Links 12/17/10

Wikileaks’ Julian Assange tells of ‘smear campaign’ BBC

Leaked document shows EPA allowed bee-toxic pesticide despite own scientists’ red flag Grist (hat tip reader Ted L)

Building the shadow Internet Pruning Shears

Israel, Obama & The Bomb Conn Hallinan (hat tip reader Fred A)

Judge Who Ruled Health Reform Law Unconstitutional May Have Conflict of Interest PR Watch (hat tip reader furzy mouse). I’m no fan of the health care bill, but a conflict of interest is not kosher.

Just-Released IRS Data Show Effects of Our Radical New Greed-Is-Good Culture David Sirota, OpenLeft (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Bernie Sanders Puts Barack Obama to Shame Matt Taibbi. Bernie looks much better than most Congressmen, and I agree his standing up against the tax bill deserves praise, but don’t forget that he sold out his side to carry the Administration’s water with an Audit the Fed “compromise”.

Waltzing towards the next, inevitable implosion FT Alphaville (hat tip Richard Smith)

Merkel wins – slow motion train wreck can now proceed unhindered Eurointelligence

European Central Bank arms itself for Spanish crisis Ambrose Evans-Prichard, Telegraph

Moody’s slashes Ireland’s credit rating Financial Times

More on Ratings Agencies and Consultants – What a bunch of quants! MacroMan (hat tip Richard Smith)

Ron Paul Appears Poised to Irk the Fed Chief Floyd Norris, New York Times

Derivatives trading brought into public view Financial Times

Mortgage financing reform needed to avoid another crisis: report Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives

Fed Proposes Rules to Cut Debit Card Fees New York Times

22 Arrested in LA Foreclosure Protest at Chase ABC (hat tip Lisa Epstein)

Florida AG investigates two companies delivering foreclosure court papers Miami Herald (hat tip April Charney)

Wall Street Whitewash Paul Krugman, New York Times

Our Dickensian Economy Alan Blinder, Wall Street Journal

These astroturf libertarians are the real threat to internet democracy George Monbiot, Guardian (hat tip Richard Kline)

Antidote du jour:

Screen shot 2010-12-16 at 8.47.16 PM

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. attempter

    Re judge’s conflict of interest:

    IOW he’s a typical federal judge.

    Re the Assange persecution:

    I like this answer:

    BBC Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark asked Mr Assange if he would give his word of honour that he would not try to abscond before the next hearing.

    He replied: “We have done everything by the book. We have tried as hard as possible to set up a situation where we can clear my name of these allegations.

    “But what we have not seen is the provision of any evidence or material to allow us to do that.”

    As if he owes his “word of honor” to a media hack. He should do whatever he thinks he needs to do. As we’re seeing with the ongoing torture of Bradley Manning, there won’t be even the charade of “due process” if the US criminals can get their hands on him. (Not that we should believe in any such charade either even where they do try it. In the Wikileaks case the mask is fully off and we see the hideous face of stark fascism.)

    Back in the 70s, was it common to recognize that Bianca Jagger was an infinitely more substantial human being than her corporate pig husband?

    1. DownSouth

      attempter said: “In the Wikileaks case the mask is fully off and we see the hideous face of stark fascism.”

      Indeed. What remains of “democracy” in the United States and, for that matter, all of the West is but a hollowed out shell of the real deal.

      To tear the mask of hypocrisy from the face of the enemy, to unmask him and the devious machinations and manipulations that permit him to rule without using violent means, that is, to provoke action even at the risk of annihilation so that the truth may come out….
      –Hannah Arendt, Crises of the Republic

      1. Antifa

        This is a key feature of “friendly fascism” — to keep the outward forms of democracy meticulously, almost as ritual while behind the mask everything is hollowed out and reduced to exercising of raw power for the benefit of the very few.

        The crony capitalism that is currently looting the remaining assets of the shrinking American middle class is a blatant exercise of fascism — government-condoned theft by a pre-approved caste of insiders who now stand entirely beyond the laws of the Republic.

        We are not just back to the age of Robber Barons, we are back to the days before the Magna Carta.

        1. F. Beard

          We are not just back to the age of Robber Barons, we are back to the days before the Magna Carta. Antifa

          T’will probably be a Pyrrhic Victory for the winners at best. The world is too dangerous to survive much injustice.

  2. Richard Kline

    On the potential of pesticidal nicotinoid toxicity as the cause of hive collapse, it strikes me as a strong possibility. And we see here again that the EPA has become, like the SEC, a hollowed out Trojan Horse for the propagation of corporate power uber alles. Not the Environmental Protection Agency but the Protected Environment Agency, a ring-fenced profit zone from which health, sanity, and law are excluded. The bees are the ‘dead canary’ which tells us just how sick our society has become . . . .

  3. Jim Haygood

    ‘Let’s put the recent … bond sell-off into some sort of longer-term context. Can you see any break in the uptrend of government bonds? Not yet, I can’t.’ — Albert Edwards

    Well duh, Albert — no wonder you cain’t see no break in the uptrend — you’re using a total return chart, dog. That’s no way to identify a trend in yields.

    Here’s a proper yield-only chart which shows how close the 30-year is to busting through the upper channel of a 15-year downtrend.

    QE2 — if you have to ask what it costs, you can’t afford it!

  4. Ignim Brites

    “Embedded in our tax and budget debates is the bipartisan assumption that the super-rich shouldn’t pay the tax rates they paid during the mid-20th century – aka. the tax rates that existed when our economy boomed.” (Just-Released IRS Data Show Effects of Our Radical New Greed-Is-Good Culture David Sirota).

    Would it be unfair to read this as an appeal for progressives to advocate for repeal of the Kennedy tax cuts and return to a 91% top rate?

    Maybe progressives ought to take a paradoxical therapeutic approach and argue for labor tax rates that do not exceed those on dividends and capital gains. One thing is for sure, with rates like that there would no question of bailing out the banks, or GE and GM for that matter.

    1. liberal

      Rates are a sideshow. Real issue is the definition of taxable income, and the disparity in treating various forms of income.

  5. DownSouth

    • Re: “Wikileaks’ Julian Assange tells of ’smear campaign’ BBC”
    • Re: “Wall Street Whitewash Paul Krugman, New York Times”

    Assange is demanding that actual evidence of his guilt be produced, that he be tried based on the facts and not the hysterical imaginings of the right-wing lynch mob.

    This ties back to the conclusion of Paul Krugman’s article:

    …what we learned, instead, is what happens when an ideology backed by vast wealth and immense power confronts inconvenient facts. And the answer is, the facts lose.

    But what Krugman proffers is a half-truth. An ideology doesn’t have to be backed by “vast wealth and immense power” in order for the facts to lose.

    The philosopher Paul Boghossian explains in Fear of Knowledge:

    At its best—-for instance, in the work of Simone de Beauvoir and Anthony Appiah—-social constructivist thought exposes the contingency of those of our social practices which we had wrongly come to regard to naturally mandated. It does so by relying on the standard canons of good scientific reasoning. It goes astray when it aspires to become a general theory of truth or knowledge. The difficulty lies in understanding why such generalized applications of social construction have come to tempt so many.

    One source of their appeal is clear: they are hugely empowering. If we can be said to know up front that any item of knowledge only has that status because it gets a nod from our contingent social values, then any claim to knowledge can be dispatched if we happen not to share the values on which it allegedly depends.

    But that only postpones the real question. Why this fear of knowledge? When this felt need to protect against its deliverance?

    In the United States, constructivist views of knowledge are closely linked to such progressive movements as post-colonialism and multiculturalism because they supply the philosophical resources with which to protect oppressed cultures from the charge of holding false or unjustified views.

    Even on purely political grounds, however, it is difficult to understand how this could have come to seem a good application of constructivist though: for if the powerful can’t criticize the oppressed, because the central epistemological categories are inexorably tied to particular perspective, it also follows that the oppressed can’t criticize the powerful. The only remedy, so far as I can see, for what threatens to be a strongly conservative upshot, is to accept an overt double standard: allow a questionable idea to be criticized if it is held by those in a position of power—-Christian creationism, for example—-but not if it is held by those whom the powerful oppress—-Zuni creationism, for example.

    The subject of Noam Chomsky came up the other day here on Naked Capitalism, and commenter ‘nobody’ provided this link to a debate between Chomsky and Michael Foucault. Though both are renowned structuralists, it is clear from the debate that Chomsky stakes out a very different position than Foucault. Could it be that Chomsky is more of a practitioner of constructivist thought “at its best,” as Boghossian puts it, in the tradition of Simone de Beauvoir and Anthony Appiah? (This is not a rhetorical question. It’s just that I’ve never read Chomsky so don’t know enough about him to answer the question.) If so, there may be hope for progressives to right their ship after all.

  6. Ina Deaver

    Re: conflict of interest —

    Whether it is technically a conflict as defined by the rules of judicial conduct, I can’t say. I can say that there is a rule that a judge should avoid anything that gives the appearance of a conflict; that’s a strict standard to live by.

    I disagree with the reasoning of the opinion, and other federal judges have ruled differently. But it is a solid, well-reasoned opinion and crafted as narrowly as possible. The judge severed the provision that he found unconstitutional, and while there are arguments that the entire scheme for PPACA sinks if that one provision is removed (that is essentially the government’s argument in its briefs), it is still a narrowly crafted decision.

    The more important question is why we have a system for lifetime appointments to the bench that relies exclusively on political favor. I know people who have been appointed who are ridiculously dim bulbs — but were precinct leaders for a political party. It detracts from the fantastic service of those judges who serve the public with wisdom and restraint.

  7. Jim the Skeptic

    From the link: “So assuming that Palmisano pays roughly what his fellow millionaires pay in taxes, we’ve seen IBM CEO tax rates go from 69 percent down to 24 percent. ”

    As I have pointed out before, in 1981 the highest bracket was 70% on income above $108,300.

    Reagan and the Republicans started reducing taxes on the richest Americans in 1982 when they reduced the highest bracket to 50% on income above $41,500.

    Also notice that they lowered the income required for the highest bracket. They were and are completely shameless!

    And starting in about 1982 consumers found it harder and harder to maintain their standard of living. First they reduced their savings from 10% in 1984 to -.5% in 2005. (Personal savings from government stats.) Then they started removing equity from their homes, borrowing $56Billion in 1991 and by 2005 were removing $577Billiion. (Greenspan and Kennedy study 2007)

    Reducing taxes for the richest has been terrible for the economy but the effects were hidden by Greenspan’s easy money policies to prop the economy up.

    Of course the primary problem with the economy outsourcing production overseas.

    1. Francois T

      “Of course the primary problem with the economy outsourcing production overseas.”

      If outsourcing our production affect our economic health, think about what outsourcing of clinical trials of drugs and devices would mean to our health.


      The cover illustration is worth the click.

  8. craazyman

    Can anybody anywhere make sense out of economics?

    I don’t think so.

    So now we hear that the Irish Economy is ACTUALLY GROWING??!!! What happened to all the doom & gloom mongering? All the Everything-is-headed-straight-to-Hell mongering? I was believing all of that. And now this . . .

    I’m happy for the Irish, but I wonder if anyone anywhere has even the faintest clue about how economies work. I’m inclined to think the answer is no. Except for me, at the Institute for Contemporary Analysis, whereby our theory is that economics is 16 equations and 19 unknowns and that Capital, Labor and Imagination are unknowns. Nature (N), is the 4th variable and is a local variable but a global constant, unless an asteroid hits the earth. in which case N = 0.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      We must tend our gardens.

      If you could show the cabbage I have planted to your economists, the world would be a better place.

    2. sidelarge

      The US GDP “grew” occasionally during the Depression, too.

      1.0% or so growth in the span of a few months hardly tells you much about anything. If you could explain everything with straight lines as simple as y=2x and so on, you would need hardly any advanced math in economics.

      Economics may not be hard science, but you are over-excited by a fairly small piece of data. If such insignificant thing was enough to upset the whole field, economics as a study would’ve disappeared a long ago.

    3. sidelarge

      Besides, most of the “doom-mongerers” are talking primarily about what WILL happen in Ireland from the next year on, as far as I know. That GDP/GNP data are from July-September 2010. The biggest austerity measures haven’t even kicked in, as of now, after all.

      1. craazyman

        good point, maybe there’s hope for us pessimists after all.

        “hope” for pessimists. ha ha.

        I still think Ireland should say “F–k Off” to the banks. Emotionally speaking, anyway.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          In addition to the impact of the austerity measures, the Irish ‘economy’ might shrink further when people start to grow their own potatoes and fail to report them to economists.

    4. Jim the Skeptic

      The economy is what the highest 1% income earners, the bankers and the politicians do to the rest of the population. It is very complicated.

      Sometimes they have to economize which means they lower their taxes and run up government debt. After some of that, the economy needs austerity, so they cut spending on unemployment, education, and healthcare.

      When the economy is in a recession they complain bitterly about the laziness of the rest of the population, primarily because it is more difficult to lower their taxes in a recession.

      Sometimes the economy will go down so far that they have to stimulate it. The politicians create programs to pay the top 1% wage earners to build ‘bridges to nowhere’. This usually evolves loans from bankers who also profit handsomely. This makes it easier for them to give larger compaign contributions. These contributions will grease the skids for the large bailouts of the bankers which are needed regularly. These bailouts are a very important part of the economic cycle, it is very complicated.

      The economy can be improved by stopping the payment of unemployment benefits. Then there would be more people applying for nonexistent jobs and getting discouraged, and then the percentage of people unemployed would go lower. But the bleeding heart liberals will not listen to reason most of the time.

      Social Security is a huge drain on the economy. If those withholding taxes were invested in stocks and bonds, then stock prices would go higher, people working the financial industries would be paid higher bonuses, politicians would get larger campaign contributions, and the financial industry would be a better position to bargain for bigger bailouts.Also when stocks prices and dividends go down, the elderly would see their income disappear so they would have to get a job at McDonalds. Oh and pet food stock prices would go up. But the bleeding heart liberals will not listen to reason.

      Healthcare is another huge drain on the economy. Actually it would not be a problem except for the chronically ill and the elderly. Those people are constantly visiting doctors, getting surgeries, getting hospitalized, and consuming mass quantities of prescription drugs. Currently the plan is to force them to pay as much as possible and then drive them into bankruptcy. It is a terrible problem, imagine what stock prices would be without all this health care. Now the bleeding heart liberals want to force the healthy to get health insurance, can you believe it? The stock market is not low enough for them?!! Don’t they care about the economy at all?

      Anyway these public minded operators spend day and night working on the economy. Did I mention that it is very complicated?

    5. Yves Smith Post author

      Inventory restocking was a big driver of 2009 GDP growth in the US. If Ireland went through a period of destocking and then people had to place orders merely to maintain flat, but now lower inventory levels, that would be a positive input into overall growth levels.

  9. Hugh

    Re the tax deal, all that yammering on Capitol Hill was just more pap for the rubes. The Senate passed the bill 81-19 and the House did the same last night 277-148. The estimated cost of the package is $858 billion. It’s amazing that Obama’s deficit commission (Simpson-Bowles) issued its report on December 1. The mantra was all, deficit reduction, deficit reduction, deficit reduction. Now just 15 days later the Congress has voted to increase the deficit in a big way, yet without, I might note, raising the debt ceiling. So expect some explosions there. It’s all lunacy. The Cat Food Commission and the tax package. At one point, there was a big push to sell the tax cuts as new stimulus. But that too is lunacy. Most of them are just continuations. A lot, way too much, will go into the non-stimulative pockets of the rich. Taxes on low earning Americans will actually increase because the payroll tax rollback won’t compensate for other tax breaks that weren’t included in the package. What little is left is likely to be eaten up by commodity price inflation. I see this and I think that our elites are becoming more and more brazen and in your face about their looting. I tried to guesstimate how much the rich would make out of this. I figure it is about $300 billion or 35% of the total. Your figures may differ, but again the thing to keep in mind is not where the money is sent but where it ends up and for whose benefit that count.

  10. Doug T

    RE: “Israel, Obama, and the Bomb”. The naked hypocrisy of the emperor is on repugnant display yet again, though naturally not revealed on MSM. What irony it is for Obama to be fueling the nuclear weapons of Israel (a non NPT member) while threatening Iran over nuclear energy. Galling. And why does it seem that Israel is lurking everywhere in the shadows of global crises and violence?

    From the article: “U.S. actions around Israel and India not only weaken the NPT, they make a mockery of Washington’s concern about ‘proliferation’ and bring into question President Obama’s pledge to seek ‘peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.’ Diplomatic chess moves are check mating a noble sentiment.”

  11. ScottS

    * Stock in private tech startups has risen 54% in the past six months.

    * A company that makes a wristband for using your iPod Nano as a wristwatch has raised nearly $1 million in venture funding.

    * A company that makes pants — that’s right, fucking pants — just raised $18.5 million. On top of the $7.7 million they’d raised previously.

  12. joebhed

    “so Judge Hudson decided a case in which one of the litigants was a client of a company he owns.”

    They don’t see the conflict.
    They think of it as an interest in common.
    Getting theirs.

  13. YankeeFrank

    in re: Our Dickensian Economy Alan Blinder, Wall Street Journal

    This “economist”, Alan Blinder, really does have blinders on when it comes to his own complicity in, as he puts it, “Our Dickensian Economy”. This is the same man who promoted the gutting of our manufacturing sector for the last 3 decades and has been rewarded handsomely for his efforts, only now to recognize that jeez, maybe it wasn’t such a great idea after all. I know his name from Andy Grove’s seminal article in Business Week from this past summer:

    The money quote from Blinder is:

    “The TV manufacturing industry really started here, and at one point employed many workers. But as TV sets became ‘just a commodity,’ their production moved offshore to locations with much lower wages. And nowadays the number of television sets manufactured in the U.S. is zero. A failure? No, a success.”

    Grove disagrees with Blinder, and I’m afraid so does Blinder.

    1. Doug T

      Perhaps Binder has suddenly realized that the oligarchy will shortly no longer require the services of propagandists like him. But he should take care; classic fascist regimes often stand uppity intellectuals up against a wall in blindfolds.

      1. attempter

        That sure is one group who, for all their egghead smarts, weren’t smart enough to learn a lesson from history.

        But they’re not really intelligent human beings, but mere intellectual prostitutes. So they can’t help themselves.

  14. Sundog

    Via WSJ’s “Corruption Currents” blog.

    The American Petroleum Institute gained a powerful ally in its push to circumscribe a Dodd-Frank Act provision requiring U.S.-listed oil, gas and mining companies to disclose payments to foreign governments.

    Spencer Bachus (R, Ala.), the incoming chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, told The Hill Friday that the provision amounted to “a national security issue,” echoing concerns by the API that revealing how much listed companies pay for rights to overseas oil and gas fields puts them at a competitive disadvantage to rivals not bound by the law.

    Can you say: Race to the bottom?
    Can you say: Bad money drives out good?
    — I knew you could!

    Joe Palazzolo, “Bachus: Payment Disclosure Could Have ‘Disastrous Consequences’”

  15. Sundog

    Residents of the Special Economic Zones in New York City and metropolitan Washington, DC should feel free not to think about this news item and others of its sort. Just throw money and invest in accord.

    In a brazen move underscoring Mexico’s weak prison system, [over 100] inmates slowly filed out of the main vehicle entrance of a prison in Nuevo Laredo across from Texas early on Friday, two police sources in northern Tamaulipas state said.

    Later on Friday in the small town of Zuazua on the northern outskirts of Monterrey, an SUV exploded, injuring two people and knocking out power. It was the first such explosion near Mexico’s richest city, a business centre with close U.S. ties.

    Robin Emmott and Gabriela Lopez, “Inmates flee prison in Mexico; bomb targets police”

  16. Sundog

    NC, I’ve been surprised more than once when you’ve posted on a techy topic and had loads of response (outsourcing/job futures comes to mind).

    So there’s this guy who has loads of cred and is trying to get something rolling. Maybe you could solicit a guest post?

    When people come together and feel a need to communicate is a time when new tools for communicating have a chance to bootstrap. For a simple reason, we have the users’ attention. They’re interested in doing new things. Normally they’re doing something else, living their lives, being busy — their attention is elsewhere. But when they are confronting a political problem, which is often mostly a communication problem, that’s when bootrappers get their boots on! Cause we can do some good now.

    Stuxnet, Wikileaks, Gawker hack, delicious deletion, ChromeOS.

    Seems we (the carbon-based) do need a (digital) cloud, and seems what’s offered ain’t ever gonna be enough given the going incentives.

Comments are closed.