September 28, 2009

I’m an unabashed crypto-dork.



and lots, lots more.  Great job.

Laffer on Money Supply and Taxes

September 28, 2009

I don’t really believe that the big danger is tax increases (I just don’t see any evidence of this at a federal level), I worry more about the short- and long-term stability of the dollar.  Emphasis mine…

The 1930s has become the sole object lesson for today’s monetary policy. Over the past 12 months, the Federal Reserve has increased the monetary base (bank reserves plus currency in circulation) by well over 100%. While currency in circulation has grown slightly, there’s been an impressive 17-fold increase in bank reserves. The federal-funds target rate now stands at an all-time low range of zero to 25 basis points, with the 91-day Treasury bill yield equally low. All this has been done to avoid a liquidity crisis and a repeat of the mistakes that led to the Great Depression.

Even with this huge increase in the monetary base, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has reiterated his goal not to repeat the mistakes made back in the 1930s by tightening credit too soon, which he says would send the economy back into recession. The strong correlation between soaring unemployment and falling consumer prices in the early 1930s leads Mr. Bernanke to conclude that tight money caused both. To prevent a double dip, super easy monetary policy is the key.

While Fed policy was undoubtedly important, it was not the primary cause of the Great Depression or the economy’s relapse in 1937. The Smoot-Hawley tariff of June 1930 was the catalyst that got the whole process going. It was the largest single increase in taxes on trade during peacetime and precipitated massive retaliation by foreign governments on U.S. products. Huge federal and state tax increases in 1932 followed the initial decline in the economy thus doubling down on the impact of Smoot-Hawley. There were additional large tax increases in 1936 and 1937 that were the proximate cause of the economy’s relapse in 1937.

Project Censured 2010

September 24, 2009

It’s always worth knowing what the mainstream media isn’t telling you:

Top Censored Stories of 2009/2010

1. US Congress Sells Out to Wall Street
2. US Schools are More Segregated Today than in the 1950s
3. Toxic Waste Behind Somali Pirates
4. Nuclear Waste Pools in North Carolina
5. Europe Blocks US Toxic Products
6. Lobbyists Buy Congress
7. Obama’s Military Appointments Have Corrupt Past
8. Bailed out Banks and America’s Wealthiest Cheat IRS Out of Billions
9. US Arms Used for War Crimes in Gaza
10. Ecuador Declares Foreign Debt Illegitimate
11. Private Corporations Profit from the Occupation of Palestine
12. Mysterious Death of Mike Connell—Karl Rove’s Election Thief
13. Katrina’s Hidden Race War
14. Congress Invested in Defense Contracts
15. World Bank’s Carbon Trade Fiasco
16. US Repression of Haiti Continues
17. The ICC Facilitates US Covert War in Sudan
18. Ecuador’s Constitutional Rights of Nature
19. Bank Bailout Recipients Spent to Defeat Labor
20. Secret Control of the Presidential Debates
21. Recession Causes States to Cut Welfare
22. Obama’s Trilateral Commission Team
23. Activists Slam World Water Forum as a Corporate-Driven Fraud
24. Dollar Glut Finances US Military Expansion
25. Fast Track Oil Exploitation in Western Amazon

Unidentified Flying Objects

September 24, 2009

I like Mac’s perspective on UFOs.   I find the issue intriguing, but much of the literature and discussion full of unadulterated bullshit, speculative conjecture, and undue skepticism.  His emphasis on agnosticism is much appreciated.  Here’s a metapost of his that discusses various aspects of the issue:

The problem with the above scenarios is the unwelcome (and often deliberately ignored) complexity of the UFO phenomenon. We seem to be dealing with an intelligence every bit as “paranormal” as it is “technological” — but then again, isn’t that what we might realistically expect from beings thousands or perhaps millions of years more advanced than us?

Discerning UFO researchers have noted the failure of “nuts and bolts” hypotheses to adequately address the weirdness that accompanies so many UFO-related events, calling the conventional interpretation of UFOs as spacecraft into serious question. Sizing up the phenomenon from the early 21st century, it would seem that visiting ETs could do a much better job at concealing their presence if they truly desired. Far from constituting a paradox, this begs us to reconsider the motives of a truly alien intelligence, even is that means casting away much of the ufological conventional wisdom (to say nothing of SETI dogma) in the process.

War. War never changes.

September 24, 2009

How far we’ve come from a nation that thought two oceans could separate us from Europe’s constant internecine warfare. 

Glenn Greenwald:

That’s why I keep quoting the 1790 warning of James Madison about what happens — inevitably — to a country when it chooses to be a permanent war-fighting state devoted to maintaining imperial power:

Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied : and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals, engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

Shouldn’t we think about what that means?  All of these subsidiary, discrete battles are shaped by this larger truth.  We’re a country that has been continuously at war for decades, insists it is currently at war now, and vows that it will wage war for years if not decades to come (Obama:  we’ll be waging this war “a year from now, five years from now, and — in all probability — ten years from now”).  Exactly as Madison said (and as Wills this week emphasized), as long as we’re choosing to be that kind of a nation, then the crux of the Bush/Cheney approach will remain in place.  We can sand-paper away some of the harshest edges (“we’re no longer going to drown people in order to extract confession”); prettify some of what we’re doing (“we’re going to detain people with no charges based on implied statutory power rather than theories of inherent power”); and avoid making things worse (“we won’t seek a new preventive detention law because we don’t need one”).  But no matter who we elect, the pervasive secrecy, essentially authoritarian character of the Executive, and rapid erosion of core liberties will continue as long as we remain committed to what Wills calls “the empire created by the National Security State.”

Has a single James Joyce short story unduly influenced contemporary American short fiction?

September 23, 2009

From the Baltimore City Paper:

Here at the beginning of the academic year, a wealth of talented writers are about to enter the system. They’ve got more to work with than ever. They should be thinking about what Joyce’s characters were thinking when they started repeating the word “galoshes”: about the weirdness that is currently seeping into our lives from all angles in a country that appears to have lost touch with itself. They should check out CNN and wonder what’s going on as our national discussions turn into bizarre rants. They should assume that 50 years from now, people will read stories to figure out who we are, not what we feel when we wish we could have been something else. That’s what Joyce was doing in 1914 when Dubliners was published. That’s why people still read it. That’s what young Americans writers should be trying to do every time they start clicking away. But they shouldn’t try to rob from the dead, because there isn’t anything there left to steal.

Brain injuries in the NFL…

September 23, 2009

…are more common than you think.  And they’re having a huge impact in player’s lives, especially after retirement.  So why is the NFL conspiring to marginalize research in this field?  From style.com:

Let’s say you run a multibillion-dollar football league. And let’s say the scientific community—starting with one young pathologist in Pittsburgh and growing into a chorus of neuroscientists across the country—comes to you and says concussions are making your players crazy, crazy enough to kill themselves, and here, in these slices of brain tissue, is the proof. Do you join these scientists and try to solve the problem, or do you use your power to discredit them?

Would you have sex with a robot?

September 23, 2009

You might honestly have to answer that question at some point in your life.

“I think the sex robot will happen fairly soon because the bottom is dropping out of the adult entertainment market, because there’s so much sex available for nothing on the internet,” says Levy. “I think the market was worth something like $12bn a year, and they aren’t going to want to lose all their income, and this seems to me an obvious direction to go. The market must be vast, if you think of the number of vibrators that sell to women. I’m sure a male sex doll with a vibrating penis will sell better than sex dolls today. I’ll be surprised if it’s more than another three years or so before we see more advanced sex dolls with more electronics and electromechanics.

“There will be a huge amount of publicity when products like this hit the market. As soon as the media starts writing about ‘My fantastic weekend with a sex doll’, it will be like the iPhone all over again, but the queues will be longer.

Why he threw the shoe

September 23, 2009

From the always-entertaining Guardian:

When I threw the shoe in the face of the criminal, George Bush, I wanted to express my rejection of his lies, his occupation of my country, my rejection of his killing my people. My rejection of his plundering the wealth of my country, and destroying its infrastructure. And casting out its sons into a diaspora.

If I have wronged journalism without intention, because of the professional embarrassment I caused the establishment, I apologise. All that I meant to do was express with a living conscience the feelings of a citizen who sees his homeland desecrated every day. The professionalism mourned by some under the auspices of the occupation should not have a voice louder than the voice of patriotism. And if patriotism needs to speak out, then professionalism should be allied with it.

I didn’t do this so my name would enter history or for material gains. All I wanted was to defend my country.

Finding the pieces that turn writing into poetry

September 22, 2009

In the LA Times:

As I learned more about poetry, I came to understand that for most of literary history, poems had been written in some kind of rhyming pattern, or else a repeating rhythmic structure — or both. Shakespeare’s sonnets, for instance, rhyme and also have a regular meter. On the other hand, many poems don’t rhyme, but have a consistent rhythm: This is known as “blank verse.” Milton’s “Paradise Lost” and Shakespeare’s plays are written in blank verse.

In the second half of the 19th century, Walt Whitman wrote “Leaves of Grass,” which featured poems that neither rhymed nor had a regular, repeating metrical pattern. During the early part of the 20th century, poets began to break free of forms, of rhyme and rhythm, by imitating Whitman or other experimental poets, or by devising their own ways of writing.

Gradually formal poetry began to seem old-fashioned. By the mid-1970s, formal poetry had ceased to be the dominant mode. Of course, there were, and continue to be, major American poets who use rhyme and/or meter. But most American poets today write in free verse.

It’s easy now to make fun of formalists by calling them old-fashioned or even reactionary. But when the great 19th century American poet Emily Dickinson wrote, “After great pain a formal feeling comes,” she was connected to a deep truth about human nature, and writing. Form is the literary expression of our need to be consoled by some kind of order. This is why funerals have rituals and procedures, so we can keep it at least a little bit together in times of great grief and disruption. It is also why, right after Sept. 11 — when sitting together silently would have been too difficult and weird and sad — people read poems, more often than not ones that had meter and rhyme, such as W.H. Auden’s “September 1, 1939.”

Poetry at its most basic level is about the movement of the mind. This is why it is translatable, even from a language such as Chinese, which has very little in common with English. What can be translated is the leap from one thought to another: what I call the associative movement particular to poetry. That leap, that movement, is what makes poetry poetry.