Links 9/14/11

Woman Who Called Ex 65,000 Times in One Year Is Less Annoying Than Bank of America Death+Taxes

Easy-Bake loses its bulb with 100-watt phase-out Yahoo (hat tip Buzz Potamkin). Since I never liked girlie toys, I don’t consider this to be a loss.

Strip or starve: Cash-strapped lawyer turns to exotic dancing to pay her debts Daily Mail (hat tip reader May S). You’ll hear about ones who turn to stripping. You won’t hear much about the ones who turn to prostitution.

Artist’s burning-bank paintings are hot commodities Los Angeles Times (hat tip reader Externality)

God Can’t Escape Taxman as Illinois Strips Hospitals of ‘Poorhouse’ Break Bloomberg (hat tip Buzz Potamkin)

Europe Close to Banking Crisis: El-Erian Bloomberg

Greece Should ‘Default Big’ to Address Worsening Debt Crisis, Blejer Says Bloomberg (hat tip Buzz Potamkin)

Is Greece the catalyst for another panic? Ed Harrison

Time for Germany to make its fateful choice Martin Wolf, Financial Times

Geithner Takes Tougher Tone on Europe Bloomberg (hat tip reader Swedish Lex)

China Must Avoid Lending to ‘Troubled’ Nations, Former PBOC Adviser Says Bloomberg. This is a diss to Europe.

Road rage triggers fury against China’s elite Financial Times (hat tip Buzz Potamkin)

Report: Government spends billions more hiring contractors over public workers CBS (hat tip reader Valissa)

Republicans try to make NY-9 — and 2012 — about Israel Salon

Obama’s unhelpful advice Politico (hat tip reader May S)

Obama Looks for Big Health Cuts, Worrying Democrats New York Times (hat tip Brian K)

Treasury to accommodate Fed on ‘Twist’ Financial Times

As America’s Middle Class Shrinks, P&G Adopts “Hourglass” Strategy Tech Ticker (hat tip reader Valissa)

The Death of the Confidence Fairy Paul Krugman (hat tip reader Scott)

Minnesota AG Swanson Backs Schneiderman: No Settlement With the Banks Without Investigation Dave Dayen, FireDogLake (hat tip reader Carol B). If you had any doubts the settlement was toast, this ought to confirm it. I hadn’t heard Minnesota mentioned as one of the expected defectors. And it’s really striking that she objects to waiving MERS-related liability, when Minnesota has enacted MERS-friendly legislation.

The Non-Scenic Route to the Place We’re Going Anyway London Review of Books (hat tip reader PQS)

Osprey Arkive. From Scott’s wife Nancy, and Scott writes:

I know Richard’s always pushing you to use wildly inappropriate cutting edge antidotes. This one might bridge the gap, and show the survival-of-the-fittest, naked capitalism that the Steve Schwarzman’s and Cliff Asness’s of the world so adore, at least until they need a bailout.

Antidote du jour (hat tip reader Lance, from FrogBlog). Caption: Sea otters hold hands to keep from drifting apart while sleeping.

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  1. Yankee

    Those Illinois hospitals just need to become churches, operate tax free and get subsidized by the Office of Faith Based Initiatives.

  2. Philip Pilkington

    Re: Argentina central banker article:

    “Argentina’s economy shrank 10.9 percent in 2002 before starting a nine-year growth streak, aided by rising commodity prices and an expansion in neighboring Brazil.”

    Writer of this piece is an ideological hack. Fiscal policy — including an employer of last resort program — was key to restoring GDP growth in Argentina. Author doesn’t mention it. Why?

    Best case scenario: he/she is clueless and should be fired.

    Worst case scenario: he/she is an ideological hack and should be laughed at for skewing fact to fit worldview.

    1. Jim Haygood

      The MSM has plenty of hack writers, but I don’t regard this article about Mario Blejer as an example.

      In 2001, real commodity prices were at their lowest levels since the 1930s — in fact, one of the lowest levels in recorded human history. This chart only goes back to 1960, but take a close look at the scale on the y-axis:

      Moreover, unlike today (when Brazil’s real is uber-strong, while Argentina runs a dirty float to keep the peso somewhat weak), in 2001 the situation was quite the opposite. Argentina was desperately clinging to its dollar peg, while Brazil enjoyed the benefits of a weak currency.

      One can’t tease out individual variables in real-world economics, but Argentina’s 30-cents-on-the-dollar default and change of currency regime is regarded by most as the catalyst for its succeeding decade of economic growth. Indeed, its pre-2002 debt servicing was so onerous that the default is what enabled the stimulative fiscal policy you cite.

      While the rest of the world boomed in the late Nineties, Argentina’s economy shrank disastrously. As a 2003 Congressional report stated:

      In 1998, Argentina entered what turned out to be a four-year depression, during which its economy shrank 28 percent.

      And within a year after defaulting and devaluing, the pain stopped. Thus Blejer’s advice to Greece: ‘Default, and default BIG!’

      I, too, support the strong drachma! (Not to mention the strong punt, LOL.)

  3. attempter

    The wondrously fertile and productive Black Dirt region of southern New York was devastated by Hurricane Irene. Many of the local farmers suffered severe losses.

    This site describes and shows in harrowing images the level of the devastation. This is a severe blow to a flourishing region of independent farmers, and to the food relocalization efforts of the region. The site also is also dedicated to a fundraiser, Warwick Farm Aid, which will assist these stricken food growers.

    1. Jim Haygood

      All of the Black Dirt region is a former swamp, drained by Polish immigrants in the 19th century (in a massive effort that would be totally illegal today under the fedgov’s wetlands rules).

      That’s why Pine Island is so named … it WAS an island.

      It’s lovely country … hope they are able to recover. One small way to help (and have a good time) is to attend Warwick’s Applefest on Oct. 2nd.

      1. Willis Hartsoe

        I feel like I’m always looking for interesting things to read about a variety of subjects, but I manage to include your site among my reads every day because you have compelling entries that I look forward to. Here’s hoping there’s a lot more top-notch material coming!

  4. Thorstein

    More distressing than Obama’s Unhelpful Advice, was Politico’s unhelpful reporting and echolalia of trolls at the story’s Comments section:

    “Call Uncle Sam. Sensible advice, but perhaps the president has forgotten just how difficult it can be for ordinary citizens to get answers from the government,” the Politico “reporter” writes.

    True, calling USDA and the EPA/IEPA was unhelpful advice, but all one has to do is Google “pending legislation” to get the link to the Library of Congress’ THOMAS search engine and search “dust”. There you learn that, indeed, nothing is happening: 112 S. 1528, “The Farm Dust Prevention Act of 2011” has indeed been filed to “*limit* Federal regulation of nuisance dust…under the Clean Air Act”.

    So why does Politico, its “reporter”, and the troll squad beat up on the USDA? The issue is *not* in the USDA’s jurisdiction, and the “reporter” was repeatedly *told* as much.

  5. justanotherobserver

    The osprey getting the flounder was just amazing.

    How the osprey could get that deep into the water, back out again, AND start flying is really impressive.

    1. Rex

      I’d say the truly remarkable part is that the photographers seem to have recorded the event with cameras pointed just right both above the water and below. How they managed to catch that boggles the mind.

  6. justanotherobserver

    simpleton question – does this humble blog support a “login” mechanism so I can avoid re-entering name & mail address.

    Haven’t found one…

  7. Paul Tioxon

    Yves, the Minnesota AG is a real battle axe against the banks. I posted a while back her lawsuits and her winning against the credit card operations of the banks, and collection agencies. She forced the lawyers to produce the actual signed contract as well as assignment of the contract, in order to get standing to sue. Many people were just rolling over and getting judgements placed on them for unsecured by debt by people who were fraudulently going to court with little more than a name, address and amount owed.

    Essentially, millions of accounts, dumped in a data base and sold to collections agencies, masqueraded as actual property rights, directly analogous to the broken chain of title for mortgage notes. It was not MERS but he IT that enable this to happen at such a low cost and recover some money for the banks for little more than a the cost of an internet download sent to the highest bidder for a customer account list. Please check out link below.


    Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson today in a legal filing accused one of the nation’s largest “debt buyers” of defrauding Minnesota courts and citizens by filing false and deceptive “robo-signed” affidavits—generated at its offices in St. Cloud, Minnesota—to collect on old consumer debts that it purchased from credit card companies and others for about three cents on the dollar.

    The debt buyer—Midland Funding, LLC and its administrative arm, Midland Credit Management, Inc. (collectively Midland)—has purchased $54.7 billion in old consumer debt from credit card companies and other companies. In 2009, it filed 245,000 lawsuits against individual citizens nationwide, and it has filed over 15,000 lawsuits against citizens in Minnesota courts since 2008. Midland pays for its debt acquisitions with hundreds of millions in financing from some of the nation’s largest banks, including several that sell old debt to it.

    “The company put its thumb on the scale of justice to unfairly tilt the collection process in its favor,” said Attorney General Swanson.

    I would urge anyone receiving any letters from debt collectors or lawsuits from them for judgements to request the contract, the assignment or else to dismiss the suit.

  8. Hugh

    The European crisis was “very, very damaging in the American economy last summer,” Geithner told Bloomberg Television on Sept. 9. “It’s been a significant cause to the slowdown we’ve had this summer and I think it’s very important to the world that Europeans do what they need to do so that the problems they’re facing don’t spread, don’t add to the pressures on the world economy as a whole.”

    Geithner blames his failures on the Europeans. The Europeans blame their failures on the US. Neither tries to actually fix anything and both keep looting.

  9. Tertium Squid


    “…But there are also quite a few things about drones that you might not have heard yet. Most Americans are probably unaware, for example, that the US Air Force now trains more UAV operators each year than traditional pilots. (Indeed, the Air Force insists on referring to drones as “remotely piloted aircraft” in order to dispel any suspicions that it is moving out of the business of putting humans into the air.) As I write this, the US aerospace industry has for all practical purposes ceased research and development work on manned aircraft. All the projects now on the drawing board revolve around pilotless vehicles. Meanwhile, law enforcement agencies around the country eagerly await the moment when they can start operating their own UAVs. The Federal Aviation Administration is considering rules that will allow police departments to start using them within the next few years (perhaps as early as 2014). Soon, much sooner than you realize, your speeding tickets will be issued electronically to your cell phone from a drone hovering somewhere over the interstate. The US Customs Service has already used UAVs to sneak up on drug-smuggling boats that easily evade noisier conventional aircraft.”

    from Predators and Robots at War

    1. Jim Haygood

      From the NYRB review:

      The eerie acuity of vision afforded by the Predator’s multiple high-powered video cameras enables [Col. Matt Martin] to watch as the objects of his interest light up cigarettes, go to the bathroom, or engage in amorous adventures with animals on the other side of the world, never suspecting that they are under observation as they do.

      Notice the casual potshot, as the NYRB notes in passing that the fundamentalist Taliban are actually sheep-humping pervs?

      No doubt the USAF’s seasoned pros can embark on a second career operating the TSA’s porn scanners, after they’re mustered out of the remote hitman biz.

    2. Tertium Squid

      And here’s more…corporate personhood is so 2010. Here we have ROBOT personhood:

      “If an unmanned plane flying near the border of another nation is fired on, does it have the right to fire back at that nation’s missile sites and the humans behind them, even in peacetime?
      ….the US Air Force currently operates according to the principle that a pilotless aircraft, as an entity representing the people who sent it on its mission, “has the same rights as if a person were inside it,” and that this “interpretation of robot rights is official policy for unmanned reconnaissance flights over the Persian Gulf.”

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        The barbarians will still do a lot of nasty things to any captured robots notwithstanding the policy.

        Hopefully, our valiant robots are properly trained to handle that.

      2. rd

        I assume that the drone can claim Geneva Convention rights if it is captured. It will only need to read off its name, rank, and serial number from the identification plate doubling as a dog tag.

        I also assume that it will be against international law to torture it to force it to confess to murdering civilians or to convert to Islam before it is executed.

  10. Billions for me, None for you

    I just want to thank all you Americans and Europeans for wholeheartedly embracing the new poverty your elites are forcing you into. Keep voting for them!

    1. PQS

      I KNOW. I had to pass it onto a friend.

      If I could have any wild animal as a pet, it would be an otter, hands down.

  11. Acadiana

    Re: “Strip or Starve”

    I think this relates to that phrase that I’ve occasionally heard from women over the years that, “A woman finds a way.”

  12. kingbadger

    re: The Non-Scenic Route to the Place We’re Going Anyway

    Something in there seems to be inaccurate:

    from Latin America to Russia to South-East Asia, as they underwent debt crises and consequent economic collapse. In all cases, the relevant economies recovered, after about a decade of hard times and widely shared economic pain. In this model, the debts are gradually paid down, the economy is slowly and miserably rebalanced, and eventually things grow back to where they were when the bubble burst

    Surely there was debt default by countries? What I believe is the actual model is that a time of inflation and currency devaluation follows after debt default, leaving the economy with a better chance of recovery. Debts owed by individuals in the country are inflated away, leaving people in better financial shape, and manufacturing can boom after the currency devaluation. The recovery does not come after debts are “gradually paid down” during a time of “widely shared economic pain” – it only comes after the debts are defaulted upon.

    Year after year of brutal and obtuse austerity programs make the economic situation worse, before debt default and currency devaluation occur before the recovery. Is this more accurate than what Lanchester says? He seemed to completely miss out on the Russian debt default, surely one of the most memorable and talked-about financial events of the 1990s (LTCM etc).

    I know it’s the LRB and not an economics place, but it’s perhaps noteworthy that Lanchester seems to be following the utterly-refuted narrative of austerity-as-painful-but-eventual-cure that is being repeated by “Very Serious People” in the current financial crisis.

    1. Foppe

      Yes, Lanchester is a fairly to very orthodox thinker who mostly gets to write because he can tell stories. Aside from the passage you mention, I found the article too obnoxiously vague/general to be of much use in raising awareness.

  13. skippy

    Query, did anyone else have the misfortune to watch even a second of CNBC Seeking Alpha yesterday? The mental anguish inflicted upon the unprepared mind…shudder…Mad Money Crammer yucking it up with Gimptner. The mental rape of their countless lies and buffoonery coursing though ones synapses whilst everything is on fire!

    Skippy…If it was not for my youngest son, fallen asleep aside me, too touch, reality could have been lost,

  14. Richard Kline

    Otters are just _SOOOO_ much cooler than human beings it’s not even a contest. Just looking at an otter has to change your blood pressure for the better. And using otter pictures would be far more effective than most personality tests: put one on the wall and a scatter of $20 bills on a table, and you can easily screen the personality disorders from the rest by their lack of goo-gooing over the otters. I’m just sayin’ . . . .

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