Category Archives: Human behavior

Chart of the day II: Senate as a diseased brain


From The Economist‘s YouTube channel, a brilliant depiction of the emergence of extreme polarization in American politics:

Live chart: Voting in the Senate

Program note:

United States of Amoeba

How American politics is pulled apart. For more video content from The Economist visit our website: http://econ.st/1cY048b - private

Panoptigraphic: Corporate drone age note


From Just An Earth-Bound Misfit, I:

BLOG Drone Age

A sober BBC documentary: Surviving Progress


This 2011 documentary from a Canadian team and scripted and directed by Mathieu Roy and Harold Crooks, Surviving Progress examines the factors threatening humanity with societal collapse.

Inspired by historian and essayist Ronald Wright’s A Short History of Progress,  by Ronald Wright, the documentary offers a sober assessment of our current fix and the elements of our nature that have brought us to the brink.

It’s a powerful piece of work and features interviews with an array of interesting people, among them Margaret Atwood, Michael Hudson, Jane Goodall, Simon Johnson , Craig Venter, and Stephen Hawking.

Surviving Progress, 2011

From the production company’s website:

“Every time history repeats itself the price goes up.”

Surviving Progress presents the story of human advancement as awe-inspiring and double-edged. It reveals the grave risk of running the 21st century’s software — our know-how — on the ancient hardware of our primate brain which hasn’t been upgraded in 50,000 years. With rich imagery and immersive soundtrack, filmmakers Mathieu Roy and Harold Crooks launch us on journey to contemplate our evolution from cave-dwellers to space explorers.

Ronald Wright, whose best-seller, “A Short History Of Progress” inspired this film, reveals how civilizations are repeatedly destroyed by “progress traps” — alluring technologies serve immediate needs, but ransom the future. With intersecting stories from a Chinese car-driving club, a Wall Street insider who exposes an out-of-control, environmentally rapacious financial elite, and eco-cops defending a scorched Amazon, the film lays stark evidence before us. In the past, we could use up a region’s resources and move on. But if today’s global civilization collapses from over-consumption, that’s it. We have no back-up planet.

A video delight: A History of English


Way back in the eighth grade, in 1958 or thereabouts, we discovered the delights of Richard Armour, a Harvard-educated poet who also wrote delightfully funny subversive little books about history, science, and, among other things, Shakespeare. One snappy little line burned into memory came from Twisted Takes from Shakespeare‘s chapter on McBeth and his description of the scene in which the murdered Banquo cries out to son as he expires,  “Fly, good Fleance, fly, fly fly.” To which Armour added, “but Fleance gained altitude only by leaps and bounds.” It may not seem like a show-stopper, but to a seventh grader, struggling with the Bard’s prose, it was the funniest thing ever.

In this delightful video, the same dry wit and love wordplay applies. We smiled throughout its elev all-too-brief minutes:

The The Open University via 3 Quarks Daily:

The History of English

Chart of the day: Presidents who love themselves


From the Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project, 42 U.S. presidents rated by a team of psychologists according to their degree of grandiose narcissism:

BLOG prez

Headlines of the day II: Econo/Greco/Fukufails


Whole lot of economic news goin’ on, especially in Greece, and notable environmental stories after the jump, along with the latest episode of Fukushimapocalypse Now!

We begin in the U.S. with three cheers to the activists who purged fellow citizens of $14,734,569.87 in personal, mainly medical, debt. Via The Guardian:

Occupy Wall Street activists buy $15m of Americans’ personal debt

  • Rolling Jubilee spent $400,000 to purchase debt cheaply from banks before ‘abolishing’ it, freeing individuals from their bills

  • Rolling Jubilee, set up by Occupy’s Strike Debt group following the street protests that swept the world in 2011, launched on 15 November 2012. The group purchases personal debt cheaply from banks before “abolishing” it, freeing individuals from their bills.

Salon casts a pall:

Scalia’s chance to smash unions: The huge under-the-radar case

A Supreme Court case being argued Wednesday could take away a tactic that’s kept unions alive

The case, Unite Here Local 355 v. Mulhall, involves the constitutionality of “card check neutrality agreements” between unions and companies they’re trying to organize.

And Wonkette takes a well-deserved shot at California’s contemptible plutocratic senator:

Dianne Feinstein Joins Colleagues In Undermining Affordable Care Act, Thanks Obama!

The Guardian poses what shouldn’t be a choice at all:

Detroit’s decision to fend off bankruptcy: pay pensions or banks?

Fears grow that fight to stave off city bankruptcy may hit the poorest hardest

From the Washington Post, a simple conclusion:

The Great Recession may have crushed America’s economic potential

And a parallel headline from GlobalPost:

America is losing its allure

Analysis: A disturbing new trend suggests foreign investors may be falling out of love with the US economy.

But there’s one aspect of the U.S. other countries still cherish, reports the Los Angeles Times:

Foreign students continue to flock to U.S. colleges

A record number of international students were in the U.S. in 2012, a new study reports, with USC attracting the largest number of them.

From the Oakland Tribune, a call for the former Homeland Security boss who now runs the University of California:

Napolitano: Freeze UC tuition, seek low-fee policy

New UC President Janet Napolitano marked her first regents meeting Wednesday with a vow to make the university more affordable and calling for an undergraduate tuition freeze in 2014-15.

Yahoo! Finance makes a point we’re always proclaiming:

United States of Underemployment: Dead-End Jobs Prop Up Employment Growth

And from Women Rock Science, a sordid tale about our brasve new media:

Female Science writer gets called a Whore for saying NO to working for free

This is Biologist Dr Danielle N. Lee also known as the Urban Scientist at Scientific American, she “draws from hip hop culture to share science with general audiences, particularly under-served groups.” Biology-Online liked her work so much they wanted her to write for them……for free. Danielle Lee politely declined so Biology-Online did what everyone does when women say no – they called her a “Whore”.

But the Contributor notes that some are winning big:

For First Time Since 1995, US Produced More Oil Domestically Than It Imported

For the first month in nearly two decades, the U.S. in October extracted more oil from the ground than it imported from abroad, marking an important milestone for a nation seeking to wean itself off foreign oil.

From Reuters, a prime market:

EU duty-free jet fuel sets new battle for world refiners

U.S. refiners are expected to ship large volumes of jet fuel across the Atlantic starting in 2014 after the European Union scrapped an import duty on the product, opening a new battleground for the world’s largest refineries, traders said.

The Guardian takes us to the dark side:

Over 3,000 US prisoners serving life without parole for non-violent crimes

ACLU report chronicles thousands of lives ruined by life sentences for crimes such as shoplifting or possession of a crack pipe

From the Verge, Obama’s latest sellout:

US patent moves are ‘profoundly bad’ in leaked TPP treaty

In new agreement, Obama sides with locked phones and Big Pharma

But the Contributor raises limited hope:

Not-So-Fast-Track: House Opposition to Secret International Trade Deal ‘Could Be the End of TPP’

From RT, a major investor:

Mormon Church purchases 2% of the state of Florida for half a billion dollars

A sect of the Mormon Church is poised to become the largest private landowner in the state of Florida after spending more than half a billion dollars to purchase hundreds of thousands of acres across three counties.

From the New Republic, a warning about the status of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission:

Congress Is Starving the Agency That’s Supposed to Prevent Another Meltdown

The chief regulator for over $300 trillion worth of derivatives trades has seen its operations squeezed by drastic underfunding, right at the time the Dodd-Frank financial reform law dropped a whole new set of responsibilities in its lap.

North of the border for the latest mayoral misbehavin’ from BBC News:

Toronto’s Rob Ford says he bought drugs in last two years

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has admitted buying illegal drugs in the past two years, at a raucous meeting at which city councillors asked him to take a leave of absence.

More from USA TODAY:

Santa parade officials ask Toronto mayor not to march

The mayor initially agreed to watch from the sidelines, but now wants to lead the march.

Our final Fordian frolic from National Post:

New Ford files: documents reveal staff suspicions over prostitutes, cocaine and OxyContin

Rob Ford court documents reveal staffers thought prostitute was in his office, mayor was driving drunk

Next, a global story from Bloomberg:

Emerging-Market Banks Threatened by End of Credit Boom

The world’s largest emerging markets recovered quickly from the 2008 financial crisis because consumers and companies went on a borrowing binge. Now that credit spree is coming back to haunt banks in those countries.

Another one, from the Mainichi:

World economy being sustained by extraordinary aid

  • Five years after a global financial crisis erupted, the world’s biggest economies still need to be propped up.

  • They’re growing and hiring a little faster and creating more jobs, but only with extraordinary aid from central banks or government spending. And economists say major countries may need help for years more.

Across the Atlantic, first with Europe Online:

Eurozone industrial production down 0.5 per cent in September

Industrial production in the eurozone fell by 0.5 per cent in September, performing worse than expected after spiking in the previous month, data released Wednesday showed.

From Reuters, cause for anxiety:

Analysis: Deflation threat in Europe may prompt investment rethink

The threat of deflation in the euro zone could reverse a major investment trend of 2013, drawing funds out of stocks and into government bonds and cash.

From Bloomberg, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi hosts a come-to-Jesus meeting:

Draghi Goes Face-to-Face With Bank Chiefs on Asset Health

Chief executive officers from banks from five countries — Germany, Belgium, Cyprus, Malta and Luxembourg — met today with Draghi and other board members at ECB headquarters, a spokeswoman for the central bank said by telephone. The list included Europe’s largest investment bank by revenue, Deutsche Bank AG, and lenders such as Malta’s Bank of Valletta Plc.

And BBC News covers an exodus:

Escape to Oz: Young Europeans head to Australia in search of work

Migration from countries such as Ireland is at levels not seen since the 1980s as Australia’s seemingly bulletproof economy, insulated from the global slowdown by a roaring mining industry, offers the chance of a fresh beginning.

While Spiegel covers eurofoes:

Euroskeptic Union: Right-Wing Populists Forge EU Alliance

Right-wing populists are trying to create a powerful faction in the European Parliament. Leading the efforts are Geert Wilders from the Netherlands and Marine le Pen of France — and their initiative has big implications for Europe.

More from DutchNews.nl:

Wilders commissions report into cost of Holland leaving the EU

PVV leader Geert Wilders has commissioned a British bureau to carry out new research into how much it would cost the Netherlands to leave the EU, the NRC reports on Tuesday.

To Britain with Channel NewsAsia Singapore and an uptick:

British official unemployment rate hits four-year low

Britain’s unemployment rate has fallen to a four-year low point, official data showed on Wednesday, putting pressure on the Bank of England to raise its record-low interest rate sooner than expected.

But RT takes another angle:

Cheese thieves: UK middle classes turn to stealing food they can’t afford

Gourmet cheese and beef joints are among the top stolen items in the UK, a new report has shown. Middle class shoppers have turned to stealing out of need for food, due to the weak economy, with the total cost of retail theft hitting £3.4bn last year.

But BBC News offers the declaration of victory:

Bank of England says the UK recovery has taken hold

Bank of England governor Mark Carney says the UK recovery has “taken hold” and unemployment will fall sooner than it had forecast.

Germany next, with a sharper focus from the Associated Press:

EU launches review of Germany’s export strength

  • The European Union is launching a review of Germany’s hard-charging export economy and whether its burgeoning trade surplus hampers the recovery of weaker countries.

  • The question is whether Germany should encourage wage growth and more spending at home to help growth in its European trade partners and the 17-country euro currency union as a whole.

But Europe Online spots shaky ground:

Germany Social Democrats: Coalition talks with Merkel could fail

Negotiations between German conservatives headed by Chancellor Angela Merkel and the left-leaning Social Democrats (SPD) on forming a coalition government could fail, a senior SPD member warned Wednesday.

While Spiegel proclaims a gerontocracy:

Punishing the Young: German Pension Reforms a Gift for the Elderly

Berlin’s incoming government is expected to institute a wave of pension reform that could exacerbate inequality, burden workers and create huge budget headaches. So why are the parties so intent on pushing it through?

Deutsche Welle invokes the technocrats:

Germany’s economic ‘wise men’ slam Merkel for costly coalition plans

Germany’s ‘wise men’ panel of economic advisers has warned Chancellor Merkel against striking costly deals in current coalition talks with the Social Democrats. They fear Germany’s nascent recovery might be slowed.

From DutchNews.nl, as on Wall Street, so in Amsterdam:

The Dutch rich are getting richer says Quote magazine

The 500 richest Dutch people have together become €7bn richer over the past year, according to the latest edition of the Quote 500 rich list.

And another DutchNews.nl headline sets the context:

Rabobank economists see no growth in 2014

The Dutch economy will not grow in 2014 and unemployment will continue to rise, according to economists from Rabobank in their latest forecast.

To France with RFI and the latest outburst of hard times intolerance:

Far-right paper causes storm with racist insult to French justice minister Taubira

A far-right paper in France has caused uproar with a headline comparing Guyanese-born Justice Minister Christiane Taubira to a monkey. The Minute front page is the latest of several racist insults that Taubira has faced since she guided the government’s gay marriage law through parliament.

RFI has more grief for the government:

Schools strike, mayors threaten non-compliance over French school reform

Schools in Paris were disrupted by strikes Wednesday morning on the second day of strikes against change to school hours. Mayors of 55 towns have declared that they will not implement the change when it comes into force across the whole of France in 2014.

And from RFI again, the pressure mounts:

Hollande under pressure to make changes amid mounting social discontent

The sight of protestors jeering at President François Hollande during the solemn Armistice Day Commemorations has stirred talk in France that the activities of various groups with different grievances are coalescing to form a more generalised revolt against the current government.

And the pressure intensifies again. From CNBC:

The euro could disappear in 10 years: BlackRock CEO

The euro could be in danger of disappearing within the next decade if France does not continue pushing economic reforms, BlackRock Capital boss Larry Fink said Tuesday.

Spain next, and a deflation alert from Europe Online:

Spain posts negative inflation for first time since 2009

  • Spain’s consumer price index dropped by 0.1 per cent in October, its first year-on-year fall since 2009, statistics body INE said Wednesday.

  • In September, inflation had registered an increase of 0.3 per cent.

While ANSAmed chronicles another deflationary alert:

Spanish real estate market down for 5th month

From El País, a mixed report card:

Spain fails Brussels’ economic imbalances probe in five areas

  • Germany cited for excess current account surplus.

  • Eurogroup to give thumbs up to Madrid on bank bailout conditions.

thinkSPAIN covers another austerian consequence:

Crisis causes fewer plane passengers and local travellers take the bus rather than the train

AIR passenger numbers are continuing to fall with a decrease of 14.5 per cent in the past year, reports the National Institute of Statistics (INE).

And El País reports a notable failure, a leading electrical appliance maker that is part of the world’s heretofore most successful co-op, Mondragon:

Fagor files for receivership

Other units of loss-making Basque electrical appliance manufacturer to follow suit in next few days

Portugal and a country where 100,o000 have already fled in search of work, via ANSAmed:

Portuguese unemployment falls from 17.7% to 16.4%

A total of 838,600 people out of a job

The Portugal News notices a debt shift:

Mortgage defaults up while personal credit defaults drop

The number of Portuguese families who are not managing to pay their loans fell in September to a total of 658,900, but the number who are finding it tough to pay their mortgages is increasing, according to data compiled by Lusa News Agency from Bank of Portugal data.

Italy next, and a declaration from Corriere della Sera:

Berlusconi to Withdraw from Government if Expelled from Senate

Former PM reflects bitterly: “For twenty years, I’ve been doing all I can to keep moderates united. Someone always turns up to split them”

And Reuters foresees a bite at the Apple:

Italy investigates Apple for alleged tax fraud: sources

U.S. tech giant Apple is under investigation in Italy for allegedly hiding 1 billion euros ($1.34 billion) from the local tax authority, two judicial sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Bulgaria next, with GlobalPost:

It’s getting ugly in Sofia: Bulgarian students barricade university

After months of street demonstrations, the young take the vanguard of a popular protest movement.

Another take from EUobserver:

Bulgaria leaders condemn attacks on immigrants

Bulgaria’s president and prime minister on Tuesday jointly condemned the rise in racist attacks against immigrants and asylum seekers from Syria, reporters Reuters.

After the jump, Greek meltdown continues, mixed Latin American signals, Worries in India, China’s neoliberal surge, environmental alerts, and the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now! . . . Continue reading

Quote of the day: Blaming the victims


From historian Lawrence Davidson, writing in Consortium News:

The neoliberal outlook is demonstrably wrong in a significant way. The notion that the poor can make “free and rational choices” and thus can be held responsible for their situation is incorrect. There is accumulating evidence that poverty literally “messes with your mind” in a way that obstructs responsible choices.

In fact, the “free market” contributes to an environment that makes the poor decidedly unfree: confused, preoccupied, and feeling overwhelmed and hopeless. In other words, being poor makes you cognitively dysfunctional.

The latest research to show this was published in August 2013 in the journal Science and is titled “Poverty Impedes Cognitive Function.” The gist of the argument is, “Poverty captures attention, triggers intrusive thoughts, and reduces cognitive resources.” In other words, the more preoccupied one is with troubles, the less able one is to muster the “cognitive resources” necessary to rationally “guide choice and action.”

Most people find themselves overwhelmed with problems now and then, but not constantly. What living in poverty does is to hit a person with a toxic cocktail of overwhelming problems day in and day out: financial problems, health problems, parenting issues, victimization by criminals and others, and the problem of just finding and keeping a job.

The authors also point out that the IQ difference between those living in poverty and those living above the poverty line can be as high as 13 points. This difference is not a function of genetics or race. It is created by the environment of poverty itself.

Confirmed: CFOs are overly confident


From Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, proof thta hubris is a central feature of the modern corporate executive suite:

Whether you are on Wall Street or Main Street, it is tough to forecast the stock market. Most of us know it is tough and would offer a wide range of possible outcomes if pressed for a prediction.

Not true for financial executives. Chief financial officers (CFOs), who are constantly asked to explain movements in their own company’s stock prices, are astonishingly overconfident in their ability to get the forecast correct.

A new study finds the range of outcomes that CFOs provide for one-year stock market forecasts are unrealistically narrow, according to research by professors from Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

Using 10 years of quarterly CFO surveys conducted at Duke, Itzhak Ben-David, associate professor of finance at Ohio State, and professors John R. Graham and Campbell R. Harvey of Duke looked at more than 13,300 forecasts of the S&P 500 made by finance professionals. They found the range of possible outcomes that CFOs provide for where the stock market will be in one year to be unrealistically narrow.

“These executives are too sure of their ability to predict the future,” Ben-David said. “And we found this overconfidence was linked to decision-making at their firms, so there is a real-world impact.”

The study is published in the November issue of the Quarterly Journal of Economics and can be accessed at the following link.

“We asked them to tell us the range of outcomes that would lead them to be right 80 percent of the time,” said Harvey. “However, the ranges were way too narrow. Instead of working 80 percent of the time, they barely got more than 1 in 3 correct.”

“For example, they might say next year’s return should fall in the range of -20 to +20 percent. If the market return is 10 percent, they are correct. But that is not what we found. They would give really tight ranges, like 11 to 18 percent. If the market return is 10 percent, they are wrong.”

“This is a classic trait of severe overconfidence,” Harvey added. “The magnitude of the miscalibration is astounding and led us to investigate whether this overconfidence impacted the way they ran their businesses.”

Graham said executives were also asked to predict the range of possible outcomes for their firm’s own investment projects, “and again they proved to be extremely overconfident. It is well known that companies’ investment outcomes are very volatile. Surprisingly, CFOs seem oblivious to this risk.”

As a result, Graham said, “We found their overconfidence was linked to decision-making at their firms. CFOs who are more overconfident about the stock market were more aggressive in their investing and borrowing, which means their overconfidence appears to filter into corporate policy.”

A number of psychology laboratory experiments show that participants in these studies, often college students, also tend to be prone to this type of overconfidence.

“These studies are often critiqued because the subjects are college students and are not representative of experienced senior executives,” Graham said. “We show that these seasoned financial executives also suffer from significant miscalibration.”

The perfect toys for a Brave New World


First up, via the Japan Daily Press, the Neurocam:

It’s probably not at all wise to stick a device that deals in 4G/LTE wavelengths near you’re your head – and we’re sure the designers can come up with a better design when this goes retail (if ever) – but the concept is sure interesting – an iPhone will take hands-free videos and pictures of the things a user is looking at, depending on the level of interest that the user has for the objects he or she is looking at. How does the iPhone know which ones to take pictures of? It measures your brainwave activity to figure out what are the things that interest you from the things you are looking at.

And the video:

The article also notes the camera isn’t the first commercial gimmick to employ the brainwave technology for the purpose of amusement:

The Neurocam is the latest product to come from the Neurowear project, which already gave us the NekoMimi cat ears. As we have said beforehand, we’re really big fans of having all those radio waves near our head for an extended period of time. But this is all in development right now, and we hope the design changes for the better, and the safety of our brains as well.

NTDTV reports on those feline animated aural appendages:

Cat Ears Device Controlled by Brainwaves

From the program notes:

These cat ears can be controlled by your thoughts, displaying your emotions like a feline.

The technology to control objects just by thinking about them is being developed in labs all over the world. But in Japan, a neuro-technology company is taking serious brainwave science and turning it into fun.

The ears are already available here in the U.S., available from Amazon for a mere $61.35.

Now we can imagine the NSA will love the camera device, since they can activate your phone’s camera and mic from afar. Imagine what a gift for the dark world: They’ll know all your likes and dislike, refined to the nth degree. Heck, they should just give ‘em away, right?

Chart of the day: On tricksters and treats


From Jay Livingston of Sociological Images, writing about a 1976 experiment to observe cheating among trick-or-treaters depending on a variety of conditions:

BLOG Halloween

Livingston writes:

In one experimental manipulation, the woman either asked the kids who they were and where they lived or she allowed them to be anonymous.  Experimenters also noted whether the kids were trick-or-treating alone or in groups.  For some groups, the woman designated the smallest kid in the group as being in charge of making sure that kids took only one.   All these variables made a difference.

The greatest rate of cheating (80%) occurred when the smallest child was being responsible but everyone was anonymous.  Diener reasoned that with responsibility shifted to the smallest link, the other kids would feel freer to break the rule.

For the frugal among our readers, something to bear in mind come Thursday night. . .

Chart of the day: Married people spend more


And Gallup concludes that more marriage is a key to perking up the economy:

BLOG Marriage

Chart of the day: The anti-incumbency blues


From Gallup, evidence that the public’s feelings about incumbent office holders have hit a record low:

BLOG Incumbent

Chart of the day: Status nothing to quo about


From Gallup, which notes that “Fewer Americans believe there is ‘plenty of opportunity’ to get ahead in America today than have said so across three previous measurement points over the last 59 years.”:

BLOG Declining hope

More on Tea Party Ted Cruz and his curious beliefs


Bruce Wilson, co-founder of the excellent religious affairs blog Talk 2 Action talks to Thom Hartmann on his Big Picture webcast about the peculiar Dominionist theology of Tea Party honcho Sen. Ted Cruz [D-Texas],

For more on Cruz and his Dominionist beliefs, see this earlier post.

From RT America:

Ted Cruz’s cult to bring end times

Program notes:

Bruce Wilson, Talk To Action, joins Thom Hartmann. If you ask many liberals – they’d say a Ted Cruz presidency would mean the end of the world. It turns out Ted Cruz’s dad thinks the same thing – but for a very different reason

Ted Cruz, Dominionist: A critical conversation


We’re been very frustrated with our colleagues in the mainstream media for their utter failure to probe the depths of the psyche of Sen. Ted Cruz and the very peculiar theocratic religion he embraces.

Cruz’s father believes his son was divinely chosen as one of those who would capture the wealth of nations and hand it over to the priests, the religious authorities who are charged with transforming the nation into a theocracy as a requisite step for bringing about the Second Coming and the Apocalypse. [see Bruce Wilson’s excellent reportage at Talk 2 Action].

We were delighted to discover this conversation between former New York Times Mideast Bureau Chief Chris Hedges and liberal Christian minister Welton Gaddy for State of Belief, an Interfaith Alliance webcast:

Beware the Tea Party Dominionists: Chris Hedges State of Belief Radio Interview

The program notes:

“I think that the wider public hasn’t grasped the ideological roots, nor the fact that the destruction of government – and they have found the weapon to do it – has long been part of their game plan, and is something that they rejoice in, rather than see as a temporary evil. They see government as something that, largely, has to be abolished, and they have found the weapon, the mechanism, to essentially do just that.”

— Chris Hedges

There’s nothing unfairly partisan about pointing a finger at one political party in criticizing the latest government shutdown. One political party has harbored politicians who overtly denigrate the very concept of government as a force for good, some who even overtly campaigned with promises of shutting down the federal government. As Democrats, mainstream Republicans and the American public struggle to understand what’s happening on Capitol Hill, a growing number of analysts point to the dangerous philosophy of Christian dominionism as a driving force.

One of the most respected voices offering this analysis belongs to Chris Hedges, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and author of The Christian Right and the War on America as well as Days of Destruction, Day of Revolt. He joins Welton on this week’s show to talk about his recent article “The Radical Christian Right and the War on Government,” as well as his firsthand knowledge of dominionist thought and how it benefits from the Tea Party’s actions in Washington.

So the next time you consider Cruz and his comrades as merely obstructionist cranks, remember that they have a very deep agenda, one we ignore at our peril.

Curiouser and curiouser: Callous economists


Folks call economics the dismal science. While there’s good reason to question some of the “science” claims, there’s no cause to challenge the adjective.

In a Psychology Today blog post headlined “Does Studying Economics Breed Greed?,” psychologist Adam Grant looks at the evidence and comes to an appropriately dismal conclusion.

Here’s a small sampling of the evidence of the evidence he’s amassed:

Less charitable giving: In the US, economics professors gave less money to charity than professors in other fields—including history, philosophy, education, psychology, sociology, anthropology, literature, physics, chemistry, and biology. More than twice as many economics professors gave zero dollars to charity than professors from the other fields.

More deception for personal gain: Economics students in Germany were more likely than students from other majors to recommend an overpriced plumber when they were paid to do it.

Greater acceptance of greed: Economics majors and students who had taken at least three economics courses were more likely than their peers to rate greed as “generally good,” “correct,” and “moral.”

Less concern for fairness: Students were given $10 and had to make a proposal about how to divide the money with a peer. If the peer accepted, they had a deal, but if the peer declined, both sides got nothing. On average, economics students proposed to keep 13% more money for themselves than students from other majors.

Read the rest.

Do read the rest. The evidence is overwhelming, and grim.

Chart of the day: Not troubled by tapping


From Gallup, a new survey reveals that most American Internet users aren’t all that troubled by government a-snoopin’ on their surfin’:

BLOG Snoops

A Fox in Socks — Sockpuppetry, that is


In the world of social media, hardly anyone is who they seem — or so it seems. And Roger Ailes and his crew of Fox News sockpuppets did so much to make it that way.

From RT:

Fox News used undercover PR staff to refute negative publicity

Program notes:

A new book called “Murdoch’s World” claims that Fox News had its public relations staffers write comments on the Internet that defended the news channel against any blogs that posted negative commentary about the network. The book’s author says the staffers used anywhere from 20 to 100 different accounts to defend the channel’s honor, but they didn’t do it from IP addresses that could be traced back to the cable network. RT’s Meghan Lopez asks Georgetown journalism professor Christopher Chambers if Fox News’ alleged actions are bad ethics, good PR or both.

Headlines of the day: Econo/Fuku/


The machine grinds on, grabbing up the accumulated wealth of the world’s peoples and siphoning it off to feed the insatiable greed of the few.

We begin at home, parsing economic numbers, via Reuters:

Tepid U.S. job growth supports Fed’s cautious stance

U.S. employers added far fewer workers than expected in September, suggesting a loss of momentum in the economy that will likely add to the Federal Reserve’s caution in deciding when to trim its monthly bond purchases.

A summation from the McClatchy Washington Bureau:

Good things don’t come to those who wait: Glum jobs report

The Guardian does some parsing:

US jobs data suggests economic recovery stalling before shutdown

Employment in the US up by 148,000, but rise is smaller than expected for this stage of a recovery

And thh solution? Make money available to the extremely rich at below-rock-bottom rates for a little while longer. From the London Telegraph:

Fed likely to delay taper after disappointing US jobs data

Stock markets rise as investors bet that the Federal Reserve will keep on buying bonds at the rate of $85bn a month until next year

And take they do, via The Guardian:

US CEOs break pay record as top 10 earners take home at least $100m each

Pay gaps within companies widen as top two earners, led by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, earn billion-dollar paychecks

My Budget 360 hints at the reality for the rest of us:

McJobs for McAmerica – Fastest growing jobs in low wage sectors. Of 10 largest occupations in US only one pays more than $35,000 per year.

McClatchy Washington Bureau observes another phenomenon:

Americans spend less now than in ‘73, report says

And a very ominous rumble from Reuters:

Foreigners less keen on U.S. assets in August: U.S. Treasury

Foreigners soured on long-term U.S. securities in August, shedding both stocks and government bonds, and China’s Treasury holdings fell to a six-month low, U.S. Treasury data showed on Tuesday.

More from Spiegel:

US Fumbling Puts China at Risk

The whole world looked on as the United States embarrassed itself for three weeks with its government shutdown. China, the only other superpower, profited from the domestic dispute — but as Washington’s largest creditor, it also has cause for concern.

From CNBC, an admission from Ayn Rand’s acolyte, the ex-central bankster who did so much to bring about that of which he complaineth:

Alan Greenspan: ‘ The system is broken’

From Bloomberg, covering business:

Boeing’s Pentagon Charges Questioned in Audits Four Times

Four times in the past five years, the Pentagon’s inspector general has found that Boeing Co. (BA) collected excessive or unjustified payments on U.S. defense contracts.

A question answered, from Pacific Standard:

Who Is More Likely to Lie for Financial Gain?

New research from Canada points to certain personal characteristics associated with a greater likelihood of lying, such as being a business major.

On to Europe, starting with a curious yarn about Super Mario from El País:

European Commission irritated by Draghi’s banking stress test maneuvers

  • Brussels fears ECB president may be seen protecting Italian lenders

  • The letter sent by Draghi to Almunia

Spare change? From EUbusiness:

EU Parliament grits teeth to fill EUR 2.7 bn finance gap

The European Parliament late on Tuesday answered a distress call to fill a 2.7-billion-euro ($3.7billion) funding gap which led the European Commission to pull the plug on new contracts.

Signs of a cash hunt, via New Europe:

MEPs want abolishment of banking secrecy

Abolishing banking secrecy and eliminating EU tax havens are two of the most significant measures to crack down on organised crime, corruption and money laundering currently being discussed by the European Parliament in plenary.

Another push for disclosure from the London Telegraph brings us to Britain:

Rip-off pensions: EU to make firms disclose charges

A calculator that exposes how hidden fees eat into the returns on pensions and investments has gained approval from the European Parliament.

Soaring energy bills prompt a call from the John Major, the guy who stepped into Maggie’s drawers, from Sky News:

Energy Bills: Major Calls For ‘Windfall Tax’

The former PM warns that if there is a cold snap this winter many people will be forced to choose whether to heat their homes.

China Daily gloats:

UK official looks to China for support

China and Britain should cooperate more closely on transport and aviation, the UK’s secretary of state for transport Patrick McLoughlin told China Daily.

To Ireland, with lawyers anticipating earnings, from the Irish Times:

‘Avalanche’ of bankruptcies expected under new law

An avalanche of bankruptcy cases are expected next month following the commencement of legislation that shortens the bankruptcy terms from 12 to three years, insolvency expert group New Beginning has said.

The Irish Times, with attempted seduction:

Call for Mexican companies to invest in Ireland

President Michael D Higgins says there is scope for further trade and investment between Ireland and Mexico

A Danish pronouncement via the Copenhagen Post:

Offshore accounts are “immoral”: tax minister

Hiding money abroad in tax havens amounts to “theft” of money from society, according to the tax minister, Holger Nielsen.

The Copenhagen Post again, with unsettling news:

Tuberculosis staging a slow comeback

Immigrants and asylum seekers account for two-thirds of turberculosis cases but many are untreated and remain infectious because of a lack of screening

France next, with a lament from RFI:

Minister blames Germany’s minijobs for French job losses

A French minister has accused Germany’s “minijobs” of causing unemployment in France. Industrial Recovery Minister Arnaud Montebourg claimed that the part-time, low-paid jobs are undercutting workers in the rest of Europe.

From EUobserver, a hint that more of those minijobs are in the works:

German immigration increases at record speed

Over seven million foreigners were living in Germany at the end of 2012, corresponding to about eight percent of the overall population, the federal statistics office Destatis said Tuesday (22 October).

Spain, with Bill Gates opening a window. From the London Telegraph:

Bill Gates bets €114m on Spain with FCC stake

Microsoft founder bought 6pc stake in Spanish construction and services group FCC, five years after the country’s property bubble imploded

From ANSAmed, mixed news:

Foreign tourists aid Spain’s recovery, up 4.6%

48.8 million since start of year. Italians down 9.9%

Across Iberian to Lisbon and another austerian move reported by the Portugal News:

Retirement age raised to 66

Portugal’s government has approved a bill that would alter the rules of the country’s social security system to raise the minimum retirement age to 66 from next year.

One reason for longer careers, from The Guardian:

Portugal promises tax-friendly regime

By 2016, Portugal hopes to have a corporation tax rate of 17% but Lisbon still needs the support of Germany, which is sensitive to countries low-balling for business

But not so friendly for some? From the Portugal News:

Banks coughing up an extra half billion in taxation

The extraordinary levy on Portugal’s banking system is forecast to bring in a total of €565 million as from its launch in 2011 through to the end of next year, according to figures from the Ministry of Finance.

Italy next, with a familiar picture from Deutsche Welle:

Migrants in Italy struggle against illegal status, exploitation

Italy is the main destination for migrants coming across the Mediterranean. If they make it, they often end up in refugee camps and are likely to be sent back. Many escape and lead desperate lives as illegal immigrants.

BBC News brings a Bunga Bunga bailout of sorts:

Silvio Berlusconi’s divorce payments to ex-wife halved

Berlusconi – one of Italy’s richest men – will now give the equivalent of $1.9m (£1.17m) a month to Veronica Lario and their three children.

After the jump, ongoing Greek meltdown, Latin changes, India, massive Chinese deal-making, and the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading

Chart of the day: On looking for love online


From a new report on Internet dating from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project:

BLOG Dating