

            The men with consistently higher levels of testosterone were mellower, more rational and slow to anger. Susan Truxes

            Yes, that sounds right.

          4. Susan Truxes

            The research might be pointless but it blows a hole in the stereotype that testosterone promotes contentious negotiations, as Legarde’s offhand comment did. “Too much testosterone in the room.”

          5. Philip Pilkington

            “The research might be pointless but it blows a hole in the stereotype that testosterone promotes contentious negotiations, as Legarde’s offhand comment did. “Too much testosterone in the room.””

            Point taken.

            Of course, if people would simply banish pseudo-science from their language we wouldn’t have this problem. ‘Testosterone’ seems to be a synonym for something like ‘rudely assertive masculinity’. Why people cannot simply use the latter and have to resort to pseudo-science is beyond me…

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Trader apologists. Winston Churchill was famously “undersexed”. And even though Bob Rubin got in an embarrassing tangle with a woman in Florida (she kissed and told in some detail) he took quite some time in his efforts to bed her, which is not the aggressive male profile.

  10. Me myself

    How, what a nice trio of rodents having fun.

    A troika (of rodents) today, another one (the 3 penguins) recently, the troika financial aid packages …

    There must be an hidden meaning, or underlying pattern at play, in these recurrent manifestations of the number three.

        1. F. Beard

          Disagree. The one in the middle is Junior and the flankers are Mom and Pop or maybe siblings, imo.

          Any otter experts here? What’s the story please?

          1. carping demon

            The one in the center is singing lead, the two on the sides are humming backup.

  11. KnotRP

    > 45. “You could do with losing a little bit of weight.” To hopeful astronaut, 13-year-old Andrew Adams.

    Gaffe? All astronauts hope to “lose a little bit of weight” (go into orbit or travel off earth)….

  12. Hugh

    Prince Philip was born ossified. He is a caricature of a parody of an unintended satire. His chief occupation in life has been the pointless slaughter of large numbers of small animals. How very noble. Politically, he’s a fascist. Socially, a bigot. His only utility, and that a negative one, is that as one of the “royals” he serves to humanize and legitimize the class structure and kleptocracy that are ruining the UK.

  13. joel3000

    Wikileaks: Speculators Helped Cause Oil Bubble (Taibbi)

    When oil prices surged to a ridiculous $147 a barrel in the summer of
    2008, conventional wisdom held that normal supply and demand issues
    were the cause. Both the Bush administration (in the form of the
    Commodity Futures Trading Commission) and most of Wall Street (through
    both media figures and market analysts) blamed such factors as
    increases in oil demand from the Chinese industrial machine, and the
    failure of Americans to conserve, for the surge in crude prices.

    Goldman Sachs, while outrageously predicting a “super spike” that
    might cause oil to reach as high as $200 a barrel, blamed piggish
    American consumers and preached conservation as a bulwark against oil
    supply disruptions. The bank’s “Oracle of Oil,” Arjun Murti, even
    broadcast the fact that he owned two hybrid cars.

    Well, thanks to Wikileaks, we now know that when the Bush
    administration reached out to the Saudis in the summer of ’08 to ask
    them to increase oil production to lower prices, the Saudis responded
    by saying they were having a hard time finding buyers for their oil as
    it was, and instead asked the Bush administration to rein in Wall
    Street speculators.


    lators-behind-oil-bubble-20110526

  14. Paul Tioxon

    GIL SCOTT HERON DIED YESTERDAY. POET OF REVOLUTION JOYFUL RESISTER OF TORMENT, YOU WILL BE MISSED.

  15. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    And the one on the left said to the one in the center:

    ‘Have you heard of the story about the fox’s proof?’

    ‘No’

    ‘Wanna hear it?’

    ‘Yes’

    ‘One day the fox was going to eat the rabbit but the rabbit demanded proof that he was a fox. So, the fox went to the lion and got a certificiate. When the fox returned, the rabbit was gone. When the deer demanded the same of the lion, he just said “I eat when I feel like. Why trifle with a proof?” The fox thought the lion should have told him that when he was about to eat the rabbit. The lion replied, “You should have just said a rabbit requested. I thought it was from a stupid human being, from whom some of these idiotic animals have learned their pastime.’

    ‘Hahahahahahah’ laughed the one in the center, ‘That’s better than being just now voted the beauty queen.’

  16. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Words lie.

    So, when an amateur operator tries to misinform with words, he or she might end up telling the truth.

    But then, people won’t believe it anyway.

  17. Bryonie Pritchard

    For Anonymous Jones courage is anything a billionaire ever says or does.

    So what if thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of people starve to death due to food speculators as long as this further enriches a few billionaires at Goldman Sachs?

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