Links 12/2/10

Apologies for thin links, need to be up absurdly early for me. Richard Smith will be weighing in later with his usual sparkling eurozone commentary.

Credit Cards Make You Fat Katie Porter. Correlation is not causation, but interesting nevertheless.

British police know Assange’s location, await arrest orders: report Raw Story

The War on Wikileaks and the Radical Theory of Breaking Conspiracies David Dayen, FireDogLake

The moral standards of WikiLeaks critics Glenn Greenwald

Small Investors Are So Bullish, The Last Time They Held This Little Cash Was March 2000 Clusterstock

BofA’s ‘Sloppy’ Prime Mortgages Add to Pressure for Buybacks Bloomberg

Irish banks exposed to euro periphery Financial Times (hat tip reader Swedish Lex)

Banks in Talks to End Bond Probe Wall Street Journal

Antidote du jour:
Picture 9

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  1. attempter

    Re Wikileaks:

    The most important thing about Wikileaks is the simple democratic fact that we the people are the rightful owners of all system information, this information is our property, and the elites have zero right to monopolize it. Anyone who leaks it or delivers those leaks is simply restituting stolen property to its rightful owners.

    (Needless to say, there’s no practical reason for this information monopoly. We know perfectly well all elite policy is solely formulated for the sake of elite power.)

    So right off you know someone’s an anti-democratic elitist if his instinctive response to a Wikileaks delivery is to demand to know whether the leak helps or harms any particular cause.

    He’s saying:

    1. The elites do have a right to secrecy;

    2. But he, based on his partisan version of elitism, may nevertheless countenance leaks based on how they support his partisan agenda. He e.g. supports those which help Reps or Dems, opposes those which do the opposite, as the case may be.

    An anti-elite small-d democrat supports all system leaks involving any system information.

    Just to be clear, though, these leaks certainly don’t put anyone’s lives at risk. The policy of corporatist imperial aggression is 100% responsible for that. Nor do the leaks harm any legitimate national interest. On the contrary, if they hinder the corporate aggression agenda, then the leaks serve the American interest. The empire itself is contrary to the American interest, as history has proven over and over and over. Empire serves no one but imperial elites, and harms everyone else. 2008 saw that commence in earnest here in America.

    I look forward most of all to the promised bankster leak.

    1. Leviathan

      Suppose for just a second that Assange was not a white, anglophone from a friendly nation, but that he originally hailed from China, Russia, Iran–take your pick of “enemy” nations. Would we be so quick to presume that he is doing all this in the name of “freedom?”

      Last I checked, we have at least a semblance of democracy in this country, which means that we the people give our government (and yes, our “elites”) certain rights to maintain a veil of reasonable secrecy, especially regarding international relations.

      I have not seen the evidence of abuse of power that would justify a massive breach in that veil like the one wikileaks just tore. On the other hand, has there been damage to American interests and even to world stability? Probably.

      Wikileaks (assuming it is not a US led psy-ops operation as some have argued) does more harm than good and should have been shut down by the Pentagon months ago. It appears to expose a weak American leadership unable or unwilling to protect national interests (I say appear because I do not know for sure, all we can do is judge based on surface images).

      What does a useful “leak” of secret information look like? Well, we have an example of that to counterbalance wikileaks in the form of the Fed’s document dump, which was, by the way, forced into daylight by our still-functioning democratic system!!

      Go ahead, call me naive. We still have tools in this country. Julian Assange is a tool. He is not our tool, however, and he is not welcome.

      1. Diego Méndez

        Wikileaks revelations point to all kind of criminal activities and deception of the public at a large scale.

        I personally think it’s a great contribution for democracy to know governments have lied and hidden *crimes* and for them to expect future crimes to be revealed. It’s a matter of incentives.

        I’m not talking only about the US and e.g. war crimes in the Middle East, or the public deception about Iran’s missile technology (no proof for long-range missiles). I am talking about European governments breaching their national laws in order to protect US interests from European judges.

        How is it possible that US diplomats can blackmail a European government into breaching their national laws and forcing judges not to prosecute Americans accused of all kind of serious crimes, including drug-trafficking and war crimes??? I don’t think the US public supports this. At least they know now.

      2. attempter

        I don’t give a rat’s ass about your criminal government and elites. All the information belongs to the people. It belongs to the citizenry. If you’re saying you’re not of our number, fine. I certainly won’t argue.

        But it’s a lie that any of this public property is withheld “for our own good”. It’s a piece of idiocy to think any of it has to do with “American interests”. We know whose interest the government dedicates itself to. It’s the entire subject matter of this site. Have you read a word of what’s published here? 100% of these secrets, and all of the policies they’re meant to shroud in shameful, cowardly darkness, are dedicated to the aggrandizement and crimes of these elites it pleases you to call your own. I guess you opposed the Fed release as well. And you’ll be condemning the Wikileaks bankster leak as well.

        One result of all the aggregated Wikileak deliveries is 100% clear: Not one shred of evidence has been produced that this government is doing anything for anyone but itself and the corporations who own it.

      3. DownSouth

        You must be joking.

        A democracy without transparency is a democracy in name only, or what the Peruvian poet Mario Vargas Llosa, referring to Mexico, called “the perfect dictatorship.”

        Or maybe you are advocating the Chinese model: authoritarian capitalism, development without democracy?

        As to Mexico’s dearth of democracy, here’s what Carlos Fuentes had to say:

        Yet the deeper reason for the crisis [of 1994] has simply to do with democracy in Mexico. The secrecy surrounding our economic realities is related to the absence of something well known in Anglo-Saxon law for which there is not even a proper term in Spanish: accountability, checks and balances. These are part of a democratic system of government with a real separation of powers, in which the legislative and judicial branches balance and offset the executive. In Mexico, from the Aztec emperor Moctezuma right down to Carlos Salinas, the executive has been all-powerful, untrammeled, subjected neither to accountability nor to checks and balances.

        To a great degree, the present crisis is due to the capricious nature of the Mexican presidency, to the fiat that one person, or a small group, can dictate unchallenged…

        Mexicans understand that you can achieve development by dictatorial means—-look at Chile, look at China. But…Mexicans want development with democracy and social justice.

        Mexican society, I mean, has gained enormously since the massacre in Tlatelolco Square in 1968 signified the end of the “Mexican miracle,” which had been built on a specific trade-off. When the Revolution was institutionalized in 1929, the government had said, “We shall assure economic growth and social stability in exchange for your forfeiting democratic freedoms; the PRI will take care of politics. This trade-off worked for four decades. But it has now failed. Only a fully democratic system can solve the political problems in Mexico, but a transition to democracy has been immensely complicated by our economic crisis.
        –Carlos Fuentes, A New Time for Mexico

        Of course what Mexico got coming out of the crisis of 1994 was not increased democracy, but even a stronger dose of neoliberalism: ever greater governmental secrecy, ever more blatant election fraud, and morality increasingly falling victim to dog-eat-dog absolutism.

      4. Cynthia

        All work being done by anyone who is being paid directly or indirectly by the government — whether they were elected or appointed to do their job — must be subjected to full disclosure — no ifs, ands, or buts about it. And anyone who wants to do their job behind closed doors in secrecy should quit doing work for the government and take a job in the private sector! Once this is understood, then it’ll be understood that WikiLeaks is working on behalf of the taxpayers to expose waste, fraud, and abuse in government. And if the mainstream media outlets were doing what they’re supposed to do, which is to expose shady activities taking place in all levels of government, there would be no need for an outfit like WikiLeaks to exist.

        If what I’m saying here makes me a radical anarchist, as some have accused me of being, then I’m very proud to be one. But once my accusers have realized that our country has fully collapsed into a fascist corporate state, then they’ll wish there were more radical anarchists like myself speaking out against this incestuous relationship between big government and big business, thriving in the dark while screwing us taxpayers over!

      5. Leviathan

        Sorry, democracy doesn’t demand transparency. Did you just fall off the turnip truck or something? Democracy demands accountability. Governance of anything–a school, a company, a battleship, a country–demands DISCRETION. Discretion involves not sharing everything with everyone.

        This issue cannot be discussed rationally with people who cannot recognize the world as it exists.

        1. DownSouth

          I think you’ve been reading too much St. Paul. Or St. Augustine. Or Tolstoy.

          I mean, really! “The world as it exists”?

          You’re like Tolstoy, stuck in some time warp as if the 19th and 20th centuries never even happened.

        2. Doug Terpstra

          Ah, yes, “the world as it is” —the craven cop out of the change-snake-oil salesman who, before he shed his skin, promised us “the most open and transparent administration in history”.

          To your quote above: “Wikileaks (assuming it is not a US led psy-ops operation as some have argued) does more harm than good and should have been shut down by the Pentagon months ago.”

          Do you really mean the converse, as it sounds? If it IS a US-led psyops operation, then it does more good than harm? This reveals a breathtaking ignorance of US history and its secret dirty wars in Latin America—Chile, Guatemala, Cuba, Ecuador, Panama, Iran, Venezuela, Honduras, etc., and elsewhere—the Philippines, Iran 1953, Iran-Contra 1984, etc.

          The biggest revelations of Wikileaks, IMO, now reveal Obama himself to be a war criminal, not merely for failing to investigate and prosecute definitive war crimes, but for actively obstructing their investigation or prosecution in Germany and Spain, and for turning “diplomats” into spies contrary to black-letter international law.

      6. Shane

        Leviathan, I have met quite a few people like you that seem to (on one hand) display this world-weary ‘pragmatic’ view of U.S policy. That waging war for national interests is just what nations do. That we are dealing with the big boys now and that we should just accept that.
        Yet on the other hand you are squealing about the damages to “American” interests that Wikileaks supposedly endangers.
        My views would be:
        A: You mention ‘enemy’ nations. What makes you think the rest of the world doesn’t view America as the ‘enemy’ nation these days? Surely the only basis for being against information is if it wasn’t TRUE, not from who leaked it. I wouldnt care if it came from Iran, China etc as long as it was true and provable. Why don’t you feel the same? Don’t you actually want to know whats going on?
        B: Isn’t a lot of your problem with Wikileaks based on your fear of losing the status quo where the U.S can just do whatever it likes and make up lies to justify it later?
        B: You are a very backward looking person. One would hope the true power of Wikileaks will be in the future. If someone had come out with Wikileaks proving the U.S knew there were WMDs in Iraq and the Al Queda had no connection to Iraq then maybe, just maybe, you wouldn’t be over there now hemorrhaging lives, money and goodwill down a bottomless sinkhole. If someone had come out with Wikileaks in the beginning of subprime documenting the abuses of law being perpetrated in the name of financial innovation its possible this whole crisis wouldn’t have occurred.

        Wouldn’t you, as a U.S citizen (presumably), rather the U.S wasn’t at the centre of (if not the cause of) a couple of the biggest screwups in recent history?

        1. Shane

          Sorry…..I meant “engenders” not “endangers” and “NO WMDs” of course. And I have point ‘B’ twice. No coffee yet this morning lol!

    2. Sundog

      The challenge you face… is to convince them that… transparency and accountability are fundamental to modernization. There is no alternative in today’s world of information technology.

      That’s my fave Wikileaked bit so far, from an unflattering cable on the Mexican security apparatus.

      BTW for those playing at home, this site allows keyword searches. I guess the Guardian might be posting cables that Wikileaks hasn’t yet posted, as the one referenced above doesn’t appear.

      Some good aggregators:

      The Guardian is posting loads of great work. Check this one on Afghan corruption for an example.

  2. Robert Dudek

    “I have not seen the evidence of abuse of power that would justify a massive breach in that veil like the one wikileaks just tore.”

    How about the completely illegal US-led invasion of Iraq? If that isn’t abuse of power then there is probably no such thing.

    1. Leviathan

      Illegal under whose laws, Robert? Whose jurisdiction? God’s?

      Wars have been fought since Adam and Eve left the Garden, Robert (and no, I don’t mean that literally). No one asked anyone else’s permission. No one ever will. If you’re waiting for that day, good luck to you.

      1. Doug Terpstra

        Oh my, you’re really chewing on your holy foot today. The Leviathan handle is apt, but you really need a new pictoral avatar.

        Aggressive, preventive war is quite illegal under black-letter international law. Study up on the “London Charter of the International Military Tribunal” and Nuremberg Principle IV.

        “Perhaps one of the most serious breaches of international law by the Bush administration is the doctrine of “preventive war”. In the case of the Iraq war, it was carried out without authorisation from the UN Security Council in violation of the UN Charter, which forbids armed aggression and violations of the sovereignty of any state by any other state, except in immediate self-defence.”

        “As stated in the US Constitution, international treaties agreed to by the United States are part of the ‘supreme law of the land’.”

        See also: “Nuremberg Lesson for Iraq War: It’s Murder”

        “Justice Robert Jackson, America’s prosecutor at Nuremberg…: Illegal wars were nothing more than mass murder, and there was nothing ex post facto about the crime of murder. Here’s what Jackson said to the tribunal in his opening statement on Nov. 21, 1945:”

        ” ‘Any resort to war – any kind of war – is a resort to means that are inherently criminal. War inevitably is a course of killings, assaults, deprivations of liberty and destruction of property. An honestly defensive war is, of course, legal and saves those lawfully conducting it from criminality. But inherently criminal acts cannot be defended by showing that those who committed them were engaged in a war, when war itself is illegal. The very minimum legal consequence of the treaties making aggressive war illegal is to strip those who incite or wage them of every defense the law ever gave, and to leave the war-makers subject to judgment by the usually accepted principles of the law of crimes.’ “

        1. DownSouth

          All this fanfare about Assange’s guilt or innocence as a rapist or CIA operative is not germane to whether the information he is releasing is genuine or not.

          And judging from the hysteria emanating from the usual right-wing suspects, he must be sitting on some pretty damaging stuff. From this AP article:

          • Sarah Palin likened Assange to an al-Qaida propagandist and accused him, without offering any proof, of having “blood on his hands.”
          “Why was he not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al-Qaida and Taliban leaders?” she asked in a message posted to her Facebook page.

          • Republican Rep. Peter King of New York called for Assange to be charged under the Espionage Act and asked whether WikiLeaks can be designated a terrorist organization.

          • “I think Assange should be assassinated, actually,” Tom Flanagan, a former adviser to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, told the CBC. “I think Obama should put out a contract or maybe use a drone or something.”

          Also, according to the AP story, in this latest document dump there was some stuff highly damaging to the Swedish government. It looks like the Swedish government has been working hand in glove with the U.S. military in the “fight against terrorism.” Of course these are secret operations on the part of the Swedish government, who has assured the Swedish people of non-alignment. Oh well, Sweden can kiss any pretense of neutrality goodbye.

          1. Doug Terpstra

            The Interpol sideshow may become a distraction more farcical than the Clinton impeachment trial, just what the jingoists need.

            From Washington’s blog, the Interpol arrest warrant was not for rape as most assumed. No, it turns out it was “for violating an obscure Swedish law against having sex without a condom.” Well, more specifically, the condom split, and Assange declined to be tested for an STD.

            Clearly this calls for an immediate slow-speed international manhunt involving close coordination between Interpol and the GOP’s specially-trained Sex Police Division.

            With the public’s obsessive fascination with celebrity and sex, this is exactly the diversion required to push international scandal, fraud, treaty violations, espionage, obstruction of justice, war crimes, murder … whatever well into the background as irrelevant trivia.

          2. Skippy


            Just one question…did he buy said condom in Sweden and was it of Swedish manufacture…I smell counter claim.

          3. Doug Terpstra

            Skippy, an extremely important question of global consequence. But there are others including size, elasticity, type of lubricant, etc., for which the world must demand answers. It’s safe to assume that no expense will be spared and every investigative effort expended in pursuing critical details, with regular updates on the ins and outs of the case spewed upon all print and broadcast media. Undoubtedly a special prosecutor will be appointed soon and a grand jury convened at the Hague at the earliest calendar opening.

  3. EmilianoZ

    Senate GOPers Threaten Fillibusters to Maintain Tax Cuts for Wealthy

    “Senate Republicans are threatening to filibuster every bill until Democrats agree to extend the Bush-era tax cuts to all income groups.The Obama administration and many Democrats want to retain the lower rates only for individuals with an annual income of $200,000 or less and married couples earning no more than $250,000 a year.”

    Where can you find such devotion to a cause these days? Over my dead body!

    1. DownSouth

      Ralph Reed is front and center for the hardliners in this CNN inteview. There is no compromise in the works: There will be no tax increases for the rich.

      I met Reed back when he headed up the Christian Coalition. The Christian Coalition had a national convention in San Antonio, and as a reporter for the local gay and lesbian rag I covered the event. There were some workshops which he conducted, so while my fellow activists were demonstrating outside, I got the opportunity to see him up close and in action. He was only about 30 years-old then, but he’s always cut an impressive figure. At that time the radical religious right was pushing the “love the sinner but hate the sin” meme in regards to gay people.

      Reed was punctiliously polite and respectful, highly articulate, with total self-control and exhibiting not a scintilla of emotion. He tried to quell some of the more belligerent behavior exhibited towards gay people by some of the conferees.

      Now that bashing gay people is not as politically expedient as it once was, it’s amazing how deftly Reed made the switch to bashing the unemployed.

      I had to laugh when, in the CNN interview, Reed invoked “empirical evidence” in defense of tax breaks for the wealthy and austerity for the unemployed. I’m sure he has no shortage of economists lined up and willing to testify that this is the most “scientifically” efficient way to create jobs.

      It’s the same tactic that Reed deployed against gay people. Reed and James Dobson created an entire industry dedicated to anti-gay “scientific research.” They had a staff of pseudoscientists on the payroll, perhaps the most notorious being Paul Cameron, who were willing to testify that being gay was a personal choice and that those who chose the “gay lifestyle” suffered severe consequences.

      At least the American Psychological Association had the integrity to expel Cameron. The American Sociological Association and Canadian Psychological Association issued position papers accusing Cameron of misrepresenting social science research. Unfortunately, given the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the economics profession, I’m not holding my breath that similar actions will be forthcoming from any group of economists of equivalent national stature.

      1. emca

        Not sure what wind-up Ralph is implying with the use of the term “empirical evidence”

        From Webster’s via

        “1 : originating in or based on observation or experience 2 : relying on experience or observation alone often without due regard for system and theory 3 : capable of being verified or disproved by observation or experiment”

        Is Ralph suggesting unemployment would be remedied by curtailing benefits? That jobs exist, but the unemployed due to some innate laziness or other personal dysfunction are refusing to take them, en masse? Where is the empirical (observable) evidence for that?

        My empirical experience (door 1.) is that when the jobs are offered, the takers are many, unemployed included. If Ralph has some -scientific- evidence that this is an apparition of reality, then please let him reference it specifically.

        Of course, science may be a bad word in Ralph’s vocabulary.

        Evidence based on anecdote (empirical in this case) is much more satisfying.


    @ Clusterstock article – Small Investors Are So Bullish, The Last Time They Held This Little Cash Was March 2000

    Say what??? I looked at the chart in question and saw that investors were roughly 78% invested in stocks back in the year 2000 while that percentage invested currently in stocks is down to 60 percent. The corollary- they were 22 percent invested in cash plus fixed income back then vs. 4o percent today. How the heck is that bullish?

    There is a steady upward trend for bonds from late 2007 (where it was about 10 percent) until today where it stands at 24 percent. Looks to me like a structural shift where maybe 10 – 15 percent of the investors have thrown in the towel on equities and would rather stick with fixed income.

    The only thing “bullish” about this is nature of the tagline.

  5. Chris

    RE: Assange, Ever get the feeling that something’s weird about this guy’s ability to evade arrest, move about, control things so well? Here’s another take on who he is and what he’s doing and for whom. Listen to what this guy has to say and ignore the production values…

    YouTube – Is WikiLeaks A CIA Operation?
    Webster Tarply

    “Pakistan’s worthy of invasion, Iran too, Osama’s still in charge, a ‘good’ war would be ok…etc.”

    1. Externality

      Entirely possible.

      While some documents are mildly embarrassing to the DC elites, most of them reinforce the position of Israel and the Israeli-first neoconservatives in DC. While the government is too politically correct to criticize Pakistan or Saudi Arabia in public, these document releases allow the government, or at least a faction of it, to criticize Pakistan, Iran, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia as terrorist supporters and warmongers. Israel, on the other hand, is painted in a largely favorable light.

      It will be interesting to see whether Bradley Manning pleads guilty or not to releasing these documents. It seems unlikely that an E-4, who received (multiple?) Article 15s, was demoted to E-3, and was to be involuntarily separated from the military, was able to access and download hundreds of thousands of classified documents without anyone noticing, despite his allegedly bragging about it online. The last I heard, he was in solitary confinement undergoing “psychiatric treatment.” The former USSR, China, Saddam’s Iraq, and Putin’s Russia all use or used psychiatric hospitals to punish and “reeducate” dissidents. Claiming, for example, that Stalin was a dictator and a mass murder was classified by Soviet psychiatrists as delusional illness requiring involuntary treatment. Dissents who began proclaiming Stalin’s greatness were pronounced “cured” by the psychiatrists and released to live under permanent surveillance. Mental health professionals as Guantanamo Bay behaved similarly toward the prisoners there. I worry that his “treatment plan” will focus on getting him to “accept” that he did this, regardless of the facts and his constitutional right to force the government to prove it without his help.

  6. Liberaltarian

    Great to see you linking to Glenn Greenwald of the libertarian Cato Institute. Some of GG’s enemies are trying to argue that just because he’s a libertarian working for the Kochs, somehow this compromises him. The old “guilt by association” argument. Nothing could ever corrupt Greenwald, not even the Koch brothers, no matter how much they pay him!

  7. Externality

    “He who controls the past commands the future. He who commands the future conquers the past.” – George Orwell, _1984_

    Allowing the public to accurately see what was done in the past makes it harder for the elites to rewrite history in their favor. Normally, documents that suit the elites’ purposes are declassified or “leaked,” documents that challenge their preferred narrative remain classified indefinitely, are buried amongst tangentially related documents, and/or are “lost.”

    1. Sundog

      What is the future of “access journalism”?

      “You can see my junk if I see yours.” Demise of privacy as major theme of 21st century. Related: IP fights.

      1. Externality

        The government is fond of telling the public that only people who have done something wrong are concerned about privacy, i.e., “if you have done nothing wrong, you should have nothing to hide.”

        If the government has done nothing wrong, there should be nothing in the records it wants to hide.

        1. Externality

          If the government has done nothing wrong, there should be nothing in the records it that wants to hide.

  8. Charles Norrie

    The Wikileaks dump was probably an operation by the CIA to get all those insecurely held State Department telegrams into the open.

    Better have them come out in one big rush than spend years trying to deal with all those little plumbing jobs.

    For what do they contain? frank admissions about the real American views of tinpot dictators, disobliging remarks on so-called allies and the like.

    A senior ex-CIA man, writing in another language, has said about an issue I am passionately interested that no very great secrets about that matter are to come out. But the real arrangements for Lockerbie were passed through a more secure CIA network than the gossipy bulletin board stuff of the State Department.

    A Sunni leader says “Death to Shias” and the US ambassador reports it. Why doesn’t the SD simply invest in a couple of decent textbooks on religion in Islam and close down its embassies.

    At the rate the American hyperstate is falling away, it will have to do so anyway.

  9. bob

    I been following wikileaks for a lot longer than I realized. I saw the invite they sent to john young, at when they were beginning.

    John does a much better job than I could of pointing out that if it is not a psy-op, then it can be used very effectively as one anyway. There are also questions about the internal secrecy of the organization, and the way that one person, Mr. Assange, seems to be running everything.

    The state department emails were not “hacked” IMO. There was a news story a few years ago about TOR users who were plucking state department emails off of their own equipment. It seems the state dept, and its employees, were using TOR, but not implementing it correctly.

    “The Dump” (I do love the wording) was most probably the result of a group of people listening in as communications passed through them on the way from their “anonymous” senders. It was not an offensive attack, it simply mined data that was never hidden in the first place.

    Given the overlap between the wikileaks and TOR organizations, I don’t think this is that far fetched.

    I do find it interesting that both the state dept, and wikileaks use TOR, and only one of them has been able to use it to keep secrets.

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