Links 4/4/12

Dodo Extinction Tied To Muddy Swamp On Mauritius, Fossils Show Science Now (hat tip reader Carol B)

Naked French Academic Found Dead in NYC Hotel Room Gawker

Gene clue to post-traumatic stress disorder risk BBC

Japan’s Strongest Storm Since 1959 Slams Into Tokyo Region Bloomberg

Murdoch resigns as BSkyB chairman Financial Times

Secret justice plan crumbles: Clegg says he’ll block it, report by MPs and peers damns it and now ministers are close to a U-turn Daily Mail (hat tip reader May S)

Dutch boy’s doodle steals prize limelight Financial Times. Reader Lee S: “As good as anything Draghi has come up with.”

Video: Shortlist on the Wolfson Economics Prize for eurozone contingency planning Edward Harrison

IMF rattles tin for more money Guardian

Rick Perry criticises UK initiative to influence US climate sceptics Guardian (hat tip reader John L)

What will be the outcome of the United States Supreme Court hearings in June regarding the Individual Mandate of the Federal Healthcare Reform Act? Wisconsin School of Business. The problem with prediction markets is they are only as good as the people making the predictions.

Police Are Using Phone Tracking as a Routine Tool New York Times (hat tip reader May S)

A Government Harassment Suit Goes to Court Andrew Rosenthal, New York Times (hat tip reader Scott)

Cashless: The Coming War on Tax-Evasion and Decentralized Money Financial Sense (hat tip reader May S). I’m a bit leery of this site, but this article looks to have some interesting factoids.

Fed steps back from further easing Financial Times

Fitch Ditched in Bond Dispute Wall Street Journal. Ratings shopping lives.

Hubris leads to incompetence: the Rowe & Krugman edition Relentlessly Progressive Political Economy

The Keen/Krugman Debate: A Summary Unlearning Economics

More Evidence of Fraud: MF Global’s Inscrutable Accounting Error – Who Shot Jon? Jesse

For Archivists, ‘Occupy’ Movement Presents New Challenges The Chronicle of Higher Education

Deepthroat: Debt Collector Edition Adam Levitin, Credit Slips

Joe Nocera Highlights Bank’s Debt Collection Practices Dave Dayen, Firedoglake

Colleges Withhold Transcripts From Grads in Loan Default Nation (hat tip reader May S)

Antidote du jour. Photo by Burrard-Lucas:

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    1. juneau

      Why do we in the US have to see this on the BBC? My local news station is busy covering the Republican Race, not the disaster that is residential Las Vegas.
      Do you have a source for the Rubin quote?
      Perhaps she would feel even happier if she could put in a good word or a buck or two to help feed these kids.

      1. Arthur S. Brisbane IV (NY Times public editor)

        Juneau, the reason you see this on the BBC and not the US media is because the US media doesn’t do poverty, it’s too depressing.

        As for the Gretchen Rubin quote, I suspect Brent was engaging in a bit of hyperbole there. Pretending that my good friend Gretchen is capable of such a “Marie Antoinette moment”, which I can assure you, she is not.

        Like my friend Jill [Abramson, executive editor of the NY Times], who kept a blog to chronicle the ups and downs of her puppy’s first year, there’s nothing superficial about a billionaire like Gretchen Rubin keeping a blog to recount her daily adventures in the pursuit of happiness.

        And like Jill, Gretchen also loves her darlin’ little puppy. Loves it, yeah. I tellya juneau, that’s what we’re fighting for here at the Times – that love for puppies. That’s what we’re living for, and despite some criticism, that love is also the reason why Judith Miller, like all of us here at the Times, supported the war in Iraq.

        1. Neo-Realist

          Also, if US Corporate Media covers poverty, more people would be inclined to demand policies that reduce poverty rather than accept trickle down bromides that trickle on the 99% and enrich the 1%.

      2. Bill the Psychologist

        Not only do they not do “Poverty” on the news, on April 2nd, a day when several people were shot at a “Christian” school, Diane Sawyer led the news off with a ridiculous story about a “mystery winner” of that huge lottery, who may or may not exist !!

        Even for my cynical view of our media, that was a new low !

    2. LucyLulu

      Excellent. I love these flashmobs. They are so cool.

      I saw one done in the UK in a supermarket, 50 people participated in a 4 minute freeze market. The other shoppers, which were only a handful in the whole store, seemed so non-plussed. They would just reach around the people. I think I might have freaked out. But then seeing people doing weird things in England is commonplace. My first time in London, I was coming out of the theatre in the West End and walking to the tube because we couldn’t get a taxi, and a few feet off the sidewalk, with crowds walking by, a young couple were having sex. The people around us were non-plussed about that, too. Such a sheltered life here in the South.

    3. LeeAnne

      SG: thank you for that video link. Talk about ‘hope.’ I meant for my comment below on STOP UNITED to go here.

      We can’t expect anything happening to be covered by the press; its is so thoroughly ‘owned’ criminally. All we can do is watch the spectical of how the CIC (Criminals-in-Charge) treat each other.

      1. Eureka Springs

        I do love a flash mob and sorely wish I my 65.00 a month Verizon wi fi could load a video… but I have been lucky to simply be able to load a basic NC page for months now. (even that is difficult half the time)

        That said, it saddens me a great deal to still see so many activists mired in the Citizens United box. If one looks into the case/decision and especially the real solutions we need, this is about the same as a dog chasing it’s tail. When and if it’s caught only the bite hurts.

        I don’t know if the Dem party veal pen is to blame for this point of fixation among activists or what. It should be a huge warning sign that the MoveOn types are the ones who like it most… But at some point these activists will catch their own tail and learn how ridiculous their whole game has been. Unfortunately yet another generation of young activists may go by the wayside, worn out from loss having never really challenged the systemic fail we are under.

        1. citizendave

          If the millions of Americans who glue themselves to their teevees every day would instead glue themselves to nakedcapitalism, the citizens united decision would be rendered moot.

          1. citizendave

            ES, I think we can readily agree that one consequence of Citizens United v. FEC is the release of an ocean of corporate money used to buy political speech. Viewed by a passive, uncritical, mostly-TV-watching voting-age population, the political campaign propaganda can establish the frame, control the public narrative, essentially establishing reality in the minds of a substantial portion of the population. The mind-bending propaganda doesn’t even need to be very good — it’s a blunt object, delivering soft blows to the mind in endless repetition, until it seems obviously true to ‘most everyone we meet.

            One antidote to relentless mind-numbing propaganda can be found emblazoned on a plaque on the U. of Wisconsin campus in Madison:

            Maybe the mental programming could be defeated by a clever meme or three, but what we’ve seen is blunt objects hammering away from the other side trying to establish a different pretend reality.

            For some time Prof. Lessig has been saying that to solve the problem of corporate personhood it will be necessary to amend the Constitution. I have an email from his organization, from May of 2010, with web site, now called But it’s not clear (to me) how it should be done. We can be sure that the corporate money will be used to try to thwart any attempts by We The People to attract the attention of Congress. Critics of the strategy of a constitutional convention called by the States say that it would open the door to a host of security state abuses.

            I think it’s not too late. But it’s not difficult to imagine a time when it would be too late, when all dissent in the United States of America is quashed by a violent state security apparatus, perhaps modeled on Stasi. Brought to you by unaccountable, unindictable corporate personhood.

        2. different clue

          The readers here would all be interested to read any suggestions from any people on “more effective” things to “do and pursue” then the Citizens United deal.

          Various forms of “leaderless economic rebellion” which could allow people to create fortresses of refuge for themselves and perhaps from-which to organize genuine extermination efforts against certain key iconic black-hat megabussinesses.

  1. Brent Musburger Jr. (news anchor)

    On “The Happiness Project” blog, Gretchen Rubin (daughter-in-law of former US Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin) recounts her daily adventures in the pursuit of happiness.

    When told that poor kids in America are eating rats and ketsup soup, Gretchen asked why don’t they sample the the $300 to $500 prix fixe at Masa or perhaps a dish of sea scallops at Jean-Georges, with caper-raisin emulsion added to the unexpected combo of sweetbreads en cocotte with ginger and licorice?

    Poor America: “Some kids are making ketsup soup”

    1. Leviathan

      Why did sampling this blog not render me instantly blissful? I must buy this book and learn more pearls of wisdom, such as “Take yourself less seriously, and take yourself more seriously.”

      Seriously profound. Thanks for sharing.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef


        Take yourself less seriously.

        That contrasts with the following:

        Take your self-less seriously.

    2. Klassy!

      Thank you for introducing me to the delightful Ms. Rubin. Now I have a new train wreck to glue my eyes to. Ah well, this too shall pass.
      Hilarious– The woman is offering housekeeping tips!
      And does anyone see the contradiction in completing some happiness “project” while exhorting others to be in the moment (in so many words).
      I liked this quote from NY Post’s page six:
      Jill Brooke, whose play “What’s Eating You?” is launching in May, wrote on Facebook: “For Gretchen to be lecturing on happiness when her father-in-law made a Faustian bargain that helped wipe out the middle class is so disturbing. Goof around and read with kids is not easy to do when you’re juggling two jobs.
      I might quibble with the use of “Faustian” as Rubin et al. probably have no soul to offer and will suffer no consequences for their actions.

  2. Richard Kline

    Il gattoparditi: “I think I’ll just sit right up here while you stupid two-legs kill each other off, since I see better after dark anyway when it’s time to come down and pick off the lame strays.”

      1. Richard Kline

        So Sufferin’, I finally was able to see Visconti’s film of _The Leopard_ over the winter. An epic, the word for once fits; with scenes of a ‘liberal revolution’ as it unfolded, in splendid historical detail. To my mind, it is Burt Lancaster’s finest performance as well; he dominates the film.

        The richest aspect, though, is that the aspect of ‘radicals changing their spots’ to grasping liberals would translate perfectly to so many socio-historical instances needing only a change of names that the effect boggles the mind. Visconti was surely aware of this. One could easily see the ‘liberals’ of Risorgimento Sicily as calques for the ‘liberals’ of post-WW II Italy. I recommend the film for those who want a visual primer on how ‘the revolution’ usually plays out at ground level for those standing just outside the cutting edge.

  3. LeeAnne

    NYPD listening in on your private cell phone conversations trumps bullying people with cameras photographing police. Try to imagine how many people will complain about police conduct to the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board under these circumstances. The org is already famously toothless if not dangerous. And, if not dangerous, certainly intimidating in principle given the behavior of police and attitude toward the public in general. This is what the New York Civilian Complaint Review Board looks like now:

    “…He’s one of three board members designated by NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly, and was picked to fill out a vacant term that expires July 5.

    The CCRB is an independent 13-member panel that investigates complaints against city police officers and recommends possible disciplinary action.

    Mayor Michael Bloomberg ultimately appoints all the board’s members — which includes five mayoral designees, five city council designees and three police commissioner designees.”

  4. LeeAnne

    Its wonderful to see peaceful creative activism on the side of revolution. This example, with so much credit due OWS, is awe inspiring. Just think of the creative abilities in this country and skills. If only retired seniors would get busy with the work at hand!! All that dormant experience and knowledge.

  5. Anonymous Jones

    The trouble with prediction markets is that people have a number of cognitive biases that have fooled them into thinking they can predict things that they obviously cannot.

    Sure, I can predict that if I cut off my hands today, I probably won’t have hands tomorrow. Anything with more variables than that turns out to be a little bit more difficult.

  6. Anonymous Jones

    Hyperbole Leads to Self-Embarrassment.

    I’ve actually used the phrasing here at least once that my opinion is that the biggest source of mistakes from the intelligent is overconfidence.

    See, some words are *similar* but not exactly the *same*. That’s often why we have all of the similar ones, instead of just one. Hubris does not equal overconfidence. A mistake does not equal incompetence.

    It’s funny that we’re back to semantics even talking about the issue that triggered what Ed demonstrated was a debate mostly driven by semantic disparity!

    Obviously, incompetence doesn’t have the same meaning to me as it does to the authors (to whom it seems the word has lost all practical meaning as it now must apply to everyone on the face of the planet except those who agree with them on every issue, no matter how subject to reasonable dispute).

  7. walt

    You wondered recently why you were taught how to diagram sentences. Consider this monstrosity by Liz Peek in today’s Fiscal Times:

    The only other buyers of size were private pension funds ($81 billion), money market mutual funds ($108 billion ), which presumably scurried to reduce exposure to the EU crisis and (surprisingly) securities firms ($93 billion.)

    1. Bill the Psychologist

      OK, as a grammar nazi, I accept the challenge and would clarify with these changes:

      The only other buyers of size were private pension funds ($81 billion), money market mutual funds ($108 billion) — which presumably scurried to reduce exposure to the EU crisis — and, surprisingly, securities firms ($93 billion.)

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Being a failed interior decorator but still a visual artist wannabee, I offer this:

        The only other buyers of size were:

        1) private pension funds ($81 billion)

        2) money market mutual funds ($108 billion) — which presumably scurried to reduce exposure to the EU crisis and

        3) surprisingly, securities firms,($93 billion.)

        1. Jim

          The only thing I would change to your version is a percentage of total after each figure.

    2. John L

      Replyers to Walt: try reading it aloud, then take another look. There’s no penalty for using sentences and dependent clauses and phrases.

  8. PQS

    Re: Poor kids in Las Vegas. This story does not surprise me. I lived in LV from 1984 – 1998, when 5000 people a month were moving there. Even a city that actually cared about its people couldn’t keep up with that kind of record-breaking growth. I left because I was tired of seeing homeless families and truly destitute people on the streets all the time. I just didn’t want to raise a kid in an environment with one-legged prostitutes outside the grocery store. And the local government’s answers were lower taxes and more cops to push people away from the tourist areas.

    Of course, out in the nice burbs, you don’t see that sort of thing all the time. But in LV, the “nice burbs” get pushed a little further away every year, so there is constant pressure to keep up with the Joneses….

  9. Caleb

    Re Cashless society in America, the gist of it is do we
    have an involuntary tax system versus a voluntary
    tax system?

    The moneylenders at the Fed will do whatever to keep their vigorish flowing. Will barter be made illegal to keep the
    digidollars flowing to the interest collectors?

    1. Caleb

      Forgot to mention the collecting of fees by banks “cashing” EBT, unemployment and other benefit, tax-return cards.

      This is the debunking of the “stopping crime” mantra and “tax collection” blather that will come out of the government.

      The billion dollar profits–and thus losses to the citizens– from parasitizing
      American’s unemployment, social security and food stamp benefits/welfare payments are an obivous motive for
      passing the cashless society laws and can be pointed out
      as a reason to fight them.

    2. Walter Wit Man

      How much do the banks divert from every purchase? ~2%?

      Not only are the banks robbing us on the front end by printing our public money for a profit, but they are collecting a fee when we spend their money.

      I try to pay cash to my local merchants and save them a buck. But the Feds are out to protect the banks so they announced that one indication of terrorist activity is paying with cash.

      The government should seize the payment system and pay just compensation and then run it itself.

  10. wunsacon

    >> Cashless: The Coming War on Tax-Evasion and Decentralized Money

    The other day, a link led to an article about the “poor” being “relatively unbanked” and how that cost them money (because they — if their employers pay their salaries by check — have to pay more to check-cashing services). However, I suspect any official motivation to push the poor towards banks will have more related to (a) eliminating cash and reducing tax evasion than (b) reducing the money the poor pay to check-cashing services.

    1. Walter Wit Man

      There have been major initiatives to get the unbanked banked the last decade or so (targeted at the Latino population).

      I always assumed it was simply beneficial for the banks to hold the deposits.

  11. bob


    Where are they coming up with the estimates on the sizes of “underground” economies?

    It does have a few interesting facts.

    But, if the fed wanted to, they can trace bills (currency). They all have individual numbers on them.

    Has the fed ever tried? I haven’t found it.

    1. Jim

      I’d be very curious to see where the pallets of hundred dollar bills that reached warlords in Iraq ended up.

      1. ambrit

        Bremers Billions.
        I wonder what happened to the bales of first class Iraqi printed counterfeit Hundreds sitting around Baghdad after the war.

  12. Externality

    According to the article in the Daily Mail, the UK’s “secretive National Security Council” wants the power to decide that civil and criminal cases should be heard in secretive proceedings away from the normal court system. “Defendants or claimants will not be allowed to be present, know or challenge the case against them and must be represented by a security-cleared special advocate rather than their own lawyer.” According to articles in the Guardian, the proceedings and the judgment themselves could be kept a state secret, hidden completely away from the public; the defendant would only know that they are to be imprisoned or otherwise punished, but not told why or how long. (The UK does not currently have the death penalty.)

    This structure is similar to Soviet entities such as the the Special Council of the NKVD, and later, the Special Council of the Ministry of State Security, or MGB. (footnote 1) Located in Moscow, “the Special Council was endowed with the right[] to apply punishments ‘by administrative means.'” (Ibid.) “By administrative means” was a Soviet-era euphemism for decisions – such as extrajudicial punishment – being handled not by the courts, or the appropriate agency, but being decided by the security services or senior Party officials. (footnote 2)

    Under the Special Council system, sentences ranging from banishment to death were handed down based solely on the data gathered by the security services. The defendant/victim had no right to introduce evidence or argument, appear before the Special Council, or even know the charges or that the proceedings were being held. Acceptable “evidence” included anonymous tips, statements made under torture, the suspect’s ethnicity, and the class and social background of the suspect, their parents, and their grandparents.

    After sentencing, the accused was often forced to agree that their conviction, and the Special Council process itself, were state secrets; anyone found to be criticizing the process could then be arrested or executed for espionage, engaging in anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda, etc.

    The Special Councils (and other extrajudicial bodies such as NKVD troikas), with their largely anonymous membership, also served to insulate the Soviet leadership from public anger. Every few years, Stalin would respond to public disquiet over the mass arrests (and his fears that the security services might plot against him) by ordering that the security services be purged, that large numbers of their members be executed or sent to the gulag, and that the services themselves be renamed. (The state security agencies were renamed eleven times between 1922 and 1953.) Stalin would then publicly denounce the security services’ actions before the purges, claiming that they had been infiltrated by “class enemies” and “enemies of the people” who misused their authority. Newly reorganized, the purges, arrests, and executions started again.

    This system worked well for the Soviet elite: newly arrested prisoners constantly complained “if only Stalin knew.” Even those who should have known better, such as former Politiburo member Gregory Zinoviev and and former NKVD chief Genrikh Yagoda, who were both convicted rare public show trials, spent their last days telling their judges, guards, and soon-to-be executioners that Stalin would never permit their execution. They were wrong.

    The Special Councils were finally abolished when the post-Stalin KGB was created in 1954. (footnote 1)


    1. ginnie nyc

      Actually, you don’t have to look at the Soviet Union for precedent. The British themselves did it previously with the Star Chamber system, which was secret, without juries or witnesses, and therefore highly corrupt.

      1. Flying Kiwi

        According to my schoolboy history, and Wikipedia, the Star Chamber “was set up to ensure the fair enforcement of laws against prominent people, those so powerful that ordinary courts could never convict them of their crimes.”

        Sounds to me it’s exactly what the US needs at the moment.

    2. Maximilien

      Recommended reading for those interested in this and other crimes of Stalin:

      Koba The Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million

      Martin Amis makes literature out of the tragedy. A great, great book IMHO.

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