Links 2/24/11

Sexy monkeys wash with own urine BBC

Researchers create computer that fits on a pen tip Computer World

Toxins from South African mines threaten city Independent

Judge says WikiLeaks’ Assange can be extradited Washington Post. This is clearly over my pay grade. I though you could be extradited if the crime you are accused of is a crime in the country from which you are to be extradited. I didn’t think having a condom break during sex and then refusing a DNA test was a crime in England. But Assange’s counsel didn’t argue that, apparently. Perhaps the form of the writ from Sweden does not allow such fine points to be raised.

Gaddafi expects “big father” role in new regime, says son France24 (hat tip reader Tim C)

Reports: Libyan pilots refuse to bomb city, eject from plane CNN

Gaddafi loses more Libyan cities Aljazeera

Iran will benefit from this Arab spring Financial Times

Oil spike! FT Alphaville (hat tip Richard Smith). Yowee!

Oil price ‘could hit $220 a barrel’ Guardian

Scrambling to swap Libyan crude for Saudi FT Alphaville. Some have contended that Saudi Arabia does not have much production slack. This may test that thesis.

Wheat Resumes Plunge as African Unrest Drives Away Speculators Bloomberg. Here I though speculators had nothing to do with commodity prices and food above all commodity groups was certain to remain pricey.

Koch Denies Interest in No-Bid Deals; Opens New Lobby Shop PR Watch

Indiana state prosecutor fired over remarks about Wisconsin protests CNN (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Life on the Run For Democrats In Union Fights New York Times

Goldman sees danger in US budget cuts Financial Times. A little late to be saying that now, don’t ya think?

Austerity’s inauspicious historical precedents Felix Salmon. Per the Leonhardt sighting yesterday (which Felix picks up on) is conventional wisdom beginning to turn in the US? Or perhaps more accurately, people who had largely sat out this debate finally weighing in?

BlackRock Buys 25% Stake in Ex-Treasury Aide’s Bank Venture Bloomberg. Wonder why no regulator has looked at CDOs in serious way? Does it have something to do with the fact that Lee Sachs was a partner at Tricadia, which was the creator of some of the very worst synthetic CDOs? And BlackRock does a handsome amount of business with the Fed and the Federal government.

Gov. Walker Informed That Bill Targeting Unions May Cost State $46 Million In Federal Funds Huffington Post (hat tip reader furzy mouse). Note that this exceeds the $30 million in cuts the unions already agreed to.

The High Stakes Union Stare-Down Bloomberg. Makes clear, without this being the main focus of the piece, that the antipathy towards taxes is a driver, and is in conflict with the fact that most Americans are not opposed to unions. But as I have indicated, antipathy towards taxes is a distinctly American phenomenon (no other country I know of has such acute resentment, and resentment was also lower in the higher-taxed early 1980s). Grover Norquist and his ilk have truly won.

CBOE to Relaunch Credit Event Binary Options (CEBOs) Contracts on March 8 PRNewswire (hat tip Bruce Krasting). I want to vomit. Retail CDS. As reader Scott said, “We can’t realize our dream of a truly equitable society until every individual has a leveraged cdo-squared option in her 401(k).”

Does a 13 Percent Drop in Homes Prices Since June “Reflect an Improved Economy” Dean Baker

Arizona Bill Would Void Foreclosures Without Full Title History Bloomberg

A small hedge fund manager’s lament John Hempton

Zaiteku and China’s January inflation Michael Pettis

Antidote du jour:

Screen shot 2011-02-24 at 6.56.43 AM

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46 comments

    1. IF

      To return to Yves original point, in the EU it is possible to be extradited for non-crimes. A famous case was
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerhard_Haderer#Religious_Controversy

      The idea behind these EU contract is that each country has high legal standards. Which of course is not true considering the corrupt legal systems in some of the new countries. This did not stop politicians from signing the treaties. Of course, so far the system has not been tested very often. While there is a lot of smoke and mirrors in the case, I think Germany has used such a request when asking Poland for Uri Brodsky
      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/08/05/polish-court-orders-alleg_n_671545.html

    2. Paul Repstock

      The really interesting thing is ho corrupt the British judiciary are. Assange is to be extridited to Sweden to face charges ‘which have not been laid’ and for which there is only hearsay evidence, as the flimsiest excuse to distance themselves from an illegal arrest by the United States, where he will again face a nonspecific charge for conducting a ‘Legal’ activity…

      George Orwell would have had a siezure trying to put this into prose.

      1. Paul Repstock

        As Mr. assange spent 10 days ‘physically in Sweden’, after this incident, trying to resolve it. I think it behooves the government of that country to clarify their position with specifics if not criminal charges.

        What is really wanted and what the US government is paying the judiciaries of Britain and Sweden for, is to get control of Mr. Assange, so they can pump him full of enough drugs to find out who ‘really’ gave Wikileaks all those files…

        After that they can make some nice waterboarding videos they can watch to make them feel like real men. Perversions abound.

      2. dearieme

        “ho corrupt the British judiciary are”: very unlikely. It’s much likelier that they are interpreting correctly EU extradition law, shameful though it be.

        The British extradition treaty with the US is also disgraceful – all thanks to Mr Blair.

  1. Wild Bill

    Please explain your hate for retail, exchange-listed CDS. Or did your 12-year old daughter get a hold of the computer and type “I want to vomit.” Never heard an adult use that expression.

    1. Cedric Regula

      eeeeew puky. But I knew they had to come out somewhere. If we are last to have a shot at them, does that mean we are the designated “dumb money”?

    2. craazyman

      I use it all the time.

      Just reading the headlines themselves makes me want to vomit. Not sure I can even handle the stories without a 1 mg Xanax. And they all say the same thing after a while, anyway. You can simplify them all down to three words: Fuk You Fool!

      That and a big glass of cheap red wine. Sometimes if you have a few big glasses with the Xanax you really do want to vomit in the morning.

      It’s hard to know if it’s the wine and the xanax or just the hangover from the debauchery that parades as virtue. But whatever it is, it makes me want to vomit. :0{

      1. craazyman

        and speaking of inflation I doubt very many Naked Capitalism readers eat sardines.

        Most of youze guys are probably millionaires who eat pheasant under glass with a 1982 Bordeaux, if not some brandy from the time of Napolean. I had that once, on Nantucket, after a long inebriated lunch and my girlfriend puked it up on the beach after while riding on the back of my moped. That was the most expensive puke I’ve ever seen. boowahhahahahaha

        They used to squeeze 4 sardines in the “skinless and boneless” peel off tin. But a few months ago it was always 3. That’s 25% inflation, by my math. They’re also fitting fewer anchovies in the anchovy tin.

        Sometimes inflation is right in front of you but I’m sure at the Fed or the NBER Sardines are still only $2.48. I bet those dudes don’t eat sardines unless someone else peels the can open in the back kitchen. What do they know?

    3. Yves Smith Post author

      CDS have no social value and cannot be adequately margined and still be economical as a product. So if said exchange required sufficient margin, they’d be a non product.

      I’ve written on CDS ad nauseum. They ought to be banned but banning outright would lead to dislocations and gaming, so they’d need to be strangled slowly, say by requiring gradually higher capital charges over time and on exchanges, higher margin.

  2. rd

    Gaddafi and Ahmedinijab are looking for helpers to assisting them in managing the unruly elements of their populations. Putin probably is too. The Indiana state prosecutor could apply to them for jobs. It appears he would fit right in to their non-liberal forms of governments.

  3. Denis

    I’m not sure how you got the impression that antipathy towards taxes is a distinctly American phenomenon. My own impression is that, on either side of the pond, everyone loves taxes that *others* are paying.

    At best, there might be less tax-related grumbling in Europe because VAT (which accounts for roughly 50% of State budgets) is included in all taxes and the corporate tax rate is slightly higher.

    Also, I seem to recall that, when combining all taxes (federal, state, local, income, corporate, basically anything that might possibly apply) Chicago recently became the most heavily taxed location in the world. Surely Americans don’t hate taxes as much as they say they do.

    1. dave

      Pretty much. The purpose of taxes in the US seems to be to squeeze as much out of working people as possible. Are you above the poverty line but not rich? Do you work for a living, especially if you actually put effort into having some kind of career that pays. Well lets try to squeeze every possible dollar out of you and split it between plutocrats and the poor.

      I remain puzzled why anyone making less then $1mil even pays taxes. It seems you could get by with moderately higher taxes on the super rich and more efficient and streamlined government without taxing labor at all.

      Right now all I see is a huge chunk of my paycheck being taken to pay for programs I don’t benefit from. Of course I’m pissed, who wouldn’t be.

      1. Externality

        One of the other reasons that the middle class is taxed is to create a Cass Sunstein-style “nudge” to engage in or refrain from engaging in various behaviors. The tax code also allows the government to penalize conduct that it cannot, under the Constitution, criminalize.

        Mortgage interest is deductible, for example, so as to encourage the middle and upper classes to buy, not rent, their home. Why? Because TPTB have decided that the middle and upper classes should buy, not rent. Middle and upper-income people can still rent, they just pay more taxes for the “privilege.”

        The tax code also creates incentives and disincentives for heterosexual marriage, while financially punishing domestic partnerships and same-sex marriage. Since the Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws in 2002, the government can no longer use the criminal justice system to penalize LGBTs. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_v._Texas Instead, it uses the tax code to financially penalize LGBT families buy forcing them to pay taxes that a similarly situated heterosexual family would not:

        As it stands now, gay workers who are fortunate enough to work for employers that extend health insurance to domestic partners are still at a disadvantage because they are taxed on the value of that coverage — a tax that is not paid by the heterosexual married person in the next cubicle.

        [snip]

        Under federal law, employer-provided health benefits for domestic partners are counted as taxable income, if the partner is not considered a dependent. The tax owed is based on the value of the partner’s coverage paid by the employer.

        As a result, employees with domestic partners will pay about $1,069 more a year in taxes, on average, than a married employee with the same coverage, according to a 2007 report by M.V. Lee Badgett, research director of the Williams Institute, which studies sexual orientation policy issues. (Given the escalating cost of health care, those numbers may be even higher now).

        http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/08/facebook-to-reimburse-gay-workers-for-benefit-tax/

        Somehow, the courts have decided that one _cannot_ be made to pay a $1,000 _criminal fine_ for being LGBT but _can_ be made to pay a $1,000 _tax_ for being LGBT.

        The ability to penalize, via the tax code, conduct that the government cannot criminalize, is a powerful incentive to force the middle class to pay taxes, file tax returns, etc.

        1. attempter

          Did you see how Obama said the reason he dropped his legal defense of DOMA is because he recognized how it was inconveniencing rich gays?

          http://ladypoverty.blogspot.com/2011/02/right-to-marry.html

          That link describes a likely, typical way liberal policy will play out here.

          As for taxation in general, by now it’s rational for the non-rich in America to hate and oppose all taxes, since we know that every cent extracted by government will be handed over to the corporations. Taxation is simply wealth redistribution from the non-rich to the rich, from the people to the corporations.

          So taxation is nothing but forcing us to submit to our own much-needed, already diminishing income being taken from us and handed over to our enemies.

          At the most basic level, how can government claim legitimacy to tax at all as it “austeritizes” and guts all public interest spending?

          Austerity equals not only robbery, it equals the abdication of government.

          (There are many such measures of abdication. Pick whichever is most appealing to one. But there’s no coherent viewpoint left which can justify government in this form.)

    2. tyaresun

      Do you think the black market economy in countries like India is so big because the population just loves to thumb their nose at the govt.? What about Greece and Italy, do you think those fine folks pay all taxes legally owed?

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        We have tons of tax cheating and avoidance at the top. You can have the kind you do with accountants and loopholes, or the kind you do with cruder measures.

        I am talking about active discussion and hatred of taxes. Trust me, I’ve traveled a lot and worked around the world, it is worse here than in most if not all other advanced economies. I did not say other countries did not have some dislike of taxes, I said it was worse here when the US in fact has lower tax rates than most advanced economies.

        1. Captain Teeb

          After 12 years of living in high-tax Belgium, I think that part of the reason that other countries have less active tax-hatred is that they feel that they get something for their taxes. They have guaranteed healthcare, state pensions, good roads, public transport, university is almost free, etc. Whether these benefits can continue is another story (which the natives here are reluctant to discuss), but that’s the perception everywhere I go in continental Europe. (Also, the non-taxed black market is a large part of Belgian economy; every plumber or electrician I’ve used, for example, was willing to work ‘in the black’ and many will only work that way.)

          Contrast that with the US, where taxes are a bit lower but you get nothing for it. From what I hear, even the infrastructure is crumbling.

          1. Anonymous Jones

            I know this is unreasonably snarky, but I’m truly confident that “nothing” does not mean what you think it means.

  4. Anon

    Biter bit shock viz. Bloomberg story on Arizona foreclosure bill:

    “If you foreclose on somebody you should have to tell them who owns the property,” Michele Reagan, who sponsored [Arizona] Senate Bill 1259, said in a telephone interview. “People have the right in this country to face their accusers.” The Republican lawmaker is in litigation with her mortgage servicer, which she said won’t identify the owner of the loan.

  5. EmilianoZ

    Rolling Stone has another scoop:

    “The U.S. Army illegally ordered a team of soldiers specializing in “psychological operations” to manipulate visiting American senators into providing more troops and funding for the war, Rolling Stone has learned – and when an officer tried to stop the operation, he was railroaded by military investigators.”

    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/another-runaway-general-army-deploys-psy-ops-on-u-s-senators-20110223?page=1

  6. Craig

    ” I didn’t think having a condom break during sex and then refusing a DNA test was a crime in England.”

    I do not follow the whole Assange business very closely and have little to say about it. But you owe your readers a higher degree of intellectual honesty than that. From the very article you link to:

    “The other…claims that Assange had unwanted, unprotected sex with her while she was asleep…[The Judge] said: ‘In this country that would amount to rape.'”

      1. Cedric Regula

        We used to call that a “wakeup call”.

        Besides, in what country do women sleep with rapists???

    1. gatopeich

      I thought everybody already knew that the “wake up call” happened the morning after a long night of crazy AND consensuated sex. And that the women only sued after realizing they had not become The WikiLeaks Girlfriend, after such hard work.

  7. sheepdog

    When will any story about Wisconsin focus on two perpetrators of the Wall Street meltdown who were second only to the Koch brothers in campaign donations to Governor Walker of Wisconsin?
    I am referring to the Building Industry Association (BIA) and Associated Builders and Contractors ABC, both powerful national developer lobbying groups who promoted the runaway financing, regulatory decontrol and thus overbuilding during the boom years.
    These groups captured local, state and national politicians with their massive campaign donations. Since the bust, these groups have been spending mega bucks buying politicians again who are willing to shift blame for local and state government budget problems from their insane overbuilding with crazy financing that became an economic bust to union pay and pensions as the budget busters. this shift of course negates their role in creating the bust that made pensions and pay budget issues.

  8. Hugh

    The Saudis can turn on the taps for a bit. But there are two questions. How much of this is heavy sour stuff? And how much of this is against future production? You see they have a finite amount of reserves. What they pump now means they will have less to pump later. For political reasons and to keep the world addicted to oil, the Saudis have an interest in making these kinds of gestures. The willingness to pump a little more might be all that’s needed. Even if they pump a little more for a few months, it still will not be a big deal. Pumping at elevated levels for a year or two, now that would make a difference.

    I’m with Paul Repstock on Assange. This says a lot about the integrity of the British courts. We think because our own are so compromised that it must be better elsewhere, but “better” doesn’t necessarily mean good.

  9. dearieme

    “antipathy towards taxes is a distinctly American phenomenon”: well the whole justification for your country was that Americans shouldn’t have to pay even a modest fraction of their share of taxes.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The objection was not paying taxes but “taxation without representation”. Big difference. And as indicated, resentment of taxes in the US was much lower in the 1950s through 1970s, when individual tax rates were much higher. You need to understand that this sentiment has been cultivated very effectively. Google Grover Norquist.

  10. Cedric Regula

    “Sexy monkeys wash with own urine”

    I don’t care what scientist say. I’m sticking with Polo.

  11. MichaelC

    Took my daughter to the Museum of Nat Hist today (NYC) and don’t you know, the name on the building length banner, front and center, as sponsor of the renovation: Koch.

    Also key sponsor of PBS NOVA (never noticed before).

    There’s no place to hide from that name it seems.

  12. Elliot X

    from Exiledonline: Everyone wants some of that Koch money. Washington Post shamelessly shills for rightwing billionaire brothers and their Supreme Court lackeys.

    Washington Post: “Justices Scalia and Thomas. The two drew fire from the liberal interest group Common Cause for accepting free trips from the Federalist Society to speak at dinners hosted by corporate titan and political donor Charles Koch…..”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/20/AR2011022002961.html

  13. I'm Robert Siegel

    .. and I’m doing you a huge favor by talking to you at all.

    I’ve been watching the Al-Jazeera live feed quite a lot these last few weeks, and I fear it may have spoiled me for NPR.

    Oh, al-J isn’t perfect of course. But still. The intellectual level is so infinitely higher than anything — apart from the fundies, of course – that you’ll find in the US of A. And nobody on the Al-J has that irritating testy condescending way of saying – after a half-beat pause, to give the statement agogic emphasis – “And I’m… Robert Siegel.” Stop the presses. Really, Robert, who gives a f**k? And I’m… Eliyahu. And I’m… The Spanish Inquisition.

    I happened to walk just now into one of the Versailles-like chambers here in Chateau Smith, where one of my family was listening to NPR. The topic appeared to be a fretful worrification about…al-Qaeda! What’s up with al-Qaeda, now that all the rules of the Mideast game got suddenly rewritten in the last two-three weeks?

    It’s hard to find an analogy that does justice to the sublime inanity of this topic. The closest I can get is, What will happen to stamp collectors if the sea level rises ten feet? Not quite right. Somebody come up with a better one. There’s a Valuable Prize for the winner.

    It was sorta fun to listen for a few minutes – like watching a flea circus, or a chess match in a nursing home; sincere sweaty-browed effort in a sharply circumscribed field of play.

    But I had to run from the room – with hollow shriek the steep of Delphos leaving – when they brought on somebody from, what, GWU or some such place, who was accredited as a “terrorism expert.”

    That dyad is a quadrate term in bogosity, innit? Unless the interviewee was Osama himself — which seems doubtful.

    Terrorism – an empty signifier. Expert – another. Terrorism times expert – math doesn’t offer the right parallel; it’s more like mixing two parts ectoplasm and one part phlogiston….”

    http://stopmebeforeivoteagain.org/

    Posted by Michael J. Smith on Thursday February 24

  14. DH

    I enjoyed the Newt Hypocrite Story. The bum made choices to be unethical, dishonest, unfaithful and be a slutty whore, and that’s just his personal life — and then the shi_bag republican that newt is, is another matter entirely — but there is a pattern to his being a whore in public life and private life and I don’t see the difference between newt the whore as politician and newt the whore as a husband or parent — but apparently the god that newt worships never looks back on the sins of the whores. Does anyone know what church he goes to… I imagine there are a lot of whores there that are thanking God everyday, and hoping they can get new trophy wives, or no doubt there are omen that go to that church that are looking to be forgiven too and play along, thanking god that the past is behind them too ….. God, please forgive newt for being a shi-bag whore and on top of that, forgive for being a corrupt republican that steals from taxpayers!

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/23/newt-gingrich-affair_n_826970.html

    “You adamantly oppose gay rights… but you’ve also been married three times and admitted to having an affair with your current wife while you were still married to your second,” Isabel Friedman, president of the Penn Democrats, asked Gingrich after a speech at the University of Pennsylvania, according to Politico. “As a successful politician who’s considering running for president, who would set the bar for moral conduct and be the voice of the American people, how do you reconcile this hypocritical interpretation of the religious values that you so vigorously defend?”

    “I’ve had a life which, on occasion, has had problems,” Gingrich said. “I believe in a forgiving God, and the American people will have to decide whether that their primary concern. If the primary concern of the American people is my past, my candidacy would be irrelevant. If the primary concern of the American people is the future… that’s a debate I’ll be happy to have with your candidate or any other candidate if I decide to run.”

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