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Fighting the wrong war

We seem to be making a fetish of it.

Here's a very interesting piece by Barry Ritholz in today's Washington Post called "Wall Street analysts and economists have this recession recovery wrong." What makes it unusual us that it makes the case why investors should be concerned when the whole system breaks down the way this one has --- the central bank is running out of gas and the political players are dysfunctional or are solving problems that don't exist while ignoring those that do.

In the not too distant past, the market might have been inclined to rally following a horrific data point such as June’s NFP report. The assumption was that the Fed, or perhaps Congress, would respond to economic distress with its usual largess. But the immediate market reaction — selling off on the “surprisingly” bad number, and then having difficulty all last week — suggests that traders are no longer expecting a cavalry charge to save the day.

Indeed, the Federal Reserve is in no position to do much more without great distress. Markets briefly rallied Wednesday when Fed chief Ben Bernanke suggested that a QE3 was possible. But soon after he finished his congressional testimony, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas President (and FOMC voting member) Richard Fisher said the Fed had “exhausted our ammunition.” And Thursday, Bernanke scared markets further, saying the central bank wasn’t yet ready to take additional steps to boost the economy.

Markets gave up most of their rally on the recognition that the cavalry might not come this time.

Even with the Fed out of the picture, investors should not expect any relief from Congress: The legislative body in charge of taxing and spending seems incapable of accomplishing much these days. We are more likely to see counterproductive austerity measures than anything else.

Investors, it looks like you are on your own this time.

On the other hand, these are the same guys who finance lunatics and lackeys to run these institutions and they are so short sighted they didn't care if their greed killed off the golden goose. It was only a matter of time before it caught up with them.


Livin’ In A Mycelial World [Universe]


Mushrooms and their mycelium are quiet allies that are essential for our healthy existence. They are enigmatic, have a sense of humor, and socially as well as spiritually, bond together all that admire them. They have much to teach us.

-Paul Stamets

If the ego is not regularly and repeatedly dissolved in the unbounded hyperspace of the Transcendent Other, there will always be slow drift away from the sense of self a part of nature's larger whole.

-Terrence McKenna

A few weeks ago, I was sitting at my kitchen table, having coffee, when I suddenly noticed a new development in my bonsai plant. At the foot of the pygmy pine was sprouting, of all things, a mushroom. The physical recoil this realization triggered in me is beyond description. I nearly spilled my drink in my impulse to first spring away -- then draw towards -- this fungus. How had this happened? My god, how do mushrooms work?

As it turns out, the soil of my potted bonsai was rich with mycelium. Mycelium is the fungal "root," if you will, the vegetative body of the organism, which can net, spread, propagate, and convey nutrients over great distances, eventually sprouting fruiting bodies -- mushrooms. This meant that no matter how many little brown mushrooms I plucked out of my houseplant, more popped into place. Thus began my journey into mycophilia.

Being a fickle bedroom hobbyist, I sacrificed the bonsai, relinquishing 1,000 years of Japanese history to my fungal visitor. After all, what is more ancient, more venerable, than a mushroom? Fungi were the first organisms to come to land, and survived the cataclysmic asteroid impacts of geological history -- visitors to our planet 420 million years ago would have encountered a landscape dominated by 30-foot-tall prototaxites, fungal pillars dwarfing the surrounding landscape. And, lest you think this kind of cyclopean 'shroom has gone the way of the dinosaurs, the largest known organism on our planet today is a 2,400-year old, 2,200 acre honey mushroom mycelium in Eastern Oregon.

Furthermore, we're more closely related to these behemoths than you might imagine: even though the animal kingdom branched off from its fungal counterpart some 600 million years ago, we still share over half our DNA with fungi. Historically, culturally, and biologically, we are incredibly close to mushrooms. That closeness can be exploited to our benefit: many powerful antibiotics against bacteria come from fungi, while anti-fungal antibiotics tend to harm us, precisely because of our intimately interlinked relationship with mushrooms. Some scientists posit reorganizing traditional biological classification to include a animalia-fungi superkingdom called "Opisthokontum."

Far-out scholar Terrence McKenna, in his book Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge, took this connection further, arguing that the so-called missing link between our ancestors and language-using, symbol-toting Homo Sapiens (or Homo Spiritualis, as he puts it) is not an evolutionary phase but an interaction with entheogens -- namely, "magic" mushrooms. McKenna argued that early man, foraging for food in the African grasslands, would have inevitably consumed varieties of fungal hallucinogen, triggering the semiotically complex transcendence (and the various perceptual advantages) of the psychedelic experience. It's this psychosymbiotic mingling with the "vegetable mind" of the natural world that triggered those things which separate us from the animals: use of symbols, language, ritual, and abstract representation. Over centuries, this experience would have been ritualized, this dip into the howling Tao codified; what remains today are merely symbols, hidden in plain sight in many of the religious traditions of the world. This theory, now dubbed the "Stoned Ape Theory of Human Evolution," is fascinating -- and I whole-heartedly recommend McKenna's book, which is essentially a natural history of the human relationship to drugs -- but I will move on before my more rationally-minded readers start frothing at the mouth.

American mycologist Paul Stamets, in his 2008 Ted Talk, Six Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World, argues that the structure of mycelium is a neuromicrological network with universal properties. In the image below, I've placed an electron micrograph of fungal mycelium next to an image of dark matter. Beneath that, a visualization of the network structure of the Internet by Hal Burch and Bill Cheswick, courtesy of Lumeta Corporation.



Can you tell the difference?

Stamets, who calls mycelium "Earth's Natural Internet," puts it this way:

I believe the invention of the computer Internet is an inevitable consequence of a previously proven biologically successful model. The earth invented the computer internet for its own benefit, and we, now, being the top organism on this planet, [are] trying to allocate resources in order to protect the biosphere.
Going way out, dark matter conforms to the same mycelial archetype. I believe matter begets life, life becomes single cells, single cells become strings, strings become chains, chains network. And this is the paradigm that we see throughout the universe.

Stamets, being a mycologist, understands the fundamental structure of information, of the universe itself, as adhering to a "mycelial archetype." To him, everything is mushroom -- McKenna, too, reads the history of human culture through a mycophilic lens. Of course, both men experimented extensively with the mental states associated with ritualized consumption of a certain variety of mushroom, but this shouldn't lessen the impact of their profound, macrocosmic reading of the humble fungus (although it's interesting to think of mushrooms as doing their own psychedelic PR).

Mycelium, an intertwined network of cells permeating virtually all land masses of Earth, is not something to take lightly. It literally engulfs the soil beneath us in a sentient web, rising up beneath our footsteps, hungry for nutrients. There is something beautiful and horrifying, ancient and keenly technological about these organisms, a complexity it may take a psychedelically-informed, non-institutional mind to fully appreciate.

In any case, it beats a tiny tree.

Further Reading & Viewing:

Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World, by Paul Stamets
The Mushroom Cultivator, by Paul Stamets
Food of the Gods, by Terrence McKenna
TED Talk: Six Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World by Paul Stamets
TED Talk: Are Mushrooms the New Plastic? by Eben Bayer
Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality, by Robert Gordon Wasson
Return of the Fungi, from Mother Jones Magazine
Buy home mushroom-growing kits from Fungi Perfecti

Read the comments on this post...

Also check out the featured ScienceBlog of the week: Inside the Outbreaks on the ScienceBlogs Book Club


“Don’t set up a situation where you’re guaranteed to be disappointed,”

I co-sign what Dday says here, which is excellent and I urge you to read it. I would only add that "compromise" can only create progress if somebody in the negotiation is fighting for progress. Belittling those who do that, even from the outside, is to automatically turn compromise into capitulation.

This is a very, very revealing video for all the reasons Dday outlines in his post. I would imagine that the students in that room were riveted by the message and took it to heart. Let me amend that: the progressive students in that room. The conservatives are taught a different view. They are the idealists now, believing that if they stand up for what they believe they can change the world. According to the greatest inspiration for progressive youth in generations, liberalism is all about transactions and dealmaking and lowered expectations. It's quite a switch.


Inhabitat’s Week in Green: solar-powered Supertrees, hydrogen racecars and LED-studded shoes

The hot summer sun sparked blazing advances in solar energy this week as Inhabitat reported that a crop of incredible solar-powered Supertrees sprouted at Singapore's Gardens by the Bay conservatory. We also saw designers float plans for a series of gorgeous sun collecting water lily islands, and speaking of flowers, we learned that scientists are breeding cold-resistant super bees that can withstand mites and disease. Scotland made waves as well when it unveiled the next-generation Oyster 800 wave energy plant, and Japan's Prime Minister signaled a sea change as he called for a complete phase-out of nuclear power.

Several cities took steps away from car culture this week as a Spanish town offered residents lifetime tram passes in exchange for their cars, and JetBlue launched a set of dubious $4 flights to offset the closing of the 405 freeway in Los Angeles. We also took a look at the green technologies launched by NASA's soon to be extinct space shuttle program and we saw the unveiling of the world's first student-built hydrogen racecar.

In other news, we peered into the future of consumer tech as we counted down our six most desired green upgrades for the Phone 5 and we saw Jawbone launch an app-powered wristband that promotes healthy living. LED technology also lit up our lives as Philips rolled out a beautiful new breed of luminous wallpaper and Chanel kicked of its latest fashion show with a line of LED-studded shoes. Last but not least, we spotted a set of magnetic building blocks that help Honduran families, and this week gadget expert and Engadget founder Peter Rojas closed our Ask a Tech Geek column with a look at six great ways to charge your gadgets with renewable energy. If you're thirsting for more, don't miss Peter's posts about fine tuning your laptop to save energy, vanquishing vampire energy drain, and recycling your old cables and chargers!

Inhabitat's Week in Green: solar-powered Supertrees, hydrogen racecars and LED-studded shoes originally appeared on Engadget on Sun, 17 Jul 2011 18:19:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Long walk off a short Piers

People are starting to wonder why nobody's asking CNN's Piers Morgan about what he might know about this Murdoch scandal since he is a former editor at News of the World. Think Progress reports:

A CNN spokesperson confirmed the lack of coverage to Ad Week last week, “saying that the network hasn’t covered the matter because Morgan has not been officially called to testify in England.”

Morgan himself did address the issue on Monday, telling a CBS talk show that neither he nor his former publication have broken any laws.

The allegations are especially troubling given this passage from Morgan’s 2005 book, The Insider: The Private Diaries of a Scandalous Decade:

Apparently if you don’t change the standard security code that every phone comes with, then anyone can call your number and, if you don’t answer, tap in the standard four digit code to hear all your messages. I’ll change mine just in case, but it makes me wonder how many public figures and celebrities are aware of this little trick.

As Ad Week notes, “Morgan has been sounding a fairly sympathetic note about Murdoch.” In the CBS interview, he said, “I’m not going to join the Murdoch bashing. I’ve always been a big admirer of his. He gave me my first break in journalism. He made me editor of [News of the World] when I was 28 years old.”

And there's this, which I wrote about earlier, from a radio interview that Gordon Skene caught over at Newstalgia:

I have a lot of sympathy for the people at the top because I don't think they had a clue what was going on. And I think it's one of those situations where until you know exactly what the scale of the problem is it's very hard to deal with it.

But what I do find stomach churning was your mate Hugh Grant on here the other day.A guy who has used the media. This is my problem with all the phone hacking victims. They've all used the media over the years to feather their nests, buy their houses flog their movies, sell out their concerts and now they're squealing like little pigs ove them edia and I just think it's perspective time again.

The Guardian is leading the charge on phone hacking. They believe it's wrong for any newspaper to publish material that has been gained unlawfully and yet the Guardian was the newspaper that published Wikileaks, which is openly an illegal form of material that's been acquired illegally that was very dangerous to many parts of the security services and the armed forces. They knew that and willfully published it and their arguments is well it was all in the public interst. Really? Colonel Ghadaffi's lovers? Which is one of the Wilileaks revelations? That's in the public interest?

There is no difference. It is sanctimonious, hypocritical bilge by the Guardian by the BBC -- sorry, they've piled in too -- by stars like Hugh Grant. The BBC, in my experience when I was a newspaper editory, you break a big juicy story, a big old scandal, and then what would happen is the Guardian and BBC the next day would say, "there are disgusting revelations in the Daily Mirror or news of the World so repellant that we are now going to talk about them for the next 20 minutes" and in the case of the Guardian we are going to run 17 pages.

You can't have your cake and eat it. If the BBC and the Guardian feel so strongly about this pruriant form of journalism then they should never cover it again.

He's right about the mainstream media being perfectly happy to run with scandals, but I think he's rather purposefully missing the point. Hacking into celebrities' answering machines is criminal. Hacking into crime victims' answering machines is just sick. And turning it all into a backscratching exercise with the police is a threat to a free and democratic society.

Yes, the Ghadaffi lovers story exposed in Wikileaks was not really a matter of national interest. But "big juicy scandals" of the tabloid variety are hardly the main thrust of Wikileaks. And as far as I know, Wikileaks hasn't been blackmailing politicians with threats to expose their dirty personal laundry if they refuse to play ball. (It's possible, but I haven't heard of it.)

Piers Morgan is a prick. And sooner or later CNN is going to have to deal with this. At the very least the celebrities who are his bread and butter should ask themselves if it's worth whoring themselves out to someone who clearly has no respect for them whatsoever. He apparently thinks that if you use the media to sell something you've completely given up your rights.


Now this is winning the future ...

This is pretty amazing. I grew up in the military and around it and I have to say that until recently I couldn't have imagined active duty gay service members openly marching in a gay pride parade:

Full coverage here.

Despite all the procedural battles still going on, this one is a win for the good guys. And President Obama and the military brass deserve credit for getting it done when they had the chance. You can't underestimate the symbolic value of it even beyond the individual right it finally acknowledges.


iUsers frees your iPad of monogamy, enables multiple user profiles

Share an iPad? A new tweak is on its way to that other app store that should make your life a little easier: user profiles for iOS. The mod, dubbed iUsers, adds a user login button to the iPad's lock screen. The tweak segregates application data and preferences between users, meaning that user A's Angry Birds score won't muddle and mix with User B's perfect three-star rating. App installations, music, and video content are currently shared between users, but the tweak's creators hope to remedy that in a future update. It's a jailbreak only mod, of course, but still a neat feature we'd love to see implemented in future versions of iOS. The iUsers tweak should be hitting Cydia soon, but folks who want an early peek can snag it now by following the instructions in the source link.

iUsers frees your iPad of monogamy, enables multiple user profiles originally appeared on Engadget on Sun, 17 Jul 2011 14:41:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Frankenstein’s monster loves tea

Frankenstein's monster loves tea

by digby

Regrets or kabuki?

“We believe it is vitally important for the U.S. government to make good on its financial obligations and to put its fiscal house in order,” wrote the Chamber of Commerce in a letter signed by nearly 500 American CEOs that was sent to the White House and all Capitol Hill offices. “Now is the time for our political leaders to put aside partisan differences and act in the nation’s best interests. We believe our nation’s economic future is reliant upon their actions and urge them to reach an agreement.”

The high-profile signers included Tom Donahue, the influential chairman of the Chamber of Commerce; Robert Koch, CEO of Koch Enterprises; and James Gorman, president of Morgan Stanley.

Notice Robert Koch's name there.

I don't know if they are sincerely worried about the tea drinking monster they've created or it they are just playing their designated role. But if it's the former, they have only themselves to blame for forgetting to tell the Tea party that it was all a game.


Kicking the Grand Bargain down the road

Wouldn't it just be something if after all this sturm und drang, the Republicans ended up agreeing to massive cuts in government after all? I for one will be shocked, shocked I tell you.

Even as President Obama and congressional leaders focus on a fallback plan to lift the nation’s debt ceiling, top Democrats and Republicans have begun to map a new way to craft the same sort of ambitious deficit-cutting plan they abandoned last week.

As part of the deal being discussed to raise the debt ceiling, leaders on Capitol Hill are forming an especially powerful congressional committee that would be charged with drawing up a new “grand bargain,” possibly by the end of the year.

Key elements for a big deal remain in place. Obama has been clear that he wants one and has started making the case to skeptical factions of his own party that getting the nation’s fiscal house in order is in their best interest. House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) also remains committed to an ambitious plan, having told his troops that he didn’t become speaker to do small things. And, perhaps most critically, the markets are demanding it. The credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s says Washington must agree to reduce the debt by $4 trillion over 10 years to avert a downgrade.
But hopes for a grand resolution in coming months face the same question that hangs over the current crisis: whether tea-party-aligned conservatives in Congress who forced the debt-ceiling showdown will provide the necessary votes for an eventual major deal, even if it includes new taxes...

For some reason, the public, the media, keep going over this, again, and again, and again” the guest said. “It’s too much,” he added, “We should move on.” Doocy agreed...

“We know it’s a hacking scandal, shouldn’t we get beyond it and deal with the issue of hacking? We have a serious hacking problem in this country.”


Voice of Empire, Ctd.

Sunday Morning Comin' Down: One more "It's Both Sides" rerun.

America's Mouse Circus -- now in chewable, concentrated, Liberal-proof doses.

On "Meet the Gregory", Fluffy shows how to frame a question like a very fancy prostitute:
On the one hand, some people say that Republicans are fucking nuts. That they are completely unreasonable.

On the other hand, they say that someone has to draw a line in the sand against the deficit that has been run up by President Obama.

Elsewhere, faced with the ruinous grimfuck unpopularity of the smelly little corner into which they have painted themselves, Republican Senator John Kyl and Republican Senator Tom Coburn explain that neither of them "care about the politics" of anything.

Everywhere, representatives of "The Tea Party" (reminder: There. Is. No. "Tea Party"; there is only the same, old, batshit GOP Base in tricorner hats) were invited on teevee to discuss their exciting ideas for destroying America immediately and to "balance out" the ideas of Royalist snivelers like George Will, who wants to destroy America more incrementally.
George Will (actual quote): "The Tea Party the best thing to happen in American politics since the Goldwater Insurgency."
Speaking of Republican stooges, Matthew Dowd weighted in with this steaming pile of Villager Wisdom (lightly dramatized version):
The assumptions of Both Sides are wrong! Nowhere has history ever shown that cutting spending in a weak economy makes anything worse. Nowhere has history ever shown that tax cuts something something.


It's both sides! It's both sides!
Except, of course, it turns out that the first half -- the anti-Liberal half -- of Dowd's "Both sides are wrong" excrement is a huge fucking lie:
When A Turn Toward Austerity Turned To Disaster

Published: July 16, 2011

by NPR Staff

Four years into Franklin Roosevelt's first presidential term, the worst of the Great Depression seemed behind him. Massive jolts of New Deal spending had stopped the economic slide, and the unemployment rate was cut from 22 percent to less than 10 percent.

"People felt that there was momentum," U.S. Senate historian Donald Ritchie tells Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered. "Finally, there was the light at the end of the tunnel."

So Roosevelt, on the advice of his conservative Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, decided to tackle the country's exploding deficits. Over two years, FDR slashed government spending 17 percent.

"All of a sudden," Ritchie says, "after unemployment had been going steadily down, unemployment shot up, the economy stagnated, the stock market crashed again. And now it seemed we'd come out of the Hoover Depression to go into the Roosevelt recession."
What made this morning's helping of Dowd's usual, fact-free Republican horseshit extra tasty was that just after he told this particular huge fucking lie, Dowd decided to crawl up even higher on his High Beltway Horse and go on whiny little micro-rant about how nobody "in Washington" is "ever held accountable" for anything.

Mr. Dowd has obviously learned the Brooksian Art of Punditting well: That once you join The Club, it literally stops mattering which side of your mouth you lie out of.

Finally, the whole freakshow was once again seasoned to the point of gagging by a bunch of guests who randomly punctuate every damn sentence with "themurricanpeeple".

Once again, nowhere in any of the Mouse Circus' three-rings or sideshows was a single Liberal voice heard at all.


As long as people like David Gregory and Matthew Dowd continue to have jobs that don't involve welcoming me to my local big box store or trying to upsell me an apple pie with my Big Mac, our media is fucked.

You have now seen the Sunday Mouse Circus.


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