Links 12/18/11

“…. Christmas Day, originally a Christian holiday to celebrate the birth of Christ…” USA Today (Buzz Potamkin).

Anonymous donors pay off K-Mart layaway accounts before Christmas. If you do this, why not credit your local Occupation?

Operation Santa Claus Market Watch (Buzz Potamkin).

Operation Santa Claus locations. Deadline December 23.

Satyendra Nath Bose, from whence “boson,” a bio.* Nature.

From Gossamer Condor and Solar Challenger to drones Business Week. Ooh, industrial policy!

Imperial Rome was slightly more equal than the U.S. based on the Gini index. See, slave societies really are less efficient!

Mohamed Bouazizi one year anniversary Al Jazeera English.

Getting ugly in Tahrir Square Al Jazeera English. Any readers with local knowledge here?

Episcopal Bishop among the first over the fence, as OWS occupies Duarte Park at Trinity Wall Street. Yeah, but what are their views on the ’28 Prayer Book?

The fable of the ant and the grasshopper revisited (ArtH).

Why save for retirement if the rentiers skim off more than you put in? Guardian (Buzz Potamkin) Stay a grasshopper, grasshopper! (Buzz Potamkin)

“Metamoney” Macrobusiness. Nice coinage.

The banksters have a Plan B: Shoot the hostages, then eat them. The cui bono for austerity rings true, but the detailed scenario on rehypothecation eludes me. Readers, thoughts?

How the Atlanta Fed boarded the #FAILboat. “…. A lack of analysis of the rapid growth of new forms of mortgage finance…” Translating freely: We blew it on accounting control fraud. Was there no research to consult?

Farmland bubble? Credit Writedowns.

Spain Banks Face 43% Price Fall on Repossessed Homes, Fitch Says Bloomberg (furzy mouse).

Credit Agricole quits commodity trade as crisis bites Reuters (furzy mouse).

A bear raid on Citigroup at the start of the financial crisis? (anonymous)

Forensic Analysis Finds Venango County, PA, E-Voting System ‘Remotely Accessed’ on ‘Multiple Occasions’ by Unknown Computer. Who wrote the software? Did they work for LPS, too?

The soft fascism of Faceborg Big Picture. OK, I used the F-word, not the poster. But still….

Random bag searches on DC’s Metro Pravda.

They leave notes USA Today (Buzz Potamkin).

Prices of e-books raised to printed book levels Online WSJ. Of course, a paper book can’t be turned off at a central server, a great advantage, since you can now be protected from material you should not see.

Piracy is the messenger, not the message (JoeK).

LA City Council moves to abolish corporate personhood.

Obama administration adopts states rights-like model for health exchanges under the ACA FDL (Mauimom). Minimum Federal standards? Pshaw! Why, that would be like Medicare!

Exit Hitch.

Exit Beefheart.

Exit Havel.

Exit Clinton, stage right, noises off. FP: “America’s Pacific Century.” What could go wrong?

NOTE * We’re all bosons on this bus!

Antidote du jour: HTTP Status Cats (vja).

200 - OK

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. Rebecca Helm-Ropelato

    Hi — in response to your request for input from local readers re “Getting Ugly in Tahrir Square,” I’m sending you this link to The Arabist – a website run by local free lance journalists that offers daily, ongoing coverage of the protests there, with an English translation. I subscribe to their free newsletter. Here’s the link…

  2. Richard Kline

    Enough grasshoppers, and you have a plague of locusts. Locusts eat all organic matter; some locusts reproduce. Nothing left for ants; ants starve. Next generation, some locusts, no ants. Stay a grasshopper.

    1. ambrit

      Mr. Kline;
      Much as I liked your mixed metaphor about grasshoppers; “Retain the mind of a grasshopper, Grasshopper.” “Um, hold it Master while I take another mike of Owlsley.”; I must take ‘exception’ to your implicit equation of Locusts to disaster. Just read your Hayek, Groenvald, MSM WWF Lobby Card, and all other “respectable” sources of opinion, (what? you don’t watch Fox? what kind of American are you?) to know that ‘competition’ is sacred and right. Whatever happens, the ‘chosen of G–‘ will have their rightful reward! There. Don’t you feel better?

  3. Richard Kline

    E-book prices jacked to paper levels? And no one saw _that_ coming? Of course it was going to be made to happen. Pure profit steal for publishers, too.

    It’s insane for authors to continue to work with publishers. The only reason for authors _ever_ to work with rentiers was that the upfront production costs were, time was, stiff. Now, they are increasingly non-existant—e-book—or scaleable—-print on demand. Publicity is of course a problem . . . not that publishers have been doing _that_ for 90% of their list authors for several decades anyway. Authors need to ditch the clinging, greed-slimed fingers of the publishing industry. Art(ists) wants to be free . . . .

    1. MacCruiskeen

      Yeah, it’s true. I can tell you after 20 years in the publishing business, that this is all true. I chose to work in the industry because it pays as well as finance. The work of editors, copyeditors, and proofreaders are completely unneeded; authors have been conditioned to turn in perfect manuscripts. Just look at this blog! Typesetting? Guess we don’t really need that anymore. Readers never paid much attention to things like proper hyphenation and spacing anyway, so we can clearly do without. And everything looks good in Arial. And authors, I’m sure, will enjoy XML tagging. It’s fun!

      1. Chris A

        Everything looks good in Arial? Noooooo! There are so many readble, legible typefaces available. Don’t setlle for the poor man’s Helvetica. Live a little!

        1. MacCruiskeen

          Sadly, today’s ereaders don’t give you much choice. Font embedding will be improved when epub 3 becomes more widely supported, but it’s still not clear how easy it will be to implement. And I don’t know why they bother attempting paragraph justification; this is clearly a task beyond their capabilities. 500 years of typesetting tradition down the tubes.

          1. craazyman

            it’s been downhill ever since Gulio Clovio. hahah. that’s a long time.


            desktop publishing destroyed the craft of typography. People don’t understand the unconscious beauty of a well set page — no rivers, no gappy teeth, perfect kerning, careful line breaks, etc. etc. even ligatures! haha.

            You look at ads today and you could drive a truck through poorly kerned letter pairs. The V and the W, separated from the o and the a by an Atlantic Ocean of white space.

            and we are now ignorant of the artful selection of immaculately crafted typefaces from the original lines, no fakes, like the digital knockoffs with a similar names but without the grace, to avoid the royalties.

      2. bob

        I had an older relative that was a type setter for his own printing business. I was very young, but remember him moving like a robot with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth setting up pages, backwards. His hands were always black. He was a legendary scrabble player.

        The business is still going, but most was turned over to dye-sub machines. They still do some true “printing” for some niche work and get paid very well for it. I was told they were the only company on the east coast that could still do it. Most companies got rid of their presses. Something about smaller card stock not working well in the dye-sub machines, and of course quality.

    2. EH

      I was just looking at the new Haruki Murakami on Amazon and the Audio MP3 version costs $20 while the hardcover is $16.

      1. Glenn Condell

        Why would you bother? I guess life is short and writers like Murakami make it seem longer, but watching paint dry will do just as well, and more entertainingly.

    3. propertius

      Isn’t it wonderful that the need for editors is, according to Richard, “non-existant”. And, yes, per Dr. Fowler I deliberately put the period outside the quote. ;-)

  4. ambrit

    Reading the Hillary Clinton boilerplate over at FP Mag made me wince. This was the gal who masterminded Whitewater, the Clinton Healthcare Reforms, the ‘Return to Sanity’ after the Bush Debacles, etc. etc. Now she is indeed a wholly owned subsidary of the American Empire Club. “…[we] are ready to lead..” is the mantra, it seems. All Empires talk like that. I can imagine the envoy from Sippur using similar arguements to warn the denizens of Uruk against harbouring any illusions about freedom and such like. “A united Kingdom Between the Rivers will be so much better for everyone!” Thus have overlords spoken throughout the ages. Sadly for us and our children, it will end badly.

    1. Susan the other

      Why did Hillary write such an obvious fluff piece. It was insulting to have to read that thing. All the problems associated with globalization were ignored. She pretends “Oh what tensions?”

      1. ambrit

        Dear Sto;
        Agreed wholeheartedly with it is. I suspect it’s a mashup of older ‘opinion’ pieces. Looks suspiciously like an essay done for admission to the Trilateral Comission.
        On another front: Funny how no one, (that I can recall,) has ‘delved’ into Hillarys’ recreational pharmacological use during her younger years. Bill may not have inhaled, but the delusional nature of this FP Mag piece strongly suggests that she was a regular ‘hookahista.’
        (Lest anyone bring the charge of misnogyism against me, my defense is that I have cohabited with a femnarch for three decades now, and live to tell the tale.)

    2. Glen

      Just wince – you’re lucky. I was gagging so bad I had to give up reading it altogether. But let me paraphrase the gist of it for as far as I could get:

      Hey, China, now that we’ve demonstrated our own ability to invade countries for lies, torture and imprison people including our own citizens, and crush our peasants while rewarding the oligarchy that screwed the whole world, can we be friends?

    1. JTFaraday

      This thing about this that gets me is not just *that* they make these changes, but the *way* they make these changes. The article that was posted here the other day indicated that if people don’t opt into the Timeline feature voluntarily, at some *unannounced* point, their profiles will be automatically changed to the new format.

      Even after major complaints about how they handle changes involving personal information, they’re still doing it!

      Frankly, I think FB is poorly designed and gets terrible marks for user functionality. It’s amazing how many people have signed onto it given its all around user unfriendliness with regard to both format and policy.

      Which just leads me to think that people do want some easy ways to connect with people they know on-line. But that it doesn’t have to be at Facebook.

  5. ambrit

    Dear folks;
    This paying off the layaway balances at X Mart story is intriguing. It has happened here in the Heart of Dixie too. What’s so interesting is how quickly the story has spread, at least locally. Reaction from my admittedly imperfect demographic base has been split between outright incredulity, “Who the H— thinks this is going to any good?” to warm fuzzy, “See, people are good at heart!” The dollar figure bandied around here is $1000 US. How many other outbreaks of philanthrophy have occured in the US so far. More importantly, will the Fed team up with the CDC to stop it before it ‘goes viral?’

    1. K Ackermann

      Ha! I was thinking the same thing. Do you know why Hezbollah stays in Lebanon? Because it builds schools and hospitals, feeds the poor, and protects the people.

      Nasty terrorists, they.

    2. Glen

      The irony is that it should be easy to give away thousands when you’ve stolen trillions, but the Kmart and other mystery Santa’s are not coming from the MOTUs on Wall St. The MOTUs are going to make the unreformed Scrooge look like a saint before they’re done.

  6. prostratedragon

    Re “B” (operation red stapler?) too many twists & turns for me right now or maybe ever, but suggested example has had spidey sense a-tingle since it broke, with the observation that the m.o. always involves experimentation.

    1. juliana

      Got a new ZH type blog to read. Nothing like a conspiracy theory to get you thinking outside the box. I’ve learned a lot from reading ZH, though I generally skip the comments unless the post has a fascist spin that I feel the need to put down. Golem comments are more thoughtful, and I appreciate the UK POV.

      1. ambrit

        Dear Dave;
        Not sure about the iconography here, (early Renassiance painters aren’t my specialty,) but isn’t that Marcuses’ “Martyrdom of St. Trotsky?” Given the beard, it just might be Bukharin, but, if you’ve seen one bomb thrower, you’ve seen them all. (If the woman with the halo is Rosa Luxemborg, then it is Bukharin.)

  7. K Ackermann

    As to the grasshopper and the ants… Yanis Varoufakis’ writings on the crisis have been very illuminating, and I’m surprised they have not hopped the pond more often.

  8. Susan the other

    The Banksters Have a Plan B: It makes senses to me. And it implies very intentional behavior on the part of the banks. Repos, Hypos, and CDSs are all weapons of mass financial and national-taxpayer destruction because anyone holding those “securities” – known more accurately as derivatives – is unrestrained by bankruptcy law, or apparently any other law. Those securities can be looted without restraint and are as good as gold in the vault. With everyone now coming to understand the outrageous crap that passes for finance, it is clearly time to take political action. If nations procrastinate the banksters benefit. It might explain why there was a rumor that the EU was printing up a new currency. Renouncing old, corrupted currencies, and starting over with new safeguarded money and banking regulations might be the only answer now.

    1. Dave of Maryland

      How about a new set of analogies?

      It’s summer 1944 and we’re the Germans and we’re losing. Do we ditch the stupid leader and try to hang on to as much of Europe as we can, or do we go all Gotterdammerung and spiral to the ultimate end?

      Any new currency is going to be imposed, and manipulated by, the same people for their own benefit. Not ours. There is no magic fairy godmother with a magic wand. As things stand now, we are rapidly descending into a survival of the fittest, where the banks, having sucked up every centime, then devour each other. Will Morgan or Goldman be the ultimate winner? Who cares! We all lose.

      While there are too many pieces in play and so impossible to predict any outcome, it seems to me that the faster we go through this last phase, the more it will be restricted to pieces of paper, rather than factories, industrial policies, employment, housing, food production, riots, murders, revolutions, etc. One Banker to Rule Them All, one Deep Thought with the Ultimate Answer.

      Who will rapidly find himself overwhelmed by the job and self-destruct. Or so I hope. Peons, like straws in the wind, survive hurricanes that blow down the strongest buildings.

    2. Bev

      Political action indeed:

      from NC link above to Bradblog:

      Forensic Analysis Finds Venango County, PA, E-Voting System ‘Remotely Accessed’ on ‘Multiple Occasions’ by Unknown Computer. Who wrote the software? Did they work for LPS, too?


      Lovely, lovely NC, thank you so much again and again.

      At some level we know what it means when physical evidence is hidden or removed from direct observation in electronic voting, scanning, tabulating machines owned and operated by authoritarian corporations and their co-opted political and even religious followers. The vulnerability is called the man-in-the-middle attack which can and has changed results. Remember Al Gore’s NEGATIVE 16,000 votes in Florida in 2000 which the courts and media prevented from being counted while saying that the votes had been counted many times.

      Brad has another workable solution to get around man-in the-middle attacks:

      I offer the following simple “demand” for consideration by OWS, as this one likely underscores almost every other. Or, at least, without it, all other demands may ultimately be rendered moot.

      Here it is. One demand that seems simple enough — and is as non-partisan as can — for your consideration:
      Every U.S. citizen 18 years of age or older who wishes to vote, gets to vote. Period. Those votes, on hand-marked paper ballots, will be counted publicly, by hand, on Election Night, at the precinct, in front of all observers and video cameras.

      Please help spread this to the Occupiers if you agree its important. For example, Tweet it (or a link to this article) like mad (with #ows in the text), and/or spread it via Facebook and/or print it out and take it to a General Assembly at an Occupation near you!



      And new currency or not, backed or not, so long as it is not DEBT.

      See Dennis Kucinich’s heroic NEED Act, HR 2990 to help everyone turn around fast all these problems brought on by Banker’s DEBT Money…we can never get out of debt when our money is debt. And, support all heroic politicians who support the NEED Act.

      15) What about other countries, and international systems such as the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and the BIS (Bank for International Settlements)?

      We’d expect other countries to follow quickly in our footsteps to each obtain the advantages of issuing their own national monies. The United Nations is already putting forward suggestions that member states shift now to nationally created, debt free; interest free moneys. They are way ahead of the US Congress just now. A much reformed IMF, already organized under United Nations Article 57; #3, will see a greatly expanded role for the SDR and more responsibility for international accounts clearing as well as real assistance to member states, rather than acting as a destructive collection agent for the big banks. The role and importance of the BIS should be rapidly reduced, and perhaps eliminated. Just look at the mess created under their guidance and rules. Some job they did!


      7) Doesn’t your AMA proposal merely continue with a fiat money system?

      Shouldn’t we be using gold and silver instead? Wouldn’t that provide a more stable money?

      Our system is absolutely a fiat money system. But that’s a good thing, not a bad one. In reaction to the many problems caused by our privatized fiat money system over the decades, many Americans have blamed fiat money for our troubles, and they support using valuable commodities for money.

      But Folks! The problem is not fiat money, because all advanced money is a fiat of the Law! The problem is privately issued fiat money. Then that is like a private tax on all of us imposed by those with the privilege to privately issue fiat money. Private fiat money must now stop forever!

      Aristotle gave us the science of money in the 4th century B.C. which he summarized as: “Money exists not by nature but by law!” So Aristotle accurately defines money as a legal fiat.

      As for gold, most systems pretending to be gold systems have been frauds which never had the gold to back up their promises. And remember if you are still in a stage of trading things (such as gold) for other things, you are still operating in some form of barter system, not a real money system, and therefore not having the potential advantages as are available through the American Monetary Act!

      And finally as regards gold and silver: Please do not confuse a good investment with a good money system. From time to time gold and silver are good investments. However you want very different results from an investment than you want from a money. Obviously you want an investment to go up and keep going up. But you want money to remain fairly stable. Rising money would mean that you’d end up paying your debts in much more valuable money. For example the mortgage on your house would keep rising if the value of money kept rising.

      Also, contrary to prevailing prejudice, gold and silver have both been very volatile and not stable at all. Just check out the long term gold chart.


      20) How about local currencies?

      Local currency movements can help people to understand the money problem but it would be an illusion to think that local currencies would stop a mismanaged, unjust national system from unfairly concentrating wealth; from being a motivating factor for warfare; from financing harmful polluting activities even when saner alternatives exist. Understand also that a national currency properly placed under governmental control gives much greater local control than the present national currency under private control, because locally, our voting power can exert influence on national policy.

      And remember the principle of subsidiarity put forward by E.F. Schumacher. His slogan was not “small is beautiful.” What E.F. Shumacher actually said is what the AMI is saying: Use an “Appropriate scale”- do things on an appropriate scale. That dominant scale in the currency area is national and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. The appropriateness of acting on the national level must be recognized.

      1. Stephen Nightingale

        Bev says: “Every U.S. citizen 18 years of age or older who wishes to vote, gets to vote. Period. Those votes, on hand-marked paper ballots, will be counted publicly, by hand, on Election Night, at the precinct, in front of all observers and video cameras.”

        Yes that’s the way we did it in England when I took part in the counts back in the 70s, and that’s the way they still do it today. The count itself is a great community event, usually held at some school in the constituency, the votes are counted by hand, with counters on one side of the table, and observers from all parties on the other side, who can challenge any piece of sleight of hand. The candidates are there, nervously awaiting the result, the voters wait patiently outside until the early hours when the the count is concluded and the announcement is made. All the old folks tell you ‘this is just like VE-Day’ – for the community spirit that is generated. And no organ of the Press “calls” the election when only 20% of the votes are counted, because interim results are not announced.

        As many people as possible are involved in the count, and it gives you a feeling of democracy in action. (Till the next morning when politics as usual resumes).

    3. deedee

      David Malone’s thesis that the Plan B of the financiers is to use the safe harbor in the US Bankruptcy law to loot failing banks appears to be accurate. The safe harbor seems to have been a huge part of the reason that things got so desperate with AIG in 2008. I never ran into a discussion of the issue at the time, but here is a link from EconoMonitor in 2009 laying out the mechanism in relation to the 2008 crisis:

      The main point here seems to be, banksters are actually super-secret ultra-secured creditors with respect to bankruptcy proceedings against financial institutions. As a result, fear of a counterparty going bankrupt is no longer a meaningful control on financial industry activity.

      The EconoMonitor post indicates that when the law was passed, this was considered a feature, not a bug.


  9. K Ackermann

    To all the soldiers who pulled duty in Iraq: thank you very much. It was a horrible war that you didn’t start, but served in bravely.

    Take advantage of your educational opertunities, stay healthy, raise families, raise your voice.

    1. another

      And should anyone ask you to do such a thing again, you tell them to go f**k themselves in no uncertain terms.

    2. Constantine

      I can’t speak for others but the time I spent in Iraq felt was a wasted one. At the very least it opened my eyes to the injustices of the world and the deadly consequences of military-industrial civilization. We need to be kinder to one another and act as better stewards for our planet.

      The chemical warfare wages during the Iran-Iraq war, usage of depleted uranium, and Saddam’s canal projects have all left an ugly mark on Iraq. I saw some disturbing birth defects in children and animals, and terrible environmental conditions. When I left back in 2009, the lower Euphrates was a nearly dried out husk and the Tigris-Euphrates marshlands, home to the ancient Ma’dan, was only a small remnant of its former glory. One of the birthplaces of civilization seems to be dying.

      Given, the long-term consequences of climate change, the future of Iraq is very grim. I just hope that one day, the life-giving marshes will return, the rivers will flow with their former glory, and people will be there to enjoy it in peace.

  10. Valissa

    Hey Lambert, someone else should be getting credit for that link on the bear raid at Citigroup. I think I posted another link right below that one so maybe that’s the cause of the confusion.

    The actual title of the article abstract from Cornell University is … Evidence of market manipulation in the financial crisis.

  11. Mel

    Re “…. Christmas Day, originally a Christian holiday to celebrate the birth of Christ…”

    Back in 300AD the birth of Christ was being celebrated on Jan 6 in “more eastern countries”?

    That 11-day gap feels to me a lot more like the switch from Julian to Pope Gregory’s calendar in and after 1582, which the Orthodox churches saw no need to obey. Did USA Today fact check that puppy? Are they just making up stuff like that other paper does?

  12. William

    Re: Faceborg. Yes, FB is merely an information-gathering scheme heavily involved with government security apparatus. Just one more insidious way citizens are giving up their rights and freedoms. Just like submitting to random searches by goons in metro stations–makes little real sense, except as a way to increasingly soften-up the citizenry into accepting the next level of authoritarian state and corporate control.

    As for cookies–I delete all of them every day. In Firefox it’s easy, not so with Explorer. BTW, browsing several pages of the Washington Post site resulted in about a dozen cookies.

    1. Fíréan

      I fully recommend
      It showed to me when Facebook ( amongst others) attempts to instal cookies when I’m not on a Facebook website and do not have a Facebook account.
      From the pages of this website ( nakedcapitalism) i have had cookies blocked from AddThis; doubleclick; Feed burn ; quantcast; technorati widget; google analytics; quigo adsensor ; investing channel . . .
      The down side is that many “popular” websites attempt to install so many cookies (and repeatedly )that the download time, while the cookies are all blocked, is much longer. I don’t care tho’.

    1. ambrit

      Nasty looking Nazi thug to Marleine Dietrich: “Vy do you not vant to cooperate vith us? Ve vill get zer information efentually.”
      Heroic Resistence agent Dietrich to thug: “I don’t know what you are talking about.”
      Thug replies: “You must understand fraulein, Ve have ways of making you talk. And zey are not pleasant!”
      Now apply that dialogue to a Transit Cop questioning a secretary going home on the DC Metro.
      Who says it can’t happen here?

  13. MikeJake

    I hate that cat. It’s involved in all sorts of silly internet pictures, and I just hate it. It’s ugly and stupid looking.

    1. Anonymous Comment

      That is a totally adorable cat that looks like its the product of CGI. I was mesmerized by his silly face for probably 5 minutes.

      He is quite lovable.

  14. wwt3

    If “we the people” pass a law that allows us to kill banksters in a very subtle way, (similarly to the subtly of the repo and hypothecation crimes) would “our law” stand passively aside and do nothing?

  15. ron

    The Big Picture Blog on MF Global:

    “1. What MF Global did with client monies was “technically” legal (though it probably violated the spirit of the law).

    2. Britain’s leverage loopholes provided a back door for U.S. firms such as Lehman Brothers and MF Global to “re-hypothecate” client assets — and leverage up.

    3. As a result of MF Global’s lobbying, key rules were deregulated. This allowed the firm to use client money to buy risky sovereign debt.

    4. In 2010, someone from the Commodities Futures Trading Commission recognized these prior deregulations had dramatically ramped clients’ exposure to risk and proposed changing those rules. Jon Corzine, MF Global’s chief executive, successfully prevented the tightening of these regulations. Had the regulations been tightened, it would have prevented the kind of bets that lost MF Global’s segregated client monies.

    5. None of MF Global’s Canadian clients lost any money thanks to tighter regulations there.

    6. Little noticed in this affair is (once again) the gross incompetency of the ratings agencies. Had they not been maintaining “A” ratings on Spain and Italy, MF Global could not have made its disastrous bets there.”

    Its become clear that anyone attached to the financial sector has a vested interest in maintaining as much of the status quo without killing the industry as possible. The reality is that the American Securities industry is a mob enterprise and I doubt that anyone remotely attached to this industry can create any type of regulatory relief. Similar to passing laws against killing, bank robbery, the laws doesn’t change the outcomes.

  16. half-the-battle


    Since 1972 when Nixon went off the gold standard, the world reserve currency has been the US dollar, but what ultimately backs the US dollar? People say nothing, it’s ‘fiat money’ but I don’t think this is true. It’s a credit system based on the circulation of debt. Of course the US has the enormous advantage of being able to write checks that are never actually cashed: US treasury bonds have become the basic reserve currency for the central banks and as Michael Hudson originally pointed out, most of these American treasury bonds are never really cashed in. They’re rolled over year after year to buy new ones, and these holders are taking a loss on them as they pay interest lower than inflation. So why are they doing that? Well, if you look at the size of US deficit it corresponds almost exactly to the real saw military budget. If you look at graphs showing the growth of the US deficit, and the percentage of it held overseas, and the US military spending—basically, you see almost exactly the same curve. So basically, foreign governments and institutional lenders are buying US treasury bonds and paying for this enormous military spending. So, who are the guys doing it? Well during the cold war it was especially West Germany, now, apart from China, the most important are places like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Gulf states. What do these states have in common? They’re all covered in US military bases, or under US military protection. The US is borrowing the money to create these military bases from the very countries that the US military is sitting on top of. In the past, such arrangements were called ‘empires’ and the money sent over was referred to as ‘tribute.’ Now apparently your not allowed to use that language, so it’s called a ‘loan.’ Nonetheless, that link between the military and the core of the financial system remains, it’s the thing we’re not supposed to think about.

    In a way the language we use to describe this in the US or UK is self-evidently absurd. We talk of ‘trade deficits,’ i.e., ‘oh for some reason, people all over the world send us stuff worth far more than anything we send them. Isn’t that a problem?’ If you suggest this has anything to do with the fact that the countries that seem to be getting the inflow of goods (and not getting in trouble for it, anyway), are those which also are massive military powers bestraddling the world, people look at you as if you’re practically lunatic fringe. On some level, of course, everyone does have to admit there’s a link between who is a military power, who consumes the bulk of the world’s resources, and whose money just happens to be the world reserve currency, but it’s somehow taboo to try to work out exactly what those connections are.

    1. half-the-battle

      That posted accidentally.. The quote is from David Graeber, interviewed at “The White Review” (linked here a few days ago). I was wondering if anyone could comment or expand on his view.

    2. financial matters

      Griffin in ‘The Creature from Jekyll Island’ would argue that a country like the US needs ‘credible’ enemies such as China and Iran to continue this military spending which benefits the bankers and certain contractors while hitting up the taxpayer. They fund both sides and really don’t want one side to have total power…

      1. Stephen Nightingale

        If you have a rottweiler it has to be fed enormous amounts of red meat and it needs regular exercise. The military(-industrial complex) is the U.S’s rottweiler. It requires an enormous perpetual dollar input but that isn’t enough. The more exotic new ways the R&D arm develops for extirpation, the more field trials are needed to ‘prove’ the technologies. The Iraq field trial is over and the Afghan one is winding down. So as to keep the kill rates growing – by which our most important researchers measure their success, a follow-on field trial will shortly be necessary.

        The ground is already being prepared with traditional and threadbare propaganda methods.

    3. Hugh

      A small point: Nixon took the country off the gold standard on August 15, 1971. It’s curious most economists know this fact but almost none of them have seriously worked out or internalized its implications. MMT whatever its other faults is the only monetary theory that I know of which has.

  17. justanotherobserver

    regarding “Exit Hitch”.

    I’m sorry, what was the point ?

    Oh yeah, Dawkins and Hitchens are Muslim haters.

    Wow – that’s impressive insight.

    1. Glenn Condell

      Good riddance. The self-styled fearless contrarian was very careful in his choice of friends and enemies, and his withering broadsides were never aimed anywhere near genuine sources of power. Like an inflamed cleric he tore into sideshows like Clinton, the retired Henry K, Mother Tel, the Saddam-loving and enabling ‘left’… while manfully resisting the urge to clear his throat about his new chums like Wolfowitz, who so far as he was concerned were defending ‘freedom’.

      Even he must have felt a little queasy when he looked about him in his last days, ensconced in the vanguard, or nose-cone, of Western civilisation as it heads earthward with increasing speed. Like his coeval countryman Blair, he drew on the great history of British independent thought and action in order to better position himself as a whore to the current whip-holders. They share a huge emptiness at the heart of their legacies, of what they could have been in this time of crisis. When the pressure was applied they were found wanting and if it wasn’t for the emergence of a certain B Obama they’d be duking it out in my Pantheon of Betrayal.

  18. Hugh

    Re e-books, there are two issues. The first is intellectual property which used to be about securing a fair return to creators for their work and now is about large corporations creating monopolies on materials for life plus 70 years for material created by a single person and 95 to 120 years for material with a corporate creator. In other words, almost all of the material that came into existence from your birth will remain under copyright throughout your life and even long after your death. This is why new hardware like e-readers can come down in price but the overall cost: hardware plus access to copyrighted material can increase over the deadtree format. It’s what monopolies do.

    The other issue is the hardware. Here there are three sub-issues. The hardware only has an effective life of three to five years before it either wears out or becomes obsolete in terms of its functionality. So it must be replaced.

    Or the whole format can change requiring new hardware for its use. Although not applicable to the ebook, this change in format can require to restart their collections from scratch. Think, for example, how VHS > DVD > Blueray. Or how LPs were given a run for their money by tape and then both being replaced by digital: CDs and iTunes.

    Or there are built in incompatibilities. So an ebook for one device isn’t readable by another. Some might say that eventually a single standard will eventually win out. Think beta vs. VHS or HD vs. Blueray. Well, that may be but that process can be long and drawn out. Think how most Apple products are incompatible with everyone else’s. You see the other side of these incompatibilities is that they create captive markets. If you can’t take your elibrary with you, then the more likely you are to stay with that system. And then too there is the personal factor. Many stay a system simply because it is the system they know. And there can be brand loyalty, staying with Apple because of a perceived cachet even though Apple is just another predatory company using that carefully nutured cachet to soak its customers.

  19. jcb

    Re: “Obama administration adopts states rights-like model for health exchanges under the ACA”

    Well, I guess the joke is on those in the House and Senate who voted for the ACA because they believed that any presidential discretion required by the act would be used to strengthen it.

    Instead, we have the Administration compromising before, during, and AFTER passage of the ACA. What supporters apparently didn’t realize is that post-hoc compromises of discretionary rules can be used by the president as electoral strategy bargaining chips.

  20. Lambert Strether Post author

    Why do you think Obama was compromising? ACA reinforces the position the for-profit insurance companies at the heart of the system and guarantees them a market through the mandate. Classic neo-liberal “market-based” (ie, rentier-driven) solution.

  21. SH

    No one responded, and I don’t have much info, but my pops visited Tahrir last week. He’s on a short term USAID proposal project and was staying across the river at the Marriott (directly over the bridge from Tahrir) and walked down and all I can say is that it is safe enough for him to walk on foot and take a look. I don’t think it was what he hoped for, but I would have to ask for real detail to offer more.

    My pops spent fifteen years in and around Cairo and he’s not freaking out. That’s the best I can do.

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