Links 3/2/10

Grizzlies encroach on polar bear territory BBC

Newborns’ blood used to build secret DNA database New Scientist

Internet overtakes print in news consumption among Americans ars technica (hat tip reader John D)

Chilean Quake Likely Shifted Earth’s Axis, NASA Scientist Says Business Week

The Home Depot Misery Index Truthout (hat tip reader John D)

France to renew calls for EU carbon tariff EurActiv (hat tip reader Swedish Lex)

Papandreou to outline the mother of all austerity programmes EuroIntelligence

FSA chairman to urge tighter controls on banks Guardian

Is the Fed Eager to Dismiss Deflationary Pressures? Tim Duy

What drives media slant? Jim Hamilton, Econbrowser

Secretary Geithner’s Got Some Explaining to Do American Thinker. I have no idea whether the claims made here are valid, but it makes for an interesting argument. Given that the hastily-drafted Bear deal had an error in the deal documents that proved to be costly, I find it plausible (without ascribing motive, the reasons for the Fed taking majority ownership of AIG seem awfully wild-eyed) that the haste with which this deal was crafted could have led to some problems with it.

How Reagan ruined conservatism Gideon Rachman, Financial Times

Goldman board rejects shareholder demands on pay Reuters. Proof that shareholders cannot contain companies hell bent on diverting profits to management and staff.

Goldman’s rehab: Cranks up p.r. engine to turn sinners into saints New York Post

Goldman Lists New ‘Risk’: Bad Press Wall Street Journal. So get the logic: it isn’t engaging in bad conduct that is the problem. Heavens no. It is being found out and scolded in public for having behaved badly that is the problem. So clearly the solution (per above) is not to behave better BUT 1) engage in better cover-ups and 2) find ways to muzzle or co-opt the press so any reports of dubious conduct will be muted.

Antidote du jour:

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  1. KFritz

    Lots of tapirs are sleeping these days. They’ve lost their jobs in the construction downturn.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Normally peaceful, they could turn violent occassionally, as at least one zoo keeper could tell you all about it.

      1. Skippy

        Probably trigged by profit stripping, upon transaction conclusion.

        Skippy…Keeper selling to the private market with 10% of tapirs contracted allowance. Tapirs the bricky’s and concreter’s of the zoo, gentle until hops and barley supply is reduced.

      2. KFritz

        Coming clean: original post was a misdemeanor quality pun. “Taper,” pronounced exactly like the animal, is the trade term for a drywall finisher. Hence the reference to the construction turndown.

        1. David

          Making such a pun is worth a misdemeanor.

          Imagining that we didn’t all get it immediately should be a felony.

  2. Ina Pickle

    Yves, I think that you and I might be two of the few people who find tapirs adorable. But he IS cute!

  3. attempter

    It wasn’t surprising to see the slant of the “media slant” chart, and how the zero on their horizontal axis must start pretty far to the right already, if the corporatist/jingoist/deficit terrorist NYT and WaPo are to the “liberal” side of that scale.

    IOW, if you plotted that scale on a real political spectrum, you’d find its left boundary near the center, perhaps right of it.

    A tip-off is how the example given of a “conservative” term is “human embryo”, rather than “free market” or “fiscally responsible” or “Social Security crisis”. That’s evidence that they weighed culture war stuff more heavily to attain a skewed result. (E.g., the NYT looks less right-wing that way.)

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Attmepter, in a non-Euclidean political world, and by the way, the political world is not flat, you will find the liberal wackos where right-wing wackos reside and neo-liberals where neo-conservatives live.

      As Columbus sailed west to reach the East, today you can go left to reach right.

      That’s why many greedy ex-USSR or ex-Red Guard capitalists were at one time the most ardent Bolsheviks.

      The only thing they have in common is that they are all very ‘intelligent.’

  4. Ignim Brites

    For those of you tempted to lend some credence to “How Reagan ruined conservatism” by Gideon Rachman, I have a name and a term for you to contemplate. Robert Conquest and “historical and dialectical materialism”. Those of you who are younger may have to google them.

  5. alex

    Re: Goldman board rejects shareholder demands on pay

    More evidence that we need a radical reversion to an economic system called “capitalism”, wherein the board and the execs serve the owners. That’s far more important and effective than any half-baked temporary bonus tax.

    Curiously the MSM spins any attempt to return to capitalism as populist or left-wing; not to be touched by Serious Persons. What’s next, the Comintern pushing for shareholder rights?

    Our current system is more akin to a medieval system, where the key to profit is getting privileges and monopolies granted by the king. In the old days this was usually accomplished by providing military service or loans to the crown, but nowadays they use plain old bribes (oops, campaign contributions).

  6. Andrew Foland

    re: the AIG article…in evaluating its credibility, you might focus on the 77.9% equity stake that the writer keeps harping on about. Except, as is well-known, it was a 79.9% stake, and it was that specific number for a well-known reason–as a tax-avoidance measure. (The irony of the Fed taking tax avoidance measures is almost delicious!)

    I feel like I need hardly add that a lawyer who’s argiung that the AIG deal violates the establishment clause because it’s part of an obscure plot to establish Islamic Sharia law by the US Government, might be a lawyer you’d want to think real hard about taking legal advice from.

    His argument that the US Treasury is a bank account, and not an entity, could be true for all I know, but it would have been a lot more convincing with a couple of citations and a pointer to the relevant Federal law…

  7. sam hampster

    Under the Reagan administration, the Republicans invented the “dual Santa Claus” doctrine: cut taxes and increase spending, which continued under both Bushes.

    I recommend Will Bunch’s book, “Tear Down This Myth” to learn the truth about how the right spends millions to propagandized Reagan’s legacy.

    Reagan illegally funded the contras and did nothing while thousands of Americans died of Aids. He famously remarked that the millions of Americans that go to bed hungry each night were “on a diet.”

    He was the pig of pigs and presided over the birth of neo-liberalism and corporatocracy in the U.S. Drilled into our minds is that he defeated the USSR and that his tax cuts paved the way for the 1990’s boom. Both are lies and Goebbel-style assaults on the minds of Americans designed to give Republicans a history that they do not deserve.

    1. Anonymous Jones

      Annina: Monsieur Rick, what kind of a man is Captain Renault?

      Rick: Oh, he’s just like any other man, only more so.


      I am a bit annoyed at the mythologizing myself, but honestly, “pig of pigs?”

      Reagan was like most other men, only more successful at achieving his goals.

      1. sam hampster

        Good point. Amorality suggest that “he was an extremely successful man” and no pig, at all. I must have forgotten my place.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          What’s wrong with pigs?

          It’s not like they are any worse than Homo Not-So-Sapiens Not-So-Sapiens.

  8. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Regarding the Home Depot Misery Index story, the writer is at least partially wrong.

    It IS Obama, the illegal immigrants…and the legal non-immigrants, Republicans, Democrats, progressives, that writer…you and me, all of us to blame.

    We dont’ get to where we are without everyone contributing a little bit.

    Remember, there is no ‘i’ in team.

    But there is ‘sand’ in sandwich. So be sure to sprinkle a little of that in your sandwich.

    And remember, it’s sushi, not ‘sushit’ with a silent t.

  9. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Goldman board rejects shareholder demands on pay?

    Is that anything like City Hall rejects voter demands on pay?

  10. eric anderson

    Rachman’s article is a little off base. Reagan did not think deficits didn’t matter. He even signed a Social Security tax increase to reduce deficits. Unfortunately, the Congress did not live up to its promises to restrain spending. Granted, Bush/Cheney was a travesty in the deficit department. But, like Rachman, I am also reading Palin’s book, and I doubt she would ever say that deficits don’t matter.

    It is also ridiculous and elitist to proclaim Sarah Palin dumb. Actually she has far more experience in small business than any prominent member of the current administration that I’m aware of. And exactly which sector of our economy creates the most jobs, typically? I think Sarah and her husband’s real life understanding are much more relevant to our current woes than Obama’s book learning. Obama might be qualified to be a good civil rights attorney. He’s clearly out of his depth when it comes to understanding how to grow an economy from the ground up. All he knows is government intervention, which cost us a lot and, judging by declining tax revenues at both the state and national level, brought a meager harvest. (See Mish’s posts Sunday on the phony retail sales figures, and shocking drop in sales tax receipts in many states. Recovery my asparagus, as Denninger would say.)

    1. Anonymous Jones

      oh, eric…

      You always play to the straw man.

      I don’t know if Palin is dumb, and you don’t either.

      I don’t know if she has more real world experience than anyone else, and you don’t either.

      I would suspect that living in Alaska (which I’ve visited often) would not lend one to having as diverse an experience as others in more populous and heterogeneous areas, but again, I don’t know, and you don’t either.

      The idea that you could live in this world and not see how good Obama is at manipulating people and then think he has no real-world experience is rather strange, I must admit. [Query: Where does one learn how to manipulate people if not in the “real” world? Hmmm….]

      And I have far, far more experience than Palin in running successful small businesses; so does that make me even more qualified to know how to “grow an economy from the ground up?” Sorry, but even *you* would have to admit that my experience is totally and completely inapposite, right? Especially because we fundamentally disagree on that topic, right? Or wait, maybe I’m confused? My experience does not matter, but her does? I’m sure there’s an explanation in there somewhere.

      You can continue to attack those who make idiotic accusations that someone else like Palin is “dumb,” but seriously, I gotta be honest, that doesn’t necessarily make you smart…

  11. susan

    Regarding Sarah Palin: I am willing to accept that she may have some real world smarts, although so far I have not seen her exhibit any of them, but she has exhibited zero smarts of the book-learned, well-educated variety. How anyone can possibly argue that someone who plans to run for U.S. president (or ran for vice president) doesn’t require a healthy dose of both types of smarts is beyond me. But if people want to dumb down our country to that level, by all means go ahead. It just means that I will have to take my leave even earlier than I’d planned.

  12. Cynthia

    Reagan most certainly ruined conservatism!

    Let me add to this by saying that in economics, classical liberals, aka libertarians, believe that everyone, rich and poor alike, should fend for themselves. But at the dawn of the Reagan Revolution, economists from the University of Chicago, led by Milton Friedman, cherry-picked what they liked from classical liberalism and threw out the rest of it to create a brand of economics known as neoliberalism. So now our economy is being shaped by neoliberal economists, Ben Bernanke, Tim Geithner and Larry Summers, just to name a few, who believe that whenever our economy goes down, those at the top should be thrown a flotation device, while the rest of us should be left to either sink or swim.

    What’s worse is that our foreign policy is being shaped by neoconservatives who believe that the only way for us to maintain our superpower status in the world is to invade and occupy various countries that have enormous geo-strategic importance to us. What’s even worse is that they are using the war on terror, coupled with the war on drugs, as an excuse for law enforcement to conduct unlawful surveillance on US citizens. So thanks to the neoconservatives, government-backed thugs are not only given the authority to spy on law-abiding citizens like myself, but they are also given the authority to lock us up and even kill us.

    So I think that the only way to prevent the neolibs in conjunction with the neocons from turning our country into a full-blown neo-feudal fascist state is for the far Left to join the far Right to kick all of our neo-nuts out of power and replace them with public servants who are democratic when it comes to the economy, and libertarian when it comes to warfare and our civil liberties. But it’s gonna take a grass-roots revolution for this to happen, and a bloody one at that, I’m afraid.

  13. sam hampster

    I thought that it was simpler than that. I thought that Sara Palin was just the inevitable wedding of the presidency with dominatrix, T&A. It works for Fox News and I don’t underestimate its power.

    We’ve all seen the fantasy art of the dragon-slaying woman wielding an axe twice her size. Is Palin that woman?

    We will know soon enough?

    (Ah, those Republicans…so clever!)

  14. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Tragic, the quake in Chile.

    And the day got shortened – it’s interconnected world and we are all impacted by it.

    I am curious. What would it take to move the Earth’s orbit just a little further away from the sun? Would that negate Global Warming?

    Or do we have to resort to Nuclear Winter to offset Global Warming?

    Funny how the rightwingers are said by the leftwingers to be connected to both. True or not, I don’t know.

    My best guess is that they don’t offset each other but we will get the worst of both.

    1. Billy

      Chile’s neo-liberal establishment knows how to handle this. They already made sure that the Tsunami warning system was turned off.

      The scoured coast front can be rezoned and hit with multiple building codes so that only the rich can re-emerge.

      Given the potential for urban re-development and the ghettoization of the poor, I don’t see the downside for the wealthy.

  15. kevinearick

    Rotate the vertical pump-motor-transformer to 45 degrees, then to 60 and 30, to get calculus to the horizontal. Shorten up the gravitational side of the fulcrum, lengthen the magnetic side, and reduce the fulcrum mechanism, until the nucleus “falls” into an orbiting system. Watch the relationship between the incremental snapshots and the quantum snapshots. Coherence is a resonant value, and the distribution travels like an inchworm. An orbiting system acts as a virtual fulcrum because it is suspended within a symbiotic fulcrum of fulcrums.

    Mr Senator: It’s in the interest of the first baseman to make a quick, accurate throw to the second baseman, and for the pitcher to get his butt over to first base at the crack of the bat, but it seldom happens.

    1. kevinearick

      The problem with current PLC applications is not that they do not work. They work very well, for a while, until they short, which is the nature of their design, and cartels have been weaving them together. It’s not a matter of if the distribution systems will crash; it’s a matter of when. Currently the public only sees individual system shorts, which are being explained away, because the cartels are way beyond the point of no return, because they cannot psychologically face the sunk cost.

      In the meantime, these systems have been employed to systematically eliminate human judgment “on the ground”, to enforce the top-down model of wealth transfer. Human “error” is the source of learning Expert systems are invalid because, like PLCs, they are self-reinforcing, and crash upon unknown conditions, on the assumption that they “know”.

      Any idea what it costs to go out and recover one of those oil tankers? Security is largely about denying the public transparency, not defending against hackers. A good hacker could bring down the system tomorrow, as could the proprietors.

      It’s easy to throw out parts on a straight run, downhill, but what happens when the economy has to be powered uphill, and around curves, like right now? Markets require individuals that intelligently invest in their own judgment. Increasingly multiplying the judgment of a few, passive investment, only works on a straight run, downhill, which is a self-fulfilling prophesy that can only gain on itself.

      In evolution, straight runs downhill result in extinction. Laws are no substitute for increasing market transparency.

      1. kevinearick

        genetic expression over time depends on environmental conditions over time. those extra genes are not extra, and a dysfunctional expression today may not be a dysfunctional expression tomorrow. they are wasting their time, and your money, trying to tie the healthcare scripts into genetic maps, to automate care.

      2. kevinearick

        here’s another tip:

        home run all your series devices back to the controller, so you do not have to crawl all over the equipment to troubleshoot.

        Bosses love to lay off helpers, which is stupid. It’s unsafe, increases long-term costs for all kinds of reasons, and leaves the firm with no talent in the next generation, all of which they complain about, as if they didn’t shoot themselves in the head.

      3. kevinearick

        Christine Tierney / The Detroit News

        Toyota Motor Corp. is establishing a blue-ribbon panel of independent experts that will include a former U.S. transportation secretary to ensure that the automaker’s new quality controls will be among the best in the industry.

        “I am pleased to say that former Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater will help lead this panel,” Yoshimi Inaba, Toyota’s highest ranking executive in North America, said in remark she is expected to deliver today to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Toyota provided an advance copy of Inaba’s statement.

        “We need to focus even more on customer behavior, and REDUCE THE NUMBER OF THINGS WE ASK OUR CUSTOMERS TO DO CORRECTLY.”

        “While concerns have been raised about our electronic throttle control system, this system — used by all major automakers — actually represents a great safety advancement, enabling superior traction control and electronic stability control, among other things,” Uchiyamada said.

        “… best industry practices …”

        From The Detroit News:

        1. David

          It’s the first I heard that Toyota’s electronic throttle control system is used by all other major manufacturers. My Chrysler, and my Merc, have not been reported as experiencing unbidden acceleration.

          I think what he should have said is that all major manufacturers now use electronic throttle control systems. But there are different ones, and Toyota’s has problems. He probably didn’t want to say it that clearly.

          The problem probably started as follows. The Japanese are known as great perfectors and producers, not great designers and innovators. Once the car became very standardized, companies like Toyota took over and started making almost perfect ones. Then there was a sea-change in technology, to more electronic systems, and rather than wait for the Americans and Germans to do 20 years of design work, the Japanese decided to keep up with the trend and design their own. Mistake, that’s not their skill.

          1. kevinearick

            he may have wanted to insinuate that that Toyota was being thrown under the bus, and that things could get real ugly.

          2. David

            US makers have been thrown under the bus for 20 years. If someone has to receive that treatment, I prefer that Japanese makers get it for a change.

            How was he insinuating that things could get ugly? What can Toyota do? Everything has been going perfectly for them already.

            Does the US government favor our car makers for once? What about when the Japanese required new US cars to be disassembled and reassembled on arriving in Japan — to ensure quality assembly, you know.

  16. plschwartz

    Modest proposal for solving the Greek-Germany problem.

    In return for German guarantees for Greek bonds, Greece would allow Germany to collect their taxes.

  17. Delicious Pundit

    It’s old, but here’s a piece from the great Free Darko proposing that the New York Knicks become a bank holding company:

    “As a bank holding company, the Knicks would be TARP eligible. Though the organization has done an admirable job mitigating its exposure to troubled assets with incalculable values…it nonetheless still faces losing gambles (Curry’s contract) and environmental difficulty (the NBA’s economic model is failing)…. The sooner that a team like the Knicks gets back to spending lavishly on top-end players, the sooner the basketball capital markets will thaw.”

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