Links 3/4/10


  1. Madi


    Another piece of news. AIG’s Anastasia Kelly has moved on from her 500K GC job to DLA Piper, her old firm. I don’t know what the profit per partner at DLA is like, but I assume it should be over 1 million.

    Here’s her parting shot:

    “For someone to say, ‘I think you’re doing a great job, Stasia, but the American people hate you and therefore we think you should make no more than $500,000 a year’ — there’s no logic to that. It wasn’t something I could live with. I guess that’s the Irish in me.”

    She still just does not get it. And stop besmirching the great irish people.

    1. Anonymous Jones

      Let her go. I know the ‘talent’ at DLA Piper well and first-hand. A few stars and a *ton* of dead weight. Even if she is one of the “stars,” I’m almost certain her departure was not a “loss” for the rotting husk that is AIG. Anyway, this is supposedly a society based on free market principles, and she shouldn’t be working for what is basically a government entity if she is a “star.” Her parting shot is ludicrous and betrays her fragile ego.

      And yes, she’ll make more money, but on the bright side for all of you, she’ll have to live life as an attorney! I’m glad those days are forever behind me…

  2. nowhereman

    What blows my mind is that people still do business with either of these firms.
    When did our grasp of reality fail us, I know that advertisements and endorsements are extremely pervasive, but when did we give ourselves over to their message, heart and soul, so that these entities continue to exist, and continue to blight our future,

  3. Swedish Lex

    A couple of comments on today’s must read.
    I cannot find much to disagree with the situation analysis although what I miss is the second half of the story. That is the program on what to do in order to depart from the current course of action, which will end with a crash landing, and to develop the means that will permit a controlled emergency landing for our civilization.
    Jacques Attali’s latest book discusses these issues:,23600257.aspx

    Wearing my EU hat, it is interesting that the essay does not discuss explicitly Europe other than in historical terms although it is clear that the author views Europe as part of the economic and ecological problem. Europe is however not part of the author’s negative outlook as regards security threats and the military and nuclear China-U.S. arms race. Some will argue that the EU is a free rider, benefitting from the military umbrella provided by the U.S. There are perhaps grains of truth in that but more interesting is, in my view, that no single EU State is rich (or delusional) enough to commit to an arms race. Collectively, the EU States have no inclination to do so, which is good.

    For those who are interested in the who the EU sees itself and its role in the world going forward, I recommend reading this:

    1. Richard Kline

      I read Foster’s long critique in the must read as well. Hmmm. Now, large portions of his conceptual sources are either analyses I’ve read, results I’ve read through third-party critiques, and in both cases perspectives I’m broadly or strongly sympathetic too. (The mere phrase ‘Axial Age’ makes my heart go pit-a-pat.) That said, I didn’t find the synthesis entirely convincing as presented. “Capitalism is in a transformational crisis,” says Foster. I’m anything but convinced of that. Sad to say. Capitalism is a modality, an ideology really. Those don’t die out, they just adapt to circumstances. Nothing in the present financial system crisis threatens capitalism at any profound level in my view. So to arrive at a ‘transformational moment’ issues with climatic transformation are grafted onto a critique of developmental political economy. Those two issues have links to be sure, but really they are separate trajectories of influence. At the very least a causal linkage between them isn’t demonstrated. It was interesting, though, to here some of the more obscure citations from Brother Karl on all this. The man’s tremendous scope of critique is still as underappreciated as it is uncomprehended.

      Regarding ‘Europe, those war tax cheats,’ Swedish Lex we may only be glad that Europe refuses to buy guns with which to get into trouble with. The fact is Europe has no significant security threats. Now, anyway. Individual European states were small enough to have real threats, mostly from each other. Russia is the only state which could threaten a unified Europe. In that regard, the German-mediated EU rapproachement with Russia has been a real game-changer, the most important geopolitical realignment since 1945. Why would Russia ‘attack Europe’ when it makes ever more money in a mutually beneficial trade engagement? Russia has never had any reason to try seriously to conquer Europe, and a demilitarization + trade accord is exactly what Russia has really needed since forever. North Africa if unified might trouble individual states but has no main to impact a unified Europe. Really, the Great Peace in Europe is the single most desirable outcome of unification. The only party which doesn’t really get this is, well us. The US that is. Europe doesn’t need to buy more bombs as long as it’s neighbors are friends, and that’s how those neighbors are going to stay.

      1. Swedish Lex

        “Nothing in the present financial system crisis threatens capitalism at any profound level in my view”

        Europe’s large universal banks are a wafer width away from having their capital base wiped out, which still remains a distinct possibility. A euro implosion, or another incident of that magnitude – there is much to choose from, will/would immediately throw banks into the arms of the governments, which in turn then by necessity would have to figure out to do with the economy going forward. That could become a transformative moment, for better or worse.

        Europe has no serious security threats but we still have to count on ourselves to satisfy our thirst for raw materials:

        1. Gentlemutt

          I thought it was really cool that one of Mr. Foster’s footnotes included this, ahem, accidentally delicious quotation from Mr. Krugman, going after the ‘vulgar Keynesians’ who failed to appreciate the power and majesty of the Fed:

          “It is obvious (to me) that the average unemployment rate over the next ten years will be what the Fed wants it to be.”

          Paul Krugman,The Accidental Economist (New York: W. W. Norton, 1998), 28–33,

    2. carol

      “A couple of comments on today’s must read.
      I cannot find much to disagree with the situation analysis although what I miss is the second half of the story. ”

      You may miss the second half perhaps due to the publication date of the article (March last year). It was written before Jan. 20, 2009, as the text say: “President-elect Obama’s chief economic advisor, Larry Summers,…”

    3. DownSouth

      Swedish Lex,

      You say: “I cannot find much to disagree with the situation analysis although what I miss is the second half of the story. That is the program on what to do in order to depart from the current course of action…”

      I too agree with Foster’s situation analysis. But as to the second half, I thought he danced around it a bit, but in the end came down pretty heavily on the left-hand side of the old Marxian-capitalist dichotomy.

      He begins by citing Immanuel Wallerstein as saying the last couple of decades are a transition away from the current capitalist world-system towards something else. “What exactly this something else is we do not know,” Foster says. This is a sentiment I agree with. I also agree with his assertion that “the only answer is the revolutionary one.”

      But then he turns right around and, for me at least, ruins it all by claiming that Latin America —-Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador—-“is now showing the way to the world.”

      Personally I believe the Marxist-capitalist duality has about as much chance of “showing the way” as the duality it replaced, that is the Catholic-protestant duality of the 16th and 17th centuries. It’s going to take thinking a lot more radical than that of Marx to steer us through this one.

      Marx, just like Adam Smith, was very much a modernist in the tradition of Descartes and Hobbes , a tradition committed to the belief that we can develop a science that will make us masters and possessors of nature. In the words of Joseph Priestley:

      Nature, including both its materials and its laws, will be more at our command; men will make their situation in this world abundantly more easy and comfortable, they will prolong their existence in it and grow daily more happy… Thus whatever the beginning of the world the end will be glorious and paradisiacal beyond that our imaginations can now conceive.

      Marx falls firmly within this tradition. As Hannah Arendt explains, he

      strengthened more than anybody else the politically most pernicious doctrine of the modern age, namely that life is the highest good, and that the life process of society is the very centre of human endeavour. Thus the role of revolution was no longer to liberate men from the oppression of their fellow men, let alone to found freedom, but to liberate the life process of society from the fetters of scarcity so that it could swell into a stream of abundance. Not freedom but abundance became now the aim of revolution.
      –Hannah Arendt, On Revolution

      If the only choices are Smith’s paradise of innocence and Marx’s paradise of innocence, why not just stick with Smith’s?

  4. liberal

    My preordered (Amazon) copy of ECONned arrived in the mailbox yesterday. Looks very good!

    Browsed the index and read the bit on Krugman and oil prices. While I like most of what Krugman writes (one exception—his proposed temporary nationalization of banks a la Sweden was fine, but he left out something which I wanted, haircuts for bondholdesr), he apparently definitely got this oil stuff wrong, and your critique is very telling.

    (I had found what I assume retrospectively is the same explanation somewhere on the web, about spot oil pricing.)

    Looking forward to reading the book!

  5. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    And now for something completely different – that was the old Monty Python.

    The new Monty Python: And now for something completely the same, we go to our Bloomberg correspondent for a report on ‘consumer agency within Fed seen as victory for banks.’

    Well, here is something new, perhaps not completely new in light of massive recalls by Toyota, Honda, Nissan and other car makers – there is a rumor that elite universities are issuing recalls of their graduates from 1900 to 2009. (Anyone older is just not worthy of fixing, I guess.) In any case, the purpose, I have been told, is to repair a faulty memory chip in some of their graduates to ensure the inclusion of logic statements like ‘you, as Wall Street bankers are doing God’s work’ and ‘people not as filthy rich as you are simply envious of you.’

    Speaking of education, it’s sad (to me anyway) that one only needs to know 3rd grade math inequalities to succeed in life. Let see…this guy here, he has this much in his bank account. That other guy has that much. Hmmm, this is more than that (thanks to that 3rd grade education). I guess I will take this over that.

    Or, my house (or car or job or whatever) is worth this much. Your house (or car or job or whatever) is worth that much. This much is more than that much (hey, I completed my 3rd grade). That means I am better than you.

  6. kevinearick

    Medicaid, Medicare, & Social Security now exceed the taxing capability of the current system; retirees are doubling, and the birth rate is falling; the healthcare bill proposes $500 billion in tax increases, for which there is no base, and $500 billion in Medicare cuts, against the rapidly rising tide of retirements, and the economic deficit already exceeds the rest of the budget, including the military.

    Obama, “At stake right now is not just our ability to solve this problem, but our ability to solve any problem.” “… I don’t think the American people are interested in process …”

    Hard to solve a problem you do not look at, but very easy to increase the number of symptoms liquidating the people to support the cartels. Watch the net cash flows run downhill.

    … back to our point, which becomes a circle, which becomes a helix, with infinite travel in both directions. Time is relative, and the universe is a time machine.

    Horizontally bisect the circle. Place a hinge on the right side. Turn the bottom half 180 degrees, creating the sin wave on the oscilloscope, a two-dimensional representation. Extrapolate the wave into 3 dimensions to get the helix. The line is turning and rotating on its axis incrementally, rather than the 180 degree hinge.

    Place the gravitational field “traveling” on the helix, with virtual containment by the magnetic field, with resulting torque causing the semi-neutral masses to spin on their axes. Once the gravitational field finds the electron, the system collapses.

    Kids are natural assumption challengers. Without that function, the system collapses in on itself, which is only bad if you do not have sufficient energy to turn and rotate through the resulting vortex, that is if you cannot turn your mass into energy at the resonant rate.

    Within the helix of helices, the valence electrons always have the opportunity to jump into a nearby orbital, creating all kinds of reactions. In bimodal cleaving, a valence electron taps a new circuit and the gravitational field finds a low-level electron simultaneously, triggering both black and white swan events. Therein lies the gun, evolution, the shark that stalks us all.

    Psychologically, most cannot bear to watch the shark, and, in a titration, nothing happens until everything happens, when the quantum energy of catalysis releases the spring. It’s like ratcheting up a catapult, with an inversely proportional gear mechanism.

    Mythology is the thread connecting the projectile to the catapult false work. The question is how much of the capital base can be brought along for the ride. Capital can only “rope” the electron it knows.

    Evolution is ratcheting the catapult. The difference between what it expects and what it is getting, driven by those PLCs locking capital in place, is the voltage running the motor. And evolution is a heartless bastard. The pressure within the nexus will continue to increase, until it implodes or voluntarily disassembles.

  7. gordon

    Economist’s View has a post on a new book by Barry C. Lynn called “Cornered: The New Monopoly Capitalism and the Economics of Destruction”. It’s about monopolies in the US.

    E.V. links to a review in the WSJ. That review is paywalled, but there is another one here:

    And there is a hostile review here:

  8. kevinearick

    we are going to cut $500B in Medicare how, over the AMA’s dead body, or yours?

    Doctors threaten Medicare

    By Parija Kavilanz, senior writerFebruary 25, 2010: 8:11 PM ET NEW YORK ( —

    With a 21% cut to Medicare reimbursement rates set to take effect Monday, the nation’s largest physician organization has informed its members about their options — which include shutting off practices to new Medicare patients.
    “To our physicians, we are providing information on their Medicare participation options, including how to remove themselves from the Medicare program,” said James Rohack, president of the American Medical Association, whose more than 250,000 members include doctors, medical students and faculty members.

    Some 43 million Americans receive Medicare coverage. For doctors who accept Medicare, federal law requires that reimbursement rates be adjusted annually based on formula tied to the health of the economy.

    That law says rates should be cut every year to keep Medicare financially sound. But Congress has blocked those cuts from happening in seven of the last eight years and could still do so this year.

    Those temporary fixes aren’t good enough anymore, warned Rohack.

    He said the AMA wants the current law to be repealed and a new formula used “that more accurately reflects the cost of providing care” in determining Medicare reimbursement rates.
    In the meantime, physicians are asking the AMA to prepare handouts they can give patients to prepare them for the worst-case scenario: getting dropped completely. And a new report on the AMA’s Web site tells doctors how they can help their patients find other doctors if they decide to no longer accept Medicare.

    “All this is a result of physicians becoming very frustrated with the situation,” said Rohack. “It’s regrettable, but it reflects the current political environment. Congress need a crisis before it acts.”

      1. kevinearick

        this is government accounting. tax immediately, and book the cost savings that mysteriously never materialize, and always, always, sew the seeds for the next crisis (they got that one from the MBA program, which goes back a few thousand years).

        this time around the tax base in inelastic on the upside.

        1. kevinearick

          the gun:

          if you want your non-recurring unemployment $20B, pony up the recurring medicare pay for doctors $200B NPV, in a bill promising a $500B cut in Medicare.

          something for nothing economics – raise the price and place a sale sign on the product. When you pay the 30% deductable, you are actually paying 100%. Everything else is misdirection, and misdirection does not come cheap.

          Wait till healthcare gets added to the cost of an education.

          1. kevinearick

            and, oh by the way, here is what losing your unemployment benefits feels like.

            somehow, I don’t think the Senator is going to go unpaid.

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