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Links 3/19/13

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Athlete Overcomes Rape Onion

AT&T Hacker ‘Weev’ Sentenced to 3.5 Years in Prison Wired (subgenius)

Calculating the True Carbon Footprint of a Renewable Energy Grid OilPrice

Fukushima power ‘partially restored’ BBC

BP asks judge to halt ‘fictitious’ and ‘absurd’ Deepwater oil spill payouts Guardian

Dutch elm disease: Toronto DNA-mapping team gets closer to a cure for tree-killing fungus Toronto Star (frosty zoom)

Tough Guy Taunts a Mob of Mad Cows, Quickly Realizes He Probably Shouldn’t Have Gawker

Khmer Rouge legacy lives on Bangkok Post (furzy mouse)

More Cyprus:

Report: Anastasiades tells Rehn: ‘I told you tax wouldn’t pass. Regards to Mrs Merkel’ ekathimerini

How German fears of underwriting Russian oligarchs pushed Cyprus to crisis Christian Science Monitor (furzy mouse)

Europe’s Reckless Raid on Cyprus’s Savings Bloomberg. Official editorial disapproval

Deauville Zombie Strikes as Cyprus Tax Inflames Crisis Bloomberg

The Cyprus bailout fiasco Columbia Journalism Review

Financial Markets Haven’t Freaked Out over Cyprus (Yet?) Mark Thoma

Cyprus Crisis: Protestors Take to the Streets Bloomberg

Cyprus bailout – live Telegraph. Cyprus working on Plan B, which is basically finding another way to get €5.8 billion from depositors. Latest idea is sparing deposits under €20,000. Not going well.

Syrian Rebels Pick U.S. Citizen to Lead Interim Government New York Times. Wow, we aren’t even bothering to pretend who is in charge, are we? He’s a “relative unknown in opposition politics until recently.”

Donating to the DCCC means helping Dems who vote like Republicans Gaius Publius

Three Reasons the GOP Ironically Remains the Best Hope for Protecting Social Security Jon Walker Firedoglaek (Carol B)

The public, investors mostly ignoring the sequester budget cuts Sober Look

The Shame of America’s Gulag Chris Hedges, TruthDig

U.S. Drug Costs Dropped Last Year, but Trend May Reverse New York Times

Must investors be on Twitter? Felix Salmon

Ladder link helps voles get out more BBC

Citi to pay $730m in subprime settlement Financial Times

Foreclosure Processor Prommis Holdings Files Chapter 11 Bloomberg

Workers Saving Too Little to Retire Wall Street Journal

Direct Deposit and Social Security: Not so Nice for Those who Owe Nathalie Martin, Credit Slips. Another way to screw the unsophisticated

Fed’s exit will be gradual and difficult Gavyn Davies, Financial Times (Brad DeLong)

Regulation = bad = nonsense MacroBusiness

Antidote du jour:

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92 comments

        1. arcadia11

          i’m not even sure what to say…other than there does not seem to be much hope for the human species. the lack of sensitivity to the suffering of other species (and our own), the greed, narcissism, the need for instant gratification, low- consciousness appetites, and a clearly growing tendency toward moral relativism places the planetary majority clearly on the dwindling spiral of devolution and sociopathy.

          good luck to us all.

  1. direction

    Sober Look: “Senators want to load up a routine spending bill with provisions to reopen the White House to tours…”

    Can someone explain to me why that is a high priority item? The sequester is really hurting Americans because the public can no longer gawk at the silverware collection in the presidential palace?

    1. jrs

      Now, now, the symbolism of having the grand apex of power of oligarchs open for tours by the hoi polloi is very important. It’s a government of the people!

  2. Can't Help It

    If the Cyprus thing is turned into a movie, we’ll be watching a scene where a couple of non-descript men (Russian Mafia) with sunglasses boarding a plane from Russia to Cyprus/Germany/etc to “persuade” people that it’s a really bad idea.

  3. b2020

    Shorter Europe: We abolish deposit insurance because we want to make Russian oligarchs pay for bailing out European oligarchs.

    The most comical aspect of this is the “it’s a tax” line. A tax is not “once off”, attainder, or ad hoc. A tax does not travel with handing out bank shares, or gas shares. Usually we do not impose bank holidays to charge a tax. We also do not treat customers like bond holders or “investors”. The fools would have better luck with claiming “eminent financial domain” or some other ludicrous newspeak, at least for comedic value (so that the useless John Stewarts of the world can distract us with funny quips).

    But maybe they actually want to discredit the concept of taxation for services along with the idea of deposit insurance? So that they can drown the economy in bank-owned bathtubs? The elites, by accident or design, are tearing down decades, if not centuries of popular trust and confidence in the systemic institutions of open societies – of any functional modern society, really, never mind “open”. The stupidity and greed involved are simply staggering. Merkel, Schaueble et.al. combine all the arrogance of Schmidt with all the competence of Kohl – an absolutely self-destructing combination. The German tradition of stunning tactical victory in the service of Wagnerian strategic defeat has finally found its optimal peacetime expression.

    1. b2020

      As for Cyprus: “And we want to remain a tax haven and get more foreign money.”

      If Cyprus provides a valuable “English law minus deposit insurance” banking service to the world, surely charging foreign customers without “matching” demands on domestic customers would not be a problem?

      Never mind everybody’s outsized banks destroy them, you can’t pry them out of their cold, dead hands.

    2. gmarks

      There is no “touch move rule” in world chess.

      Ask yourselves – who benefits from such an Arch Duke Ferdinand moment in history?

      Certainly not banks – specifically in Spain, Italy or Greece.

      Bank runs are a certainty now that Cyprus has been fingering several pieces on the board – What better way to increase bank reserves, absent the political will to “reform” casino banksters, here and abroad?

      And where will all the cash flee to? Perhaps the American Stock Market.

      There are no tears for Russian drug monies.. could this be the new “cost” of money laundering? tax evasion?

      I refuse to believe this was a straight forward ‘solution’ to saving the bailout of Cyprus. There is much much more going on here behind the scenes.

      AGAIN — there is no touch move rule in world chess.

      Somebody is testing the waters.

      Cypriot grannies can sleep easy tonight.

      1. gmarks

        Meanwhile Mr Anastasiades’ finance minister Michalis Sarris is on his way to Moscow to seek an extension to an existing €2.5bn loan from the former Soviet state, a top official told French news agency AFP. But could Mr Sarris be about to lose his job?

        Could all that offshore gas be in play? Russian oligarchs take the hit – or Russia puts up the 5.8 billion – and then get the rights to the gas?

    3. jrs

      “But maybe they actually want to discredit the concept of taxation for services along with the idea of deposit insurance?”

      You may be on to something. The U.S. right is already all over it. “See taxes bad, see government taxing wealth bad etc..”.

      Sigh …. I mean the Cyprus situation is complex enough to parse without having to get lost in that particular frontal lobotomy.

      “So that they can drown the economy in bank-owned bathtubs? The elites, by accident or design, are tearing down decades, if not centuries of popular trust and confidence in the systemic institutions of open societies – of any functional modern society, really, never mind “open”. The stupidity and greed involved are simply staggering.”

      yep, it’s global

    4. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      For me, it’s the term ‘bank holiday’ that I have trouble comprehendign.

      Holiday for banks when everything is exploding around them? What holiday – that would not be my idea of it? Certainly for depositors, it’s not a holiday for them.

  4. Ignim Brites

    I suspect that following the Italian elections the purpose of the Cyprus deal is to persuade Italy (and Spain) to leave the Euro. This would help keep France in Eurozone. And the centerpiece of German foreign policy is maintaining the alliance with France.

  5. rjs

    re: renewable grid, ie, “It turns out that that grid storage is energetically expensive, and some technologies, like lead-acid batteries, will require more energy to build and maintain than others.”

    Belgium is building an artifical island to store electricity; the idea is to have a hollow center to the island and pump water out when there’s excessive wind power, and then have it flow back in (powering turbines on the way) when the energy is needed later…

    pumped hydrostorage has been around for a while; it’s a proven cost effective technology…Cleveland Electric & Penn Electric put the Seneca Generators between two lakes of differing elevlations into operation circa 1970…

    when i was involved in a citizen intervention here in ohio in the 80s, i proposed using lake ontario and lake huron, routed through lake simcoe and the already existent canals, to use the great lakes for that purpose, & submitted crude drawings to CEI (now first energy) to do it…ovbiously, my idea went nowhere…but i still think it’s feasible; the great lakes could store a lot of wind energy…

  6. Jim Haygood

    “[In] the 1960s, when the last of the Jim Crow laws were reversed, this whole new set of practices accepted by law enforcement was designed to continue to feed the money-generating prison system, which has neo-slavery at its core.

    “How is it that a 15-year-old in Newark who the country labels worthless to the economy, who has no hope of getting a job or affording college, can suddenly generate 20,000 to 30,000 dollars a year once trapped in the criminal justice system?

    “The expansion of prisons, parole, probation, the court and police systems has resulted in an enormous bureaucracy which has been a boon to everyone from architects to food vendors—all with one thing in common, a paycheck earned by keeping human beings in cages. The criminalization of poverty is a lucrative business, and we have replaced the social safety net with a dragnet.”

    – Chris Hedges, The Shame of America’s Gulag

    “Credibility, in fact, lies at the heart of the problem of developing a political substitute for war. [It] would require “alternate enemies,” some of which might seem farfetched in the context of the current war system.

    “Economic surrogates for war must meet two principal criteria. They must be “wasteful,” in the common sense of the word, and they must operate outside the normal supply-demand system.”

    Report From Iron Mountain, 1967

    “For true endurance, the statutes known as the Rockefeller-era drug laws are hard to beat. The same may be said about attempts to scrap those laws, which came into being in 1973, so long ago that disco was just beginning to be hot.

    “Nelson A. Rockefeller was governor then. Rockefeller wanted to show he could be tough as nails with dope dealers. The result was statutes that eternally bear his name in common idiom. Their essence was to send drug felons to prison for very long stretches, with sentences made mandatory and leniency rendered unacceptable even for first-time offenders.”

    http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/reference/timestopics/subjects/d/drug_abuse_and_traffic/rockefeller_drug_laws/index.html

    The War on Drugs is a War on People.

    1. Brindle

      Life in prison term for marijuana crimes reduced to 25 years.
      Has Obama as president ever suggested we have too many people locked up in this country?…cricketts (chirp).

      —”Slidell-area man who had been given life imprisonment for too many marijuana-related convictions saw that punishment vacated Tuesday and received a significantly lighter sentence.
      Cornell Hood II, 36, must instead serve 25 years, state Judge Raymond S. Childress ruled. He also has the possibility of getting parole sometime in the future.—”

      http://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2011/06/post_277.html

  7. b2020

    “Under political pressure, the Fed is more likely to slow the exit process in order to hold bond yields down and protect its own balance sheet against losses. That is the main reason why the exit looks so much harder than the entry.”

    Pace Hussman, this is a load of crock. The Fed has painted itself into a corner, and it is not in control. If the “exit process” moves the wrong way, the Fed’s balance sheet is history. Political pressure? Oh wait, a DeLong link….

    1. Cynthia

      The complete monetization (by a relative few) continues. Isn’t fascism great? Bailouts for them, bankruptcy and debt-slavery for everyone else. Anyone else notice that CNBC is no longer allowing comments on their “journalism.” This is full frontal naked banana imperialism, folk! Buy low and sell high, so long as selling is still allowed, I guess. Some things never change.

      1. Propertius

        Or, as the man said so many years ago:

        L’etat opprime et la loi triche,
        L’impôt saigne le malheureux,
        Nul devoir ne s’impose au riche,
        Le droit du pauvre est un mot creux.
        C’est assez languir en tutelle,
        L’égalité veut d’autres lois;
        «Pas de droits sans devoirs», dit-elle,
        «Egaux, pas de devoirs sans droits!»

        ;-)

  8. b2020

    Cyprus realkommentariat – “For the widow depositor, substitute the pension fund holding local-law bonds.”

    Another line of crock. Because it isn’t like pension funds are being bled, defaulted upon and abandoned anyway. Taking money from depositors will save Cyprus’ pension funds. Just we wait….

  9. AbyNormal

    hey Yves, here’s that ‘Intent’ angle Again

    reuters, U.S. District Judge Robert Patterson in Manhattan said the investors, who bought and sold COMEX silver futures and options contracts, failed to show that JPMorgan manipulated prices at their expense, including by amassing huge short positions that were not justified by market events at the time.

    In a decision made public on Monday, Patterson said that while the investors showed that JPMorgan had the ability to influence prices, a fact the bank did not dispute, they failed to show that the bank “intended to cause artificial prices to exist” and acted accordingly.

    1. davidgmills

      Sometimes the requirement of proving intent is a ridiculous standard. How about a strict liability standard instead? Seems much more appropriate in these kinds of cases.

    2. Ms G

      This is an example of a judge who has all the clues in front of him pointing neon-like in only one direction (and obviously, one might add) but can’t connect the dots because he’s never set foot in, or been near, the Wall Street boiler-room dynamic (which of course is not limited to what are literally called “boiler-rooms”), so he does not have the first-hand experience that would immediately recognize “intent” in the particular purchasing and selling of options that occurred in this case.

  10. Klassy!

    Scrolling down after reading the short Cyprus bailout story at CJR, I came upon this:
    Bloomberg’s Jonathan Weil makes an amazing catch on the latest Ernst & Young wrist slap from the Justice Department, this time over illegal tax shelters the accounting firm helped 200 clients abuse to cheat the government out of billions of dollars.

    Weil finds the Obama administration, incredibly, kissing their back ends, so to speak:

    Yet there was one area where Ernst made out beyond all reason: A veritable love letter at the bottom of the statement of facts that Ernst and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York agreed to as part of their accord. It said: “The wrongdoing in this case by a small group of professionals at E&Y represented a deviation from the more than 100-year history of ethical and professional conduct by E&Y and its partners.”

    To which one can only respond: What? I asked Julie Bolcer, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney, what the factual basis was for the statement. She declined to comment. Amy Call Well, an Ernst spokeswoman, declined to answer the same question.

    1. diane

      Thanks much for that, Klassy!, loved this part (bolding mine):

      Just, wow.

      Weil runs down a list of 19 serious E[rnst]&Y[oung] settlements, charges, and sanctions over the last two decades and embarrasses the Justice Department.

      That list, from Jonathan Weil’s referenced Bloomberg piece:

      1990

      – The Securities and Exchange Commission barred Ernst from accepting new public-company audit work in the New York region for 45 days, after accusing it of professional misconduct during its audits a decade earlier at Norwalk, Connecticut-based U.S. Surgical Corp.

      1991

      – The SEC sued Ernst over auditor-independence violations, after finding that RepublicBank Corp., an audit client, lent millions of dollars to the firm’s partners and to tax-shelter, real-estate partnerships in which they invested. The case was settled in 1995. A judge ordered Ernst to comply with the SEC’s independence rules.

      1992

      – Ernst paid $400 million to resolve government claims related to the 1980s savings-and-loan crisis.

      1999

      – Ernst paid $335 million to settle investor lawsuits over its certifications of fraudulent financial statements at Cendant Corp. The SEC later suspended two Ernst partners, saying they aided the company’s securities-law violations.

      2003

      – Documents in an Arkansas court case showed that Ernst and other Big Four accounting firms had routinely overbilled clients for travel expenses by charging them full fare for airline tickets while pocketing large rebates they had negotiated in volume-discount contracts with carriers. Ernst reached an $18 million class-action settlement and said it stopped the practice.

      – Former Ernst partner Thomas Trauger was arrested on charges of obstructing government investigations. He later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year in prison for destroying documents related to the firm’s audits of NextCard Inc., a credit-card issuer. Two other former Ernst auditors entered guilty pleas in related cases.

      – Richard Bobrow, Ernst’s global chief executive, left the firm after his attempts to conceal his wealth during divorce proceedings backfired. The partnership’s innermost financial details were disclosed after the New York Times asked a judge to make the records public. Bobrow was in the job for about a year.

      – Sprint Corp. replaced Ernst as its auditor after the Internal Revenue Service began reviewing tax shelters the firm sold to top Sprint executives, who were forced out by the company’s board earlier that year.

      2004

      – The SEC barred Ernst from accepting new public-company audit clients for six months over auditor-independence violations, after uncovering a revenue-sharing agreement Ernst had with PeopleSoft Inc. when it was the company’s auditor.

      – Ernst agreed to pay $125 million to settle banking regulators’ claims over its audits of Hinsdale, Illinois-based Superior Bank FSB, which collapsed in 2001.

      2007

      – Ernst was censured by the SEC and paid $1.6 million to settle the agency’s claims of professional misconduct and auditor-independence violations related to its audit work for PNC Financial Services Group Inc.

      2008

      – The SEC censured Ernst and two partners for professional misconduct over a business relationship between the firm and a director on the boards of three Ernst audit clients, including Best Buy Co. Ernst paid $2.9 million to settle the SEC’s claims of auditor-independence violations.

      2009

      – A jury convicted former Ernst attorney and partner James Gansman on six felony counts of tipping his girlfriend about acquisition targets of Ernst clients. Gansman was sentenced to a year in prison.

      – Ernst paid $109 million to settle investor lawsuits over its audits for HealthSouth Corp., which disclosed a huge accounting fraud in 2003.

      – The SEC fined Ernst $8.5 million and disciplined six partners, including the former head of Ernst’s national office, for professional misconduct in approving fraudulent financial statements at Bally Total Fitness Holding Corp.

      2010

      – The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board censured Ernst audit manager Jacqueline Higgins for “improper removal, addition, and backdating of audit documentation prior to a board inspection.”

      2012

      – The accounting oversight board censured Ernst and fined the firm $2 million for auditing-standard violations at Medicis Pharmaceutical Corp. Four Ernst auditors also were sanctioned.

      – The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released a report that criticized Ernst’s tax advice for audit client Hewlett-Packard Co., saying it was clear that some H-P transactions approved by Ernst had been done in an attempt to circumvent U.S. tax laws.

      – The SEC suspended Ernst auditor Wendy McNeeley for professional misconduct during the 2004 audit of AA Capital Partners Inc.

      (Links omitted, see Jonathan Weil piece to link to details of Ernst tax cheating.)

    1. diane

      I’m betting there are thousands of San Francisco Bay Area residents, let alone those from out of state, unaware that they will not be able to use cash to pay the Golden Gate Bridge toll by the end of this month.

      Typical STATE of California – want to be the very first: Cashless; 24/7 Citizen Tracking; totally Rentier Enslavened Citizen’s STATE – inhumane nastiness. And what can one expect when the ”Major Media” [Bay Area News Group[!]], from one of the wealthiest (for a tiny few) locales in the world, always respond to valid questions such as this:

      You recently mentioned how to find out how to pay your tolls on the Golden Gate Bridge when they replace all the toll takers and go to an all-electronic system. As an occasional crosser who has been curious about that, I gratefully and obediently went to http://www.goldengate.org/tolls.

      OMG! Have you read all the subdivisions of that stuff? For the tourist or the occasional crosser, it boils down to (1) use a computer, (2) use a computer (3) use a computer or (4) during business hours find parking at the Embarcadero or (5) call during business hours!

      What are they thinking? San Francisco, your basic tourist-friendly town — not!

      With insultingly dismissive, sociopathic, thoroughly disconnected from humanity A[ssholic]nswers, such as:

      OMG, today is the day to try and clear up some of the confusion — and there is sure to be a lot of that when the Golden Gate Bridge converts to all-electronic collection in late March. That means no cash payments at the toll booths and no toll collectors, but plenty of questions.

      First, go to http://www.goldengate.org/tolls for overall information. And now off we go.

      (Bolding mine. It would be too much to hope for, I guess, that all out of staters, and California residents not forced to cross the bridge, would Boycott the Golden Gate Bridge.)

  11. Valissa

    Pew: MSNBC Almost Entirely Dominated By Opinion http://www.newsmax.com/newswidget/pew-msnbc-opinion-based/2013/03/18/id/495199
    A new Pew Research Center study has found the liberal-leaning cable network is filled with opinion and commentary for 85 percent of its airtime. Only a paltry 15 percent of MSNBC’s programming stuck to “factual reporting, according to Pew. Fox News, by comparison, had a breakdown of 55 percent commentary and opinion and 45 percent “factual reporting.” CNN was the only one of the big three cable news networks to broadcast more straight news with 54 percent of its programming dedicated to factual reporting and 46 percent to opinion and commentary.

    The original Pew Report… The Changing TV News Landscape http://stateofthemedia.org/2013/special-reports-landing-page/the-changing-tv-news-landscape/

    I can’t stand any of the major MSM news channels anymore. The only news I ever watch on TV is New England Cable News (NECN), because they still do old-fashioned reporting and focus on local and regional news.

    1. Ms G

      “CNN … with 54 percent of its programming dedicated to factual reporting …”

      Does the PEW report have a “Definitions” section where they define “factual reporting”?

      (I’m too lazy to go read it myself, but I think I know the answer, so I’m not sending myself to sit in the corner :) )

  12. Gareth

    As a teenager I spent summers on an uncle’s small dairy farm in Wisconsin. One my first lessons was which cows not to turn your back on. Dairy cattle are mostly docile but there are always a few with attitude problems who will head-butt you or knock you down from behind and do the bovine four-step on the way to the barn. Cows do not yield right-of-way. If there is a bull present, all bets are off.

    1. diptherio

      I was out bird hunting with my pa a few years back out in Eastern Montana. There were about twenty (beef) cattle grazing a couple hundred yards or so from the draw dad and I were walking up. After I had gotten past them, so that my back was to them, the cows started to “charge” me. I glanced over my shoulder and saw them starting to slowly lope towards me. A few seconds later I looked again and they were still coming, a little faster now. The third time I looked they were at a run. I spun around, totally freaked out, but as soon as I made eye contact with the lead cow, it lost its nerve and veered hard to the right, followed by the rest. They appeared to lose interest in me and continued grazing…

      All I have to say is, cows are weird (I’ve also seen them chewing on fence posts and the bones of other cows) and I, for one, don’t trust ‘em.

      1. Dogberry

        Cow chewing on fence-posts and bones are mineral deficient, probably drawn to the salts in fence-post preservatives and calcium in the bones – dairy cows in particular have a huge calcium requirement.

        The fact that there were cow-bones for them to chew on suggests these ones were being kept in highly unsatisfctory conditions, which might also account for their aggression.

        1. diptherio

          That sounds about right. Most of the range in E. Montana is pretty over-grazed, so nutrient deficiency in the cattle would make sense. Still, better the range than the feedlot, from the cows perspective, I would imagine.

      2. craazyman

        wow, that scares me just reading it.

        A few years ago I was fly fishing on a Carolina mountain creek about 30 feet wide. I was wading upstream, lost in delerium and scattered sun. Then I noticed a herd of bulls with humps and horns like in a rodeo beyond a meadow on my right, across a barbed wire fence.

        The fence was mostly on the ground, except for the posts. I realized all the bulls were motionless and staring at me. There was about 100 feet to the first one.

        I panicked as a first reaction. Then I realized I could probably crawl up the steep hill to my left faster than a herd of bulls.

        After about 15 seconds of motionless staring into my eyes they went back to eating grass. Life is like that. If I hadn’t panicked and picked out my escape route, there’s no doubt they would have charged into the water and put all the trout down for at least one hour while I sat 60 feet uphill hanging on a tree.

    1. Cynthia

      From what I gather, the goal of the Syrian crisis is 1) in the short term, degrade Syria’s military – especially its missile arsenal (and by extension allow Israel to degrade Hizballah’s missile arsenal) so neither party can be an effective actor in the upcoming Iran war, and 2) in the long term destabilize both Syria and Lebanon as part of Israel’s overall plan to destabilize and break up ALL the Middle East states.

      This is Israel’s policy and it is fully supported by the neocons, the military-industrial complex, the oil companies, the banks who finance them, and the politicians who receive their campaign contributions and bribes from those entities.

      There is no turning back this tide. There will be no diplomatic solution in Syria and any discussion of it is about as interesting as how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. People need to wake up and smell the excrement that lies at the heart of the US corporate state.

      1. Brindle

        Quaint, from a more innocent time.

        Chief Quartermaster (QMC) Phillips: My orders say I’m not supposed to know where I’m taking this boat, so I don’t! But one look at you, and I know it’s gonna be hot!

        Willard: I’m going 75 klicks above the Do Lung bridge.

        Chief Quartermaster (QMC) Phillips: That’s Cambodia, captain.

        Willard: That’s classified.

  13. dcblogger

    David Sirota on Accountability Free America

    In that sense, the Iraq War was the original event initiating the larger Age of Moral Hazard — an epoch whereby our failure to demand consequences for bad decisions has effectively encouraged the political class to get things horrifically wrong, as long as doing so serves powerful political interests.

  14. Bill Smith

    Yo craazy – volatilty investing news!

    Have to say I’m a little a little bummed. This Cyprus thing is slowing down my plan to get rich quick.

    I bet the nest egg last week shorting volatility when I read on the yahoo VIX thread that Soros went short volatility trying to save the world again. Plus, there is the “Bernanke VIX call” too, so knowing that Soros is pretty shrewd about playing the right side of the right central bank, I figure I had at least a 15 bagger in the bag until I have to cover once I hit the zero bound.

    Prolly still ok, but faster is better than slower, so I turned on CNBC for some investment ideas. There was this one dude in a really, really nice suit, and Larry Kudlow was asking him about whether we should short volatility, or if we should short volatility.

    The dude says, “Yes, always – but there is the smart way and then an even smarter way to short volatility.”

    Larry says, “OK, I can shut up a second – what’s the smarter way?”

    So the dude says, “go long the ****. It’s an inverse to volatility, so going long is the same as shorting volatility. The big difference is it has a Beta of .8 relative to volatility – it’s a defensive position for times like this when things get a little bumpy and we are all waiting for Bernanke to say something inspiring like he is committing the Federal Reserve to QE thru 2030.”

    Larry loses it and says, ” QE Through 2030! Wow folks, you heard it here! ****, that’s the ticket!”

    So I said wtf. Covered my VIX short and went long ****.

    1. craazyman

      It must be a synchronicity ’cause I just got back from lunch, have a splitting headache from stupidity overload and wanted to see if Yves posted yet on the Wes Welker trade to Denver. Then I saw your letter. Holy Smokes it was just 5 minutes ago! That’s why I think it was some kind of mental ESP.

      I’ve got a big-time short position going here so I’m glad to see this mess. I just think they’ll find a way, somebody will find a way — Bernanke, Draghi, Merkel, even the Student Loan King Jacob Lew, the Russians even, Putin himself maybe — to screw me out of my God given right to get rich quick by fixing the market.

      I don’t want to work for anything less than $500,000/year and I don’t want to have to do anything for the money except go to the office in a $3000 suit and go to meetings catered with appropriate food served up by hot admins in their 20s or 30s I can sleep with if I’m not a total gook trying to hit on them. Isn’t that the way it works in modern business? Or do they just go right to the lap dance?

  15. lambert strether

    “[W]e aren’t even bothering to pretend who is in charge, are we?”

    I think that the idea “They don’t even care enough to fake anymore” applies to more and more lately. Cyprus is another example.

    Cuts the kayfabe budget, I guess. Nice to think that the shills suffer from austerity along with the rest of us.

  16. Brindle

    I think they are more concerned with Occupy types or just citizens in general rather than al Qaida in regards to Urban Exploration (UE).

    —”You might think that dude climbing across the girders of a suspension bridge late at night intends to get a good view or to write some graffiti.

    But the National Counterterrorism Center can’t help but notice the pathway he takes exposes “security vulnerabilities” inherent in the urban landscape, like “access to structural components including caissons (the structures that hours the anchor points of a bridge suspension system)” — all of which a terrorist would find useful.

    Spelunking through subway tunnels might alert terrorists to “electrical, ventilation or signal control rooms.” The vantage point of a rooftop provides a glimpse useful to the “disruption of communication systems.”—

    http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2013/03/urban-exploration-terrorism/

    1. subgenius

      Obviously…

      One population is broad-thinking, educated, (relatively) wealthy, and inside the border; while the other is relatively uneducated, poor, and of indeterminate mental faculties, and most importantly stuck mainly in a nice big sandbox.

      1. subgenius

        Both are equally disenfranchised by their respective current situation, and in both cases a large portion of blame sausage can be found in the trough of a small number of gobblers…

  17. Yonatan

    Workers not saving enough to retire? No mere mortal can save fast enough to exceed the depletions caused by the banksters.

    1. Lambert Strether

      In the town north of me, they always threaten to close the swimming pool. I say, let the Easter Egg Hunt go. I’ve always hated it. Why not Air Force One, while we’re at it?

  18. Pinguin Chronicles

    Gladys interrogated by the police

    NYPD: Yes or no answer

    Gladys: Yes or no yes or no for all I know about it you know…. I mean I was only in service to Peter Pinguid, I didn’t kill him.

    What I can say about it, anyway…. I don’t know anything. People don’t confide in a servant, my work was all right. My work then but how could I have foreseen, every day the same daily round. No I mean to say you’d better ask them not me. One of his powerful enemies within the Pinguid Society could have murdered him. You’re wasting your time with me, I’m not guilty.

    When I think that after twenty years of loyal services he never said a word to me and treated me worse than dog……a man of all work yes but who never knew a thing it’s enough to turn you sour isn’t it?

    He didn’t care so long as I did my work, at the start I was sure it couldn’t go on like that…. let’s at least try to have a little chat from time to time but in the end you get used to it you get used to it and that’s how it was for the last twenty years so don’t come asking me…

    Treated his dog better than me you understand and now here I stand accused of murder. Think what this is doing to my mother….

    NYPD: This is not about the dog and it’s not about your mother. It’s about him, when did you last see him?

    Gladys: It must have been two months ago, just before he fired me. Yes two months ago….. I was coming out of my office and going past his and there he was with the door open everything upside down drawers and cupboards all open, but not a word to me…

    I was a secretary who did everything fixed everything made all the arrangements for traveling invitations orders bills friends all those little chores. To start with I thought he was someone like me who does what he can to earn his living. I had no idea. I tried to talk to him find out the why and wherefore, something about him… but not for long, not for long… I soon had to admit it’s no good, the cold type if you see what I mean.

    He might have noticed and said the odd word to me now and again, but NO…. always busy in a hurry you’d think he did it on purpose. I mean anyone who didn’t know, never looking at me (coming and going) yes on purpose. And that’s something I don’t understand. Instead of taking advantage of a minute’s break between two appointments, not even a smile.

    He couldn’t stand even the sight of a fly in the office. I was the one who had to chase after them, just to show you how it all went a bit too far….

    NYPD: Let’s be clear. You’re facing a capital murder or first degree murder charge. Individuals convicted of capital murder can face life in prison without the possibility of parole.

    If you can’t afford a lawyer, you’ve been instructed to contact the Pinguid Defense Group.

    PDG is committed to the presumption of innocence and will work tirelessly to help you achieve the most positive outcome possible for your case.

    1. Gladys

      If I’m falsely accused and sentenced to life in prison, ask Valissa if she could bring some cartoons to my prison cell?

      Maybe cheer me up a bit, since I won’t have Internet access…

      1. Gladys

        Thanks, Valissa.

        I got some good laughs! Now I feel better about being framed for murder and having to spend the rest of my life in prison for a crime I never committed. :)

        1. Valissa

          Gladys, you need to get a good lawyer… someone who will either investigate to find out who dunnit or who will go for the insanity defense. Given how chipper you seem to be about the situation, I’d plead insanity… it’s probably cheaper.

          For your consideration, if you can raise the funds OR promise to be a media sensation… 10 Famous Defense Attorneys http://www.criminaljusticedegreesguide.com/features/10-famous-defense-attorneys.html

          However, considering your novel situation, perhaps one of these would be more appropriate…

          Famous Fictional Lawyers http://www.buzzle.com/articles/famous-fictional-lawyers.html

          1. Bill Smith

            Novel problems require novel detectives and defenses.

            Costly, plead insanity.

            This is about Thursday Next – Literary Detective – now corrupted and employed by Pinquid Serious Defense Group. Everything is fictional. The plot emerges in the transcripts.

            The Eyre Affair
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Eyre_Affair

          2. Pinguin Chronicles

            Thanks, Valissa.

            My idea was to kill off Peter Pinguid, then see if I could do anything with Gladys, but with her in prison now, and accused of murder, the possibilities seem kind of limited.

            That means it’s either time to end this series or inject new life into it… maybe bring in some new characters, such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Elizabeth Costello.

            But I haven’t decided yet.

            :)

          3. Valissa

            Dear Pinguin Chronicler…

            I have so enjoyed your series thus far, that I vote for you to bring new life to it… your new characters sound great and I’m sure you can come up with new plot directions if you let yourself ride with whatever your unconscious cooks up.

            I hope you don’t mind if I brainstorm some plot ideas with you, but after a couple of hits your dilemma got me thinking :)

            If you cannot figure out where to go with Gladys, then I’m going to guess that you are not a murder mystery fan. In that genre, it is a standard plot device to start out with the innocent defendant wrongly accused and in prison (esp. on TV shows) who is finally proven innocent. All you need to do is create several characters as the possible real murderers of Peter Pinguid, and to keep the focus on economics, finance and politics (and gov’t) have these be archetypally representative elites of those realms (who in some way were wronged or screwed by PP). Then in the meantime while you are investigating those alternate killers and all the similar-to-real-life financial and military conspiracies that can be spun off of those, Gladys can be pretending to be insane, telling stories that make her sound wacky but with enough truthiness to get people thinking maybe she’s not guilty after all.

            If you want to go the horror route instead of the murder mystery route, then doing something with the Ghost or Shade of Peter Pinguid, and the ghost or shades of robber barons past could be interesting.

            Then there’s the sci-fi route… perhaps Gladys is really an alien disguised as a human. Or maybe Gladys was abducted by aliens when she was young. I admit that at the moment I am at a loss as to why aliens would want to kill off Peter Pinguid, but I think that could be worked out.

          4. Pinguid Chronicles

            Valissa,

            You’ve come up with some great ideas for a new plot direction!

            My favorite is Gladys as an alien disguised as a human, but if I did that and got too carried away with it, this would probably get me banned from further posting on NC.

            Because I’m not sure how I could have Gladys as an alien (or Gladys abducted by aliens) and still keep the focus on economics, finance and politics in the way that Peter Pinguid managed to do.

            And you’re right I’m not a murder mystery fan. Now that I’ve got Gladys in prison and falsely accused of murder, I’m inclined to take the easy way out and just leave her there. :)

            Maybe the horror route instead…. Peter Pinguid’s Ghost….I like it…. If Shakespeare can have the ghost of Hamlet’s late-father be a character then why can’t I have Peter Pinguid’s Ghost?

            That way I could keep the focus on finance, economics, politics, etc…

            Or what about Bill Smith’s idea of Peter Pinguid popping back out as a Zombie…What do you think?

            Thanks Valissa, you’ve given me a lot of possibilities to consider…

  19. Bill Smith

    Will there be a privatized Pinguid Women’s Penitentiary in NYC? (or Bronx). I certainly hope so. Inmates (chain gang – for safety) dumpster dive at the Per Se or Eleven Madison Park, bring the booty back and learn correctional cooking skills which will prepare them for their eventual release back into civilized society.

    Could happen. Or lezbo porn, too.

    1. Gladys

      They mentioned something about Rikers Island.

      The inmate next to me said she’s here for taking vengeance on an enemy, one that she paralyzed for life.

      I can’t remember the reason she gave for the crime; all I remember is that her brother helped her prepare the revenge for two years.

      All those years with only one idea in her head: to do harm.

      And to think, I might have to spend the rest of my life in this place, and I’m NOT guilty, I never harmed a fly!

      1. Bill Smith

        Well, that’s certainly your problem, but the Pinguid Riker Group problem is to somehow monetize this unfortunate glitch in the legal process observed by Pinguid Defense Group. You can’t assume one beats the prosecuting attorney all the time.

        In consulting with Pinquid Films, we see opportunity in filming a Riker Women’s Chain Gang engaged in dumpster diving at NYC’s finest restaurants, then being raped by a motorcycle gang while being walked home thru the Bronx. Chains are sexy.

        Then jailhouse lezbo porn always works, and Pinquid Films sees no problem raising investor cash to cover film costs in that case.

        Whether you harm flies or not has nothing to do with anything. Stop trying to change the subject!

      2. Gladys

        Thanks, but I have to think about this. The part about getting raped by a chain gang makes me nervous…

        Before getting arrested I had a job on the black market, working as a clerk in a warehouse.

        I used to sleep in the warehouse, and found a place where the rain never came in. I put a photo of my cat on a plank opposite. At night a friend of mine used to come there and sleep on the floor covered in blankets and tarpaulins from an old car. So he wouldn’t get wet when it rained.

        He was a model at some Brooklyn Art School. He’s a Hungarian or something like that. He says he loves me. When he said it too often I told him he was getting on my nerves and he would start crying.

        I used to get up at the same time as Traiko and we’d wash our hands and faces at the pump in the yard. Then he’d goes off to have a cup of coffee…

        Ah….those were the good old days. Now I’m in prison. Even being homeless and unemployed looks good compared to this.

          1. Valissa

            Looks to me like she’s working up a good insanity defense. If she keeps talking like this, it oughtta be an easy sell.

          2. Pinguin Chronicles

            Author’s note: Peter Pinguid is dead, and with Gladys in prison, the author is up against the limits of literary representation here, the death of literary realism, and the inconsistency of language.

            And if all that doesn’t pose enough obstacles to overcome, this is happening on an economics blog. :)

          3. Bill Smith

            Personally, I think all islands should be made illegal – they just cause trouble – but the world being what it is, I guess we have to send Gladys to Rikers Island.

            So maybe women’s chain gang rape isn’t her thing, but I still think we can monetize her stay at Rikers by having her tend the militarized corn plants we grow for the DOD out in the prison yard.

            As far as Peter dying, there can’t be any consecrated ground to bury him in Manhattan, so Peter popping back out as a Zombie is a no brainer.

  20. Zachary Smith

    *** Europe’s Reckless Raid on Cyprus’s Savings ***

    I really liked this story – probably because the conclusions of the author matched my own. :)

    *** Direct Deposit and Social Security: Not so Nice for Those who Owe ***

    This one freaked me out to the extent I sent out some ‘shotgun’ emails in all directions to retires I know who might still have house payments or other substantial debts.

    Is this another instance of the Feds being totally in bed with Big Banking, or am I just being paranoid again?

  21. JohnB

    Link suggestion:
    Outstanding guest post on Golem XIV blog, criticizing neoclassical economics focus on infinite growth, touching on ecological/steady-state economics (and its proponents), and the future of growth and economics, as cheap sources of energy (fossil fuels) become scarce:
    http://www.golemxiv.co.uk/2013/03/the-slippery-grip-of-growth-guest-post-by-hawkeye

    This topic, is a particularly interesting one that doesn’t get touched on a lot, and would be good to get more links on; also, the CASSE steady-state-economics blog which Herman Daly posts on regularly, is rather good, and may warrant addition to the blogroll (am still ‘vetting’ it myself at the moment, keeping it in my RSS reader for a time to see what it’s like):
    http://dalynews.org/learn/blog/

    Btw, do links get picked up from comments section here, or is it better to email them?

    1. subgenius

      I thought there was an email submission… But then a link I posted got put up today, so I guess it is either…

    2. Lambert Strether

      The comments are scanned. I know Yves has the “drinking from a firehose” feeling with mail.

      Perhaps a good convntion would be to use the word LINK in easy-to-spot alll caps, with the URL + a quote to show why you think it’s a good candidate? Subject to corection, of course.

  22. diane

    Yayyyyy, some good news!

    Independent bookstores doing better than ever …

    and:

    UK bookstores fight back against Amazon with exclusive material

    Hello, Amazon. Remember when you came up with that great idea for an app that would allow people to stand in a real bookstore, scan a bar code, and buy the book they were actually looking at on your site for less? Remember how you chuckled when you thought of how you’d screw over all those silly “locations” naively paying “taxes” while trying their damnedest to sell “books”?

    Well, Waterstone’s has a little something for you, and it’s called payback. In the form of an extra chapter in the newest Joanne Harris novel, Peaches for Monsieur Le Curé, which is only to be found in copies of the book bought in the store. And Waterstone’s isn’t the only one:

  23. JohnB

    One thing to note about that Onion video (not detracting from it’s notability): It’s actually from 2011, providing a depressingly accurate prediction of reporting over such things.

  24. Fíréan

    Do the Cyprus based online forex trading brokers ( market makers: whatever they are called these day) hold their clients funds, for the most part, in Cypriot banks, Cyprus based branches of over-seas banks, or off-shore from Cyprus ?

    There are many of these on-line trading establishments based in Cyrpus and their clients are world wide. I assume a bank closure prevents brokers’ access too ?

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