Links 3/30/13

Finance Expert Saves Struggling Zoo By Firing All Employees, Getting Rid of Cages Onion (Lambert). He’s advising Walmart.

Fattest countries in the world revealed: Extraordinary graphic charts the average body mass index of men and women in every country (with some surprising results) Daily Mail (May S)

Record-High Antibiotic Sales for Meat and Poultry Production Pew

Canadian firm eyes Boulder for factory to make marijuana-infused tea Denver Post

It’s good to be good: 2011 5th annual scientific report on health, happiness and helping others Stonybrook. The problem I have with these studies is that they assume causality. How about “well adjusted people who have enough spare capacity (money and time) in their lives volunteer”? Why wouldn’t you expect people like that to live longer? And what about this “helper’s high”? When I volunteer, it just makes me depressed, as in it puts me face to face with the problem and I see how little difference my efforts make. So it’s better, say, feeding the homeless a meal than not. You did something around the margin. But there’s still homeless and they’ll be hungry again in six hours. (I suppose reading to the blind or bringing food to the stay at home elderly is a bit less inherently sad, but you get the idea).

The Internet Is Making Us Poor Clusterstock

Solar Trash Cans Save City Millions NBC 10 Philadelphia (Carol B)

US warns North Korea of increased isolation if threats escalate further Guardian

As North Korea Blusters, U.S. Worries About Quieter Risks New York Times

Assange prosecutor quits while accuser sacks lawyer The Age (Lambert)

After Cyprus, how many more crises can the euro survive? Guardian. Pratley hazards an answer.

After Cyprus, euro zone will slip into depression MarketWatch (Carol B)

Letter from Central Bank of Cyprus, February 2013 Yiannis Mouzakis

Iraq and Afghanistan wars set to be the most expensive conflicts in U.S. history with a $6 trillion price tag Daily Mail (May S)

How George Bush won the war in Iraq – really! Greg Palast

Turkish police fire teargas at protesting Syrians in refugee camp; many wounded Reuters (May S)

Domestic drones and their unique dangers Glenn Greenwald, Guardian

You Have the Right to Remain Silent, But … Counterpunch (Carol B)

President Obama considering putting social insurance cuts in his budget Daily Kos. Kossaks finally admit to themselves what is really going on. But even then they tone it down! Notice the URL of the piece: versus headline. That’s a sign the headline was changed after the article was posted (or saved in the backstage).

SAC’s Steinberg Indicted as Probe Gets Closer to Cohen Bloomberg

As Bitcoin Becomes Billion Dollar Market America Moves For Crackdown DSWright, Firedoglake

Consumer Comfort in U.S. Declines for a Second Straight Week Bloomberg

Walmart’s CEO Paid 1,034 Times More Than The Median Walmart Worker: PayScale Huffington Post (Carol B)

Why Is Socialism Doing So Darn Well in Deep-Red North Dakota? Alternet (Carol B)

Why Are Big Banks Going To War With A Federal Judge? Dave Dayen, National Journal

How Memes Are Orchestrated by the Man Atlantic (Lambert)

“Capitalism Never Solves Its Crisis Problems; It Moves Them Around Geographically” Gaius Publius, Truthout (May S)

Antidote du jour:

And a bonus:

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  1. Ben Johannson

    I know what you mean about that sort (or any sort ) of volunteer work, Yves. All my life I’ve heard people speak of how good they feel when they help others; I always feel worse.

    I wonder if the “happy” types discussed above are just more narcissistic, patting themselves on the back for being special and forgetting the suffering of the person they’re assisting after a few minutes.

    1. Garrett Pace

      Maybe you’d get more of a high when you can see your actions having long-term effects, by teaching people, helping them with their problems, taking a deeper interest in their lives. This is a much more challenging program, and requires forming relationships.

      When you play a role in someone turning their life around, there might be more exhilaration, and it might last.

      1. Klassy!

        Honestly, I think it is best not to think in terms of turning lives around. Even with long term relationships there is a limited amount you can accomplish and it is better to have modest goals. One other problem I see with volunteering is the –for lack of a better phrase– balance of power. If you’re looking to turn a life around or teach you sometimes miss the strengths of those you have a relationship with.

        1. Inverness (@Inverness)

          Of course at its worse, volunteerism simply means working within a flawed system which doesn’t provide enough social benefits, thus making it a bourgeois thing to do. “Who needs more social justice, just leave taking care of the poor to the churches and charitable organizations.”

          This isn’t a dig at volunteers, but those who feel that charities can take care of social problems.

    2. Elliot

      *snort* If you’re “helping” others in order to feel good about yourself, you’re doing it for the wrong reason.

      And let’s talk hilarious deflection, calling people who really do help others narcissistic if they don’t feel sad the way you do when your performance anxiety or lack of personal gratification kicks in.

      It’s not about you.

      Hello? Really helping others is done to HELP OTHERS, not to massage your ego or make you into a world-saving superhero. If more Americans got their heads out of their …. egos… it would be a good thing.

      1. Klassy!

        And I thought I was a misanthrope. No, it is not because a lack of personal gratification does not kick in. It is because it illuminates the hopelessness of the situation.

      2. Ms G

        It used to be [maybe only in doctrinal utopia] that Virtue is its own Reward!

        A lot of the “volunteering” by teens and twenty-somethings occurrs in the 1% class and is motivated first and last by putting “helped hungry people in Africa” on their resume en route to their internship for a Congressperson (arranged through Daddy and Mommy connections), and hence, to Jones Day, Covington, or whatever.

        As the commenter correctly pointed out, it is the intent that matters. When Sandy Weill made sure that Cornell hospital renamed itself Weill-Cornell after SW “donated” eleventy billion dollars that he had sucked out of Citi, his intent was clearly not animated by “virtue is its own reward.” Ya need a monument thrown in there so you can brag to your fellow kleptocrats at the next cancer-research fundraising even.


      3. Yves Smith Post author

        I’m NOT saying that should be the motivation, but that is the subtext of articles like the one I linked to.

        In fact, one thing I find disturbing about a lot of not for profits is that people like mid-level folks at McKinsey were exhorted to join boards. It was basically branding (Respectable Member of Community) + networking. In Manhattan, a lot of people are involved in organizations at least as much for the networking as the cause.

        1. Inverness (@Inverness)

          Charities and foundations have always been great PR for exploiters. Walmart can brag about helping Katrina victims, while they fail to pay their workers a living wage.

    3. anon y'mouse

      don’t volunteer here either, and know exactly what you mean about it. actually, many things i’ve read and heard indicate that it is not a shortage of hands but a shortage of funds which is crucial in almost all of the non-profit sector. but, i sometimes wonder if the whole point of doing it is to make an actual human connection with others. no, handing out supplies in a food bank is not “solving the problem” of people not having enough to get by, but then again when do single individuals ever solve such massive problems by themselves?

      there are times when i think that the whole point is to learn the humility of the small task of giving, which is not done so that i can personally save the world or be smug about how ‘helpful’ i am, but to give that which costs me little and may help the other person a lot, even if temporarily. if we all DID do it individually, the problem might not go away but it probably would lessen significantly. i think that the ‘losing heart’ thing is that the system is set up to create the very problems that we are individually trying to address with paperclip-bandaids.

      it’s rather like the fact that people make so much of installing the correct kind of lightbulb, or taking cloth bags to the grocery, or buying a hybrid vehicle when it is the production end of all of these things (which is totally outside of their knowledge and, in all ways other than voting-with-dollars, outside of their direct control) that is truly wasteful (36k gallons of water to produce ONE car!). why do people still drink from cans that travel around the world 3 times before they end up in the fridge? in what weird world does that make any kind of efficient sense? only in the upside-down world of economics. the rest of our ‘externalities’ seem to have been created in a similar way–“it made sense at the time!”

      i don’t necessarily believe in the myth of the godlike christ. heck, i don’t even know if the ‘historical’ figure ever truly existed, but the stories we are handed have a lot to do with thinking about the possibility that if everyone treated the rest of humanity with the same level of respect as they wish to be treated themselves, it would end a lot of the suffering that exists in the world. sure, there would be a number of free-riders initially, but then conscience would kick in for all but the personality disordered, and truthfully very few people want to do absolutey NOthing with their time. they would pay it forward (gads, i hate that term, but am too stupid to come up with a better shorthand!) eventually, if out of sheer boredom and nothing else.

      those who gripe on about this 47% of the ‘unproductive’, i sometimes have to wonder about. what is the point of making profit/excess/over & above subsistence and attaining any kind of economy of scale if NOT to have extra to give to others who didn’t produce it themselves? this whole concept of ‘everything must be traded equally’ is a falsehood. there are no true equivalencies, unless items are identical, in which case, why trade? the only good thing about it is we both get something that we can use to make us both better, but our whole economy is set up to peel off any ‘extra’ for someone else’s benefit. why?

      these conundrums are why i ultimately had to abandon my plan of a degree in business. the technical aspects are not hard to grasp, and all of it ended up seeming like a massive justification for “i just swindled you out of something while convincing you that you’re better off for it!” on both the customer and the employee end. perhaps i just don’t have the right kind of brain.

    4. squasha

      Remarkable the way the motives behind good works are parsed in ways that tend to circumvent those behind the evil deed. The volunteer bean-ladler’s purity of heart seems of greater import than the degree to which the coerced assassin’s heart might or might not have been ‘in it’. It seems to me the benefits people from religious types to self-help gurus to positive psychologists attribute to altruist acts emanate from enlistment in a struggle greater than the individual, rather than from the perverted sort of pleasure one was meant to garner from doing penance. Regardless of essentially theological debates about the plausibly selfish motives of volunteers, empirically, altruism pays.

    5. Lambert Strether

      I don’t know why helping others has to be institutional. Two times, I’ve been standing in line at the union, and somebody’s spontaneously offered to pay for my food. (I don’t think it’s because I look piteous.) So I make sure to pay for somebody else’s food to keep the cycle going….

      I don’t know why it happens, and it’s never happened to me anywhere else, but it does happen. And it certainly feels good.

      1. CB

        I agree, Lambert, just passing on the help we’ve gotten can be all the difference to someone who needs help just then.

  2. AbyNormal

    re: US warns N.Korea of increased isolation

    from Slate 1/23/13
    Total exports to North Korea for 2012 were less than $12 million, and in some months there was no trade at all. By comparison, the United States sold nearly $39 billion worth of goods to South Korea last year.

    Many U.N. member states don’t support or simply don’t care about the sanctions. More than 100 countries have failed to file reports to the United Nations about their trade with North Korea. Using a complex network of shell companies, North Korean entities have been fairly successful at circumventing sanctions, presumably with the knowledge of their trading partners in some cases.

  3. Jack

    So that’s why Yves is always pushing for bigger and bigger government to “help fix” the plight of the poor….
    Apparently, it’s because she is afraid of getting out there herself and getting her hands dirty because it makes her fell sad.

    1. Klassy!

      Tell me you’re kidding. The sentiment she describes seems to be exactly right. The volunteer activities I engage in do serve to highlight exactly how screwed our system is.
      As for donating money, I will cop to some petty anger– I’m tired of seeing “progressive” friends who spend far more lavishly on themselves than I do who can’t be bothered to make a single donation (beyond sending money to NPR. That seems to be sacred to them) or even spare a few dollars for a panhandler.

      1. AbyNormal

        jacks says “because it makes her *fell* sad”
        got to love the sweet meanderings of the subconscious

        The best way out is always through. r.frost

  4. AbyNormal

    re: banks suing Judge Cote

    “Large banks are already on the hook for $100 billion in legal costs from their actions during the financial crisis. An adverse ruling in the FHFA case, and those costs would rise much higher.”

    A man went into a lawyer’s office, and demanded to see the lawyer. He was escorted into the lawyer’s office.

    The man needed legal help, but he knew how expensive lawyers could be, so he inquired, “Can you tell me how much you charge?”

    “Of course”, the lawyer replied, “I charge $500 to answer three questions.”

    “Don’t you think that’s an awful lot of money to answer three questions?”

    “Yes it is”, answered the lawyer, “What’s your third question?”

  5. Klassy!

    I read this in an article about Obama’s pitch for public works spending. As far as I can tell, it appears as Rube Goldbergesue as ACA.
    What does this mean?:
    Among the president’s proposals will be raising caps on certain state and local bonds to lower financing costs and make them available for more types of projects; exempting foreign pension funds from taxes when they want to invest in U.S. infrastructure, as is already done for American pension funds, and spending an additional $4 billion for two programs that provide loans and grants to public-works projects — all intended to gin up private investment for the upgrades,

    1. More than a little displeased

      As if we didn’t know already from his failed tax cut, er, stimulus, Obama has no intention of raising more revenue, at least from those with the ability to pay. Such a good idea to pay for necessary infrastructure with money from people whose only benefit from the investment is the necessarily high rate of return they will demand. Another stupid Obama idea, which seem to be pouring out of the fella.

    2. Carla

      Bitter experience indicates that what President Obama has in mind are public/private “partnerships” that somehow always end in privatization of public assets. Of course, with the complete capture of the public sector by the FIRE sector, I guess it doesn’t much matter. It has de facto happened already.

      1. briansays

        oh it matters very much he is in his second term what is he gonna do later and for whom?

        see lanny bruer for a small scale example

        1. Brindle

          After he leaves office Obama to create his org/gravy train:
          Obama Institute for Neoliberal Krap—O.I.N.K.

    3. Ms G

      My Hamilton-Rubin-Summers-Obama-Bloomberg Jargon-Busting Decoder Device says something like: “privatize and monetize public works to open the tap on a new stream of income for the .01% at the direct expense of the 99.9%.”

      My gizmo gives approximate results (though a bit better than Google translator) so take this with a small grain of salt.

  6. craazyman

    It All Makes Sense As Long as the Math Holds Up

    Shouldn’t be a problem getting rid of cages & employees at the zoo.

    There’s only a 1 chance in 10,000 years, based on the finite second moment Gaussian covariance matrix scalar probability distribution, that the animals won’t remain in equilibrium for at least 2 hours, which is the average zoo visit, so visitors can safely walk around and enjoy the sights.

    The animals will need food. For that a private contractor can be had for only 8 times the cost of full-time staff. With that efficiency, the profits to financiers can fund donations to the zoo’s not-for-profit endowment, which can assist in paying supplier invoices.

    If the invoices get too high, they can always be cancelled by the zoo. Competition from other food suppliers will ensure the animals have meals, probably for free, when new entrants in the market give free samples as part of marketing pitches. If you rotate through competitors, you can keep the food bill down to nearly zero.

    Invest the endowment in hedge funds and private equity and you’ll have enough money to create 10 new zoos. After a while the animals can take over completely.

    1. anon y'mouse

      your satire is as good as Animal Farm, and ultimately more readable! gads, that book just bludgeoned you with its symbolism until you acquiesced.

  7. JGordon

    I have been reading about the new Monsanto protection act that Monsanto just bought from the government. What I find curious about this whole fiasco is that there are still some of you out there who believe that this is a society that’s still worth caring about or saving. There’s a fundamental rot here that MMT fiat currencies or confiscating people’s ability to protect themselves isn’t going to correct. When a forest gets clogged up with too much decay and rot, the only solution that works is a good fire to burn it to ash, so new, healthy life can emerge.

      1. Lambert Strether

        For the same reason none of the gun advocates have done squat about tyranny, even as they yammer that the reason for the Second Amendment is to allow them to do just that, I would imagine.

        1. taunger

          There’s a big gun rally scheduled in my town coming up. I’m excited to go do some research and find out if the revolution is coming. I’m ready to be disappointed.

          1. Lambert Strether

            Well, there’s a big model railroad show in my town I’d like to go to. But i don’t confuse being able to buy the consumer goods that support my hobby with fighting tyranny.

          2. patricia

            As long as you don’t confuse it with acquiring new track and engines for public transportation, you b fine, Lambert.

          3. Veri

            Ah, a circus! Then people can go back home and talk about how repressed they are and then watch TV.

        2. diptherio

          I know, right? I keep waiting for one of far-right Ann Coulter-types to actually live up to their rhetoric and start using all that firepower they’ve amassed to defend our freedoms against our corrupt, nazi-communist government. But apparently when the gun nuts talk about protecting freedom, they only mean their own, personal freedom, which mostly just means being able to keep other people “off my land!”

          (Fun story: I actually had someone yell “git off ma land!” at me while holding a shotgun. I was working on a campaign to protect the aquifer that this guy, and all the rest of us, were drinking from, but I guess he probably thought I was coming to take his freedom away or something.)

        3. JGordon

          Rather Lambert, a car engine that’s in bad shape and neglected will eventually seize up on its own. It doesn’t take anything active involvement on anyone’s part for it to eventually crap out. As a matter of fact, I find your insistence that people who appreciate freedom and self-responsibility should go out and actively foment insurrection to prove our ideals to be rather foolish and bizarre. This ship is already sinking and nothing anyone does is going to alter the timeline of its sinking in the least. The most intelligent thing anyone could do is get the life boats ready.

          My biggest issue is that there are people actively trying to sabotage the lifeboats, which in some respect is what you all are doing here.

          1. patricia

            My biggest issue is that there are people actively trying to sabotage the lifeboats, which in some respect is what you all are doing here.”

            Could I see your lifeboat, JGordon? Just a quick look?

        4. Roland

          What do you want the gun owners to do? Do you want them to actually start a civil war right now? Would you have liked an uprising to have begun a decade ago? If so, why didn’t you go shoot a few public enemies yourself?

          Are people’s gun rights only valid if the gun owners act politically when you want it, and for your reasons?

          People are properly reluctant to start a civil war, even if they have guns and know that everything is going wrong.

          Gun owners’ reluctance to engage in armed political disobedience in no way invalidates their right to possess powerful weapons.

          People’s reluctance to commence a civil war in no way invalidates their right to start such a war in the future.

      2. Charles LeSeau

        For my part, I’m an unambitious violence-loathing coward, which is pretty much known (and likely engineered) by the bullies in question.

    1. diptherio

      What, precisely, do you have in mind when you use the word “society?” If you mean our national political system or our currently-existing economic system, then I am of a mind to a agree. If by “society” you refer to the people within these systems, then I cannot agree.

      Yes, the social systems that have developed are heinous and need to be abandoned, but it is for the sake of society (meaning the actual humans involved) that this must be done, not in revolt against it.

      We have created a paradoxically anti-social social system, in which the individual is encouraged to disconnect from other people and to view herself as an autonomous entity. The individual’s concern centers strictly around his own person and possessions; other members of one’s society are seen as competitors in life, not companions. We are inherently social animals and yet our culture dictates that we interact not like a troop of monkeys, but like a bunch of vultures gathered to feed on the same carcass.

      We don’t need to leave society behind, and we don’t need to ignore it. In fact, that’s been the whole arc of our cultural development over the last several decades: to ignore and abandon society, i.e. community, and to replace it with a collection of atomized individuals. We need to save society, and in order to do that we will first need to realize that we are, like it or not, all in this together. We have gotten where we are together, and our fate, whatever it may be, will be a collective one. Bitcoins and bunkers aren’t gonna save anybody.

      As for MMT being useless, I disagree. Monetary systems have been with humanity since the dawn of civilization and understanding how they work (and how they can work) seems to me to be useful thing, even if MMT fails to “save” our country.

      1. JGordon

        “We have created a paradoxically anti-social social system, in which the individual is encouraged to disconnect from other people and to view herself as an autonomous entity.”

        You see, this is the heart of the problem here. As Dmitry Orlov so eloquently stated (though I’m paraphrasing him), we have evolved into a society where people have commercial relationships rather than personal relationships. This is the core of the rot in our system, and excising from the body of humanity will result in a fundamental reordering of our social structures. In fact, after it happens, society will be unrecognizable from what it looks like today.

        As for MMT, through almost the entirety of human history, there has been no such thing as commercial economies. These are relatively recent inventions of the last few hundred years, and I would say that the rise of the commercial economy (and the monetary systems that enable them) are the root of the social rot that’s decimating humanity. The cultural decay and society collapse we are currently in the process of undergoing (and I would say that society is collapsing in slow motion even now–it’s not some far of event that may or may not happen–it’s in progress).

        Here is the Dmitry Orlov lecture where I was introduced to these ideas, though I have subsequently been doing additional research and expanding my understand. This is a great place to start though:

      2. craazyman

        It’s only one data point, but the crowd shown in the bunny jumping competition video looked pretty quiescent and cooperative to me.

        Maybe there’s a lesson in there for forms of political economy, but I’m not sure what exactly it would be. I’m working today by myself, and procrastinating, while everybody else is outside playing soccer, baseball or gardening.

        It may be the murder and predation occurs before and after the competition, so what we see is only a transient and somewhat artificial phenomenon, a unique moment in time with no inherent analytical value. If you threw MMT at these folks there might eventually be so many bunnies it would be chaos. There’s a point when less is more.

        1. craazyman

          by the way Lambert, the Peter Scott obit the other day was the “NC Link of the Year” in my book. Can’t believe it didn’t get the wild applause it deserved. I guess most NC readers are turgid progressive political fascists without a sense of humor who think they can decode macroeconomics and come out on top instead of sinking down into the oozy dungpile that it is. Everybody ends up on the bottom, that’s the way it’s made to work if you climb on it.

          If a society has to have criminals, then Lord let them be like Mr. Scott. When I read he told some baroness peaking in the dark from the top of the stairs after hearin’ him knock around the jewels and old Master paintings “It’s only me!” I nearly hurt my abdominal muscles convulsed in laughter.

          Mr. Scott is an artist in my book. Not a criminal. Although he seems like he was a bit warped. But who among us is perfect? I wish I had a little of Mr. Scott’s deviance in me, but I’m waay too straight and narrow.

          1. wunsacon

            Ha! Missed it. Thanks, craazyman, for bringing it to my attention.


            “The people I burgled got rich through greed and skullduggery. They indulged in the mechanics of ostentation – they deserved me and I deserved them. If I rob Ivana Trump, it is just a meeting of two different types of degeneracy on a dark rooftop.”

    2. Susan the other

      International trade cannot be interfered with. Heil Monsanto! We know that Monsanto, under the beneficial auspices of Billy Gates, their biggest shareholder, has gone into Africa big time to do a little plantation work. And all that produce will be coming back to our ports. Do not try to interfere with the sale of Monsanto products!

    3. JGordon

      You may learn how my lifeboat is being constructed and how you can construct your own Patricia. But I have no interest in allowing you to tour it.

      The Constitution and the Rule of Law that the US is theoretically based upon gives me the right to speak freely without fear and the right to live my life without constant police state surveillance. I intend to fully exercise whatever rights I still have all the way up until the moment the velvet glove slips off and the iron fist is beneath is revealed for all to see. Meanwhile, I encourage you to enjoy your Soma and leave me alone. My message is for those who are open and want to hear.

      1. patricia

        I was teasing you a little, JGordon. And since I don’t like to pop anyone’s balloons much less their lifeboat, may your boat go merrily merrily down the stream and you get your dream rather than a nightmare.

  8. Paul Walker

    Important district US District Court judges (like important school economists, lawyers, physicians and the rest) have been waging war against Any O Citizen for years. About time that crew got a little of their brackish backwash in return.

  9. Jim Haygood

    Something to watch in Cyprus is what happens to individual stock brokerage accounts.

    In the U.S., bank accounts have $250,000 in FDIC insurance, while stock brokerage accounts receive $500,000 in SIPC coverage.

    Given the nature of the financial cartel which dominates our government, a working hypothesis is that the cartel would be more reluctant to haircut stock investors’ accounts than haircutting deposits. Haircutting brokerage accounts would require seizing property (securities) and liquidating it, rather than simply grabbing cash from bank accounts. The property seizure aspect would be disturbing, even to kleptocrats.

    One clue occurred during the MF Global bankruptcy, when customers whose accounts were invested in commodities positions were able to get those positions transferred to other brokers. By contrast, customers with cash balances had to wait months for partial payouts.

    What happens to brokerage accounts in Cyprus will be informative for others who need to safeguard funds in Europe. Let’s keep an eye on this.

    1. Ms G


      Confiscation of US FDIC-insured (ha ha) deposits is much closer than you think. In this link, there is a discussion of a proposal crafted by the FDIC and the Bank of England to the effect that in the event of another market “event” it would be better — rather than QE — to simply seize US FDIC-insured deposits and transform them into “equity” — sound familiar? Spain?

        1. Bill Smith

          Wonderful. We can all become Bear Sterns, WaMu, and Lehman shareholders. Hope they keep the food stamps program going while we are waiting for our dividend checks to show up.

          1. Ms G

            I’m sure Obama has a plan to privatize food stamps in a way that involves take over of the program by Promontory or similar.

          2. F. Beard

            Might as well just abolish the deposit insurance now. flabby beef

            No. The proper order of business is:

            1) Ban further counterfeiting by the banks – so-called “credit creation” – so long as government backstops the banks.

            2) Provide equal restitution in the form of new fiat (United States Notes) at least until all US deposits are 100% backed by reserves; meter the bailout to just replace existing credit debt as it is repaid in order to preclude either price deflation or price inflation.

            3) After all deposits are 100% backed by reserves then give US citizens 6 months to transfer what deposits they wish to a new Federal Postal Savings System. After 6 months then abolish all government deposit insurance.

            4) After all other government subsidies for the banks have been abolished, including the lender-of-last-resort, the Fed, and new sovereign debt issuance, then re-allow the banks, now entirely private, to issue what credit they dare, in the face of stringent enforcement of insolvency laws.

          3. Lambert Strether

            Checks are oldthink. Cards are where it’s at. And the nice thing about cards is that they’re digital, and the nice thing about digital is that, unlike checks, the issuer can jigger with the amounts in real time.

            So, a “policy mix” now becomes possible, where some money is confiscated from your bank account, other money is deducted at source from your Food Card as a “stability levy,” and so forth. After all, you can always substitute offal for cat food, and so forth.

            It’s GENIUS!

      1. Jim Haygood

        Agreed, bank depositors face serious risks, a subject addressed in the alternet article. That’s why one has to consider alternatives to banks.

        The Securities Investors Protection Corporation (SIPC) coverage of brokerage accounts is completely separate from FDIC, and thus has its own merits and demerits. Note the distinction SIPC draws between securities and cash:

        Customers of a failed brokerage firm receive all non-negotiable securities that are already registered in their names or in the process of being registered. All other so-called “street name” securities are distributed on a pro rata basis.

        At the same time, funds from the SIPC reserve are available to satisfy the remaining claims of each customer up to a maximum of $500,000. This figure includes a maximum of $250,000 on claims for cash. Recovered funds are used to pay investors whose claims exceed SIPC’s protection limit of $500,000.

        Since a brokerage account can be used a substitute for a bank account, or linked to a bank account, it may be a viable alternative to holding large sums in banks.

        In particular, any large-scale seizure and sale of securities (stocks and bonds) would crash the markets. But since these markets are the playgrounds of the kleptocrats themselves (think Goldman Sachs and Hank Paulson), they would be loathe to smash them.

        Anyhow, let’s see how brokerage customers fare in Cyprus. My guess is that their securities holdings will be untouched, unless the brokerage itself fails owing to the seizure of its bank deposits.

        1. Bill Smith

          Except that the SIPC has nowhere near enough money to pay out on any sizable systematic brokerage problem. Plus they can’t sell treasuries or have the Fed print to back up a shortfall like the FDIC could, provided Congress approves it.

          Plus it’s apparent that there is a “new” evil in the brokerage world – re-hypothication – which seems to be codespeak that someone else may have a higher claim on “assets” in your broker account.

          1. Ms G

            Exactly, Bill S.
            Reypothecation of customer accounts is a de-facto claw on what people think is their cash. Re-hypothecation under the similarly techno-speak phrase “Securities Lending Program” — where money you thought you had invested in a fund in a 401(k) or not in a 401(k) was “lent out” to chase “yield” and guess where that lent cash was sunk into? Yep, Lehmann (and similar) toxic late-stage MBSs. The money never came back to the accounts. And worse, fund holders were assessed one-time FEES (!) to make up for the losses and all the expense ratios for the funds were jacked up.

            So, frankly, anyone who had the misfortune to put any cash in a mutual fund in the past 10 years was already an MF Global customer — same depositor cash-looting system, different labels.

        2. Ms G

          JH — if you think that SPIC is some sort of “better” safety net for cash SPIC has a bridge to sell you. Seriously.

        3. Ms G

          Also, JH, if we’re at the point where putting hard earned cash into the hands of *brokerages* (fees, more fees, other fees, skim-the-cash “products”), that’s admitting there’s nowhere to put cash where you don’t even preserve its current nominal amount. Plus, on top of the passive drain on the cash via brokerage (or any “money manager” outfit) what do you think your brokerage account will be invested in?!

      2. Eureka Springs

        Banksters and their bought and paid for politicians, the ultimate crackheads. In fact, if I played the false choice between two lessor evils games I would rather ask a local crackhead to keep my money safe than a bankster.

        Between the bills slipped through the Agro committee and this… any ‘merican dumb enough to keep money in a bank deserves the promise of looting they will get.

      1. Jim Haygood

        Getting the basics right is essential. In Argentina in 2002, bank depositors lost big, but property (real estate) was never touched.

        To this day, Argentines salt away funds in raw land on the pampas, believing it is safe from seizure. Even the president has most of her fortune invested in land, houses, apartments and hotels.

        Watch the kleptocrats, and do what they do. Safety in numbers, Lambert!

        1. Ms G

          JH — have you been out there recently trying to buy land in competition with hedge funds who have millions in cash to buy 1000s of properties at a clip in a single market?

          Good luck with that. Please report back if you discover any markets that haven’t been distorted to the point where land is only affordable by people who have accumulated money through looting.

          1. jrs

            True, one often can’t do what the kleptocrats do. Why? Duh, you don’t have that kind of money. If you have to ask the price you can’t afford it.

        2. Zachary Smith

          I’m not too keen on land as an investment. In the first place, your money is nailed down, and that lack of liquidity could be a real issue in an economic disaster.

          Secondly, the 2005 Kelo eminent domain decision by the Supremes means whatever you have isn’t really yours – especially if somebody with clout wants it. They’d bribe a few local political types, then pay off an appraiser to say it’s worth some super low price. Result: you’re SOL.

          Even if none of that happens, there are the issues of taxes and liability.

          Land may make sense for folks with enough money to mount an effective defense against a grab and who (on account of starting out rich) wouldn’t need their money out in a hurry, but I doubt if ordinary Joe Citizen is in that group.

          1. Ms G

            and you could run into a little MERS issue too!

            What could possibly go wrong with investing in land in the US! (Unless you are a Russian or US Oligarch all cash buyer with strings to ensure none of the above issues affect your ownership rights.)

    2. Ken Murphy

      Why do I keep seeing the $250,000 limit for FDIC? Has no one ever heard of CDARS? You can have millions in FDIC insured deposits! It’s like the MERS of the insured retail banking system:

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Clusterstock = Business Insider

      They rebranded to become more respectable and I don’t acknowledge it. There are some pages in the site that still have “Clusterstock” on them. I saw one the other day, can’t find it again.

      1. diptherio

        Ahhh…I see. I wonder if Clusterstock was originally intended as a ‘clusterf*@k’ reference…it is a catchier name than Business Insider.

  10. Brindle

    Re: “Iraq Afghanistan Wars Set To Be The Most Expensive…”

    I think that was the whole point.

    1. Susan the other

      There has been no accurate accounting of all the money burned in Iraq and Afghanistan. For DailyMail to claim it somehow knows the amount and to put a figure of 2Tr on it is absurd. Surely it is 4 or 5 times that amount, all things considered. This has been going full-speed for over 10 years. Money was no objective. Makes me think they knew dollars were over and done and it was time to squander them all for the real prise – control of oil. It’s possible that now we have achieved control of oil we can issue a new money, one backed directly by oil credits.

      Palast’s article about Bush/Cheney/Rummy assuming they were to privatize Iraq’a oil fields and then James Baker finally clued them in and said the oil was to stay put within a governing structure (what kind is not mentioned) so Iraq can serve to be the reverse of a release valve – that it can make oil more expensive by withholding it from the market… Does Palast think anyone will believe Bush et. al. didn’t know exactly what they were doing from the get go? Palast is starting to sound like a CIA comic book.

      1. Chauncey Gardiner

        I remember when Joseph Stiglitz was ridiculed for publicly estimating the monetary cost of the invasion and occupation of Iraq at over $3 Tril. I agree that number appears to have been far below the true all-in cost to date in raw monetary terms, setting aside the incalculable cost in human lives, misery and impairment.

        I personally felt Palast’s account to be a possibility based on how little we all know about those events, even at this late date. But IMO the ramp in the price of oil to $147 bbl in July 2008 and the subsequent crash, rebound and continuing price strength in the commodity have been largely based on factors other than global oil production.

        As for the idea of an oil-backed currency, I have also wondered whether the pounding of the village drums for Keystone, and the fracking action and propaganda spin aren’t in part to set the stage. Such a development would be a major policy error in my view. Besides solutions grounded in MMT that have been discussed on this blog and elsewhere, a superior alternative might be a green energy-based monetary system.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      As long as the government either borrows without fear or prints as much as it wants, we can handle it even if it’s 12 trillion dollars.

  11. Money-laundering is only for Obama bundlers

    Bitcoin, implausible two years ago? I dimly recall an anonymous digital currency project I did for a BRIC patent troll 15 years ago. Commercial interests outside the NATO bloc understand the value of that kind of service very well, and they will get themselves a bunch of them, whether the rescued third-rate ambulance chasers of FINCEN approve or not. [ad hominem. –ls]

  12. Money laundering is only for Obama bundlers and Clandestine Service criminalsMoney laundering is only for Obama bundlers and Clandestine Service criminals

    Bitcoin, implausible two years ago? Why, I dimly recall an anonymous digital currency project I did for a BRIC patent troll 15 years ago. Commercial interests outside the NATO bloc understand the value of that kind of service very well, and they will get themselves a bunch of them, whether the rescued third-rate ambulance chasers of FINCEN approve or not. Jeff Schwarz, you parasite, suck my ass – if you dare to unlatch from the Big Brother’s civil-service tit for once in your miserable life.

  13. J Sterling

    Re the BMI story, the mainstream media that claims bloggers leech off them, actually takes content off blogs and doesn’t credit properly: the site that hosted that chart isn’t a polling company, it’s just a place for bloggers to put their content. It would be like crediting Typepad for a story. It’s actually not a great chart, so I don’t feel like crediting, but you can search.

    The data itself is from the WHO (I’d give the URL but I think it got me moderated, and I don’t appreciate typing everything in twice). The WHO now shows slightly different BMI values, with the US above Kuwait and below a bunch of Pacific nations like Nauru and Tonga. I guess the blogger used a different year, and excluded tiny countries.

  14. Hugh

    The Assange case, much like Wikileaks itself, has served to expose the corruption and politicization of the rule of law in three of the jurisdictions many of us were grew up being taught were its strongest bastions: the US, the UK, and Sweden.

    Re North Korea, the question I have is where is China? North Korea is China’s dog. It only exists because China allows it to. So if the dog is barking, why is China letting it? Could this be a ploy in China’s various territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas? How much of this too is choreographed kabuki directed at restarting negotiations over subsidies to keep North Korea relatively quiet and just stale enough not to implode?

  15. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Capitalism Never Solves Its Crisis Problems; It Moves Them Around Geographically

    That is not too different from Science never solving its crisis problems, but just hoping to move them to outer space.

    Overpopulation? Colonize Mars.

    Lack of Resources? Mining some other planets.

    Need a tax haven? Set up a corporation on Jupiter.

    Prison overcrowding? Sent them to where they sent Capt Kirk (forget the name of the planet).

    1. hunkerdown

      The title of that article reminded me of this old April Fools RFC published years ago by the Internet Engineering Task Force, “The Twelve Networking Truths”: As it happens, these observations apply equally to networks for other than data communication.

      Particularly, Truth 6: “It is easier to move a problem around (for example, by moving the problem to a different part of the overall network architecture) than it is to solve it.”

      And how about that corollary 6a: “It is always possible to add another level of indirection.”

  16. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    North Korea blusters.

    Is this another case of barking dogs don’t bite? Quieter risks may?

    Is it also like that with the size of the government – small governments (with GDP sharing constitutionally) are more powerful and can bite into wealth inequality whereas big, bloated governments are just barking, serving only those claim to be working on the problem?

  17. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Internet making us poor?

    What does it mean – another step backward brought to us by science and technology?

  18. JohnB

    A couple of weeks ago there was a link to a Martin Wolf FT article lambasting David Cameron for his comments that there is “no magic money tree”, contradicting him and stating there is a money tree.

    Well this is a one-up on that, with apparently the British Chancellor George Osborne disagreeing with Cameron now too, and noting in an official document from March, that financing through money creation is possible:

    I’ve recently been looking at the Positive Money site, and saw this on their blog.

  19. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Marijuana infused tea – another attempt to free us from pain inflicted by banskters?

  20. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Fattest countries…average body mass index…

    In Olympic games, it’s always the fastest or the strongest of each nation going up against one another.

    Here we have the averages in that link.

    I’ve always wondered what it would be like if Olympic races are run with the slowest, most-out-shape or the weakest from each nation.

    If we rank how rich a country is not by her richest citizens, but her poorest, how would that look?

    1. tiebie66

      Don’t worry about the BMI anymore! We can now fix it with a high-protein egg-and-beef Continental Breakfast and slim down like the French and Spanish. The cantaloupe-and-coffee English Breakfast is toast!

      “Secret to weight-loss is a high-protein breakfast”

  21. rich

    David Stockman: We’ve Been Lied To, Robbed, And Mislead

    By manipulating the price of money through sustained and historically low interest rates, Greenspan and Bernanke created an era of asset mis-pricing that inevitably would need to correct. And when market forces attempted to do so in 2008, Paulson et al hoodwinked the world into believing the repercussions would be so calamitous for all that the institutions responsible for the bad actions that instigated the problem needed to be rescued — in full — at all costs.

  22. tiebie66

    Speaking of the BMI, does anyone know why some countries have gender reversals in BMI? In Europe men seem to be heavier and in Africa/Middle East women tend to be heavier. Given the (expected) large sample sizes, these are not likely to be by chance.

  23. Kaylene

    . Urwał, sκonѕternowany. Rуcerz ѕpojrzał

    ρytającο. – Że Kaylene w taki ѕpoѕób.
    Móωili, ze гycerz powinien ω zbroi na beѕtię napaść,
    koρіą smagnąć, zatrаtować w odniesіeniu do

    wiekszеj chwalе bożej. I tak,

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