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    • The First Great Environmental Crisis Will Be
      Water. As I’ve said for many years. The world is facing an imminent water crisis, with demand expected to outstrip the supply of fresh water by 40 percent by the end of this decade, experts have said on the eve of a crucial UN water summit. I’ll use the US as an example, though this going to effect almost all countries, some much worse than others, and it wi […]
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A no-no for a nobody

Jonathan Sanchez

Jonathan Sanchez

From SFGate:

The Giants’ 33-year no-hitter drought ended at China Basin on Friday night, and the pitcher who threw the nine innings of brilliance was not a Cy Young Award winner, nor a 300-game winner, nor a pitcher with a nine-figure contract. It was a pitcher so bad this year he was banished to the bullpen last month, a man who had not thrown a complete game in 50 big-league starts.

It was Jonathan Sanchez, a 26-year-old left-hander who until this night was the personification of pitching promise unfulfilled. Now, his name is etched forever on the list of this franchise’s great achievements.

In an 8-0 victory, with his father watching him start a major-league game for the first time, Sanchez no-hit the San Diego Padres and nearly had a perfect game. The only baserunner was Chase Headley, who reached on an error by third baseman Juan Uribe with one out in the eighth inning.

It was the first no-hitter by a Giant since John Montefusco’s in Atlanta on Sept. 29, 1976, the first ever at China Basin, the 17th in franchise history and the first in the majors since the Cubs’ Carlos Zambrano no-hit Houston last season.

And across America today, people will look at a staff that features Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Randy Johnson and say, Jonathan Sanchez?

But the damn Dodgers are still in first place by 7 games.

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The Golgafrincham Solution

State of the art conference facilities aboard the Golgafrincham Ark Flagship

State of the art conference facilities aboard the Golgafrincham Ark Flagship

Once upon a time, in a galazy far, far away, the planet Golgafrincham decided “to get rid of the useless third of its population”.  So, they concocted a story that the planet was going to shortly meet a catastrophic end and built an Ark to send some of their people to another planct.  They filled the Ark with hairdressers, TV producers, insurance salesmen, personnel officers, security guards, managment consultants and telephone sanitizers.  The hairdressers probably just made a noble sacrifice so as to not raise suspicions among the insurance salesman, for who can go without a good hairdresser?

These middle men, who were told that their functions were critical for setting up a new colony, were loaded up into the Ark and shot in to space.  History does not record what happened to the remaining residents of Golgafrincham  before they were wiped out by a virus contracted from dirty telephones but it can be assumed they finally got the single payer health care they’d been waiting for.

The chronicles tell us that the travellers on the Ark crash landed on prehistoric earth, mated with the neolithic populations and became (some of) our ancestors.  Their descendents walk among us today, as Wendell Potter, former head of PR for Cigna tells us.  It is only fitting that we return these wandering middle men to their natural habitat.  We should send them, plus a few investment bankers and class action lawyers, back to Golgafrincham with a little post-it note that says, ” S. E. P.”*

*Somebody else’s problem.

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Convergence on Goldman-Sachs

Slide1While the rest of the country strips Sarah Palin of her humanity for no good reason except that mobbing is so much fun, something very weird is going on with Goldman-Sachs.  There are a number of credible sources reporting now on the arrest of Sergey Alenyikov on July 4, 2009 at Newark Airport.  Mr. Alenyikov is accused of stealing G-S source code and uploading it to a computer somewhere in Europe.  Goldman sent the Feds to round up the rogue programmer because, as the US Attorney on the case says, the source can be used to manipulate the market.  Daytraders who monitor the market very closely say that they noticed some non-linear activity in the several weeks leading up to the arrest and that afterwards, the markets seemed to have returned to normal, whatever that means since last year’s crash.

But it gets more interesting.  As Bloomberg notes, how do we know that Goldman-Sachs hasn’t been using this code all along to manipulate the markets?  The theory goes something like this: Goldman-Sachs gets to put a unix server with the code on a network cable somewhere and uses a packet sniffer to watch the transactions that come across from traders at other companies.  With that knowledge, G-S is able to anticipate trades and shave a bit off for itself for every transaction.  If this is true, it means that G-S has a massively unfair advangtage in trading compared to, well, just about everyone else. Here’s a post at the Big Orange Cheeto for those of you who eat netstats for breakfast and think Perl poetry is romantic.  It goes into quite a bit of technical detail.

Check out this video from Bloomberg that lays it all out:

What’s really disturbing about this case is that the government seems to be extraordinarily receptive to calls for help from G-S.  Either the Goldman crew close to the White House is concerned with losing their bonuses or the potential for market failure is huge. Either way, it lessens confidence in the system.  It looks like “all traders are equal except some traders are more equal than others”.  What happens to the system when the people who have no choice but to operate in it no longer have any trust?  This leads me to my podcast du jour recommendation.  This one is from Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippet.  Her topic this past week was The Science of Trust with guest Chris Farrell, a neuroeconomist.  The secret to keeping everyone honest is the neurotrsnsmitter hormone oxytocin.  Oxytocin promotes empathy.  Approxomately 2% of the population has insufficient levels of oxytocin to experience empathy with other human beings(and you’re probably thinking they all work at Goldman-Sachs, right?)

Farrell says that the lax regulatory system is partially responsible for the financial disaster, although he takes a pretty long time before he gets around to saying it.  Farrell thinks that for *most* people, *most* of the time, the feelings of empathy lead to a sense of reponsibility and honesty.  That’s why you might have felt you could trust your banker with your money.  But in recent years, there have been advances in technology that lead to a depersonalization of the banker-client relationship.  It’s hard to see the person behind an account number on a monitor.

The podcast is part of a series by Tippett on Repossessing Virtue, all highly recommended.  You don’t have to be religious to have an ethical model.  But ethics, virtue and trust are all severely lacking in this dog eat dog world where nothing much makes sense.  Societies start to unravel when the sense of morality and consideration for others is replaced by, well, nothing at all.

If Tippett is concerned with repossessing virtue, I guess you could say that the fundamentalist group, The Family, is concerned with redefining it.  A second podcast recommendation is one that Terry Gross did last week on The Family, a religious community in DC that has been the spiritual guiding force for many enemies of The New Deal over the decades.  John Ensign was a recent alumni as was Governor Sanford of South Carolina.  The Family believes the end justifies the means and that chosen Family members are possessed of the virtue that requires no further regulation by the government.  They will lead us because it is their destiny and if they cheat on their wives on Family property, it must mean that God works in mysterious ways.  Caveat: Terry Gross is the best interviewer in the world but she has kool-ade psychosis and it is unfortunately seeping into her interviews.  “The propaganda is strong in this one.”  Proceed with caution.  Her bias shows.  Even so, if this group is only 1/10th as bad as the interview suggests, it’s pretty bad.

Update: It looks like Citadel is getting in on the act now.  The former head quant at Citadel started a new company called Teza Technologies and hired Aleynikov. Mikail Malyshev signed a 9 month noncompete clause when he left Citadel back in February.  That means he wasn’t supposed to open his door until November.  Maybe it’s all a preparation phase thing.  Teza is cooperating with the FBI. This stuff is starting to sound familiar.  Several of my former colleagues (all Russians BTW, tho’ I’m sure it’s all a coincidence) have gone to work for quant firms, though I can’t imagine they’ll be writing code.  Who knows?

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Your Breakfast Read, Served By The Confluence

Dems on Dems Violence: Healthcare Edition

Blue Dog Democrats are a bunch of assholes thumb sucking 3-years old.
Conservative Democrats break ranks on health care

The “Blue Dog Democrats” group released a list of demands on the eve of House Democratic leaders’ planned unveiling of their final bill Friday. The bill release was pushed back to next week and Democratic leaders spent part of Friday meeting with the fiscally conservative Blue Dogs to work through their concerns.

Obama confident of passing healthcare reform

The conservative Democrats, known as the Blue Dog Democrats, also took aim at the president’s proposal for a public insurance option to compete with private insurers in a marketplace that would provide plans for those who cannot buy coverage through their employers.

‘Moderate Dems’ squeeze President Obama

“What you don’t want to do is to give the Republicans the fodder to be able to say, ‘Yeah, we’ve got these moderate Democrats with us — and then we’ve got these leftists, these socialists like Obama proposing these programs,’” says Drew Westen, a political psychology expert and author of “The Political Brain.”

Kennedy’s voice missed in health debate

“Obviously, if Kennedy were here, the whole process would be further along,’’ said Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat from Iowa and a senior member of Kennedy’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. “He’d be working his magic. He has a way of getting everybody on board.’’

Obama’s LBJ Moment

White House officials say with some pride that Obama doesn’t draw lines in the sand. Maybe he should. If political capital is measured by popularity, Obama still has plenty. What he doesn’t seem to have is a willingness to spend it.

Meanwhile in GOPville

Sarah Palin vs. the GOP

Republican candidates are shying away from inviting Palin to campaign for them. Is Palin losing her party?

John Ensign’s parental bailout

Was the $96,000 Ensign’s parents gave to his mistress a gift, a payoff, or a crime?

A $30,000 an hour attorney? Palin report overstates inquiries’ costs

Beyond the Palin

Why the GOP is falling out of love with gun-toting, churchgoing, working-class whites.

Prosecution Is Off The Table

It all happened in the past, you know…
Bush-era surveillance went beyond wiretaps

The Bush administration’s post-Sept. 11 surveillance efforts went beyond the widely publicized warrantless wiretapping program, a government report disclosed Friday, encompassing additional secretive activities that created “unprecedented” spying powers.

The report also raised new questions about how the Bush White House kept key Justice Department officials in the dark as it launched the surveillance program.

Democrats Call for Full Investigation of CIA Allegations

US accused of inaction after Taliban POWs killed in ’01

After a mass killing of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Taliban prisoners of war by the forces of a US-backed warlord during the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, Bush administration officials repeatedly discouraged efforts to investigate the episode, according to government officials and human rights organizations.

Is there still any doubt that this country run for 8 long years by a bunch of thugs?

Wiretaps risked a crisis

The Bush program’s secrecy – only three Justice lawyers knew of it – nearly brought mass resignations.

U.S. Wiretaps Were of Limited Value, Officials Report

While the Bush administration had defended its program of wiretapping without warrants as a vital tool that saved lives, a new government review released Friday said the program’s effectiveness in fighting terrorism was unclear.

I didn’t know this nonsense was still around
Will Obama scrap Bush’s color-coded terror alerts?

Obama And The World

Obama and the Pope: Agreeing to Disagree on “Life” Issues

Obama plans no big public appearances in Africa visit

Though Obama Viewed Positively, Still Much Criticism of US Foreign Policy

The US is criticized for coercing other nations with its superior power (15 of 19 nations), failing to abide by international law (17 of 19 nations), and for how it is dealing with climate change (11 of 18 nations). Overall, views are mixed on whether the US is playing a mainly positive or mainly negative role in the world.

The Burden of (High) Expectations

For blacks, a hidden cost of Obama’s win?

“What was the price of Obama’s election? In part, it was that we can no longer talk about race explicitly around national policy issues, or at least [Obama] can’t, without being accused of playing identity politics,” says Eddie Glaude, professor at the Center for African American Studies at Princeton University. “So the question is then: How do African-American communities engage issues in light of their particular experiences without being accused of pushing a racial agenda?”

Economy Watch

Read this story carefully. It contains some very very interesting nuggets.
Goldman Sachs Loses Grip on Its Doomsday Machine

(h/t maxkeiser.com)

From Treasury to Banks, an Ultimatum on Mortgage Relief

Obama says stimulus plan to kick in later this year

President Barack Obama said on Saturday more time was needed for his $787 billion (485 billion pound) stimulus package to work, predicting the spending would have a bigger impact on the economy later this year.

China and the dollar

The dollar’s role as the world’s main reserve currency is being challenged

Demographics and Deflation: an unpleasant comparison

Mixing morals and money

To judge from his encyclical Caritas in Veritate, published this week, Pope Benedict XVI agrees with those who say that something has gone wrong with the way the world does business. What makes his document unusually disturbing and thought-provoking is an assumption he does not share.

Lunch with the FT: Larry Summers

Around The World

G-8 Celebrates Summit of Unity

A clear statement on Iran, ambitious targets for climate protection and billions of dollars in aid for developing countries: the G-8’s ability to make real decisions has impressed its critics. Yet it was easy to regard the summit as a success when expectations were so low.

Honduras Coup Reveals Deep Divisions in Latin America

The coup in the small Central American nation of Honduras reveals the deep divisions in the region. The triumphal march of the leftist followers of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has provoked the established elites. The knee-jerk reaction in Honduras has been, yet again, to stage a coup.

Uighurs Force Opening of Mosques in Urumqi

Crowds of Muslim Uighurs ignored orders canceling Friday prayers and talked their way in to at least two mosques in neighborhoods hit by ethnic tensions here, as officials raised the death toll and released the first ethnic breakdown of casualties in riots Sunday.

China has learned how to spin
Urumqi unrest: China’s savvier media strategy

Taking a cue from Western PR tactics, Beijing moved away from trying to block coverage altogether – and was benefited by doing so.

Frail Kim Jong-il ‘may only have months to live’

Kim Jong-il is seriously ill and is likely to be dead before the end of the year, according to a source within the North Korean leader’s own family.

Seven Somalis beheaded by extremists for ‘spying for government’

Seven people accused of renouncing Islam and spying for the Government were beheaded in Somalia yesterday in a move that underlined the growing authority of the country’s Islamist insurgents.

More News

Civil rights group warns of neo-Nazis in the US military

The appearance of 40 active-duty US soldiers on a social networking site known as the “fascist Facebook” appears to add credibility to a controversial government report released in April about extremism in the military.

Jackson death may have been ‘homicide’, says police chief

The Los Angeles police chief has raised the prospect of a homicide charge over the death of Michael Jackson.

Saudi casting call: one kiss and it’s over for women

The World Of Science

Katiebird will certainly love this one.
Calorie-Counting Monkeys Live Longer

Rodents, yeast, and roundworms all have something in common: They live longer when they consume less. Now a primate has joined the calorie-restriction club. After 20 long years of waiting, scientists have concluded that rhesus monkeys that eat nearly a third less food than normal monkeys age more slowly. The results come as close as any can to proving that calorie restriction could significantly slow aging in humans–even if such a lean diet would not appeal to most of us.

Why live longer if the precondition is such unrelenting misery?

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Did he get an eyeful?

The picture: r3356552547

The video:

The picture appears to show President Obama ogling the behind of 16 year-old Mayora Tavares. Did the picture lie or was Obama “multitasking?”

David Brooks to Norah O’Donnell, “I sat next to a Republican senator once at dinner and he had his hand on my inner thigh the whole time.”


This has to be the weirdest story of the day. From the MSNBC transcript:

O’DONNELL: What, what’s happened?

BROOKS: You know, all three of us spend a lot of time covering politicians and I don’t know about you guys, but in my view, they’re all emotional freaks of one sort or another. They’re guaranteed to invade your personal space, touch you. I sat next to a Republican senator once at dinner and he had his hand on my inner thigh the whole time. I was like, ehh, get me out of here.


BROOKS: I can only imagine what happens to you guys.

O’DONNELL: Sorry, who was that?

BROOKS: I’m not telling you, I’m not telling you. But so, a lot of them spend so much time needing people’s love and yet they are shooting upwards their whole life, they’re not that great in normal human relationships. And so, they’re like freaks, they don’t know how to, they’re lonely. They reach out. I’ve spoken to a lot of young women who are Senate staffers and they’ll have these middle age guys who are sort of in the middle of a mid-life crisis. Emotionally needy, they don’t know how to do it and sort of like these St. Bernards drooling everywhere. And you find a lot of this happens in mid-life and among very powerful people who are extremely lonely.

Just one question: why did Brooks leave the guy’s hand there through the whole dinner? Washington, D.C. is a very strange place, whether you’re talking about the politicians or the press.

The video is at Think Progress.