November 20, 2011 archive

Nov 20

Today on The Stars Hollow Gazette

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Nov 20

Cartnoon

K9 Quarry, Episode 5, Season 2

Nov 20

Miracle on the Quad: The Power of the People Prevails

November 18th on the Quad at University of California, Davis:

A friend sent me the video. Perhaps because it was my alma mater. It opens on a damp, leaden day, so typical of Northern California in November. Yet, the weather has not deadened the mood of the students on the quad.

The police have come to evict their occupation. The students respond to the dismantling of their encampment by sitting in a wide circle around the officers. They sit with their heads bowed and their backs to the cops destroying their camp. Nothing more than that, just sitting with arms linked. The officers pass through the ring and the students make no effort to stop them. A crowd gathers to watch.

Some officers attempt to remove students from the ring and drag them away. The police seem compelled to force any behavior not scripted for us into submission with force. They never seem to ask themselves if the behavior is dangerous, or if it even matters to their mission. What would happen if the police simply ignored the ring of protestors sitting around them? But the people in the ring are saying “no” to authority with their bodies and that can not be allowed.

The commanding officer waves his men off the protesters. He crosses the ring to spray the entire line of students in the face with pepper spray. He does this with a casual air of a man spraying an insect. Batons are used to pry people apart. Police force the protesters to the ground and kneel on their backs to cuff them.

Nov 20

Market Inefficiency

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

If you are an economist you should be more, not less, outraged by the corruption and fraud of our financial elites.  As Matt Stoller points out, they represent market inefficiencies and introduce far greater uncertainty than mere regulation.

Matt Stoller: Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto Cracks Open the Financial Crisis

Matt Stoller, Naked Capitalism

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Our essential economic problem is that our economy allocates resources through a mediating system of banks that are broken and/or corrupt. If you look at a chart of the recession, and then the recovery, you’ll notice that business investment perked up, but residential investment did not. The Fed lowered rates, bought Treasury bonds, and bought mortgage backed securities to lower rates for homeowners. But it’s not really working, because the monetary channel is corrupt. This indictment gets to that problem, it alleges tens of thousands of forged documents (or as a friend told me sarcastically, an afternoon’s worth of work for LPS). These documents represent foreclosures, economic loss, and clouded title. The indictments handed down, and the ones to come, show that corrupting our property laws and the basis of our economy is a crime.



First President Bush, and then President Obama, tried to reconstruct an economic system based on a corrupted transmission mechanism from the Fed to the real economy. This was the financial crisis, it’s why abstract derivatives based on subprime mortgages knocked trillions of productive output off of the economy. Corruption is really inefficient.



I think it’s important to begin considering criminal justice as a core element of economic policy. I’d like to hear from Suskind, Klein, Krugman, and others just where they think allowing massive systemic fraud fits into the analysis of what went wrong. After all, Eric Holder had ample prosecutorial discretion, so none of the usual arguments about political constraints apply. Allowing the corrupt monetary channel to continue was simply a policy choice. If the under-resourced Nevada Attorney General could make such a different policy choice, then a powerful by comparison White House and Justice Department could make it as well. And this sort of show of power does not operate in a vacuum. Taking on, and taking down, corrupt members of the elite would also have exposed all sorts of fracture lines, and would likely have change the Congressional dynamics that people argue is immutable. Bank executives would have had a strong personal incentive to fix housing problems and excessive debt loads, and politicians react differently when an act is officially deemed a crime.

The demand for justice, for a society to place certain activities outside of the bounds of socially acceptable, is not just about satisfaction of the public for wrongs committed. I get the sense that fraud for most economists is considered something of a side issue, a kind of aesthetic political problem to be ignored in favor of more significant questions of stimulus and regulatory policies. This is a baffling attitude. One of my favorite financial legal bloggers, Carolyn Sissiko, has pointed out that fraud actually can have significant macro-economic impacts by distorting bank balance sheets.



The felony indictments from the Nevada AG’s office are the first sign that the law enforcement community can take financial crimes seriously, that blowing up the economy through financial mismanagement can carry costs. There’s a lot of research to be done on the costs of fraud, and the costs of foreclosures. We don’t know that much about these costs, because there haven’t been investigations and there isn’t a lot of good public data. After all, we mostly just take our property rights system for granted, the notion that clouded titles or a broken $10 trillion mortgage market could inhibit growth simply was not imaginable a few years ago. What is clear is that there is a deep public hunger for justice. And I suspect, that if that hunger had been satiated a few years ago and if Holder had begun handing down indictments, mortgage servicer executives would have begun a serious loan workout program.

And our economy would probably be in much better shape. When you throw your capital into the hands of people who have no incentive to use it wisely, the economy suffers. When you enforce the rule of law, sound business models prevail and ordinary citizens have more confidence in the system and spend and invest accordingly. As an economic policy, justice works.

Unfortunately many economists are not scholars or scientists or even technicians, but merely enthusiastic members of the choir of Mammon, faith based believers who ignore evidence and logic.

Nov 20

On this Day In History November 20

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

On this day in 1945, Twenty-four high-ranking Nazis go on trial in Nuremberg, Germany, for atrocities committed during World War II.

The Nuremberg Trials were conducted by an international tribunal made up of representatives from the United States, the Soviet Union, France, and Great Britain. It was the first trial of its kind in history, and the defendants faced charges ranging from crimes against peace, to crimes of war, to crimes against humanity. Lord Justice Geoffrey Lawrence, the British member, presided over the proceedings, which lasted 10 months and consisted of 216 court sessions.

Origin

British War Cabinet documents, released on 2 January 2006, have shown that as early as December 1944, the Cabinet had discussed their policy for the punishment of the leading Nazis if captured. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had then advocated a policy of summary execution in some circumstances, with the use of an Act of Attainder to circumvent legal obstacles, being dissuaded from this only by talks with US leaders later in the war. In late 1943, during the Tripartite Dinner Meeting at the Tehran Conference, the Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin, proposed executing 50,000-100,000 German staff officers. US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, joked that perhaps 49,000 would do. Churchill denounced the idea of “the cold blooded execution of soldiers who fought for their country.” However, he also stated that war criminals must pay for their crimes and that in accordance with the Moscow Document which he himself had written, they should be tried at the places where the crimes were committed. Churchill was vigorously opposed to executions “for political purposes.” According to the minutes of a Roosevelt-Stalin meeting during the Yalta Conference, on February 4, 1945, at the Livadia Palace, President Roosevelt “said that he had been very much struck by the extent of German destruction in the Crimea and therefore he was more bloodthirsty in regard to the Germans than he had been a year ago, and he hoped that Marshal Stalin would again propose a toast to the execution of 50,000 officers of the German Army.

US Treasury Secretary, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., suggested a plan for the total denazification of Germany; this was known as the Morgenthau Plan. The plan advocated the forced de-industrialisation of Germany. Roosevelt initially supported this plan, and managed to convince Churchill to support it in a less drastic form. Later, details were leaked to the public, generating widespread protest. Roosevelt, aware of strong public disapproval, abandoned the plan, but did not adopt an alternate position on the matter. The demise of the Morgenthau Plan created the need for an alternative method of dealing with the Nazi leadership. The plan for the “Trial of European War Criminals” was drafted by Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson and the War Department. Following Roosevelt’s death in April 1945, the new president, Harry S. Truman, gave strong approval for a judicial process. After a series of negotiations between Britain, the US, Soviet Union and France, details of the trial were worked out. The trials were set to commence on 20 November 1945, in the Bavarian city of Nuremberg.

Nov 20

Welcome to the Police States of America

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

President Barack Obama addresses the protests:

My administration has been closely monitoring the situation… and I know that we will be learning more tomorrow when day breaks.

As the situation continues to unfold, our first concern is preventing injury or loss of life. So I want to be very clear in calling upon the… authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful protesters.

The people… have rights that are universal. That includes the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to free speech, and the ability to determine their own destiny.

These are human rights. And the United States will stand up for them everywhere.

The only problem with those words is that they are a very clever edit by a poster at Antemedius of the speech President Obama gave on January 11, 2011 in support of the people’s uprising in Egypt. In that speech, he called upon Egyptian authorities to “refrain from any violence against peaceful protesters.” Apparently the ideals he espoused in that speech did not apply to the Occupy movement that has spread across this country protesting the economic disparity of 99% of this country’s citizens. His silence on incidents like the ones in these videos speaks volumes as to whom Barack Obama really supports.

Warning: the contents of these videos are graphic and disturbing.

Occupy Oakland: second Iraq war veteran injured after police clashes

Kayvan Sabehgi in intensive care with a lacerated spleen after protests in Oakland, a week after Scott Olsen was hurt. He says police beat him with batons

Kayvan Sabehgi, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, is in intensive care with a lacerated spleen. He says he was beaten by police close to the Occupy Oakland camp, but despite suffering agonising pain, did not reach hospital until 18 hours later. [..]

Sabehgi, a small business owner in the Oakland area, was alone and trying to leave the area when he was confronted by a phalanx of the police in riot gear wielding batons. From the video he was hardly a threat, yet he he was beaten unmercifully, left in excruciating pain that was ignored by a nurse, who should lode his/her license. He under went surgery the next day to repair the tear using a surgical patch that stopped the bleeding and spared Sabehgi the lose of his spleen.

Then yesterday during peaceful demonstrations protesting tuition increases and on the campus of University of California – Davis, campus police saying they “feared for their lives” pepper sprayed a group of students who were sitting with their arms locked together. There are now calls for the resignation of UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi thinks this is the appropriate response to a peaceful sit-in.

Do these campus thugs look like they were in fear of their lives? h/t John Aravosis at AMERICAblog

Nov 20

Six In The Morning

On Sunday

Around the Fukushima plant, a world left behind

 

By Chico Harlan, Published: November 20

Namie, JAPAN – Eight months ago, people left this place in haste. Families raced from their homes without closing the front doors. They left half-finished wine bottles on their kitchen tables and sneakers in their foyers. They jumped in their cars without taking pets and left cows hitched to milking stanchions.

Now the land stands empty, frozen in time, virtually untouched since the March 11 disaster that created a wasteland in the 12-mile circle of farmland that surrounds the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.




Sunday’s Headlines:

Syrian Baath Party building ‘hit by rockets’ in Damascus

Tibet rocked by wave of self-immolation

Spain election: Rajoy’s Popular Party predicted to win

Hiking the Redwoods with California’s ‘Squatchers’

Kenya finds cleaner government is just a keystroke away

Nov 20

Late Night Karaoke