quantum intimacy

Nick Herbert on enhancing empathy between two people by quantum-entangling their minds!

Does mystical union ensue when two or more people look through tubes at the same star?

Visible stars possess a “radius of coherence” of several feet or larger so that when you and your partner look up at a star (and are close together) you are standing inside that star’s coherence radius.

Nick Herbert's Stellerator, a Quantum Intimacy MachineThe Stellerator is merely a hollow tube which allows you and your partner’s retinas to be excited by light from the same star. It was first tested by a gang of happy amateurs immersed in an Esalen hot tub on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Pacific under the starlit sky.

No huge increase was observed in our already high level of conviviality.

As with any new science, it is well to be aware of possible dangers of the Quantum Intimacy Machine so as not to be caught by surprise.

one for world welfare

Financial Times:

President Obama probably feels he has had a bad week. But it may prove to have been a good one for world welfare!

The new plan is well conceived to reduce banking conflicts that the market has shown itself unable to self-regulate, and indirectly to create natural curbs on excessive remuneration.

All institutions with a balance sheet of significant size need to be regulated… that principle applies as much to market-making by investment banks as deposit-taking institutions.

The lack of international coordination has been lamented in some quarters. But it was always a chimera.

A strong lead from a man like Volcker is so obviously vastly superior…

Close policing… should ensure that the development of bubble-like excesses is spotted and thwarted a little earlier than has been typical in recent years.

The Epicurean Dealmaker says “the assertion that large, multi-line financial conglomerates provide customers with services no smaller institutions can deliver is pure poppycock. The mid-1990s concept of globe-striding financial supermarkets has been completely discredited, most notably by their sad-sack poster child, Citigroup.”

profits forever

Eight Centuries of Financial Folly

Every few decades, the economy’s major players develop bulletproof confidence in the efficiency of markets and the health of the economy.

Known as ‘this-time-is-different syndrome’, this unrealistic optimism afflicted bankers, investors and policy makers before the 1930s Great Depression, the 1980s Third World debt crisis, the 1990s Asian and Latin American meltdowns, and the major 2008-2009 global downturn. Conditions differed, but the same mindset – a dangerous mix of hubris, euphoria and amnesia – led to each of these collapses.

In each case, decision makers adopted beliefs that defied economic history.

Even so, two steps could help avert repeat performances:

  1. An early-warning system – Because many decision makers ignore clear signs of trouble.
  2. A regulatory scheme with teeth – Because capital crosses borders in search of the lightest regulations.

via Mark Thoma:

Back in the 70s, US financial sector liabilities were less than 20% of GDP. Today the figure is close to 120%. Leverage has increased enormously. Back then, stringent liability rules inhibited risk taking. In the days when such liability provisions applied to banks, “conservative” was the adjective habitually attached to “banker.” It does not fit the high-stakes gambling “quants” of recent years.

The single best thing we could do for financial reform: Triple the budgets of all financial regulatory agencies. Immediately. Regulators are woefully understaffed; this is fact.

The bankers have been playing “I win, you lose” with the general public.

Here’s an old saw I once enjoyed:

A banker has silver in his hair, gold in his teeth and lead in his ass.

no theory offered

Gulliver's TravelsEric Arthur Blair, pen name George Orwell, wished to “escape from…every form of man’s dominion over man.”

Orwell, far more impressive as a moral critic than as a constructive political thinker, was a kind of literary proletarian who lived in dire straits for most of his life, and began to earn serious money from his writing only when he was approaching death.

The case for the defense is that Orwell was a magnificently courageous opponent of political oppression, a man of unswerving moral integrity and independence of spirit…

He was not, to be sure, always objective… Orwell abandoned socialism; yet he died ‘unable to offer any positive alternative to pessimism and fear’.

we once controlled companies

Abraham Lincoln:

The money powers prey upon the nation in times of peace and conspire against it in times of adversity. It is more despotic than a monarchy, more insolent than autocracy, and more selfish than bureaucracy. It denounces as public enemies, all who question its methods or throw light upon its crimes.

I have two great enemies, the Southern Army in front of me and the Bankers in the rear. Of the two, the one at my rear is my greatest foe.

Corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money powers of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until the wealth is aggregated in the hands of a few, and the Republic is destroyed.

What did the Founding Fathers really think about corporations and their rights?

Rick Ungar:

The reality is that the Founding Fathers didn’t think very much of corporations or, for that matter, any of the organized moneyed interests …

The Constitution speaks to control of government by the people…for the people…and of the people. Why would it even occur to the Founders that a corporation would ever be perceived as one of ‘the people’?

History makes clear that they viewed these entities as forces that preyed on people …

After the nation’s founding, corporations were… limited in how long they were permitted to exist (typically 20 or 30 years), only permitted to deal in one commodity, they could not own shares in other corporations, and their property holdings were expressly limited to what they needed to accomplish their corporate business goals.

In the early days of the nation, most states had rules on the books making any political contribution by a corporation a criminal offense.

failing takes a toll

A major step toward reform would be to prohibit campaign contributions by individuals employed by registered lobbying firms.

Scientific American’s Jeffrey D. Sachs:

The breakdown of the Washington policy process has four manifestations.

First is … inability to focus beyond the next election. “Shovel-ready” projects squeeze out attention to vital longer-term strategies…

Second, most key decisions are made in congressional backrooms through negotiations with lobbyists, who simultaneously fund the congressional campaigns.

Third, technical expertise is largely ignored or bypassed, while expert communities such as climate scientists are falsely and recklessly derided

Fourth, there is little way for the public to track and comment on complex policy proposals working their way through Congress or federal agencies.

an a broken policy process be used to fix a broken policy process?”

oh, what to do?

50,000 Haitians sprawl across a nine-hole golf course: Kenny Rae, Oxfam50,000 sprawl on a nine-hole golf course.

OXFAM’s blog reports on a problem growing by the day.

Nowhere is there a latrine. Tens of thousands camped and not a toilet to share between them. The consequences are potentially disastrous. The risk of disease skyrockets.

outside the confines

Michael Martin:

What happened to Bell Labs? Why aren’t new technologies making it out of our universities and into startup companies? As much as I respect venture capitalists and entrepreneurs today, the kinds of ideas getting funding today are not the same caliber as the kinds of ideas that were getting funding during the Sputnik era, when we were the envy of the world.

When you think you are the highest point you don’t look up.

eight days

RT : We need water, we are on terrain Monpellier village, at delmas 33.

RT @my cousin just call said that she is alive at turgeau under the debris of the hospital of SODEC.please her # 38610990/38649188

RT @: Cuban doc need detergent 2 clean place where they receive patients. HELP! Location: near Cathedrale de Port-au-Prince #Haiti

RT @Ducasse is dehydrated and need food water. Rue lamarre impasse Mouzin next of Cine Capitol Port-auPrince #Haiti #HelpHaiti

RT @ 8 days without food carfour debwos in the yard of the Acra no one has gotten to us please help we ask that someone gets to us

RT @: orphan 74 dying babies, ONE LONE Caretaker -a poor old woman Eveline Louis Jacques: 2234-1429 / 3462-5154

http://twitter.com/InternetHaiti

destroying free markets

Dan Geldon:

In the years leading up to the crisis, the proliferation of fine print, complex products, and hidden costs and dangers – and the push against government regulations over them – exemplified the larger pattern. While touting complexity as a form of innovation and railing against every attempt at government interference, supposedly pro-market forces used that complexity to clog the gears of free market machinery and to reduce competition and maximize profit.

The proliferation of opacity and the lack of competition in the industry are not an accident.

And those distortions help explain the massive consolidation we’re seeing in the industry, the dwindling of real competition, and the proliferation of faceless conglomerates with infinite leverage over the drafting of terms and conditions.

The greatest lesson from the crisis that we haven’t yet learned is that “industry interests” and “free-market interests” are not the same. In fact, they are more like oil and water, as the industry profits most in the absence of true market competition.

bandits, nothing but bandits

Why Poor Countries Are Poor, by Tim Harford:

reason.comEconomists used to think wealth came from a combination of man-made resources (roads, factories, telephone systems), human resources (hard work and education), and technological resources (technical know-how, or simply high-tech machinery). Obviously, poor countries grew into rich countries by investing money in physical resources and by improving human and technological resources with education and technology transfer programs.

Nothing is wrong with this picture as far as it goes. Education, factories, infrastructure, and technical know-how are indeed abundant in rich countries and lacking in poor ones. But the picture is incomplete, a puzzle with the most important piece missing.

The first clue that something is amiss with the traditional story is its implication that poor countries should have been catching up with rich ones for the last century or so–and that the farther behind they are, the faster the catch-up should be. In a country that has very little in the way of infrastructure or education, new investments have the biggest rewards.

This expectation seems to be confirmed by the experience of China, Taiwan, and South Korea–not to mention Botswana, Chile, India, Mauritius, and Singapore. Fifty years ago they were mired in poverty, lacking man-made, human, technical, and sometimes natural resources. Now these dynamic countries, not Japan, the United States, or Switzerland, have become the fastest-growing economies on the planet.

Since technology is widely available and increasingly cheap, this is what economists should expect of every developing country. In a world of diminishing returns, the poorest countries gain the most from new technology, infrastructure, and education.

As for education and infrastructure, since the returns seem to be so high, there should be no shortage of investors willing to fund infrastructure projects or lend money to students (or to governments that provide education).

Banks, domestic and foreign, should be lining up to lend people the money to get through school or to build a new road or a new power plant. In turn, poor people, or poor countries, should be very happy to take out such loans, confident that investment returns are so high that the repayments will not be difficult.

Even if, for some reason, that didn’t happen, the World Bank, established after World War II with the express aim of providing loans to countries for reconstruction and development, lends billions of dollars a year to developing countries.

Investment money is clearly not the issue; either the investments are not being made, or they are not delivering the returns the traditional model predicts.

“There is plenty of money…but they put it in their pockets.”
Countries stay poor because corruption is not only unfair; it is also hugely wasteful:

We still don’t have a good word to describe what is missing in poor countries across the world. But we are starting to understand what it is. Some people call it ‘social capital’ or maybe ‘trust’. Others call it ‘the rule of law’ or ‘institutions’. But these are just labels.

The problem is that poor countries are topsy-turvy places where it’s in most people’s interest to take actions that directly or indirectly damage everyone else.

This is a shocking waste.

Government banditry, widespread waste, and oppressive regulations are all elements in that missing piece of the puzzle.

exporting bureaucrats

Countries struggling with corruption can ‘rent’ agency services from clean nations.

The recent experience of Angola suggests that a troubled nation can reduce corruption and increase revenue collection by adopting external institutions.

Angola outsourced customs collections to Crown Agents, a British nonprofit with expertise in public financial management. In so doing, the country tripled its tariff revenue in the span of a few years, all the while reducing its tariff rates.

strays ride the subway

Somewhere between house pets and wolves, stray dogs ride Moscow subways.Moscow’s stray dogs seem to be reverting to wild behavior somewhere between house pets and wolves.

The metro dog has uncannily good instincts, greeting the kindly while avoiding the intolerant

About 500 strays live in the subway and about 20 have learned how to ride the trains.

“Why should they go by foot if they can move around by public transport?”

“They figure out where they are by smell, by recognizing the name of the station from the recorded announcer’s voice and by time intervals.”

sloppy sloppy sloppy

NYTimes:

  1. Only about half of all Americans with depression receive treatment of any kind.
  2. Moreover, only 1 in 5 are getting care — talk therapy, medication or both — that conforms to American Psychiatric Association guidelines.

needs to be leveled

This is like 9/11 on the whole island of Manhattan.

New York Task Force 1, the Fire Department rescue team that combed the wreckage at Ground Zero and Hurricane Katrina:

When you have your head in the hole, you forget where you are. You could be anywhere, really. And that person you’re looking for could be anywhere. It’s real simple though. You want to get them out alive.

It doesn’t matter if it’s manmade or natural.

Even if Haiti didn’t send anything monetarily in 2001, I’m sure they sent their prayers to us and it’s our turn now.

Not a lot left to be said, except build back better:

The scale of the disaster is coming into view. All of the clichés born of extremity came to mind…

First, rescue and relief efforts are far from over. Although for some they are too late, for others they are just beginning.

Second, in-kind donations are not really what is needed now; the only exception is Meals Ready to Eat.

Third, the Haitian government has been dealt a severe blow and not just to its buildings. If at a quarter to five in the afternoon an earthquake takes down not only the National Palace but also the Ministry of the Interior, the State Department, the Tax Bureau, and the Ministries of Finance, Planning, Public Works and Public Health, as well as the parliament building, you can well imagine the gaps.

Fourth…a different kind of urban planning and a long-term respect for the Haitian people’s wishes.

Finally, rescuers will get tired.

criticizing school gardens

Schoolyard gardens: Together, the bureaucrat and the celebrity paved the way for an enormous movement: by 2002, 2,000 of the state’s 9,000 schools had a garden, and by 2008 that number had risen to 3,849, and it continues to grow.

Of course, [Alice] Waters herself is guilty of nothing more terrible than being a visionary and a woman of tremendous persuasive abilities. It’s the state’s Department of Education that is to blame for allowing these gardens to hijack the curricula of so many schools.

But although garden-based curricula are advanced as a means of redressing a wide spectrum of poverty’s ills, the animating spirit behind them is impossible to separate from the haute-bourgeois predilections of the Alice Waters fan club, as best expressed in one of her most oft-repeated philosophies: “Gardens help students to learn the pleasure of physical work.”

Does the immigrant farm worker dream that his child will learn to enjoy manual labor, or that his child will be freed from it?

Cargill envy? What is this author’s criticism seeking to achieve?

the gash that shook

Deep fault view, Port au Prince, HaitiHaiti’s now infamous fault line is a linear valley with a stream running through it, as shown in this false-color NASA topograph.

SeismoBlog reports the fault ruptured exactly underneath this valley over a length of approximately 25 miles.

Within roughly 15 seconds, the north shifted almost 9 feet to the left, while the southern block moved a similar distance to the right, resulting in a fault slip of about 18 feet.

Most Caribbean islands lie close to a major plate boundary.

it isn’t just about money

Let’s take a longer-term view of economic and societal well-being. Let’s make something good from this that will benefit our grandchildren.

Maxine Udall:

Please, sir, may we have some justice?

We and our elected representatives have a choice to make.

Cartoonist: Steve SackWe can continue to compensate clueless bankers way beyond their value and we can continue to allow them to cluelessly manage financial institutions for their own short-term short-sighted gains until they plunge the rest of us into serfdom or we can change how they are compensated and maybe even who is compensated (as in throw the bums out) and we can change the rules by which they are allowed to ‘play’ with our money.

The latter shouldn’t be rocket science were it not for the wealth and power bankers are able to exert in their own interest.

If the political will is not there now to do this, for heaven’s sake, when will it be????