August 25, 2012 archive

What’s Cooking: Ice Cubes

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

I found this recipe “deliciously” amusing. Some of the comments are really funny and as Jeffrey Bloomer at Slate points out, no trolls:

Comment sections on websites can be nasty places, but they’re rarely more useless than they are on popular recipe sites like AllRecipes, Epicurious, and the like. [..]

So I was happy to discover that my despair over such commenting practices is widely shared-and even happier to read a perfect parody of this corner of the Internet. In a glorious recipe posted to that has been making the rounds on Twitter, a frustrated cook offers a recipe for ice cubes, noting that it may come in handy for “families who have members who don’t know how or have forgotten how to make ice when the ice tray is empty.” The rundown proceeds as expected-water, freezer-and it’s funny enough on its own: a passive-aggressive plea to refill trays that anyone can get behind.

But then the commenters get a hold of it, and the magic begins.


Ice Cubes


  • 2 Ice cube trays
  • 2 cup measuring cup (or larger)
  • 1 tablespoon
  • Ingredients:

  • 2 cups water (approximately)
  • 2 tablespoons water (additional if needed)
  • Directions:

    1 Empty the ice cubes that are left in the trays (if there are any left) into the bin.

    2 Take the trays over to the sink and fill them with cold water.

    3 Place the water filled ice trays back in the freezer.

    4 Replace the ice bin if you had to remove it.

    5 Shut the door to the freezer.

    Prep time: 2 minutes

    Cooking time: 2 to 3 hours

    Yield: 2 trays of ice cubes

    Nutritional Summery::

    Calories: 0

    Fat: 0g

    Carbs: 0g

    Protein: 0g

    Here is a sample of some of the comments:

    Chef #1408275: “This recipe is horrible! Maybe I should have left them in longer than two minutes (the recipe doesn’t say how long to leave them in the freezer so I just kind of guessed) but mine came out all watery. I won’t be making these again.”

    donquix66: “I harvest my own free-range water, so the idea of putting it in a plastic tray and a commercially made electricity-wasting freezer disgusts me. I prefer nature’s method, waiting until the temperature outside drops below freezing.”

    KMSoprano: “I’m relieved to notice in the nutritional facts that these delicious cubes are not sodium free. A touch of salt is so important to bring out just the right icy flavor. We make this fabulous recipe so often, we had to buy 30 or 40 bottles of bourbon and scotch to go with it…”

    Tribal Allegiance in Economics

    Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

    I found this informative discussion at naked capitalism. It’s in two parts with links that are educational, especially for those of us who have a minimal understanding of economics. The first article by Michael Hoexter of New Economic Perspectives is prefaced by Yves Smith:

    The discussion of tribal allegiances in economics in this post helps illustrate why it is so difficult to push back against failed ideas when they are dear to the mainstream. It is also a useful ethnographic guide.

    Is an Anti-Austerity Alliance of Left Neo-Classicals and Post-Keynesians Possible? Is it Desirable? (Part 1)

    I drafted the “Mixed Economy Manifesto” as one attempt to create a common basis for anti-austerity economists and non-economists to argue against, in the clearest terms possible, the waves of government spending cutbacks that are advocated by misguided elites, by the right-wing and by right-leaning neoclassical economists. The 87 “theses” listed at the end of the Manifesto enumerated empirically and logically sound propositions about the economy as it now exists with its mixture of government and private institutions that can under many circumstances productively interact with each other. (I may attempt or others may attempt to expand the arbitrarily numbered 87 to 95 theses which would then be suitable for nailing on doors.) The Mixed Economy Manifesto also contained many statements that would appeal to Left Neo-classicals or New Keynesian economists, while maintaining a basis in what I perceive to be the more realistic ideas about the economy that have been put forward by post-Keynesians, MMTers, and the institutionalist tradition, including Thorsten Veblen and John Kenneth Galbraith.

    As it stands, the world appears to be heading into a policy-induced exacerbation of the ongoing Second Great Depression that may pale in comparison to the policy mistakes of 1937 in the US, when President Roosevelt listened too much to the hard-money ideologues of his day and cut spending only to weaken the ongoing recovery from the Depression of the 1930’s. It would seem to make sense to create an alliance of as many intellectual and political tendencies as possible against a repeat of these mistakes. One major problem is that the public is largely unaware that there is a choice, so has not yet joined the struggle, except in countries like Greece and Spain where austerity is now in full force.

    Another major problem in creating such an alliance is that there are significant intellectual and institutional divisions among those economists who endorse counter-cyclical spending by government and/or mobilizing the resources of government to help the unemployed and the marginally employed. These economists disagree with each other about fundamental issues and, if listened to by the public closely and in sequence, can produce either confusing or not particularly decisive advice for anti-austerity activists. This in turn makes it difficult to create a mass political movement that opposes austerity measures before they take full effect or, furthermore, after some future political victory for anti-austerity forces, for policymakers to institute policies based on a consistent new economic thinking. The most consistent critics of austerity and the economic foundations of austerity thinking have been Post-Keynesians, a diverse grouping of schools that claim to be both heirs and critics of Keynes, including the growing Modern Monetary Theory school (MMT). Post-Keynesians are generally excluded from the centers of power within the economics profession, though are not as marginalized as biophysical, steady-state/ecological, and Marxist economists. “New Keynesianism” is a much more mainstream school that integrates certain aspects of Keynes into the dominant neoclassical economics taught in college Econ 101 courses. Often the publicly-identifiable Left of mainstream economics, for instance Paul Krugman and Joe Stiglitz, can be identified as New Keynesian and therefore fundamentally neoclassical.

    Post-Keynesians and MMTers often direct their sharpest critiques at New Keynesian or Left Neo-classical economists, though there are also efforts at comity from the side of Post-Keynesians. On the other side, the more orthodox and “establishment” New Keynesians/Left Neoclassicals for the most part do not offer Post-Keynesians the professional respect of acknowledgement and/or serious intellectual critique of Post-Keynesian/MMT ideas. There are signs that this “Chinese wall” is breaking down, as the global Depression drags on, but often in ways that indicate that isolated terms from or fragments of Post-Keynesianism and MMT may be taken and reconfigured to fit the orthodox model and academic “lifestyles” of Left Neo-classical economists. This was the intellectual “move” that Paul Samuelson executed in the late 1940’s, validating those parts of Keynes that would fit with neoclassical orthodoxy, while leaving out the aspects of Keynes’s work that suggested that neoclassical orthodoxy should be fundamentally questioned or overturned.

    Is an Anti-Austerity Alliance of Left Neo-classicals and Post-Keynesians Possible? Is it Desirable? (Part 2)

    United as they are in their critique of neoclassical economics, it would be a mistake to portray post-Keynesians as united among themselves, a further complication for the emergence of any unified message from anti-austerity economists. Post-Keynesian Thomas Palley has recently likened MMTers proposal that government institute a WPA-style “job guarantee” program to the policies of the Tory Cameron government that unemployment benefit recipients work for free. Palley’s concern is that the MMT job guarantee will undermine public sector unions but MMTers dispute that Cameron’s policy is a job guarantee program. Palley’s objections to the job guarantee and MMT were also the subject of a caustic review by Randy Wray, a prominent MMT economist. Steve Keen, who calls himself as “Monetary Circuit Theorist”, has shown an interest in finding points of commonality with MMTers while maintaining at other times a distance from it. MMT, perhaps because it has a popular following and momentum, seems to be a particular target of criticism and self-differentiation by non-MMT post-Keynesians. Perhaps this criticism is meant to be constructive but at times the disputes are often conducted in relatively heated exchanges in blogs and on Twitter, where ultimately outsiders to these disputes will remain confused and will perhaps throw up their hands.

    The question then remains whether these two groups of economists can work together and fight against austerity as a loosely coordinated group, even if they themselves are not even in agreement among themselves. From the perspective of those outside of the economics profession, the prime consumers of the output of economists, a cogent and unified message against austerity would be a great help. Political movements and political actors require a unified message to achieve power. As well, to be ultimately a success if they ever achieve power, they need to have a realistic policy alternative to offer. As it stands, the voices of the Left Neoclassicals are heard much more widely, yet their vision ultimately does not offer political leaders and political activists on the ground a portable vision and argument to reshape overall policy and popular views. Post-Keynesians, in particular MMT, are working on a more realistic vision of how the economy and government work and work together that potentially is comprehensible by a wider group of people. Yet this vision, though now gaining a wider audience, has not yet achieved critical mass in the public discussion. [..]

    If some prominent economists from orthodox and heterodox tendencies could agree that it would be possible to come up with a list of three to five anti-austerity principles which do not offend any “side” to this debate, this might be a way forward. These principles could then become “talking points” for economists to campaign in the media and in meetings with the powerful for an anti-austerity solution. Creating an anti-austerity “echo-chamber” would be a step in the right direction. As an independent commentator on economics not currently affiliated with an academic institution, I do not have the status to get the ball rolling on this process.

    If economists, like cats, cannot be “herded” into producing a workable statement of anti-austerity principles, then the diffuse strategy of producing articles, blog posts, testimony, and media appearances becomes second best but offers a glimmer of hope that the perversity of austerity will be communicated to the broader public.

    This effort, however, should not compromise or derail the long-term epistemological project to build a better social science and a better economics that can help prevent concurrent disasters like the present ones. Temporary political victories can only buy time but ultimately cannot solve the problems of governing and managing mixed economies, the type of economy in which we live and that has sorely challenged conventional wisdom.


    Paul WegenerDer Golem: wie er in die Welt kam (1920) (1:41)

    Not just a horror flick, but as far as can be told an authentic piece of ghetto folklore.  Of the 3 films by Wegener on the subject this is the most watchable and complete.

    Just call it “Truthiness”

    The Age of Niallism: Ferguson and the Post-Fact World

    By Matthew O’Brien, The Atlantic

    Aug 24 2012, 10:32 AM ET

    I don’t want to go too far down this Ferguson rabbit hole — we get it, he lied — but I do want to answer his response to my fact-check. Ferguson’s reading of my criticism was as lacking as his fidelity to facts. I tried to make clear that I was cataloging two categories of errors in his piece. There were untruths misleadingly framed as truths and truths misleadingly framed so as to be untruths. Or, as I put it, “a fantasy world of incorrect and tendentious facts.”

    Let’s take a quick detour into the meta. Ferguson objects that I don’t identify “a single error” and that I’m just offering my own opinions. The former is not true — his description of Obamacare and its budgetary impact are demonstrably false — but the latter is a legitimate point of debate. Ferguson prefers a very narrow definition of fact-checking; I do not think that is sufficient. Facts twisted out of context can be just as deceptive as outright falsehoods — sometimes even more so, because you can cloak them in claims of truthfulness.

    Ferguson gets some facts wrong. Ferguson gets some facts right, but frames them incompletely. Why the outrage? Because he’s treating facts as low-grade and cheap materials that are meant to be bent, spliced and morphed for the purpose of building a sensational polemic. Even more outrageous is that his bosses didn’t mind enough to force him to make an honest argument, or even profess embarrassment when its dishonesty came to light.

    Ezra Klein Deems Joe Stiglitz, Paul Krugman, and Elizabeth Warren (Plus Other Serious People) Not Credible

    Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism

    Wednesday, August 22, 2012

    Ezra Klein demonstrated how far he’s has to descend into the Humpty Dumpty world of words meaning just what he chooses them to mean in order to defend failed Administration policies.

    Washington DC’s Baghdad Bob waded into the fray over a an unconvincing apology in the New York Times for Obama’s bank-friendly response to the mortgage crisis. … While it’s now acceptable for the messaging apparatus to describe the policies as inadequate, the party line is lame: there was no support for bold measures and those big bad servicers were an insurmountable obstacle.

    Huh? Sorry, plenty of people vastly more credible than Klein had concrete recommendations at the time that would have been considerably better than Obama-Geithner program of coddling the banks.

    For instance, Princeton economist Alan Blinder recommended a Home Owners Loan Corporation style mass refinance. She Who Must Not Be Named came out for it in her campaign. Joe Stiglitz, Paul Krugman, Nouriel Roubini, Mark Zandi, Jeff Merkley, Brad Miller, Ellen Seidman and others backed it. Krugman and Neil Barofsky have also argued the Administration could at a minimum have used $50 billion in unused TARP funds for mortgage mods. Adam Levitin (arguably the top US expert on mortgage securitizations) recently proposed(.pdf) a “bad bank” as a way to implement pooling and standardized restructuring of underwater mortgages. Top mortgage analyst Laurie Goodman has also long advocated principal modification, and she has established that they have much lower redefaults than other types of mortgage modifications.

    Or how about using bankruptcy to write down mortgages to the current value of the house, something now done in bankruptcy for every type of collateralized loan except primary residences? Advocates of that approach included the Congressional Oversight Panel under Elizabeth Warren’s chairmanship, and more recently, the IMF. A bill passed in the House but was nixed in the Senate.

    How about principal writedowns with shared appreciation mortgages, advocated by Andrew Caplan and Luigi Zingales? Even Greg Mankiw pointed to an approach suggested by John Geanakoplos and Susan Koniak a way to work around those pesky servicers. Dean Baker has pushed for an own to rent program.

    This is far from a complete list. There were plenty of credible people who had concrete, specific proposals which would have done better than what the Administration implemented. When the benchmark is HAMP, which managed to make hundreds of thousands of borrowers worse off, or a mortgage settlement that institutionalizes servicer fraud and has already harmed mortgage investors helping pay for the settlement, it’s a low bar to beat.

    So if you were honest about this issue, no matter where you draw the line, there were “credible” people who had proposals that were obviously better. And the evidence in part comes in the New York Times article that Klein mentions. It concedes that bankruptcy cramdowns might indeed have been a better idea than the Administration’s limp-wristed response. And don’t tell me Obama couldn’t have gotten this through. He was willing to whip personally to get Bernanke’s contested reappointment approved; he didn’t apply anywhere near that level of effort to this initiative.

    (T)he mortgage/housing issue is charged because, as Barofsky stressed, the Administration deliberately chose to use homeowners to foam the runway for banks.

    That of course means that it is a priority for Obama to obscure the fact that he chose the banks over ordinary citizens on housing, the single biggest source of wealth for most families.

    So to defend this Administration’s sorry record, loyalists like Klein have gone from practicing sophistry to agnotology. In a perverse way, that’s encouraging, because it’s a sign that it’s becoming more difficult for the pundit class to deny the facts on the ground.

    GOP Intellectual Decline, Monetary Edition

    Paul Krugman, The New York Times

    August 24, 2012, 3:42 pm

    (T)he GOP platform will reportedly include a call for steps toward a return to the gold standard.

    The really strange thing about all this is that this turn toward hard-money mysticism is taking place even as events have demonstrated that the advantages of not being on a gold standard, of having a fiat currency that can be printed freely in emergencies, are even greater than standard analysis had supposed.

    Mark Thoma links to an old piece of mine that I think does a pretty good job of laying out that standard case; but we now know that there’s a major additional concern, the ability of the central bank to act as lender of last resort to the government as well as private banks. Consider, as Paul De Grauwe has in one of the most important analyses (.pdf) to come out of the crisis, the contrast between Spain and the UK.

    (B)orrowing costs have soared in Spain, while falling in Britain.

    So the GOP has decided that we must reject the evils of fiat money and go for the gold standard at precisely the moment when events have demonstrated that fiat money is a really useful thing and the loss of flexibility that comes from ending fiat currencies can be utterly disastrous. What’s going on?

    In this sense fiat money is like, oh, Social Security. The problem it creates for conservatives is not that it doesn’t work, but that it does – which is a challenge to their philosophy. And so it must die.

    What these pieces all have in common is the demonstrated failure of trickle down supply side Chicago School Voodoo Economics.

    On This Day In History August 25

    Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

    This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

    Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

    August 25 is the 237th day of the year (238th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 128 days remaining until the end of the year.

    On this day in 1768, James Cook began his first voyage to travel to the Pacific Ocean to observe and record the transit of Venus across the Sun. This would be the first of three voyages that would be hailed as  heroic by the scientific community.


    The routes of Captain James Cook’s voyages. The first voyage is shown in red, second voyage in green, and third voyage in blue. The route of Cook’s crew following his death is shown as a dashed blue line.

    In 1766, the Royal Society hired (James) Cook to travel to the Pacific Ocean to observe and record the transit of Venus across the Sun. Cook was promoted to Lieutenant and named as commander of the expedition. The expedition sailed from England in 1768, rounded Cape Horn and continued westward across the Pacific to arrive at Tahiti  on 13 April 1769, where the observations were to be made. However, the result of the observations was not as conclusive or accurate as had been hoped. Cook later mapped the complete New Zealand coastline, making only some minor errors. He then sailed west, reaching the south-eastern coast of the Australian continent on 19 April 1770, and in doing so his expedition became the first recorded Europeans to have encountered its eastern coastline.

    On 23 April he made his first recorded direct observation of indigenous Australians at Brush Island near Bawley Point, noting in his journal: “…and were so near the Shore as to distinguish several people upon the Sea beach they appear’d to be of a very dark or black Colour but whether this was the real colour of their skins or the C[l]othes they might have on I know not.” On 29 April Cook and crew made their first landfall on the mainland of the continent at a place now known as the Kurnell Peninsula, which he named Botany Bay after the unique specimens retrieved by the botanists Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander. It is here that James Cook made first contact with an Aboriginal tribe known as the Gweagal.

    After his departure from Botany Bay he continued northwards, and a mishap occurred when Endeavour ran aground on a shoal of the Great Barrier Reef, on 11 June, and “nursed into a river mouth on 18 June 1770.” The ship was badly damaged and his voyage was delayed almost seven weeks while repairs were carried out on the beach (near the docks of modern Cooktown, at the mouth of the Endeavour River). Once repairs were complete the voyage continued, sailing through Torres Strait and on 22 August he landed on Possession Island, where he claimed the entire coastline he had just explored as British territory. He returned to England via Batavia (modern Jakarta, Indonesia), the Cape of Good Hope and the island of Saint Helena, arriving on 12 July 1771.

    Late Night Karaoke

    Popular Culture 20120824: Jethro Tull — Aqualung

    Aqualung is the forth album by Tull and many people think that it is their best.  I favor Thick as a Brick, but it is still an excellent album.  Rumor has it that critical comments about Aqualung spawned Thick as a Brick, and we shall discuss that in a bit.

    It was released on 19710319 on Island Records in the UK and Reprise in the US.  By this time Anderson had completely taken control of the band, and all of the songs are written by him except for the title track which was cowritten by his wife at the time, Jennie.  Anderson, along with Terry Ellis, produced it.

    The band lineup was different than that of Benefit, with Jeffrey Hammond replacing replacing Glen Cornick on bass and Barriemore Barlow replacing Clive Bunker on drums.  Remember, Jethro Tull has had more personnel changes than many bands.  Otherwise the lineup was the same as on Benefit.

    The Coffee and Donut Riots

    On June 18, 2010 I published a diary about the Compton Cafeteria Riots of 1966.  On August 20, 2012 there was a gathering/march in San Francisco honoring the survivors of those riots and the decades to follow.

    Lest one try to parse the difference between the drag queens of the time and today’s transwomen, one might note that the participants who showed up have mostly transitioned since that time.

    That original diary follows.