Links 4/23/11

Termites eat millions at a bank in India Christian Science Monitor

android location service cache dumper GitHub (hat tip Slashdot)

How to See the Secret Tracking Data in Your iPhone PC Magazine

The Really Smart Phone Wall Street Journal. This is enough to make me keep my stupid phone forever. But I often go off the grid, since I am plenty accessible the vast majority of the day (plus phone calls on the NYC streets are largely pointless given background noise), so I don’t know what the experts make of deviants like me.

Reactor Team Let Pressure Soar Wall Street Journal

Death toll rises after Syrian crackdown Financial Times

Shanghai fuel protests unnerve Beijing Financial Times

Chinese Inflation and the Impact on the US Economy Menzie Chinn

Obama on Manning: “He Broke the Law” – So Much for That Trial? Michael Whitney, FireDogLake

Guest post: ETFs – what’s the fuss about? FT Alphaville

Iowa AG slams report on campaign contributions Housing Wire. Reader kravitz called it “mush”

Bank of America Dismissed From Countrywide Securities Suit Bloomberg

Lawyer intensifies fee-splitting battle against mortgage servicing providers Housing Wire

Builders of New Homes Seeing No Sign of Recovery New York Times

Bank of America Lawyer, Consultant Gave Foreclosure Probe Chief $15,000 Swampland. We posted on this yesterday. The story seems to be getting traction.

J.P. Morgan Chase to pay $27 million to settle lawsuit over military mortgages Washington Post

Sewers, Swaps and Bachus Joe Nocera, New York Times

Antidote du jour:

Screen shot 2011-04-23 at 2.42.53 AM

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  1. Hubert

    Nocera/Jefferson County

    Matt Taibbi should certainly have got an honorable mention in this story. The fact that he got not reflects on Nocera and/or the NYT.

  2. Dan Duncan

    The first link paves the way for a good Far Side corollary:

    “Cockroaches eat trillions at a bank in America.” The Termite Daily Monitor.

    1. markincorsicana

      The Teabrains are right after all! The only real money is gold! Or stones with holes in them like they use in Micronesia.

  3. Philip Pilkington

    Hehe… anyone hear about the ‘Tesco riots’? — man, what happened to the left?

    Oh, and Ireland’s ex-finance minister Brian Lenihan — a greasy individual who had no idea what he was doing and who I have very little time for — has come out and said how the ECB have treated Ireland. Unsurprisingly, their tactics were underhanded and wholly geared in their own self-interest. No greater good here — no commitment to a better Europe. We knew all this already, but at least now we have confirmation:

    1. Tony

      Re: The Tesco Riots

      Reading the entire article was well worth this gem:

      …the latest riot is part of a larger history of the public taking over open spaces in the city, which dates back 700 years to the St James’s fair.

      The fair, held on free ground close to Stokes Croft, attracted people from all over Europe but was banned in 1837 after the drinking, gambling, bear baiting and prostitution became too much for the local aldermen.

      Sounds like quite the party. And it seems like the Irish need to be the ones who take to the streets with petrol bombs. The IMF can’t be far behind.

  4. Philip Pilkington

    Oh, and on the smartphone thing… I know some people are going to say that this is intrusive and creepy, but I have to admit — I find it more interesting than anything else. It’s this sort of thing that might finally allow us to banish our crude ideas about what motivates people (i.e. rational self-interest or whatever other crass pseudo-psychological ‘motivator’ you find in social pseudo-sciences)…

    My guess is that Freud will be vindicated by this sort of heavily empirical research — people are primarily motivated, to put it crudely, by whatever sits between their legs…

    1. craazyman

      Not sure that correlation will ever be fully reconciled with causation.

      My own inquiries into the formation, interaction and opposition of Pilot Waves (collective herd-like behaviors inspired by imitation) and Gnostic Waves (individual behaviors inspired by inner reflection) offer some promise for predictive formulae based on interaction of probability wave functions.

      I’m coming to the theory that Pilot Waves can be conceived as functions of Gnostic Waves when amplitude is considered, Fourier-style. But haven’t nailed the math yet. Probably never will. :)

      Just need a few million dollars to expand my studies in an absinthe bar.

      1. Philip Pilkington

        “Not sure that correlation will ever be fully reconciled with causation.”

        Causation is always correlation — read Hume or his proteges in modern science, like Heisenberg.

        The phrase ‘correlation is not causation’ is an empty truism, completely devoid of epistemological content. I think it should be replaced by the much more accurate — and much less known — French phrase ‘comparaison n’est pas raison’… ‘comparison is not reason’. The difference may seem subtle, but at an epistemological level it is anything but.

        I’d say that your distinction between ‘Pilot’ and ‘Gnostic’ waves appears epistemologically invalid as well. Who are you to say that ‘inner reflection’ — whatever that means — isn’t completely determined by ‘collective/herd behavior’ — whatever that means.

        THIS is the distinction I think you see collapse in Freud. People — usually scientists and philosophers who, in the Cartesian vein, like to think they’re in rational control over their own thoughts and destiny — find it useful and egotistically satisfying to contrast their own supposed ‘rational’ reflection with the crude ‘herd’ behavior of the other.

        The other is always stupid and determined by the behavior others — I, the Cartesian, have a total reflective knowledge and therefore am not determined by the behavior of others. The pre-Cartesian Christians and the post-Freduians were far more humble…

        1. craazyman


          You are a pastiche of erudite insights and blind blockheadedness.

          Gnostic Reflection = Matthew 10 v16-20

          et. al.

          “We are living in a conscious time now. I say we all have de ansah. We all have de ansah.” -Bob Marley


          1. craazyman

            srry shld be “Gnostic wave” not reflection. It’s flowing the Gnostic wave not the Pilot wave.

      2. Philip Pilkington

        People in the social sciences were quick to dismiss these post-Freudian insights — “Freud was wrong,” they proclaim with all the certainty of someone trying to defend their particular worldview from a theory that completely destroys it.

        Meanwhile, the founder of modern cybernetics, Norbert Weiner (one of the most profound philosophers of the 20th century) was discovering just how close Freud’s view of what Weiner called ‘incomplete determinism’ (Freud called this ‘overdetermination’) was to modern mathematics and physics. From Weiner’s ‘Cybernetics and Society’ — which should be read by every social scientist, economist and philosopher:

        “The gap between the Gibbs-Lebesgue way of thinking [this was a mathematical expression of ‘incomplete determinism’] and Freud’s intuitive but somewhat discursive method is too large. Yet in their recognition of a fundamental element of chance in the texture of the universe itself, these men are close to one another and close to the tradition of St. Augustine. For this random element, this organic incompleteness, is one which without too violent a figure of speech, we may consider evil.” [P. 11]

        The only economist that recognises this today — to my knowledge — is Philip Mirowski, who discusses this in detail in his work. Keynes had a similar intuition in his notion of unpredictability and what he called ‘animal spirits’ — and Joseph A. Schumpeter has an interesting footnote in ‘Capitalism, Socialism, Democracy’ referencing Freud. Apart from this, economists — even the best of them in behavioral economics — is stuck in the world of the old determinism. Pity.

        1. Anonymous Jones

          While I think much of your two comments has merit, your claim about the “empty truism” seems odd. A phrase has meaning if it is communicative, regardless of anyone’s opinion on what the structure of its grammar and words “should” intend based on normal rules of usage.

          In fact, I’m not sure how using either of the two words “empty” or “truism” could ever result in anything but, by your standards, an “empty truism.” Both are clearly words of opinion in this context. Your opinion, as is mine, is mostly useless among the billions and is also generally not worth mentioning.

          But given that we’ve started down this road, let me add, almost not in jest…

          It seems people mistake correlation for causation constantly. This is hardly subject to any sort of reasonable debate, in my opinion. Thus, to describe a phrase that tries to communicate this as a “truism,” or something so obvious as to not be worthy of mention, seems just totally off the deep end. Sorry, just my opinion.

          1. Philip Pilkington

            Please don’t start the analyses of grammar etc. — I’ve always thought this sort of pseudo-philosophising (which goes on as much in the analytic tradition as it does in the deconstructive tradition) is extremely crass. When I say its an ’empty truism’ you know what I mean — and if you don’t, I mean that it’s a statement that’s often used (truism) but, for the epistemologist, should have no real validity (empty).

            Go over Bertrand Russell’s writings and I’m sure you’ll find yourself able to ‘pick apart’ commonly used phrases. Sometimes meaning goes beyond the analytical level. If I use irony, for example. “Yeah… right… keep analysing that language”. The meaning goes beyond the immediate statement — and that’s fundamentally why phony language analysis is pedantic and stupid. It’s also why a great deal of contemporary philosophy is shallow and onanary.

            “It seems people mistake correlation for causation constantly. This is hardly subject to any sort of reasonable debate, in my opinion.”

            This isn’t a matter of ‘opinion’. Hume found that when you really boil it down you cannot distinguish between causation and correlation. Scientists took a long time to come around to this viewpoint, but with Heisenberg they did. They found — as Hume did — that there is never any absolutely definitive ’cause’ that you can point to; you always have to ‘infer’ this cause from correlative judgments.

            Example: I push the pen off the desk — it falls. Do I ’cause’ it to fall? Yes — in a sense. But then we look deeper and we ask what mechanical and psychological processes ’caused’ me to push the pen. We keep boiling this down and eventually we come down to basic thermodynamic laws — physics, relying on energy expenditure almost always boils down to these. We then find various ‘uncertain’ variables — just as we do in a psychological evaluation. Then all we can admit is that a variety of ‘happenings’ are correlative with the pen falling — hence the ‘causation’ becomes established only on the back of correlation.

            That’s not a great exposition. Here’s some philosopher breaking down Hume’s argument:


            “Even after we have experience of causal connections, our conclusions from those experiences aren’t based on any reasoning or on any other process of the understanding. They are based on our past experiences of similar cases, without which we could draw no conclusions at all.”

          2. Philip Pilkington

            Sometimes I fell like simply handing language analysts a dictionary, a thesaurus or a glossary… I think they could learn much more about how people actually use language to convey meaning from pawing through these, as they would from trying to break down every sentence (usually using meanings that they themselves have invented on the spot).

            That’s the real secret of language analysis — it’s more often used to enforce meanings that are predetermined by the analyst on the language user, than they are actually used to analyse what was trying to be conveyed. Hence, onanism…


            “The word may be used to disguise the fact that a proposition is really just an opinion, especially in rhetoric. A saying about people or an accepted truth about life in general is also a truism.”


            cliché, platitude.”

          3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Saw this quote in a Zen book – words, as is well known, are great foes of reality.

          4. Dan Duncan

            This reply is to Pilkington and not Anonymous Jones, whose comment (AJ’s, that is) was spot on.

            Pilkington, what in the hell are you talking about?

            We’ll retrace the steps:

            3. Pilkington bemoans the “analyses of grammar etc.” which you find to be “extremely crass”. [Which, btw, was not really about “grammar”, but rather context.] You made this statement….

            2. In response to AJ who wrote the “claim about the ’empty truism’ seems odd…” The Anonymous Jones comment was damn insightful, and it was written in response to….

            1. The Pilkington comment taking issue with the phrase “correlation does not equal causation”….

            Hopefully, you were able to keep up…(for some reason, I can see you doing the “math” with your fingers)….

            OK, now Pilkington…are you ready?

            Your original statement was a PEDANTIC, hair-splitting, rant on context with regards to “correlation and causation”. In your original comment you did the very “CRASS” thing that you criticize Anonymous Jones for doing.

            F*cking Ponderous, man. F*cking Ponderous….

          5. Skippy

            @PP, Bravo.

            If my understanding is correct, the Mayan written language was conveying, as well, as individualistically artistic and the usage of elitist ingua francas complicated things even more.

            Much too the ire of those that tried to decipher it.

            Skippy…codifier’s nightmare, it took several approaches to crack hence Knorozov’s and Eric Thompson fracas slowing things up until Mesa Redonda de Palenque. To think a child’s exposure to it, helping with drawings / rubbings, unencumbered bias, would be so significant…ha.

      3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Some people believe everything in the world is connected, related, correlated or interdependent, like the jewels in Indra’s Net.

  5. lambert strether

    All the lawsuits, without exception, are just a cost of doing business, and we pay for it all in the end anyhow.

    What’s needed are criminal charges: CEOs in orange jumpsuits doing the perp walk. It’s highly unlikely that we’ll see that, of course, since the rule by the legacy parties over the last thirty years of neo-liberal dominance has destroyed the rule of law and Constitutional government, and created a culture of elite impunity worse than any banana republic.

    1. zephyrum

      “What’s needed are criminal charges: CEOs in orange jumpsuits doing the perp walk. It’s highly unlikely that we’ll see that…”

      We’ll see something, eventually. If a government does not enforce the interests of the people, the people will eventually find someone who will. This can be an ugly, bloody process.

      1. Percy

        Lambert is certainly right about failure to enforce and jail people and the destruction of the law. But I do not think we will see something different “eventually.” It will continue. Some of it is a complexity problem and much of the rest due to legal principles meant to keep us from harm by a despot. No one, it seems, imagined we’d have controlling and victimizing us what we have now. The reaction, the antidote, as it were — the “ugly, bloody process”? A few keep saying this, but it doesn’t seem to be happening. It should, but there you have it. It isn’t. Why not?

        1. another

          “…mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I thought it was the extra long middle finger, not the ring finger, of an aye-aye’s hand…

  6. Max424

    re: termites

    Brilliant! Unleash the termites on our debt! Eat it all up, termites! Yum yum.

    I wonder, how many termites would be required to eat up our fictional, digital, fictional accounting of nothingness? Let me see here…ho diddle dee, hum diddle do…my hasty, back-of-the-envelope calculations indicate, only one!

    Why one? Well, we need at least one national hero termite to pin the Medal of Freedom on!

    The Medal of Freedom? Yes, yes, of course. Don’t you see? Freedom from debt, means, freedom, for our grandchildren! We must all, in bi-partisan fashion, properly thank our fictional-debt eating Freedom Termite!

  7. Eureka Springs

    Relieved as I always am and will be to see our corporate fascist governance and their tracking ploys receive any and all scrutiny. I’m a bit amazed at the continued surprise this week. In the mid 90’s driving with a phone which still had orange LED lettering and numbers, I pulled off a rural back road in front of an AR/MO border sign and placed a call… then i pulled ahead approximately three car lengths into MO and placed another call. My next bill reflected a thirty foot or less move. I’m sure somewhere fifteen plus years later there is still a record of that and every other move made since.

    So Yves, Please keep shining a light on this most egregious systemic violation of our liberties, but stop pretending your old phone is an act of defiance in any manner. We are far past that point. Join me in abandoning both criminal party’s today! :) Let us blog and walk like Egyptians, demand they all step down now.

    1. TreeoOfSmoke

      They are so emboldened by past performance as to tee it up in public and then suggest we deny our lying eyes.

    1. doom

      In mozilla browsers you disable that on the about:config page by doubleclicking the geo. line. And while you’re at it you can make dom-storage false too (I already see government websites using that.)

  8. james herman

    “Red” Alert…just in case you haven’t notice what is happening in Canada, Stephen Harper (Conservative), Michael Ingnatief (Liberal), Jack Layton(NDP/Socialist) and the Bloc Quebocois…….are going to have an election in week……the polls are showing the Liberals and the NDP at about 23% each and the Bloc at about 8%. If these numbers hold through the election the Liberals, the NDP- with slightly more votes than the Liberals- and the Bloc will form a coalition………..and you will have a Socialist Prime Minister in Canada by the name of Jack Layton………a fire breather if there ever was one.

  9. Punch My Ticket

    This is a fundamental misunderstanding of how Canada’s parliamentary democracy works. The constituencies are all first past the post. There is no proportional representation.

    If NDP support holds, and it is up a lot from previous elections so don’t count on it, the almost certain result will be that the Conservatives win an outright majority of seats.

  10. Doug Terpstra

    Re: Obama on Manning: “He broke the law.” Our constitutional scholar president has now convicted Manning by imperial decree and sentenced him to torture without trial.

    “Off with their heads; sentence first, then the verdict” cried the red queen.

    Obama has now ensured that Manning cannot possibly receive a fair trial ever, not in a civilian court and certainly not in a military tribunal of CIC-subordinate jurors. I guess that leaves Guantanamo. Handy thing we decided not to close that so that we can encage people for life without trial.

    Glenn Greenwald delivers a compelling indictment of our latest felon in chief at Salon:

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