Links 8/14/11

Pesticides fear for Barrier Reef BBC

Taking tea in Wonderland Financial Times (hat tip Buzz Potamkin)

BART Braces For Anonymous-Organized Protest MondayBay City News

Foreigners Follow Money to Booming Brazil, Land of $35 Martinis New York Times (hat tip reader Scott A)

Chinese authorities find 22 fake Apple stores BBC (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

In the dock: the thieves who took goods on an industrial scale Independent

After British Riots, Conflicting Answers as to ‘Why’ New York Times

Could Camden be the Next London? Democratic Convention Watch (hat tip Lambert Strether)

California Democratic Party May Dump Its Progressive Caucus for Proposing a Primary Challenge to Obama David Swanson. In case you had any doubts as to what the Democratic party is really about..

Protests Force Israel to Confront Wealth Gap New York Times (hat tip reader Paul T). I’m rather surprised that that the idea that income disparity might be a bad thing is acknowledged in a Times headline.

When Money Brought Us Together Steve Mihm, Boston Globe. A historical treatment of currency unions.

Ex-Enron Trader Bankrolls Calif. Pension Change Bloomberg. Reader MichaelC points out:

It’s a story about an Enron villain who became a hedgie and made his billions in 08 and 09. Hmm, another clever short I guess.

Now he finds he has nothing better to do with those billions than to fund the fight to steal pensions from the same folks his old firm stole from way back when.

Mainstream Economist: Marx Was Right. Capitalism May Be Destroying Itself Alternet (hat tip reader Scott A). The “mainstream economist” is Roubini.

Antidote du jour:

This is a bonus, since this some readers may not regard it as sufficiently antidote-like. Hat tip furzy mouse via the Atlantic. Intriguing how you can date the video by the announcer’s chewy voice:

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    1. Karl vonWerther

      We hate to say “we told you so,” but those of us of the baby boomer generation who took a good close look at the nature of modern capitalism — for example, the Students for a Democratic Society, of which I was a part (and which, I’m happy to say, is apparently making a comeback with chapters on university campuses)– came to the inescapable conclusion (which we tried, mostly in vain, to explain and alert the people of America to) that such a system contains the seeds of its own destruction, is inherently suicidal as well as homicidal and ecocidal. Now that we are being proven right, and the cannonballs are landing on our doorstep, perhaps the doubters will finally wake up and believe that “the British are coming”. The chickens are coming home to roost — and guess who’s in charge of the henhouse…

      1. alex

        “modern capitalism … came to the inescapable conclusion … that such a system contains the seeds of its own destruction”

        What system doesn’t contain the seeds of it’s own destruction?

        I think there’s much to be said for Marx’s warning of the potential for capitalism’s self-destruction, but certainly don’t agree with his historical inevitability arguments.

        As a realist, rather than a philosopher or one given to sweeping pronouncements, I think that economic stability lies in evolutionary change to an obviously kleptocratic regime. I’d put more faith in, and have more hope for, say a return to the 1950’s tax system (with 90% top marginal rates) than any radical restructuring of our system.

      2. Jib

        Well, you were wrong in the 60’s. Back then capitalism was working pretty well. The dismantling of the New Deal financial regulations created the current mess. When Marx was writing there was no effective regulation of financial markets and would not be until FDR. But with effective regulation, capitalism works quite well as we have seen.

        We dont need communism, we just need Glass-Steagall.

        1. Susan

          It is unregulated capitalism that is the disaster. It is a cancer, and only regulation and laws and consequences will stop it from devouring everything it can.

    2. Jim A

      I’ve actually been thinking along the same lines. IMHO the current persistantly high levels of unemployment are a result of decades of returning most of the returns from productivity improvements to capital rather than to labor. Temporarily goosing demand via government expenditure is merely a temporary solution. The only real way to boost demand is to boost the wages of those who ARE employed.

      1. alex

        Damn radicals. You sound like John Maynard Keynes or FDR! Never mind that both were wealthy capitalists themselves. To today’s kleptocrats and their useful idiots, there’s no significant difference between FDR and Trotsky.

    3. Ignim Brites

      Type in ‘marxist revolution’ in google news and the first story is about Cafe-Che in London. Wow. Looks very chichi too. Type in ‘maoist revolution’ in google news and you get stories about revolutionary action in India. Does this support the idea that Marx was right?

  1. financial matters

    When Money Brought Us Together Steve Mihm, Boston Globe. A historical treatment of currency unions.

    I would say that this article misses some fundamental points about currency creation which hinders its analysis of currency unions. This paragraph glosses over a lot of relevant points..

    “”Accordingly, he and other like-minded legislators overhauled the nation’s currency, for the first time introducing federally issued paper notes backed by nothing more than faith in the imperiled national government; their distinctive green ink swiftly earned them the name “greenback.” These were soon joined by uniform notes issued by a system of freshly chartered national banks. At the same time, nationalists moved to exterminate the bank notes issued by private, state-chartered banks by levying a prohibitive tax on their circulation. This new unified currency gained credibility because it rested on a effective system of revenue collection – that is, new federal taxes – as well as borrowing via government bonds.””

    Greenbacks were a much different animal than the USD generated via borrowing via government bonds. He left out that the Fed (a private banking cartel) actually won out in the early 1900’s over the best interests of a truly government controlled and issued currency, the Greenback.

    A more accurate statement in the article “”In Great Britain, the Bank of England obtained an effective monopoly over the issue of bank notes beginning in 1844.”” points more toward the real problem.

    Getting control of the actual currency both in the US and Europe seems a bigger problem than currency unions.

    1. Bill

      I prefer to turn to NakedCapitalism AFTER breakfast. It’s really hunger, not free markets, that looses animal spirits.

    1. Goin' South

      Just in case someone is interested, here is the poll I ran after that little diary:

      Is Capitalism about to bite the dust?
      Capitalism is like the wind, the sea and the earth. It will always be with us. Blessed be its name.
      7% 121 votes
      Another FDR could save it.
      32% 552 votes
      Yes, and good riddance.
      20% 350 votes
      No, but it might kill all of us.
      33% 566 votes
      If it does, will my iPad still work?
      6% 106 votes

      This is “pwog” paradise where 20% are saying “good riddance” to Capitalism and 33% of the less hopeful are saying it’s killing us. I thought the FDR answer would gain a majority.

      1. anon

        Goin’ South,

        FWIW, I put a link to your DKOS diary in yesterday’s Links roundup here at Naked Capitalism, so that people could read the comments there.

        Thank you for doing the transcription.

  2. Jim Haygood

    Michael Lewis offers an extended, colorful analysis in Vanity Fair of how German banks ended up being the bagholders of some of the most toxic CDOs exported from Wall Street.

    Lewis asserts that Germans themselves never leveraged up and speculated, but rather financed those who did elsewhere in Europe, and got their fingers badly burnt.

    Although Lewis doesn’t explicitly say so, one could infer that Europe’s desperate, unhinged efforts to fix a solvency crisis with ‘more liquidity’ will be pushed to the bitter end of abject failure and cataclysmic collapse.

    The inmates have taken over the euro-asylum, and according to Lewis’s pop-cultural analysis, are engaged in slinging feces at each other.

    1. sidelarge

      There may be some truth to the “Fasting inside, partying outside” theme, but it’s impossible for me to agree with that narrative featuring the gullible Germans as victims of the Anglo-American cunning. In many parts of the world, such as China, German corporations are about the most ruthless who routinely outdo their American/Japanese opponents in a breathtakingly shameless manner.

      1. alex

        Agreed. It’s a little hard for me to think of say, Deutsche Bank, as being some wide eyed innocent victim, a hapless victim of Anglo-American deceit. Nevertheless some Europeans love to spin it that way.

  3. LJR


    “Intriguing how you can date the video by the announcer’s chewy voice:”

    Perfect description! It does sound like he’s chewing on something.

  4. Jim Haygood

    The NYT article about Brazil’s boom references The Economist’s Big Mac currency index, indicating that Brazil is a very expensive place, particularly when adjusted for its middle-income GDP. Illustrated by a quite provocative photo of Ipanema beach in Rio, it describes a flood of US expats moving to Brazil.

    A gold rush mind-set is in full swing, with foreign work permits surging 144 percent in the past five years and Americans leading the pack of educated professionals putting down stakes.

    “Brazil is doing great, but honestly, every other week I ask myself, ‘When is this going to end?’” said Mark Bures, 42, an American executive who moved here in 1999, just in time to see an abrupt devaluation of the currency and other sharp swings in Brazil’s fortunes.

    Popular press articles such as this one are classic contrary indicators. An unshakable belief has developed that the roaring BRIC [Brazil, Russia, India, China] countries have become a new, bulletproof locomotive for the global economy. Long term, this is probably true. But evidence is building that there’s about to be a hiccup in their soaring ascent.

    The ‘gold rush’ mentality mentioned in the article — always dangerous — is the mass psychological factor which prepares the ground for economic shocks. No one thinks the boom can possibly end. Yet gross overbuilding and malinvestment in China has left entire vacant cities constructed during its sizzling property boom. ‘Hot money’ foreign capital is fickle — Brazil’s 30 percent stock market decline suggests that some of it is already quietly checking out.

    Meanwhile, in boom times, it’s easy to gloss over the dark underbelly of Brazil’s boom — for instance, that deforestation and the broad-daylight murder of environmental activists are accelerating.

    Long run, Lat Am probably has a brighter future than the U.S. does; the latter being saddled with its capital-draining imperial empire, mountains of debt, and the corrosive idée fixe that it is uniquely appointed to serve as some sort of moral exemplar to the ordinary run of nations. This latter delusion has made the U.S. one of the most dysfunctional hegemons in planetary history.

    But for now, those who take investment advice from the ink-stained wretches of New York Times-Titanic should keep a weather eye peeled for icebergs, even in the sultry waters of the South Atlantic.

    1. Cedric Regula

      The thing the article didn’t talk about is 30% of Rio lives in cardboard boxes, and the so called middle class income still means 90% of the country makes less than $35K.

      So how a so called commodity rich country with the beef king Argentina next door pays $6 for a Big Mac I can’t fathom. But I’m pretty sure most go with rum Hurricanes instead of $35 Beefeater martinis.

      But there is much hype about the place for a long time and it is about the only country besides Mexico that Pimco has identified as alternatives to treasuries in a bond portfolio (pimco is kinda new at this foreign bond thing).

      I have been waiting for a reversal in hot money flows in equities of all EMs. That would take some fluff out of their currencies anyway. The only problem then is if we get a pop like the Asian Crisis, except this time a BRIC goes pop.

      1. Valissa

        Ahhh Brazil… for some reason, Brazilians are the number one illegal immigrant group in the Boston area. The area is also home to many legal residents of Brazilian background who have been coming here since the ’60s. Many are in the construction business, as well as in retail or restaurants. There is positive ethnic bias, and Brazilians are viewed as “industrious and entrepneurial.” Construction is still doing pretty well in the urban areas and older suburbs of eastern MA, since most construction work in these areas involves remodeling and additions. We had both our kitchen and bathroom remodels done by Brazilian owned companies (2 different ones) and I’m pretty sure some percentage of those workers were not legal, although the owners were.

        Here is a rather silly/trashy Brazilian love story that some of you might find amusing.

        Soros’ jilted ex on their 5-year affair and his sudden change of heart

  5. aeolius

    RE: British riots

    After the 1960 Olympics which popularized the Black Power movement, a noted Harvard Social scientist IIRC named Pettigrew came out with a simple idea. When expectations rise
    higher then reality, then you will get anger and aggression.
    The Johnson civil rights acts were, cynically to buy off the the barbarians. Idealistically to help the poor underprivileged. Pragmatically to channel the expectations to a future date, when hopefully reality would catch up to
    I do not think we give Johnson or ourselves enough credit for the successful handling of the huge in-migration
    As I believe that all human traits are normally distributed
    those unwilling to be boughyt off were locked up. (Unless one reads the paranoid left, the role of drugs, drug laws
    drug dealing and the great improvement in jails as means of social controls seems poorly examined. The need to save money on jails and the movement toward loosening drug laws also needs to be examined).
    In Great Britain we still see Pettigrew’s (?) wisdom, as
    the well televised financial situation blocked off the chance of reaching expectations.As side note Tony Blair’s
    gentrification of the Labour Party cut off a very useful devise to channel expectations of the lower classes

    1. Ignim Brites

      I think you’re referring to Mexico 1968. Indeed one of the iconic photos of the century.

      Stokley Carmichael first used the term in 66 per Wikipedia.

      Sort of shifts the order of events supporting your argument. The Black Power movement was more a result of the rising expectations fostered by the civil rights movement.

      We tend to forget that the recovery from the 2000 – 2001 recession was jobless too until really 2004. So its been a long period of frustration for a lot of the less advantaged in the US and the rest of the “West”.

      1. aeolius

        thanks, usually fact check Somehow I was sure of this one. But that would be JFK and not LBJ.
        And therefore you are also correct about cause and effect

        At this distance I do not remember what prompted Dr. Pettigrew’s caution

    2. propertius

      Pettigrew came out with a simple idea. When expectations rise
      higher then reality, then you will get anger and aggression.

      If memory serves, Eric Hoffer pointed that out in 1951 in The True Believer.

  6. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Don’t under-estimate the New China.

    That’s nothing to build 22 fake Apple stores.

    They can build 22 fake shopping centers or fake cities, and probably already have, that look and feel real alright, but have no people in them.

    Other countris can only fake reports…unemployment and inflation reports.

    1. Cedric Regula

      You have a point there.

      They may even decide our (and EU) sovereign bonds are fake, then upon correcting that problem, say that Chinese bank debt is fake too.

  7. Externality

    From USA Today:

    Women who take antidepressants have something new to worry about: They could be at increased risk of having a stroke, Harvard researchers say.

    A study published Thursday in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association reports that women with a history of depression have a 29% greater risk of having a stroke than non-depressed women, and those who take antidepressants, particularly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs (such as Prozac or Zoloft), face a 39% higher risk.

  8. JTFaraday

    “Democratic Convention Watch”

    Which is….a year from now. It’s going to be a rough 12-15 months.

    “for example, the Students for a Democratic Society, of which I was a part (and which, I’m happy to say, is apparently making a comeback with chapters on university campuses)–”

    Eh. I don’t know. My direct exposure to them suggests they’re dumb thugs. Not their fault, but. Sadly, I don’t think their education is going to change that either.

    For one thing, they seem to think there is some particular form of political action called “youth activism” that boils down to pitching inarticulate hissy fits, without the need to carefully articulate grievances or a political agenda– as was the case in the civil rights movement, let’s say– instead you just act out and the magic happens.

    This seems to be based on the thesis that 1960s college activism actually accomplished something–other than piss off working class people and veterans who wished they had it so good– which I think is geriatric white male nostalgic crap, rivaling Obama in its degree of narcissism.

    For another thing, 95%+ of faculty long ago more or less completely checked out. This is the case both in terms of viewing their students as human beings as opposed to being a mere means to a careerist end (to be avoided as much as possible), and in terms of rubbing two or more brain cells together in their own heads.

    These two problems, of inarticulate thuggishness and detached inarticulate selfishness, are directly related. ie., too much psychotic adolescence all around.

    But, I’m happy to be proved wrong.

    1. Cedric Regula

      I liked the streakers.

      Course if we get streakers again nowadays, it will probably be because the Chinese revalued or colleges raised tuition again, so it won’t be quite the same thing.

  9. Ignim Brites

    Riots in Camden? Doesn’t sound like there is much to riot for. Philly on the other hand, as the article intimates, presents richer targets. Now that the “youth” have mastered the basic military concept of “massed force” (appropriately modulated for an anarchistic age – more like “swarming force”) and the technology for achieving this, look for the flash mobs to become a routine phenomenon. Who will halt this? My guess is it will be gangs and their leadership. Of course, there will be a price to pay.

    1. Valissa

      Both excellent links, very educational, thanks! Especially appreciated the realism of the teacher’s post.

    1. Sock Puppet

      “It’s not the despair, Laura. I can take the despair. It’s the hope I can’t stand.” Brian Stimpson (John Cleese) Clockwise, 1996

  10. barrisj

    An(other) apposite quote from “The Great Gatsby”:
    They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made. Sound familiar? Remind you of – oh, say our current oligarchic elite?

  11. barrisj

    Or this:

    There is the moral of all human tales;
    ‘Tis but the same reheasal of the past.
    First freedom and then Glory – when that fails,
    Wealth, vice, corruption, – barbarism at last.

    “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage”, by Lord Byron
    (quoted in Morris Berman’s “Dark Ages America”)

    1. Externality

      “Debt supercommittee lacks diversity”

      Reading through the list of Obama’s economic advisers, I noticed the same problem as described in the above Washington Post article. America would do better if the racial, gender, ethnic, and religious demographics of its top economic advisors were more representative of the demographics of the nation as a whole.

  12. Tony

    Would it surprise anyone if we see the following headline (if not in the New York Times, perhaps in the Onion)?

    Obama enters Republican Primary

    1. Valissa

      This could have something to do the fact that the folks that voted for him thought they were voting for a Democrat.

      Gallup: Obama job rating sinks below 40% for first time,0,4207204.story

      Obama begins political counteroffensive this week

      With his approval numbers sliding, the Democratic president will try to ease their worries and sustain his resurrected fighting spirit when he sets off Monday on a bus tour of Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois. The trip is timed to dilute the GOP buzz emanating from the Midwest after Republicans gathered in Iowa over the weekend for a first test of the party’s White House candidates.

      This is Obama’s idea of a counteroffensive? Surely he must have better propagandists than that?

      Oh yeah, elsewhere in the article it mention that he’s going to blame congress. Somehow I don’t think that’s going to bump his support up much any more than the bus tour. The Obama Brand is in decline and I don;t know if even David Axelrod can successfully rebrand Obama now.

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