Links 4/19/11

Nature to Get Legal Rights in Bolivia Wired (hat tip reader Skippy)

A year later, BP’s oil is still damaging the Gulf Coast Southern Studies (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Time Your Arguments to the Judge’s Lunch Breaks (and Adapt to All Decision Makers’ “Cognitive Load”) Litigation Persuasion Strategies (hat tip reader Dan)

Hurdles to a Greek debt restructuring FTAlphaville. A long list, including recapitalizing the ECB. Wondering if those “Eurozone defection is impossible” predictions looked at how hard it is to do a restructuring, which is the only other way out of this mess.

Another ponzi trick exposed MacroBusiness

ME: BROKEFIX live blog on the Maine Labor Department mural, and guerilla projection Lambert Strether

Obama ran against Bush, but now governs like him McClatchy. Notes Buzz Potamkin: “despite the headline this is NOT an opinion piece.” Yours truly thinks it is still too kind re motives.

An Inconvenient Truth for Teabaggers: America’s Taxes Hit Historic Lows FireDogLake

Capitalism is failing the middle class Reuters (hat tip reader Crocodile Chuck)

David Wessel: Big U.S. Firms Shift Hiring Abroad Mark Thoma

Poll: Best way to fight deficits: Raise taxes on the rich McClatchy (hat tip Buzz Potamkin)

The Explainer’s field guide to exotic tax dodges: The Double Irish and the Dutch Sandwich Climateer Investing (hat tip reader Don B)

A banking crisis is a terrible thing to waste Financial Times

Throw Out the Money Changers Chris Hedges, TruthDig. Today’s must read.

Antidote du jour:

Screen shot 2011-04-19 at 4.50.37 AM

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  1. attempter

    Re legal rights for nature:

    Beyond the physical need to protect the environment this way, this is a necessary (but almost certainly insufficient) kludge if people want to continue with the inherently destructive capitalist experiment.

    As the article points out, it’s nowhere near as silly as conferring “rights” upon abstractions like corporations, which “exist” only by big government fiat. Natural features like rivers and forests actually exist. (Of course, to economists and media types existence vs. non-existence is an irrelevancy.)

    But if we really want to survive, then this will not work. Rather than adding Mother Earth rights to the Tower of Capitalist Babel, the only solution is to recognize that the very concept of “property” rights in the manifestations of nature is rationally absurd and morally depraved, as well as unsustainable as a practical matter. We need a dispensation based on usufruct as the measure of legitimate activity.

  2. Toby

    Stirring stuff from Chris Hedges, who seems to be on fire right now:

    “Life is not only about us. We can never have justice until our neighbor has justice. And we can never recover our freedom until we are willing to sacrifice our comfort for open rebellion. The president has failed us. The Congress has failed us. The courts have failed us. The press has failed us. The universities have failed us. Our process of electoral democracy has failed us. There are no structures or institutions left that have not been contaminated or destroyed by corporations. And this means it is up to us. Civil disobedience, which will entail hardship and suffering, which will be long and difficult, which at its core means self-sacrifice, is the only mechanism left.

    The bankers and hedge fund managers, the corporate and governmental elites, are the modern version of the misguided Israelites who prostrated themselves before the golden calf. The sparkle of wealth glitters before them, spurring them faster and faster on the treadmill towards destruction. And they seek to make us worship at their altar. As long as greed inspires us, greed keeps us complicit and silent. But once we defy the religion of unfettered capitalism, once we demand that a society serve the needs of citizens and the ecosystem that sustains life, rather than the needs of the marketplace, once we learn to speak with a new humility and live with a new simplicity, once we love our neighbor as ourself, we break our chains and make hope visible.”

    He seems to be someone using a good mix of logic and compassion to tell it like it is. The high priests of Hand, The Invisible are society’s enemy, democracy’s enemy, indeed, I would go so far as to say they are enemies of life and health. Greed is not good, it is destructive and terribly corrupting. Pulling ourselves free of its fetid, gluey grip will take an almighty effort, but, as is more and more clear, we have nothing to lose. If we roll over and accept The Way it Is, we die without dignity. If we fight we have at least a chance, and earn dignity too.

    1. DownSouth


      As I was listening to Hedges speech I was reminded of this passage from Reinhold Niebuhr’s essay “The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness”:

      Our democratic civilization has been built, not by children of darkness, but by foolish children of light. It has been under attack by the children of darkness, by the moral cynics, who declare that a strong nation need acknowledge no law beyond its strength. It has come close to complete disaster under this attack, not because it accepted the same creed as the cynics; but because it underestimated the power of self-interest, both individual and collective, in modern society. The children of light have not been as wise as the children of darkness.

      The children of darkness are evil because they know no law beyond the self. They are wise, though evil, because they understand the power of self-interest…

      It must be understood that the children of light are foolish not merely because they underestimate the power of self-interest among the children of darkness. They underestimate this power among themselves.

      1. Toby

        I find that very moving. It is increasingly impossible not to feel ‘spiritual’ about what is happening globally now (‘spiritual’ is one half of another dichotomy I’ve come to reject). So much work has been laid down by so many, in darkness almost. Then the Internet kicks it all up at a time of great decadence and the ‘meek’ are asked to rise, to recognize their power and obligation to act. It is happening, it is hopeful, but the challenge is unimaginably daunting. (Which is probably a good thing, since we brilliant beasts have done so much harm for so long, had we a complete To-do List we’d balk more than we are now!)

        1. DownSouth

          To understand human nature is to answer a central question of traditional religion. Yet, if the Chicago school has now improved upon psychology in developing a yet more rational understanding of human behavior in matters of family, marriage, birth, death, children and other domains from which economic analysis had previously been excluded, it will then have laid a superior base of rational understanding for a still higher level of well-being—-of “individual utility,” in the language of economics. If Becker has not supplanted Dr. Spock (or his successors) in Redbook, Family Circle, and other popular magazines, popular religion has seldom incorporated the highest levels of theological reasoning. Over the centuries few ordinary Roman Catholics read or understood the full logic of Thomas Aquinas. Perhaps Becker, Posner, and others of their Chicago ilk have now laid the groundwork for a new modern Summa that for the instructed will move past the lesser truths not only of Christianity but also of psychological bedfellows in the social sciences to provide the most fundamental understanding of all, grounded in the economic teachings of the Chicago school….


          This is not to say that the motives of individual gain are not widespread in all areas of life, including family, religion, marriage, charitable activities, and other places where high ideals are often professed and then set aside in practice. Becker and his followers have contributed valuably by taking the assumptions of the marketplace to their furthest possible reach to see the analytical outcomes. However, while there is genuine intellectual interest in such an exercise, the results are not real life but a caricature of real life. The Chicago school and its followers do not always seem to be aware of that.


          The old answers such as were found in Samuelson’s Economics no longer seem satisfactory at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Moreover, the standard framework of analysis of contemporary economics seems unable to provide persuasive new answers. If any answers are to be found within the economics profession, it seems that economists will have to turn their attention in new directions, toward things such as the motivating force of religion and the possible roles of ‘economic theology’ and other secular belief systems in sustaining the economic systems of modern (or postmodern) society.
          ▬Robert H. Nelson, Economics as Religion

          1. attempter

            The most ironic thing is that it’s capitalism which expects and demands a literally insane level of altruism, selflessness, and suicidal sacrifice from those who produce, since it expects them to labor for the sake of having the vast majority of their production stolen from them by parasites.

            Meanwhile the allegedly utopian anarchism makes the most cogent call to self-interest, since it tells the productive people: You can and should manage yourselves, rule yourselves, and keep all that you produce.

            The way of the world, as spoken by “elite” ideology, has always been: Egoism for me, altruism for you.

            If we ceased from all altruistic activity toward the state and toward employers, if we simply dealt with them according to the same rules they deal with us, the system would collapse immediately. That’s the essence of the Work to Rule strike, which we should adopt not just as a tactic but as a permanent general way of life.

          2. Eolous

            Right on attempter. Workers now have to sacrifice their lives to keep their jobs doing the work of 2 or 3 people for the same pay.

          3. DownSouth


            It’s amazing how 99.9% of economists still live in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, clinging to flat-earth economics “as to a life raft in turbulent waters,” to paraphrase Ralph Ellison. This is what economists do, since they are groomed and well remunerated to serve as the priestly class to the oligarchs.

            But there are some notable heretics out there.

            You might enjoy Ernst Fehr and Urs Fishbacher’s essay “The Economics of Strong Reciprocity,” some of which can be found here.

            Here’s an excerpt:

            Theory as well as empirical evidence suggest that the interaction between strongly reciprocal and selfish types is of first-order importance for many economic questions. The reason for this is that the presence of reciprocal types often changes the economic incentives for the selfish types, which induces the selfish types to make “nonselfish” choices. For example, a selfish person is deterred from behaving opportunistically if the person expects to be punished by the reciprocators. Likewise, a selfish person may be induced to behave in a cooperative and helpful manner because she expects the reciprocators to return the favor. Since the presence of strongly reciprocal types changes the pecuniary incentives for the selfish types, the strongly reciprocal types often have a significant impact on the aggregate outome in markets and organizations.


            The self-interest hypothesis assumes that all people are exclusively motivated by their economic self-interest. This hypothesis is sometimes a convenient simplification and there are, no doubt, situations in which almost all people behave as if they were strictly self-interested. In particular, for comparative static predictions of aggregate behavior, self-interest models may make empirically correct predictions because models with more complex motivational assumptions predict the same outcome. However, the evidence presented in this paper also shows that fundamental issues in economics and the social sciences in general cannot be understood solely on the basis of the self-interest model.. The evidence indicates that concerns for fairness and strong reciprocity are important for bilateral negotiations, for the functioning of markets and incentives, for the structure of property rights and contracts, and for the laws governing collective action and cooperation.

    2. Philip Pilkington

      That Hedges speech is of a quality that should, by rights, allow it into the pages of the history books. I hope it does — but I doubt it will.

      Instead we’re condemned to paperbacks filled with Obama’s spit-shined swill — that not only grates against reality but is often internally inconsistent.

      We need to get Hedges writing Kucinich’s speeches — albeit toning them down a tad — and throw him on the campaign trail.

      1. Iolaus

        Yes, it was quite a speech. But if Chris Hedges is the best we can do for rabble-rousing, we have a problem.

    3. Tertium Squid

      I was on my guard when I saw the title of his talk, “Throw out the money changers”. Chris, if we throw out the money changers, it won’t make BOA a house of prayer.

      But he gets it right in the talk – the problem wasn’t just with some evil banks, but within ourselves, the culture of greed and acquisitiveness that enabled

      There is a war to be fought, but it is inside us. Cleanse the inner vessel before cleansing the outer one, or whatever we replace the banksters with will be even worse.

      Well done.

      However, I can’t let this stand:

      “The sparkle of wealth glitters before them, spurring them faster and faster on the treadmill towards destruction.”


      1. Eolous

        They don’t take you anywhere, but you can kill yourself running on them like a rat in a cage.

      2. craazyman

        they take you backwards if they go fast enough.

        Just thinking about that makes sense like a good math theorem and new theory of economics, all at once!

    4. MikeJ

      “Most of us can, as we choose, make of this world either a palace or a prison.

      -John Lubbock

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I think the world would be more balanced if, in addition to letting the animal inside each of us out once in a while, we also let the vegetable inside inside of us out occasionally.

  3. DownSouth

    Re: “ME: BROKEFIX live blog on the Maine Labor Department mural, and guerilla projection” Lambert Strether

    Great stuff!

    What these guys like Maine Governor Paul LePage want to do is carry us back to a pre-Marxian era of brutal, unbridled capitalism as it existed in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. This is an era where workers were dehumanized and viewed as a mere commodity.

    As Hannah Arendt observed in Karl Marx and the tradition of Western political thought:

    The really anti-traditional and unprecedented side of his [Marx’s] thought is his glorification of labor, and his reinterpretation of the class—-the working class—-that philosophy since its beginning had always despised. Labor, the human activity of this class, was deemed so irrelevant that philosophy had not even bothered to interpret and understand it…

    Marx is the only thinker of the nineteenth century who took its central event, the emancipation of the working class, seriously in philosophic terms. Marx’s great influence today is still due to this one fact…

    Or as Martin Luther King, Jr. put it in My Pilgrimage to Nonviolence:

    In short, I read Marx as I read all of the influential historical thinkers-from a dialectical point of view, combining a partial “yes” and a partial “no.” In so far as Marx posited a metaphysical materialism, an ethical relativism, and a strangulating totalitarianism, I responded with an unambiguous “no”; but in so far as he pointed to weaknesses of traditional capitalism, contributed to the growth of a definite self-consciousness in the masses, and challenged the social conscience of the Christian churches, I responded with a definite “yes.”

    Those of LePage’s ilk have used the implosion of communism to carry us back to the 18th century, throwing out what is good and uplifting in Marx’s thought along with the bad.

  4. Francois T

    “Exotic” tax dodges?

    Who needs that when the UK and the US are 2 of the most important secrecy jurisdictions for tax dodging?

    Let’s face it once and for all: the government elites who make believe publicly work for more transparency always end up thwarting the very reforms they’re supposed to implement.

    It’s plain human nature: the more wealth is acquired, the less we want to have anyone taking it, regardless of what it can do for the general good…including our own.

    1. Francois T

      Forgot to insert some tidbits about the widespread duplicity:

      By the autumn of that year French president Nicolas Sarkozy, current G-20 president, stated “there are no tax havens any more.”

      Bold stuff, but is there substance behind these claims?

      In the spirit of sending the fox to guard the hen-house, the G-20 commissioned the OECD (whose members include such prominent secrecy jurisdictions as the United States, Luxembourg, Switzerland, United Kingdom and its dependencies and overseas territories, the Netherlands, and Austria) to lead the attack.

      The OECD promptly published its black/grey/white list, which ran into trouble within a matter of days when the entirety of the black-listed tax havens were shifted to the grey list on no more than a commitment to cooperation. Many of the world’s major secrecy jurisdictions were placed directly on the white list on the basis that they has already negotiated tax information exchange agreements (TIEAs) with at least 12 other countries. On this rather weak and arbitrary basis, the OECD signalled to the rest of the world that prominent secrecy jurisdictions like the British Crown Dependencies (Guernsey, the Isle of Man and Jersey) were all squeaky clean.

      It got worse. During the course of 2009 and 2010, many of the grey-listed jurisdictions scurried round the globe to negotiate the 12 TIEAs required to graduate to the white list. The Nordic country bloc proved particularly useful in this respect since a single agreement with the bloc counted as seven separate agreements, including Faroe, Greenland and Iceland.

      To make matters even more farcical, grey-listed jurisdictions simply signed TIEAs among themselves. By the end of 2010 a mere nine secrecy jurisdictions, accounting for less than 2 percent of global trade in offshore financial services, remained on the OECD grey-list. On paper Sarkozy’s wild boast seemed to have come to fruition. Or maybe not.

      And we’re supposed to believe those we elect?

      Chante-moi une chanson!

  5. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Human rights belong to humans.

    Animal rights belong to animals.

    Mineral rights should belong to minerals, not Homo Not-So-Sapiens Not-So-Sapiens.


    Mineral Rights Watch
    (One member so far. More are welcome to join)

    1. psychohistorian

      I just ate lunch so I feel snarky today.

      I want a Cosmos Rights Watch….encouraging you to think bigger.

      So we only know some things about maybe 4% of the Cosmos (minerals included) according to OUR calculations and the remaining 96% we speculate as Dark energy and Dark matter but really don’t know squat about them.

      What makes us think we can enumerate the Rights of the Cosmos?

      I would settle for a little humility on mankind’s part.

  6. psychohistorian

    I just read the BROKEFIX story and it made me grin.

    Maybe there is enough piss and vinegar in the American public to make the rich start shitting their pants…..its about time.

    Let creativity reign!!!!

  7. MichaelC

    Re Hedges:

    Who is he preaching to? His lapsed Catholisism seems to have sent him over the edge.

    The citizens of Dante’s city of woe sound like the same folks the ZH’ers deride as the sheeple (which always raises my hackles).

    ‘These are all the “good” people, the ones who never made a fuss, who filled their lives with vain and empty pursuits, harmless perhaps, to amuse themselves, who never took a stand for anything, never risked anything, who went along. They never looked hard at their lives, never felt the need, never wanted to look.’

    That describes most of the people I live with (and love) every day.

    These are the (harmless) people who make up the majority of every society. They’re uninterested in the slimy machinations of the clever, and they understand shame, yet their oppressors don’t.

    It is the responsibility of an ethical subset of the elite who do understand shame to protect them from the predation of the shameless.

    Self-sacrifice by the residents of the city of woe is slavery, plain and simple. If the crowd Hitchens was preaching to walked away believing that sacrificing their selves (‘defying the cant of consumerist society’,(shame on him!)for the greater good was a healthy thing, then he did them a great disservice and he should be shamed, not lauded.

    On the other hand, if the speech serves to shame the shameable elite to action then he’s done a good thing, but I’m dubious and ashamed for him for blaming the victim, however uninteded.

    I fear Chris Hedges is seen as brilliant in the same way that Larry Summers is seen as brilliant. Unassailable, even when they are woefeully wrong.(Summers performance at the Bretton Woods confab was surreal and revolting).

    Self-sacrifice implies subjugation to a higher power. Absent a benevolent higher power this “must read” should be tagged “read with eyes wide open”, which I think was the intent.

  8. Name (required)

    I’m surprised NC hasn’t mentioned this:

    ” Prosecutors said Lee Farkas led a fraud scheme of staggering proportions as chairman of Florida-based Taylor Bean & Whitaker.

    The fraud not only caused the company’s 2009 collapse and the loss of jobs for its 2,000 workers, but also contributed to the collapse of Alabama-based Colonial Bank, the sixth-largest bank failure in US history.

    Farkas testified in his own defence at the trial and claimed he did nothing wrong.”

    I guess he didn’t at that, by the prevailing morals of his ilk.

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