Links 10/3/10

Japan develops robotic seals to comfort sick and elderly BBC

US to issue Europe travel warning BBC. Why did my BS detector go on when I saw this headline?

Reading Banned Books on the Kindle Me and My Kindle (hat tip reader David C)

Google’s CEO: ‘The Laws Are Written by Lobbyists” Atlantic. Quelle surprise!

Obama Targets Iran for Human Rights Violations and Shields Bush Officials for Engaging in Same Abuses Truthout

High levels of cancer-causing chemicals recorded since BP spill Los Angeles Times

Complaint Filed with U.S. Justice Department Against Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s Investors Service iStockAnalyst (hat tip reader Mike). No idea if this claim will go anywhere, but makes for interesting reading.

Side Effects May Include Lawsuits New York Times

“Superliar” Meg Blames Brown for Housekeeper Scandal FireDogLake. I first heard of eBay when an investor buddy called me asking if I knew anything about Meg Whitman. He was looking at the company, Whitman was about to be installed as CEO, and his ringing around on her got reports back that she was completely mediocre. He was very puzzled at the choice, since the rest of the C-level at eBAy looked good. This is a pet peeve of mine because I know a lot of super competent women who don’t seem to get the breaks, and then ones like Whitman and Carly Fiorina make it to the top…..

Why China Is Unwilling to Revalue the Yuan Ian Lamont, Baseline Scenario

Chamber of Commerce Issues First Lawsuit over Dodd-Frank FinReg Mike Koncal. From last week, an important item I failed to point to….

On the Foreclosure Front New York Times. The editorial page takes note.

Loan Servicers Prepare for Borrower Backlash. Lawsuits Mounting Mortgage News Daily (hat tip Mortgage Implode-O-Meter)

Commercial Real Estate: End of Extend and Pretend? Calculated Risk

Joseph Stiglitz: the euro may not survive Telegraph

The Very Useful Idiocy of Christine O’Donnell Frank Rich, New York Times

Tea & Crackers Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone. Today’s must read.

Antidote du jour. From ZooBorns:

The Oregon Zoo recently provided a temporary home for twin orphaned cougar cubs while they recuperated from malnutrition and dehydration. The cubs were transferred last week to their permanent home at the Western North Carolina Nature Center. According to Oregon Zoo keepers, the “cute and vocal” brothers have a close bond that has helped them recover from “a rough start to life.” “As a conservation organization, it’s important for us to take a leadership role in finding homes for orphaned animals,” said Kim Smith, zoo director. “These guys really needed our help.”

Picture 23

Baby cougars can’t live in the wild without their mothers, so zoos offer the orphans’ only chance for survival.” Schireman was able to quickly place the 10-week-old cubs. “There are a lot of zoos around the country that would be thrilled to provide a home for a cougar, and the nature center was at the top of the waiting list when ODFW contacted me about these cubs,” Schireman said. “I’m really pleased that the brothers now have a permanent home where they can live together.”

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  1. bmull

    Whenever I see Meg Whitman I think, “She’s a billionaire?” She must have done something great in a previous life. Regardless I hope your friend bought the stock.

    1. psychohistorian

      Meg Whitman drank the lose your morals and ethics koolaid, Yves has chosen not to go down that road and she has us as ardent followers but she is still peeved.

      Some women…..

  2. sal

    It’s not just women. I know a lot of super competent men who don’t seem to get the breaks, and then ones like [you fill in the blank]

    1. rd

      This IgNobel Prize from this year has the solution:

      Management Prize: Alessandro Pluchino (Italy) and colleagues for demonstrating mathematically that organisations would become more efficient if they promoted people at random.

      Since women and minorities are making up increasing numbers of people in the work force, it would be a fast way to diversification.

      The research makes sense, as the Peter Principle basically dictates that people will end up in positions where they fail as the required skill sets change from the ones they were good at in their previous position. So, random selection from one level to the next is not necessarily illogical once a basic degree of competence has been demonstrated – for example, people could be randomly selected from the people rated in the top half of a level for advancement which would demonstrate some degree of previous competence.

      1. Dikaios Logos

        Good points. I am glad I am not the only person who scratched their head that that paper was ridiculed.

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Maybe they could randomly select someone to receive $1 trillon stimulus money.

        The happy winner will likely trickle most of that money down to the rest of the private sector very quickly.

        I konw I would.

      3. attempter

        That’s in accord with the Principle, but hardly just. Indeed, it would be even more abusive of those who lose out than the existing mess.

        If it’s true that we could randomly select officers in most sectors (and I think it is), then it’s all the more reason to do away with heirarchies completely. There’s no reason not to have cooperative management with rotating officer responsibilities.

      4. Keenan

        RE: IgNobel

        In their faith that the Holy Spirit would make the choice, the 11 drew lots and so Mathias replaced Judas Iscariot.

        One wonders at the possibilities if government officials were selected by a similar process. The late William F Buckley once opined that he would take his chances with a congress of 535 individuals randomly selected from the Manhattan phone book.

    2. craazyman

      “It’s the turds that float to the top of the bowl.”

      – Old Ancient Magonian Proverb

      ha ha

  3. Conscience of a Conservative

    he New York Times piece starts off well, but veers off topic, when after discussing unlawful foreclosures they suggest making the loans cheaper(or free). The bottom line is that foreclosures must follow rule of law, and people who can’t afford their home need to move on. It was unrealistic for many of these people to purchase inflated homes using over-leveraged finances. The New York Times misses that second point.

  4. dearieme

    “to take a leadership role”: would drivel like this be banned if a law were introduced to make English the official language of the USA?

  5. lambert strether

    On the Europe story, your BS detector probably went off because you’re used to gaslighting before the mid-terms. Obama’s normalized everything else Bush did, so why not that, too?

  6. Ina Deaver

    What Frank Rich says has been worrying me. O’Donnell is a mini-Palin. One of my kids (4th grade) was looking over my shoulder yesterday while I read the news online, and he said “Why exactly is Sarah Palin still in the news? Biden actually won the election, and I never see him in the news.”

    “That, child, is something that many people would like to know,” I replied.

    But I’m afraid that Rich has the actual answer.

  7. Trizian

    Aim of the Europe travel warning is probably to convince US travellers to stay at home and not spend money in Europe. See it as an extension of the upcoming trade wars. ;)

    1. wunsacon

      I suspect the same thing.

      Money spent at home leads to extra revenue opportunities for the home government.

  8. notabanker

    I think you’ve missed the mark on the Google CEO interview.

    Here is a publicly owned corporation that holds 3 copies of the entire internet content comparing the Chinese government to a well run business enterprise, stating that technology (and specifically their technology) can better run the American government, lobbying for more foreign national visas and claiming they know what you think before you even type it.

    Now they choose not to cross the “creepy line”. What happens when that changes?

  9. hermanas

    re;(Why did my BS detector go on when I saw this headline?) There are so many I thought it would be a good Letterman, “10 reasons” segment.

    re; Matt Taibi, “it breaks your heart.” Made me think I of the Rolling Stones (Jig-Saw Puzzle);
    Oh, there’s twenty-thousand grandmas
    Wave their hankies in the air
    All burning up their pensions
    And shouting, “It’s not fair!”

  10. RBM411

    Your BS detector went off because for 10 years we’ve been getting these nebulous BS warnings that have no specifics because the bureaucrats don’t have a clue as to what is going on. They just need to CYA in case something happens. Remember the Police are really there to pick up the pieces, not to protect you.

  11. Jesse

    I do not know Meg Whitman, but I did have the displeasure of working with Carly Fiorina before she became famous.

    She was not the most empty of suits, but almost certainly in the upper percentile. Carly is highly verbal, articulate and self promoting to a fault, and shamelessly opportunistic. She flourished in a corporate culture that treasures such things as long as you are willing to go along to get along with whatever status quo there happens to be.

    She reminded me of Joe Nacchio without the accomplishments, which in his case were far too often the work of others or overblown. They both left AT&T to go on to virtually destroy other companies.

    They are a type, a new American leader, which comes in both genders.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I will be happy if we can just make sure money from traffic citations does not go to police pay or solving city budget deficits.

      I see an inherent conflict of interest.

  12. RK

    Re: Stiglitz on the Euro
    First Faber, then Hendry, then Rickards, now Stilgitz. That’s too many smart people with otherwise different perspectives converging on the same conclusion
    to make one comfortable. It would certainly throw a spanner into the Fed’s trash
    the dollar plans, at least initially.

  13. Anonymous Jones

    Regarding Taibbi’s “us versus them” revelation…sadly, this is nothing new. Why would South Dakota, in 2004, cut off its nose to spite its face, by voting out Daschle, the top ranking D in the Senate and the person who would surely have reassumed the position of majority leader in 2008 and once again given tiny SD wildly disproportionate power in this country?

    It’s just hatred. They hate the ‘other.’ They hate that the world might be complicated and that a few of the things they believe about life might be untrue. They hate people who acknowledge this complexity. That’s what it’s always been. And it’s a cycle of ignorance and arrogance in this country that’s unlikely to be arrested any time soon.

    I have a friend whose mother is what most would call quite rich. She has a $3M house in Westchester County. She and her husband worked hard their entire lives, at least until he died somewhat prematurely. She won’t watch any TV but Fox News and wouldn’t trust a single thing in the NYT. Hates the government with a white hot passion. Where does her money come from? Buying a house in what was to become one of the richest communities in the country…and having a fat pension as a retired ELEMENTARY SCHOOL TEACHER. Worked for the government her entire life. So did her husband. No one choosing this path today could ever hope to rise up the way they did. But none of this matters…

  14. Ron

    The Republican Party is the bible belt party using the Tea Party as an attempt to widen its appeal beyond its social conservative base. If the Republican Party can widen its base outside the South and core Midwest then its anti-government less spending mantra may give it a boast, which is all this is about.

  15. Steve

    Re: tea party article

    In response to yet another tea party article, can you liberals please answer a question:

    Why do some among you keep branding them as racist? Does your argument that there are very few minorities within their ranks (as quoted in the article!) mean that we have come to a point in this country where groups of predominantly white citizens can’t protest legitimate problems with our government?

    1. Glen

      The actions of a few can taint the many. Especially when he “founded” the Tea Party:

      I actually happen to agree with some of things the Tea Party says about the bailout – these should never had happen. But lately, it seems that the Tea Party brand has been bought by the Republicans. Which is a very good deal for the Republicans since their brand was on the rocks in 2009.

    2. wunsacon

      >> Does your argument that there are very few minorities within their ranks (as quoted in the article!)

      The absence of minorities is only “corroborating evidence”, not sufficient itself to “convict”.

      It becomes relevant when you hear enough other stuff — on message boards or on the signs of the people attending rallies (and then told by partially-politically-correct Beck not to bring signs!) — that you start to put 2 and 2 together.

    3. Rex

      The thrust of the article is calling out self-serving stupidity. Racism is just one subcategory. Why did you choose to focus on just that one?

  16. EmilianoZ

    Re: tea party article

    Thanks to this article, I’m finally starting to understand what lies at the heart of Tea Party psychology.

    It basically boils down to this: a primal Malthusian reflex. The economic meltdown made one thing clear: the pie, the federal pie (Medicare et al.) will get smaller. Those guys are just worried that they will not get what they think is their fair share because less deserving people (minorities) have to be fed too.

  17. yoganmahew

    “This is a pet peeve of mine because I know a lot of super competent women who don’t seem to get the breaks, and then ones like Whitman and Carly Fiorina make it to the top…..”
    It’s not just women, though it seems more regular. Few bright men make it to the top either. What we end up with is mucksavages with a veneer of politeness – corporate bullies with political nous and not much else.

    Look at Dick Fuld, okay, don’t look at him, well, try to imagine someone like him, hmmm, let’s take a different example – Jimmy Cayne? Ken Lay? Honestly, you can pick the CEOs of a dozen of the worlds biggest bozo corporations. Most are men, one or two are women. The similarities? They didn’t get where they are by being nice to people (or by being smart, except in a “what’s the best way to stab someone in the face” smartness).

  18. Glen

    Here’s a good one:

    Apparently, the US government will start “backstopping” OTC derivatives. So, we’re going to cut out AIG as the middle man and put the taxpayer on the hook for what Buffet called the financial weapons of mass destruction.

    Every time I think that our government couldn’t find a more destructive way to bail out Wall St, they come up with the way. Man, Senator Durbin wasn’t kidding when he said banks owned the place:

  19. Doug Terpstra

    Taibbi’s “Tea & Crackers” is a depressingly entertaining window into America’s Dark Ages ahead. The fact that this anti-intellectual study in contradiction and dissonance, so effortlessly hijacked by the morally-bankrupt-and-brain-dead GOP, is actually a viable political movement today is incontrovertible evidence of American decline—and that Obama, mysteriously unable to answer it, is the perfect dark horse ringer for the kleptocracy.

  20. eric anderson

    If people of Frank Rich’s mindset would actually listen to Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, instead of imagining what he thinks they and the Tea Party stand for, perhaps it might be better understood by Tea-bashers that the movement will not settle for the Republican policies of the past. The GOP winning the next election is only the beginning of a long struggle to truly cut the size and role of the federal government, to restore balance and sustainability. I think you’ll find both Rush and Glenn consistent on these points. A bailout for the rich, a continuation of the corporate-government incestuous policies of the Obama administration with a new Republican or bipartisan face on them, is not acceptable.

    If Republicans do to Tea Party objectives what Obama has done to progressives, you are going to see the air escape from their balloon just as quickly as the Democrats have deflated and retreated. Party members have their pitchforks firmly in hand.

  21. Rex

    Tea Party article:
    “… and call themselves Tea Partiers. And those people really don’t pay attention to specifics too much. Like dogs, they listen to tone of voice and emotional attitude.”

    Love that!

    Think I’ll get a tea-shirt made: TEA PARTY (then that last sentence)

    1. eric anderson

      The reality is quite the contrary. The Tea Party people are the ones showing up at town halls and campaign appearances with copies of the bills these jokers have passed, and asking them to justify the idiot policies contained in the fine print.

      We are looking at specifics like votes, like trillions stolen from the taxpayers to bail out rich market gamblers, like stimulus programs that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to create or save a single job.

      The Devil is literally in the details. It is the analysis and put-downs of the left heaped on the Tea Party that are simplistic. Simplistic and hypocritical. They crow about O’Donnell’s dabbling in witchcraft, but gloss over the unsavory features of Obama’s past. If O’Donnell is a “witch,” then Obama is a cokehead. Is that fair? Of course not. That the left will stoop this low does not show a superior intelligence or grasp of reality. But what are they going to do but wildly attack the other side? Democrats certainly cannot run on their record of success. Their desperation is amusing, and will make their downfall even more satisfying.

      1. attempter

        “Simplistic”, ah yes.

        Not like the stellar analysis which would put the Reaganite neoliberal war criminal Obama and his corporate hack supporters on “the left”. (Not to mention the level of knowledge and understanding such a description conveys regarding the person spewing it.)

        Or for that matter the profundity of analysis which still emphasizes the idiotic left-right spectrum.

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