The John Batchelor Show

Tuesday 18 June 2013

Air Date: 
June 18, 2013


Fifty-five million years ago, a fossil thought to be the earliest-discovered ancestor of small tree-dwelling primates called tarsiers; even at that early time, the tarsier and anthropoid [i.e., our human] groups had split apart. Picture above: how the ancient primate might have looked, in its natural habitat of trees (artistic reconstruction).


Co-host: Larry Kudlow, The Kudlow Report, CNBC; and Cumulus Media radio

Hour One

Tuesday  18 June    2013 / Hour 1, Block A: Larry Kudlow, The Kudlow Report, CNBC; and Cumulus Media radio, in re: Fed speak: Ben Bernanake will leave in January. Mr Heavener spoke of 3, 4, 5% - a bull's bull. Best guess I know is 3% for next year; Ken Heavener's very smart, must  be counting on housing and automotive. I'm still in the 2% camp. Today's CBO: projections on immigration . ..  more people coming into the labor force increases ec growth. We've had a falling participation rate, flat labor force. Say you h ad 500K now people in he labor force annually: net improvement, sep with brainiacs.  We educate lots of brilliant Asians – then don’t let them stay. How stupid is that? Most countries have shrinking populations and labor forces; US fertility rate is slowing below 2.1% to danger territory; GOP is hung up on border security.

Tuesday  18 June    2013 / Hour 1, Block B:    Avik Roy, Manhattan Institute, in re: Wonktalk: Can Avik Roy and Ezra Klein find common ground on Obamacare?  AR use the term "rate shock" – and Ezra Klein doesn’t disagree, so Avik wins. Ezra disagrees by saying that it's more morally important for young people to pay more to support older and sicker people.  We on the right usually think of taxes as the redistribution method; now we have health care to subsidize some of us.  "But young people will get older some day so they should see the benefit of being n the system" – egad, "should is a dangerous word.  The avg 30-year-old, being economically rational, will opt out of Obamacare to save $5,000 PA. There are different mkts for private health care ins: maybe you’re a freelancer; then a small group mkt (=/<50  or 100 workers); then a large-group mkt; then a whole other category of huge firms that self-insure.  Ezra Signed-sealed-delivering for OFA: apparently the Obama team has accepted that we're all going to have sticker shock – which is not how it was originally presented.  Ezra is smart, and represents conservative arguments fairly.

Tuesday  18 June    2013 / Hour 1, Block C: Allan H Meltzer, Carnegie Mellon, and distinguished visiting fellow, Hoover [and institutional memory of the Fed]; in re: Quantitative Quicksand Project Syndicate.  Bernanke will leave in January but the sluggishness remains.  Mr Bernanke's policies these last years are ineffective; in future, what need to be done: 1. Dvp a strategy that looks long-term and aims at a target – low inflation or stable growth, e.g.. From 1985 to 2002 was the longest period in which we had low inflation, robust growth  and short recessions. The day-to-day, month-to-month tactics don’t work. With $2 trillion, going on $3 trillion, of excess reserves – all the money they’re pouting out is going into excess reserves; we're paying foreign bankers .25% PA to foreigner. Must stop. 3. Fed has to recognize that most of the problems we have are real, not monetary: president keeps saying he'll raise taxes; healthcare program to add to labor costs, terrible regulatory structure (started before m added to by this Adm); most similar moment in US history was 19368 under Roosevelt – Zero interest rates now are the reason for low velocity of money.  Multiply a trillion dollars by ¼ of 1%, you get a lot of money –that otherwise wd go to the Treasury; taxpayers's money – going out of the country, stuck in banks –its scandalous. Friedan taught s that money growth causes inflation.  What's pushing up the housing mkt? Not new family formations. Demand is coming from speculators. Blackstone bought 29,000 homes in suburbia & Deutsche offered more cash. They’re warehousing, Phoniest housing boom in my experience – which is quite long. They get the first-round effect then it goes into excess reserves. When Pres Kennedy was going into Vietnam, he asked a senior mil man, who responded, "Yes, you can get in; but how will you get out?  Once it gets into the money growth, it'll start inflation.  Who shd replace Bernanke? Someone with a strategy, such as the Taylor Rule – ergo, John Taylor, for example. Volcker had a strategy; that it takes time and you have to do it step by bloody step. Bernanke says again and again, "I'll decide what to do when I see the numbers" – which is the wrong way to do it. New Fed chairman, between Yellin and Summers? "I'd choose anyone but Larry Summers." . . .  . Guess I’d pick Ferguson.   Geithner could get confirmed, but you don’t  hear his name that much. 

Tuesday  18 June    2013 / Hour 1, Block D:  Larry Kudlow, in re: Market is doing a lot of tapering, twisting; long-term rates have peaked. Stock mkt is having its correction come-back. Ten-yr bond got to 2.25%, now is stabilized.  During the great boom of the 80s & 90s, and 5%.  Interest rates will remain very low for a long time. Janet Yellin is a dove and real smart.  Am not sure there'd be that much difference between Bernanke and Yellin.  The Fed believes the money supply will improve growth, with which I disagree. Never liked flooding banks with reserves; M2 is growing – cd get 2, 2.5%.  The Fed's dug itself into a hole – it's beyond them. They're powerless.  Raise tax rates,  lower spending, do what about entitlements?  No obvious solutions. 

Hour Two

Tuesday  18 June    2013 / Hour 2, Block A:  Ei Lake, in re:  Jason Bourne is sitting in JHK talking to the SCMP. We’re looking at what Jason Bourne did to exercise the FBI. This is not Hollywood, it’s American history, What does a 29-yr-old have that makes him so frightening to the most powerful security apparatus in the history of the world?  They’re investigating what he stole and how he stole it.  First doc was Verizon.   FISA court.    Some of the most closely-guarded docs in the country – so much that telcos aren’t allowed to save digital records of warrants. Keith Alexander, NSA dir & head of cybercommands; Snowden found an April order used as part of training FISA employees have.  Cd spoof himself into access into highly-classified section.  Snowden found the court doc inside an NSA training document.   Google & Aurora Act (2009):  Google; court warrants; surveillance.  Fast-moving story, new info every twelve hours or so.  This is the first time that this FISA court info has ever leaked – is a road map to surveillance inside the US.

       FBI Looks for Leaks at Secret Court  Investigators still do not know if the FISA system has been compromised, or if Edward Snowden was the source of the Verizon warrant published by the ‘Guardian’.  Section 702 of FISA and 215 of Patriot Act – collecting metadata; lot of declarative statements. Declassifying a lot of data and publicly acknowledging their existence for he first time, ever   Need to determine just what Snowden has got.  What shd Snowden expect from US govt? Deputy director of the FBI: "Justice."

Tuesday  18 June    2013 / Hour 2, Block B:  Charles Pellegrino, author and explorer, in re: Titanic.

The Titanic steams into St. Clair June 22 New Baltimore Voice Newspapers-Jun 17, 2013
A close-up of the starboard side of the Gary Kohs' builder's model of the Titanic suggests its extraordinary detail. The 18-foot ship is on display . . .

Titanic II - replica plans going full steam ahead E&T magazine-28 minutes ago
RMS Titanic was, legend tells us, 'unsinkable'. But four . . .

The Titanic and the science of cave microbes ABQ Journal (blog)-16 hours ago
Dr. Penelope Boston studies extreme microbial lifeforms who live in environments that share features with the microorganisms that are  . . .

Tuesday  18 June    2013 / Hour 2, Block C:  Robert Zimmerman,, in re: Space engineering. ATV = automatic transfer vehicle.  Heavist cargo ESA has aver launched: 6.5 tons – Russians told  them not to open hatch because of concern for mold in ATV.  Russians early on had nightmare mold problems; now, fearful of mold & bacterial problems, Russians demand waiting till astronauts have relevant cleaning materials.  Red flag: something awry with quality control. NASA picks eight new public relations figureheads, calls them astronauts. To put it bluntly, NASA currently can’t put any astronauts into orbit, and might not be able to do ever again. Any astronauts on NASA’s payroll will thus likely have to beg a seat on a spacecraft built by others. Eventually, that begging won’t get them anywhere, which means that the work these new astronauts will mostly do will be to sell NASA to the public. In the past, the PR work of astronauts only consumed a significant part of their time. For the present and probably in the future, it will be the only work they do. Which makes me question the need to hire these astronauts in the first place. If I had my druthers and ran NASA, I’d rather wait until I actually need some astronauts and then hire the pilots who are flying SpaceShipTwo.

       Virgin Galactic has just sold it 200,000th ticket (to a woman)at $200K each. SpaceX IPO:  "No near-term plans; not till we fly regularly to Mars" [he's making pots of money].

Tuesday  18 June    2013 / Hour 2, Block D: Joshua Zumbrun, Fed Reporter, in re: President Barack Obama said Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke has stayed in his post “longer than he wanted,” one of the clearest signals the central bank chief will leave when his current term expires next year. “Ben Bernanke’s done an outstanding job,” Obama said in an interview with Charlie Rose that aired yesterday, when asked about nominating him for another term subject to Senate approval. “He’s already stayed a lot longer than he wanted or he was supposed to.” Obama likened Bernanke’s tenure to that of outgoing Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller, who stayed on for two years after his term expired in 2011 and is leaving his post in September. Bernanke’s second four-year stint at the central bank ends Jan. 31.

Hour Three

Tuesday  18 June    2013 / Hour 3, Block A:   Reza Kahlili, author, A Time to Betray, in re:    Iran won a soccer match vs Korea, leading to thousands of people out in the streets of Iran celebrating; then ten times that as people went out to protest the regime – which alarms the daylights out of the leadership.  Rouhani regime. The IRGC will take over Iran’s banks. IRAN COMMANDER WARNS OBAMA ON SYRIA  

Denounces White House strategy to give rebels arms.   Iran elects a ‘good cop’ who isn’t good at all.  Iran  has spent $100 billion on its nuclear program; unimaginable that they'd give it up. Are merely buying time. Want not one nuclear bomb but dozens and dozens, mounted on delivery systems. 

Rohani personally issued the order to exile Grand Ayatollah Montazeri. Has represented the Supreme Leader in top security realms since 1989; a vulture in wolf's clothing.

. . . The evidence of hardship is more than anecdotal. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace calculated that Iran’s nuclear program has cost the country at least $100 billion dollars, including oil revenues and foreign investment lost to sanctions. But Karim Sadjadpour, the Carnegie expert who co-wrote the report — as well as the single best study of Khamenei — doesn’t think the economic pain is enough. “I actually think that there won’t be a deal,” he told TIME, also speaking before the vote. The evidence was the defiant tone of the campaigns run by Khamenei’s allies among the senior clerical ranks approved the field of candidates, which included only one moderate (Rowhani). None suggested Iran should cut a deal with the West over its nuclear program. Khamenei’s preferred candidate, Saeed Jalili, once ran Khamenei’s office. Jalili took a break from negotiating on the nuclear program to campaign for President on a platform that Iran should give up nothing in the talks. “If you listen to Jalili’s themes of resistance, it gives no indication that they’re interested in a compromise,” Sadjadpour says. “And I think for them to get the type of meaningful concessions they want, in terms of sanctions relief, they’ll be forced to make compromises which are too far-reaching. I take what they say at face value, and based on their words, I see little indication to believe that they’re preparing for concessions.”

       Ray Takeyh, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, was also skeptical, going by the record to date of Khamenei’s negotiators. “Their position is fairly extravagant,” he says. Iranian negotiators in March turned away a proposal that would have allowed them to retain enough 20% fuel to run the Tehran reactor. “The price they’ve been asking for is pretty exuberant,” Takeyh says.  For pessimists, evidence certainly abounds. Iran not only is nearing the stockpiles of enriched uranium that Israeli officials have called a “red line”; in 2014, Iran plans to fire up another possible route to a nuclear weapon — a heavy water reactor, capable of producing plutonium. That project, in the central Iran city of Arak, could further strengthen the resolve of nations that threaten to set back Iran’s nuclear ambitions by air strikes before it becomes capable of producing atomic weapons.

(MORE: What Rice and Power Mean)  “Whoever considers attacking an active reactor is willing to invite another Chernobyl, and no one wants to do that,” says Amos Yadlin, who, before serving as Israel’s last chief of military intelligence, was among the eight Israeli pilots who destroyed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981, while the facility was still under construction.

Rowhani’s surge may be enough to break the diplomatic logjam. Or it might have no obvious impact at all. The regime operates opaquely in the best of times, and justifies its final decision through the state news media, which is the only news many Iranians see, even today. It’s a situation that allows Khamenei to produce whatever reality he prefers. Which is what makes his March 21 speech a source of at least some measure of solace. “Our assumption is that the Americans do not want the nuclear negotiations to end,” Khamenei said. “The Americans do not want the nuclear conflict to be resolved … In the nuclear issue, Iran only wants the world to recognize its right to enrichment … for peaceful purposes … Is this too much to expect?”

Tuesday  18 June    2013 / Hour 3, Block B:  Jeff Bliss, The Bliss Index, in re: Michael Hastings, 'Rolling Stone' Contributor, Dead at 33   RollingStone; the fearless journalist whose reporting brought down the career of General Stanley McChrystal, has died in a car accident in ... 
Michael Hastings Dead: BuzzFeed Reporter Dies in Car Crash at Age 33   

War Correspondent Michael Hastings Killed in Car Accident   
War Correspondent Michael Hastings Killed in Car Accident

Solyndra update.  Ain’t no sunshine when Siemens is gone: The massive German multinational is getting out of the solar business after posting a loss of more than $1 billion in its two years of operation. The engineering company is a world leader in wind turbine development, but its foray into solar production has been a massive flop.  Siemens’ failure wasn’t due to a lack of innovation. Rather than producing solar energy the conventional way, using photovoltaics, the firm produced solar-thermal power, using mirrors to focus sunlight on tubes of water, and using the resulting steam to power turbines. Bloomberg reports on what went wrong: The segment has been undermined by plummeting costs in the competing photovoltaic panel sector. Three years ago energy from the latter was 10 percent more expensive than solar-thermal, while now it is less than half as much, according to data compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.  Siemens’ solar unit also struggled because of the perception in North Africa, one of the biggest markets for the industry, that the unit was an Israeli company, making it hard to do business there amid the region’s political tensions, according to a person familiar with the company’s strategy, who asked not to be named because of the matter’s sensitivity.  Cheap Chinese photovoltaic panels drove Siemens’ more expensive solar option out of business. But those Chinese panels are riddled with defects, and the companies that produce them are going under as well. Germany is consideringrolling back its government support of its solar industry, a step Spain has already taken. Failure begets failure in the solar industry.

      Despite years of favorable treatment from governments around the world, solar still can’t compete with oil, gas, or coal on the open market. Governments would be better served investing in the research and development of solar technology rather than propping up firms putting out an inferior product. Anything else is just wasting daylight.   . . . In some instances, workers setting up bleachers were supposed to be paid $64.32 per hour" . . .   [more]

Unpretentious spot with a gory history   One of San Francisco's more surreal historic sites is actually located a few yards beyond the city limits, near the southern end of Lake Merced in Daly City.  Down a little dead-end street, near an unexpected gated community and just beyond a forlorn picnic area, there's a small ravine. In this obscure spot, at 7 a.m. on Sept. 13, 1859, the chief justice of California, David Terry, shot and mortally wounded U.S. Sen. David Broderick in a duel.  Two old stone obelisks mark where the antagonists stood, terrifyingly close to each other - the site of one of California's most pointless tragedies.  The death - some called it murder - of David Broderick felt disturbingly preordained.  San Franciscans talked about . . .

Tuesday  18 June    2013 / Hour 3, Block C: Betsy Hiel,  in re: Unchecked looting gut Egypt's heritage, with one ancient site '70% gone'

Tuesday  18 June    2013 / Hour 3, Block D: Ken Anderson, Advancing a Free Society , in re:   The Briefing: Capture Over Kill? – The President’s Counterterrorism Speech and the Detention Conundrum

 Hour Four


Tuesday  18 June    2013 / Hour 4, Block A: Michael Tackett Bloomberg,  in re: Virginia Losing Republican Grip of Old with New Voters   The downtown in Leesburg, Virginia, offers a portrait of attachment to the past. Federal-style buildings line the streets, and the courthouse square features both a plaque commemorating a reading in 1776 of the Declaration of Independence and a statute honoring Confederate soldiers. The picture is misleading. A more accurate rendering reveals a downtown that gives way to suburban growth that has made Loudoun County the wealthiest in the U.S. Technology companies, many with ties to the federal government, and other businesses fueled by the development have stoked an economy attracting higher educated workers and minority populations that have soared since 1990 -- a five-fold increase of Hispanics and seven times the number of Asians.  [more]

Tuesday  18 June    2013 / Hour 4, Block B: Sid Perkins, Nature magazine, in re: early Man at 1 oz.    One key thing: the creature is at or near the base of the Tarsier family tree. Because tarsiers are on a different branch of the family tree from the anthropoids—the lineage including apes, monkeys and humans—this fossil is NOT of a “tree-dwelling ancestor of humans”. (But it’s a close relative of things that were; hope that’s not too confusing…)

Oldest primate skeleton unveiled  Near-complete remains of tiny creature support early origin for lineage that led to humans.  The near-complete fossil of a tiny creature unearthed in China in 2002 has bolstered the idea that the anthropoid group of primates — whose modern-day members include monkeys, apes and humans — had appeared by at least 55 million years ago. The fossil primate does not belong to that lineage, however: it is thought to be the earliest-discovered ancestor of small tree-dwelling primates called tarsiers, showing that even at this early time, the tarsier and anthropoid groups had split apart. The slender-limbed, long-tailed primate, described today in Nature, was about the size of today’s pygmy mouse lemur and would have weighed between 20 and 30 grams, the researchers estimate. The mammal sports an odd blend of features, with its skull, teeth and limb bones having proportions resembling those of tarsiers, but its heel and foot bones more like anthropoids. “This mosaic of features hasn’t been seen before in any living or fossil primate,” says study author Christopher Beard, a palaeontologist at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

By analysing almost 1,200 morphological aspects of the fossil and comparing them to those of 156 other extant and extinct mammals, the team put the ancient primate near the base of the tarsier family tree. The creature is dubbed Archicebus achilles, in which the genus name Archicebus roughly translates as 'original long-tailed monkey', while the species name achilles is a wry nod to the primate's anthropoid-like heel bone.  The number of anatomical characteristics scrutinized by Beard and his colleagues is much higher than is typically covered by a single study, largely thanks to high-resolution scans of the well-preserved fossil and the team’s detailed, decade-long analysis. “This is really fantastic, impressive work,” says Zhe-Xi Luo, a vertebrate palaeontologist at the University of Chicago in Illinois. “Every detail that can be extracted from these fossils has been extracted.”   The primate's remains were recovered from a layer of shale formed from sediments deposited in a lake in what is now eastern China between 54.8 million and 55.8 million years ago, says paper co-author Xijun Ni, a palaeontologist at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing. Fragmentary fossils of primates had already been unearthed from around this era, says Beard, but those usually consisted of just teeth and bits of jawbones; the oldest well-preserved primate skeletons until the new find came from around 48 million years ago.  Because the fossil indicates that the tarsier and anthropoid primate groups split before that era, the anthropoid lineage is also at least that old, says Beard. He says that he and others had suggested a tarsier/anthropoid split of about this time previously, but based on thinner evidence . . .  [more]

Tuesday  18 June    2013 / Hour 4, Block C: Ramesh Ponnuru Bloomberg, AEI, NRO, in re: As the Supreme Court nears the end of its term, the big decisions we are still waiting for concern race and marriage. These decisions offer the court an opportunity to exercise an unwonted self-restraint. In two cases, the court is judging how far governments may go to rectify past discrimination against blacks and foster racial diversity. In two other cases, the court is asking whether governments are unconstitutionally discriminating against gays and lesbians by treating marriage as the union of a man and a woman.   [more]

Tuesday  18 June    2013 / Hour 4, Block D: Michael Hickins, WSJ,  in re: The Technology That Could Help the NSA Parse Data   A set of new technologies is making it relatively affordable and manageable for the National Security Agency to parse millions...

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