Archive for September, 2010

Full article: Why A Market Defined By Apple Is A Symptom Of Something Very Wrong

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Don’t know if you’ve all been following the increasing tension between China and Japan on the territorial front and China and the U.S. on the currency manipulation front… or the fact that Sovereign debt troubles are mounting once again in Ireland, Spain and Greece. Meanwhile back in America the poor continue to get poorer as the mega-wealthy get wealthier while the Republicans and Tea-Party get closer to their goal of paralyzing Washington and creating the perfect conditions for a fascist take-over that would enshrine Wall Street, Multinational U.S. firms and the U.S. Military as the direct benefactors of state power while American citizens who are not involved in the latter are left to rot as human waste.

The article referenced below is definitely worth a read if you need a bit more convincing that America is rapidly sliding towards somewhere our German friends ended up half-century ago. The point is also driven home in yesterday’s interview with Noam Chomsky (81 and still kicking!) on NPR where he reminds us that it only took a little more than a decade for the Weimar Republic to degenerate from being the pinnacle of Western democracy, science, arts and culture in the 1920s to becoming one of the most feared and depraved regimes in contemporary history.


Excerpt from: Memories of Hope in the Age of Disposability

The new culture of cruelty combines with the arrogance of the rich as morally bankrupt politicians such as Mike Huckabee tell his fellow Republican extremists that the provision in Obama’s health care bill that requires insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions should be repealed because people who have these conditions are like houses that have already burned down. The metaphor is apt in a country that no longer has a language for compassion, justice and social responsibility. Huckabee at least is honest about one thing. He makes clear that the right-wing fringe leading the Republican Party is on a death march and has no trouble endorsing policies in which millions of people – in this case those afflicted by illness – can simply “dig their own graves and lie down in them.”(7) The politics of disposability ruthlessly puts money and profits ahead of human needs. Under the rubric of austerity, the new barbarians such as Huckabee now advocate eugenicist policies in which people who are considered weak, sick, disabled or suffering from debilitating health conditions are targeted to be weeded out, removed from the body politic and social safety nets that any decent society puts into place to ensure that everyone, but especially the most disadvantaged, can access decent health care and lead a life with dignity. Consequently, politics loses its democratic character along with any sense of responsibility and becomes part of a machinery of violence that mimics the fascistic policies of past authoritarian political parties that eagerly attempted to purify their societies by getting rid of those human beings considered weak and inferior and whom they ultimately viewed as human waste. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that a lunatic fringe of a major political party is shamelessly mimicking and nourishing the barbaric roots of one of the most evil periods in human history. By arguing that individuals with pre-existing health conditions are like burned-down houses who do not deserve health insurance, Huckabee puts into place those forces and ideologies that allow the country to move closer to the end point of such logic by suggesting that such disposable populations do not deserve to live at all.

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Read THIS by Barry Ritholz from his blog The Big Picture

My 2 cents?: Most of us can still live a decent, even prosperous life under the rising Neo-Fascism (Government for Corporations by Corporations) that is quickly becoming the Newer World Order, The New Normal, whatever you want to call it. But please have no illusions that we live in a free society anymore in the sense that we have long been led to believe. Maybe a bit more so in Commonwealth countries with Parliamentary systems but even they are generally kowtowing to the Global Corporate Interests. If you think all is fine in the world and that you want things to continue as they are.. Fine. But then you are a fascist. No big deal. So long as you don’t rock the boat all will be fine. All hail The Corporations!! Consumption has set us free! Congratulations on a job well done. As you were.

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Can’t help but laugh at this….poor bastard. But man…can’t stop laughing…


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If you believe everything you see on the news, you’d think the world was about to end. People have been saying that the sky is falling for a long time. But maybe this time they’re right. –Hepworks

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Reposted from “Zeroing in on Cancer” in the Sept/Oct edition of American Scientist

… Finally, there is the inescapable consideration of cost. Most new cancer treatments are very expensive. We may be tempted to remember how expensive the first biological therapy was: When used clinically for the first time, it was transported in armored trucks with police escort. The drug was even recovered from the urine of patients to whom it had been administered because that was less expensive than manufacturing it anew. This drug was penicillin 70 years ago, now cheaper than the glass vials it is sold in. But that is an oversimplification of the likely evolution of anticancer therapy, at least in the short and medium term. The truth is that market forces dramatically influence the way product research is now done.

As a society, we have put the discovery and development of new drugs in the hands of “Big Pharma.” As a result, profitability overrides health benefits. This is painfully obvious when we learn about highly effective drugs that never reach market because the illnesses they alleviate are rare. With tailor-made therapies, this will be an increasingly frequent outcome, as a particular target might be present in only a small fraction of cases. The brutal arithmetic of patient numbers, price and premarketing investment will determine whether a drug is pursued. This calculation may explain the absence of the spectacular cures that were predicted to follow the deciphering of the human genome.

Patients, then, are trapped between profit-driven research and the permanent drive to curtail healthcare expenses. In countries where healthcare services are financed and operated by the state—the prevailing model in many quite capitalistic European nations—a different balance decides whether a drug is approved for use. If the cost of the drug is more than the annual gross domestic product per capita multiplied by the number of years gained, on average, by the treatment, it is not purchased. This might sound like the brainchild of a sinister accountant at the World Bank, but it is also the way decisions are made about life-saving vaccines endorsed by the World Health Organization. In this way, drugs that may spectacularly benefit some patients are not used if the average patient does not respond so dramatically or if the country these patients live in has a low per capita gross product. This policy, in turn, discourages development of new drugs that may be rejected by this decision-making process.

We have the technology and the basic knowledge to embark on the search for individual genes and proteins that are responsible for essentially all types of cancers. This endeavor could enable target therapies that transform deadly tumors into manageable, chronic disease, if not offering outright cures. Such treatments would have to evolve together with precise diagnostic tools, so that tailor-made therapies could be assembled for each patient. But this fantastic perspective may end up crashing into the wall of economic concerns, which are the consequence of marketing health as if it were merchandise.

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I was a #Glee virgin until this season’s first episode. While I hate musicals I definitely enjoy Glee. It’s damn funny. But while we all drool over this season’s new offerings on t.v. the world does continue to fall apart. Brace yourselves for the real drama of living through yet another financial crisis…it’s coming… It’s not a mater of if but when….

Investors Are Deaf to the Screams of Gold, Cotton

Imagine trying to explain to a grandmother or a teenager that a lot of very clever people in the financial world don’t actually believe in dollars, euros and yen. Exchanging goods and services for bits of paper is a confidence game, say some; a conjuring trick without bones, because without the skeleton of a gold standard, so-called fiat currencies are worth nothing more than the paper they are printed on.

Even the majority of finance professionals who don’t see any need to back currencies with precious metals are haunted by the thought of the central bank printing presses whirring into action. And, with every nation in the world trying to export its way out of trouble, the beggar-thy-neighbor race to devalue currencies will only gather pace in the coming months.

When I’m 64

Folk wisdom claims that bumble bees defy the laws of physics because their power-to-weight ratio should be insufficient to allow flight. Luckily, because the bees don’t know this, they happily take off, buzz around and land, buoyed by blissful ignorance. Similarly, no sane investor would ever buy a stock or a bond if they stopped to consider the inverted- pyramid mathematics of an ageing, death-resistant population, a slump in birthrates, and the New Normal of spectacularly low returns in a post-bubble environment.

How on Earth is society going to pay pensions to this growing army of old people? If granddad does what investment theory says he should and socks his nest egg (assuming he even has one) into the ultra safety of Treasuries, earning a record- low yield of less than 0.45 percent on two-year securities, how will he afford his medications? Many countries and companies are probably bankrupt once you account properly for their future obligations; some problems, though, are too big and too intractable and too downright scary for polite conversation.

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Here’s a good chunk of a speech given by Micheal Hudson, a former Wall Street economist, to the Council of Economic Advisors to the President of Brazil (CDES). Mr. Hudson seems to have a pretty good handle on the insidious repercussions of the financialization of the World Economy where “financial maneuvering and debt leverage play the role that military conquest did in times past. Its aim… to control land, basic infrastructure and the economic surplus – and also to gain control of national savings, commercial banking and central bank policy.”

It’s the best explanation I have yet to read on how the banking and financial elite of Europe and North America have stopped at nothing to extract as much wealth out of the global economic system for themselves at the expense of production and technological innovation which is essential to maintaining a healthy middle class and thus a functional economy.

It is not widely recognized that most commercial bank loans merely attach debt to existing assets (above all, real estate and infrastructure) rather than being invested in creating new means of production, or to employ labor, or even to earn a profit. Banks prefer to lend against assets already in place – real estate, or entire companies. So most bank loans are used to bid up of prices for assets, especially those whose prices are expected to rise by enough to pay the interest on the loan.

The fact that bankers can create interest-bearing debt on computer keyboards with little cost of production poses the question of whether to leave this free lunch (economic rent) in private hands or treat money creation as a public “institutional” good. Classical economists urged that such rent-yielding privileges be regulated to keep prices and incomes in line with necessary costs of production. The surest way to do this was to keep monopolies in the public domain to provide basic services at minimum cost or for free while land taxes and user fees could serve as the main source of public revenue. This principle has been flagrantly violated by the practice of erecting privatized “tollbooths” that extract rent revenue without a corresponding cost of production. This has been done in a way that benefits only a select few. (more…)

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This has to be seen to be believed. I sure as hell would not want to be without my lightsaber if targeted by this thing.

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“Truth and Consequences: When the Music’s Over?”

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