Links 4/24/12

Meerkat society: Underdogs are best at problem-solving BBC


Volcano 40 miles east of Mexico City rumbles back to life ars technica. I once lived in St. Helens, Oregon, in a house that had great views of the then dormant volcano. We know how that movie ended.

‘I’ve had my phone tapped’: Susan Sarandon claims ‘government is watching her’… and reveals she was denied White House security clearance Daily Mail (May S)

Noah Wyle, Former ‘ER’ Star, Arrested In D.C. Protest Huffington Post. The more actors get arrested, the more socially acceptable it will become.

Keystone XL East? Enbridge’s Line 9 Tar Sands Pipeline Steve Horn, Firedoglake (Carol B)

Desperate Syrians mob UN mission Financial Times

Europe’s Austerity Backlash Gathers Steam in Merkel Test Bloomberg

Europe sets course for perpetual recession MacroBusiness

Backlash against eurozone austerity Financial Times. Wonder why it took this long.

Judging by Ireland, Spanish banks to take a lot more credit writedowns Credit Writedowns

A World Adrift Jeffrey Sachs, Project Syndicate

The politico-housing complex comes! MacroBusiness. Australia is about to copy a bad American model

Federal judge complicity Glenn Greenwald

Why a ‘TARP Vote’ and A Market Crash Might Not Even Get a Debt Ceiling Deal CNBC

A chance meeting with Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren VastLeft (Lambert). I could never in a million years be a politician.

Occupy Movement Looks Toward Political Conventions New York Times

What Could Your Organization Do With Its Own Radio Station? Black Agenda Report (Lambert)

Why economists should not ignore affirmative action Karla Hoff, VoxEU

Jailed for $280: The Return of Debtors’ Prisons CBS MoneyWatch (Lambert). This is also an abuse of taxpayers, since your tax dollars are now being used to subsidize private (and typically scummy) debt collection agencies. Credit Slips suggested having local police and sheriffs charge the debt collectors $1000 for this service.

Debtors filing lawsuits over aggressive collection tactics McClatchy (Chuck L)

University of Florida Eliminates Computer Science Department, Increases Athletic Budgets. Hmm. Forbes (Lambert)

Weighing the Legal Ramifications of the Wal-Mart Bribery Case New York Times

MF Customers Press J.P. Morgan for Funds Wall Street Journal

‘Tainted,’ but Still Serving on Corporate Boards New York Times

Setting the Record Straight: The Housing Bubble Lie Abigail Caplovitz Field, Firedoglake

Antidote du jour (also from Abigail Field):

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    1. Valissa

      Will you settle for some cartoons?

      The original cat scan, part 1

      The original cat scan, part 2

      Another way to scan a cat

      Grumble, grumble

      Lolcat scan

        1. Klassy!

          Insane isn’t it? There was one comment, the gist of which was that the nursing home should have kept him locked in. It is very sad that people believe that a 49 year old man of sound mind and no threat to others should forfeit his right to come and go simply because he requires care related to his end stage renal disease.

  1. SidFinster

    Hmmm….I am all in favor of making the Occupy protests more socially acceptable, but at the same time I am against anything that makes self-important Hollywood types even more self-important. (Miss Sarandon, I am talking to you…)

    Decisions, decisions.

    1. chris

      well… self-important is a quite a bit more interesting than tiny-minded. “decisions, decisions” indeed, huh?

  2. JTFaraday

    “University of Florida Eliminates Computer Science Department, Increases Athletic Budgets. Hmm.”

    Hallelujah! The work jubilee cometh!

    1. lambert strether

      The counter-argument is that the football “department” has a standalone funding source. To which my response is that the University should take away all their profit, and it is profit, in return for the use of their brand and their facilities. Or just let them go and turn pro.

      1. Anonymous Jones

        Ah, every solution provided on this site is always so obvious!

        I get that *you* don’t care if “student-athletes”* (ha ha) go straight to the pros, but other people do. I get that you think those people have their priorities out of whack, but you do understand that it’s not going to change, right? It’s like saying, “I really think the sun should rise in the West this morning. That’s the way it should work.” Not gonna happen. People have different preferences. We have to learn to live with those preferences (or we could always go the extermination route, I guess).

        If the University started starving the athletic programs by charging for its “brand” the profits from the two major sports would wither because the programs would suffer recruiting losses and be beaten out in the search for the coaches (who are critical in these endeavors and are arguably underpaid, even though they earn a shocking amount of money). It’s a competitive world. Sure, the large universities and monopolist NCAA act like an oligopsony with respect to the players, but they compete hard against each other for recruits despite their “salary-cap” rules (which masquerade as a moral stand of “amateur ideals” and “education” for the “student-athletes”*). You want to even think about changing this system, you have to kill the NCAA, and you would have to use the government to do it.

        Anyway, on a separate point, the Gators have excellent men’s football, basketball and baseball teams and feed many “student-athletes”* to lucrative pro careers.

        Don’t get me wrong, I kinda find it sick and perverted in some ways too, but the athletic program is sending a lot more of the matriculated to high paying jobs than the computer science program is (I’m sure you know what has happened to wages in that industry over the last ten years).

        *copyright NCAA

        1. tom allen

          If they’d pay the kids decent salaries for the money they bring in….

          But then, that’s like saying if the science departments paid grad students decent salaries for the research they did.

          If only there were unions….. (Hint hint.)

        2. LucyLulu

          For those who aren’t big football fans, Tim Tebow (the quarterback who gets down on one knee and thanks God when his team scores, recently traded from the Denver Broncos to the NY Jets) graduated from UF.

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        I assume profit means after deducting expense payments for brand and the use of facilities.

        To take away that profit for brand and use of facilities would be double jeopardy.

        But if the total revenue, instead of just profit, is to be taken away, that would be fine too. Then, the student-athletes would probably be playing in some kind of developmental leagues, to be set up by the forever-profit-seeking professional teams, like it’s done with most of the young baseball prospects. They can still go on to have their high paying jobs this way. The studious ones can get their college degrees either in the offseason or through the internet.

        Uninversities, then, can return to being universities teaching things like, creativity is not about paying for paintings to be hung on the wall (even hedge fund managers can do that), but living your own creative life, and beiing physically fit is not about worshipping fellow student-athelete gods, but exercising your own body.

        1. tom allen

          Well, you can live your own creative life while simultaneously worshipping the student athlete gods. Believe me, I’ve knelt down in front of a few of the studly boys in my time. ;-)

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            I know a few who double-majored in creativity and student athlete god worshiping.

            They are quite good at worshiping their gods in many creative ways.

  3. Bill the Psychologist

    Welcome to the club Susan Sarandon.

    I’m a former Federal employee who was a minor whistleblower, and my phone and internet are being monitored.

    I also live here in Eastern Virginia, about 5 miles from a CIA training base, Camp Peary.

    My local Crimewatch organization has gone vigilante, and they are using high tech to harass me with HyperSonic sound that wakes me at night, and other kinds of harassment (which is actually psychological torture).

    I realize that making these statements makes me sound as if I have a psychiatric problem, but I have no history and nothing that would cause such an illness.

    I’ve emailed the FBI, and the ACLU, but have had no response, and thus can’t be sure that my email got through.

    Our country is in great danger with these Patriot Act allowances of domestic terrorism and torture. I am not important in any sense as someone who needs to be monitored, this is simply (I think) a case of local govt contractors with lots of money and no oversight.

    BTW, I can prove none of this, and there is a policeman who lives down the street, so they’re not interested.

    1. NoteForBill

      Hey Bill,

      Check out, for a different perspective on what you’re experiencing.

    1. F. Beard

      A universal bailout would go to veterans too and greatly improve the jobs market.

      And genuine capitalism, instead of banker fascism, would eliminate the temptation to “military Keynesianism” over time.

      45,000,000 hits on Google for war + bankers.

      1. skippy

        Stop dressing up your love of corporatism ( genuine capitalism in your book ) with crumbs for the afflicted, that is, how we got here in the first place…. remember?.

        Bankers equal war[?], what world were you born in? War IS Capital business, Smedley Darlington Butler is just one data point. Hay the near coup of FDR was by the most powerful industrialists of this time. Funny how industrialists always lean toward fascism…eh.

        Banksters, industrialists and corporations all share the same mentality, so fiddling with mediums of exchange accomplishes nothing. This is a human problem, one that is acerbated by the Skinner box like structure of these institutions. Your love of these entity’s, for the reward, you accept as gods gifts… is a tell.

        Skippy…. the GOM BP video above must be a love nest in your mind.

  4. Lil'D

    I just cannot get “Team America” out of my head when I read about Hollywood folks going activist on any issue.
    Kind of like trusting a baseball player to be an expert on pharmaceuticals. (oh, wait…)

    1. aet

      Yeah, inknown people have much easier acpabilities for raising issues that need public discussion, right?

      If not the “Hollywood types” for whom you express YOUR disdain, what other public figures are there from whom you expect to hear about….

      Hey wait a sec – why aren’t you discussing the particular issue they are trying to draw attention to, rather than expressing your personal disdain for ALL “famous messengers”…aaaah soooo!

      OK – from now on, you’re “The Deflector” , at least in MY book. ‘Nuff said.

  5. jsmith

    Mr. Sachs, still wearing the hair shirt and trying to get us to believe in you once again as a viable voice of reason, eh?

    I mean really.

    From the article:

    “The US has shifted rapidly from global leadership to that kind of free riding, seeming to bypass the stage of global cooperation.”

    Oh you mean the kind of “cooperation” the US demonstrated in the past?

    Y’know, like back at the end of the USSR where we sent advisers – nudge, wink – in to help sell state industries for pennies on the dollar to the private sector, plunged their entire economy into a depression and established an oligarchic and mafia-economy that still exists to this day in large part?

    THAT kind of US cooperation, Mr. Sachs?

    More from the article:

    “The IMF/World Bank meetings remind us of an overarching truth: our highly interconnected and crowded world has become a highly complicated vessel. If we are to move forward, we must start pulling in the same direction, even without a single captain at the helm.”

    Pulling in the same direction, eh?

    Resource constraints? Food shortages?

    First, I love how Mr. Sachs poo-poos the idea that financial speculation really isn’t a if not THE major factor in commodity prices sky-rocketing.

    Demand is getting crushed worldwide especially in the US and has been for the last 4 years but somehow we’re supposed to believe that it’s an INCREASE in demand that is causing higher commodity prices?


    Secondly, Mr. Sach is now a born-again prophet of sustainability – yes, stifle your laughter – but instead of promoting his gospel hard-core in the US he brings us to more one-world government solutions, solutions in which the burden for the world’s problems somehow involve everyone equally – i.e., we all have to work together – instead of targeting the runaway and disproportionate use of resources that occurs in the US.

    Hey, Jeff, why not call for state control of utilities in the US so we could shut down the polluters and refit our economy away from oil?

    Hey, Jeff, why not call for breaking up of huge agribusinesses in the US?

    Hey, Jeff, why not call for the end of our inverted totalitarian system of governance here in the US?

    Hey, Jeff, shut your effing piehole, you’re yesterday’s has-been and no one wants to hear your Neo-liberal 2.0 push for even more centralization of our economies, you disaster capitalist bastard!

    1. petridish

      Well said, especially the “pie hole” part. I’m re-reading The Shock Doctrine and find Sachs’ current schtick both diabolical and terrifying.

    2. Hugh

      Jeffrey Sachs shows the limits of the neoliberal mind. You could call it the IMF frame of mind where the world, and your country’s place in it, is measured by GDP. A small self-sufficient country with a happy, contented citizenry, if such a thing existed would not be fit to piss upon in Jeffrey Sachs land. So it is no surprise that kleptocracy, wealth inequality, and class war do not rate a mention from him. Rather it is all vast themes: multipolarity, global warming, resource constraints that explain why the world is as f*cked up as it is. These are all great excuses for doing nothing because they A)are plausible sounding, B)direct attention away form what is really going on, and C)require an impossible international consensus to do anything about.

  6. douglasbtrain

    HaHa! Isnt it great that Florida dropped computer science?
    Re: U Florida

    Isn’t this the culmination of the right wing dream? Let’s run the univeristy like a business! The customers aren’t demanding computer science. The customers want sports. Sports make money. These stories would be very different if the department being cut wasn’t assumed to economically important. I can only imagine the giddiness of the right wing (and the complacency of liberals) if the French department was eliminated.

    Anyway, there is probably a for profit school near Gainesville that offers computer science.

    1. LucyLulu

      This story makes me so angry. Damn Rick Scott and GOP legislators who want to destroy education!!!

      I am a Gator alumni from back in the day, I’d rather not say when. Twenty years later I returned to get a computer science degree from an institution in another state. But when I went to UF it consistently ranked #1 on the list of best party schools. It didn’t make any other lists. If you had a pulse you were admitted. The football team would usually win one game every season, when they played some really small school, usually for homecoming (but Gator Growl, the pep rally was awesome). I remember well, I attended all of them, it was cheap amusement for students back then. Tuition was dirt cheap.

      Fast forward to 2007. I’d moved back to Florida. Rumor had it that UF was trying to become “Ivy League”. My daughter was graduating h.s. (refused to apply to UF because mom went there and wanted her to go, gave up free scholarship and went out-of-state w/dad’s encouragement, racking up six figure debt instead) and had friends with straight A’s who were getting turned away. My older daughter, who lives a few states away, was best friends with a couple who moved to Gainesville to attend grad school at UF.Required SAT’s for admission were 1350+. Tuition was still dirt cheap, in-state $3700/yr., and free for those with Bright Futures scholarships. Both the football and basketball teams had just won the NCAA championships. UF was #1 on US News & World Reports list of Best Education for the Money.

      At some point, somebody had worked hard to turn UF around from a glorified degree-churning warehouse and into a first class state institution. I’ve watched as Rick Scott got elected, first as he sold the economics dept of FSU to the Koch Bros, and then as he slashed funding to the university system, hoping he wouldn’t undo what I’m sure was hard work to bring real academic standards to UF. It looks like it’s coming to fruition. UF is being destroyed. An institution with faculty that doesn’t do research and no TA’s is called a community college, not a university.

      Residents in Florida complain about their property taxes being too high. With the collapse of the bubble I’m sure they do have budget issues. (It’s because of overpaid teachers and their pensions, of course.) They have no state income tax. Cry me a river. The same conservative politicians who complain about fancy college educated progressive ‘elites’ wouldn’t be where they are without their own college degrees, and you can be damn sure their kids go to college. Yet they want to deny the opportunity to the masses. I don’t get it. Do they think it was our high school educated workforce that led us to become the greatest nation in the world? True, as conservatives argue, Gates and Jobs didn’t have college degrees. But when Apple and Microsoft go recruiting, they sure as hell require them from their entry-level workers (at least in the U.S.). Even most nursing jobs (my original degree) are now requiring bachelor degrees, and definitely all the more desirable ones.

      1. LucyLulu

        I turned down a programming job offer with IBM Global about 10 years ago. I didn’t want to put in 60 hr weeks. That’s the one the article says does the most business. I’m sure they’ll offshore all the programming jobs if they haven’t already. Perhaps I’m biased but Indian and Asian programmers are NOT of the same caliber as those we have here in the US. They may have the rote technical skills but they don’t have the same problem solving and analytical skills. They can’t think outside the box. I think it may be a cultural thing.

        I’m reminded of Dell Computers a few years ago. 24/7 tech support included with the purchase of their computers was in major part responsible for Dell’s competitive edge. Then they sent their tech support to India, both for their business and personal customers. The complaints started pouring in. Customers couldn’t understand the support personnel’s English and were being given wrong advice, or read answers to questions from scripts. They ended up bringing their business tech support back home for fear of losing the market. Their personal PC business suffered and they lost their number one spot in the market to HP.

        The blogger you linked to is right. Sometimes you get what you pay for. Now would be a good time to sell IBM stock. Trying to squeeze out every last penny of profit, they’re going to turn the company into a has-been. Especially in this industry, either you innovate or you die.

  7. b.

    “Housing Bubble Lie” from today’s links is essential reading in my view (quote below). The only thing missing: a proper alternative. It wasn’t a Housing Bubble, it was a Loan Bubble – mortages, down-payment loans, HELOCs. The product that bubbled was loans – not houses. I wonder whether houses were ever necessary – surely there are fraudulent loans out there that are not backed by any real estate at all?

    You could call it a Debt Bubble, but that emphasizes the borrower, not the lender. A Loan Bubble driven by debt securitization and fee extraction it is – unless somebody has a better suggestion?

    Setting the Record Straight: The Housing Bubble Lie
    Abigail Caplovitz Field, Firedoglake

    “We didn’t have a (customer demand-driven) housing bubble in the ordinary sense because consumers don’t buy houses; banks buy houses. The housing market cannot undergo a demand-driven bubble without lender collusion and complicity. Of course we got a housing bubble because lender behavior changed, not because consumer behavior did. And we can see it clearly by looking at what happened to underwriting and appraisals.
    “We got a housing bubble because the lenders’ historical incentives to regulate consumer demand, ensuring accurate property valuations and real ability to repay, evaporated. Why did lenders’ incentives change? That’s a long story for another day, but it boils down to this: lenders no longer faced consequences if the loans weren’t repaid. They’d offloaded that risk to securities investors.”

    1. Susan the other

      I agree this was essential information. Thanks to Abigail for reminding us of the truth of the matter. No matter how heartbreaking, we all need to be reminded of just how blatantly we were ripped off. Also interesting in today’s stuff was the comment from Chris Whalen (Yves’ piece) wherein he talks about the untenable position of the banks and quotes a colleague saying “…somebody had to buy all that stuff from China.” He also points out, clearly, that it is the strict but unspoken rule to not ever say anything about housing if you are connected with banking. I always suspected this was the case as they blacked out Volcker 3 times on Charlie Rose whenever he started to address the situation.

  8. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    The more actors get arrested, the more socially acceptable it will become.


    I assume that actor we have here belongs to the social 1% and the financial 1%. Interesting that you can be in the financial 1% and still are a political 99%er. The tent is big enough.

    Speaking of the social 1% vs. the social 99%, it shouldn’t be more acceptable just because the social one-percenters do it.

  9. Max424

    “The 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens in Washington State brought Spokane, a city of 200,000 located 350 miles away from the volcano, to a stand-still for months. It clogged the streets with ash that would cloud whole blocks with the passing of a single car.”

    350 miles away, and Mexico City is only forty. Wow.

    1. ambrit

      Dear Max;
      Also, there are a whole lot more people living in the Valley of Mexico, of which the Federal District is a part, then the nine million mentioned in the article! If the volcane goes like the one in Colombia did a few years ago, the results will be horrific. No wonder the ancient peoples considered volcanos to be entrances to the Underworld, with all that implies.

    1. LucyLulu

      They think JPM is going to return their money? What have they been smoking the last three years?

  10. Hugh

    The Florida University story is another example of how distorted higher education has become. Rather than improving lives and society by providing a liberal education and creating an informed citizenry, universities became mills for turning out trained workers for industry. Now they aren’t even that. They are becoming so expensive, even the mid-level schools, that only our elites can afford them. Education and training are increasingly co-incidental. What it really is about is class marking and class separation, credentialing in other words. Look at it this way and building up a football program and getting rid of a computer sciences department are perfectly natural consequences of universities’ devolution.

    1. LucyLulu

      As stated in a previous comment, UF is VERY reasonable. As of 2006, a year’s undergrad tuition was $3750 for Florida residents. Admission also had become quite competitive requiring one to be an A-B student with a very good score on college entrance exams, just short of those required for the Ivy Leagues.

      1. Roland

        I don’t know if it’s the case at UF, but when a corporate-oriented university has low tuition rates for local residents, what tends to happen is an emphasis on recruiting out-of-region students, who pay much higher rates.

        Many Canadian universities are trying to change the composition student body to include as many international students as possible, since the internationals pay up to five times as much as the locals.

    2. LucyLulu

      I would also argue that a four year computer science degree is hardly training for industry. It is math intensive and far more theoretical in its approach and typically is housed in the engineering department. If one wants to be the network administrator at a local company, one can be more suitably trained at a community college or tech school. A four year graduate would be more likely to work on improving performance of processors, optimizing algorithms for efficiency, or designing security for storage of data on the cloud.

  11. Valissa

    Excellent Danah Boyd talk at Webstock… lots of great commentary about the power of propaganda and how social media actually gets used, versus geek ideals. It’s very politically conscious (in the sense of discussing power relations) for a tech talk.

    Culture of Fear + Attention Economy = ?!?! (~38 min.)

    Print version of Danah’s similar SXSW talk… “The Power of Fear in Networked Publics” (not a transcript)

    1. LucyLulu

      Steve Kroft has come to the same conclusion as the readers on NC. There will be no prosecutions on Wall Street. Did you watch all five of the tapes? I only watched the two-part one from last December on Countrywide and Citi, it was enough listening to Lanny Breuer saying the DOJ had been pursuing cases as aggressively as any time in history and didn’t have enough evidence to bring cases using Sarbanes-Oxley. He claimed this despite there being proof that Citi’s CEO and CFO were warned about 80% loans not meeting guidelines by the head of loan underwriting (followed by the employee being told not to come to office anymore) and also warned about inadequate controls by the head of OCC, both in the final few months before the collapse. DOJ never even bothered to interview the head of fraud investigations at Countrywide, who’d been fired for whistleblowing about the rampant fraud she’d uncovered. Still, Breuer comes up with a line similar to Obama, about greedy and immoral behavior not equating to prosecutable crimes under S-O. By Breuer’s standards, the CEO could swear out an affidavit witnessed by the Vatican that he was intentionally and deceptively signing a false financial statement and it still wouldn’t qualify as a crime nor would the evidence be sufficient. What a sleazeball!

  12. Cap'n Magic

    Ex-spy cheif: Destrorying CIS tapes purged ‘Ugly visuals’:

    “WASHINGTON (AP) — The retired top CIA officer who ordered the destruction of videos showing waterboarding says in a new book that he was tired of waiting for Washington’s bureaucracy to make a decision that protected American lives.
    Jose Rodriguez, who oversaw the CIA’s once-secret interrogation and detention program, also lashes out at President Barack Obama’s administration for calling waterboarding torture and criticizing its use.
    “I cannot tell you how disgusted my former colleagues and I felt to hear ourselves labeled ‘torturers’ by the president of the United States,” Rodriguez writes in his book, “Hard Measures.”
    The book is due out April 30. The Associated Press purchased a copy Tuesday.
    The chapter about the interrogation videos adds few new details to a narrative that has been explored for years by journalists, investigators and civil rights groups. But the book represents Rodriguez’s first public comment on the matter since the tape destruction was revealed in 2007.
    That revelation touched off a political debate and ignited a Justice Department investigation that ultimately produced no charges. Critics accused Rodriguez of covering up torture and preventing the public from ever seeing the brutality of the CIA’s interrogations. Supporters hailed him as a hero who acted in the best interest of the country in the face of years of bureaucratic hand-wringing.
    The tapes, filmed in a secret CIA prison in Thailand, showed the waterboarding of terrorists Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Nashiri.”

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