Hormonal and moody

This does not surprise.

News from the world of science with some pretty grim implications for the global economy as it currently exists: men — rational, level-headed, decisionmaking men — aren’t actually very well equipped to handle important financial decisions at all; it’s like they’re getting the male equivalent of their periods, but all the time. In fact, men are so beholden to their volatile hormones that their prominence in the world of finance may actually doom the whole system to inevitable, testosterone-fueled collapse.

A new book postulates that the nature of financial markets combined with the physiological effects of testosterone make for a veritable clusterfuck of overreaction, which ends up exaggerating both good and bad news and artificially prolonging both booms and busts. This conclusion is based on research that analyzed traders’ spit during several market sessions which found that men working in the high-risk, high-reward setting of the world of finance experience hormone fluctuations that could seriously interfere with their ability to make good decisions. Per Bloomberg,

This simple fact should have big implications for how we think about markets. Market participants aren’t the rational automatons of most financial theory. They are biological organisms responding with a neural and physiological apparatus designed millions of years ago. If what happens in markets affects hormones, these in turn alter behavior and feed back into the markets.

In other words, The Invisible Hand exists, but it can’t come to the phone right now because it’s on some powerful pain killers after it got mad and smashed through a plate glass window and needed like 50 stitches. And actually, it might be more accurate to refer to The Invisible Hand as The Invisible Testicles.

I’d say this probably applies to politics, too.

Post migraine

Is there anything quite like not having a migraine anymore? It’s hard to explain to non-sufferers just how weird you feel after the acute attack; after all, your brain was just performing some pretty strange tricks:

The effects of migraine may persist for some days after the main headache has ended. Many sufferers report a sore feeling in the area where the migraine was, and some report impaired thinking for a few days after the headache has passed. The patient may feel tired or “hungover” and have head pain, cognitive difficulties, gastrointestinal symptoms, mood changes, and weakness.[18] According to one summary, “Some people feel unusually refreshed or euphoric after an attack, whereas others note depression and malaise.”[19]

Usually (not always) I can minimize the worst symptoms if I stop trying to read (since, you know, you have a pulsating blind spot in your field of vision). But I was trying to look up how to use apple cider vinegar as a remedy, and it just made things worse. Plus, I still had work to do.

My migraines are frequently (but not always) stress related. Yes, I had another job interview yesterday. The immediate trigger, however, seems to be light — usually directed into my weak right eye from its peripheral vision. Certain kinds of patterns – for instance, I once got a migraine while sitting in an office from the way the light reflected off the venetian blinds.

They happen so infrequently (once or twice a year) that I forget about them — until they strike again, and I’m reminded that I’m at the mercy of my own physical wiring. It’s also a reminder of my own mortality:

Women who experience auras have been found to have twice the risk of strokes and heart attacks over nonaura migraine sufferers and women who do not have migraines.[72][73] (Note: Women who experience auras and also take oral contraceptives have an even higher risk of stroke).[74] Migraine sufferers seem to be at risk for both thrombotic and hemorrhagic stroke as well as transient ischemic attacks.[75] Death from cardiovascular causes was higher in people with migraine with aura in a Women’s Health Initiative study, but more research is needed to confirm this.

This was the second in two weeks, so hopefully I’m done for a while.

What we’ve lost

As James Carville famously said, “It’s the economy, stupid.” And if people don’t start to feel things getting better, it makes it that much harder to get a win this year. Fortunately, polling shows that a substantial number of voters, even those who are unhappy with Obama, still blame most of the problem on Republican obstructionism—because with numbers like this, he’ll need every vote he can get:

The average American family lost 38.8 percent of its wealth from 2007 to 2010, with the biggest losses concentrated among households with the most assets tied to their homes, a Federal Reserve study shows.
Median net worth declined to $77,300 in 2010, an 18-year low, from $126,400 in 2007, the central bank said in its Survey of Consumer Finances. Mean net worth fell 14.7 percent to a nine-year low of $498,800 from $584,600, the central bank said today in Washington.

“The impact has been a massive destruction of wealth all across the board,” said Lance Roberts, who oversees $500 million as chief executive officer of Streettalk Advisors LLC in Houston. “What you see is an economy that’s really very, very stressed for the bottom 60 to 70 percent of the population that’s struggling just to make ends meet.”

The declines in household wealth in the course of the longest and deepest recession since the Great Depression have held back the consumer spending that makes up about 70 percent of the economy. Fed policy makers led by Chairman Ben S. Bernanke meet next week to consider whether the central bank needs to add to its record stimulus after employment grew at the slowest pace in a year in May.

The Fed has already taken unprecedented steps to boost the economy as it battled the 18-month recession that ended in June 2009, slashing its key interest rate almost to zero and purchasing $2.3 trillion in debt to lower long-term borrowing costs. Even so, the jobless rate has stayed above 8 percent since February 2009, compared with the central bank’s long-range goal of 4.9 percent to 6 percent.

“Although declines in the values of financial assets or business were important factors for some families, the decreases in median net worth appear to have been driven most strongly by a broad collapse in house prices,” Fed economists wrote in the report released today.


I’m recovering from a migraine. Nominate your own music video suggestions in the comments.

The GOP clown car

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Lordy, Lordy, Lordy. “Aw Shucks” Huckabee, Lady Ann Coulter-Crazy, Van Jones and Ed Rendell were on This Week with George Stephanopoulos yesterday.

Poor Ann. She starts blathering inanity, Van Jones and Ed Rendell jump on her statement and she clutches her pearls. “All you mean boys are interrupting me! Please, someone help poor little me!”

But I also love when she says that Bill Clinton is very frustrated with the “far left” President Obama. Host George Stephanopoulos, of course, remains silent when the proper response would be hearty laughter. But he adheres to the Very Serious Journalist Code of The View From Nowhere.

And she also asks where are the Democrats upset about drone attacks when we were all howling about everything George Bush did! (You’ll have to excuse Lady Ann, she doesn’t get out much. Her servants bring her booze now.)

I also love the part where she waxes rhapsodic about Mitt Romney and his magical touch (I get an icky feeling just thinking about it):

COULTER: Then, at Bain — I mean, about, what 75 percent, 80 percent of the businesses that were going to bankrupt, he does turn around. He’s a green eyeshade kind of guy. He will do what no president, not even Ronald Reagan, has ever done, and that is go through the budget and cut the spending. And there’s a lot to be cut.

And the Olympics, which was also going bankrupt and is an enormous business. And the Midas touch man comes in and turns around this nearly bankrupt institution. It is not just Bain. It is everything he touches.

And then she wriggled erotically in her chair. Okay, maybe not, but it felt like it.

Yes, the Olympics were going bankrupt until Mitt glommed onto $1.5 billion in FEDERAL MONEY to cover himself in glory. And a lot of that money went to pay off corrupt organizers who were caught taking bribes – just to make them go away. (Several of them have since resurfaced as Romney campaign donors).

Hounddog Huckabee also says this, with a completely straight face!

HUCKABEE: You know, I like — anybody he picks I believe is going to be the result of a very thoughtful and methodical choice. The one thing I admire most about Mitt Romney is that he is not a guy that just acts out of some impetuous visceral reaction. He’s very thoughtful, methodical.

He will make what would really be a very careful business decision. And whoever he selects, I believe, will be the result of a very thoughtful process. And we’ll all get behind him as a Republican.

Yes, Mitt Romney is a robot, and the Republicans just don’t care!

The entire episode was so bizarre, I think you’d be best served by the Bobblespeak Translations:

Stephanopoulos: please bash Obama for me

Huckabee: the private sector is not fine!

Jones: losing in Wisconsin is good because it gave Obama a wake-up call

Coulter: the entire country is enraged against public school teachers! [ psychotic laugh ]

Rendell: bashing firefighters? really?

Huckabee: I love firemen but first we must fire teachers who make $100,000 if you include
all benefits which is outrageous

Jones: Republicans won’t pass their own bills so they can blame Obama for failing

Stephanopoulos: are you saying they are rooting for failure?

Jones: no I’m not – I’m saying they are creating failure!

Coulter: firefighters have huge pensions!

Rendell: would you fire firefighters?

Coulter: [ lunatic chortle ]

Stephanopoulos: Should Obama attack Bain Capital?

Rendell: first Mitt says he created 10,000 jobs and then it was 100,000 – which is it?

Huckabee: Romney was not supposed to create any jobs at all and he wassuccessful at that

Coulter: Mitt Romney has the Midas touch!

Jones: didn’t Midas destroy everything eventually

Coulter: [ sociopathic chuckle ]

Stephanopoulos: let’s use Bill Clinton to bash Obama!

Huckabee: Bill Clinton was a great President!

Stephanopoulos: you tried to impeach Clinton and called him a murderer
Continue Reading →

Nuns on the loose

So many Catholics have told me how angry they are at the Vatican for coming down on nuns for the work they do with the poor — instead of speaking out against abortions. Now some of those social-justice nuns will take to the highways to speak out against Paul Ryan’s unChristian budget proposals:

Washington (CNN) – American nuns are taking their opposition of the proposed Paul Ryan budget to the American people and embarking on a bus tour through some of America’s most politically important states.

NETWORK, a group founded by 47 Catholic sisters that speaks out on social justice issues in particular, will be hitting states like Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia in order to reveal “how federal budget cuts proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, (R-WI), and passed by the House of Representatives will hurt struggling families in these states,” a release by the group reads.

In interviews after unveiling his budget, Ryan said that he applied his view of Catholic social teaching in his budget proposal, a statement that Sister Simone Campbell, the executive director of NETWORK, said co-opted sacred Catholic teachings.

“I think he was so direct in draping himself in the mantle of Catholic social teaching,” Campbell said. “He took the words but he took none of the meaning in the forming of the budget.”

Campbell continued: “It is one thing to have political differences, but to try to hide a budget that will devastate people and claim that it is supported by your faith. It is unacceptable. He is wrong and he needs to be told so.”

Ryan’s $3.53 trillion dollar budget doubles down on past proposals Republicans have made to overhaul Medicare and other government programs that are seen as politically sensitive. While the budget has little chance to become law, it draws a distinct contrast with Democratic views on spending and will loom large in the 2012 race for the presidency.

Ryan was given an opportunity to respond to Catholics who have questioned his budget in a speech at Georgetown University, the oldest Catholic university in the country.

“Of course, there can be differences among faithful Catholics on this. The work I do, as a Catholic holding office, conforms to the social doctrine as best I can make of it,” said Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican. “What I have to say about the social doctrine of the church is from the viewpoint of a Catholic in politics applying my understanding of the problems of the day.”

Ryan’s lying, as some Catholic theologians have already pointed out.

The Georgetown speech also gave Catholic opponents an opportunity to confront Ryan with their disapproval. As Ryan delivered the remarks, he came face-to-face with protesters who unveiled a banner that read “Stop the War on the Poor.” Outside the event, Catholics United protested the event. A little over a dozen people stood outside Healy Hall, where the speech took place, and held a sign the read, “WERE YOU THERE WHEN THEY CRUCIFIED THE POOR?”

Ah, who needs plankton?

I’m sure if we just keep talking about President Obama’s birth certificate, this will all go away:

BOOTHBAY, Maine — Phytoplankton. If the mention of the tiny plant organisms that permeate the world’s oceans isn’t enough to pique your interest, consider this: They produce the oxygen in every other breath you take.

Still not interested? This is where it’s hard not to take notice. In 2007, the reproduction rate of phytoplankton in the Gulf of Maine decreased suddenly by a factor of five — what used to take a day now takes five — and according to a recently released study by the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in Boothbay, it hasn’t bounced back.

So what does it mean? According to Barney Balch, the lab’s senior research scientist and lead author of the study, such a change in organisms at the bottom of the planetary food chain and at the top of planetary oxygen production could have disastrous consequences for virtually every species on Earth, from lobsters and fish that fuel Maine’s marine industries to your grandchildren. But the 12-year Bigelow study focused only on the Gulf of Maine, which leads to the question, will it spread?

“I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to know that if you shut down the base of the marine food web, the results won’t be positive,” said Balch.

Balch said the study, which was published recently in the Marine Ecology Progress Series, provides one of the strongest links to date between increases in rainfall and temperature over the years and the Gulf of Maine’s ecosystem. Key factors in the study’s conclusions were driven by 100 years of records on rainfall and river discharge, both of which have increased by between 13 and 20 percent over the past century.

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