Links 1/6/12

Germans increase office efficiency with ‘cloud ceiling’ The Register (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Schweppes Losing Australia Summer Sales in Fizz Shortage Bloomberg (hat tip Buzz Potamkin)

World’s oldest twins celebrate 102nd birthdays Yahoo (hat tip reader Aquifer)

Go Away, Daddy! The Revolting Bob Parsons and His Toxic Internet Empire Alternet

Chinese Government Plans to Cause Ten Percent More Rain By 2015 PopSci (hat tip reader Aquifer)

Speculation About Oil Angry Bear (hat tip reader Aquifer)

WikiLeaks Proves U.S. Forced Spain to Adopt SOPA-Style Law ReadWriteWeb (hat tip reader Francois T)

A Hungarian coup worthy of Putin Financial Times

Greek VoluntaryInvolutary DealNoDealDeal: Convolution Eupdate Credit Slips

Right Now the Debt Crisis is European, But the Problem is Global Credit Writedowns

The long-run effects of the Scramble for Africa VoxEU

Obama Recess-Appointing Only in Dire Circumstances Dave Dayen, Firedoglake

Buying Congress in 2012 Tom Engelhardt

Bankruptcy Filings Down 11.7% in 2011 Credit Slips. Wonder how much is due to banks not going after people in a lot of states who are seriously delinquent on home payments….

Bank of America severing some small-business credit lines Los Angeles Times

New Charges Possible in Insider Case Against Gupta New York Times

MF Global Trustee Tussles With Regulators Wall Street Journal (hat tip Joe Costello)

MF Global Inquiry Turns to Its Primary Regulator New York Times. Ooh, this is getting to be ugly.

Antidote du jour:

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  1. Foppe

    It’s nice how people suddenly care about what’s going on in Hungary now that Hungary has made its CB “less independent”. Too bad, though, that the article doesn’t really bother to explore the question how it was that Hungary got its “near-bankrupt” status.
    Oh, well. We might get there yet.

  2. mangy cat

    to improve my own home office efficiency will get that old pentium 1 desktop running windows 95 out of the lumber room, and hang a 15 inch crt monitor from the cieling

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Luckily, Viet Cong prison guards didn’t know this trick about the cloud ceiling back in the 60’s; otherwise, they would have been even more efficient.

  3. Cesar Flebótomo

    Re: A Hungarian coup worthy of Putin

    from the article: “Much as in Mr Putin’s Russia, the rule of law is subordinated to the entrenchment of one-party rule. As in Russia, Hungarians can still vote; citizens can protest and privately owned media can criticise Mr Orban. But this is faux democracy.”

    One Party rule? They can still vote but it’s faux democracy?

    Whew, I’m glad he’s talking about Hungary and not the US of A. In the USA we don’t have to worry about one Corporate/Money/Property Party pretending to be two parties in order to distract the public from looting. At the first sign of mischief, the non-corporate, ever diligent investigative journalists that make up the US media would quickly inform the citizenry and they would vote the rascals out.

    Nope, no worries there, we have two distinct, non-corrupt parties that always put the interests of the American public over that of corporate lobbyists, and where every citizen has the right to vote for Tweedledum or Tweedledee.

    Pick whichever one you want, Obie or the Mittster, no signs of meaningless national elections or faux democracy here, folks. No siree!

    1. Lyle

      Which suggests that between the CFPB and the state attorneys general, a set of public service adds explaining the concept of a statute of limitations are needed, along with state by state limits. (One could of course start on the web as well) I believe that beyond regulation the CFPB should start a customer education campaign to tell customers what rights are already in place, because issues like this say folks just don’t know.

    2. Jim

      We can also cite Greece and Italy, where the ECB, working in concert with Merkel and Sarkozy, has managed to appoint viceroys in both countries.

  4. Foppe

    Bringing Expired Debt Back to Life:

    His new credit card, stamped with the MasterCard Inc. logo, was offered by Jefferson Capital Systems LLC, the debt-collection arm of CompuCredit Holdings Corp., in Atlanta.

    CompuCredit, a leader in the business, collected about $15 million in newly resurrected debts and fees by issuing credit cards to people with banged-up credit in the first nine months of this year, according to a securities filing. It also has drawn scrutiny by federal authorities for allegedly deceptive practices.

    Many U.S. banks, hungry for new revenue streams, are eager partners. They receive fees and higher-than-average interest rates by granting debt collectors access to their license with MasterCard. The debt companies typically agree to cover losses to banks if borrowers stop paying.

    Collectors aren’t afraid of the risks in issuing new credit cards because they instantly turn a profit on virtually worthless debts—purchased for pennies on the dollar—when people agree to start making payments on them. The credit-card agreements essentially create assets out of thin air.

    Genesis Financial Solutions, of Beaverton, Ore., said it was opening about 100,000 new accounts a year in its “Balance Transfer Program.” Unlike typical balance-transfer offers, where consumers are lured with low interest rates to move credit balances, Genesis borrowers move expired debts onto the new card.

    In 2008, CompuCredit agreed to return more than $114 million to customers after the Federal Trade Commission accused the company of deceptive practices that included failure to disclose high credit-card fees and failure to tell customers that accepting a Majestic credit card—emblazoned with a Visa Inc. logo—essentially enrolled them in a debt-repayment program. The company didn’t admit to any wrongdoing in the settlement.

    People who stop paying bills earn lousy credit ratings but eventually are freed of old debt under statutes of limitations that vary by state and range from three years to 10 years from the last loan payment.

    But if a debtor agrees to make even a single payment on an expired debt, the clock starts anew on some part of the old obligation, a process called “re-aging.”

    So if borrowers again fall behind on their payments, debt collectors can turn to their usual tools: letters, phone calls and lawsuits. By restarting a debt’s statute of limitations, the collectors have years to retrieve payments.

    1. OregonChris

      Debt collectors can preserve a debt from the statute of limitations by bringing a lawsuit, obtaining a judgment and then renewing the judgment until it is satisfied. In my state a judgment is good for 10 years and then must be renewed. However I’ve seen debt collectors mess this up and garnish debtors with expired judgments when they failed to renew them.

      1. OregonChris

        If the law was equitable in this regard, then a promise to repay an expired debt would essentially be considered a gift, and the debtor could stop payment at any time and have the protection of the statute of limitations again.

        But the law is clearly written in favor of creditors, contract actions have a 6 year statute of limitations. Fair Debt Collection Practices Act violations, 1 year. Most state Unlawful Trade Practices actions, 1 year.

  5. Dan

    The answer to BofA dumping customers and callling in
    loans is for municipalities that host those businesses to dump BofA and call in tax dollars from BofA and
    deposit them in smaller local banks.

    The Town of Tiburon in Marin County, in one of America’s wealthiest counties and the safest town in America according to the FBI, just responded to BofA that way.

    It’s not going to be the poor and dispossessed in Camden leading the way, it’s going to be the best educated and wealthiest who do that.

  6. Jeff

    Re Brominated soda drinkers,

    Whenever you see “natural flavors” as contents of food or drink, know that you are ingesting chemically synthesized flavors that mimic nature and natural food.

    If a drink contains orange juice it will say “orange juice”, if it contains fake citrus synthesized chemicals it will say “natural flavors”.

    Learn about how to avoid these here:

    1. James

      Who can make this stuff up? Oh yeah, a professional marketing department.

      MiO was created to abolish the anguish and boredom of passive beverage drinking. Because, you know, stuff is better when it’s yours. Why, then, do people settle for one-size-fits-all drinks? We couldn’t answer that question, so we created MiO.[Yeah, boring old water is, like, SO 20th century and, like, TOTALLY impersonal!]
      MiO liquid water enhancer lets you make up to 24* drinks however you want. Simply add as much or as little MiO as you wish and create your dream beverage. Then, chug and repeat. You may wonder where we’ve been all your life. That’s a normal reaction.
      Now our mission is to expand the horizons of the young and thirsty. To redefine what a drink can be. To make sweet drinkable art in pretty colors. Who’s with us?
      Introducing MiO. Available in six epic flavors. For about $3.99 a pop.
      Want to dive in deeper? Check out our FAQ here. If that feels a bit forward, start with this abbreviated nutritional cheat sheet:
      Each of MiO’s six flavors is:
      Calorie-free per 8 fluid ounce serving
      0g Carbohydrates and considered a free exchange
      Free of artificial flavors
      Cruciverbalistic [Fond of crosswords/wordgames?]
      MiO is sweetened with sucralose, a calorie-free, artificial sweetener [but evidently not a “flavor”] that is 600 times sweeter than sugar. To maintain color and freshness, MiO does use certain preservatives and artificial colorings.

      *Our lawyers would like us to clarify that those are 8 fl oz. drinks. Our lawyers would also like the clouds to part and cufflinks to rain from the sky.**

      **Our lawyers did not approve that last part

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Thank you for that bit of information.

      It looks like more dangerous stuff brought to you by science.

      An effective antidote, for Neo-Neanderthals, is to juice fruits oneself.

      1. Fraud Guy

        Actually better is fruit and water; fruit juice (usually reconstituted) is basically sugar water with some added ingredients (read the actual nutrients, then subtract the added vitamins), while fruit contains fiber and other stuff left out of the juice.

        Then water for hydration.

        Or make your own fruit juice from whole fruit.

        1. James

          OR “make” your own fresh water by simply running the tap in most “first world” US cities, at least for as long as it lasts. Fresh water/air – the last frontier in a world where EVERYTHING will eventually be bought and sold for profit.

    1. James

      Change we can believe in indeed! All in the name of “security” of course (same as it ever was). It’s beginning to look like a Republic is more than we can handle after all.

    1. James

      Make lots of money and deliver little evidently. In short, the corporate capitalist dream. See above: a “Water Enhancer” with no discernible benefits other than it may or may not “expand your horizons” if you’re “young and thirsty,” albeit apparently not thirsty enough to drink something as gauche as (gulp!) plain old water. Jeez, talk about nothing for something! And who said America doesn’t make stuff anymore?

  7. Wendy

    The judge in the Gupta/McKinsey case is Rakoff – same judge as in the SEC v Citibank case. Gotta love it!

  8. SR6719

    Just for fun….

    “How, unless you drink as I do, could you hope to understand the beauty of an old Indian woman playing dominoes with a chicken?”

    ― Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano

  9. Foppe


    Cut to a pleasantly warm evening in Bahrain. My companion, a senior UK investment banker and I, are discussing the most successful banking types we know and what makes them tick. I argue that they often conform to the characteristics displayed by social psychopaths. To my surprise, my friend agrees.

    He then makes an astonishing confession: “At one major investment bank for which I worked, we used psychometric testing to recruit social psychopaths because their characteristics exactly suited them to senior corporate finance roles.”

    Here was one of the biggest investment banks in the world seeking psychopaths as recruits.

    1. Foppe

      (Link For those with institutional access):

      This short theoretical paper elucidates a
      plausible theory about the Global Financial Crisis and the
      role of senior financial corporate directors in that crisis.
      The paper presents a theory of the Global Financial Crisis
      which argues that psychopaths working in corporations
      and in financial corporations, in particular, have had a
      major part in causing the crisis. This paper is thus a very
      short theoretical paper but is one that may be very
      important to the future of capitalism because it discusses
      significant ways in which Corporate Psychopaths may
      have acted recently, to the detriment of many. Further
      research into this theory is called for.

      1. aet

        It is not against the law to be a psychopath, nor is it against the law to be mentally ill.

        Still got to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they have committed a criminal act before you can legally punish them in any way.

        Why don’t you present some evidence of criminal acts, rather than just call names and express your opinions as to the state of other people’s mental health?

        Perhaps you’d prefer to punish those whom you consider to be psychopaths extra-legally?

        And just what would such a course of action make YOU?

        Oh well: they say it takes one to know one.

          1. Maximilien

            aet: “Perhaps you’d prefer to punish those whom you consider to be psychopaths extra-legally?”

            Of course not. Just strengthen and broaden the laws so that more of these predators are jailed early in their lives of wrong-doing.

            Sociopaths are pathological liars, right? Their criminal careers usually begin with the gateway misdemeanors of misrepresentation and perjury. So I suggest the following:

            THREE LIES AND YOU’RE OUT. A life sentence with no appeals. That’ll take a lot of sociopaths out of circulation before they do REAL harm.

        1. Jim

          Speaking of “fringe” behavior, a derivative salesman cited in Partnoy’s “Infectious Greed” book is in the news, along with Chiesi’s (of Raj Rajaratnam fame) sister.


          John Nickerson of Hearst CT Newspapers has a funny story about a New Canaan trader who hired an assistant to have a threesome with him and then got all upset when she allegedly took more of a bonus than he wanted to pay her. So he turned the assistant over to the New Canaan Cops who eventually found her, via her Porsche Boxster plates, in Massachusetts and had her arrested last week. The trader said she had repeatedly been paying herself for ‘extra time’ because she had access to his check book and credit cards but he didn’t figure it out until Norwalk Hospital called him about a bounced check he says he’d never written.


          UPDATE 1.05.2012: Mitchell Vazquez’s live-in girlfriend has been found and we learned she is related to another Wall Street bad actor Danielle Chiesi (Hedgie Raj-Raj’s pretty friend who went to jail for insider trading last year). Pamela Mercedes Chiesi, age 46, is the women Helen Kapoutsos said her New Canaan boss paid her to have a threesome with.

      2. Foppe

        (The paper is a kind of derivative work, but I guess the fact that someone’s writing about it in a business journal is nice, even if I doubt the JBE is very important.)

      3. craazyman

        A plausible theory?

        that’s an understatement.

        the other thing about psychopaths are their enablers. the great American poet Charles Bukowski wrote near his death a poem about what he had learned in life. Not much, he concluded. There’s not much to learn. It’s all just there in front of you. But one lesson he figured he did learn: “Learn to say No.” he said.

        The enablers can’t say no. They accomodate out of fear and weakness and timidity or self-preservation or self-enrichment. And it’s hard when you’re 20 something and you’re thrown into that culture, wanting to succeed. You strain to understand and you sort of rationalize and you just hurt from it in an uncomprehending way.

        And the psychopaths rage on until the final collapse. The few who say “No” get some kind of shaft that teaches the sheep that “no” is not acceptable. Anyway, we already know this, so what’s the point. It’s all a bit lesson, right? LOL. Mr. Bukowski was correct.

      4. James


        Still waiting for the “surprise.” Minor quibble: maybe sociopath is a better description, although I’m certainly no expert in these matters.

  10. Foppe

    Also, Elsevier-funded NY Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney Wants to Deny Americans Access to Taxpayer Funded Research

    In 2008, under bipartisan pressure from Congress to ensure that all Americans would be able to access the results of taxpayer-funded biomedical research, the US National Institutes of Health instituted a Public Access Policy:

    The policy has been popular – especially among disease and patient advocacy groups fighting to empower the people they represent to make wise healthcare decision, and teachers educating the next generation of researchers and caregivers.

    But the policy has been quite unpopular with a powerful publishing cartels that are hellbent on denying US taxpayers access to and benefits from research they paid to produce. This industry already makes generous profits charging universities and hospitals for access to the biomedical research journals they publish. But unsatisfied with feeding at the public trough only once (the vast majority of the estimated $10 billion dollar revenue of biomedical publishers already comes from public funds), they are seeking to squeeze cancer patients and high school students for an additional $25 every time they want to read about the latest work of America’s scientists.

    Unable to convince the NIH to support their schemes, the powerful publishing lobby group – the Association of American Publishers – has sought Congressional relief. In 2009, the AAP induced Michigan Rep John Conyers to introduce the “Fair Copyright in Research Works Act” which would have ended the NIH Public Access Policy before it even got off the ground. Fortunately, that bill never left committee.

    But they are back at it. A new AAP backed bill – the “Research Works Act” – was just introduced by Reps Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Darrell Issa (R-CA). Its text is simple and odious:

    No Federal agency may adopt, implement, maintain, continue, or otherwise engage in any policy, program, or other activity that:

    (1) causes, permits, or authorizes network dissemination of any private-sector research work without the prior consent of the publisher of such work; or

    (2) requires that any actual or prospective author, or the employer of such an actual or prospective author, assent to network dissemination of a private-sector research work.

    This bill would not only end the NIH’s Public Access Policy, but it would forbid any effort on the part of any agency to ensure taxpayer access to work funded by the federal government.

    1. James

      Nice. ObamaCare compels us to submit to the whims of the private sector SickCare for profit insurance system, while this denies inquiries into research that may have informed and/or been ignored by said system in making decisions on our eventual outcomes. And what part of totalitarian do we not yet meet? Oh yeah, we still get to bitch about it publicly. Small comfort that.

  11. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Speculation about oil.

    For me, I don’t have to speculate about whether it’s too high or not. The price of oil is too high.

    On the one hand, it will deter oil consumtion (and some psychopathic speculators will say they are doing it to save the environment, priding themsleves as ‘greeen speculators,’ even if they have to do a little warmongering), but on the other hand, it will hurt any economic recovery we hope to have.

    1. James

      Surely you can’t be serious ‘Beef! If oil were accurately priced as to its true value to society, which is to say that most or all of the costs of the US “War on Terror” (aka war on those who would deny us access to cheap oil) and all of the multitude of government subsidies to actual oil companies/terrorists were factored in, the cost would be MANY times higher. In truth, oil should be priced higher than gold. Its certainly MANY MORE times as valuable. Filled your tank with any gold lately?

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        James, all these things you listed, when properly accounted for, should make oil more expensive.

        I doubt oil speculators are not doing it to just benefit themselves.

    2. James

      And by the way, any hope of an economic recovery under the current system is an illusion based on smoke and mirrors. A dangerous illusion at that. Some have called it magic, many more have called it bullshit. Take your pick. I choose the latter.

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