Links 7/2/11

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The Intelligence of Beasts The Chronicle (hat tip Richard Smith)

Is this what they mean by voodoo economics? The British banker who quit his job to become South African witch doctor Daily Mail (hat tip reader May S)

Copper kills 97 pct of hospital ICU bacteria-study Reuters (hat tip reader Paul T)

Letter From District Attorney to Defense in Strauss-Kahn Case and Strauss-Kahn Accuser’s Call Alarmed Prosecutors New York Times. This case is over, read the NYT article for the comment to her boyfriend. I’m at a loss to understand why the prosecution hasn’t folded. The longer they keep this in the press by trying to breathe life into a dead horse, the greater the damage to their reputation.

Ray Kelly’s French Connection NYPD Confidential (hat tip reader Charles 2)

You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby Helaine Olen

New York treated Strauss-Kahn roughly but he got justice John Gapper, Financial Times (note I am including this to give a range of views).

Eurozone delays decision on new Greek bailout Guardian (hat tip reader Thomas B)

Defining Down War MIchael Hirsh, National Journal

Torture crimes officially, permanently shielded Glenn Greenwald

The Social Security Benefit Cut in the Debt Limit Talks and Supporting Social Security Benefit Cuts: What’s In It For AARP? FireDogLake

New York Attorney General Steps Up Probe Into BofA-Merrill Disclosures Wall Street Journal

New York’s AG Takes on the Banks William Greider, The Nation

Federal memo: Medical-marijuana dispensaries are prosecution targets Denver Post

On Independence Day 2011, We’re more dependent than ever McClatchy (hat tip Buzz Potamkin)

The Corrupt Corporate Incarceration Complex TruthOut (hat tip reader May S)

Doing a 17-year-old’s work: Meet the former media manager, 55, so desperate for a full-time job she was an UNPAID INTERN Daily Mail (hat tip reader May S)

MERS Evidence of Immortal Mortgages Claimed as Active Loan After Fraudclosure or ShortSale Foreclosure Hamlet

Man falls behind on payments, mortgage company has home trashed WTSP (hat tip Lisa Epstein)

The Big Interview with Barton Biggs Credit Writedowns

Also, a reader was curious re this Wikileaks cable, in which the US said that it has the right to board 1/3 ships in the world via a deal with Panama. Any clues?

Antidote du jour:

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  1. dearieme

    a “unique dialect of Fulani,”: the American treatment of the innocent word “unique” is increasingly criminal.

  2. Externality

    The delay in negotiating the Greek bailout may stem from geopolitical factors.

    According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz and a number of progressive bloggers, the Israeli government has interceded in the bailout negotiations on behalf of Greece.
    (It also engages in security cooperation with Greece, supplying, for example, tear gas.) Greece, in return, has used everything from inspectors to armed Coast Guard commando teams to block the Gaza flotilla’s attempts to leave Greek waters and travel to Gaza. The Greeks and Israelis are waiting for the outcome of the Gaza flotilla situation while jointly lobbying the EU for a better deal for Greece.

    From Haaretz:

    Many of Netanyahu and Papandreou’s talks in the past few months have revolved around the severe financial crisis Greece is currently suffering. Netanyahu recently decided to come to the aid of his newfound friend in a meeting of foreign ministers and European leaders, imploring them to provide Greece with financial aid.

    “Netanyahu has become Greece’s lobbyist to the European Union,” an Israeli diplomat said.

    In recent weeks, as efforts to stop the impending pro-Palestinian flotilla to Gaza came to a head, Netanyahu reaped the benefits of his investment in Israel-Greece ties and his gamble on the European country paid off.


    And when the moment of truth came, Greece followed through and ordered all Gaza-bound departures be blocked from leaving its ports. Greece’s decision, along with the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation’s (IHH) announcement that it would not be sending the Mavi Marmara and the president of Cypress’s statement forbidding ships from sailing to Gaza sealed the fate of the flotilla almost entirely.
    (see links in July 2 at 12:51 a.m. comment re: tear gas)

  3. Cedric Regula

    “Immortal mortgages” sure has a bad ring to it. Kind of like “Son of Vampire Squid”.

    What shall we do about those? Wave a Crucifix? Wooden stake thru the foreclosure notice on your cash purchase? Shoot silver bullets at the sheriff carrying out the eviction order? Pay it and hope you turn into a banker? And the significant other turns into Kate Beckansale? Hire Van Helsing, have him find whomever is in charge and kill the SOB?

  4. Externality

    The Obama administration has been quietly escalating the war on medical marijuana (and the people who need it) for some time.

    Earlier this year, federal banking regulators began requiring banks to file suspicious activity reports for transactions involving medical marijuana dispensaries and required banks that do business with MM dispensaries to install software to track the activities of all their customers. Banks quickly tired of the paperwork and closed the dispensaries’ account(s). Without a bank account, dispensaries struggled to pay vendors, taxes, employees, etc.

    To bypass the stringent rules, several banks closed the accounts of medical marijuana dispensaries. Bank officers said that since medical marijuana is a violation of federal law, they are required under the Bank Secrecy Act to report on businesses involved in the state authorized medical marijuana industry.

    Last year, Exchange Bank issued a policy which prohibits medical marijuana businesses from opening up accounts because of the time-consuming scrutiny they would have to undergo and because of the expense of having to purchase pricey monitoring systems.

    1. PQS

      I had to laugh out loud hearing our President defend “states’ rights” WRT same sex marriage as the way for these things to proceed….pray tell, Mr. President, how are the states’ rights to vote for MM and/or decriminalization materially different from their rights to declare same sex marriage legal? (Apart from the deep, deep irony of a black man defending states’ rights. In America.)

      Greenwald has it right: do not listen to what Obama says. Watch what he does.

      1. justanobserver

        The Obama can do no wrong crowd will jump all over your case for saying “watch what he does”, and yet it’s completely true.

        I figured it out for myself a while ago, and many other people have too.

        Obama is better than the alternative. Kind of like the choice between losing two of your fingers instead of your whole arm. The evil that he’s doing is slightly behind the good, whereas with Bush the evil was miles ahead.

        But that doesn’t mean he isn’t doing a lot of damage. Quite the disappointment. Don’t see how will ever have a true leader at the national level in my lifetime.

  5. Norman

    Welcome to Orwell s 1984 upgraded to 2011, compliments of the “O” regime. Everything is just an illusion until you’re thrown under the proverbial bus. Happy 4th of July Amerika.

  6. rd

    The discussion on the “chained CPI” further highlights how shallow and vapid the “negotations” regarding the debt ceiling are.

    It is increasingly clear that all (or most) roads lead to health care. The primary issue with the chained CPI appears to be health care costs, which in this case will largely be Medicare. Once again, the railing against Social Security is really just a way to divert atttention away from the large, technically difficult problems.

    However, the 10,000 pound pink elephant in the room that is not being discussed is that the private sector has been unable to make much more headway on controlling health care costs than the public sector. So, the philosophical underpinning of the “Big Idea” embedded in most Republican proposals to turn Medicare over to the private sector to solve the problem appears to be a fallacy. However, I have seen zero discussion of this in the media (not a surprise over the past decade).

    It will not be possible to solve the budget issues until health care is reformed in the US. This should be possible. We spend 50% more per capita than any other country in the world on health care but with results not substantially different, and probably worse when this extra money doesn’t even provide universal coverage. This will require taking on some major special interest groups that have historically been very resistant to change. I haven’t seen evidence that any of our politicians are up to this task.

    It is good to see that agricultural subsidies are beginning to show up on the table. I do hope that Michelle Bachmann begins to put her currently significant political clout into substantial reductions of agricultural subsidies substantially.

    1. Cedric Regula

      I saw a recent WHO study that put the US at about double per capital health spending vs. most of the civilized world, including ones with universal coverage. They then ranked quality of service and the US came in something like 21st.

      The only advantage that the private sector has over Medicare in controlling cost is they get the 0-65 age bracket and Medicare gets the old and decrepit.

      Not that some things shouldn’t be done about Medicare. I know a guy that recently got a $60,000 hip replacement as soon as he qualified for medicare. I think maybe some rethinking of what we are entitled to is in order. Then everyone knows we pay double for drugs in this country than anywhere else, and that the new Medicare part D is the fastest growing part of Medicare. Then costs are just plain outrageous. In FL dermatologists get $400 for removing and testing ONE Basel cell. That alone will bankrupt our many celled economy. Then there are the tests and procedures of questionable efficacy. Just saw some new disease/cure being peddled on TV by Abbott Labs. It’s called LowT (short for low testosterone) and can afflict those over 45. They urge you to consult your doctor for diagnosis and some sort of pill regimen. Sounds to me like they are trying to get us on steroids.

      Healthcare is going to be the death of us!

      1. maude

        It might be of note that the person who receive the $60,000 hip replacement as soon as they were eligible for medicare was for a reason. The reason may have been that his private insurer (if he had one) would not pay for the procedure. I know of a specific case where a private insurer delayed and diverted someone who was in major pain for years from receiving a hip replacement. They chose to approve only pain medication and steroid shots to deal with the problem. When this person finally was approved for the hip replacement, the difference was astonishing. We did not realize how much pain the person had been in until we saw what they were like afterward.

        The delay of care for the uninsured until medicare eligibility is a real problem and adds to the costs. Instead of increasing the age for eligibility, they should be reducing it. The costs would be reduced for this and for other reasons. If we were to have a real discussion of medicare and health insurance in this country instead of the ideological bomb throwing, we could maybe solve the problem.

      2. freehipsforeveryone

        Not that some things shouldn’t be done about Medicare. I know a guy that recently got a $60,000 hip replacement as soon as he qualified for medicare. I think maybe some rethinking of what we are entitled to is in order.

        We are entitled to healthcare, and if you don’t think that, I curse you to become one of those that doesn’t have access.
        I piss on the libertarian “every man for himself” sentiment.

        Meanwhile you missed the point. the problem is not the hip replacement, it’s that the hip replacement costs $60000, which I can guarantee you is the most expensive in the world.

        What we should think about is why the MIC is entitled to gold plated weapons systems and war without end.

        People do deserve healthcare.

        1. psychohistorian

          HEAR HEAR!!!

          America is structured to destroy human capital to further enrich the inheritance elite. Medical care along with being universally available needs to be repurposed to heal people, not make money.

          I believe that a big chunk of the extra cost in the US health system is spent avoiding providing needed care. Actual providers are overwhelmed by the purposeful idiotic administrative overhead designed to restrict the provision of health care by the insurance industry.

        2. rd

          e expensive $60k hip replacement delayed until Medicare is an important issue.

          Ultimately, reform of the system would need to be able to produce this for $30k at an earlier point so that the long-term costs of not being mobile (obesity, cardio-pulmonary issues, diabetes, etc.) can be reduced.

          There is a lot of discussion about waiting periods in Canada etc., however those waiting periods do not extend to entirely different periods of coverage like in the US.

          Various provinces in Canada have been experimenting with various ways to help providers take care of people so they don’t end up with very expensive treatment of long-term chronic conditions. For example, they provide more money and time to providers for office visits for people classified with chronic conditions, e.g. diabetes, so that the patient knowledge of what they must do is higher. This reduces the likelihood of hospital visits.

          I don’t think that the US is showing the amount of imagination that the government bureaucracy in Canadian provinces is showing.

      3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        I wonder if we could use a Health Corps that will send volunteers into neighborhoods with the most dangerous eating habits, kind of like Mao’s barefoot doctors.

        We might be 50 years behind China, but by George, we will catch up!

        By the way, just read this in the LATimes – Last month, a report leaked out of the Chinese central bank saying that since the mid-1990s as many as 18,000 party cadres had fled the country with $123.6 billion.

        That, I think, is why you don’t have to worry about China dumping the dollar. The fleeing cadres need lots of it.

        1. Dave of Maryland

          In China they smoke like chimneys.

          Why not try China’s health care system? Based on 3000 years of herbal expertise? The stuff they do will amaze you. So far as hip replacements, I would crawl as best I could to my local (Chinese born, Chinese-trained) acupuncturist & see what he could do. (Avoid those who are not Chinese, it’s a plain hard system to master.)

          A woman once told me that, using Chinese needles & herbs and with changes in her diet, she was cured of diabetes. As in, no longer needing insulin. It wasn’t quick, but it did happen.

          My wife is asthmatic. This past spring she had a severe eye inflammation. As part of the Chinese treatment, I was instructed to chop fresh gingerroot and jalapeno peppers, place them between her shoulderblades, and cover. I used saran wrap & medical tape, I changed it daily.

          After a week, the result: No more asthma, for a good month at least. Cost, including tape: Less than $5.00.

          Chinese medicine astonishes me, it will astonish you.

          1. justanobserver

            yes – Chinese medicine, which is driving species to extinction.

            that’s a great idea.

  7. RueTheDay

    I really REALLY hate conspiracy theories. Let me get that out of the way.


    DSK’s accuser allegedly was a prostitute, having sex with male guests at that hotel for money.

    The prosecutor had this information as early as June 6.

    Yet, none of this info started to get released until June 30, two days after DSK’s replacement, Christine Lagarde was sworn in to head the IMF.

    The swearing in ceremony, incidentally, was moved up on the calendar by 2 days, ostensibly because the Greek situation couldn’t handle any delays.

    This is starting to smell badly.

    1. ScottW

      Sounds totally believable that high rent hotels offer extra room service to their high paying patrons. The intriguing question is whether this was just a straight forward transaction, or pre-meditated set up engineered by an outside entity intent on bringing DSK down. The alleged victim is obviously a long time con artist who engineered her way into this Country on the back of a lie.

      1. Dave of Maryland

        Prostitutes are a well-known problem with hotels, which is why in reputable establishments such “guests” are severely frowned upon. It might be that Sofitel Manhattan has them on staff disguised as cleaning ladies, but I would find that most astonishing.

  8. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    You don’t see them much these day – but, look, a hippie duckie!

    Flower power!

  9. smartcritters

    I’ve long that intelligence in lifeforms was a continuum.

    The problem has always been the non-linear jump into self-awareness that seems to be peculiar to humans.

    However, recent evidence suggests that even that may not be a binary function.

    So I continue to wonder, do dolphins wake-up and wonder “what am I going to do today ? What’s the purpose of my existence ?”. It seems unlikely, also, if they were that clever they would have warned all dolphin-kind to stay away from those damn stinking apes and out of their life destroying nets.

    1. Susan

      Altho’ we have discovered (above article) that the human brain has “neural structures and forms of connectivity not found in any other animal,” I question the conclusion that we are special. I think we are only special enough to ride the short bus. How many other species have been tested for these intricate connections and how do we know that they (connections) just aren’t firing off randomly and confusing the hell out of us? I can tell you that my dogs were always as smart as I was. (Not really saying much, but anyway.) The inferences they consistently made were never wrong. And they were premeditated and planful. I recently read some research (sorry no cite) that concluded that autistic people always made good decisions, without belaboring the variables too much. So looking at our fellow travelers on this planet, who are as intelligent as they need to be, I wonder, why aren’t we?

      The Native Americans used to observe the wolves because the wolves had been here longer and knew the answers. The wolves had learned the best ways. Clearly we have not. So just how smart can we be?

          1. nobody

            I’ll give the Onion credit for the effort, but if success means, in the words of Homer J. Simpson, “it’s funny because it’s true,” then this (and the other one — “Autistic Reporter Covers Gathering of Crying People”) and only a bit funny, and in spots.

            The funniest one is “Autistic Child Ruins Marriage He Was Born To Save”:


            But it doesn’t depend on any autism specifics and is about the parents, not the autistic child.

            The funniest one about autistic people I’ve seen is “Asperger’s High”:


        1. Susan

          I can’t remember the much about the research but I think it was a series of controlled experiments having to do with best choices – in a controlled setting. I overstated it.

  10. whynotsilver

    Siver has long been known to have strong anti-microbial properties.

    Even at it’s current outrageous precise, electroplating a thin layer onto key surfaces seems like a no-brainer.


    1. Dave of Maryland

      It’s not a no-brainer. Silver reacts with just about everything & tarnishes/degrades quickly. Which is why silverplate is invariably lacquered.

      1. justanobserver

        doh! good point. however, same problem with copper. it’s that darn oxide. however I wonder if the anti-bacterial properties would hold up even with oxidation ?

    2. Cedric Regula

      It is done. There are silver anti-microbial bandages. They claim they are a “barrier to infection”, and are proven to work well as far as that goes. But if a wound is infected already, the silver cannot eliminate the infection.

      Also work has been done with silver plating things like stents. Don’t know if that sort of thing made it thru the FDA testing yet.

  11. Susan

    Wm Greiders piece on Schneiderman was a tad Clintonesque. He wasn’t as glib as Clinton; he doesn’t have the bubba touch. But here’s what he came to say: There will come a point in the Schneiderman investigation when the Banks cry uncle and then they will pay through the nose for all of their fraud, which we think is massive. Or, he says, we can work out a deal. Maybe let the banks do a mea culpa and fork over the required billions, perhaps more, to come to an equitable deal for everyone. Right. So now we have a 2 teasers, one from Clinton and one from the Nation’s most senior writer. Both of them are saying essentially the same thing. Gotta ask, what is going on here?

  12. Ron

    Barton Biggs makes the case that jobs in the traditional sense of the word are a relic of the past due to the impact of computers and automation. Our current credit based economy cannot exist if most of the participants are unemployed!

  13. Diego Méndez


    I really cannot understand the US justice system. Worse than that, I do understand it and it is terrible.

    If you’ve got money, you can do whatever you want and avoid jail.

    If you are a Guinean-born prostitute, you can be raped, get no compensation and have your life ruined.

    I cannot see how being a prostitute or having lied in an asylum application may change the basic fact: she was raped. That’s a very serious crime in most of the world, but seemingly not for the powerful in the US.

    1. Yves Smith Post author


      You are stereotyping and not dealing with new facts. As Keynes said (not exact quote) “When the facts change, I change my mind, What do you do?”

      I suggested you read the NY Times links. This was in the latest story:

      When the conversation was translated — a job completed only this Wednesday — investigators were alarmed: “She says words to the effect of, ‘Don’t worry, this guy has a lot of money. I know what I’m doing,’ ” the official said.

      The New York Post, which broke the story initially. has information that suggests she was a prostitute.

      This isn’t as cut and dried as you are suggesting.

      1. Diego Méndez


        in my humble opinion, the only stereotypying going on here is the underlying assumption that prostitutes will always lie for money and can never be raped.

        An excerpt out of context, such as “Don’t worry, this guy has a lot of money. I know what I’m doing”, amounts to no new information about the truth of the charges. E.g. she may have been answering about concerns on her safety (“you may be killed” – “Don’t worry, he’s got money. He could just buy me”).

        Again, IMHO, the fact that all this bullshit is published as ultimate evidence that there was no rape and DSK is innocent (and just a day after being replaced at the IMF, on top of it) should get more critical attention on an enlightened blog as yours, Yves.

        1. Binky the perspicacious bear

          Is there any circumstance wherein a man is not considered a rapist in this conception of reality?

          1. Diego Méndez

            When there is no hard evidence that forced sex has ocurred, such as marks of violence and semen corresponding to your DNA.

            Also, DSK had no need to lie about what happened if it was business as usual, compensated as usual. He is the only one found to be lying about the important facts.

            Anyway, I’m not saying DSK must be jailed without a fair trial. What I am pointing out is that no new real information has been produced, and everyone is acting as if DSK had been proved not to be a rapist.

  14. Cynthia

    Mike Whitney points out in his piece entitled “IMF Chief Strauss-Kahn Bagged in Honey Trap” that Strauss-Kahn was out to reform the IMF in such a matter that it would demand that the banking cartels get a non-trivial haircut for help getting the PIIGS into debt:

    And it seems pretty obvious to me that the US has put itself on a warpath to dethrone Muammar Gaddafi from power not only because he wants to nationalize Libya’s oil supply, but he also wants Libya to finance its own debt without any assistance from the US banking system. This is why I have come to believe that the Wall Street industrial complex, led by America’s top kleptocratic banks, paid to entrap Strauss-Kahn not only as a way to prevent themselves from getting a much-needed haircut, but also as a gift to Sarkozy for assisting the US in its invasion and soon occupation of Libya.

    1. psychohistorian


      The banksters work and are hired by who?

      Why do we keep focusing on the level below the head of the rotting fish?

      1. MissionAccomplice

        Psychohistorian, did you ever get to law school? I remember you from law school numbers I believe. How did you make out?

        1. psychohistorian


          Never been to law school.

          Learned all I know from the back of a Juicy Fruit wrapper.

  15. D. Mathews

    Regarding the Panama cable, I first saw mention of it here –

    Didn’t think of the implications beyond the regional drug war. Been watching helplessly while our region becomes increasingly militarized. Most Latin American specialists were surprised to learn about this bit from sparring Guatemalan presidential candidates:

    During the debate, both Perez Molina and Torres agreed that they would be open to allowing US troops to operate in the country in order to reduce drug trafficking and organized crime. Torres went so far as to say locating US military bases in Guatemala. She also said that now would be a good opportunity because the US is in the process of removing its troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. Perez Molina, while open to additional US troops, reiterated that Guatemala shouldn’t expect other countries to fight its battles. Going against growing sentiments in Latin America and the US, neither Perez Molina nor Torres were in favor of legalizing drugs.

  16. Susan

    NYPD Confidential’s “Ray Kelly’s French Connection” re DSK and Sarko was disconcerting. We can all see the set up which is bad enough but the really disturbing stuff was about the rift between the FBI and NYPD over some FBI files on the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Why? What couild those files contain? We can speculate that it wasn’t OSB who was killed, but a doppleganger. Or maybe that the FBI is following a plot to use the death of OBL or his look-alike to instigate a fake flag event and call it revenge. Another bombing of New York and New Yorkers. It is not apparent what the connection is to Sarko. But it is very interesting. It does not give Ray Kelly a vote of confidence on terrorism.

    1. Glenn Condell

      The state of NSW here in Australia some time ago had it’s own high profile but problematic Police Commissioner called Ray Kelly. He worked the media and pulled off some publicity-generating captures etc, but also worked a nice line in corruption which extended all the way to the Premier’s (our Governor’s) office. Very cosy:

  17. Sundog

    This is one of the more interesting “news from the future” stories I’ve read lately.

    Church calls this bold approach multiplex automated genome engineering, or MAGE. In essence, he has applied the key principles that have led to the astonishing advances in DNA sequencing – parallel processing and automation – to genetic engineering. And since Church was one of the founders of the human genome project and helped develop modern sequencing methods, he knows what he is doing.

    Just as labs all over the world now buy thousands of automated DNA sequencing machines, so Church envisions them buying automated evolution machines. He hopes to sell them relatively cheaply, at around $90,000 apiece. “We’re dedicated to bringing the price down for everybody, rather than doing some really big project that nobody can repeat,” Church says.

    Jo Marchant, “Evolution machine: Genetic engineering on fast forward”

  18. KFritz

    Re: Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

    Memo to Team Obama:

    As of this moment, the Forest Service has a problem w/ degradation of lands by illegal growers in remote locations. Marijuana growers and exporters are a significant chunk of the Cartel war underway in Mexico.

    Would it be too much to exercise ‘benign neglect’ of medical marijuana dispensaries, when there are so many other legal problems besetting our nation, including the above flagrantly illegal and dangerous marijuana problems?

    It IS easier going after medical marijuana dispensaries than prosecuting sophisticated financial crimes, and it will create a better impression with potential reactionary voters for Team Obama in 2012….on second thought, go for it.

  19. LongWayFromSense

    RE: Long way baby. This is not total progress either. It’s good that she wasn’t immediately disbelieved or called names (that is progress) but automatically /believed/ is not what we want either. The standard should be “we don’t know/believe anyone or anything until we have evidence. We’re not going to prejudge the outcome either way, ever. Period” That would be real progress.

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