Links 8/7/11

‘Glamping’ brings creature comforts to outdoors USA Today (hat tip Buzz Potamkin). Ugh.

Video Game-Like Programs Treat Schizophrenia Discovery

For a Standout College Essay, Applicants Fill Their Summers New York Times. You can see the class issues a mile away.

Protest draws 300,000 in largest show of force yet Israel Post (hat tip reader Paul Tioxon)

Is Europe facing its own Lehman moment? Robert Peston, BBC

Spanish bank fields Ronaldo as collateral Telegraph (hat tip reader /L)

Murdoch & me: How Chris Bryant brought a media mogul down to earth Independent (hat tip Richard Kline)

Behind The Scenes With The Reporter Who Took Down Murdoch AlterNet (hat tip reader furzy mouse).

Coulson vetted by investigator linked to News International Independent

Bank chiefs buy stock en masse Financial Times

Shops and Cars Burn in Antipolice Riot in London New York Times

Japan May Have Spent Record in Intervention Bloomberg

S&P Erred in Cutting U.S. Rating: Buffett Bloomberg. So we can assume Moody’s is not gonna downgrade.

U.S. Downgrade Casts Doubt on AAA Countries Bloomberg

Just the Facts: S&P’s $2 Trillion Mistake Josh Bellows, US Treasury

Asia, Europe to ‘Stick It Out’ With Treasuries Bloomberg

Mainstream Media Ignores S&P Attack On Republicans TruthOut (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Barack Obama under fire as blame game follows US credit downgrade Guardian


Citing Stalemate, Verizon Workers Strike New York Times

Origins of the debt showdown Washington Post. This is an important piece.

Antidote du jour:

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    1. Dirk77

      I was reading The Boys of Summer last night. Jackie Robinson was saying that he was working with his kids to get them into good colleges, one reason being that they will then “meet people who can help them in life”. Reading that, I thought, there it is again. To judge by my friends and others I’m probably the last person on earth to understand this “truism”. That said, where does one draw the line? That article horrified me. To spend your whole childhood “enriching” yourself to get into some stupid college where you’ll meet people just as “well rounded” as you? I want to cry. But for the grace of God so go I.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        There is no intrinsic value in college education if you only buy it to meet people who can help you in life.

        There is no intrinsic value in science/technology if you only buy it so you won’t be obliterated by your competitors who do.

        1. carping demon

          Meeting people who can help you in life and investing in R&D so as to compete with other firms are extrinsic motivators for “buying” education and R&D. The intrinsic value in a college education is the civilization that is gained regardless of the motivation for being there, and the serendipitous ramification of science that hasn’t been done yet is the intrinsic value in R&D. Few successes are the result of forsight, but chance favors the prepared mind.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            The risk is focusing too much on the extrinsic value takes away from uncovering the intrinsic value.

        2. nonclassical

          One of my sisters grdtd Stanford, taught Harvard, and explained exactly what it’s for..

          The McKenna BOFA conflagration involves McKenna’s gubernatorial race against a really, really good dem-Inslee,
          who stood up and out against Bushit, daily, on C-Span, fighting the fight we all wanted to fight.
          McKenna is politically posturing…

      2. neo-realist

        I believe Jackie believed that it wasn’t just a college education in and of itself that enabled people to get ahead, but the associations that one makes in the undergrad situation–in clubs, frats, trustee fat cat dads of students–that allow them to get excellent career opportunities in the private sector and also move up the food chain to middle management and Corporate Board Room positions.

        White people through better educational opportunities have been able to take those connections to the bank literally (for a few centuries) and Jackie being the crusader that he was for justice and equal opportunity for African Americans wanted them (including his kids) to have those same advantages.

        1. Dirk77

          Yes. I can imagine he did not like it, but decided that was the way it was. It’s a hard lesson if you grow up thinking only ability should matter. The thing that bothered me about that article was that instead of just having a random lottery for applicants who achieved some high standard (what is wrong with that?) the schools invent new silly criteria. And then the applicants are forced to satisfy those, ensuring that the winners, if not already drone-like are so after all this competition. Ugghh.

  1. Foppe

    This was linked in the Galbraith thread by hermanas, but it seems to me interesting enough to also link here, even if attempter does not agree with me on this. To quote a few passages:

    What makes the “deficit debate” we just experienced seem so surreal is how divorced the conversation in Washington has been from conversations around the kitchen table everywhere else in America. Although I am a scientist by training, over the last several years, as a messaging consultant to nonprofit groups and Democratic leaders, I have studied the way voters think and feel, talking to them in plain language. At this point, I have interacted in person or virtually with more than 50,000 Americans on a range of issues, from taxes and deficits to abortion and immigration.

    The average voter is far more worried about jobs than about the deficit, which few were talking about while Bush and the Republican Congress were running it up. The conventional wisdom is that Americans hate government, and if you ask the question in the abstract, people will certainly give you an earful about what government does wrong. But if you give them the choice between cutting the deficit and putting Americans back to work, it isn’t even close. But it’s not just jobs. Americans don’t share the priorities of either party on taxes, budgets or any of the things Congress and the president have just agreed to slash — or failed to slash, like subsidies to oil companies. When it comes to tax cuts for the wealthy, Americans are united across the political spectrum, supporting a message that says, “In times like these, millionaires ought to be giving to charity, not getting it.”

    When pitted against a tough budget-cutting message straight from the mouth of its strongest advocates, swing voters vastly preferred a message that began, “The best way to reduce the deficit is to put Americans back to work.” This statement is far more consistent with what many economists are saying publicly — and what investors apparently believe, as evident in the nosedive the stock market took after the president and Congress “saved” the economy.

    So where does that leave us?

    Like most Americans, at this point, I have no idea what Barack Obama — and by extension the party he leads — believes on virtually any issue. The president tells us he prefers a “balanced” approach to deficit reduction, one that weds “revenue enhancements” (a weak way of describing popular taxes on the rich and big corporations that are evading them) with “entitlement cuts” (an equally poor choice of words that implies that people who’ve worked their whole lives are looking for handouts). But the law he just signed includes only the cuts. This pattern of presenting inconsistent positions with no apparent recognition of their incoherence is another hallmark of this president’s storytelling. He announces in a speech on energy and climate change that we need to expand offshore oil drilling and coal production — two methods of obtaining fuels that contribute to the extreme weather Americans are now seeing. He supports a health care law that will use Medicaid to insure about 15 million more Americans and then endorses a budget plan that, through cuts to state budgets, will most likely decimate Medicaid and other essential programs for children, senior citizens and people who are vulnerable by virtue of disabilities or an economy that is getting weaker by the day. He gives a major speech on immigration reform after deporting a million immigrants in two years, breaking up families at a pace George W. Bush could never rival in all his years as president.

    THE real conundrum is why the president seems so compelled to take both sides of every issue, encouraging voters to project whatever they want on him, and hoping they won’t realize which hand is holding the rabbit. That a large section of the country views him as a socialist while many in his own party are concluding that he does not share their values speaks volumes — but not the volumes his advisers are selling: that if you make both the right and left mad, you must be doing something right.

    The most charitable explanation is that he and his advisers have succumbed to a view of electoral success to which many Democrats succumb — that “centrist” voters like “centrist” politicians. Unfortunately, reality is more complicated. Centrist voters prefer honest politicians who help them solve their problems. A second possibility is that he is simply not up to the task by virtue of his lack of experience and a character defect that might not have been so debilitating at some other time in history. Those of us who were bewitched by his eloquence on the campaign trail chose to ignore some disquieting aspects of his biography: that he had accomplished very little before he ran for president, having never run a business or a state; that he had a singularly unremarkable career as a law professor, publishing nothing in 12 years at the University of Chicago other than an autobiography; and that, before joining the United States Senate, he had voted “present” (instead of “yea” or “nay”) 130 times, sometimes dodging difficult issues.

    A somewhat less charitable explanation is that we are a nation that is being held hostage not just by an extremist Republican Party but also by a president who either does not know what he believes or is willing to take whatever position he thinks will lead to his re-election. Perhaps those of us who were so enthralled with the magnificent story he told in “Dreams From My Father” appended a chapter at the end that wasn’t there — the chapter in which he resolves his identity and comes to know who he is and what he believes in.

    Or perhaps, like so many politicians who come to Washington, he has already been consciously or unconsciously corrupted by a system that tests the souls even of people of tremendous integrity, by forcing them to dial for dollars — in the case of the modern presidency, for hundreds of millions of dollars. When he wants to be, the president is a brilliant and moving speaker, but his stories virtually always lack one element: the villain who caused the problem, who is always left out, described in impersonal terms, or described in passive voice, as if the cause of others’ misery has no agency and hence no culpability. Whether that reflects his aversion to conflict, an aversion to conflict with potential campaign donors that today cripples both parties’ ability to govern and threatens our democracy, or both, is unclear.

    1. psychohistorian

      I think the short version of this is control of the narrative by the media that makes any “higher level contextualization” of the problems we face impossible.

      How can you start a discussion of something that is RUDE or otherwise not being discussed in these people’s world?

    2. lambert strether

      Occam’s Razor: Obama does what he believes in.

      And yet many eloquent, informed, and intelligent people continue to make excuses for him.

      We get conservative outcomes from Obama because he’s a conservative. He ran a masterful bait and switch campaign in 2008. Naturally, many victims of his con are still unwilling to admit they’ve been had. Others are tribal in their loyalties. Others simply support his objectives.

      1. Bdblue

        Yeah, he lost me when his most damning statement was that DC corrupts even good souls like Obama, when there is plenty of evidence Obama has always been a corrupt (rezko), corporate (exelon) tool. Hell, Adolph Reed noticed this in 1996 (see, although somehow even now those African Americans who knew him in Chicago remain marginalized and their info ignored.

      2. aet

        At the top of the pyramid, the numbers run you, you don’t run the numbers. That’s especially true in a free country of 300 million people.

        That is how it has ever been: at the top, you are always in reaction – even the best rulers, in places where they have actual untrammeled absolute power, never get ahead of the game.

        Americans have personalized their politics way too much, because of the nature of television. This criticism is not a Repub or Democrat thing – it’s a systemic US problem arising from the way they use their media of communications as entertainment, rather than educational/informative.

        That sure makes people act stupid, after fifty years..

      3. Anonymous Jones

        Very credible analysis.

        Occam’s Razor is generally a good starting point.

        And after all the long accumulation of evidence wrt Obama over the last two and a half years that does nothing to negate your starting point, we have a solid base for that opinion.

    3. nonclassical

      Nice theory, but the truth is obviously, none of our government officials (including Obama) are going to tell the people the truth about economic meltdown-including transparency, oversight, accountability. There is quite simply no other way out, nor any other way of proceeding. Those who caused this fiasco are going to continue to call the shots, and with 6 U.S. investment banks controlling 95% of $600 Trillion in commodities-derivatives futures markets, entirely caused by deregulatory legislation, truth is the most relevant victim..

  2. lambert strether

    “Mainstream Media Ignores S&P Attack On Republicans” is interesting because of the sequencing.

    It looks to me like the Tea Party is about to be put back in its box, having “gone too far” (roused the Chinese, among other things). The S&P report sends that signal.

    However, the press as a whole hasn’t gotten the signal yet — although the rawther coincidentally timed story in Pravda, “Origins of the debt showdown,” shows us that at least the top editors have. After all, that story could have been written at any time in the last two years, so why now? Because the Tea Party’s work is done, that’s why.

    1. aet

      The tea party are a bunch of billionaire funded wreckers and splitters – they are incompetent, and damaging – they have just demonstrated that fact.

      Born of on the floor of the Chicago mercantile Exchange, outraged that the spending on food stamps might be increased as a result of the massive m,arket crash they were responsible for.

      the “tea party” are unwitting criminals working to destroy the USA. Everything that they advocate would make things worse if put into law. Every last thing.

      1. BondsOfSteel


        The Tea Party has totally be co-opted… the rank and file just hasn’t realized it yet.

        It’ll be an interesting study 10 years from now to see how a populist reactionary movement became focused on corporate rights and tax policy for the top 1%.

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        You fail to realize it’s a total team effort that has us where we are today.

    2. Just Tired

      I think most people are reading too much politics into the S&P downgrade. I think it’s business. My understanding is that the Supreme Court had always protected the rating agencies because their “opinions” were free speech. Dodd-Frank attempts to change that by now putting them on the hook financially. S&P’s entire business model is threatened and now they cannot rate the U.S. as totally risk free even if there is a tiny, tiny fraction of a percent chance of default. At the end of the day I say one of two things will happen. Either the government will water down the financial liability potential of the ratings agencies (how about a deaf, dumb and blind regulator) or the entire universe of debt will be re-calibrated the benchmark that all others are measured against. To believe otherwise is to believe that S&P is entering the political arena strictly on principle. I say where’s the money — it’s agencies’ money and they want to keep it!

  3. john

    re: Bank chiefs buy stock en masse

    Noticed a couple weeks back that every single Chase branch in Chicago is hiring. A friend who works in the biz says financial services is hiring like crazy. Makes ya wonder…

  4. Jim Haygood

    Three hundred thousand protesters in Israel constitute about 5 percent of its population — that’s huge.

    Unlike the U.S., fellow OECD member Israel is booming. The Bank of Israel expects 4.8% GDP growth this year, while unemployment is at 5.7%. But Israel has itself a nice housing bubble percolating: house prices up 13.7% in the past 12 months.

    One way to cool Israel’s overheating economy would be to end its $3 billion a year subsidy from the US, which constitutes 1.5% of Israel’s GDP. Why should the US, with 9.2% unemployment and 1.6% GDP growth, subsidize booming and bubbling Israel? America’s extravagant subsidy no longer makes any sense, if it ever did.

  5. Philip Pilkington

    “Writing in a Sunday newspaper, former prime minister Gordon Brown accuses Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy of failing to address the crisis and reaching “wrong conclusions, from three years of wrong analysis”, which failed to address the need to stimulate growth. Brown argues that “it has suited European leaders to believe that theirs is a fiscal crisis confined to the weaker states, and so they have presented their problem in a one-dimensional form – profligacy in the periphery demanding austerity, and if that fails, even more austerity.””

    Fair play to Brown. I always preferred him to that lizard Blair.

  6. Ron

    “Glamping’ brings creature comforts to outdoors”

    These upscale glamping locations along with National Park lodges and the parks themselves concentrate the nature tourist industry into selected locations. While they don’t have much if any outdoor experience it does keep them off the back area paths which for those that actually enjoy back country hiking/camping appreciate.

  7. RebelEconomist

    Warren Buffett is undermining the credibility of his own company. Having been the first to downgrade Japan – another borrower in its own currency – from triple A (in November 1998 vs S&P in February 2001), when Japan’s net debt was similar to that of the USA now and Japan had no right-wing nutters threatening to force a default, it is Moody’s that is looking inconsistent right now.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      To be fair, you have to know if they use different mythologies, sorry, methodologies.

  8. MikeJake

    RE: The S&P downgrade affecting the ratings of other nations…

    France is rated AAA, yet they don’t even control their own currency. When are they getting downgraded?

    1. Jim Haygood

      Funny you should ask. Malaysia, Thailand, Japan, Mexico and the Czech Republic are wondering the same thing:

      The decision by Standard & Poor’s to downgrade the U.S. credit rating leaves France as the AAA country most likely to lose its top grade, some investors and economists say.

      France is more expensive to insure against default than lower-rated governments including Malaysia, Thailand, Japan, Mexico, Czech Republic, the State of Texas and the U.S.

      France is the most costly AAA country to protect against default. Credit default swaps on France trade at 143.8 basis points, almost triple the U.S. Spain is at 407.6 basis points and Italy at 386.8 basis points. Swaps on Switzerland, the safest country, are at 35.3 basis points.

      France is a country that knocked two zeros off its tattered franc in 1958. Has it gotten a teutonic character transplant since joining the euro zone? Or does it remain a mellow Club Med beach bum, disguised in a sober-sided bankster suit?

      Once France succumbs to the inevitable downgrade, the loony EFSF expansion proposal will crash to earth like a lead zeppelin, exploding the euro in the process.

      Sauve qui peut, mes amis! AVEZ-VOUS L’OR??

  9. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Verizon Workers Strike.


    This system seems not capable of producing ‘cage free’ workers.

    In a healthy economy, workers are organic (mostly free from painkillers and artificial stimulants) and free range.

    People are so desperate for jobs, they will probably embrace toxic jobs, even though we should be open minded to the possibility that the cure is to drink water and get plenty of rest. The arrogance of Homo Not-So-Sapiens Not-So-Sapiens is to think we can go on and on without rest, like we are better than our creator.

    Will we be honest to ourselves IF there is nothing we can do except to stop the car…the system… and examine the problem?

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Shop from from manufacturers that employ Organic and Free Range workers – that’s my ideal.

  10. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    ‘Italy could be much better off being in a currency union with Japan rather than Europe’

    Stephen Wilcke in an interview, London Telegraph 8/6/2011.

    I would ask if Spain would be much better off being still in a currency union with the Moors?

    1. Jumpjet

      Reform the Ottoman Empire! The Turks are doing quite well these days. Everything old is new again!

      1. ambrit

        Or would you be saying to give Libya to Spain so she could have her own ‘captured’ oil source?

    1. Valissa

      Oh well… whomever Obama would try to replace him with would be certain to have a nasty confirmation process. Some unpleasant economic realities might accidentally slip out. Can’t have any of that. People might get even more pissed at both parties too. Can’t have that either, the kabuki must go on, but not too obviously or everyone else will stop believing in it too!

    2. Johnny Clamboat

      It’s better to keep The Tax Cheat and The Bernank around. By the time they’re finished, their faces will be on the book “How to Handle a Credit Bust for Dummies: Costanza Edition”

      “Mr. Cushman : My niece told me you were different.

      George : I am different, yeah.

      Mr. Cushman : I gotta tell you, you are the complete opposite of every applicant we’ve seen.

      Mr. Cushman : Ah, Mr. Steinbrenner, sir. There’s someone here I’d like you to meet. This is Mr. Costanza. He’s one of the applicants.

      Mr. Steinbrenner : Nice to meet you.

      George : Well, I wish I could say the same, but I must say, with all due respect, I find it very hard to see the logic behind some of the moves you have made with this fine organization. In the past twenty years you have caused myself, and the city of New York, a good deal of distress, as we have watched you take our beloved Yankees and reduced them to a laughing stock, all for the glorification of your massive ego!

      Mr. Steinbrenner : Hire this man!”

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