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Epic Battles

March 12, 2010

It seems the battles all around us are beginning to become epic in proportion, extending beyond once acceptable boundaries. It feels as though seams are ripping, that things could possibly spin way out of control, whatever that is. The clash between the classes is beyond simmering, bubbling, in places like Greece and parts of Africa, already boiling over. Usually, after epic battles commence humans often proceed to a phase call the dark ages when the battles reduce in size into turf fights between gangs and tribes for fiefdoms elevating the petty, the more diminutive warlords.

It is time to do away with the epic mega monsters, the superpowers, and to never let them get so large again. Too big to fail just ain’t natural, because when they do inevitably fall, they take far too much down with them, throwing the whole world out of balance.

Your cephalopod antidote du jour: The glow in the dark Hawa

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67 Comments leave one →
  1. Stemella permalink*
    March 12, 2010 6:18 am

    The Elvin one has the unmitigated audacity to tell the EU what it can do with its own regulations on Hedge funds.What a tool.

    Geithner warns of rift over regulation

    Tim Geithner, US Treasury secretary, has delivered a blunt warning to the European Commission that its plans to regulate the hedge fund and private equity industries could cause a transatlantic rift by discriminating against US groups.

    A letter sent by Mr Geithner this month to Michel Barnier, Europe’s internal market commissioner, makes it clear that the [b]European Union is heading for a clash with Washington[/b] if it pushes ahead with what the US – and Britain – fear could be a protectionist law.

    A clash, an epic clash brewing perhaps?

    The draft EU directive would impose tighter restrictions on hedge funds, private equity and other alternative investment funds. It has caused alarm in the City of London, where some in the industry say it is a thinly veiled attempt by France and Germany to undermine the UK’s dominance of financial services.

    If European diplomats reach agreement at a meeting on Thursday, the directive will be put to EU finance ministers when they convene on Tuesday. The proposed rules will require approval by EU lawmakers.

    Mr Geithner’s one-page letter, sent on March 1, stresses the need for the US and Europe to work together on regulation of the financial services industry.

    He underlines last autumn’s commitment by the Group of 20 nations to avoid discriminatory measures in any regulatory response to the financial crisis.

    Discrimination eh? What a crock of bullshit, Timmeh.

    Here’s a copy of Timmeh’s letter

    Here is an updated article discussing the dispute Geither has with the Europeans regulating themselves. England is ever the fawning poodle, humping Uncle Sam’s leg for morsels. Fucking unbelievable. Could Imperial ambition be any more apparent here?

    France and UK seek hedge fund deal

    Britain, Europe’s biggest centre for hedge funds, is leading opposition to aspects of the directive, which it fears could impede the operations of funds based in London.

    He added that the new commissioner wanted to “work closely” with the US, to ensure “robust standards” in financial services. Mr Barnier is due to visit the US shortly, although no final date has been set.

    The spat comes at a sensitive time. Diplomats from the 27 EU member states again failed on Thursday to agree a compromise package for regulating hedge funds and private equity funds on a pan-EU basis.

    Britain, by far Europe’s biggest centre for hedge funds, is leading opposition to aspects of the directive, which it fears could impede the operations of funds based in London.

    These bastards don’t want any regulation anywhere to mess up their lovely little hedge fund ponzi schemes.

    • cometman permalink*
      March 12, 2010 9:54 am

      Ha! The letter from Timmeh seems to be saying that if the EU doesn’t allow Goldman et al to continue ripping off Europe and everybody else with impunity, they’ll all go out of business or at least not qualify for gargantuan bonuses anymore. Boo-hoo. Check out the article I posted below about Europe trying to shut US banks out of bond deals because they can’t be trusted. Get a fucking clue Timmeh – creating a transatlantic rift seems to be the whole point.

  2. Stemella permalink*
    March 12, 2010 6:48 am

    This concept does not appeal and seems foolish.

    Bow Down Before the Ubertrout

    After ten years of tinkering with DNA in a Rhode Island lab, a top fish boffin claims he has created a genetically enhanced mutant supertrout.

    “Our findings are quite stunning,” says Professor Terry Bradley, an expert on trout, salmon, flounder and tuna. “The results have significant implications.”

    Bradley says he has managed to modify the genetic pattern of rainbow trout so that the tasty fish become hugely more muscular and powerful than normal. Apparently the process is similar to that which occurs in a type of “double muscled” blue cow produced in Belgium.

    Ever heard of Mad Cow Disease you fucking assholes? Profit and ubertrout uber alles.

    • artemis54 permalink
      March 12, 2010 8:17 am

      Oh my god. Enough with these rainbow trout. Half the west is already overrun with the fucking things dumped into every lake, wiping out everything else. I actually feel sorry the rainbow trout too. After a century of modifications they are already some thing out of one of Margaret Atwood’s worst nightmares, now this.

      (Speaking of, just finished The Year of the Flood. Fans of Oryx & Crake – like me – will love it. I’m not sure about anyone else.)

      • cometman permalink*
        March 12, 2010 10:11 am

        That Oryx & Crake book looks pretty good – who doesn’t love a good post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel? :) I may have to check that one out but first I need to get through the last heap of books I bought. I picked up a copy of that Monster of God book you recommended but haven’t started in on it yet. Had to get through the Joe Bageant book and another scifi novel I picked up first.

        I have no idea if this will interest anyone here and I’m not sure it even interests me yet since I’ve started it about three times and haven’t made it past the first 25 pages, but if you like epic length post-apocalyptic sci fi-ish novels that don’t make a ton of sense, you might try Dahlgren by Samuel Delaney. One of those books like Gravity’s Rainbow or Ulysses that nobody can quite figure out. One of these days I’m going to read the whole thing, I swear! Just like the copy of Ulysses that’s been sitting on my bookshelf for 20 years now :) Did make it through Gravity’s Rainbow though.

        • Stemella permalink*
          March 12, 2010 12:50 pm

          I have liked everything I’ve read by Atwood, including Oryx & Crake. As to Ulysses, you should know that Joyce was drunker than fuck when he wrote it. The only way to enjoy it, I found, was to listen to it on tape/cd with readers with good Irish accents. It makes all the difference. It is meant to be heard, not read, like poetry, or so I believe.

          • artemis54 permalink
            March 12, 2010 2:53 pm

            Absolutely read it aloud.

            Also don’t worry. Just enjoy the humor. btw O&C is wickedly funny in a Gahan Wilson kind of way.

  3. Stemella permalink*
    March 12, 2010 7:00 am

    Not a surprise, but part of the truth is out there at last

    Fuld ‘Negligent’ as Lehman Hid Leverage, Report Says

    and

    JPMorgan, Citigroup Helped Cause Lehman Collapse, Report Says

    Full coverage and analysis of this report is over at Zero Hedge

    • cometman permalink*
      March 12, 2010 10:19 am

      I’ve never understood the rationale behind off balance sheet transactions. It’s basically allowing companies to keep two sets of books from what I can tell – the same system that businesses operating as a front for criminal organizations use. That is something that needs to be addressed and you’d think it would have been after the Enron/Arthur Anderson debacle. We must get back to a more standardized system of accounting rather than allowing companies to report whatever the hell they want that makes them seem profitable.

  4. Stemella permalink*
    March 12, 2010 7:42 am

    Not a general strike, but a good start

    Get Set for March Actions to Make Wall Street Pay

    The union movement and our allies are taking our fight for good jobs now to the biggest Wall Street banks whose reckless greed has gone a long way to wreck the U.S. economy and kill American jobs.

    From March 15-26, working people will hold rallies and demonstrations at branches of the Big Six Wall Street banks—Bank of America, Chase, Citigroup, Wachovia-Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley—across the country. They will tell the banks “We Are Not Your ATMs” and “Make Wall Street Pay for Creating New Jobs.”

  5. cometman permalink*
    March 12, 2010 8:03 am

    Here are a bunch of links I’d mentioned earlier about credit default swaps and related issues.

    Defenders and Demonizers of Credit Default Swaps – this is about naked CDS where you don’t need to own the underlying security and like the author I’ve gotta go with the demonizer side.

    Janet Tavakoli wants to ban the use of CDS on US debt – she’s talking about naked CDS too. Even if the US doesn’t default on its debt because it is a sovereign country which can always print more money, traders can still use CDS to force price changes which allow them to profit. The price changes have nothing to do with changes ion the underlying fundamentals but are based purely on speculation. The more people who bet that the debt is worthless, the more worthless it becomes in the eyes of the market.

    The Europeans are trying to keep US banks out of any deals to trade their own bonds.

    “Governments do not have the confidence that the excessive risk-taking culture of the big Wall Street banks has changed and they still cannot be trusted to put the stability of the financial system before profit,” said Arlene McCarthy, vice chair of the European parliament’s economic and monetary affairs committee. “It is no surprise therefore that governments are reluctant to do business with banks that have failed to learn the lesson of the crisis. The banks need to acknowledge the mistakes that were made and behave in an ethical way to regain the trust and confidence of governments.”

    And perhaps the reason Europeans feel this way is because they are finally starting to understand the following – Fraud: The Western Banking Industry’s Fastest Growing Export.

    What is occurring in the US commercial real estate industry would be akin to the following example. In 2008, when the S&P 500 plummeted by nearly 40%, imagine if you knew that every single commercial investment house that was a competitor of the one that managed your money lost roughly 40% in all of their managed stock portfolios that year as well. Now, imagine your surprise when you received a statement at the end of 2008 from your commercial investment firm in which your portfolio, valued at $2 million at the beginning of the year, was still valued at $1.95 million. Wondering how your firm managed to outperform all their rivals when you know full well that they all employ the exact same diversification strategies, you phone your advisor to acquire about this anomaly.

    Not a minute into your conversation, your advisor stops you mid-sentence and states, “We achieved such exceptional performance because our internal valuation models have determined that the true valuation of your portfolio should be $1.95 million. Furthermore, January 2008 was a really bad month so we excluded that month in our internal valuation models and amended our year to run from February 2008 to February 2009.” Confused by this response, you respond: “Your internal valuation models? Does that mean if I wanted to cash our my portfolio right now, I would not receive $1.95 million less your commission fees?” Your advisor responds, “That is correct. Were you to cash out today, you may only receive $1.2 million, maybe even $1 million, not $1.95 million. But don’t worry, our internal valuation models have determined that the vast majority of stocks you hold are severely undervalued and that the market is not setting a fair price for your stocks were you to sell today. Our internal stock market valuation experts have told us that the true value of your is actually $1.95 million. That is why your statement values your portfolio at $1.95 million.”

    How would you react to this conversation? Most likely, you would scream fraud and pull your account immediately, right? But this is the scenario that is occurring with the commercial real estate sector in the US today, and this is precisely why banks that are insolvent are declaring themselves solvent.

    One more which was linked to in the previous article – maybe we already posted this here since the name Darius Guppy rings a bell, but here it is just in case –Our world balances on a sea of debt .

    But the system relies entirely, as do all Ponzi schemes, on the assumption of continued growth, hence its inherent instability. Once that growth is threatened the edifice collapses. Householders in Britain will appreciate such a phenomenon only too well: put up 10 per cent for a property and borrow the rest from the bank. That property’s value need rise by only 10 per cent and you have doubled your equity; if it falls by only 10 per cent you are wiped out.

    This explains why a contraction of a mere 2 or 3 per cent in the global economy leads not to a correspondingly minute fall on international stock markets, but to financial Armageddon.

    • artemis54 permalink
      March 12, 2010 8:25 am

      The first paragraph of the current statement on my small, local bank’s splash page (italics mine):

      Against a national backdrop of poor economic activity and news during 2009, XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX completed another very successful year. We finished the year 2009 with no Real Estate owned and did not post any additions to loan loss reserves or write down any assets during the year. We originated more loans during 2009 than in 2008. Total assets grew by nearly ten percent during 2009 and we recorded strong profits. We are now the tenth largest FDIC insured financial institution in Washington State. At years’ end our capital ratio stood at 17.559% and our ratio of liquid assets to total assets was over 50%. These ratios set the foundation for our strength and sustainability.

      • artemis54 permalink
        March 12, 2010 8:27 am

        Crapulation. I meant to italicize this part:

        We finished the year 2009 with no Real Estate owned and did not post any additions to loan loss reserves or write down any assets during the year. We originated more loans during 2009 than in 2008.

        • cometman permalink*
          March 12, 2010 9:45 am

          That sounds a little on the vague side. Could mean they acted responsibly and they really are doing quite well. But then again there are a lot of insolvent banks that haven’t written down assets in order to hide the fact that they’re insolvent. Just because they didn’t doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have been required to. One of the links in the comment above speaks to that notion.

          Here’s another sign of the times concerning real estate development- Another jewel lost in Greenway crown.

          Four years after showing off plans for a glitzy $80 million building on the Rose Kennedy Greenway, organizers of the New Center for Arts and Culture have decided to abandon those plans, leaving yet another empty space on the sprawling tract created by the Big Dig.

          The organizers, who at one point said they had raised more than $20 million, blamed the economy for making it impossible to bring in enough money to build the Daniel Libeskind-designed structure on a site near Rowes Wharf.

          ~snip~

          The center’s move is the latest setback for the 27-acre Greenway, which was once slated to include several cultural projects, including the New Center, a Boston Museum, and a $70 million Garden Under Glass operated by the Massachusetts Horticultural Society.

          Only the Boston Museum project remains alive, if barely, though the Department of Transportation rejected its bid last month for a new site on the Greenway, and it has raised just $8 million of the $120 million it needs, organizers confirmed yesterday.

          The YMCA abandoned a plan for a facility on another Greenway site after its price tag climbed to almost $70 million, and it is now working on a scaled-down version.

          I had to chuckle a little at this bit:

          “It’s awfully disappointing that the economic situation has impeded the implementation of carefully thought-out plans,’’ said Vivien Li, executive director of the Boston Harbor Conservatory. She said she expects some of the plans to be revived, but perhaps not for more than a decade.

          Obviously those plans weren’t all that well thought out since they forgot to take into consideration the fact the the ec0nomy is run like a Ponzi scheme. And really, was there anything associated with The Big Dig, perhaps the biggest boondoggle ever foisted on the taxpayer, that was ever well thought out?

          So they have a 27 acre tract in the middle of downtown Boston called the Greenway which they can’t develop. Would it really be so bad to just let it stay, oh I don’t know, green? Does every single inch of real estate need to be paved over and developed?

    • Stemella permalink*
      March 12, 2010 1:42 pm

      Yes, Darius Guppy is quite the unforgettable name! Thanks for these links. I vote against the naked swaps too. I’ll never forget one regional old style banker who testified before the SEC last year how all his work of building up trust with clients for twenty or more years was trashed by unknown traders who brought down the value of his company using the naked swaps. They can be lethal weapons and tools of retribution in amoral or immoral hands. More transparency is my thinking.

      That fraud article gets to the core problem in politics and finance today. Lies and lying liars.

      Here’s a video by the same author

      • cometman permalink*
        March 12, 2010 2:34 pm

        Good video. Both he and the Guppy guy (evidently he was not a big enough fish to avoid jail time!) mention that money is no longer tied to gold. I don’t necessarily think tying it to gold is the answer either since any value gold has is fairly arbitrary as well. And what happens when somebody in the probably not too distant future mines an asteroid and finds tons of gold and brings it back home?. I know it sounds silly but the effect of flooding the economy and reducing the value of money for everybody else would be the same.

        My suggestion would be to have money tied directly to labor. I think we brought up before the concept of “hours” that some small communities have tried as a currency. I think with enough thought put into it, a system like that could work. Maybe 20-25 “hours” per week could be considered a living wage and your gross income is based on how many hours you work. Everybody would receive one “hour” for one hour’s work no matter what the profession. Or maybe more depending on the expertise required. I wouldn’t have a problem paying say a heart surgeon more than one “hour” for each hour of surgery they performed. Want to be wealthier than everybody else, then go out and get a second or third job and make 60-70 hours per week. But the wealth you could accumulate would be limited by the number of hours in a week and nobody pushing papers around on Wall Street would be able to make thousands of times what the least paid make. Obviously I haven’t worked out all the details but I think something like would be worth a try and it would create a much more stable economic system. Money supply only increases in correspondence with an increase in population as more people work which IMO is as it should be.

  6. cometman permalink*
    March 12, 2010 10:43 am

    More white hot stupid – Glenn Beck just figured out that Springsteen’s Born in the USA is NOT a paean to the glorious American way of life.

    • artemis54 permalink
      March 12, 2010 12:13 pm

      Let’s see. He’s denounced the Gospels, Springsteen, Theodore Roosevelt. Who’s next? Oprah? Thomas Edison? Maybe Norman Rockwell?

  7. cometman permalink*
    March 12, 2010 10:58 am

    The universe gets curiouser and curiouser – Mysterious Cosmic ‘Dark Flow’ Tracked Deeper Into Universe.

    Distant galaxy clusters mysteriously stream at a million miles per hour along a path roughly centered on the southern constellations Centaurus and Hydra. A new study led by Alexander Kashlinsky at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., tracks this collective motion — dubbed the “dark flow” — to twice the distance originally reported.

    “This is not something we set out to find, but we cannot make it go away,” Kashlinsky said. “Now we see that it persists to much greater distances — as far as 2.5 billion light-years away.” The new study appears in the March 20 issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

    The clusters appear to be moving along a line extending from our solar system toward Centaurus/Hydra, but the direction of this motion is less certain. Evidence indicates that the clusters are headed outward along this path, away from Earth, but the team cannot yet rule out the opposite flow. “We detect motion along this axis, but right now our data cannot state as strongly as we’d like whether the clusters are coming or going,” Kashlinsky said.

    The dark flow is controversial because the distribution of matter in the observed universe cannot account for it. Its existence suggests that some structure beyond the visible universe — outside our “horizon” — is pulling on matter in our vicinity.

    I suppose the anomaly could be because there is some error in methods of data collection and analysis used to measure mass and distance. But ever since Hubble discovered the red shift almost a hundred years ago, the vast majority of empirical evidence has shown that the universe is expanding rapidly and it couldn’t be accounted for by current theories, thus the need the need for new theories of dark matter and dark energy.

    I think it would be kind of nice to find that we really do live in a multiverse.

    • Stemella permalink*
      March 12, 2010 1:00 pm

      Obviously, the Great Goddess is having her period! ;P

  8. cometman permalink*
    March 12, 2010 11:43 am

    Another one on the current zeitgeist from TomDispatch – Welcome to America, Sucker. Definitely worth reading the whole thing.

    I was intrigued by the mention in the intro that Stephen Sondheim had made a musical about Ponzi schemes called “Bounce”. Still haven’t seen his “Assassins” yet. Not a huge fan of musical but those sound pretty interesting.

    Not sure I agree with Pawlenty’s assessment of Social Security as a Ponzi scheme and I doubt the author does either. The only reason it could be construed as one is because politicians have been “borrowing” from the fund for years to cover other expenses but that isn’t necessarily how it was designed to work. Contrary to W’s assertion that the fund was filled with worthless IOUs, those IOUs are US Treasuries which in theory would not be worthless. Of course the equation changes when the government colludes with the bankers to foist private debt on the public. Anyway, in a well regulated economic system SS is definitely not a Ponzi scheme and if it does turn into one it will be because Ponzi schemers were allowed to get their mitts on it, not because it was designed that way.

  9. cometman permalink*
    March 12, 2010 12:28 pm

    Couple of good op-eds via Counterpunch.

    From Bill Moyers – Ask the Chamber of Commerce: Why is Too Much Not Enough?.

    As the sun sets on democracy.

    No wonder demonstrators outside that health insurance meeting in Washington this week surrounded the hotel with yellow crime scene tape.

    The entire country is being mugged.

    And Joe Bageant, keeping us sane by letting us laugh at the absurdity of it all – Learning About Capitalism at Gunther’s Garage.

    “Used to be that a guy would pick a stock based on the facts. After a while, it got so that people looked around to see what other people’s average opinion was, and they bet on that. Nowadays you look around and try to guess what the average opinion of the average opinion is. If you can guess enough other people’s guesses about other people’s guesses, then you bet on that and you make money. Don’t fucking matter if the stock is a dog. The stock market now runs the whole damned economy based on what fools believe other fools believe other fools believe. Run by a bunch of economists who figure that if they make enough fools believe the stock market is OK, then the economy will be OK. What if I ran my business that way? What if all I had to do was make people believe their cars was fixed? I’d go broke.”

    “You are broke, Gunther.”

    “That’s beside the point.”

    ~snip~

    Meanwhile, the “real” economy as most of us experience it, is stretched out dead as a day old codfish down there on Main Street. And all Obama or any other politician stewed in the super-capitalist ethos can do is pump money into the banks, and then beg the bankers to come out of their gilded lairs and trickle on the corpse. That’s the problem with capitalism–capitalists.

    ~snip~

    Maybe next time—even though there can be no next time in the usual sense, because the rip-off is in and it is total—we will choose better. The planet and the resource base that creates all wealth is pretty much shot, or soon will be. Over six billion people, otherwise known as the masses–though we are not allowed to use that commie term in America— are closing in to finish off what is left.

    America and the industrialized world as we have known it are unrecoverable. Some of us find a certain kind regrettable of justice in that. There will be no recovery, but there will be numerous manufactured illusions of recovery. As Gunther says, we will poke the frog for one jump at a time. Deny the obvious limits of the earth’s sustenance, dry hump the ghost of a sick and unjust prosperity and pretend the thrill ain’t gone.

    • artemis54 permalink
      March 12, 2010 1:00 pm

      That reminds me. I need to call my broker and lock in those absinthe futures.

    • artemis54 permalink
      March 12, 2010 1:10 pm

      No matter how screwed up the rest of the world, nothing says American exceptionalism quite like the fact that coming up on nine years after the 911 attacks, that hole in the ground is still there except for a skeleton of a few floors. And that will probably be torn down before long, as the endless pointless squabbling that defines us goes on and on. Eight and a half years for christ’s sake. Enough time to complete a moon landing from scratch once upon a time, or win a world war. Just shut up already and put something there, anything at all. A minimart maybe, a tree, a swimming pool. Just admit we can’t do anything and move on.

      • cometman permalink*
        March 12, 2010 1:41 pm

        Heh. I’d suggest a sign.

        Point taken.

        The emperor has no clothes.

        For the last banker fleeing Wall Street, please remember to turn off the lights.

        Free carbon credit to make it worth your while.

        • Stemella permalink*
          March 12, 2010 2:08 pm

          And that sign ought to be held by a statue of the cartoon character Pogo. Your sign would be a worthy update from the one he made famous during the Vietnam War era, “we have met the enemy, and he is us”

  10. cometman permalink*
    March 12, 2010 2:04 pm

    A little levity heading in to the weekend – Mr. Deity!

    A sample –

    • Stemella permalink*
      March 12, 2010 2:20 pm

      Wait for Lou. Sheesh! Who knew that “God” was Woody Allen with an earring!?

      Have a great weekend everyone :)

      • cometman permalink*
        March 16, 2010 5:54 am

        That weekend didn’t turn out so hot for me. The squidlette passed along something she had gotten which liquified my insides for a few days. Just a passing bug which the whole neighborhood got. Feeling much better now.

        • Stemella permalink*
          March 16, 2010 6:46 am

          Sorry to hear you were liquified. Not a pleasant experience. I hope the squidlette is feeling better too. I’m working in the field again today so will check in later. Take good care of yourself c-man.

  11. Stemella permalink*
    March 15, 2010 5:55 am

    McClatchy has a couple of good articles on the persistent problem of banks not lending to small business. The too big to fail are causing businesses of a saner scale to be too small to succeed.

    Small firms would hire you, if only they could get loans

    Here’s a useful chart showing numbers of bankruptcies, commercial and non commercial, between 2007 and 2009 by state. Residential is a huge proportion, but the business bankruptcies are still rising. With the bulk of the CRE bust still ahead of us, 2010 will only be worse.

    American Bankruptcy Institute Chart

  12. Stemella permalink*
    March 15, 2010 6:06 am

    The war on drugs is getting hotter than ever now that a

    US Consulate and family members have been murdered across the border

    • cometman permalink*
      March 16, 2010 10:23 am

      Clinton says she’ll do everything necessary to protect employees. Except push to legalize drugs and thereby stop the tremendous waste of life and resources the ridiculous “war on drugs” will continue to cause as long as an attitude adjustment not provided by one of the large pharmaceutical firms/political campaign contributors is still illegal.

  13. Stemella permalink*
    March 15, 2010 6:25 am

    Steinbeck or Upton Sinclair could have written this story, another from McClatchy

    Heir to California tomato empire faces prison in fraud case. Another story of greed and corruption. Tomatoes of wrath.

    Maybe that is how Frederick Scott Salyer ended up in this mess, facing a possible 20 years in federal prison in what prosecutors describe as one of the most audacious food industry schemes ever, one apparently designed to corner the nation’s market for processed tomato products.

    The conspiracy drove up food prices for Americans nationwide who used certain ketchup, salsa, juice, paste and any of dozens of other tomato-based products, and introduced old and moldy tomatoes into grocery stores, prosecutors contend.

    • cometman permalink*
      March 16, 2010 8:37 am

      Good read. Makes you wonder whether Salyer gave all those lavish parties for his employees out of gratitude or guilt. Sounds like another of those all too common stories where the son is obsessed with outdoing the father. At least he didn’t invade any foreign countries.

  14. Stemella permalink*
    March 15, 2010 6:43 am

    Bloomberg has an interview and article on Michael Lewis, of Liar’s Poker about his new book, “The Big Short.”

    Lewis Faults ‘Short-Term Greedy,’ Cites Goldman: Interview

    and here’s a link to the video: link

    • cometman permalink*
      March 16, 2010 10:17 am

      Great interview and vid. I think he’s correct not to try and place too much blame on any one individual or company (although he does point the finger at Goldman specifically) and emphasize that this is a systemic problem that’s gotten out of control. He nails it with the simple fact that in the last few decades these financial firms switched from being private partnerships betting with their own money to public firms gambling with other people’s money and that combined with the knowledge that they’ll be bailed out if they fail, makes it so there really is little risk to any of them personally. They’ve gone from providing a useful function as brokers and market makers turning a decent profit to parasites who can make more money by betting against their own customers.

      He’s got a great understanding of the financial world but I’m not sure he gets the politifcal one. I’m less sanguine about his notion that the wheels of democracy turn slowly but somehow they will eventually fix the problem. He notes that it took a few years to get Glass Steagall after the ’29 crash. However he doesn’t note that after the debacle he described in Liar’s Poker, instead of coming up with new regulation a few years later, the destructive practices of Wall Street became institutionalized by Congress. Congress and the corporate world are so intertwined that we don’t really have a democracy any more. If Congress were to rein in Wall Street, Wall Street would have less power and money and since they are so linked so would Congress. None of these fuckers are going to give up power voluntarily. It would be one thing if the Dems had the majority but not the corporate donations and they stood to gain by regulating industry and cutting off funding to the Republicans (or vice versa). But that simply isn’t the case.

  15. cometman permalink*
    March 16, 2010 11:47 am

    Despite “<0" claiming there would be far greater transparency under his administration, government agencies in "<0" 's first year invoked secrecy far more often than the Bush administration in its last year.

    …. a provision in the Freedom of Information Act law that allows the government to hide records that detail its internal decision-making has been invoked by Obama agencies more often in the past year than during the final year of President George W. Bush.

    Major agencies cited that exemption to refuse records at least 70,779 times during the 2009 budget year, compared with 47,395 times during President George W. Bush’s final full budget year, according to annual FOIA reports filed by federal agencies.

    An Associated Press review of Freedom of Information Act reports filed by 17 major agencies found that the use of nearly every one of the law’s nine exemptions to withhold information from the public rose in fiscal year 2009, which ended last October.

    Not only that, but now “<0" is threatening to veto legislation to fund intelligence agencies if it includes provisions for more oversight of those agencies and Peter Orszag specifically mentioned a provision that would reopen investigations into the 2001 anthrax attacks as a reason for the veto recommendation.

    I’d really like to know why nobody wants this looked into any further. There is something stupendously rotten here. Orszag mentions that it would undermine public confidence to reopen the case. First of all, who says the public is so confident that the FBI got it right? But let’s assume they are and the FBI did get it right. How would a new investigation which reiterated the previous findings while maybe shedding light on some unknown details undermine that confidence? Seems to me it would bolster it and prove to people the government wasn’t trying to hide anything. And if Orszag truly believes the results of the previous investigations, you’d think he’d cite a waste of funds as a reason not to have another one, not a loss of public confidence.

  16. cometman permalink*
    March 16, 2010 11:51 am

    Looks like Eli Lilly may have a few less dollars to bribe Congresspeople with – somebody used the bad weather of recent days to rip off $70 million worth of drugs. Somebody’s going to have one hell of a party.

    The thefts will not cause any national shortages of the products, [company spokesperson] Sagebiel said.

    Well thank goodness for that. Can’t have people thinking too much and being depressed at how much they’ve been fucked over by the powers that be in this country.

    • Stemella permalink*
      March 16, 2010 7:42 pm

      Black marketeering, the mainstay of third world economies, coming to a parking lot or alley near you. Interesting that they were going after the anti depressants, the current “opiate” of choice of the masses. More functional than downers, but still oh so comfortably numb.

  17. cometman permalink*
    March 16, 2010 12:37 pm

    The world gets newer and braver. Scientists have isolated a gene responsible for tissue regeneration in lab mice.

    A quest that began over a decade ago with a chance observation has reached a milestone: the identification of a gene that may regulate regeneration in mammals. The absence of this single gene, called p21, confers a healing potential in mice long thought to have been lost through evolution and reserved for creatures like flatworms, sponges, and some species of salamander.

    In a report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from The Wistar Institute demonstrate that mice that lack the p21 gene gain the ability to regenerate lost or damaged tissue.

    More here. Evidently the mice aren’t growing new limbs quite yet, but they’re getting closer.

    The MRL mice don’t regrow limbs, but they do partially regenerate digits, a step in that direction. And these MRL mice have a far superior ability to regenerate cardiac tissue than do regular mice, and humans.

    Pretty interesting that the discovery was initially made by accident.

    • artemis54 permalink
      March 16, 2010 1:40 pm

      Yes fascinating. Notice the key to directed growth is the death of everything else. How our whole neural tube and everything else develops.

      btw, you will definitely like this: I’m gonna live forever, if I can just save up enough rotten eggs.

      • cometman permalink*
        March 16, 2010 7:42 pm

        Thanks for that video. Interesting that it’s such a fairly common substance that has those properties. Sure beats sawing your head off and putting it in the freezer :P

  18. artemis54 permalink
    March 16, 2010 1:52 pm

    Another warning for the gee-whiz geoengineering brigade:

    Proposals to fertilize large expanses of ocean with iron to halt global warming could trigger an ecological disaster, a University of Western Ontario professor is warning.

    • cometman permalink*
      March 16, 2010 2:32 pm

      Oh no. That is such a terrible idea. I’m also reminded of the study I’ve discussed before which found huge clouds of methane visible from space being released into the atmosphere caused by plankton which had died and decayed on the ocean floor because there were no predators to eat them due to overfishing.

      But hey to combat the lethal red tides that would result from this, you could dump tons of mussels and clams to filter out the red tide, then breed millions of otters to eat the shellfish, them genetically engineer some supersharks to eat the otters, and then….

      Or maybe despite the hit the global “economy” would take, we could just stop the practices that have fucked up the balance it took millions and millions of years to create.

      • artemis54 permalink
        March 16, 2010 2:39 pm

        That would require a recovery of memory.

        The ideas of the indigenous who managed to live here, there, in specific places for twenty thousand years withouf fucking it all up are dismissed at Copenhagen and everywhere as irrelevant.

        All we have to do to reduce CO2 emissions by 20% is STOP deforestation. Just refrain from further idiocy. But that’s not sexy enough, there has to be some profitable fancy new gee whiz solution.

  19. artemis54 permalink
    March 16, 2010 2:26 pm

    The absurdity of polls: msnbc is running the wsj poll showing that 36% of respondents – a plurality – say they will vote against their representative if he votes for HCR, and 34% – a plurality – will vote against him if he votes against.

    Chuck Todd, the rest of the idiots on tv, not to mention mamz etc, live on these ridiculous polls. Guess what? 20% are sure they’ve been abducted by aliens, 60 some percent don’t believe global warming exists, and so on. Is it really wise to base policy on polls? I remember several years ago someone presented the bill of rights – unidentified – in a poll. The first amendment didn’t stand a chance. It isn’t approved if you present it in a poll. Does that mean it shoud be repealed?

    • artemis54 permalink
      March 16, 2010 4:31 pm

      I always wonder what it would be like to be married to these people. Short of being a gynecoligist’s wife, what could be worse than Chuck Todd? “Twelve percent of the neighbors think I should take out the garbage, honey, but 72% had no opinion.”

      Polls are like the modern version of the old obsession with Freudianism. Both illuminate nothing while pretending to explain everything. Why is anyone stupid enough to buy?

    • cometman permalink*
      March 16, 2010 7:49 pm

      About the only pleasure I get from polls is yelling at the dumbasses who are unlucky enough to call my house trying to get me to take one.

  20. artemis54 permalink
    March 16, 2010 2:49 pm

    Holy moly! This really is Breaking News:

    NOAA lists Delta smelt under Endangered Species Act

    You could knock me over with a eulachon scale. The best part will be watching Sean Hannity’s head explode. Thank you EarthJustice, Center for Biological Diversity, and all the others.

  21. cometman permalink*
    March 17, 2010 8:15 am

    Jon Stewart had a great bit on the douchebag banks last night for anyone who missed it.

  22. Stemella permalink*
    March 17, 2010 9:10 am

    More fish tail tales

    Wildlife dilemma: Protect killer whales or the fish they eat?

    Orca or Chinook? A choice that should not even have to be considered.

    • artemis54 permalink
      March 17, 2010 12:50 pm

      And they’ve started killing sea lions again at Bonneville dam, not to mention cormorants.

      Unfortunately news like that is latched on to by morons like Hannity etc. I hear it all the time: salmon are depleted by orcas, terns, the Indians, on and on.

      Funny that when all these were more numerous, so were the salmon. But you really cannot argue with idiots.

  23. cometman permalink*
    March 17, 2010 10:44 am

    Lewis Lapham makes an appearance at TomDispatch with an essay on the state of the art world in the US. Reminded my why I always enjoy it when somebody rips off a piece of art valued more for its sticker price than the thoughts it invokes in the viewer- The Great White Whale in San Francisco Bay Or How the “Lively Arts” Became “the Media”.

    Noted that even Lapham doesn’t get James Joyce ;)

    I liked this part (and suspect the torture metaphor was very intentional) :

    The apparatchiks in the English department employed the techniques remarked upon by Billy Collins — “tie the poem to a chair with rope / and torture a confession out of it,” beat it with a hose “to find out what it really means.” I was less interested in what it really meant than in A. E. Housman’s definition of poetry as that which raises the hair on the chin while shaving. Despite four years of being told that art was somehow sacred, divorced from all sakes other than its own, I never learned to prefer the comprehension of the theory of the thing to a naive delight in the thing itself.

    Reading T.S. Eliot was what got me to give up trying so much to figure out what the artists themselves meant and just sit back and enjoy what I’m reading or looking at because it means something to me. I don’t know what Eliot meant exactly when he wrote Do I dare to eat a peach? and 20 years ago I didn’t know what to make of it myself but I loved the sound of the words. But now it does mean something to me besides just being beautifully written (and I don’t dare nearly as much as I used to :P ).

    • artemis54 permalink
      March 17, 2010 12:55 pm

      This Joyce bashing has to stop! Just approach it as a warm bath. And then if you must read an analysis, start with Stuart Gilbert. All that matters in that line is the attempt to glorify the comman man – and woman! – in epic terms.

  24. cometman permalink*
    March 17, 2010 10:53 am

    Pretty good article from Michael Moore which I post mostly for the following tidbit which I hadn’t heard before about the consequences health insurance companies will face if they deny coverage of pre-existing conditions under the currently proposed “reform” legislation:

    And how big will the fines be if the insurance companies do deny someone coverage for having a pre-existing condition? Are you sitting down? A hundred dollars a day! That’s it! So if you’re the insurance company, and Judy is a customer of yours, and Judy needs an operation that will cost $100,000, what do you do? You take the fine! Let’s say Judy lives another year after you’ve sentenced her to death, your $100-a-day fine will only cost you $36,500! That’s a savings of $63,500! And trust me, my friends, that’s EXACTLY what’s going to happen.

  25. cometman permalink*
    March 17, 2010 11:04 am

    Sigh. Kucinich caves.

    Reading between the lines it sounds like Kucinich didn’t get quite the same treatment as the recalcitrant right wingers among the Democrats. They got pork in exchange for their votes. Sounds like all Kucinich got was a knife to the spleen instead of direct to the heart.

    • artemis54 permalink
      March 17, 2010 12:57 pm

      He got a little kiss from Obama. A few of those won’t hurt him.

      More than mamz got. Ha!

  26. cometman permalink*
    March 17, 2010 1:25 pm

    Here’s a little something for St. Paddy’s Day. Irish tenor Ronan Tynan of Yankee Stadium fame was dumped by the Yanks for supposedly being an anti-semite and now he’s been adopted by Beantown.

    …the other day, Tynan picked up a pen with the hand that still wears the bulbous World Series ring with the diamond-studded NY and signed a bunch of papers and closed on a place on Lewis Wharf and is now, as he approaches 50, a Bostonian. And as he tries to figure out where, aside from the Four Seasons, he can get a good meal in this town, he wonders where he goes to get his reputation back.

    I’m torn by the suggestion that he should start singing “God Bless America” at Fenway. While I’m a fan of just about anything that embarrasses the Yankees, I can’t fucking stand all the militarism and nationalism that have infested sporting events everywhere. Do we really need to hear the Star Spangled banner every single time a bunch of guys in spandex pants get ready to beat the shit out of each other for 60 minutes? What does any of it have to do with somebody’s RBI totals?

    If he’s going to sing at Fenway, get him a new song.

    • cometman permalink*
      March 17, 2010 1:58 pm

      Maybe the Sox can have Ronan sing the lead on this one –

      That would really piss the Yankees fans off. Did I mention I’m kind of excited for baseball season to start?

  27. artemis54 permalink
    March 17, 2010 1:41 pm

    Merkel talks expulsion from EU for malingerers. Like those Mediterranean vermin who don’t fulfill requirements in German eyes.

    Really, Angela? “Expulsion”? Wanna rethink that for a minute?

    • cometman permalink*
      March 17, 2010 2:00 pm

      Heh. Would this just be a temporary measure or a final solution?

  28. Stemella permalink*
    March 17, 2010 3:40 pm

    This story really pisses me off. This story encapsulates so much that is wrong about “health” industry in America. Jesus fuck

    Insurer targeted HIV patients to drop coverage

    If there was such a thing as fairness this company would have been put out of business. Instead it is business as usual, and they all do it. Same as the banksters. I had to spend way too much time fighting a bankster today for fairness. As a result I am now in an extremely foul state of mind. These are bad people these corporate oppressors. Their shackles are chafing my hide.

    • artemis54 permalink
      March 17, 2010 4:40 pm

      One more time: when was the last time an insurance company set a bone or removed a gall bladder?

      They serve no productive role.

      Your story also reminds me of many years ago, in the early years of the pandmeic. In a wrongful death suit against an airline, the defense asserted that the victim was homosexual, therefore likely to contract AIDS, and that therefore he had less productive life to lose and his heirs should be compensated less.

      They’re the same enemies. We know them of old.

    • artemis54 permalink
      March 17, 2010 4:48 pm

      btw, many years ago when I was even younger and more fabulous than I am now I worked for the life insurance branch of a big insurance firm. At the time, they were getting out of the health insurance business with a quickness. I did not understand these things, but a life underwriter explained to me that it was not insurance in the normal sense, that is, betting against an unlikely event, but rather a crazy game of betting against a certain event and trying to screw a profit out of it somehow. In other words almost everyone will face some health challenge at some point. He actually described health insurance in terms of a shell game of hiding and prevaricating, and was one of the voices in the company calling for an end to it.

      • Stemella permalink*
        March 18, 2010 6:28 am

        Always fabulous, Melvin, always.

        The middle class is being destroyed by the middlemen, who make up a good portion of the middle class, and work as agents of the ruling plutocrats running their casinos. Ludicrous and shameful!

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