Links 2/1/12

Apologies for thin links, up late posting.

Ranger uses stun gun on man walking dogs off-leash Associated Press (hat tip Lambert)

Pythons linked to Florida Everglades mammal decline BBC (hat tip reader John M)

Amazon misses sales expectations Financial Times

Peak oil and growth MacroBusiness

Whistleblowers Expose FDA’s Illegal Surveillance of Employees Whistleblowers (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Europe is stuck on life support Martin Wolf, Financial Times

European Policy By Sloth MacroMan (hat tip reader Scott)

G.O.P. Donors Showing Thirst to Oust Obama in November New York Times

Lilly Ledbetter Did Not Alter Pay Equity Gap Whatsoever Dave Dayen, Firedoglake (hat tip reader Carol B)

The Best Alternative Financial Blogs CNBC (hat tip reader furzy mouse). Shows the financial blogosphere is still alive and kicking.

French banks would come to Britain to avoid tax: Cameron EU Business (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Low rates: the drug we can all do without Satyajit Das, Financial Times

The Fetish for Liquidity (and Reform of the Financial System) Randy Wray, Credit Writedowns

Foreclosures Draw Private Equity as U.S. Sells Homes Bloomberg. Wish I had time to post on this. I’ve worked on the buy side (PE and hedgies) and I’d recommend against this strategy big time. They might get a few initial deals at a super discount BUT residential real estate is a huge hassle to manage and to earn PE returns, I strongly suspect they need decent to good home price appreciation. Remember when investment banks bought servciers and subprime originators in late 2006 and 2007, convinced they were buying on a dip? They were trying to unload servicers to hedgies in 2008 (I know because I had to discourage one in a major way). Just because something is cheap does not mean it might not get cheaper.

In Atlanta, Housing Woes Reflect Nation’s Pain New York Times. As indicated a week or so, when we questioned Krugman’s call of a housing bottom, the really big actual and shadow inventory argues for continuing price pressure in most markets.

Supplemental and Friend-Of-The-Court Briefs Filed In Eaton v. Federal National Mortgage Ass’n (Fannie Mae) (hat tip if my lousy memory is correct reader Tim as well as Deontos) Massachusetts Real Estate Blog. Ooh, this is a doozy.

A Debt Market’s Slow Recovery Is Burdened by New Regulation New York Times. OMG, is this disingenuous. Argues that CLOs help raise capital “for many businesses.” Well, if you include PE firms, that might be right. CLOs pre the crisis were used heavily for takeover-related lending.

Holder & Obama’s Propaganda is “Belied by a Troublesome Little Thing Called Facts” Bill Black, New Economic Perspectives

Inequality, Mobility, Opportunity Mark Thoma

Guest post from OWS: Too Big to Fail is Too Big to Ignore FT Alphaville. Today’s must read! I know the people involved in this group and they are a good bunch. Congrats.

Antidote du jour:

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  1. Foppe

    Felix is “with Eisinger on this one”, but can’t really be bothered going into specifics. (He starts out with what seems to me mostly a non sequitur about DeMarco’s ‘obstructionist fhfa’.) Aside from that, he’s really impressed by the ‘more inverse floaters retained equals more risk equals really irresponsible/conflict of interest’ argument.

    1. AliceS

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  2. DC Native

    The Park Ranger should have been arrested, not the man walking his dog without a leash. Excessive use of force. It’s a strange country; Joe Public has to abide by every little law, regulation, and ordinance out of fear of being tased, shot, arrested, or imprisoned, while the folks who do things like, 1) steal billions of dollars through crony/corrupt deals and practices, or 2) kill/sicken/injure hundreds or thousands through pollution, hazardous working conditions, etc., can merely pay a fine (if that) and go on their merry way. And if you are a top politician or government official…forget about it. Kill, maim, and torture whoever you please; just so long as you don’t cheat on your wife.

    Oh, and if you protest this two-/three-tiered “justice” system in a borderline effective manner, you will be jailed and then demonized by the press and government. Subsequently, folks who would otherwise agree with your point of view now consider you a “dirty hippie” and “know-it-all liberal” who is deserving of nothing but disdain. And since you are a hippie and a liberal, these folks reflexively adopt a position that is directly opposed to your position.

    Which, conveniently enough, serves to uphold the very two-/three-tiered “justice” system that serves no one but the 1%.

    America: a weird blend of authoritarianism, ignorance, envy, legalized criminality, and faux-moralism.

      1. Jim Sterling

        This poem was written during the age of enclosure, when common land was being declared the property of rich people, by acts of parliament put up by rich people:

        The law locks up the man or woman
        Who steals the goose from off the common
        But leaves the greater villain loose
        Who steals the common from off the goose.

        The law demands that we atone
        When we take things we do not own
        But leaves the lords and ladies fine
        Who take things that are yours and mine.

        The poor and wretched don’t escape
        If they conspire the law to break;
        This must be so but they endure
        Those who conspire to make the law.

        The law locks up the man or woman
        Who steals the goose from off the common
        And geese will still a common lack
        Till they go and steal it back.

        What libertarians don’t get about “respect for property” is that property is just what a legal record somewhere says is someone’s property. It isn’t a law of physics.

    1. Another Gordon

      just so long as you don’t cheat on your wife.

      Actually even that is allowed if you are a GOP Presidential candidate.

    2. YankeeFrank

      Yes, the US has gone to seed. All of our worst qualities have been encouraged and our better nature is severely suppressed.

      1. Neo-Realist

        There’s no reward for showing our better nature and the ends, usually financial in nature, justify any means neccessary.

    3. noe

      I agree with the comment about a natural number of people with the specific qualities necessary for police work.

      It’s a very exact business. The wrong sort sign up for military and police work and we empower sadists and psychopaths.

      I have never known a normal cop or ex military. But, I admit I avoid them because I think they are para military whackos.

      That said, there are good cops, but not enough of them for this police state. It IS a police state, and until it happens to you, it’s easy to shrug it off.

      I had a relative spend a night in jail and they came out of the experience hating police and prison guards. NO biggie. A simple paperwork problem. But one encounter, and they KNOW the system is sick and twisted, with psychos manning the policing system.

      1. René

        “Clearly, international fascism will never be vanquished by political manoeuvres. It can only be vanquished by
        the natural organization of work, love and knowledge on an international scale.”

        – page 8

    4. bmeisen

      If the sign says please tether your dog then please tether your dog.

      IMO too many dog owners are deluded about their own abilities as owners, thinking that they can compensate for the limitations of a dog’s life in a single-family suburban home by driving over to a park twice a week and letting it run free for a half-hour. Owners get their jollies, texting (Uh-oh, did Rover just dump over there where people like to walk?) and in between secretly congratulating themselves for flaunting the law, and indulging in a little virtuous-owner fantasy.

      Of course the ranger shouldn’t have done what she did, and owners should keep their dogs tethered where the signs say so.

  3. bob

    “The White House has issued a statement in which they refuse to comment on the petition to investigate Chris Dodd for bribery from the MPAA to pass legislation. The reason given: ‘because it requests a specific law enforcement action.'”

    No specific law enforment actions are allowed. Huge, generalized law enforement actions, roundups and regular body cavity searches will continue as planned.

    Now bend over….

    1. Dale

      Chris Dodd is just trying to save up as much money as he can before he retires to his loverly estate in Ireland.

      Sellout scumbag.

  4. Abelenkpe

    Government, economy, environment bad bad bad. All attempts to make things better just a sham. Today’s news just the same as yesterday’s.

    1. Procopius

      I think I recognize that quotation. Isn’t it from the Rhode papyrus, dated to about 1400 BCE? Some interesting examples of mathematical calculations in that papyrus.

    1. Cynthia

      Iran hasn’t attacked anyone in two hundred years. Compare that to the history of the US for the last two hundred years. Their government may be brutal and oppressive, but what makes anyone think that ours isn’t? In the end, it matters not at all if Iran has a nuclear bomb or not, though Israel of course feels threatened by just about anything you can name. This doesn’t mean we should shoot ourselves in the foot just to please Israel, even though that is exactly what we have been doing. In the end, this is all about Israel’s undue influence on US politics, it’s time to let Israel go. Unfortunately that isn’t going to happen, so sooner or later we will be attacking Iran. If this is precipitated by the US or a unilateral attack by Israel (which would draw the US into war with Iran), the results shall be the same.

  5. AccruedDisinterest

    Ass’n Fannie…you should trademark this, asap.

    Move over Victoria’s Secret, Ass’n Fannie’s on your tail.

  6. YankeeFrank

    Re Eaton: since when do we decide the law based on how badly the powerful defendant will be damaged? What about the damage to the plaintiffs/homeowners? Of course corporations are more important than people so we should always defer to their pain. The western world is headed for revolution. The more the powerful insist on turning us into China, with its slave workers and overbearing corporate state, the closer we get…

    1. taunger

      Generally the MA SJC is pretty good at looking at human interests as much if not more so than corp interests. the link leads to a post written from a pro-corp view, but if you talk to homeowners in MA, especially those looking to sell props bought during the boom, they are very wary of SJC opinions that might cloud title like the Eaton case. It is not clear how the equities fall.

    2. Procopius

      Well, on the one hand, in Chinese history in several epochs the most powerful elites were eunuchs. The theory was that they would be loyal to the Emperor rather than their families. Didn’t work, of course, but at least they had to suffer to get their power. On the other hand, most of the time it was the educated, same as what they’re claiming here now. I’ve always thought one reason the Chinese respected education so much was because they recognized that through most of their history it was a license to steal. Now they have wieespread literacy, so they have to limit the licenses some other way.

  7. Max424

    Rumplestatskin: “Without a new technological advancement in oil extraction, the chances of a renewed growth in production are slim…”

    The world peak for discovery of new oil fields occurred 48 years ago, in 1964. So for the most part, we know where the oil is, and we know how to get it. New technology will help only at the margins. What’s necessary to maintain even current production levels, is constant and massive new capital formation.

    Now, among the great nation-states (forget private actors), who has access to massive amounts of capital? Yup, only fiat enhanced China (the fiat-less US & Europe, however, are helpless in all matters related to capital formation, because they are dead broke Capitalists).

    Rumplestatskin: “…the expectation is for the plateau to continue for the immediate future.”

    The immediate future? That’s fairly indeterminate. With the exponentially voracious oil/appetite of China now on-line, I personally believe the plateau is ending; as I write this.

    Of the thousands of peak oil pieces and video presentations I’ve read and seen, this is the sharpest and clearest, if not the most comprehensive. Even though I disagree with his relatively optimistic conclusions, I consider Chris Martenson one brilliant and steady dude:

    Yves, I have two charts on the wall above my computer; Hubbert’s Peak, and a Crude Oil Price chart similar to the one linked to in the piece:

    I look at Hubbert’s Peak for perspective when the denial, lies, propaganda and White Noise of the New Gilded Age get to be too much, and I glance at the Oil Price chart when I need to remind myself of the true guiding historical forces of the last 50 years.*

    *Can you see the self-satisfied Chairman Greenspan luxuriating in his hot tub during the Great Moderation? I can. Look at the low, low oil prices from ’85 to 2000. How ’bout union-busting Volcker and his demand crushing 18% interests rates? It’s right there. The ’79 to ’81 oil spike.

    Our cruise to victory in WWII**, the affordable Marshall Plan (the affordable GI Bill!), our unmatched-in-history decades long post-war boom, the volatile 70’s, the Carter Doctrine, the recessions (particularly ’81 and the one that got Bush Sr, in ’89),the “economic successes” of Reagan and Clinton, the Great Moderation, the 2008 Crash and the end of “real” growth; (the coming war?) it’s all there.

    **Unlimited access to cheap oil and the fact that America produced 6 of the 8 billion barrels of oil used during the conflict is the reason the US won the last world war so damn easily.

    1. reslez

      What’s necessary to maintain even current production levels, is constant and massive new capital formation.

      Wait, you start by pointing out the challenges to continued oil production, then you say what’s really necessary is new capital?

      You realize capital is a human fiction, right? Energy is not. Energy is a hard limit. Energy is what limits production, not capital. “Capital” is whatever humans say it is. So are “debt” and “money”, wholly imagined by humans.

      You can’t fight nature. You can’t convince nature there’s more oil in the ground, or change its mind, or persuade it to let bygones by bygones. Humans confuse their map for the territory. Nature is the territory.

      1. Max424

        “You realize capital is a human fiction, right?”

        Yes I do. And right now, China has a monopoly on that fiction.

        For better or worse, oil is the only “bridge fuel” we have to a better tomorrow; a tomorrow where everything is powered by renewable electric –including (and especially) the globe’s incredibly extensive and complex transportation network.

        So if we have to use fictional money to buy the oil to build the infrastructure that will allow us to power the electric future of our dreams, then so be it.

        Note: In other words, we MUST obtain and use our last drops of oil wisely. Do I see this happening? No, I do not. My forecast is doom.

  8. b.

    Regarding Ranger Tazer: The AP reporting is another shining example of the completely desctructive “press” we have.

    Tasers were originally “sold” to the public as a substitute for “lethal” weapons, i.e. handguns and shotguns (and, in this strange age, assault rifles). Hence, the first question to ask about any use of a taser is whether or not the use of a gun would have been appropriate.
    Instead, we get this sleight of hand whereas “non-lethal” weapons – nonlethality being a debatable proposition for pepper spray, batons and stun guns alike – are now legitimate (but still not legal) means of “coercion of compliance”. In another familiar two-step, we also dance from “protect and serve” via “force protection at all cost” to “convenience”. Law enforcement is not compliance enforcement at leisure. Somehow, we are now having a police force celebrated on TV and in the theaters for their sarifice and heroism, while at the same time encountering them as one-man walking tanks with an apparent license to hands-off torture citizens into compliance with their every word. Instead of training on how to avoid escalation, we get plumbers that reflexively “short-circuit” the confrontation.

    But you will never see an AP stenographer ask a “spokesman” in the grinding wheels of authoritarian crowd control – usually a crowd of one, at that – just where this idea of “compliance” is enshrined in the law, let alone point out the dishonest con job police departments delivered when they asked the taxpayer for additional funds for these devices.

    Naturally, any attempt at civil disobedience will demonstrate just how well the taser – originally just another boondoggle in the profit extraction mill of the Militarized-Industrial Complex of “law” enforcement – is suited to disperse political expression that strives to actually accomplish something.

    1. Praedor

      It is my unchangeable belief that taser use by law enforcement should be treated identically to gun discharges. Law enforcement tasers and pepper spray need to have a counter on them that cannot be changed to indicate the device was used and how many times, etc. The officer discharging it should be put on administrative leave pending a FULL investigation of the use of the weapon. Weapon use administrative leaves must be WITHOUT PAY and last NO LESS than 1 full week. The investigation must not be in the hands of the enforcement office itself, but by a fully independent 3rd party. All proceedings from the investigation must be made 100% public.

      1. JCC

        I have a better idea… since they are non-lethal, why not just have a policy that any officer using pepper spray or taser be subjected to the same within 72 hours of discharge. Since they are non-lethal weapons it would be good training and a reminder of what exactly they just did. Only the masochists would survive.

        What baffles me the most, though, are the comments by witnesses and passerbys… “it seemed a little excessive”.

        Ya think?

  9. torture state

    Re institutionalized electrical torture (“stun guns”): The US has to face the Committee Against Torture this year, just in time for elections (gee, I wonder if the press corps will be birddogging candidates on the proceedings!). Here’s what the Committee said in ’96:

    “The Committee remains concerned about the extensive use by the State party’s law enforcement personnel of electro-shock devices which have caused in [sic] several deaths. The Committee is concerned that this practice raises serious issues of compatibility with article 16 of the Convention [the Convention against Torture]. (article 16) The State party should carefully review the use of electro-shock devices, strictly regulate their use, restricting it to substitution for lethal weapons and eliminate the use of these devices to restrain persons in custody, as this leads to breaches of article 16 of the Convention.”

    The Convention Against Torture, supreme law of the land, prerequisite for civilization, and all levels of our state use it for toilet paper. Remind me why I have to pretend this is a democracy and vote?

  10. AccruedDisinterest

    A couple sentences from that Bill Black article:

    “Roughly one-third of all mortgage loans originated in 2006 were liar’s loans and the incidence of fraud in liar’s loans is roughly 90 percent.) Worse, DOJ formed a “partnership” with the Mortgage Bankers Association (the MBA) – the trade association of the “perps” and adopted the MBA’s contrary-to-fact definition of “mortgage fraud” in which the lender originating the fraudulent mortgages is always the victim of the fraud.”

    We’re #*cked.

  11. fresno dan

    Whistleblowers Expose FDA’s Illegal Surveillance of Employees Whistleblowers (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

    Laws – unable to be enforced because all of the Federal managers are too venal to understand the plain meaning of words. I imagine the Cabinet officers understand the plain meaning, but don’t WANT the laws enforced…because that would destabilize the economy (shadow financial system)

    Fortunately, we live in a democracy,and we will soon have an election, and when Obama takes office I am hopeful there will be change….

    You say there was an election? Obama was elected!!?! THAT CAN’T BE…

  12. Middle Seaman

    Obama and Holder: the saddest fact about these two evil clowns is that the last three years were much worse for civil rights, rule of law, financial burden on the non rich and more. W was much better and that is nothing short of shocking.

  13. Paul Tioxon

    ‘Gasland’ Journalists Arrested At Hearing By Order Of House Republicans (UPDATES)

    UPDATE: 12:09 p.m. — Capitol Police public information officer Seargant Kimberly Schneider provided the following statement to HuffPost on the morning’s events:

    “At approximately 10:30 a.m. today, United States Capitol Police arrested Joshua Fox of Milanville, Pa. in room 2318 of the Rayburn House office building. He is charged with unlawful entry, and he is currently being processed at United States Capitol Police headquarters.”

    Ongoing coverage of the Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling and the attempts to shove natural gas down the throats of America that should be going electric.

  14. Susan the other

    About OWS and alternative banking. This was in the FT? I think it is a good faith effort to set things right. But I do not think any of the TBTFs will comply. They will probably profess to comply but they are already lobbying to keep their derivatives totally private. But still. An agreement like this would imply good faith on both sides. And it would give the naughtiest banks a window, 10 years, to launder their black books. It could work. In the end new regulations will have to hold the newly sanitized banks in place.

  15. be'emet

    Re Bill Black’s post on Neweconomicperspectives, itself a monumental procedure manual addressed to Schneiderman.

    Black reminds the total liabilities facing the TBTF banks in provable claims far exceeds their assets. Judgments potentially can wipe them out, and take down their insurers, their shareholders, and practically any person or institution worldwide involved in financial investment. Such a result I would effectively end capitalist civilization everywhere, unless an alternate money system were ready to be put in place. Conceivably, a plan – all readers of NC could describe at least one – could be implemented while the existing system crashes. But politically, the chances of success in real time might be counted on no hands. More likely, unimaginable thuggery would take control globally.

    It’s hard to suppose that Obama&Co remains unaware of these dangers. So perhaps one needs to reconsider what role they may have chosen for themselves. They may believe their role has to be to protect civilization from calamity, and damn the criminality and injustice. Ultimately they may find they have to choose to prosecute banksters individually for their crimes, while safeguarding the assets of the banking system. In this sense they remain toadies for the banks, but not necessarily for their managements.

  16. Susan the other

    Eaton v. Fannie. The Massachusetts Unity Law. The FHFA and Fannie et al are arguing that the note and the mortgage can be separated and foreclosure is still valid. This is the classic new argument, a false argument, which is being used to trash the law. In the end if the judge rules in favor of this position, he/she will leave the question wide open and resolve nothing. No one will know who the hell “owns” the note, and therefore the mortgage. This kind of ruling is total dereliction of judicial duty. And it would also trashe beyond repair the land title recording system. And therefore both “property” and “ownership” as we have known it.

  17. kevinearick

    Virtual Space Time: Intro

    So, VIX is signaling depression, and Corporate is at TDC (greatest profit, producing no marginal taxes, and the individual tax base has already rolled over). What goes in that chamber, through thought taxation, determines the outcome. You don’t want the spoil going back into the chamber on the margin at TDC. What is talent to labor to retained earnings to capital, at space time, aggregated?

    On the derivative side, it’s a stage; on the integral side, it’s a laboratory. Why does it surprise anyone that the country is running backwards at infinite QE? They already have negative relative interest rates. Is it a change of direction to extend QE infinitely in stages? Make them explicit; see what happens. The empire burns on anxiety.

    DC and Seattle are the most “educated” cities. They are also the most irrational. That’s it; build a “bunker buster” to dive deeper and deeper into the crust, and drop it on a target built for the occasion, and pay slaves to build the communication platform that controls the prison around it. Does it get any dumber than Boeing and Apple?

    Anyone who has ever entered university knows it’s a political farce. The empire manages garbage. Of course it wants as much garbage as possible, so it creates a positive feedback looking glass. If you tell the empire nothing, it can only see itself. America built the best university, fed by the best k-12 groupthink feedback system, to the end of the most disposable economy in History, which was rolled out globally, consuming everything in its path. Run as it might, its originator will not escape.

    Under DC architecture, memory competes against itself, losing every time, which makes perfect sense in an economic activity world, with a “free” market for select executives coming out of the university cohort, funded by slave labor and directed by trusts, with a conformance-based filter, which now begins at birth, all projecting future surpluses as the means to current deficits, including deleveraging interest on past debt. By all means, hand your children over to the State.

    The problem is the solution. They run in pairs, across the looking glass. It is the direction of money you care about at TDC, the resulting backlash of implicit credit at the implicit community level. As Tip provided, all politics is local (aggregated).

    Human behavior cannot be changed at the aggregate level in real time, except through distilled backlash, by changing the perception of time, what future participants pay attention to on the margin of their current event horizons. The older empires did not “die” for lack of resources. They were replaced to increase circulation.

    Language is the constraint, not oil. The pundits are using their new words, not that they understand them now. The equations come later. It’s always a sh**-show.

  18. Susan the other

    Sarkozy and Cameron. But… Gary Anderson at BI just said the UK banking industry is totally private and under the control of the Queen – not Parliament – and that Cameron is just blustering and can have no say either way. So Cameron says that the French banks will flee for refuge to Britain to avoid the French 1% financial transaction tax. What a soap opera. The French have in turn defamed the UK by Sarakozy’s insult that Britain has very little industry: translation everything in Britain is a financial deal – all their “industry” is financialization. And Cameron is denying this implied slander. In fact the UKs financial industry has seen the writing on the wall and is aggressively partnering up for exclusive deals with Hong Kong. And who knows where else?

  19. LeonovaBalletRusse

    When those pythons in Florida run out of *mammals* in the wild, those Republicans will be *next* in the food chain. Take note: an elderly woman in a posh *retirement community* in Georgia was eaten by an alligator on the premises.

    1. FaustCarton

      LBR, always read your comments and follow your links. Thanks. This reminds me of the great madman Hunter S. Thompson’s quote ( from memory )- ‘Civilisation stops at the waterline, after that we all enter the food chain, and not always near the top!’.

  20. Carl Miller

    I live in Moss Beach a few miles away from Montara – has the name of the officer been released?

  21. Max424

    re: “…attempts to shove natural gas down the throats of an America that should be going electric.”

    Couldn’t agree more. Renewables, MMT (were going to need money), and going fully electric are humanity’s last hope.

    The idea of natural gas as a “bridge fuel” is nonsense. If you scale up natural gas for use as a major transportation fuel, you’ll find it’s half-life is way less than oil, which is saying something, because the Age of Oil is coming to an end, and you’ll have wasted precious years and thrown away trillions of dollars in the process.

    An even forgetting a Poison Factor that would make Cormac McCarthy blush, shale gas is fool’s gold. You can’t build a long term, national energy policy around a hit or miss industry that’s in it for a quick profit, and if doesn’t get it, will immediately pack up and say fuck it.

    Besides, Obama has been lying. There is nowhere near 100 years of shale gas left. It’s more like twenty years, maybe; and that’s if we use it only as a niche fuel.

    1. kevinearick

      if they want $100 oil/gas, it’s $100 oil they will get…the market prices in to the last fool…

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