31 March 2009

O-M-G

A woman bet 13 and 14 year olds at a birthday party ten bucks to see who could chug a glass of vodka down first? Who's in charge here?

30 March 2009

Taibbi's Rolling Stone Article

"No empire can survive being rendered a permanent laughingstock."

Matt Taibbi presents his irreverent take on the current crisis. I think his vision of the U.S. as a kleptocracy vs. an incompetent Republic is right on: Some excerpts:

So it's time to admit it: We're fools, protagonists in a kind of gruesome comedy about the marriage of greed and stupidity. And the worst part about it is that we're still in denial — we still think this is some kind of unfortunate accident, not something that was created by the group of psychopaths on Wall Street whom we allowed to gang-rape the American Dream.

The mistake most people make in looking at the financial crisis is thinking of it in terms of money, a habit that might lead you to look at the unfolding mess as a huge bonus-killing downer for the Wall Street class. But if you look at it in purely Machiavellian terms, what you see is a colossal power grab that threatens to turn the federal government into a kind of giant Enron — a huge, impenetrable black box filled with self-dealing insiders whose scheme is the securing of individual profits at the expense of an ocean of unwitting involuntary shareholders, previously known as taxpayers.

28 March 2009

Diabetes a disease of the past?

This offers real hope of beating diabetes some day and it shows what a difference a policy shift can make. Of course, the most important step for Type 2 diabetes is that we all change our diet and lifestyle and try our best to avoid getting this disease in the first place.

Diabetes Hope - Successful Pilot Study of Immature Adult Stem Cells

(ChattahBox)—A recent study published in the Journal of Cell Transplantation, offers new hope to the 24 million people in the US who suffer from type 2 diabetes and its harmful affects. The University of Miami Diabetes Research Institute, is conducting its first phase of human clinical trials, using immature adult stem cells from a patient’s own bone marrow. After treatment, symptoms significantly lessened, with increased insulin production, lower blood-sugar levels and a reduced need for those dreaded insulin injections.

University researchers conducted the successful pilot study with 25 sufferers of type 2 diabetes. Once they removed the stem cells from the patient’s bone marrow, it was purified and concentrated, and then injected into arteries near the pancreas. The pancreas is responsible for producing the insulin our bodies need.

The next phase of the novel treatment is right out of science fiction. The patients were enclosed in hyperbaric oxygen capsules for 10 hours, blasting their bodies with pure oxygen, at more than twice the amount of normal levels. The hyperbaric chambers are similar to ones used to treat divers with the “bends.”

Researchers found that the high levels of pure oxygen drew additional stem cells from the bone marrow, which joined up with the new cells injected near the pancreas, renewing the pancreas’ ability to make insulin on its own. Research director, Dr. Camillo Ricordi, believes this groundbreaking new treatment could eventually lead to wiping out type 2 diabetes. At the very least, it can ease the painful symptoms and the serious complications of type 2 diabetes.

The University of Miami is expanding its study to the countries of Argentina, Sweden and research centers in Asia. Over the next four years of further clinical trials, researchers are hopeful of obtaining FDA approval to offer the experimental treatment to more patients.

25 March 2009

Spain blows over record

During some windy days, Spain supplied 40% the country's power on wind alone. Impresionante!

23 March 2009

Dark clouds on the horizon

China's now lecturing the U.S. about fiscal responsibility. The next few years aren't a good time to be holding dollars.

22 March 2009

12 March 2009

Old Partner

I must confess that I'm impressed. Smothered by floods of Hollywood formula films with car-crashes and plasticized boobs, Koreans have flocked to theaters to watch a slow-moving independent film about an old man and his cow.

11 March 2009

When they say you're drunk

P! has an insightful post comparing our current economic predicament to alcoholism. The following excerpt is from the final paragraphs of the article:

The really good news is that this long-predicted death rattle of post-capitalism can give the opportunity for self-examination and real change that we squandered in the aftermath of 911, when Dubbleduh told us to "go shopping" and "defeat the enemy" and "defend our way of life".We must learn that shopping and "stuff" is not the solution, we have been our own worst enemies, and our way of life is no longer defensible. We must find each other. We must live within our means, in today, not in either the false dazzle or the black doom of tomorrow.

8 March 2009

Is farming next?

Jim Kunstler predicts that the next shoe to fall will be in the agricultural sector. Let's hope he's wrong. I have this unbreakable habit of wanting to eat every day:

The net effect of the failures in banking is that a lot of people have less money than they expected they would have a year ago. This is bad enough, given our habits and practices of modern life. But what happens when farming collapses? The prospect for that is closer than most of us might realize. The way we produce our food has been organized at a scale that has ruinous consequences, not least its addiction to capital. Now that banking is in collapse, capital will be extremely scarce. Nobody in the cities reads farm news, or listens to farm reports on the radio. Guess what, though: we are entering the planting season. It will be interesting to learn how many farmers "out there" in the Cheez Doodle belt are not able to secure loans for this year's crop.

My guess is that the disorder in agriculture will be pretty severe this year, especially since some of the world's most productive places -- California, northern China, Argentina, the Australian grain belt -- are caught in extremes of drought on top of capital shortages. If the US government is going to try to make remedial policy for anything, it better start with agriculture, to promote local, smaller-scaled farming using methods that are much less dependent on oil byproducts and capital injections. This will, of course, require a re-allocation of lands suitable for growing food. Our real estate market mechanisms could conceivably enable this to happen, but not without a coherent consensus that it is imperative to do so. If agri-business as currently practiced doesn't founder on capital shortages, it will surely collapse on disruptions in the oil markets. President Obama at least made a start in the right direction by proposing to eliminate further subsidies to farmers above the $250,000 level. But the situation is really more acute. Surely the US Department of Agriculture already knows about it, but the public may not be interested until the shelves in the Piggly-Wiggly are bare--and then, of course, they'll go apeshit.

5 March 2009

Asking the fox how to protect the chicken coop

On occasion, I listen to our reps in Congress grill a banker or businessman about their practices and I'm always struck by the bizarre line of questioning. Inevitably at some point in the testimony, our representative asks the businessman what he would do to change regulations so that they worked better. This assinine question was even asked to the representative of the Swiss bank that was being questioned yesterday. The bank representative, unable to play along in this strange American game (and perhaps thinking he had misunderstood the question), politely said that he didn't think about such things. Why would he? It's business's job to make money. It's Congress's job to regulate. Congress should be telling, not asking.

A similarly inane remark appeared in the Wall Stree Journal the other day. We were informed that Bernanke was "angry at AIG." What the hell are these people talking about? AIG is a corporation--it's a "fake person." People can be "angry at AIG" all they want. It isn't going to matter. If we were serious about change, we'd revoke the status of corporations and make all these fat-cats repay their bad loans the way the rest of us do. Of course, with the billions lost, this would involve their families working as indentured servants for the next thousand years, but this seems much fairer than screaming at this fake entity called "the corporation" and letting the fatcats run off with billions that will enriched their families for the next thousand years.

3 March 2009

Perhaps

Be prepared for great moans of woe and gnashing of teeth. Having become accustomed to years of deafening Republican silence as our tax dollars flowed upward to help fund the oil wars (all part of that erudite Flow Up Theory of economics) and then further deafening silence (excepting the occasional comforting murmur from McCain saying that the fundamentals were still great) as middle-class wealth suddenly up and vanished as fast as a CEO's private jet, we are suddenly accosted by more threats that the wealthy magicians will turn their life-giving gaze away from us. Perhaps in reality, we are all just dreamed into existence by some rich financier who has imbibed too many martinis.

2 March 2009

Robert Reich on the Obama Budget

Robert Reich has some very good things to say about the Obama budget.