Links 5/2/11

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Talk of the town: The etymology of UK places Independent (hat tip Buzz Potamkin)

Obesity Epidemic in Dogs Captain Capitalism. One of my Abyssinians bore a striking resemblance to an Abyssinian-colored football when I returned from overseas. Over his protests, I got him thin and handsome again. It can be done but most pets have their owners firmly under control.

Previously unaccounted mechanism proposed for cell phone radiation damage PhysOrg

Shortages of key drugs endanger patients Washington Post (hat tip reader Francois T)

Bin Laden galvanises US even in death Financial Times

The Kings We Crown Mark Moyar, New York Times

Royals Chris Whitaker. I now feel much better about ignoring the wedding, save perhaps the bun throwing at Abingdon.

Barack Obama takes revenge on Donald Trump in White House speech Telegraph. I find this sort of thing tacky…but then again, I’m an old WASP wet blanket.

Donald Trump Shows Up at White House Correspondents Dinner, Is Booed on Arrival The Wrap (hat tip reader furzy mouse). Oh, the fickle media!

China Controls Our Food Supply Dylan Ratigan (hat tip reader Francois T). First rare earths, now this.

Wal-Mart — It’s Alive! How the Company Is Terrorizing the Country With its Corporate ‘Personhood‘ Alternet (hat tip reader May S)

Who Benefits From Bubbles? Paul Krugman

Banks Should Pay for Foreclosures Common Dreams (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

US housing: what happened to the underlying demand? MacroBusiness

The scuttlebutt method of stock research John Hempton

The F.D.I.C.’s Lehman Fantasy Steve Lubben, New York Times.

Springtime for Bankers Paul Krugman, New York Times

Royal Bank of Scotland Report Held Up by Legal Wrangle, FT Says Bloomberg. We defied a superinjunction by RBS’s former CEO Fred Goodwin, so we hope someone with access to the report who wants to see it aired will send it to us. Please ping me at

The Global Economy’s Corporate Crime Wave Project Syndicate (hat tip Mark Thoma). Is Jeff Sachs out to undo some of his bad karma? He’s been saying astonishingly candid and sensible stuff of late.

Antidote du jour:

Screen shot 2011-05-02 at 5.05.32 AM

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  1. Foppe

    Re: Sachs: it’s a shame Sachs doesn’t have a better grasp on the how/what of the economics of elections/politicians. Specifically, his world-wide efforts — not limited to most of South America, Poland and Russia — to destroy worker/labor power (known in the english-speaking world as ‘union-busting’, as though it’s akin to taking down criminal cartels) certainly haven’t helped to preserve an alternative source of financing for those “new politicians who have to depend on independent media to get their message out.” Sure they do, but only because the capitalists have systematically taken down any alternative source of funding for those politicians.
    I have no illusions that politicians will ever be free from the “influence” their funders have over them (or from their friends, or the people affiliated with their party), but at least before some politicians were beholden to labor power, in stead of them all being beholden to finance and friends. Certainly, the influence of donors seems to be less strong in countries that have publicly funded elections, so that ideology can play a larger role in informing the convictions of the politicians, but there just as here many politicians have come to believe in the “third way” of neoliberal “social” democracy.

    1. Jimbo

      I would support publicly funded elections if the major broadcast and cable TV stations were mandated to allot time for political TV spots. That is, no TV broadcaster would be allowed to receive cash or an in-kind payment from any political candidate.

      1. Foppe

        I agree publicly funded elections (with accompanying rules that forbid extra advertising) would be a step in the right direction, but that wouldn’t solve the problem caused by the enormous income/wealth inequality that exists, and that will influence politicians, with the capitalists being able to do everything while the rest of society is outright forbidden to organize politically (see Taft-Hartley).

  2. bmeisen

    Thanks for the FoE link re Royal Wedding. Whittaker misses the democracy deficit issue and the absolutism behind it. Every monarchy, constitutional or otherwise, is simply anti-democratic. The constitutionals use the royals as a safety valve for when democracy gets a little too messy. The royals stand ready to step in a rally the troops before the pitchfork mob storms the stock market … I mean the Bastille.

    Democracy is messy, especially when the state doesn’t invest heavily in cutlure and education. Direct democracy isn’t the answer. Parliamentary democracy is with constitutional thresholds for parties and one man/2 votes. Throw in free education from kindergarten to grad school and substantial funding for culture i.e. music theater museums visual arts public information aka the fourth estate and you’ll get as close to justice as is possible.

  3. Dean Sayers

    Here was my own May Day experience:

    “Aside from the Unitarian Universalist speaker, I hadn’t been convinced. And that’s pretty bad, because moral arguments are usually hard for me to stomach; the material ones, easier. This wasn’t the first act of the revolution, 2011. The fire from Wisconsin and Middle Eastern / N. African protests seemed far off, ancient history, glories we could never expect to rise to in fragmented Richmond, Virginia. Perhaps more disappointing was the lack of doomsday-revolutionary analysis: it was easy for me to criticize it as idealist, shaky in its relationship to the real world. But perhaps that facade is better than the mindset of a crowd that really doesn’t see anything good around the corner.”

    Anybody else experience any good/disappointing May Day organizing locally? Or am I just too negative?

  4. Ignim Brites

    It is typical of PK that he is concerned not that there are bubbles but that some people do not pay enough taxes on the “capital gains”. That some people are in fact in favor of bubbles as a consequences of not treating capital gains as ordinary income should, however, be obvious and one starting point for the critique of the American political economy.

    1. Anonymous Jones

      You should work on your reading comprehension. Such effort would also probably have the side benefit of helping you write more clearly. I won’t hold my breath for either.

  5. Leviathan

    Whitaker’s arguments are specious. He blames the royals for being a backbone of normative culture, as though they create the “conservative” traditions he rails against rather than merely reflecting them.

    The beauty of the monarchy is that the figurehead(s) of the nation is not the same person(s) as the elected leadership. Our president carries the world’s heaviest burden, but he also gets an amazing freebie in that he also represents the country at home and abroad. This gives an all too convenient shield against political attack and makes it hard to dislodge a sitting president.

    In this respect, having a monarchy is beneficial to a functioning democracy. I could go on about the historical importance of the monarchy in Britain to a peaceful, evolutionary democratization (that set a critical example to the whole world) but it’s too much for this space.

    The monarchy is not a reality tv show. It’s intrinsic to British culture. You could not chop it off without doing great damage. And frankly you wouldn’t gain much either.

    Here’s to the newlyweds! Huzzah!

    1. bmeisen

      The position is ceremonial head of state and it’s not a freebie. Advanced democracies recognize its importance and set elections for it. In Germany for example the Bundespraesident, not the Chancellor, is empowered to pardon – just one of the advantages of keeping it separate from the political leadership.

      And claiming that the Royals are intrinsic to British culture makes as much sense as claiming that Kaiser Wilhelm II was intrinsic to German culture in 1914. Aside from their democratically illigitimate status as ceremonial heads of state the Windsors are admittedly an economic factor. Thanks in part to the paranoia of the over-privileged the British economy is a mess. Desperate to promote one of the country’s only growth industries – tourism – on Friday the police swept demonstrators from the London streets.

      1. Leviathan

        Rubbish. The Kaiser was a Prussian whose family managed to rule a united German state for a mere 43 years before leading the country into the abyss in WWI. The German monarchy was an invention of Bismarck, which is not to say it lacked any popular legitimacy, but it was very limited.

        An elected or appointed ceremonial head of state, conjured up by a recent constitutional convention is nothing compared to monarchy of more than a millennia’s duration. And that’s if we just take 1066 as our starting date (ignoring Boadicea and Arthur, Alfred and all the rest).

        The monarchy in England (and a mere handful of other places) has served as a balancing agent, presiding over sharp changes in a way that reassures of the underlying stability of society as a whole. Pressures are relieved and change happens gradually, not in such a way that tips everything into chaos.

        Again, not an institution to be thrown into the dustbin lightly. I have yet to see a good argument for why it should be.

        1. bmeisen

          Your claim that the UK is more uniform, more authentically a nation, with a longer history of political integration, than Germany circa 1900 was, is challenging because I’m not a historian. I don’t even know when the Windsors obtained, ascended to, and were blessed through divine intervention with, the crown. Whichever verb, may I assume that their effective method was to slash the throats of challengers and/or to bribe relevant stakeholders?

          Regardless, their reign does not go back 1000 years, if my reading of Shakespeare has been right. Don’t some Scots continue to talk of restoration, I mean secession? Which reminds me of the long-standing criticism of monarchy: that it is essentially tribal, e.g. the Stewarts. (I can hear the retort now: the clans were proto-democrats!)

          As you probably know, the Germans – in one form or another – have also had emperors for a long time, though I admit that by 1789, thanks in part to the Windsors, the empire was substantially dis-integrated, and then along came Emperor Napoleon and things got really screwed up. While Bismarck’s social reforms went a long way to prolonging the dominance of the Prussians, the debauchery and arrogance of the last Kaiser should be argument enough against monarchists.

          This much I’m sure of: claims that the British are different, that their monarchs are simply more decent, more human than other kings and queens, are refuted by their own history.

  6. ella

    Shortage of drugs… just wondering is this a convenient way to drive up prices?

  7. me

    Does anyone know if Bin Ladin was ever formally charged? Apart from an audio recording which they say was his voice and even then it was hardly conclusive from what “he” said in it that he was involved. Certainly not enough to hold up in court. Then again there was no trial, just a “trust us” and an assassination. I guess we’ll never know. And the timing is also very convenient too.

  8. voislav

    Re: drug shortage

    I love how the shortage is partially blamed on the FDA for actually doing its job. To quote:

    Some industry representatives blame part of the problem on increased oversight by the FDA, which has made drug safety a higher priority after coming under intense criticism for being too lax.
    “As you know right now, FDA has taken a heightened approach towards drug safety,” said Maya Bermingham, senior assistant general counsel at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. “FDA has stepped up inspections. The more you look, the more you may discover problems.”

    Yes, the problem is that the FDA is preventing people from cutting corners on drug safety.

    1. Foppe

      I wonder, though, to what extent this is the fault of the extension of the ban on reimporting that was enacted last year to help big pharma’s profits?

    2. Francois T

      I couldn’t prevent the forceful nasal expulsion of my morning coffee when I read that passage.

      Yeah right! The profit margins of ethical drugs is sooooo thin that if Pharma does NOT cut corners, in start to flow the red ink. This kind of suggested inference does not even begin to pass the laughing test.

      Now, if the esteemed counsel has talked about the fact that the FDA mandates a Everest of useless paperwork for “quality-control purposes” I would’ve been much more sympathetic to this line of debate. It just so happen that in this respect, the FDA has gone way overboard in the last 5 – 10 years. Manufacturing SOPs that took 8 weeks to set up can now take up to 18 MONTHS. Post doctoral researchers at pretty much every pharma corporation are now reduced to do endless and repetitive QC just to keep the paper trail intact, and believe me, it is a wide trail TYVM.

      That said, the bottom line of this drug shortage still has much more to do with incompetent leadership, overemphasis on short term financial results and absurd selection of MBAs and marketing honchos at the top posts (instead of clinical/scientific people, which was the norm in the heyday of Pharma) than regulations.

  9. althea

    Military assassinations of foreign leaders are a troubling road, especially if they become routine. A slippery slope to domestic.

  10. Tertium Squid

    HOLY COW, Obama. That level of mockery is reserved for people that frighten you. Gandhi had it right:

    First they ignore you
    then they ridicule you
    then they fight you
    then you win.

    You tried ignoring, now youare ridiculing. I get that he’s a very scary person, and you are only President of the United States. But look at the last line – that’s the road you are going down.

    Why are you playing Trump’s game?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I thought it was unseemly too, you put it much better than I would have.

  11. Cedric Regula

    China Controls Our Food Supply

    When I saw this title, I thought it was the other way around, which isn’t really good news either, but in reading the article the author is on to another little detail.

    The chinese are the worlds’ single source supplier of Ascorbic acid, which is our main preservative and also our Vitamin C pills.

    So I have been looking for Vitamin C pill replacements. The two domestic ones are the Orange and the Tomato. I’ve been doing channel checks on CA tomatoes and those appear to be $2.50/lb. I’m in FL at the moment and channel checks here indicate $2.99/lb. Oranges are next on my list.

    I have read research that tea has many of the same C vitamin anti-oxident properties, just not as strong(this is why British sailors eventually became “limeys”). But tea doesn’t really sound like the solution either.

    My initial reaction is this sucks. Still trying to figure why and what to do about it.

    1. Moopheus

      I am reminded of a scene in the book Fat Men From Space by Daniel Pinkwater. The Fat Men come (from the planet Speigel) and steal all of our junk food, leaving humanity in a panic in that all they have left to eat is fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, and fish! It would be a true disaster if the producers of America’s junk food had to suffer some increase in costs that made it more difficult to stuff more of their crap, literally, down our throats.

      1. Cedric Regula

        Yes, but looking forward, when the Tomato hits $10/lb due to Vitamin C pill shortages, we will have to buy the Twinkie as a source of Ascorbic acid.

        I’m still worried.

  12. Hugh

    It is always funny to see defenses of the British monarchy, aka Disney on the Thames, that it performs some vital and special constitutional function, instead of being a haven for a pack of mediocre social parasites. It reminds me of how during segregation white Southerners would grouse about attacks on “their Southern way of life,” that way of life being a euphemism for Jim Crow. So it is with the British royal family, they are just the public face of the English class system, and yes, its kleptocracy.

    In our own country, it is almost impossible to have an intelligent conversation about economics because we have all been indoctrinated with neoliberal/kleptocratic bilge for 35 years and it infects our entire economic discourse. Again much the same could be said about the indoctrinated defenders of monarchy in Great Britain.

    1. KFritz

      The British monarch sees all secret papers. She can, at least, attempt to remove the PM in the event of madness or treason. She IS the head of state, however remote from actual governance.

      Great Britain has NO WRITTEN CONSTITUTION. The monarchy does, in some sense, hold the nation together, in place of a written constitution. In another parallel to the current cult of corporate leadership, she and her family ARE grotesquely overpaid.

          1. KFritz

            Apologies again. Can’t find a way to link directly to the article. The second listing is the article in question.
            !@#$% Google! Can’t copy and paste, either.

            It’s from Life Magazine, March 6, 1964, Vol 56, No. 10.

          2. Skippy

            Thanks for the memory’s, the advertising and especially the Mafia in trouble on its home grounds article, circa 1964…ROFLOL.

            Skippy…House of Habsburg and the ensuing “Empire’s on which the sun never sets”. Want to understand oligarchs, study the originals, some of which still operate today…eh.

          3. KFritz

            Sure, but I stopped @ the Battenbergs, oops Mountbattens. Don’t need to read about Friends of Ours. A book just over the hill fr/ where I grew up. Fished in the stream next door to them.

  13. Max424

    I had a dream last night. We were standing over Osama bin Laden’s wounded body, wondering what to do, when our CO appeared — drew his side weapon — and killed the enemy combatant, with a shot to the head.

    One of us spoke: “We were told this mission was dead or alive, sir.”

    And our CO looked at us, for what seemed like a long time; then he laughed, and laughed, and laughed, and laughed…

    1. KFritz

      1) Ascorbic acid is an essential ingredient in many products of our (industrialized) food supply.

      2) China produces 100% of the ascorbic acid used by our food industry.

      3) If this supply suffers any sort of major disruption, intentional or unintentional, and the US doesn’t ramp up production from 0% to some decent% instantly or quickly find another supplier, our food supply is disrupted and endangered.

      So how in the name of fortune can you say, “Food? No.”?

        1. KFritz

          Good strategy. If unwilling or unable to counter facts or logic, repeat assertions. Worked for Bush, Cheney, & Rove.

      1. attempter

        The industrialized food system, on the other hand, is not only not essential but counterproductive and untenable, as you seem to be saying.

        I agree – we must do away with it ASAP, for both our political and physical survival.

          1. carping demon

            All I did was watch the video, and his main point is much more general than ascorbic acid, and includes a clear statement about how we got into this mess. (N.B., in two places in the video he says “Japan” where he obviously meant “China” per his earlier remarks.)

  14. Spudthorpe

    I don’t understand why all of you are spending your time debating finance, politics, the British monarchy, and so forth, while ignoring what is clearly the most important issue posted here today: chubby canines.

    Regarding the brief screed against canine obesity, let me point out that dachshunds are genetically vulnerable to spinal damage (the genetic mutation that shortens their limbs – achondroplasia – also weakens the cartilage of their spinal discs). So the fact that the poor little sausage depicted in the photo needs a ramp to reach the bed isn’t itself evidence of excessive weight. Even a healthy dachshund should not (and probably could not) jump up or down from a bed that height.

    My apartment is infested with quite a few of the little fellows – about three of them, as best I can count – and they appear to have built ramps for themselves on most of my furniture.

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