Links 4/6/12

Fasting for Lent Forces Hyenas to Change Diet Science Daily

Rarest ducklings on Earth hatch BBC

In the Climate Casino: An Exchange New York Review of Books

Just how big are porn sites? Extreme Tech. Big.

How Twitter Makes the Internet More Local Foreign Affairs

National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo)

Apple Preparing to Defend Price Agreement With Publishers Bloomberg

Architect of Fed’s ‘Operation Twist’ quits FT. Door? Revolving? What?

Murdoch hacking scandal spreads to Sky News Reuters

Ex-Con Man Says JOBS Law Makes Guys Like Him Rich Bloomberg

He says he’s baffled that President Barack Obama plans to sign a law today that amounts to an open invitation for fraud. “I wish legislators would consult with people like me before they write something like this,” he says, sounding dead serious about the offer. “I could tell them, ‘I know what your intent was with this wording, but we can get around it so easily, it cracks me up.”’

Investors’ Prying Eyes Blinded by New Law Wall Street Journal

Pecan Buyers Shelled by Bad Data WSJ. Also, too, gasoline and corn.

Rhode Island’s fiscal reforms offer hope Gillian Tett FT. To whom?

Minnesota waitress gets $12,000 disputed tip back from police after investigation WaPo

Gilroy to pay $1.275 million in police shooting San Francisco Chronicle

The Rise of the ‘Brogrammer’ Businessweek

Research: Over 1 million U.S. cable subscribers cut cord in 2011

Justice Dept. turns in health care homework McClatchy

News organizations protest closure of Guantanamo hearing McClatchy. For “mistreatment” read “torture.”

Witness for the Prosecution Scott Horton, Harpers

The Invisible Army New Yorker

What’s all the fuzz about money? Al Jazeera English

Shortage of Apartments Will Not Create a Building Boom John Lounsbury

Downward Bankruptcy Filing Trend Continues Bob Lawless, Credit Slips

JPMorgan in Talks Over Missing MF Global Customer Money Times Dealbook. “Perhaps inadvertently.”

‘London Whale’ Rattles Debt Market Wall Street Journal

The impact of corporate governance in financial institutions Hamid Mehran, Alan Morrison, Joel Shapiro, VoxEU

CEOs and the Candle Problem Nature. Must read (LS).

Antidote du jour:

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About Lambert Strether

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


    1. Richard Kline

      Ancient futurian: “Oh hey, about time; 10 megatons dead center, and downwind, too. After radsick culls the peripheral newbies down to dozens, we’ll have a lot more peace and quiet around here again. Been a couple o’ millenia, and none too soon.”

  1. JTFaraday

    “A number of years ago I watched a CEO make a long series of really bad decisions. He gutted his company of most of its long-term potential…

    There was a lot of talk in the company cafeteria about the CEO’s incentivization package. If the company stock price were to hit a specified target and maintain it for a specified number of weeks, the CEO stood to gain serious remuneration.”

    Weeks? Now there’s a real standard.

    1. F. Beard

      What’s his face is a gold bug who rails against fiat. Who is he to criticize banking when PMs are a traditional tool of banker exploitation?

  2. Lambert Strether Post author

    Are the 1% stupid or evil? “CEOs and the Candle Problem” is a strong argument in favor of stupid — an unexpected result, at least for me. (More specifically, their compensation structure makes them stupid. Also, too, the looting and fraud.)

    1. YankeeFrank

      I think anyone with the sense of entitlement and superiority displayed by most of these bigshot a-holes is going to be dumb, if only through simple lack of self-reflection and perspective. How can someone be smart if they think everything they do is genius?

    2. propertius

      Are the 1% stupid or evil?

      Since the two categories aren’t mutually exclusive, I assume that’s an inclusive OR, rather than an exclusive OR – in which case, I believe the answer is “Why, yes, of course they are.”

    1. EH

      Hah! Not to mention that they’re the first NCAA champions (save football, which doesn’t have an overall) of any Texas Tech sport.

      1. curlydan

        not true. Texas Tech won the women’s NCAA basketball championships when Sheryl Swoopes was playing.

  3. Anonymous Jones

    Oh, I’m tired. What constitutes a “building boom”? Could I get an objective definition so I can even more thoroughly debunk Lounsbury’s article?

    I mean, I guess he did at least admit that his entire argument rests on the assumption that lots of housing units are not demolished or otherwise become uninhabitable. Yeah, that never happens. Housing stock is forever. And certainly housing stock that has been uninhabited for a couple years and stripped of all monetizable materials never has any trouble getting back to the habitability level it needs so that it can be rented out.

    OK, OK, it’s obviously a matter of degree in this habitability argument.

    But I’ll tell you what’s not a matter of degree: Where the housing units are! See, here’s something that’s really complicated: Cash is fungible, in towns, large cities, states and the entire country. Housing is not! Yes, the apartment down the street is almost fungible with its neighbor, but housing in Detroit is not fungible with housing in Houston or housing in LA. So it kinda seems to me (but I’m obviously not smart enough to understand) that maybe looking at national numbers is not really going to help you understand how many new housing units are needed and where they are needed. [Head exploding…]

    Listen, I have no idea what’s going to happen with housing starts next month, a year from now, or in 2017. Not only does Lounsbury not know either, he just *proved* with his article that he couldn’t possibly know, because he’s *looking in the wrong place*.

  4. Up the Ante

    A litmus test for the new paradigm affirmation,

    “About $700 million is also trapped overseas. ”

    Opt for the cross-Atlantic shuffle, claim the money has “vaporized” or is “trapped”, and deny it is a skittle-event. Also known as “discretion”.

      1. Synopticist

        “But there is some dispute over how much money JPMorgan must return to customers. The bank is a leading creditor in MF Global’s bankruptcy, and it is itself owed tens of millions of dollars. It is unclear how much customer money remains at the bank.”

        Why not just give the money back?
        i mean, it’s a few tens of milliom, maybe 175 million. Peanuts for JPM. The whole world hates them, they’re screwing with the entire capitalist, broker ethos, just GIVE THE F*CKING MONEY BACK!!!
        Earn some brownie points, show the world you’re not all bad, that you respect centuries of solid merchant tradition and practice.
        They’d rather keep the cash, and take the whack on the legal fees, than defend their reputation. Thats yet another aspect to the MF Global story that’s so frightenning, and epoch defining. The super-rich aren’t even bothered PRETENDING to defend the interests of the rentier, financially speculating upper-middle classes any longer.

  5. Walter Wit Man

    These fuckers. There is nothing else to call them.

    Obama passes a pro fraud, deregulation bill and calls it a JOBS bill?

    Fuck you Democrats. How can any liberal accept this? Of course this is merely 1/100th of the damage this facist president and his reckless party will do. But still.

    How brazen can they get?

    22 pages of obfuscation and deregulation and nary a peep in the corporate press or even the corporate liberal blogosphere (Huffpo, Daily Kos, etc.).

    Cass Sunstein and the deregulators in Obama’s White House may even be more damaging than the deregulating team in Reagan’s white House, Bush Sr. Speaking of which, check out Bush Sr. touring Monsanto in the 80s and telling them to call him if there is any problem getting GMO through because he’s in the dereg business:

    1. LeeAnne

      It doesn’t help the cause to suggest that these trends are caused by ‘liberals’ when POTUS is the poster boy for corporatist fascism. There is nothing he has done to limit finance -are they liberals?

      Its like listening to the right wing monopoly media complaining about the liberal media. The tactic is to erase the legitimate role of the left for the opposition. And it is working.

      1. Walter Wit Man

        Uh, this is not a tactic of mine. It’s a heartfelt yelp of disgust at the Democrats, er liberals.*

        And there is ZERO danger that this yelp of disgust at liberals is going to immobilize them further. How much more brain dead can liberals get? There is zero excuse for supporting the Democrats or Obama. These brain dead liberals would support the Nazi party as the lessor evil!

        Liberals are far more responsible for enabling fascism in this country than even the Republicans. Obama is allowed to exceed even Bush’s crimes because of his liberal bootlickers who unquestionably march to his fascist beat.

        *By liberal I meant Democrats. I am excluding third party or non voting leftists from the liberal category.

        1. Synopticist

          You just wait til the leveraged buyout guy, who likes firing people and tells funny stories about his dad closing down factories gets elected.

          Non voting liberals are the guys who are enabling fascism. How did that that “i’m not voting for Obama because he’s not left wing enough” thing work out in 2010? Pretty bad.
          That attitude didn’t really work in 2000 either, did it?

          The US has the most extreme rightwing mainstream in the western world. Do your f*cking duty to the rest of us.

          1. lambert strether

            It’s re-assuring to see that Obama fans are still trying to get people to vote for their guy by insulting them. It worked in 2008, I supppose, so good for them. Still, at least you’re not smearing Walter as a racist; baby steps!

            Since Obama rationalized and consolidated all of Bush’s abuses of executive power, and then went beyond Bush’s worst by claiming the right to assassinate US citizens, your claim that voting for Obama will somehow prevent fascism is ludicrous in the extreme.

        2. sd

          Obama is not a liberal. Never has been. Never will be.

          Last liberal in Washington was Paul Wellstone. And he’s dead.

  6. LeeAnne

    Ex-Con Man Says JOBS Law Makes Guys Like Him Rich Bloomberg

    Robocalling Internet bucket shops, anyone? New subsidiaries for the TBTF crowd? Google ads and stats for designing new ideas for new unregulated IPOs by the minute? Hard to believe that POTUS would intentionally expand criminal finance behavior like this. Hard to believe any President of any tin pot state would unleash such criminal behavior on its own population. But here it is -deja vu all over again:

    “The JOBS Act similarly denies states any say over crowdfunding offerings, but does honor them with the booby prize of having the authority to bring fraud charges.”

    ” since that law stripped state regulators of their ability to vet private deals known as Regulation D 506 offerings. … Joseph Borg, the securities commissioner in Alabama, says investors have suffered “billions of dollars of losses …”

    “We used to call them up and ask questions about this or that or the other thing, and we’d never hear from them again — they’d just go away,” says Borg, referring to the shady characters who tried to sell garbage under the Regulation D exemptions from full securities-law registration. Today, Borg and his colleagues in other states usually settle for filing enforcement actions against Reg D crooks after the money is gone. State regulators have brought 580 enforcement actions against violators of Reg D’s exemption over the past three years….”

    The criminal finance class just expanded -in the spirit of creating jobs and innovation -like, say, the unregulated derivatives market?

    1. Doug

      Don’t sweat it. The House of Cards will come tumbling down again and probably harder this time.

      1. LeeAnne

        I agree the house of cards is coming down only harder this time. But this must be reversed. Civil society is already too compromised to survive it.

        1. Doug

          How is this going to be reversed?

          We’re keeping voting in the same guys. Rich and powerful politicians and businessmen who have no other goals in Congress other than to load their pockets full of more money while stomping on the small guy. The paradigm should be shifted, and you would think after the last crisis it would be. It’s not. Lowest Congress approval ratings ever, and most of the incumbents stay. Business as usual.

          I’m beginning to wonder if the United States has come as far as it can as a society. No one really fights back anymore and if they do, they get put “back in their respected” places. Our healthcare system is a mess, our financial system is a mess, our finances are a mess. All we really do anymore is fight wars (which we’re not even that good at doing anymore either), and throw money up top, waiting for the rich people to finally explode and send the money down to the bottom (doesn’t happen).

          Poverty is exploding, and real unemployment is still ridiculously high. Yet, we’re not doing anything to fix either of these or even try fixing.

          1. LeeAnne

            Maybe, just maybe, if people could just get beyond rage against one straw man or another, the left – the right -the liberals, the neoliberals – the neocons -the theories -Randian the randy Ayn we could see the issues clearly enough to do something about it. And get to the bottom of it -not a pyramid with an evil eye and family names -but real names. There’s Rumsfeld -heavily invested in pharmaceuticals for the big pandemic -ready to profit from military law and universal inoculation -and so forth …

            Money, the life of young men in particular, and treasure have been squandered on the military industry by all parties -by every administration. Try to do something about it -there’ll be an assassination -which is why you can’t expect anyone in political office to be able to do anything other than whimper a little against the status quo. The drug wars have raged on at staggering profits for criminal bankers and authorities for almost a century (it was going on long before an official ‘drug war’) -its the Vietnam War that accellerated the traffic -in body bags- being sent home. That’s a fact. That’s how evil these people are.

            They have to be stopped.

          2. lambert strether

            Leann, that’s a good point on assassination that we often forget, and not just 1968 either. Remember the anthrax incident after 9/11? That was never really solved?

          3. LeeAnne

            Yes, Lambert, and to your point, I have a clear image of Senator Leahy saying ‘and I’d like to know who tried to kill me.’ The Anthrax messages sent were all addressed to Democrats.

  7. Susan the other

    CEOs and the candle problem. It’s kinda like paying your kids for As. They focus on the money and not the fascination. That CEOs are so susceptible to selling out their muse for a little cash is not surprising. But it is tragic. I think fear of failure is what is at stake with CEOs. If they screw up while they are going for higher “profits” then they screw up 10 times more if they are going for higher profits because they are being incentivized financially, and at the expense of the workers. It’s kind of like whatever is morally false fails and when you are incentivized by money, you run a much bigger risk, both administratively and morally. No wonder it is a paralyzing proposition.

  8. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    The Rise of Brogrammer.

    It’d be a better world if they would decline invitations to parties in Malibu.

    1. reslez

      Adding even more sexism to a profession that has fewer women than in the 80s. Yet “women just don’t like computer science”. Transparently vile.

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