Links 2/10/10

How Brussels Is Trying to Prevent a Collapse of the Euro Der Spiegel

Afghan police flunk drug tests The Nation (hat tip reader DoctoRx). Some of this may be a tad overblown, given that doctors in the US hand out psychoactive substances like candy (although one would hope that the cops are less medded up that the populace as a whole).

Your Own Private Hydrogen Power Station Barry Ritholtz (hat tip reader Sundog)

Queen could help prevent future credit crunch Telegraph (hat tip reader Swedish Lex). So the Royal Touch works for banks?

The final failure of the Meiji right-wing ideology … Japan fades into the future with a walking stick… John Hempton

New Mexico House Votes 65-0 To Move State’s Money To Credit Unions, Community Banks Huffington Post (hat tip reader Swedish Lex)

Ron Paul: ‘Neocon influence’ is infiltrating tea parties Raw Story

Congress opens probe into Anthem Blue Cross rate increases LA Times. DoctoRx notes:

In its usual cynical and corrupt fashion, Congress, having fallen in the mud allegedly trying to do something for us on healthcare, now is pretending there is a Federal issue rather than a State issue within California on a rate case affecting a tiny fraction of Californians (2%) (not that Anthem isn’t a horrible company, just that we already know these guys are all gonefs, and Congress was supposed to have DONE SOMETHING already about this obvious, known problem).

Berlin looks to build Greek ‘firewall’ Financial Times

A Uruguay – Greece Story Bruce Krasting

Wars sending U.S. into ruin Toronto Sun (hat tip reader John D). Whether or not you agree on the deficit hawkishness, the factoids on defense spending are useful

Long-Term Care Hospitals Face Little Scrutiny New York Times

Richard Curtis and Bill Nighy team up in new film urging Tobin tax on bankers Guardian. When “Tobin tax” becomes a household word, you know things are changing. As reader Sean said, “The people are stirring.”

BofA and Citi warned over credit ratings Financial Times

Midas Touch Lost? Paulson Hits Hurdles in Gold Fund Wall Street Journal

Europe’s stragglers need German consumers Martin Wolf, Financial Times

Nick Turse, America’s Shadowy Base World TomDispatch

Antidote du jour (hat tip reader Robert M). This one has a surprisingly ambivalent narrative from Asylum, “Woman Keeps Giant Rodent As Disgusting Pet.” Now that is not fair, every Norway rat I have ever seen in New York has always looked very sleek and well fed. And I am told that rats make nice pets, although I don’t think I could deal with cleaning up after them, or that they only live for two years or so (if you are going to have a pet that isn’t housebroken, ferrets seem like the most fun).

But this is not your average rodent:

For most people, the idea of keeping rodents as pets is off-putting, if not downright creepy.

However, it’s possible all these reservations could be put aside if we just embrace the capybara as a household pet. The semi-aquatic rodent native to South America can grow to be around 100 lbs. and about 2 feet tall at the shoulder.

Click through to check out the pictures of Melanie Typaldos and her pet capybara Caplin, and try to deny this is the cuddliest giant rat you’ve ever seen.

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    1. BuzzP

      Back in the days when I was producing kids TV cartoons, pitched all 3 (there were only 3 then) networks on a cute capybara property for Saturday Morning – was actually in paid devel at one, until someone upstairs found out capybaras were rodents. “We are not going to take a chance on a parent somewhere, or a special interest [pro-social] group, accusing us of promoting rat domestication for pets.” End of story, unfortunately – I still think they’d make a great show.

  1. DownSouth

    ► “A Uruguay – Greece Story” Bruce Krasting

    Krasting raises some interesting issues, but I wish he would have dug a little deeper.

    • To begin with, he does something that the neoliberal dominated press of Germany, the US and the UK never do, which is to mention the word “external debt.” “External debt is defined as follows:

    Total public and private debt owed to nonresidents repayable in foreign currency, goods or service.

    I know. I know. In the Ten Commandments of neoliberalism, the Commandment that says “PRIVATE debt doesn’t matter, the only debt that matters is GOVERNMENT debt” certainly must rank near the top. But an exploration of external debt tells a very different story from that told by the masters of the universe who control the framing of the debate in the German, British and US press and halls of government:

    External debt per dollar of GDP:

    United Kingdom-$3531
    United States-$761

    These figures are a couple of years old, but they’re good enough so that one gets the picture.

    • Secondly, I believe Krasting could have used his anecdote as a lead-in to explore the history of what the Argentina crisis was all about, and which I believe has great relevance and could provide needed depth and understanding to the current controversy with the PIIGS:

    Starting in the 1950s, Latin America, particularly the southern cone countries of Argentina, Chile, and Brazil, had become a laboratory for developmentalist economics. Social scientists, such as the Argentine Raúl Prebisch from his position as head of the UN’s Economic Commission on Latin America, expanded Keynesianism ¬ after John Maynard Keynes, who elaborated the dominant post-WWII economic framework that envisioned an active role for the state in the workings of the market — beyond its focus on managing countervailing cycles of inflation and unemployment to question the terms of international trade. Chronic inflation, according to Prebisch and other Latin American economists, was understood not to be a reflex of any given country’s irresponsible monetary system but a symptom of deep structural inequalities that divided the global economy between the developed and the undeveloped world. Volatile commodity prices and capital investment reinforced first world advantage and third world disadvantage. (emphasis DownSouth’s) Economists and politicians from across the political spectrum accepted the need for state planning, regulation, and intervention. Such ideas not only drove the economic policies of developing nations, but echoed throughout the corridors and conference rooms of the UN and the World Bank, as well as in the non-aligned movement’s 1973 call for a New International Economic Order.

    It was the Chicago School’s vision of hell, the New Deal writ large across the world stage. These ideas “fell like a bomb” on those who had long stood against Keynesianism at home only now to see its authority spread globally. The Chilean scholarship program was intended to counter such a vision. “University of Chile economists have been followers of Keynes and Prebisch more than of Marx,” wrote former University of Chicago president and State Department director of overseas education programs William Benton, and “the Chicago influence” will “introduce a third basic viewpoint, that of contemporary ‘market economics.'”

    Students returned to Chile not just with a well-rounded education in classical economics but with a burning dedication to carry the faith to benighted lands. They purged the economics departments of their universities of developmentalists and began to set up free-market institutes and think tanks ¬ the Center for Social and Economic Studies, for example, and the Foundation for Liberty and Development ¬ funded, as their counterparts in the US were, by corporate money. They understood their mission in continental terms, committed, as Chicago alum Ernesto Fontaine put it, “to expand throughout Latin America, confronting the ideological positions which prevented freedom and perpetuated poverty and backwardness.”

    The program, which brought up students from universities in Argentina as well, is an example of the erratic nature of both public and private US diplomacy, conforming as it does to competing power interests within American society. At the same time that Kennedy was promoting Alliance for Progress reform capitalism, he was training and funding the men and institutions that would constitute the continent’s dense network of death squads. At the same time that Chase Manhattan, Chemical, Manufacturers Hanover, and Morgan Guaranty were promoting, through the establishment of the Trilateral Commission, a more conciliatory economic policy in the third world, they were cutting off credit to Chile, making, in accordance with Nixon’s directive, its economy “scream.” And at the same time that every American president from Truman to Nixon was embracing Keynesianism, the University of Chicago’s Economics Department, with financial support from the US government, had turned itself into free-market madrassa that indoctrinated a generation of Latin American economists to spearhead an international capitalist insurgency.

    It is important to always keep in mind that the banksters and their little marionettes in government and media control the vocabulary and frame the debate.

    Personally I think Vinny G. may be right, and that is that the PIIGS ought to do exactly what Kirchner did, and that is to refuse to play in a game where the banskters get to make up the rules, and make them up as they go along. He defaulted on the national debt and settled for 25 or 30 cents on the dollar.

    And I think since Argentina has done pretty well, without having to sacrifice its own people on the altar of neoliberalism.

  2. Robespierre

    “New Mexico’s House of Representatives voted Monday to pass a bill that allows the state to move $2 billion – $5 billion of state funds to credit unions and small banks.”

    I would like every state to do this. Since the Federal government (a subsidiary of TBTF bank) refuses the states to have a bigger role on bank regulation this is the way the states can retaliate.

  3. fresno dan

    I would be interested in the thoughts of the readers of this blog regarding home hydrogen power – plausible or a pipe dream?

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      On a more basic level, we should work on nuclear-fueled human body cells.

      That way, we can stop this crazy war on animals and vegetables…at least that ‘hostile takeover of foreign proteins for energy’ part. Probably still need some as building blocks though.

    2. i on the ball patriot

      Very plausible. The linked video was great news. It is the decentralization of political power that it will allow that is most exciting.

      Deception is the strongest political force on the planet

  4. Moopheus

    I remember the first time I saw a live capybara in a zoo. The mind just does not want to accept a 100-pound, 5-foot long rat. But there it is. Certainly would to have thought to keep one as a pet. I think my cat would have issues with it. Need deep therapy.

  5. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Capybaras are cute, but make sure you don’t keep them and anacondas in the same room.

    I much prefer sloth bears.

    By the way, in some rural parts of India, they eat rats. Don’t know if their ancestors came from China…

  6. alpwalker

    Cute??? Didn’t you see those things try and ravage Westley and Buttercup in the Fire Swamp??? Rewatch Princess Bride and then tell me those things are cute. Get a grip on reality, people!

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Well, here is one sobering fact – there are no alcoholic capabaras in nature.

      That’s more than what we can say about Homo Not-So-Sapiens Not-So-Sapiens…unless you are referring to the Paleolithic variety.

      In that case, I agree and remember also, there were no unemployed Stone Age humans. Everyone who wanted to work, worked. And everyone who didn’t want to work, also worked – you might call it negative unemployment when people who don’t want to work, work (let’s see, slaves come to mind).

      So, NEGATIVE UNEMPLOYMENT is not really a good thing.

    2. Bob Visser

      Sorry I wanted to reply to prime beef, not to alpwalker. Not yet familiar with the operating system. Here in Africa we have cane-rats. They look very similar to your capybara and are a desirable source of protein for the population. Their taste is excellent, like young pork. I know. Freya

  7. John

    A bit off-topic but … now Obama is conducting PR for his banking masters:

    The president, speaking in an interview, said in response to a question that while $17 million is “an extraordinary amount of money” for Main Street, “there are some baseball players who are making more than that and don’t get to the World Series either, so I’m shocked by that as well.”

    I guess he just wanted to make it official that he is owned by Wall Street and doesn’t give a whit about Main Street.

    1. John

      I left off the part where Obama really puckers up to the banksters:

      “I know [Blankfein and Dimon]; they are very savvy businessmen,” Obama said in the interview yesterday in the Oval Office with Bloomberg BusinessWeek, which will appear on newsstands Friday. “I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free- market system.”

      Unbelievable. He’s like a schoolgirl with a crush.

      1. John

        One last reply to my own post … what does Obama know about business? Wasn’t he just a community organizer, a lawyer, and then a politician? There’s no way that Obama could tell a savvy buisnessperson from an unsavvy one as he has no background from which to judge.

        1. Anonymous Jones

          I’m sorry. I know I shouldn’t feed the troll. But it is absolutely hilarious to read someone spout off regarding how Obama has “no way” of knowing something when he himself has “no way” of knowing whether Obama knows it or not! I’m literally shaking with laughter as I type this!

          And these are the people who feel so sure of themselves and so emboldened that they want to lecture others! I never get enough of it!

          1. i on the ball patriot

            Spin off of that old business is god mantra; “If you haven’t made payroll your less than dirt and not even qualified to be alive.”

      2. Kevin de Bruxelles

        “Unbelievable. He’s like a schoolgirl with a crush”

        No, there’s no great mystery here; he is a bought-off politician paying back his client with some well-timed rhetorical love.

        Goldman Sachs was after all his largest private sector campaign cash contributor. What else would you expect but a little lip service in return?

        And by the way, not that I want to descend into the partisan swamp, but did Ronald Reagan ever meet a payroll?

        No I didn’t think so. But that doesn’t matter does it? It’s all kinda like that retarded thing isn’t it? OK if our side does it but bad if the enemy dares do it.

        Have you ever read about primitive tribes who have mock battles where they stand just far away from each other to not get hit by a spear? That’s what all this dumb ass partisan sparring is; just modernized a bit.

  8. tim

    you missed a link to from Steve himself:

    “…and no more mark-to-market accounting rules applied to financial institutions’ regulatory capital would, together, prevent future financial panics such as the one we recently experienced. But we must also credibly repudiate the whole notion of “too big to fail.”

    “The fears over AIG ( AIG – news – people )’s counterparties to its credit default swaps are now increasingly looking to have been needlessly overblown.”

    Article is entitled Posturing. I guess it’s his posturing.

  9. William Mitchell

    The Anthem Blue Cross article is accurate: we just received the 39% rate increase.

    Anthem Blue Cross has nearly quadrupled our rate since we joined in 2004. We are in perfect health, skinny, low blood pressure, no family history, no claims history, and in a high-deductible plan. It’s insane.

  10. Cynthia

    Speaking of military physicians handing out psychoactive substances like candy,

    “U.S. military: Heavily Armed and Medicated”

    [If our troops must stay doped up just to stay afloat in battle, then it’s high time we pack up our war toys and hightail it home!]

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