Links 4/20/11

Fossilised spider ‘biggest on record’ BBC (hat tip reader John M)

Ohio County Losing Its Young to Painkillers’ Grip New York Times

How Egypt’s Youth Forced the Issue CounterPunch

BP’s Secret Deepwater Blowout Greg Palast

Chernobyl’s guide to tyranny Financial Times

Sleepwalking Into the Imperial Dark Tom Englehardt

Mail Online climbs to second spot in world’s most popular news sites Independent (hat tip reader Buzz Potamkin)

More on our innate hypocrisy and confabulatory power Ed Harrison

Guantanamo Psychologist Led Rendition and Imprisonment of Afghan Boys, Complaint Charges TruthOut (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Painting of leaking Assange wins Archy Sydney Morning Herald (hat tip reader Crocodile Chuck)

Bipartisan support builds for slicing corporate tax rate Los Angeles Times. “Bipartisan” = “bought and paid for”.

Entitlement Hater Paul Ryan Was A Social Security Baby Politics USA (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Jury convicts exec in $3B mortgage fraud case Associated Press. No, this is not a sign of real intent to do anything re mortgage fraud. Taylor Bean was comparatively small fry.

The Rich Aren’t Getting Richer National Review (hat tip reader May S). Since this ran in the National Review, I’m not making any representations as to accuracy, merely alerting readers as to New Messaging Coming to a Station Near You.

Florida ‘rocket docket’ court told to respond to ACLU claims Housing Wire (hat tip April Charney)

Regulatory arbitrage of the day, Citigroup edition Felix Salmon

Conceding the Principle (Wonkish) Paul Krugman

2010 Average CEO Pay at S&P 500 Companies Executive Paywatch (hat tip reader furzy mouse) ” Based on 299 companies’ most recent pay data for 2010, their combined total CEO pay of $3.4 billion could support 102,325 median workers’ jobs.”

Americans Shun Cheapest Homes in 40 Years as Ownership Fades Bloomberg.

Antidote du jour:

Screen shot 2011-04-20 at 5.11.37 AM

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  1. attempter

    I suppose the NYT is shameless enough to shed crocdile tears over this symptom of the despair out of the socioeconomic destruction it does all it can to aggravate.

  2. Name (required)

    Small fry perhaps, but isn’t the stomach-churning factor in the $3B mortgage fraud case that fact that Lee Farkas claimed he did nothing wrong

    He either truly believes that, which indicates the utter lack of morality of Farkas and his easily-identifiable ilk, or he genuinely didn’t know what was ‘going on’ which makes you wonder what he actually did to justify the vast salary and perks it would never occur to him to give back, as integrity is as foreign a concept to his type as is morality.

  3. rbm411

    RE: The Rich Aren’t Getting Richer:

    I’ve seen this argument cited in other places over the years. The mobility issue has quite a bit of truth to it. It is also applies to the middle class. I think we should focus on the pay gap between worker and upper management. That is the true measure of the income gap that is being talked about.

    The super wealthy don’t count in an income argument because most of there income is investment income.

    1. taunger

      Right, truth.

      “Among actual households, income grew proportionally more for those who started off in the low-income groups than those that began in high-income groups.”

      This is true. Adding 5K to a 15K income is a proportionally higher growth than adding 5K to a 5000K income. But that doesn’t mean the rich don’t taste good with tartar sauce.

    2. wunsacon

      >> The super wealthy don’t count in an income argument because most of there income is investment income.

      Huh?? LOL.

      Multi-trillion $ bailouts to investors count…much?

    3. kjmclark

      And how many of these top income earners retired in the past 10 years? Much lower income, because they’re now living off the immense wealth they accumulated. How much income do you need to maintain four estates and a yacht, once you’ve paid cash for them?

  4. Paul in TO

    Can I suggest a new standard introduction to linked pieces from now on?

    Since this ran in the NYT, I’m not making any representations as to accuracy…

    Since this ran on the BBC, I’m not making any representations as to accuracy …

    Since this ran in the Independant, I’m not making any representations as to accuracy…

    Since this ran in the Huffington Post, I’m not making any representations as to accuracy…

    Since this ran in the National Review, I’m not making any representations as to accuracy — oh, sorry, that’s the only one we actually already do this with.

    Bias exists everywhere and seriously skews everything that’s reported.

    1. Philip Pilkington

      Duh, but I think there’s shades of bias. Fox is probably more biased than the BBC, for example. And Alex Jones is probably a little more biased than Fox (maybe not Beck, but that’s another day’s discussion).

      As for National Review — well, I know they fired her in ’01… but still…

      It’s not surprising. Buckley was a hack of the highest order. He was of the Hitchens variety — i.e. a person who talks through their @$$ on just about every issue, is completely misinformed, but whose opinions are taken seriously because they seem relatively intelligent (relative to their peers, of course). Others in this dangerous category include serial liars like Richard ‘Reds-under-the-bed’ Pipes and William ‘Moral-decline-can-be-blamed-for-social-problems-in-the-60s’ Kristol.

      1. Paul in TO

        Surely you must be joking as to the BBC? Maybe being British and having my taxes used to fund their bias skews my perspective a little, but I’ll just keep muttering “you must be joking”.

        Fortunately, you didn’t even try to say something similar about the Independant.

        Perhaps what you really meant was that bias with which you agree isn’t as bad (a lighter shade?) as that with which you disagree.

        1. Philip Pilkington

          No, objectively speaking — i.e. based on how facts are presented and which facts are used — the Beeb is less biased than Fox News. That’s not to say that it’s not biased — being Irish especially, I have major gripes with the BBC — it’s just to say that it is less biased than Fox. Which, in turn, is less biased than Alex Jones.

          1. Philip Pilkington

            Typical BBC report on Ireland:

            Reporter *thick British accent*: We’re here reporting from Dublin amidst the economic that is currently taking place. *Sees passerby* Excuse me, Paddy…

            Passerby *Irish accent*: Eh, my name’s actually Gar…

            Reporter: Shut up, Paddy. Now, answer this question. Do you have a potato?

            Passerby: No, why would I…

            Reporter: So, you have no potato — none at all?

            Passerby: Why would I have a potato, I’m a civil enginee…

            Reporter *turns to camera*: This just in: Paddy has no potato.

            For a less contemporary, more historical example see this clip (about 1 min in):

          2. Paul in TO

            My original point was based on the assumption that biased people (i.e., everyone) are incapable of being objective in identifying who else is or is not biased. Just because you believe something doesn’t make it objective. And just because people who share your biases also reinforce them (even with self-serving statistics) doesn’t make it objective either.

            The BBC isn’t “objectively” less biased than Fox. I’ll grant that to a leftist it appears less biased than Fox in the same way that I’ll grant that to a conservative the BBC is hopelessly biased (since essentially it only exists because of big government it is incapable almost by definition of being balanced on the argument for less government).

            If you don’t think that your ad hominem attack on every conservative writer you could think of indicates serious bias then I don’t know what does. In the very least it rules you out as the arbiter of “objective” news services (which was actually, sort of, my original broader point). Fortunately, I also know that I can’t judge the relative bias between news presented with a slant with which I agree and that with which I disagree so I’ll stick with my view that they’re all biased and we side with those who reflect our own biases.

          3. Philip Pilkington

            “My original point was based on the assumption that biased people (i.e., everyone) are incapable of being objective in identifying who else is or is not biased.”

            Well that’s a load of sophistical bull. Here let’s see if you can distinguish which report is more biased.

            Here’s the BBC on the latest gold price hike:


            Now here’s gold salesman Glenn Beck on gold:


            If you can’t tell which is more or less biased then I feel for you, man…

          4. Philip Pilkington

            Also, I’m not ‘ad hominem’ attacking every writer I could think of. I didn’t lay into Pat Buchanan, for example — or Paul Craig Roberts — or Peter Schiff. I was quite specific.

            William Buckley — because he set up NR, so he was relevant to the discussion.

            I then compared him to other people that I consider posers — not just conservatives, these people stretch the truth too far:

            Richard Pipes — who did actually make up stuff when he was a member of Team B.

            William Kristol — whose cultural views alter his presentation of material to a degree that is extremely biased.

            On the left I could have pointed to most Marxists/most people over at the Monthly Review, Max Keiser — those sorts of people. But they rarely have access to the levers of power like Pipes and Kristol do — also, I was talking about Buckley, who is a conservative.

          5. Philip Pilkington

            Actually, here’s a link to a post I wrote on an Irish economists blog. He’s a Russian emigrant and has a mild obsession with the USSR — which I guess is understandable.

            In this post I apply the criteria that I use when editing work for publication. These are the standards I’d use for an ‘objective’ news piece as opposed to an opinion piece. There will always be bias, but the idea is to filter out as much as possible.


          6. Anonymous Jones

            “Just because you believe something doesn’t make it objective”

            Well, Paul, go all semantic on us, and yes, we’ll be forced to admit that almost nothing can ever be “objective.”

            Yves gets a lot of complaints about certain links. When she links to something that is consistent with the well known bias of the publisher, it is reasonable to make the comment she made. And yes, if she links to BBC report making a comment about the British government’s size as too small, she should also make a reasonable comment on the dubious nature of the source.

            As always, you are entitled to your opinion. Your entitlement doesn’t make your opinion any less stupid. If you are not willing to admit the blatant and concerted top-down propaganda of Fox (compared to what appears to be a softer innate bias of BBC, *which undoubtedly exists*), we cannot agree on anything and further conversation is useless. Enjoy!

    2. Name (required)

      Since this ran in the Financial Times don’t bother to go there as it’s behind a paywall and if you’ve already paid to get through it you’ll presumably go there anyway.

      1. J.

        The Financial Times paywall has holes in it. Search the title of the article on Google News and you’ll get a link you can click through to read it.

  5. Moopheus

    So, the National Review argument boils down to, the rich are still getting most of the spoils, but it’s not exactly the same set of rich people over time, so it’s okay. That makes me feel alot better.

    1. Name (required)

      Good ‘photo. The cat brought in a young one yesterday, fortunately dead, which means the population that slaughtered 15 of our peachicks this summer for the fun of it is reduced by one.

  6. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Perhaps there are no vegetables left in the world after the vegicide commited by vegetarians.

    That might account for the lack of vegetable antidotes…

  7. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Speaking of CEO pay, is Singularity the point in time when inanimate objects like corporations become more powerful than living, breathing beings?

    1. Jack Parsons

      The first that I know of were the Hospitalliers, aka the Knights Templar. They were an independent corporation operating financially in several European countries, from the 900’s to the 1100’s. They were a special independent order reporting directly to the Pope. The English and French kings kneecapped the Templars because they became too powerful.

      To my knowledge this is the first case of a to-the-death government v.s. multi-national corporation cagefight.

  8. Jim Haygood

    ‘After his father’s passing, young Paul Ryan started collecting social security benefits until the age of 18 years old. He took this benefit and saved it for his college education. Many people do not know that 30% of the social security fund goes directly to widows, orphans and the disabled. [Paul Ryan] wants to take a portion of social security and funnel it to Wall Street to gamble with, rather than having the current program stand as an insurance program rather than an investment.

    DOH! What does the author think insurance companies invest in? Yeah, they’re heavily weighted in fixed income (meaning corporates and mortgages, not just Treasuries), but typically they also hold some real estate for inflation protection, and a limited allocation to equities for growth.

    No private insurer invests strictly in Treasuries, as Soc Sec does. The reason is simple: the rate of return is too low to be competitive.

    Foreign countries such as Singapore and Chile run social security systems which offer properly diversified investments, and produce more generous benefits than Social Security at lower cost.

    Social Security is an unregenerate 1930s clunker, systematically stripping Americans of their savings during their prime earning years, and forcing them into a negative rate-of-return investment. This isn’t merely oppressive; it borders on a human rights abuse.

    And yeah, like Paul Ryan, I’m a SocSec grandkid. My mom (as a teenager) got survivors benefits after her dad died in 1941. Just because my family hit the SocSec lottery early on doesn’t mean I’m obliged to support a badly-designed, unethical, deceitful system.

    1. Anonymous Jones

      Just a few comments until the first blatant straw man today. Is that progress or just luck?

      No one said you had to support the program. Given that the vast majority of people in this democracy support it, I could care less what you think. Just try not to tell lies about SS. The article was factual re: Ryan. You can do whatever you want with that factual information; disregard it or think it relevant, I don’t care. You obviously took it personally and lashed out like a hurt little kid, but whatever, your bona fides as a real man are probably not the main issue here.

      BTW, your comments about SS seem to indicate that you are entirely unfamiliar with the relationship between risk and reward. SS is an insurance scheme, and one that is clearly at least partially “catastrophe insurance.” In catastrophe insurance, there is great benefit in having the most secure counterparty and this security is most definitely (IMO) worth a few hundred basis points.

  9. Anonymous Comment

    In re the Ed Harrison article: More on our innate hypocrisy and confabulatory power Ed Harrison. He ends on a concept which draws out questions.

    “These heuristics usually work in an uncertain world with limited information- and that’s why they are effective. But what about when they don’t work? Jonah Lehrer gives us examples in the judicial system. But there are many more in the world of economics as well.” -E.H.

    Hmmm. Indeed. Where are they, what are they, and why?

    The first question we need to answer is a smantics question: “What is really meant by ‘heuristics’? In all the definitions I have read about heuristics it is either implied or expressly-written that the process of heuristics is undergone with the intent to improve the situation and in some regard does so. If that is the case, we have to split off some of the usage of that word and coming with a new one for a variation on the process.

    Sometimes a person/organization uses the heuristic process to undermine the greater good. So their heuristicism is really a destructive force. This is why I think that conflict of interest is such a big part of the problem. Which is finally showing up with GS et al, being called to court to defend themselves in their double-dealing.

    So what do we call it when someone learns from their mistakes how to lay the blame on others? Also what do we call when their is an impression of working as a team, but secretly, certain members of the team are heuristically learning, planning, undertaking to weaken, not improve the outcome. Surely neither of those are considered heurism, yet in truth, they are success to those that choose that path. We have a dirth of words to describe the criminality that has gone on.

    Which brings up another point. Our lack of words for what has happened, creates a self-fulfilling prophecy for those who want to keep these concepts hidden. If there are no words, it must not really be happening… because if something is really happening, people know what to call it, right? No. That’s what we’ve [blogs&bloggers] got to do… give it names. Or at least remind people who do not know what names to use. Like myself. Even this lately discussion of heuristics has brought up a deeper subject of subversive semantics.

    This is an important conversation to be had.

    Thanks Ed Harrison, and Yves for bringing this to us.

  10. ep3

    “Ohio County Losing Its Young to Painkillers’ Grip ”

    interesting how the article begins by saying how the economic decline of the city has contributed to this addiction situation in the first paragraph. then drops the subject immediately and moves to this “military/war/police action” method to end the problem.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I don’t know about war/police action method, but the use of painkiller improves the mental state of the cogs in the machine. However, it’t not natural as one doesn’t often see that anywhere else in the Cosmos and you don’t see that in a Neanderthal society either.

      1. Name (required)

        Well, Neanderthals and their other hominid relatives did have access to hemp, cocoa, opium poppies, magic mushrooms &tc. without having to worry about any “War on Drugs” and State Thought police visits.

  11. Correction

    Re: “we have to split off some of the usage of that word and coming with a new one for a variation on the process.”

    Should read: “we have to split off some of the usage of that word and come up with new ones for variations on the process.”

  12. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    How Egypt’s Youth Forced The Issue, Counterpunch –

    In a forest, young saplings need the hundreds or thousands of year old trees (those some among the humans will die to protect from being cut) to die so they can grow.

    The old trees are no more corrupt than the young trees will one day become nor the young trees more virtuous than the old trees once were.

    That’s life.

  13. Quote of the day:

    “If a society cannot rouse itself to cleanse the fundamental injustice at the heart of its institutions, then it is effectively choosing self-destruction.”

    by Charles Hugh Smith from Of Two Minds

  14. rps

    Bloomberg’s article “America shuns cheapest homes in 40 years as homeowership fades” lines up the usual suspects in a dull narrative arriving to the (yawn) anticlimax…. people aren’t buying. Pointing fingers, quoting the mortgage bankers associations wet-dream of six percent interest rates, unemployment figures, tighter lending standards,Bernankeisms, etc. The elephant in the room they ignore are college graduates leveraged-out with enormous student debt at 6.9%. Non-dischargeable usury debt. Universities have handed a whole generation 20 years of large monthly payments with the synthetic sheepskin to nowheresville. The mortgage lenders can twiddle their thumbs while baby boomers sit in their non-selling, costly maintenance, higher insurance premiums, shocking real estate taxes on a aging shacks they are no longer able to afford. So long retirement dream of sunnier climes.-

  15. Jimbo

    Incoming Chicago Mayor’s new budget chief….,0,876159.story

    Exactly who is Lois Scott?

    From a WSJ story last year…

    Adviser Takes Heat for Helping Sell Off Public Assets

    As cities around the U.S. struggle to raise money, a little-known financial-advisory firm has grown in clout and courted some controversy along the way.

    Scott Balice Strategies Inc., based in Chicago, has helped several cities lease parking spaces and other assets to private investors. The firm has advised cities and states on 30 bond-financing deals totaling $4.4 billion this year through June, making it among the fastest-growing municipal advisers in the nation, ranking No. 8, up from No. 15 a year earlier, according to research firm Thomson Reuters.

    Until the Dems have the guts to tax the really wealthy, look for more asset sales. The working and middle-class are tapped out.

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