Sky has not fallen (yet) Open Thread

mmghosh's picture

Greece was supposed to leave the Eurozone on 1.1.2013, according to pundits last year.

Citigroup’s Michael Saunders said Greece’s new currency would fall in value immediately by 60 per cent – and unleash a massive, yet manageable, wave of contagion across Europe.

In a note to clients, he said the likelihood of Greece leaving the euro in the next 12 to 24 months was now between 50 to 75 per cent – and assumed there would be a ‘Grexit’ at the start of next year.

The firm based its case on the belief that Greece would fail to form a government capable of implementing austerity measures after its next set of elections on June 17.

This would ‘accentuate’ the stalemate between the nation and its creditors.

Mr Saunders said: ‘We assume Grexit occurs on January 1, 2013, with Greece staying in the EU and receiving external loan support [to mitigate risks of social unrest and collapse of civil society].

‘We expect that Grexit will be followed by a series of policy responses aiming to prevent a domino-style collapse of the banking system and escalating economic disruption.’


Angela Merkel was (is) right.  Well, mostly.


Further speculations below.


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Well, sometimes the drug addled guy with a hatchet is


the good guy.




In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

That was, different.

brutusettu's picture

Speaking of primitive thinking


Mali Islamic fanatics turn from banning all non-religious music to ... burning the Institute of Higher Learning and Islamic Research.

Why the lack of stagnant growth warnings?


CBO today estimated a whopping 1.4% growth in 2013 with an unemployment rate rising to 8%.


Worse, the estimate was based on potentially low-balled fiscal multipliers. As econbrowser points out:


... With larger multipliers, the negative impact [of fiscal drag] might very well be larger than expected on the basis of conventional multiplier estimates (e.g., those at the midpoint of the ranges cited by CBO).


I'm surprised no one is warning that the US is running a genuine risk of below 1% growth in 2013 and even flirting with mild recession.


Bill McBride of calculatedrisk writes instead, in a 1/13 post titled "The Future's So Bright", that he's the "the most optimistic" he's been "since the '90s. And things are only getting better. The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades."


McBride has a good record and I may just be missing something. But from where I'm standing his sunglasses seem pretty rosy.

Not many people


Really think the sequester will kick in. If averted, that would raise the CBO estimate above 2%. I'm an optimist too... Housing is about to boom because of the housing stock shortfall. Durable goods and cars likewise... People have been holding off on purchases and they can't keep it up forever. Household debt service is lower than its been in ages. Interest rates are low. Stock market is going to bump up big because returns on bonds are so skinny.  I think things are going to turn around, and once they do state govt rehiring will create a virtuous circle. 

"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

Maybe and I hope for a virtuous circle


But it strikes me as equally likely that the US, like Europe, has significantly underestimated the effects of austerity.


And it strikes me as equally plausible that those local and state government jobs are mostly never coming back. We'll just educate our kids with fewer teachers now. The trend seems to be that government mostly holds steady during growth and gets pruned during recessions.


E.g., California has a surplus and they aren't hiring back any of the tens of thousands of teachers they fired the past 4 years.

They're expecting an end to austerity

HankP's picture

at least as far as local and state governments and housing is concerned. Those have been a big drag on the economy. Also, as oil prices show no sign of dropping precipitously that means a lot of investment in alternate energy.  But even McBride warns about federal level austerity putting a damper on the economy. But the economy is showing signs of organic rather than stimulus led growth.


There's a lot of pent up consumer demand and delayed business capital expenditures over the past four years. If they start to get back to a normal level things could go pretty well.


I blame it all on the Internet

But state and local governments


have basically been holding steady w/out much of a drag through 2012, yet we've seen anemic growth. 


As for pent up consumer demand, what's the evidence for that? The average savings rate is about 4% (with a small blip in December), can't go much lower, and real median wages aren't significantly rising (yet).


Housing is the current tailwind and could lead a robust recovery, but the question is whether federal fiscal consolidation is going to cancel it out.


From my perspective, the economy is finally on the verge of a genuine recovery but Obama + the GOP are doing just about the right level of deficit reduction to chop it off at the knees.

Your link shows the savings rate at 6.5%

HankP's picture

and as I recall it was close to 0 in the mid 2000s. So that's a big difference.


Severe austerity right now would be bad. But let's see what actually passes before we start weeping and rending our garments.


I blame it all on the Internet

I called the increased savings rate a "blip"


b/c it was a one month irregularity "boosted by accelerated and special dividend payments to persons and by accelerated bonus payments and other irregular pay in private wages and salaries in anticipation of changes in individual income tax rates."


In other words, it was increased saving of one-time rushed payouts to the top 1% before the fiscal cliff tax hikes kick in. 


A return to close to zero savings rates is not reasonable to expect in the near future. We're already saving well below the average of post WWII at around 4% and that # is in line with historical trends since the 90s. I don't think we're going to see increased consumption unless wages or jobs significantly increase. 


I'm not really rending garments though I believe a forecast of increased unemployment is appalling. I'm mostly wondering why so few seem to be in sync with the way I'm gauging economic events.

Because you're very pessimistic

HankP's picture

which has been the correct attitude to take for the past several years. But it's unlikely to always be the correct attitude. The trick is figuring out when to pivot.


I blame it all on the Internet

My thinking is pretty primitive here


During the past six months there've been IMF and academic studies suggesting that austerity's effects have been systematically underestimated. 


If that's already been factored into US growth estimates, then my guestimates are low.


But from what I've been able to tell that hasn't been fully factored in, so that suggests it's not time to pivot. 


I haven't seen knowledgeable people specifically weighing in either way, though, so mostly I'm just vaguely correcting downwards using my best guesses.  


I don't think there's anything really pessimistic about that approach.  



It's not primitive

HankP's picture

it's just trying to figure out what's going on in a fog of ignorance which we all operate under. The actual numbers (after final revisions) won't be known for 9 - 18 months. I don't think we'll see great growth, but unless the GOP goes nuts (or I should say more nuts) I don't think we'll get serious cuts in current spending.


I blame it all on the Internet

Well, more sophisticated folk


would actually crunch through the #s, using the best supported fiscal multipliers, and let us know if we're actually in the 0 - 1 % range for 2013 as I'm guesstimating.  


I haven't seen a Dean Baker, Paul Krugman, Mark Thoma, Brad DeLong, or someone else credible do this, even in rough outline.

Give Obama a shot at passing immigration reform


then impeach him:


A confidential Justice Department memo concludes that the U.S. government can order the killing of American citizens if they are believed to be “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida or “an associated force” -- even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S.


... Brennan, now a top White House adviser, is the architect of Obama’s drone policy. He has been a strong proponent of the expanded practice of targeted assassinations to kill suspected terrorists wherever they may be. It was under his watch that the Awlaki assassination was approved.


In the final months of Obama’s first term, Brennan joined other members of the national security team to codify procedures for determining the appropriate use of targeted killings into a so-called “playbook,” but much of the process remains opaque.

The ACLU on the DoJ white paper


“This is a chilling document,” said Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the ACLU.... “Basically, it argues that the government has the right to carry out the extrajudicial killing of an American citizen.....t the limits are elastic and vaguely defined, and it’s easy to see how they could be manipulated.”



In particular, Jaffer said, the memo “redefines the word imminence in a way that deprives the word of its ordinary meaning.”


Look Forward

brutusettu's picture

At least in the constitution, a system is set up that more people have to get together and actively decide to temporarily set new rules.  Probably not a great leap forward for those in power to do the actual approval, to start passively allowing a few just decide who is a threat due to a never ending war on an ism.


---If push came to shove, the POTUS would get all the power he needed to kill people of a certain religion.

Congratulations, Hank!

M Scott Eiland's picture

First by a whisker in the final standings for Forvm Pick'vm this year! And congratulations to Sulla for being the only one to correctly pick the Ravens as the winner of the Super Bowl, allowing him to pull into a tie for second place.

The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.

Even an old blind pig ... nt

HankP's picture


I blame it all on the Internet

Good pics of Hong Kong



When I was there in 2011 one of the more popular movies was a slasher horror flick about some psychopaths on a power trip to ... own multiple apartments by killing their residents. (It made Pulp Fiction look like a walk in the park.)

Never ending stretch of dorm room sized housing units

brutusettu's picture


Now I like symmetry as much as the next person, but I could HURL from all this hideous sameness.

Someone posted what is likely the original link


At least some of those apartments look slightly smaller than normal dorm rooms.

A Virtual Palace

M Scott Eiland's picture

At least compared to these living units that bring a low-end session of "Shadowrun" to mind.

The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.

Ah, tiny, tiny sleeping compartments!

brutusettu's picture

There would definitely need to be, at least 3x times that much space, to be on the low end of tolerable.


A 10 by 15 double or a 3 double room "suite" was I guess ok, but the toilet/shower to person ratio was a inordinately better.




They've forced the verticals into verticality


In Photoshop. Looks a little weird to my eye, although I guess the option to leave them skewed is a bit unpleasing too.

"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

Correcting the lens distortion?


The only way to go for shots like this I would have thought.

The lens doesn't do it


It's how our eyes see reality before our brains mediate it.


Youre probably right that its the best choice for these photos, but it does have drawbacks. Look at the verticals, particularly in the center areas.... Don't they look like they just WANT to skew?

"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

Not Photoshop.

Zelig's picture

I'm certain the guy used tilt-shift lenses, which do about the same thing as the old bellows cameras. With the old cameras, the lens board can be tilted in the X and the Y axes in relation to the film plane in order to selectively focus and to straighten out tall buildings so that they look like this guy's photo essay on Hong Kong skyscrapers. 


Tilt-shift lenses work about the same way. You are able to tilt the rear lens element on the X and the Y axes in relation to the other lens elements. Canon and Nikon make a variety of tilt-shifters, starting at around $1200. However, considering this guy's a very successful German photographer, I'm guessing he's using Leica tilt-shifters. 


Go to the B&H catalog to see the Nikons and the Canons. As to the Leicas, they probably start at $4K. Leica makes the best lenses, according to 35mm photographic lens experts. The Nikons come in a distant second. 


BTW Wags, tilt shifters can be used in miniature stop motion photography to simulate "bigness" on a set, which goes a long way towards selling the shots and the sets. If you ever do stop motion involving miniatures that are supposed to appear big, like buildings and large animals, this is a good way to go. 


This guy, considering his credentials and his schooling, would never use Photoshop to straighten out a distorted image, imo. That would be considered sacrilegious. 


BTW, a LensBaby is sort of a crude tilt-shifter. See "The Misfits". (Brit TV show)



Me: We! -- Ali

I know a bit about taking photos


and even a bit about the less-usual optics out there - telecentric lenses and so on.


I've never got to play with a tilt-shift though.


Some of those shots look like they were taken straight on from a building opposite. Could a tilt shift correct the verticals in a surface that is parallell to the film or sensor of the camera?


Zelig's picture

They're often used by high end photographers who shoot tall buildings. 

Me: We! -- Ali

I remember


that from Freshman photography... although back then it was the old view cameras.


What I'm wondering about is how you would tell the difference between Photoshop and a tilt-shift.... assuming you couldn't get close enough to see the grain structure?

"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

There is No Difference


I have a shift lens I used for some architectural photography back in the day.


There is no geometric difference between a shift lens and digital correction of an image to simulate it. Resolution does suffer, but if it's high enough to start with for your purpose, it won't be a problem.


I don't know these days what photographers for Architectural Record are using. They used to use large format film cameras with bellows, allowing for both tilt and shift, though in architecture only shift is usually needed. I think a full frame DSLR with digital post processing for shift ought to work well enough for a 150 dpi full page print with good sharpness and detail all the way to the edges, if you start out with a high quality prime wide angle lens (not a zoom). But I am not sure. This kind of work is always done with a tripod and remote release (or if you don't have one handy, the timer), so you use the lowest ISO and mid aperture (the optimum for the lens), which should give you tack-sharp results.


This isn't used only for tall buildings by the way. It's used for any architectural image with significant verticals shot off center, for example a staircase shot from ground level, or a room with high ceilings.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

So I guess that Nikon, Canon and Leica...

Zelig's picture

...among others who are designing and manufacturing tilt-shift lenses today, along with those who buy them are simply wasting their money. Got it. 

Me: We! -- Ali

It depends what you're doing it for

HankP's picture

for blog posts or funny cat pictures, yeah, I'd say that's a waste of money. For art or large format, not so much. Of course, if you love photography no other excuse is necessary.


I blame it all on the Internet

Stupid Germans!!

Zelig's picture

How to tell the difference?

Zelig's picture

Beats me! I went to the link and looked at a couple of his shoots, saw his thesis in B&W from the '70's, the complete Hong Kong building set, and the fabulous "The Real Toy Story" installation piece, which is just excellent museum quality art work.

The guy has Leica gear. I caught a shot of a portion of a Leica body he was using. He doesn't say anything about what he uses or what his techniques are, but it is considered sacriligous, as I mentioned, to use Photoshop in post when the whole idea is to nail the shot in the field. Think Ansel Adams. Younger photographers and those without his formal background and experience use Photoshop all the time, of course. So do I, but I'm not a great fine art photographer with a world-wide following.


Me: We! -- Ali

That's a great site


the 100x100 series of rooms is amazing. 


A friend living in Hong Kong today posted on facebook: "the government is now offering 540-square-foot flats as subsidized housing starting at only $154,000 US dollars!"

540 square feet?

Jay C's picture

That's 27 x 20 feet: not a bad size even by our standards: I saw a piece on the local news a few days ago about a competition by the City for interior designers to design plans for small apartments: by clever use of Murphy beds and foldaway fixtures, etc., they had managed to make a very usable efficiency unit of about 375 (?) sq ft - which, they hastened to point out, was way below the minimum standard NYC required for their subsidized housing. But which, I'm sure, would still get filled up immediately...


I wonder how many of those "coffin apartments" a HK landlord could fit into a 27 x 20-foot space???

The Size Isn't The Issue

M Scott Eiland's picture

It's how much you'd have to pay for that much space. I'd be fine in a space that size if it had a fridge and a microwave, though I'd have to rent a storage unit (easy to do that somewhere where land is at less of a premium) for some stuff--but I certainly wouldn't want to pay one-sixty large for it (particularly given the fact that it was a flat with no extra land associated with it) even if I had the dough.

The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.

I don't think you realize

HankP's picture

how insane prices are in Manhattan, let alone even denser cities like Hong Kong or Singapore. I remember people proudly showing me their apartments while I was thinking that I wouldn't consign my worst enemies to live there.


I blame it all on the Internet

I Get That

M Scott Eiland's picture

I'm just pointing out that a 500-600 sq foot apartment isn't all that tiny for one person (two if they're friendly) to live in, but an American might raise an eyebrow at the sticker price of such a location in HK if they weren't clued in. IIRC Hong Kong is the most densely populated city in the world--it certainly was in the mid-seventies, according to The Guinness Book of World Records.

The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.

500 sq. ft. is pretty small

HankP's picture

unless you have Murphy beds and retractable tables it would be a bit claustrophobic - for me, anyway.


Going by the numbers, the housing prices in Hong Kong are pretty extreme although the rent for 1 bedroom apartments is surprisingly higher in NYC.


I blame it all on the Internet

To Tell You the Truth, It Was a Friend's Condo in HK....

(#299846) may have been larger than 500SqFt, it had a separate bedroom, but every room was damned small. I mean, when you got out of bed you couldn't flex much, and walking into the kitchen you had to turn sideways, (not true). But it had a living room of sorts, a couch, a desk on the other wall....


I could live in it long term. It was however a high rise. (I really liked being in the New Territories, which are still about as densely packed as downtown Los Angeles, even though NT is in the suburbs)


Best Wishes, Traveller

I Like Hong Kong Quite a Bit, A Very Alive and Vital City...


...I had a one bedroom apartment, (maybe 40~500 sqFt) out in the New Territories, but public transportation is so good and, for me, so much fun to have good public transportation, that being out of the city center wasn't bad at all.


I miss Hong Kong.


Best Wishes, Traveller

Of course

HankP's picture

that's why so many people want to live there, and that's why it's so expensive.


I blame it all on the Internet

I thought


Popular vote was a good idea when it supposedly benefitted Republicans, and I think it's a good idea now when (if Nate Silver is to be believed) it favors Dems by 3 or 4 percentage points.


More than the fairness issues, I'm persuaded by the potential for constitutional crises that the electoral college holds.

"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

Ah, badly written


It's the EC which was once favorable to Reps and now favors Dems.

"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

Plenty Of Room For Constitutional Crisis With Pop Vote

M Scott Eiland's picture

Imagine an election where--as in 1960--the popular vote has a gap of 100,000 or so (or possibly even less). Suddenly, we've got fifty-one Floridas, and local corruption in the voting process that was irrelevant in heavily red or blue states becomes vitally important. Thanks, but no thanks.

The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.

Yup, and even more room for crisis


when it's "popular vote through work-around gimmick",  which is a good description of the National Popular Vote compact.


There are plenty of places (most in fact) that do popular vote;  the key is that the system is designed that way and there is a single set of rules and single administrative body across the whole state/country/etc.  Our system isn't,  and the NPV work-around is clever but full of pitfalls.


The compact depends on a voluntary agreement of states,  which individually will have massive (and democratically legitimate, from a local point of view) incentives to pull out if it looks like the winner of their state is not going to be the popular vote winner nationwide.


Predictions if the NPV Compact reaches critical mass:


(1) There is a deadline written in for states to get in or pull back out, I believe it is 6 months prior to each election.  The day before this deadline will be "National Nate Silver Day (NNSD)"  as each state anxiously compares local preferences with national polls and trends, and decides whether to stay in or get out.  This day will take on an importance comparable to the "real election".


(2) Prior to NNSD, candidates will need to keep both campaign strategies (win the electoral vote,  vs. win the popular vote) open, and then decide after NNSD.


(3) If,  when getting close to the deadline,  the NPV compact is one or two states short of what they need,  there will be a gigantic meta-campaign to sway those states to join or stay out.   Since it's legislators rather than voters that need to be "convinced" expect massive lobbying and bribery by the candidates and showboating by the legislators.  All of this 6 months before the real election.


(4) A Supreme Court case on exactly, to the second,  what "six months" means;  because it's to the legislators' advantage to entertain suitors until the very last second before the deadline.  Unfortunately,  we can't have an SC case until the crisis has already occurred.


(5) People may not realize this,  but there is not actually an "official" national popular vote until mid-January or sometimes later.  Some states turned in their final numbers just a few weeks ago.  The NPV authors are aware of this and make -get this - each state's Secretary of State responsible for independently determining the national popular vote from reports sent to them by the other states.   Nothing could possibly go wrong here.....


(6) Huge new incentives for corruption in the vote counting process.  Imagine you are the last state to report and haven't reported yet.  For example, Utah.  The current national totals are Obama 64,000,000 and Romney 63,000,000, and Utah knows this.  Under the old system, Romney gets all of Utah's electoral votes counting honestly and there's no point to cheating.  Under the new system,  if Utah can report 1,000,001 more votes for Romney than Obama,  they can swing the whole election. Slam-dunk states have an incentive to cheat just as great as swing states.  51 Ohios.  Wonderful just thinking about it.

Passing a bill through state legislatures isn't simple


And I doubt that the critical mass of states that are in the PVC is going to necessarily be near the threshold... It could be well over.


In the meantime you have Presidents with the diminished legitimacy of winning without a majority.


You could have faithless electors deciding who the next President is going to be.


Electoral ties. You've already had a Florida.

"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

Dem bones, dem bones...

Jay C's picture

...dem ROYAL bones!!


Dunno about you all, but I find this item fascinating: Car Park Skeleton confirmed as that of King Richard III of England.


Royalty or no, old Dickie 3 didn't fare too well after losing at Bosworth: analysis of the bones showed a couple of possibly fatal head wounds: and a number of post-mortem hacks as well. Confirming the historical accounts of him having his naked corpse slung over a horse and hauled off to Leicester for public exhibition and abuse. And a fairly quick and unceremonious burial, too: the grave they found the King in had been badly dug, and his body had had to be twisted to fit it in. 


And speaking of twisted: check out the photo of the whole skeleton in The Guardian's article: Shakespeare hadn't made up all of Richard's physical shortcomings: the degree of scoliosis evident is amazing.

French Special Forces Guarding Niger Mines...


Dear Manish:


I didn't want you to think that I hadn't noticed.


Niger has confirmed that French special forces are protecting one of the country's biggest uranium mines.

President Mahamadou Issoufou told French media that security was being tightened at the Arlit mine after the recent hostage crisis in Algeria.

French company Areva plays a major part in mining in Niger - the world's fifth-largest producer of uranium.


Best Wishes, Traveller


Tyler Cowen, above average hack


Cowen does a pretty good job trying to sell spending cuts. Draw your own conclusions about the state of the economics field when his NYT piece can be decisively refuted by yours truly, a lowly adjunct philosophy instructor with no training in economics.


Cowen tells us about the sequestration "most of these cuts should proceed on schedule, though with some restructuring along the way."


What about the "Keynesian claim — namely, that cuts or slowdowns in government spending can throw an economy into recession by lowering total demand for goods and services"? Nevermind, says Cowen "spending cuts of the right kind can help an economy."


What's Cowen's evidence?


Half of the sequestration would apply to the military budget, an area where most cuts would probably enhance rather than damage future growth. Reducing the defense budget by about $55 billion a year, the sum at stake, would most likely mean fewer engineers and scientists inventing weaponry and more of them producing for consumers.


Notice Cowen doesn't say how far into the future. Keynesianism only predicts spending cuts will slow growth when the economy is depressed.


It's true that engineers are an anomaly in having a relatively low unemployment rate, so it's possible, though not particularly likely, that the army corps of engineers could crowd out some small # of private engineering employment. But "scientists" are not overall in a strong labor market and no one believes you can save $55 billion a year by shaving a few engineers off the military's payrolls. With this level of cutbacks we'd likely see fewer overall engineers in the private sector. 


Cowen asserts: "In the short run, lower military spending would lower gross domestic product, because the workers and resources in those areas wouldn’t be immediately re-employed. Still, that wouldn’t mean lower living standards for ordinary Americans, because most military spending does not provide us with direct private consumption."


No, even though military spending on average has a lower multiplier than non-military spending, it's still estimated to have a multiplier close to 1 during periods of high unemployment.


"The other half of sequestration would apply to domestic discretionary spending, where the Keynesian argument against spending cuts has more force.

But here, too, much of the affected spending should be cut anyhow. Farm support programs would be a major target, and most economists agree that those payments should be abolished or pared back significantly. Regulatory agencies would also lose funds, but instead of across-the-board cuts, we could give these agencies the choice of cutting their least valuable programs" 


So we have here a mish-mash of directly denying Keynesianism while pretending to somehow be consistent with it. You don't gain efficiency according to Keynesians in a depressed economy by cutting "inefficient" government spending, b/c it isn't replaced by more efficient private sector spending. It isn't replaced by anything, it just adds to the country's unemployed resources, and reduces overall demand.


Tyler continues about the non-military cuts: "THE Keynesian argument suggests that spending cuts do the least harm in economic sectors where demand is high relative to supply. Thus, the obvious candidate for the domestic economy is health care, and the sequestration would cut many Medicare reimbursement rates by 2 percent."


Dean Baker makes the relevant counter-point nicely: "the reference to Keynes is a bit peculiar here. If Cowan thinks he has argued for cuts that are consistent with the Keynesian view, he is mistaken. The idea that cuts in areas of relatively strong demand like health care will have less effect on employment is at best true in only a trivial sense. Wages are not rising especially rapidly in this sector, it is not as though we have any reason to believe that there would be large numbers of additional hires to replace workers who lose their jobs due to government cutbacks, even if the impact might be marginally less than cutbacks in other sectors."


In short, an extended defense of expansionary austerity is inevitably accompanied by a word salad regardless of whether it's a lowly politician making it, or a respected economics professor from George Mason University writing in the NYT.


... This has been another installment of the series "Tyler Cowen is overrated, and basically a pseudo-intellectual"

As one who often finds him fascinating


I have to agree this was a stunningly weak piece.

"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

I used to be fascinated


He's obviously cultured and highly intelligent.


But he carefully crafts an online persona of a rare polymath that is at least partly phony. Plus a central intellectual endeavor of his these past 4+ years has been a mealy-mouthed defense of austerity.


Add these up and you get someone who's too full of sh&t to be tolerated.

He's a clown

HankP's picture

his economics are lousy, he's particularly bad at explaining exactly what his position is and the less said about some of the truly inane stuff he's written about restaurants the better.


I blame it all on the Internet

Hey vinteuil, how's this - bringing civilisation to the natives?

mmghosh's picture

I'm all for this sort of imperialism.


In 2001, when the Taliban was toppled from power, Afghanistan's musical culture was left in ruins. Music gradually came back onto the streets and into people's lives, but by 2009 there was still no orchestra capable of playing the Afghan national anthem.


In that year, renowned musicologist Dr Ahmad Sarmast returned from exile in Australia, and the Ministry of Education charged him with establishing the first National Institute of Music (ANIM). Based in what had been Kabul's School of Fine Arts, ANIM got off to a slow start: the building was a ruin and there were virtually no instruments.

Dr Sarmast's Music School follows ANIM's progress over two years as, gradually, the school is repaired and made habitable. Fine instruments - many donated by foreign sponsors - flood in, and the school's 150 pupils gradually learn to play to professional standards.


And now they are touring America!

What part?


I am sure he had the vivid dream or dreams. I've had a few.


Proof of heaven? No. He can't prove anything. For one thing he does not actually know when his visions occurred. They might have happened in just a few seconds right before he came back.


I have dreamt entire dreams the sole purpose of which was to explain away some noise (like the alarm clock) that was trying to wake me up. So I know that in just a few dozen seconds the brain can weave movie-long stories, or stories that feel that long.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

The near death experience part.

mmghosh's picture

If NDEs are hallucinations, why are they similar?  Folk psychology?  


I accept that NDEs may be dreams induced by brain malfunction.   Its a little curious how they are pretty similar, though.  And similar (though not the same) to this.

"If NDEs are hallucinations, why are they similar?"


Their discrepancies are pretty telling. This Harvard MD claims he experienced the God posited by CHristianity, who communicated a common Christian messages about a single God who loves him, etc.


My sense is that many aspects of NDEs are influenced by background beliefs. Since they're inconsistent with each other across cultures there's no reason to believe those aspects are accurate.


You could factor out the differences and claim NDEs support what they have in common, e.g., a white pathway between the natural and supernatural worlds. But it seems just as likely that a general background belief in the possibility of the supernatural is responsible for interpreting a white light along those lines.



A white light could simply be a common failure mode for the visual cortex.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

Something like that


In outline


* any basic, common aspects (shapes, color, edges) are physiological


* common supernatural interpretations are probably due to shared supernatural background beliefs


* divergent supernatural interpretations are probably due to divergent background beliefs


Anyway you slice it, religious folks like this doctor who believe that NDEs support some religious claims in particular are going to have to admit that most NDEs aren't giving accurate information, since most aren't taken to support e.g. CHristianity in particular.


So you may as well just believe that NDEs are in general inaccurate.

I'd go with folk psychology


I am actually a believer (of the Christian persuasion), but I really distrust a lot of alleged visions because they're so pedestrian. Compare the vision described by our neurologist to something like the Apostle Paul's vision: Paul flat-out says that he can't describe it. Or in your neck of the woods, look at Arjuna's theophany in the presence of Krishna. It's absolutely mind-blowing.


If someone were actually in the presence of any sort of Overmind, it should be nearly impossible to describe and frankly a little terrifying. But this account seems, well, banal.

I don't follow you here.

mmghosh's picture

Surely the Overmind, if it wants to convey a message to simple human minds, has to descend to their level.  What about the visions of Mahomet?  You can't get simpler or more direct than that.


If you are religious, you have to accept that the Overmind finds a valid way to communicate extra- or super-naturally.

There Tends To Be A Catch 22 Here

M Scott Eiland's picture

If the experiences are consistent with the individual's religious upbringing, skeptics will say that it was a hallucination based on those beliefs. If someone has an experience that radically differs from their religious upbringing, then the skeptics will just say they're nuts (regardless of whether it leads to an attempt to found a new religion). What kind of a test would a majority of skeptics accept as solid proof of a genuine religious revelation?*

*--not a snarky question: I'm not even a "hostile" skeptic, and I've never been able to think of a workable test that couldn't have some sort of other explanation ("scientifically advanced aliens who exemplify Clarke's Third Law and who have decided to mess with my head" if nothing else).

The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.

The Catch-22 is b/c religious experiences are mostly immune


from verification and falsification. 


They are private, unshared, and uncorroborated by others.


They are typically too vague to make specific, testable predictions. When they do, the predictions don't pan out (at least as far as I know).


I would accept religious revelation under many circumstances.


For example if it were produced by any sort of perception process (supernatural or natural) that provides evidence which can be verified, falsified or corroborated by others.

Neither Yours Nor M.A.s Would Pass The "Clarke's Third Law" Test

M Scott Eiland's picture

Though if aliens that advanced are messing with one's noggin, that alone would be a matter of serious interest.

The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.

Clarke's 3rd law is fine


I barely understand any of the technology in my environment, I don't understand most of my perceptual systems in any detail, so much of their processing is for all intents and purposes magical to me.


For that matter, I could accept processes as reliable I knew to be "magical", not just technologically advanced processes: clairvoyance, ESP, a sixth sense, religious revelation, you name it.


All that has to happen is for me to have evidence of their reliability. i.e., whatever information these processes produce should be verified or corroborated.


I'm not picky. The magical processes could produce a specific testable prediction, provide new information that explains old, or be shared by independent perceivers.


As far as I've been able to tell, religious experiences don't meet any of these criteria. But there's no catch-22 ... b/c they might have, they just happen not to.


They're akin to the processes responsible for alien sightings in the wilderness, which yield private, non-repeatable, and useless information.

The point is...


...if you claim to have an NDE, alien abduction, or a secret date with Scarlett Johansson, and you come back with no information you would not otherwise know, I won't believe you.


I'll be nice enough to believe you believe it. And, being agnostic, if you weave a good tale I may even concede that it sounds plausible and maybe there is something to it. But I certainly won't buy it as a fact, because you have failed to produce anything an overactive imagination could not produce.


For all intents and purposes, super advanced aliens are equivalent to overminds as far as we are concerned. It's a limitation we have today. That said, they would have to be very advanced indeed (better than Star Wars or Star Trek level) for this to be possible. Not merely better technology as we know it, but the ability to manipulate matter and energy without any detectable evidence of the devices used to do it.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

That's The Thing, Though

M Scott Eiland's picture

It would be proof of something shatteringly significant, but it wouldn't be conclusive proof that something that most people would consider "divine" existed. Which opens a whole new can of worms regarding the significance and/or validity of that distinction.

The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.

The test is this...


Ask the overmind to explain dark matter or dark energy or your favorite unsolved theorem. Ask anything you have no way of knowing, and bring the answer back with you. Any testable question will do. 

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

A few points. Its pretty hard to direct a dream

mmghosh's picture

or trance/hallucination.  So a specific question with a specific answer is unlikely to work.  Also, most such experiences are usually unidirectional.



If it's a dream...


...then what are we discussing?


This is only of interest if it is not a dream.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

I mean the possibility of a shared transcendental experience.

mmghosh's picture

Outside of the material world.  


I mean, we already share transcendent worlds - say, music, where we all decide to attach a specific significance to frequencies of vibrations of the air, to the extent of calling a progression of frequencies a scale and so forth.


Perhaps mystics are calling us to understand another dimension which we refuse to share in.

I don't follow...


The assertion here is that there is an overmind, creator, whatever you want to call it, and that you can talk to it, or at least interact with it directly.


Music is a collection of vibrations arranged in one of many ways that we recognize as music. But we all agree we are talking about the same vibrations and we mostly agree on what combinations of them feel like music to the brain.


So there is an objective thing we react to subjectively.


But the NDE descriptions lack the objective part, any objective part. Anything one could point to as the NDE's vibrations, so to speak.


I'd love there to be other dimensions. I've never ruled out the existence of a creator, and nothing would be more interesting than to interact with it or he or she or they, etc. So I don't refuse to share in anything. That's because I am being offered nothing to share in, except a nice story that feels good. The only objective part of it is the money I have to pay Amazon to read it.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

Well put.


Discussing the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin is just as useful here. We are trapped in our own brains and physiology. 



But there is much we don't know. Maybe there is an overmind you talk to. If I get the chance I'll ask him whether dark energy is constant through time. It's a simple question. I don't need to remember elaborate equations, just a yes or no.


If I come back with the answer, somebody else can have their NDE and ask something else.


A few people in a row get these right (a few decades would need to pass for the scientific evidence to back these), and at some point the balance of the data would indicate that you do get to talk to the boss during an NDE. Then it really gets interesting. Next question would be why nature is so cruel, because he's a sadist or because of inherent limitations in the universe making business?


That would be my approach, anyway.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

I dont know how the Overmind got into this discussion

mmghosh's picture

but I'm not talking about a supreme entity with all the answers waiting to pass it on.


This is more about whether a mode of communication exists that is outside of the currently observed world, which many people, past and present, have tried to pass on.


As for objectivity, seeing as we are all essentially a quantity of quarks interacting with each other, I'm not sure that we know that much about reality to characterise it as objective.  What constitutes an object would seem to be a matter of definition.

Communication With What?


The overmind got into the discussion because that's sort of the whole point of the book. That's what the author supposedly communicated with. Certainly, he claims to have at least communicated with an entity with a higher order knowledge of the universe.


Objectivity is not absolute truth. It's simply something we can agree on without recurring to faith. If we are all in the same room, and there is a chair in the middle of it, and everybody can see it, that's a fairly objective fact. If only one person sees it, it's not.


Now, if everybody sees the chair it might be a shared illusion. Somebody could be projecting a chair image. The universe we perceive might be such a projection, in the sense that it's all just information so in the end the whole thing could just be a memory, like computer memory. Even with regular physics, most of the chair is empty space. All that is possible.


Yet the chair is seen by all. We can take pictures of it, say what color it is, etc. It is still, at our level, an objective fact. Even if the universe is largely an illusion, it is a specific, describable illusion with certain properties we can measure repeatedly independent of our language and cultural backgrounds. For primates, that's about as objective as we can get.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

Perhaps the neuroscientist described the experience in

mmghosh's picture

terms that he could square with a Christian belief.

I happen to be an atheist. But the experience of mystics should not perhaps just be dismissed as dreams, simply because it cannot be described in terms that we can yet understand. That the consciousness of a mass of matter will dissolve without trace in a few more years seems to me to be a curious phenomenon.

That Consciousness Will Dissolve? Odd? How So...(Only Ooze)


...this seems perfectly natural and appropriate to me.


Dust to dust, ashes to ashes and all that...


I do like the Buddhist idea that, Like a performer we are only on stage a brief time to say our random lines....but there is a whole world off and beyond the stage that we are unaware of while in character. 


When the play is over...we simply move off stage to a larger reality.


But  this is just sweet sugar candy for a fearful isn't dust to dust, more like human form to liquid ooze.


See again, Ernst Becker's Pulitzer Prize winning Denial of Death


Best Wishes, Traveller

Do you really think that?


Seriously, there you are face to visage with the Alpha, the Omega and all points in between.  Even true believers can't imagine imagining what that experience would be like.  I doubt anyone would have enough control of their wits to come up with any sort of question to bring back to the world.  Hell, I'd respect the guy who could get a straight answer from The Almighty on whether vinegar or mustard is the better BBQ base.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

Yes, I Do




First of all, how do I know he/she/it is the Alpha & Omega?




Impressive special effects? Shiny objects? A deep, thundering voice?


Come on. All that I can see in a movie, or I suppose hallucinating. How do I know?


True believers are at a disadvantage. They would not dare be skeptical. It's definitely a job for an agnostic.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

Ha! Think about it, you'd want to be the Apostle MA.


"The first letter of MA to the Forvmites".  I'd at least skim it. 

The problem with a scientific question is that only the smartest and dumbest of us could deal with the answer.  Imagine finding out that there aren't 4 forces but 117.  Or receiving an answer like "Dark matter? And I gotta work to make you believe in me?" Now how do you bring an answer back, which if it's the 'truth' is not accepted theory*, and convince people you haven't been hitting the sauce? Practically speaking, you'd be just as well off saying you talked to a guy who walked on water.

*not a knock on science just a recognition that there is a lot yet to figure out.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

I Like it M....I Like it, Smart....nt





i have dreams every night. i have no trouble believing a neuroscientist had one. i have even less trouble believing that a neurosceitists dream purporting to go to the afterlife was made into a book (*there's* a topic that sells books).



“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” -George Bernard Shaw

For Various Reasons I Laughed & Laughed at This...Thanks/nt



I'm asking you


'cos you know about these things.


So I got a new PC. I'm super happy with it - runs lightening fast and smooth as butter.


It came installed with windows 8.


Now I'm a natural curmudgeon, so I smothered my mutters and spent a hard night last night getting to terms with UEFI, secure boot, charms, tiles and all sorts of new tricks us old dogs don't need (and all, by a cruel twist of stocking, on a swiss german keyboard). 


Next step is to install an SSD and so I will need to reinstall the operating system. I have licenses for every version of windows so now I'm looking at this PC and trying to figure out if there is any reason I shouldn't just go ahead and put windows 7 on it.


Windows 8 does run very very smoothly, and there is that app store, but I can't quite shake the notion that the dual interface and the fact that the "real" interface is crippled are real problems that make it just a bit of a dog to run with and that no amount of getting used to it will make up for the fact that it really isn't very well designed.


Any words of wisdom out there? People who have switched and were immediately or eventually convinced? Anybody who downgraded a windows 8 pc to win 7?


Go with Win 7


That's what I would do, unless you have a specific application that requires Windows 8.

Windows 7 will be supported for a long time, and my guess is that Microsoft will need to fix Windows 8 in order to make it acceptable to the enterprise. Whether that fix turns out to be Windows 9 or a Service Pack for Windows 8, I have no idea.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

Best and shortest answer

HankP's picture

download and install Classic Shell, a FOSS project. It allows you to choose which features of Windows XP, Vista, 7 or 8 you want to use, and allows you to bypass the Metro UI and boot straight to the desktop. Every client of mine who got Win 8 has complained that they hate Win 8, I installed Classic Shell and they're happy now.


I blame it all on the Internet

Had to buy a new laptop


two weeks ago after my previous one met with a misfortune.


Went to the store (Staples) and everything had Windows 8.  I asked if they had Windows 7 or earlier I could buy and/or have them install,  and they said their contract with Microsoft forbade them from offering Windows 7 or anything else that showed less than Total Commitment to the new order.


Finally the guy found a display laptop in the storeroom that still had 7 and let me have it for $400.  I guess I'll have to keep it going until I die.

Dell or Lenovo


For anybody in this predicament, I would note that you are better off ordering a Dell or Lenovo business laptop. These come with Windows 7 by default, and often Win 7 Pro, which usually comes fairly clean of crippleware, unlike the consumer versions.


For Lenovo, go to the ThinkPad series. For Dell, either the Vostro or (preferably) the Latitude series. Or look for their Small Business sections.


Pretty much any Dell Latitude or Vostro (the high and low end business lines) laptop comes with Windows 7 and likely will for some time. They start at around $400 for a basic Vostro, but I would go at least with the lower end Latitudes, like the 14" 5430, which you can buy with Windows 7 Pro, and a three year on site warranty for $770. The very similar Lenovo L430 goes for $800 with three year coverage.


The Latitude 6xxx series can be bought with up to five years of warranty, so you can run Windows 7 for quite a long time. Lenovo maxes out at four years for any model, with the T series being the overall best of the ThinkPads.


They also both offer "ultrabook" models, but these are a bit pricier so you need at least $1,000 for a proper configuration and decent warranty.


All the business systems are more expensive for the same specs than consumer models, but the build quality is superior, as well as repairability (remember that their own technicians will be dealing with these for up to five years). Since any PC today is fast, I value this far more than CPU speed and so on. That, and I really don't like disposable machines for environmental reasons.


I would not buy HP unless somebody had a substantial caliber gun pointed to my head.


Most businesses have just been migrating to Windows 7, from XP, in the past year. I don't know anybody who is even thinking about Windows 8 within a two or three year horizon. Microsoft is simply pushing Windows 8 on consumers who will dutifully beta test. Businesses might migrate by 2016 or so, or never, like most did with Vista.


According to Microsoft, Windows 7 Extended support (meaning security patches), will end on January 14, 2020. Mainstream support (service packs), will end January 12, 2015.


Thus. for whatever Windows boxes I own or run, I currently have no plan to upgrade from Windows 7 till about 2017 at the earliest.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

Substantial caliber gun


I think you are right on all of this, but I bought an HP.  It was what they had with Windows 7.  I don't have a workplace computer supplied by my employer, and use my own laptop for everything.  Classes were starting and I couldn't even check the roster,  so I needed something physically in my hands more or less instantly, and couldn't risk Windows 8 having a learning curve, or not being able to run my engineering software.  The reason I was buying from Staples was that I couldn't really afford an hour round trip to (say) BestBuy.


You Did The Right Thing


Given your options at that Staples, you did the right thing. You'd need a gun to get me to buy HP, but you would need a more substantial weapon, perhaps a small nuclear device, to get me to buy a conventional laptop with Windows 8.


In any case, the machines I am talking about have to be configured and ordered on the Lenovo or Dell sites. Best Buy and Staples wouldn't have them, or wouldn't have them with optimum configurations and warranty coverage.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

What do you do with it?

TXG1112's picture

You're not wrong. If the machine is a laptop and has a touch screen you may want to keep win8 on it. Otherwise you're better off downgrading to win 7. The metro UI is an abomination that it designed for a tablet paradigm not a real computer.

--- I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered. My life is my own.

Mostly I administer this website


with an iron kitten-crushing fist.


But apart from that mostly photo and video editing. And of course lots of web surfing.


I see now that "gadgets" are discontinued by microsoft - they are doing all they can to force people over to 8. I quite liked having a clock adn a moon phase and the local rain radar up on the desktop but I guess to do that I'll have to go linux now.


I've been  thinking about it a lot & I think dual boot win 7 and some flavour of linux. I will probably loose some performance but the round trips to the metro ui to launch apps would likely drive me mad.

You might consider running a virtual machine

HankP's picture

you can download VMware Player and install whatever OS you want in a virtual machine. There's a slight performance hit, but you can move the VM from one host to another by simply copying a directory.


I blame it all on the Internet

I don't think you'd notice a performance difference

TXG1112's picture

Win 7 is a pretty good OS and as MA notes above, all machines are pretty quick these days. I agree that Win 8 will end up in the dustbin of computing history much like Win ME and Vista. I can't imagine you will see a performance hit, though you can turn off areo UI features in win 7 if you do.

--- I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered. My life is my own.

oops, double post

TXG1112's picture

Imagine a picture of a kitten here, it will make you feel better.

--- I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered. My life is my own.

Full Shooting Script for Zero Dark Thirty (and Silly Gitmo)



The Commissions at Guantanamo Bay are foolishness perfected.


Spectators watch the proceedings behind soundproof glass, and receive audio on a 40-second delay so that a court security officer can switch on a white noise machine while classified information is being discussed.

No 'unilateral decisions'

But on Monday, the white noise machine was activated without the prior knowledge of the judge or the courtroom security officer.

The interruption came as a defence lawyer referred to a secret, overseas CIA prison where the defendants were held before they were brought to Guantanamo Bay.

Later, the judge decided the information was not secret and released a transcript of what was said.

Prosecutors said the courtroom audio was suspended by an OCA - Original Classification Authority - which could refer to any agency responsible for the classified information at stake






Great Moments in Republican Hypocrisy,


2nd Amendment department:


A man with a handgun used a tour for Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts as cover to inspect legislators’ desks and reach into a waste bin on the House floor.

The Jan. 10 incident became public Tuesday when Department of Administration Director Teresa Luna used a clip to demonstrate the need for rules prompted by last year’s Occupy Boise encampment.

Now under review by lawmakers, the new rules don’t deal with the inside of the Capitol. But the video of the man’s actions shocked legislative leaders into exploring beefing up security. Guns of all kinds are allowed at the Capitol.

“Events like that should disturb all Idahoans,” said House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley. “It certainly disturbed me.”

Read more here:

My personal favorite is this:


[Idaho Senate President Pro Tem Brent] Hill has urged lawmakers to be careful about what they leave on their desks, but he is also concerned about larger security issues. “What happens when six people come and sit in the front row of the gallery with shotguns across their laps?” Hill said. “I sure as heck am not going to leave my senators in there with that.”

You would think the gonads of a Big Strong Ruff Tuff McGuff with a 100% pro-gun voting record wouldn't shrivel quite so quickly at the thought of a few worthy folk exercising their 2nd Amendment Rights.


Pussies, each and every one. 


(Link courtesy of Americablog via the Great Orange Satan.)

"I've been on food stamps and welfare.  Anybody help me out?  No!" Craig T. Nelson (6/2/2009)

Heaven forbid they should


Heaven forbid they should feel unsafe with nutcases running around with guns any and everywhere they choose.  Yeah, gun control isn't for us little people.  Only the members of the State Congress are allowed to limit firearms in their environment.  Pussies is right.

Can you imagine if the Occupy Wall Street


protestors had decided to post perimeter guards exercising their Second Amendment rights? I can think of at least one poster here who would have been clamoring for airstrikes, if not the use of tactical nukes.

"I've been on food stamps and welfare.  Anybody help me out?  No!" Craig T. Nelson (6/2/2009)

Well they just didn't want Democats to be alone


How many 'guns for me, not for thee' Democrats have security details or body guards carrying the very weaponry they intend to ban? 


In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 


HankP's picture

why in the world would Obama need a security detail?


I blame it all on the Internet

No question he needs a security detail


I'm saying their firearms should be limited to the same extent as the unwashed masses.  Why is an egalitarian approach such as applying the same standard of protection to the rule makers and enforcers that you'd apply to the rule followers so difficult to get you guys to go along with? 

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

Because of events like this

HankP's picture

North Hollywood Shootout


Aren't conservatives the ones who always say that criminals won't follow the rules anyway?


I blame it all on the Internet

Well, using that logic,


since American soldiers and (most likely) the Secret Service have shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, good ol' reg'lar 'Merikuns should be able to carry them too.

"I've been on food stamps and welfare.  Anybody help me out?  No!" Craig T. Nelson (6/2/2009)

Or, using that logic


the secret service wouldn't have stingers, MP5s, FNP90s or high capacity pistols or magazines. 

The military is different.  Totally different mission.  Go abroad, break sh*t, kill other folks and make them say 'Uncle'.  They need resources to do that.  However, the incidents of multi-gunman assaults on the POTUS can be counted on the fingers of one foot (JFK conspiracy theories aside).  So far it hasn't been demonstrated that the POTUS needs to have a detail armed any better than a liquor store owner.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

Oh please.  I see the trap


Oh please.  I see the trap you are trying to lay.  Of course there is a deterrent component but the difference is pretty obvious.  We have maximal protection for the President so nobody tries, or even reasonably considers, trying to kill him.  We have variable protection for everybody which drives everyone (or just the gun nuts) to maximal protection ensuring very dangerous weapons into the hands of unlicensed and likely deranged gun nuts.

We have maximal protection so...nobody tries


Are you working for the NRA?  An agent provocateur perhaps?

"We have variable protection for everybody which drives everyone (or just the gun nuts) to maximal protection ensuring very dangerous weapons into the hands of unlicensed and likely deranged gun nuts."

Ok, I'm going to have to ask you to provide a cite on the likely deranged part.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

I don't get your meaning on


I don't get your meaning on the maximal protection part.  Was I unclear?


As for gun nuts being deranged -- it was hyperbole, maybe THAT wasn't clear.

And before 9/11, the need for secure cockpit doors on


commercial aircraft hadn't been demonstrated either. I'm OK with a little overkill on the part of the Secret Service: they're professionals and they know what they're doing. I wish the POTUS could go out with just one or two lightly armed bodyguards, but there are too many nuts out there for that happen any time soon.

"I've been on food stamps and welfare.  Anybody help me out?  No!" Craig T. Nelson (6/2/2009)

The Dems would allow those


The Dems would allow those weapons for police and maybe private protection companies.  The Idaho State Congressmen, as they now prefer, are free to have armed guards in their offices.  Even better, as the gun nuts now dictate, they could just carry AR15s around with them.  One side thinks those weapons are very dangerous and should only be in the hands of professionals.  The other thinks they are good for anyone, including themselves.  The latter should should man up and put their money where their mouth is.

Nice Find...So Many People Killed Since Newtown, Every Day...


...the news is just full of the slaughter of GOOD human beings.


Here in CA, a Doctor was killed in his examination room the other day...for some reason I remember the possibility of him telling an older man that he had prostate cancer.


So many reasons to kill our fellow human beings!


But to kill a doctor? I can't get over it...or the school bus driver shot trying to protect his kids and there is that kidnapping now...


God I hate the gun-freaks. And freaks they are.



Some are freaks.


Some are insecure and frightened. Others, I think, like the intimidation factor a weapon provides as they move through public spaces. But, at the end of the day, I think that the slaughter of innocents that occurred on 14 December woke something up in the American people: that the right of ordinary citizens to enter the public square without fear of sociopaths with guns outweighs the rights of the fetishists who feel the need to a carry a 9mm at the Golden Corral buffet line.

"I've been on food stamps and welfare.  Anybody help me out?  No!" Craig T. Nelson (6/2/2009)

JKC, serious question.


Are you honestly afraid to venture into public spaces over concerns of a sociopath mowing you down? 

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

Serious answer:


Short version: no. I live in a blue state with strict gun laws and in a nice area.


Longer answer: The above said, I work in a Level 1 trauma center Emergency Department, and while the chances of  encountering an armed, angry human being are (I think) slim, they are not zero. I try to keep an eye on what's going on around my little portion of the ED, and I know where the panic buttons and the exits are. We have a specific institution-wide plan for what to do if there's an active shooter, and the environmental health and safety folks treat the prospect of a violent incident involving firearms as "when", not "if."

"I've been on food stamps and welfare.  Anybody help me out?  No!" Craig T. Nelson (6/2/2009)

a lot of those


who are arguing for gun rights clealry are afraid of that eventuality.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” -George Bernard Shaw

US recession - what am I missing?


I see a negative GDP report in Q4 2012 and BofA and Goldman Sachs estimating that already agreed to deficit reduction will be a 1.6 - 1.75% drag on growth in 2013. This is before any fiscal cliff spending cuts coming next month.


The most lipstick I've seen put on the recent GDP report is that temporary factors offset what otherwise would've been 2.0 - 2.5% growth.


Suppose that's so (which isn't clear to me), nevertheless we've already canceled most of that growth with fiscal consolidation for 2013, and next month's sequestor cuts, w/out any changes, are estimated to subtract another 1.0%.


Moreover, estimates of fiscal consolidation's contractionary effects have been systematically lowballed. 


So I see the US as having even odds of going into a recession in 2013 and don't see why anyone is forecasting GDP growth above 1.0% this year. Yet most estimates are higher than 1% and no one's warning of recession.


What am I missing?

ride the wave, baby!


recessions aren't everybodys' problem. they may even be good for you!

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” -George Bernard Shaw

A powerful, international payday loan lobby


would explain a lot of econ policy the past 5 -10 yrs.

It Never Did Before

M Scott Eiland's picture

At least not when we referred to them as "loan sharks," and collateral was quaintly nicknamed "your kneecaps."

The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.


HankP's picture

please don't refer to Bernard that way. It's not his fault that his industry has a well-deserved reputation for screwing people over.


I blame it all on the Internet

ok, now dial it back.


payday loan folks are just a subset of creditors.... and who has the last 5-10 years benefited? Creditors or debtors?

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” -George Bernard Shaw

A Good Day to be a Tank Driver, Not So Good a TC or Gunner


...see the driver miraculously escape from the bottom hatch!


(I suppose I find this so interesting not because this is Syria today, and war, a subject of which I have some knowledge...but rather, as just another showing of the vagaries of person scrambles to safety, others no...without rhyme or reason sometimes).

But interesting.



Best Wishes, Traveller

Is that what happened?


Looked to me like he was standing beside the tank when it was hit in the rear. Maybe he was the driver for the second tank which would explain it just sitting there. Also, maybe he was covered in burns and will be dead within a week. 

I think he was underneath the tank


If you look at it around 3 seconds in you can see his arm moving.  Trav's point still stands though.  The random zigs and zags that guy did that put a tank hull between him and the explosion are just impossible to fathom.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

I want to know who he prays to.


Check out the end of the video. Just after he makes it to the building on the right one of the pillars of the building takes a round from somewhere. You can see the little puff of concrete dust. So RPG, exploding tank and sniper all in the space of about 10 seconds.

Probably Allah, Given The Location

M Scott Eiland's picture

Given the excitement of the moment, it was probably almost as heartfelt as this version:

The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.

He prays to me, Cuddlyael, patron saint of those who have


recently soiled their undergarments and/or those faithful who curse while attempting to converse with the almighty. 

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

It can't tell where he was before the tank got lit up

brutusettu's picture

some forum that was in a google search says Soviet designed tanks have an escape hatch.


It looks like he's crawling out the bottom of the back as there are secondary explosions going off.


--There was a projectile going at the tank right before the 1st explosion.




More agenda-driven selective editing

Bird Dog's picture

Last year, it involved George Zimmerman. This year, the heckling meme. Except there was no heckling. The sad part about the national debate on mass shootings is its wrongheaded focus, which is:


Gun control


Mental health


"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

Oh, please.


That argument is tired, tendentious crap peddled by the NRA and frankly I'm surprised you can make it with a straight face. Wayne LaPierre himself gave the game away yesterday when he rejected in totality the notion of background checks for gun buyers.


Look, on any given day I probably deal with more mentally ill people before I've finished my first cup of coffee than you have in your entire life. The vast majority of them are a danger to themselves, and no-one else. People at risk of psychosis or who are depressed to the point of suicidiality certainly should not have access to guns, but the modern-day NRA leadership would roast their grandmothers over a slow fire before they'd rob their masters in the gun industry of a single sale. The NRA proposal to create a database of "the mentally ill" is nothing more than a distraction and a smokescreen.

"I've been on food stamps and welfare.  Anybody help me out?  No!" Craig T. Nelson (6/2/2009)


Bird Dog's picture

We're not talking about your dealings with mentally ill people. I don't doubt that you see a lot of them. The fact is that gun control in the current discussion on mass shooting overshadows all else, which is unfortunate because, from Loughner to Holmes to Lanza and countless others, the real problem is that mentally unstable people are killing themselves and others. 

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

Simply wrong

HankP's picture

gun control does not "overshadow all else", the main proposal is to make sure that everyone buying a gun gets a background check and that mental health records are made available to the background check process. That's not gun control, that's crazy person control.


I blame it all on the Internet

That's the main proposal?

Bird Dog's picture

Whatever, bub.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

The Problem is Mental Illness in the American Psyche...

(#299904) is too easy to let the culture of killing and paranoia and murder off and blame the individual, ignoring the bath that birthed these individuals as though they were sui generis.


They are ours, we made them and we continue to manufacture them in an almost assembly line like fashion.


"I have a Right, a right to guns, steel things that kill people."


These people begin to look around suspiciously, (because they know, as we all know if we are honest with ourselves that guns are for killing people, good people bad people it doesn't matter, they are made for murder), and eventually come to the conclusion that this Right to own a Murder Weapon is more important than their Sanity.


Everybody with a hint of insight into themselves and social psychology knows this is true.


A hundred years from now people will look back on our insanity and be...dumbfounded and amazed at our foolishness.


Truth, brother...


Best Wishes, Traveller

The gun-obsessed


The gun-obsessed "libertarians" want a national database of mental illness for screening of violent behavior.  An undesireables list, if you will.  Good luck with that.  I'll put my eggs in the gun control basket, thank you.

That Is Really Quite Something


It's a heck of a dissonant position for Libertarians to take, if indeed it's the case.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

It's not a position, it's a tactic


that turns the 'if it only saves one life' argument on its user.  Not a position or tactic I personally endorse but a simple tactic is all it is.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

Somehow, that aspect of the


Somehow, that aspect of the argument disgusts me even more.  As someone who doesn't own a gun, I'm worried my toddler will be killed in school some day thanks to the blatant machinations of these gun-fetishists.  Their obsession with guns is infringing on me and my family's right to not be threatened or killed by nutcases with AR16s.

I can assure you, nobody has ever been killed with an AR16


Here's the deal, it's simple, there are just sides.  That's it, your side, mine and anybody else who wants to place a flag.  I don't approve of the tactic but let's be serious, if you guys got the gun regulations you have fantasies about and the murder rate jumped 10% within a year your solution would be more gun control.  Might as well fight you as deep in your turf as possible.

As far as being afraid of anything, I have a much greater fear of the fully licensed, school trained asshat with a legally registered car who simply has to text his BFF instead of paying attention to where he's trying to move a few tons of metal.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

Yeah yeah, cars are dangerous


Yeah yeah, cars are dangerous and kill more people than guns, at least in most states.  That is a stale and boring argument worth of youtube comments.  And I'll have you know I do know about the AR15, I just hit the wrong key.  You win on those merits, though.

But wait, if it only saves one life it's worth it


That's the standard, right?  And since the chance of your toddler* being killed by a jackass not paying attention to what he's doing behind the wheel is universally higher in all states I'd assume you're in favor of all sorts of additional regulations on vehicle ownership and operation.

*I very strongly dislike bringing family into these sorts of discussions.  I truly mean no offense but you brought them into this.  Having responded I will not respond further on this sub-thread if there is any more discussion of family.


In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 

Who said "if it only saves


Who said "if it only saves one life it's worth it"?  Not me.  That's clearly a strawman argument.

It is a matter of risk and reward.  The data is pretty clear that more guns = more gun violence, at least to me though I grant that some are unconvinced by the evidence.  The military type guns that are in civilian hands, the "assault" weapons and whatnot, are more dangerous than they are worth to society.  The arguments against this line of reasoning are misleading and based in the assumption that if we start banning those weapons, then Joe Schmoe hunter's bolt action rifle or my Mom's handgun are next.  Or if more complete background checks are instituted, liberty will die on the vine.  Whatever.  I can't help it if the gun fetishists are paranoid.  Not my problem.

Only saves one life?  Who


Only saves one life?  Who said that?  Not me.


It isn't about the lives saved, it is risk and reward.  The upside for letting everyone have as many of any kind of gun they choose is very low -- gun nuts get their jollies, whoopee.  The downside is a school shooting every month or so.  Ok, so potentially causing a school shooting...  The point is, data shows more guns = more gun violence.

My Life! I Have the Right to Life!!!, Liberty, etc, but 1st Life



...and that means being free of a constant well founded fear that my society has gone mad and contrary to any civilized country has allowed...not just guns, but all manner of efficiently deadly firearms to be circulate within the borders without any rational (RATIONAL!) support whatsoever.


White Guy




I don't agree to surrender my right to be alive so that some fool can cradle his gun at night.


Plus The "If It SavesOnly One Life It's Worth It" Argument. . .

M Scott Eiland's picture

. . .would totally invalidate the arguments made by certain parties that "not enough lives are saved by gun ownership to justify a right to bear arms." It's saved at least one, so we can never ban or restrict gun ownership in any way, right? Or are we going to stop screwing around and play golf?

The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.

I've noticed this argument being made by gun fetishists before:


someone got the model name of a rifle wrong, or called a magazine a clip. Therefore, they're morons and aren't entitled to have an opinion on guns! I'm surprised to hear that coming from someone I consider sensible, if on occasion wrong.


Consider this: there's been more than one occasion where posters have gotten medical terminology wrong. I don't recall heet or myself ever mocking anyone about their lack of medical knowledge.


You're right about cars: they can be very dangerous when their operators do stupid things. That's why they're so tightly regulated. Why do so many conservatives have a problem with regulating guns?

"I've been on food stamps and welfare.  Anybody help me out?  No!" Craig T. Nelson (6/2/2009)

Hold up. If you can show where I said Heet isn't entitled


to have an opinion on guns I'll make a full public apology.  If you can't find such a statement are you willing to apologize for yours?

The comparison to guns with cars is actually sort of funny in that they are remarkably similar in terms of regulation.  You can own a car without a license or registration.  Take it off your property and it's a different situation, a situation very similar to many state laws on public carry of firearms. 

And please for the love of all things holy can we stop with the 'problem with regulating guns' nonsense?  Guns and gun ownership are regulated extensively and many of those regulations are fine with conservatives.  Having an issue with a particular existing or proposed regulation doesn't mean the desire is to have a big-bore free for all.

In the medical community, death is known as Chuck Norris Syndrome. 


M Scott Eiland's picture

Don't ask a question if you don't want an answer--the "heckling" meme is a moonbat lie. If they want to start throwing stones at voices raised in public meetings by non-speakers, their own behavior is likely to earn them a lot of (virtual) lumps in reply.

The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.

A question usually has a question mark


Seriously... you want to argue that yelling something during somebody else's testimony at a legislative hearing is not heckling?


And then you want to get outraged about it because saying it is is a "lie"?


That just blows my mind.

"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

Yep. Lie.

M Scott Eiland's picture

“I ask if there’s anybody in this room that can give me one reason or challenge this question … why anybody in this room needs to have one of these assault-style weapons or military weapons or high-capacity clips. [Pause, waiting for response.] Not one person can answer that question.”

Note the first two words--"I ask." Air Moonbat and their fellow travelers--including the despicable David Frum once again--are perpetrating a lie, aided by a doctored video.

The universe may well have been created without a point--that doesn't imply that we can't give it one.

The guy wasn't supposed to ask questions for the gallery

brutusettu's picture

The people behind him weren't supposed to speak either.  They didn't for almost all intents and purposes "interrupt" the father, for pedants, they heckled the proceedings.



Are we sure Frum will continue to hold the same opinion after he sees undoctured video..........?


When you


find yourself in an argument about whether or not a parent whose kid was just killed in a mass slaughter is being heckled... 


Carry on. Please do carry on.

Cruising into 2013 with negative GDP growth


I wonder why anyone isn't warning of recession from the fiscal consolidation already enacted. 


My sense is more spending cuts from the sequester and the US is assured a recession in 2013.

For you Washington state types...


The Garfield High School PTA is raffling a Tesla Model S, a high end (85kWh) model, though not the most expensive "Performance" model.

Unfortunately, out of state people cannot buy raffles due to some Federal law or other. The raffle ticket is $100 and you get a 1 in 1650 chance, which I think is decent.

If you don't know what a Tesla Model S is, go here.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.



For one thing, Elon Musk really is a genius. He has insourced everything possible under one roof, old school, built by fanatical employees. He also had very lucky timing and was able to buy the former NUMI plant (a joint Toyota-GM auto assembly plant with a capacity of 400,000 cars a year) for a ridiculous 50 million, including the stamping equipment inside, when GM was broke.

But there is also the fact that an arbitrarily powerful electric motor is far simpler and cheaper than a high performance internal combustion engine of the kind a car with those specs would need. So while they spend a lot on the battery, they spend little on the motor. It does not cancel out of course, the battery is expensive, but it helps.

There is no complex transmission either; it has a single speed since electric motors have a totally flat torque curve from zero RPM. And there is no anti pollution equipment, like catalytic converters. That helps too.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

+1. nt

Bernard Guerrero's picture

Yes, it is rational to consider a Tesla, over, say, a BMW X3

mmghosh's picture

even in these early days of electronic vehicles.


Problems seems mainly about the (surprise, surprise) software and its bugs.


The software which controls these vehicles is extremely complex. Most of it is written either in Java, itself an extremely complex and inefficient language, easy to make mistakes in, or if it is written in C, it has to be cross-compiled on a PC-bucket and then sent over to the embedded target hardware to test. These types of programs contains lines of code in the millions; typical vehicle control program has 100 - 300 million lines of code.


This is one of the reasons why you, as the buyer, should thoroughly test any vehicle which has such electronics in it and is mostly controlled and driven by software.

Even if the lines of code etc might not be completely accurate, it can't be too far off, surely.  Still, once road tested for a year, I cannot see any reason for the Tesla not to blow away the competition.  And if it can be powered up in areas that have hydroelectric power, its a huge win-win.

Unless that car


not only drives you to work and parks itself while you nap,  but also comes in to the office,  chats up the secretary, and finishes up the hard parts of your job,  then 300 million lines of code seems very excessive. 

well, custom code probably not


custom code written to actually perform tesla car functionality is porbably not  hundreds of millions of lines.


but when you add up all the 3rd party code (e.g. the code to control the LED display, the code that provides interfaces to the cars USB  and ipod dock, etc etc) that is likely cumulatively a sh*t ton of code. if that 3rd party code is relativley mature how it all plays together shouldn't be that hard to predict. so teh 100s of millions is a "true but who cares" kind of statistic.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” -George Bernard Shaw

Bit tired of Greece


I am more concerned with Spain's much larger, more developed economy. Greece is quite clearly victim of a corrupt leading class with German financing. That kind of problem is hard to solve. If not a Euro exit, then serious political strife, but something will have to give at some point.


This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.