11/18/2011 archive

This Week In The Dream Antilles



Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays this courier from the swift completion of his appointed rounds.

Right. But when it comes to the Weekly Digest and your Bloguero, things happen. Clumsy, annoying things. Things that could easily derail this essay. Things like somehow deleting every shred of the final draft of this post before it was saved. Stupid, aggravating things. Things that make this a painful, unnecessary re-write from scratch. Things that make your Bloguero wonder whether the All Knowing Universe is trying to tell him in a special secret code not to post this essay.  But even that paranoid wondering will not stop your Bloguero. No. Not now. Nor will it stop him from doing his crazy, eccentric, aerobic Happy Dance. Nothing can stop that. Not today. Not now.

What’s the dance all about?  Thank you for asking.

Your Bloguero received via email about an hour ago the proofs for his new novella, Tulum.  The cover.  The inside of the book.  The whole thing.  All of it. That started the Happy Dance.  Why?  Why indeed.  Because that means that the very last, the final step in evicting this book from its large, dusty, cluttered corner office in your Bloguero’s mind and sending it to live elsewhere, in your Kindle or bookcase, is finally at hand. After a long five years. Let your Bloguero repeat that for emphasis. Your Bloguero has arrived at the very last, the final step in the production of this novella. And very soon, to your Bloguero’s utter relief and delight, it will be out of his head and living elsewhere.

This weekend in a hyper-caffeinated, vigilant, extremely focused, narrow, tunnel vision way your Bloguero will read every single letter of the 197-page document with a blue pencil in his hand, ferreting out the problems, finding them all (he truly hopes) and fixing each of them.  Some problems, particularly the written evidence of your Bloguero’s infelicities and shortcomings as a writer, will, of course, have to remain. Your Bloguero’s limitations come with the territory. He’s the last one who can recognize or fix them. But the orthographic and typographical issues?  Those are much more visible to your Bloguero. Your Bloguero will root these out and mercilessly extirpate them. He hopes. Bring on the French Roast. Bring on the chamber music. Take the phone off the hook. Bring on the withering gaze and stare.

Maybe Tulum will be available before Christmas. Your Bloguero doesn’t know. He does know that the task at hand will be completed by the end of the weekend. No matter what. No excuses.

That having been said, is your Bloguero now going to turn today’s weekly digest into a crass, commercial plea filled with hype, distortions, and outright lies stating that you simply must buy this book? Or else? Hardly. Your Bloguero isn’t like that. Well, at least he’s not like that today. He’ll be satisfied today if you go to “Tulum: The Novella’s” Facebook page and click “like” so that you’ll be informed of when this book is finally available through the usual commercial channels. He’s not demanding your money today. Not today.

Yes, your Bloguero would love to sell thousands of copies of this novella, and yes, he’d like your help in making that happen. When it’s out and available there will be plenty of time for his sales spiel.It will likely come masquerading as a weekly digest. He can’t help that.

In the meanwhile, please join your Bloguero in the Happy Dance. Cue the loud music. Roll up that rug.

This Week In The Dream Antilles is usually a weekly digest. Sometimes, like now and for several of the past weeks, it isn’t actually a digest of essays posted at The Dream Antilles. For that you have to visit The Dream Antilles


cross-posted from The Dream Antilles

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Paul Krugman: Failure Is Good

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a complete turkey! It’s the supercommittee!

By next Wednesday, the so-called supercommittee, a bipartisan group of legislators, is supposed to reach an agreement on how to reduce future deficits. Barring an evil miracle – I’ll explain the evil part later – the committee will fail to meet that deadline.

If this news surprises you, you haven’t been paying attention. If it depresses you, cheer up: In this case, failure is good.

Why was the supercommittee doomed to fail? Mainly because the gulf between our two major political parties is so wide. Republicans and Democrats don’t just have different priorities; they live in different intellectual and moral universes.

Eugene Robinson: Occupy: Out of Zuccotti Park and into the streets

Occupy Wall Street may not occupy Zuccotti Park anymore, but it refuses to surrender its place in the national discourse. Up close, you get the sense that the movement may have only just begun. [..]

The erstwhile occupiers of Zuccotti Park swear that they aren’t going anywhere – that they’ll get back into the park one way or another. But they’ve done something more important: They’ve gotten into people’s heads.

George Zornick: Austerity Alternatives

On the eve of some decision by the supercommittee-or no decision and painful automatic cuts-this is a time to remember the other ideas out there for balancing the budget. There are plenty of credible and thoughtful plans out there. Granted, they are not politically viable at the moment, given the Republican Party’s control of the House of Representatives, and its ability to stop virtually anything in the Senate-not to mention the six votes it controls on the supercommittee.

But to listen to most media coverage of the deficit debates-and too often, the rhetoric thrown about by Republicans and some Democrats-one comes away thinking the only way to get the fiscal house in order is via “entitlement reform” and deep domestic spending cuts, along with higher taxes and fewer loopholes.

Sen. Bernie Sanders: Dems: Stop caving in

Here is something we all can agree on: Federal deficits are a serious problem.

Here is something few can seriously dispute: Today’s big deficits were caused mainly by big tax cuts for the wealthy, two unpaid-for wars, a horrible recession caused by Wall Street greed and an expensive prescription drug program rigged to favor pharmaceutical companies.

Here is something we should not agree to do: Cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

There is surprisingly broad consensus among Americans – except inside the corporate-dominated D.C. Beltway – on what to do about deficits. In poll after poll, strong majorities favor making the wealthiest Americans, who, in many cases, have never had it so good, share the sacrifice and pay a little more in taxes.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Privatizing Liberty

As Mayor Bloomberg’s forces swooped down on Occupy Wall Street, news reports described the “hundreds of police and private security guards” who had re-taken Zuccotti Park. Those private guards were used against public citizens who had been exercising their civil liberties in a public area.

That’s not just wrong. It’s un-American.

This incident holds an important lesson for anyone who loves our freedoms: when something public is made private, our liberties are privatized, too. And privatized liberty isn’t liberty at all

Occupy Wall St. Livestream: Day 63 The Day After The Day Of Action

Watch live streaming video from globalrevolution at livestream.com


The resistance continues at Liberty Square, with free pizza 😉

“I don’t know how to fix this but I know it’s wrong.” ~ Unknown Author

Occupy Wall Street NYC now has a web site for its General Assembly  with up dates and information. Very informative and user friendly. It has information about events, a bulletin board, groups and minutes of the GA meetings.

NYC General Assembly #OccupyWallStreet

Keith Olbermann comprehensively reported on the #OWS Day of Action in NYC and around the country

OWS-inspired activism

by Glenn Greenwald

It was only a matter of time before a coordinated police crackdown was imposed to end the Occupy encampments. Law enforcement officials and policy-makers in America know full well that serious protests – and more – are inevitable given the economic tumult and suffering the U.S. has seen over the last three years (and will continue to see for the foreseeable future). A country cannot radically reduce quality-of-life expectations, devote itself to the interests of its super-rich, and all but eliminate its middle class without triggering sustained citizen fury.

The reason the U.S. has para-militarized its police forces is precisely to control this type of domestic unrest, and it’s simply impossible to imagine its not being deployed in full against a growing protest movement aimed at grossly and corruptly unequal resource distribution. As Madeleine Albright said when arguing for U.S. military intervention in the Balkans: “What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?” That’s obviously how governors, big-city Mayors and Police Chiefs feel about the stockpiles of assault rifles, SWAT gear, hi-tech helicopters, and the coming-soon drone technology lavished on them in the wake of the post/9-11 Security State explosion, to say nothing of the enormous federal law enforcement apparatus that, more than anything else, resembles a standing army which is increasingly directed inward.

Once again Kevin Gosztola at FDL provided a running commentary with videos and pictures of the day events which began at 7 AM EDT:

Live Blog for #Occupy Movement: Massive Day of Action to Shut Down Wall Street

Live Blog for #Occupy Movement: ‘Occupy the Subways’ & Brooklyn Bridge March Unfolds

Market Inefficiency

If you are an economist you should be more, not less, outraged by the corruption and fraud of our financial elites.  As Matt Stoller points out, they represent market inefficiencies and introduce far greater uncertainty than mere regulation.

Matt Stoller: Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto Cracks Open the Financial Crisis

Matt Stoller, Naked Capitalism

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Our essential economic problem is that our economy allocates resources through a mediating system of banks that are broken and/or corrupt. If you look at a chart of the recession, and then the recovery, you’ll notice that business investment perked up, but residential investment did not. The Fed lowered rates, bought Treasury bonds, and bought mortgage backed securities to lower rates for homeowners. But it’s not really working, because the monetary channel is corrupt. This indictment gets to that problem, it alleges tens of thousands of forged documents (or as a friend told me sarcastically, an afternoon’s worth of work for LPS). These documents represent foreclosures, economic loss, and clouded title. The indictments handed down, and the ones to come, show that corrupting our property laws and the basis of our economy is a crime.

First President Bush, and then President Obama, tried to reconstruct an economic system based on a corrupted transmission mechanism from the Fed to the real economy. This was the financial crisis, it’s why abstract derivatives based on subprime mortgages knocked trillions of productive output off of the economy. Corruption is really inefficient.

I think it’s important to begin considering criminal justice as a core element of economic policy. I’d like to hear from Suskind, Klein, Krugman, and others just where they think allowing massive systemic fraud fits into the analysis of what went wrong. After all, Eric Holder had ample prosecutorial discretion, so none of the usual arguments about political constraints apply. Allowing the corrupt monetary channel to continue was simply a policy choice. If the under-resourced Nevada Attorney General could make such a different policy choice, then a powerful by comparison White House and Justice Department could make it as well. And this sort of show of power does not operate in a vacuum. Taking on, and taking down, corrupt members of the elite would also have exposed all sorts of fracture lines, and would likely have change the Congressional dynamics that people argue is immutable. Bank executives would have had a strong personal incentive to fix housing problems and excessive debt loads, and politicians react differently when an act is officially deemed a crime.

The demand for justice, for a society to place certain activities outside of the bounds of socially acceptable, is not just about satisfaction of the public for wrongs committed. I get the sense that fraud for most economists is considered something of a side issue, a kind of aesthetic political problem to be ignored in favor of more significant questions of stimulus and regulatory policies. This is a baffling attitude. One of my favorite financial legal bloggers, Carolyn Sissiko, has pointed out that fraud actually can have significant macro-economic impacts by distorting bank balance sheets.

The felony indictments from the Nevada AG’s office are the first sign that the law enforcement community can take financial crimes seriously, that blowing up the economy through financial mismanagement can carry costs. There’s a lot of research to be done on the costs of fraud, and the costs of foreclosures. We don’t know that much about these costs, because there haven’t been investigations and there isn’t a lot of good public data. After all, we mostly just take our property rights system for granted, the notion that clouded titles or a broken $10 trillion mortgage market could inhibit growth simply was not imaginable a few years ago. What is clear is that there is a deep public hunger for justice. And I suspect, that if that hunger had been satiated a few years ago and if Holder had begun handing down indictments, mortgage servicer executives would have begun a serious loan workout program.

And our economy would probably be in much better shape. When you throw your capital into the hands of people who have no incentive to use it wisely, the economy suffers. When you enforce the rule of law, sound business models prevail and ordinary citizens have more confidence in the system and spend and invest accordingly. As an economic policy, justice works.

Unfortunately many economists are not scholars or scientists or even technicians, but merely enthusiastic members of the choir of Mammon, faith based believers who ignore evidence and logic.

On This Day In History November 18

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

November 18 is the 322nd day of the year (323rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 43 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1883, the Railraods create the first time zones At exactly noon on this day, American and Canadian railroads begin using four continental time zones to end the confusion of dealing with thousands of local times. The bold move was emblematic of the power shared by the railroad companies.

The need for continental time zones stemmed directly from the problems of moving passengers and freight over the thousands of miles of rail line that covered North America by the 1880s. Since human beings had first begun keeping track of time, they set their clocks to the local movement of the sun. Even as late as the 1880s, most towns in the U.S. had their own local time, generally based on “high noon,” or the time when the sun was at its highest point in the sky. As railroads began to shrink the travel time between cities from days or months to mere hours, however, these local times became a scheduling nightmare. Railroad timetables in major cities listed dozens of different arrival and departure times for the same train, each linked to a different local time zone.

Timekeeping on the American railroads in the mid 19th century was somewhat confused. Each railroad used its own standard time, usually based on the local time of its headquarters or most important terminus, and the railroad’s train schedules were published using its own time. Some major railroad junctions served by several different railroads had a separate clock for each railroad, each showing a different time; the main station in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for example, kept six different times.

Charles F. Dowd proposed a system of one-hour standard time zones for American railroads about 1863, although he published nothing on the matter at that time and did not consult railroad officials until 1869. In 1870, he proposed four ideal time zones (having north-south borders), the first centered on Washington, D.C., but by 1872 the first was centered 75 W of Greenwich, with geographic borders (for example, sections of the Appalachian Mountains). Dowd’s system was never accepted by American railroads. Instead, U.S. and Canadian railroads implemented a version proposed by William F. Allen, the editor of the Traveler’s Official Railway Guide. The borders of its time zones ran through railroad stations, often in major cities. For example, the border between its Eastern and Central time zones ran through Detroit, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and Charleston. It was inaugurated on Sunday, November 18, 1883, also called “The Day of Two Noons”, when each railroad station clock was reset as standard-time noon was reached within each time zone. The zones were named Intercolonial, Eastern, Central, Mountain, and Pacific. Within one year, 85% of all cities with populations over 10,000, about 200 cities, were using standard time. A notable exception was Detroit (which is about half-way between the meridians of eastern time and central time), which kept local time until 1900, then tried Central Standard Time, local mean time, and Eastern Standard Time before a May 1915 ordinance settled on EST and was ratified by popular vote in August 1916. The confusion of times came to an end when Standard zone time was formally adopted by the U.S. Congress on March 19, 1918, in the Standard Time Act.

What’s Cooking: Turkey Technology

Republished from November 20, 2010 for obvious timely reasons.

I never went to cooking school or took home economics in high school, I was too busy blowing up the attic with my chemistry set. I did like to eat and eat stuff that tasted good and looked pretty, plus my mother couldn’t cook to save her life let alone mine and Pop’s, that was her mother’s venue. So I watched learned and innovated. I also read cook books and found that cooking and baking where like chemistry and physics. I know, this is Translator’s territory, but I do have a degree in biochemistry.

Cooking a turkey is not as easy as the directions on the Butterball wrapping looks. My daughter, who is the other cook in the house (makes the greatest breads, soups and stews) is in charge of the Turkey for the big day. Since we have a house full of family and friends, there are four, yeah that many, 13 to 15 pound gobblers that get cooked in the one of the two ovens of the Viking in the kitchen and outside on the covered grill that doubles as an oven on these occasions. Her guru is Alton Brown, he of Good Eats on the Food Network. This is the method she has used with rave reviews. Alton’s Roast Turkey recipe follows below the fold. You don’t have to brine, the daughter doesn’t and you can vary the herbs, the results are the same, perfection. My daughter rubs very soft butter under the skin and places whole sage leaves under the skin in a decorative pattern, wraps the other herbs in cheese cloth and tucks it in the cavity. If you prefer, or are kosher, canola oil works, too.

Bon Appetite and Happy Thanksgiving