Links 6/29/11

Burglars include family pets in stolen loot Miami Herald (hat tip Buzz Potamkin) :-(

Bumblebees Appear to Equate Marginal Costs and Marginal Benefits Mark Thoma

A Land of Haves and Have-Nots Consortium News

Spine Experts Repudiate Medtronic Studies New York Times

Wars steadily increase for over a century, fed by more borders and cheaper conflict PhysOrg (hat tip reader Robert M)

Greece faces ‘suicide’ vote on austerity Financial Times. This is looking like a bad rerun of the crisis, in that the authorities have assumed they can force the other side to come to heel and have left themselves no Plan B. And they are using the same type of threats we heard with the TARP.

Greece Erupts Over Austerity Wall Street Journal

Union-Busting Tactics More Pervasive Than Previously Thought: Study Huffington Post (hat tip reader May S)

No More Excuses, Rape is Rape! Peter Rothberg (hat tip reader Carol B). Don’t think DSK can use this in his defense.

Why Is It Relevant That EPI Gets Money from Teacher Unions, But It’s Not Relevant That Erskine Bowles Gets $350,000 a Year from Morgan Stanley? Dean Baker

More on the Medicare-for-Revenues Swap Floated in Debt Limit Deal Dave Dayen, FireDogLake

Could Obama Just Ignore the Debt Ceiling? New York Times

New Jersey’s Credit Line with JP Morgan Bond Girl

NY AG Schneiderman: I’m Not Signing Onto Foreclosure Fraud Settlement Dave Dayen, FireDogLake. We’d said he wasn’t signing on, I guess it is now official

Treasury Assails OCC on Draft Rule Wall Street Journal. Is this just Treasury trying to placate some pissed off Congressmen? This is not normal bureaucratic behavior.

Hoenig: Big banks are fundamentally inconsistent with capitalism Ed Harrison

Consumer Confidence Tanks In June The Daily Capitalist (hat tip reader Carol B)


Antidote du jour (hat tip Lambert Strether). Loukanikos the protest dog:

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    1. a

      OK sorry, the US treasury doesn’t explicitly guarantee them any more. Still, I guess there’s the old implicit guarantee; an explicit guarantee will be brought back in whenever it’s needed.

  1. Foppe

    And let’s not forget this link: Supreme Court Removes Another Barrier to Corporate Ownership of Elections

    With a 5-4 vote, the Court has struck down a matching-funds mechanism in Arizona’s Clean Elections Law that allowed candidates who accepted public funding to match the spending of privately funded candidates and independent groups that might attack them. Under the Arizona law—which has long been considered a national model for using public funds to pay for campaigns—candidates who accept public funding are limited in what they can spend.

    Candidates who refuse public funding are not so constrained; and nor are independent groups that support privately funded candidates; indeed, in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s sweeping Citizens United v. FEC ruling of 2010, which cleared the way for corporations to spend as much as they like to influence election, restrictions to the flow of private money into politics have been all but eliminated.

    Faced with the threat of being overwhelmed by private money, no candidate would go the “Clean Elections” route, unless some mechanism was put in place to counter attack ads by privately funded opponents and groups associated with those opponents. The Arizona Clean Elections law provided that mechanism under a formula requiring that for every dollar a privately funded candidate (or group supporting that candidate) spent above established spending limits, a dollar in additional public funding would go to the “Clean Elections” candidate.

    The genius of the Arizona law was two-fold. The guarantee of matching funds assured that candidates who accepted “Clean Elections” money would be able to compete on a level playing field and, in so doing, this discouraged privately funded candidates and independent groups backing them from trying to buy elections with overwhelming spending.

    On Monday, however, the Supreme Court struck down the “matching funds” provision of Arizona’s “Clean Elections” Act, declaring it to be an unconstitutional restriction on the free-speech rights of privately funded candidates and corporate-funded “independent” groups to shout down publicly funded candidates.

    In combination with the Citizens United ruling, Monday’s ruling in the case of McComish v. Bennett creates a circumstance where corporations and their political allies will enjoy virtually unlimited political advantages over candidates who choose to run campaigns thaty rely on small individual donations or public financing.

    Anyone care to guess what this has to do with “free” speech?

    1. Doug Terpstra

      Gut-wrenching and sickening. It’s too far gone; they no longer bother with pretense.

    2. Francois T

      We should brand the SCOTUS:

      K.R.A.T.S. Inc. A fully owned subsidiary of the GOP of the United States of America. Proud to serve the interests of their shareholders.

  2. Doug Terpstra

    Greece too is threatened with martial law unless banksters are bailed out for reckless bets, with Goldman Sachs undoubtedly an indirect beneficiary … again.

    “If we don’t get the money, we face a terrible scenario … a return to the drachma, with banks besieged by terrified crowds wanting to withdraw their savings…We will see tanks protecting banks because there won’t be enough police to do it … We don’t have a Plan B, we don’t have a plan omega – the last letter of Greek alphabet,” said one politico.”

    Too familiar indeed. Do or die! Echoes of Hank and Shrub: “this sucker’s goin’ down.” Greece will die if it doesn’t shed workers, gut pensions and pensions, and sell the Acropolis to Disney (okay, not). The sky is falling, yes, but whatever you do, don’t tax the rich and always protect obscene bonuses.

    Too late. More together than Americans, the Greek people are already showing that there will be anarchy and riots if they DO impose austerity in order to feed these predators. They will sic Loukanikos on the thugs.

    Hudson had it right last week. This is suicide BY austerity; it will kill the golden goose, scorch the commons, consume the seed corn, and hollow out productive capacity—just as Wall Street parasites have done here. It’s common sense to cut the fat of corporate welfare and bankster bonuses, and to raise taxes on the mega-rich, but it is manifest stupidity to shoot yourself in the foot or hack the bone and muscle that does the heavy lifting.

    Charles Hugh Smith nails Greek problem succinctly, which Hugh will appreciate: “Greece is a Kleptocracy”:

    1. Hugh

      Thanks, it is appreciated. I like that he explains both sides of the con, the Greek kleptocrats and the French and German banks. Where he misses it a little is that, in fact, the ECB and the Eurocrats are all part of the kleptocratic scheme. This leads to the myth of reform. Oh, if only the Eurocrats and ECB would wake up … But they are awake. They are in on the con. There will be no reform.

      As we are seeing around the globe, change is needed, not reform, and it will come from the people, not the elites and institutions looting them.

    1. Valissa

      “Paulson joins former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley as a fellow at the Harris School of Public Policy starting next month. Daley’s appointment was announced last month.”

      Finishing school for apprentice-looters… sooooo charming!

  3. Piggybankblog

    When I think of Brian Moynihan or Barabra Desoer, I think of the song by John Lennon called Piggies:
    So if it walks like a piggy, talks like a piggy, by golly it’s a PIGGY!

    BofA and it’s CEO Brian Moynihan reminds me of that song by John Lennon and George Harrison titled “Piggies” I invite you to listen to this song on youtube and see if it appropriately fits.
    Have you seen the little piggies
    Crawling in the dirt
    And for all the little piggies
    Life is getting worse
    Always having dirt to play around in.
    Have you seen the bigger piggies
    In their starched white shirts
    You will find the bigger piggies
    Stirring up the dirt
    Always have clean shirts to play around in.
    In their ties with all their backing
    They don’t care what goes on around
    In their eyes there’s something lacking
    What they need’s a damn good whacking.
    Everywhere there’s lots of piggies
    Living piggy lives
    You can see them out for dinner
    With their piggy wives
    Clutching forks and knives to eat their bacon.

    When I filed my lawsuit against Bank of America, I thought of the many others out there in the same situation. It was then that we decided to educate the public on what these piggy banks are doing, as well as unite us all together as one voice. Please help me turn this David vs. Goliath modification process, into a Goliath vs. Goliath.
    Please stand with me and Brookstone Law Firm, and send an email to Bank of Abusing America that states that we will no longer tolerate their potentially illegal, fraudulent, irregular and abusive business methods.
    So please send your email directly to Bank of America and include the following:
    1. Your name
    2. Your complaint concerning your experience with Bank of America.
    3. Please end your email “I support John Wright vs. BofA Lawsuit!”
    4. Please send a copy of your email to
    5. Please send your email to BofA CEO Brian Moynihan:
    I have created for all of those who have been abused by Bank of Destroying Americas potentially irregular, fraudulent and simply abusive home loan modification process.
    Divided we might have fell America. UNITED WE MUST STAND!
    My name is John Wright AND I AM FIGHTING BACK!
    John Wright

  4. rjs

    grasping at straws:

    Consumer Confidence Tanks In June – Gallup explains it as follows:

    The worsening of Gallup’s economic confidence measure during June may be due in part to the dissipation of the “halo effect” surrounding the death of bin Laden.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I have nothing against consumers.

      In fact, I am also for a Victims of Consumption Museum.

      Still, they should poll not just Consumer Confidence, but also Taxpayer Confidence.

    1. Valissa

      agreed… I know many dog owners and none of their dogs would have behaved so calmly in those circumstances. That dog must be a “professional” protest dog… in addition to being well-trained, has probably been attending protests with it’s owner(s) since it was a pup.

  5. aet

    ‘Rape is rape’? To define a minor sexual assaults with the worst possible sexual assault? That is what is being proposed by that article, is it not?

    Why not “sexual assault is sexual assault”, instead?
    Oh yeah – that does not make sense!

    An consented to pinch of the bum, is not the equivalent to a forcible and violent sexual assault.
    The problem is the very word ‘rape”: the law ought to treat ALL sexual assaults as sexual assaults, and let the facts of each case determine the severity of the punishment to be imposed.

    The word “rape” ought to cease to have legal significance.
    “Sexual assault” is a better term, covers a very wide spectrum of mis-behavior: the article seems to want to destroy distinction between cases, but what is need is an increse of distinctions, if justice is to be served as she ought to be.

    The article is right, the law needs updating: do away with that useless legal signifier, the word “rape”!

  6. Greek vote

    The lives of others here (via Greek radio)
    Greek vote: 155 YES, austerity passes.
    154 PASOK (government), 1 defection
    1 YES vote from opposition New Democracy.

    1. Valissa

      Sad news… I would have thought there would have at least been more token defectors…. one? just one? What were they told… er, what sorts of threats and/or promises were made to the politicos behind the scenes?

      1. The lives of others

        At the start of the vote in the Greek parliament, the rumor was that three members would defect from PASOK and vote No. Instead, those expected to defect did not.
        Some PASOK members openely discussed their choices, one noting that a YES vote was suicide/attack by knife and a NO vote by bullet.
        The choices were presented as immediate default (no pension money, run to the banks, possibly tanks in the streets) and chaos or postoponed default and chaos.
        The promises were that some of the unjust burdens that the austerity measures place on the poor will be corrected later.

        1. Francois T

          The promises?

          Who, in his/her sane mind would ever believe in promises in light of what happened during the last year?

          There will be blood on the stairs of the Acropolis and the streets of Athens.

          As usual, the politicians have done whatever it takes to avoid pain now for themselves. They’re not the ones who shall suffer anyway.

          Martial law indeed!

        2. Valissa

          Slightly more polite IMF threat here… also some great kabuki theater. It’s all the Republican’s fault – dontcha know – but they will play theor assigned role and ‘cave’ at the right time because they desire bankster funding too.

          IMF warns US of debt ‘shock’

          The International Monetary Fund has warned of a “severe shock” to global financial markets if the US does not move quickly to increase its borrowing authority, adding pressure on Congress and the White House to clinch a deal on fiscal policy. …

          Some Republicans have accused the White House of “scare tactics” over the debt ceiling, suggesting that even if no deal is reached by early August, the impact would be more like a partial government shutdown than a true default because of the Treasury department’s discretion to make certain payments ahead of others.

  7. Valissa

    IMF Appoints Lagarde To Fix A Disgraced Institution

    As expected, Lagarde was selected “by consensus” on Tuesday, hours after receiving U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s support. While many thought the time was ripe for a candidate from the developing world to take the top seat at the Fund, the Board took the safe bet and appointed Lagarde. …

    Lagarde can “rescue the IMF” according to El-Erian, who reminded his readers of the importance of hierarchy within the Fund. “The post of managing director is not to be taken lightly in an institution that operates like a well-disciplined army, with staff looking up to the unquestioned general for decisive leadership,” explained PIMCO’s co-chief investment officer.

    Ahhh, she was selected “by consensus”… the EU elites and US elites are content.

    “an institution that operates like a well-disciplined army” A Freudian slip perhaps?

  8. me

    Here in the “free” United States, the dog would be shot the first time it barked at the police state.

    1. ambrit

      Mz Valissa;
      Great idea, basically the older “Mars Direct” project. What’s needed is some lurking danger to “American Exceptionalism” to get everyone onboard. How about a Pan Asian big push into space to scare the thongs off of the “Family Values” crowd? Then we can have a real race with the Yellow Peril in Space. It’s no accident that old tyme serials often had Orientals as villains; Ming the Merciless, Dr Fu Manchu, Godzilla, etc..
      Onward and Upward Space Cadets!

      1. Valissa

        When I was growing up in a small rural upstate NY town in the ’60s, one of the local TV stations ran the original Flash Gordon serial from the ’30s. It ran about 4pm in the afternoon so we could watch it after school. I was enthralled by it! Talk about inspiring future scientists :)

        What we really need is a Delos David Harriman type character. For you Robert Heinlein illiterates, Harriman is “The Man Who Sold the Moon”

        The technical problems are solvable with money and talent. To solve the tougher financial problems, Harriman exploits commercial and political rivalries. He implies to the Moka-Coka company, for example, that rival soft drink maker 6+ plans to turn the Moon into a massive billboard, using a rocket to scatter black dust on the surface in patterns.[1] To an anti-Communist associate, he suggests that the Russians may print the hammer and sickle across the face of the Moon if they get to it first. To a television network, he offers the Moon as a reliable and uncensorable broadcasting station.

        Harriman seeks to avoid government ownership of the Moon.[2] As it passes directly overhead only in a narrow band north and south of the equator, he uses a legal principle that states that property rights extend to infinity above a land parcel. On that basis, Mexico, Central and parts of South America, and other countries in those latitudes around the world, have a claim on the Moon. The United States also has a claim due to Florida and Texas.[3] By arranging for many countries to assert their rights Harriman persuades the United Nations to, as a compromise, assign management of the Moon to his company.”

        It should be noted that Heinlein was a old-school philosophical libertarian. TANSTAAFL!

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          I see your Moka-Coka and willl counter it with my Quokka-Koala from down under.

        2. ambrit

          Miz V;
          RAH was quite, shall we say, progresive in his younger days. His work for Sinclair Lewis’ EPIC program and California governors attempt in the ’30s spawned an interesting early non-fiction book on grass roots organizing. His personal life was certainly “Libertarian” in the extreme.
          You say TANSTAAFL at the end of your post. I prefer Larry Nivens’ TANJ!

    2. bobh

      It is often hard to tell if the people advocating the huge waste of public money represented by these space exploration hyper-engineering feats are simple-minded fools or cynical profiteers with a piece of the government-funded action. This Zubrin character is clearly from the latter group. These people (including our politicians who wink at the scam to get a few votes from the naive) burn up hundreds of billions of dollars and kill scores of human, fame-seeking passengers and justify it all with arguments like “we need a challenge to inspire us” or “earth is crowded; we can send some of the hungry masses to Mars.” There are plenty of challenges here on earth, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the military/industrial/space complex pulls this hustle off one more time just before we all move into caves.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        One concern is that if we can’t take of Earth now, we have no business going into space. We’ll just mess more things up.

        Another concern is that the first practice use of Mars would be as a penal colony, if human history is any guide. And if there are more male inmates than female ones, it will be hard to find volunteers this time, I think.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          I am sure our genius banksters will set up credit default swap training schools there to take advantage of the cheap Martian real estate.

      2. ambrit

        Hey now!;
        The space program is one of the few government enterprises, (pun intended,) that actually returns a profit for the public. Think; weather satellites, telecom, even, (for you security state types,) remote sensing and intel. Not to mention all the materials technology and systems development needed to make it all fly. Mars becomes a penal colony? So what? Australia seems to have turned out all right. (Unless you are a big fan of “The Third Option.)

  9. Hugh

    What the Medicare for revenues swap shows is just how implacable Obama is about carrying out the kleptocratic enterprise. I mean how “In your face, you rubes” is it that Medicare cuts are portrayed as Medicare “savings”.

    Obama held a one day conference (organized by Pete Peterson) back in February 2009, just one month in office, which unsurprisingly given the Peterson connection stressed the importance of cutting entitlements. There was considerable blowback from this. So much in fact that Peterson was pulled from giving the keynote. Obama moved on to healthcare. There major cuts were made to Medicare (including Medicare plus plans and Medicaid). Of Obamacare’s projected savings of some $950 billion over 10 years, more than $620 billion was to come from these two programs. In January 2010, he announced his plans for the infamous Cat Food Commission. (Indeed he did it on the very day that the Democrats lost Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat in Massachusetts due to disaffected liberals staying home. That’s not tone deafness. That’s not giving a flying f*ck.) He meant to pass it through the Congress but it got killed in the Senate. So did the Kleptocrat-in-Chief give up? No, of course not, the following month he created the Commission by Executive Order. The fictitious nature of this Commission was made clear when it was only its co-chairs Simpson and Bowles (two entitlement haters) who put out recommendations, which of course cut entitlements. Even so, and even with the Commission being stacked seven ways to Sunday, it still didn’t endorse those recommendations. But was Obama finally dissuaded? Get real. Just a couple of weeks later he came to a tax cut deal with Republicans worth hundreds of billions. So much for all that feigned concern about deficits which all the handwringing, pearl-clutching, and crocodile tears which the Cat Food Commission represented. Anyway, in the deal was a rollback of the employee contributions to the payroll tax, about $112 billion. If you are cynical, like me, this looked like some short term crumbs for the rubes while long term it could be used to justify cutting Social Security benefits because of shortfalls in funding.

    Later in the summer of 2011, the Republicans were getting burnt for their efforts to slash entitlements. Despite this, Obama reloaded and is once again targeting Medicare for massive cuts.

    I don’t know how many times Obama has to attack entitlements before people realize that he really, really hates them, all that good money going to rubes, instead of the rich and corps where it belongs.

    1. PQS

      Xlnt analysis.

      I recall losing my tiny little allotment of faith in the OA sometime during the ’09 HC debates when Single Pyr got thrown under the bus, yet here you catalogue the insults since then in savage detail.

      1. hermanas

        Yea, I think it’s time to tighten up, guard your kids and hope.
        Has hope been discredited?

    2. Doug Terpstra

      Heavy hammer, Hugh, and Obama deserves it—relentlessly. Astute take too on the payroll tax holiday, a blatant ploy to defund Social Security, to be followed soon with a mirror cut on the employer side. Everything Obama does has an devious and malicious angle to it, serving the kleptocracy. Thus triumph becomes horrific tragedy.

  10. Foppe

    Debt-laden Greece finds no buyers in ‘fire sale’ of national assets

    While Greece erupted in protest again, representatives of the country’s government were at Claridge’s hotel trying to drum up international investors’ interest in a “fire sale” of its national assets.

    Up for sale are 39 airports, 850 ports, railways, motorways, sewage works, a couple of energy companies, banks, defence groups, thousands of acres of land for development, casinos and Greece’s national lottery. George Christodoulakis, Greece’s special secretary for asset restructuring and privatisations, said the sell-off would raise €50bn (£44bn) to help pay back the country’s €110bn bailout debt.

    The private equity bosses gathered in the hotel’s ballroom for the parade of Greece’s national treasures showed little interest in buying anything.

    Nikos Stathopoulous, managing partner of BC Partners, which has invested more than €3.5bn in Greece, said investors are put off by bureaucracy, strong unions, corruption and a lack of transparency. “Even in the good times Greece is not a country that attracts investment. Foreign investors don’t want to invest in a country where there is no flexibility in hiring and firing people,” he said. “You don’t want to invest in a country in which you wake up and a new law has been passed which totally undermines and destroys the value of the investment you’ve just made.”

    1. PQS

      Shorter “investors”:

      We’re always put off by unions, bureaucracy, corruption, and lack of transparency. Unless they’re OUR unions, burearcracy, corruption and lack of transparency….

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      They are good at passing new laws before you wake up – they have been passing laws longer than many other nations in the world.

      It takes centuries of practice to be that efficient.

    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      One way to avoid paying extra for the premeir option of having new laws served on you before breakfast would be for foreigners to sign 100 year leases like the British did with the Chinese on Hong Kong with control over taxes, tariffs and other sovereign goodies.

      You get a discount for signing a long lease.

      Sparta, for lease, min. of 100 years. Inquire inside.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        By the way, if you sign a lease like that, you can proably send your own team to the Olympics from that territory.

        Maybe even representation at the UN.

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Let me add that sovereign goodies may include issuing your own Hang Seng banknotes.

        It depends on whether you’re a good negotiator or not.

  11. Fred

    re A Land of Haves and Have Nots…

    We have an interesting phenomenon living next to us;

    Rich White Trash

    …cigarettes, pool parties, cars sitting around but with a squadron of servants to handle their every need, a constant stream of gardeners and pool maintainers, etc.

    What’s ironic is that in spite of all their money, there is no
    education, no art, no decent music, no intellectual curiosity,
    just daily worship of luxury and hours of inane conversation around the tables with the scented candles.

    Are we jealous? No, we have more than enough money but wonder why they don’t do more with what they’ve got?

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