Potemkin Stimulus

Potemkin Stimulus: One Way to Offset Austerity
http://jaredbernsteinblog.com/potemkin-stimulus-one-way-to-offset-austerity/

http://jaredbernsteinblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/fakepic.png

How far away are we from doing this? I doubt it is very. At the moment we rush around and spend huge dollars replacing broken things (like bridges, cities; generally with borrowed money) instead of doing the nearly infinitely cheaper maintenance and preparation, how much longer before we stop that and just put up cheap billboards with pretty images of the ‘repaired’ location? Our government already has an incredibly sort attention span (a few weeks, generally, thanks in large part to our media’s constant focus on right now), how much follow through was there actually on the BP oil spill, Katrina, Sandy, etc.? “We will make you whole” is a dramatic speech, but once our Great Leaders have moved on (often within minutes) the reality of YOYO (your on your own) settles in.

Runnin vs walkin…

Is It Better to Walk or Run?
http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/29/is-it-better-to-walk-or-run/

I wonder if there is a confounding factor in that runners have generally more healthy behaviors than walkers (clearly both have better behaviors than couch potatoes) which could explain the weight discrepancy. It was interesting (this isn’t the first time I have seen this) that the walkers were overall somewhat more healthy than runners (though it is not clear to me if ‘running’ is distinct from ‘jogging’; when I was a kid I could sustain 10 mph (still slow compared to my cross country and track team mates), now I am doing pretty damn good to sustain 6 and even that feels like a shamble rather than a jog). I have tried (with mostly success, though less so in the dead of winter) to walk or jog 10-20 miles per week. I am still fat (at least 60 lbs over weight), but perhaps less fat than if I had done nothing (for certain if my father and uncle are any guide). I am sure that much would improve if I could find a way (that doesn’t require draconian changes to my lifestyle!) to get off (and keep off!) the excess blubber, but based on everything I have read it isn’t the scale that ‘kills you’, it is the sedentary lifestyle. In that respect I believe I am much better off than even the skinny couch potatoes (I have read several reports that show clear statistics to that effect). However, that 60 lbs is extra pounding on my knees (and bobs up and down annoyingly as I jog; really gross) and no doubt slows me down to the point where I generally wind up doing at least as much walking as I do jogging (meaning generally only half that 10-20 miles is jogging). This article implies that if I could ratchet that percentage up I would weigh less, but it also implies that my overall health would decrease. So many confounding issues!

Aliens on the moon!

Alien Debris Found in Lunar Craters
http://news.discovery.com/space/asteroids-meteors-meteorites/alien-debris-found-lunar-craters-130526.htm

Hard not to read the title and think it isn’t wack jobs talking about faces on Mars, but since it was in Google News’ science section I clicked on the link. Gratifyingly, it isn’t about alien beings, but about alien material in craters (alien in that it doesn’t match that of the rest of the moon’s surface). It would seem that it has taken this long to come to these conclusions (that Earth material has impacted the moon at a ‘slow’ speed) because no one had taken the time to modify the existing models to account for the (relatively) slow impact speed possible if the debris comes from material blasted out of the Earth by some impactor there. What is most interesting to me is the prospect of getting well preserved material from early Earth. That could help settle a host of questions about the origin of life. Too bad there are few prospects for going to the moon and look for this sort of material.

Big brother

Biometric Database of All Adult Americans Hidden in Immigration Reform
http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2013/05/immigration-reform-dossiers/

I think what bothers many people is that 1984 was in the past and they expected it to stay that way. However, Big Brother just needed some more time to get going. I am sure that without the help of good old Osama Bin Laden it would have taken decades longer to get to this point, but with the rapid evolution of information technology this ‘erosion’ of privacy was inevitable. Forty years ago doing something like this was totally out of the question, it was technically impossible. Thirty years ago the government could have done this technically, but it was economically impossible. Twenty years ago it became technically and barely economically possible, but getting laws passed would have been impossible. Ten years ago, right after 9/11, it became possible to do so many things that prior generations thought could never happen that initially there was no effort to even obscure the purpose. Learning their lesson, the powers-that-be have been clever enough to obscure these sorts of law changes (or simply implement them anyway, like the Bush/Obama use of the telecoms to read all electronic traffic), so now we are quickly being ‘Big Brothered’. This is the new normal; existence in a modern society requires it. I believe that _most_ people will greet _most_ of these changes with little or no angst, indeed I am sure the occasions where this level of knowledge saves lives will be trumpeted. Still, you privacy advocates are going to have your hands full trying to slow the rate of implementation. I wish you luck, but I see you as the salmon swimming up stream into the bear’s mouth.

Greenhouse/pool update again

For those of you interested in following our efforts on our construction of the greenhouse/pool (see here for the last one), I updated our web site on the project again. Here is the latest. We are running out of budget for our contractors, sadly, but at least they got a huge amount done and really helped. I wish we could win a lotto and just pay them to finish up!

Something thoughtful about our psych

The 5 Ugly Lessons Hiding in Every Superhero Movie
http://www.cracked.com/blog/the-5-ugly-lessons-hiding-in-every-superhero-movie/

I haven’t read Cracked in a while (work is actually taking up most of my time, thankfully!) but went over there this morning as my subconscious works on a problem (that’s my story and I am sticking with it!). I read several amusing articles, but this one I felt was worth blogging on. It is actually a bit long for a Cracked article, but I recommend it to my reader(s). It is a really thoughtful discussion on the recent super hero movie phenomenon and how we are now trained to root for the wealthy and powerful instead of the scrappy underdog. It reminds me of “The Last Ringbearer” (available as a free ebook if you are interested, just scroll down to the ‘external links’ section) that talks about how the Lord of the Rings was told by the victors and thus demonized the ‘bad guys’ to help the reader ignore the indiscriminate murder and ethnic cleansing going on.

Anyway, I found it interesting enough to blog on it, perhaps you can trust me for a few minutes and give it a read.

Manufactured memories and depressive realism

Trust your memory? Maybe you shouldn’t
http://www.cnn.com/2013/05/18/health/lifeswork-loftus-memory-malleability/index.html?hpt=hp_t3

I talk about my thoughts on the uselessness of human memory here and when I read the article linked above I found a whole lot of parallels. I was particularly interested in the experimental results where they could implant memories quite easily. Most people implicitly trust their memories and I suppose they would have a lot of problem trying to adapt to not trusting their memories. I learned as a youth that my memory was crap (I recall not liking the discovery, but I may have implanted that memory in myself ;-)) so I have learned not to trust my memory. I feel, though, that I have turned my crappy memory into an asset (or rather my acceptance of my crappy memory since most people have crappy memories) in that I am able to combine information I have learned in ways that are often novel (at least to me; since I have never been able to turn any of my ideas into a working business I might just be lying to myself). Perhaps if I had a more disciplined mind I wouldn’t be able to make such cognitive ‘leaps’.

At the bottom of the article the author mentions something I have seen a couple of times:
Depressive Realism. The idea is that depressed people are actually people with better memories and that happy people actually have crappy memories because they really believe life is what they remember through their rose colored memories. I am not certain that the article I just linked is that useful (I didn’t finish reading it), but felt I would link it here since I know some of my reader(s) won’t make it to the bottom of the initial link.

Normalcy of war

Washington gets explicit: its ‘war on terror’ is permanent
Senior Obama officials tell the US Senate: the ‘war’, in limitless form, will continue for ‘at least’ another decade – or two
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/may/17/endless-war-on-terror-obama

I almost didn’t blog on this, it is such a ho hum topic today. Our government is not responsive to the people, so shocking! Our government is run to benefit the oligarchy, how unexpected! Our government continues to fight unfunded wars, no one knows how expensive it will be, could we all really be that naive?

Well, I figured I would stick this in here for my reader(s) just for the heck of it. Here is a little blurb to try to encourage you to take a read…

Nobody really even knows with whom the US is at war, or where. Everyone just knows that it is vital that it continue in unlimited form indefinitely.

In response to that, the only real movement in Congress is to think about how to enact a new law to expand the authorization even further. But it’s a worthless and illusory debate, affecting nothing other than the pretexts and symbols used to justify what will, in all cases, be a permanent and limitless war. The Washington AUMF debate is about nothing other than whether more fig leafs are needed to make it all pretty and legal.

The Obama administration already claims the power to wage endless and boundless war, in virtually total secrecy, and without a single meaningful check or constraint. No institution with any power disputes this. To the contrary, the only ones which exert real influence – Congress, the courts, the establishment media, the plutocratic class – clearly favor its continuation and only think about how further to enable it. That will continue unless and until Americans begin to realize just what a mammoth price they’re paying for this ongoing splurge of war spending and endless aggression.

There is an interesting little tid bit at the end regarding the AP scandal, which is rapidly fading from view.

How to get the sheeple to give a damn?

Towel tossing

I have been unable to get any interest in my DNA sequencing project (beyond the one lonely investor who offered to help pay for the patent application). It is quite frustrating to be in the situation where just a little time and effort could produce a product that could totally transform medicine, clinical research and forensics, not to mention make a crap load of money, but I can’t afford to do the research (we are over extended on our greenhouse/pool project) so unless something unexpected happens it looks like it will indeed become a vanity patent.

This has caused me to deeply rethink any other projects I have been thinking about working on that would need any external investment (I am still pursuing the aquaponics, or will be once the greenhouse is finished). According to my MBA education and study of business for the last 3+ decades, my project should be a no-brainer for investors. It is a paltry sum to get ownership on what has a high probability (likely greater than 50%) of being worth 10’s of billions of dollars in just a few years. It is exactly like being offered a chance to buy 20% of Google, Apple or Microsoft stock for a couple of hundred thousand dollars. A simple statistical analysis shows that this sort of investment should be made automatically; the future value of the money invested (taking risk into account, of course) is so high there are likely to be no alternatives that could produce such a return.

Unless my aquaponic efforts pay off I think this is the end of any sort of major effort. Over the last 30 or so years I have put in several man years into business proposals and the marketing thereof with nothing to show for it but frustration and while I might be making excuses to salve my fragile ego, I think it has grown even more difficult to find investors over that period.

Its enough to make me start to believe in conspiracy theories!

The fix is in…

Everything Is Rigged: The Biggest Price-Fixing Scandal Ever
The Illuminati were amateurs. The second huge financial scandal of the year reveals the real international conspiracy: There’s no price the big banks can’t fix
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/everything-is-rigged-the-biggest-financial-scandal-yet-20130425

Somehow I missed this article and only now became aware of it. It is depressingly eye opening how trivial it is for a handful of people to jerk around 100’s of trillions of dollars worth of securities for their own profit. Fractions of a percent shift would mean millions of dollars in bonuses for the traders and billions of dollars for the banks. But heck, we shouldn’t expect these organizations to operate for free, right? They are in the business to make profit; so what if their stature gives them the access to make more profit than any smaller (say one with ‘only’ a trillion dollars under management) organization? Isn’t that just how the world works? Of course, that is one of the purposes of governments; sadly our governments are basically owned outright by these same people. We will just have to get used to it.

Since it is a long article and I know many of my reader(s) shy away from such, here is a teaser to try to encourage you to make the time…

The idea that prices in a $379 trillion market could be dependent on a desk of about 20 guys in New Jersey should tell you a lot about the absurdity of our financial infrastructure. The whole thing, in fact, has a darkly comic element to it. “It’s almost hilarious in the irony,” says David Frenk, director of research for Better Markets, a financial-reform advocacy group, “that they called it ISDAfix.”

After scandals involving libor and, perhaps, ISDAfix, the question that should have everyone freaked out is this: What other markets out there carry the same potential for manipulation? The answer to that question is far from reassuring, because the potential is almost everywhere. From gold to gas to swaps to interest rates, prices all over the world are dependent upon little private cabals of cigar-chomping insiders we’re forced to trust.

“In all the over-the-counter markets, you don’t really have pricing except by a bunch of guys getting together,” Masters notes glumly.

That includes the markets for gold (where prices are set by five banks in a Libor-ish teleconferencing process that, ironically, was created in part by N M Rothschild & Sons) and silver (whose price is set by just three banks), as well as benchmark rates in numerous other commodities – jet fuel, diesel, electric power, coal, you name it. The problem in each of these markets is the same: We all have to rely upon the honesty of companies like Barclays (already caught and fined $453 million for rigging Libor) or JPMorgan Chase (paid a $228 million settlement for rigging municipal-bond auctions) or UBS (fined a collective $1.66 billion for both muni-bond rigging and Libor manipulation) to faithfully report the real prices of things like interest rates, swaps, currencies and commodities.