Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘Bernie Madoff

And Somehow Even More Still for Friday

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Cut from the top to save UC.

The current University of California Office of the President, or UCOP, is a labyrinthine bureaucracy that takes money from the 10 campuses where actual teaching and research happen. Instead of investing more authority in a president whose ambit is already absurdly huge — an annual budget of $24 billion, 230,000 students, 191,000 faculty and staff — the regents should scale back UCOP and empower each campus to make even more of its own decisions.

* The case for S4 of Arrested Development as masterpiece.

Why Didn’t the SEC Catch Madoff? It Might Have Been Policy Not To.

* And MetaFilter has a big post up about major universities running afoul of the Clery Act.

Good News for Mets Fans

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While the hated Yankees look likely to win the World Series, Mets fans can take solace in the fact that at least the Mets may not have lost money to Bernie Madoff.

Written by gerrycanavan

October 22, 2009 at 6:35 pm

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Thursday!

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Thursday!

* I’ll be posting this year as a HASTAC Scholar at the Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboatory. My first post is about status update activism of the sort that is all over your Facebook newsfeed today.

* Speaking of health care, Olympia Snowe now runs your health care.

* LRB makes an impressively desperate bid for my attention with Fredric Jameson’s review of Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood alongside reviews of Inglourious Basterds and Inherent Vice.

* Madoff-mania: The SEC—which he claims he was shortlisted to chair (!)— now admits it badly mishandled multiple investigations of his company. Still more here.

* Kevin Carey nicely notes the difficulty inherent to blogging about a book you’re two-thirds through with. Another post or two on Infinite Jest soon. The total collapse of blogging at A Supposedly Fun Blog is one of the great disappointments of Infinite Summer, I think.

* Hiding adjuncts so the U.S. News rankings can’t find them. Meanwhile, this year’s Washington Monthly undergraduate rankings leave Duke out of the Top 25.

* So you’ve invented a board game. (via)

* 68 Sci-Fi Sites to See in the U.S.

* And Gawker declares the Michael Cera backlash has officially begun.

Kim Stanley Robinson and ‘We Are All Madoffs’

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‘We Are All Madoffs’: David P. Barash writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education that the relationship of technological civilization to the natural world is that of a Ponzi scheme. Kim Stanley Robinson makes the same point in the interview we conducted with him for the upcoming Polygraph issue, which will eventually wind up on the website and likely also on this very blog:

KSR: …I’ve been trying to use standard economic terms to describe the situation in ways capitalists might have to come to terms with, that might serve as entry-points to a larger discussion: that the implicit promise of capitalism was that a generation would work so hard in the working class that its children would be in the middle class, and that if extended this program would eventually lift everyone on Earth; but now, resource analysis makes it clear that for the three billion living on less than two dollars a day, this promise can never be fulfilled; so that capitalism is really nothing but a big Ponzi scheme, and would be illegal if run in a single state or community.

Then also, the pricing we put on things, carbon especially, does not include the environmental costs of making the thing, so that we are practicing systemic predatory dumping, and the competitors we are predating on are our own children and the generations to come. So we are predatory dumpers, out-competing non-existent people, which is easy enough; but they will suffer when they come into existence, and we are cheaters.

More on the Polygraph issue soon. (via)

Written by gerrycanavan

September 2, 2009 at 4:14 am

Monday Night Links

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Monday night links.

* After a brief flirtation with “top five” status, Brüno is back to being a box-office disappointment.

* Top ten comics cities. #2: Chris Ware’s Chicago. Via MetaFilter.

* xkcd tackles the frighteningly addictive power of TV Tropes.

* SF by the numbers. Via Boing Boing.

* Why are we so fat?

* Also in the New Yorker: profiles of Al Franken and Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa, last seen ratifying nature’s right to exist.

* And allow me to offer my heartiest gerrycanavan.blogspot.com welcome to North Carolina’s newest resident.

Written by gerrycanavan

July 13, 2009 at 10:53 pm

Tuesday!

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Tuesday!

* Bernie Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in jail on Monday. I think what I enjoy most about this is the absurd dialogue, oddly ubiquitous, over whether the punishment is “too lenient” or “too harsh”—as if, that is, it were a sentence one might possibly serve out and not more years than any human being (much less any 71-year-old human being) has ever lived. They might as well have sentenced him to a million jillion years.

* Uranium on the Moon! We need to secure it before the Russians Chinese Martians Islamofascists get their hands on it; clearly we have no choice left but to blow up the Moon.

* The World Clock will depress you in any number of ways. Only 14,766 days of oil left; forty years, less than a third of Madoff’s prison sentence. (via @charliejane)

* Obama spoke today to the controversies over gay rights that are rapidly disillusioning so many of his supporters. Via LawDork, who seems reasonably pleased with the speech, if at the same time anxious for real action to be taken.

* ‘Iraqis jubilantly celebrate U.S. troop withdrawal’: U.S. forces handed over formal control of Iraq’s major cities today … “a defining step toward ending the U.S. combat role in the country.”

* Twitter Politics: With the Iranian election, we’ve seen a privately owned technology becoming a vital part of the infrastructure supporting political activity. That’s a problem.

* Debating the public option: Will it just turn into a giveaway to the private insurers? Do you really have to ask?

* It seems like only yesterday that Obama was being accused of orchestrating the coup in Honduras. Now he’s a communist for opposing it.

* And Ezra Klein has your chilling vision of things to come.

Written by gerrycanavan

June 30, 2009 at 5:18 am

AIG: Numbers Don’t Lie:

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Let’s start off with xkcd’s lesson in how numbers lie.

As I’ve been saying both up top and in the comments the significance of this AIG bonus outrage is being badly overblown. The bonuses are a nice red-meat issue for the media circus but they’re basically a rounding error with regard to the scale of the bailout as a whole. Nate Silver is basically right here precisely because, as the cliche goes, “hard facts make bad law”—though his comparison to the Terry Schaivo case flounders at the fact that this silly thing the Congress is doing has wide popular support. (Nate and Josh Marshall both have more on the possible unintended consequences of this poorly thought-out new tax.)

As I’ve been trying to argue, the only relevant consideration regarding the bonuses is whether they were legal contracts, negotiated in the proper way and not predicated on fraudulent accounting or other illegal activity. Andrew Cuomo and Eric Holder should be investigating the bonuses, in other words, not Barney Frank. If they were legal, and their terms were met, pay them out; if they were fraudulent or predicated on fraud, arrest people.

What angers me about this situation is the widespread assumption that of course the bonuses are legal (just ill-advised), just like of course everything AIG did was legal but ill-advised. See, for instance, Ezra Klein on Madoff:

Madoff knew his investment scheme was a fraud. Wall Street should have known their investment schemes were a fraud.

Give me a break. Plenty of people on Wall Street knew their investment schemes were fraudulent. Those people are crooks, not dupes, and criminal prosecutions are the way we find out who they are.

(EDITED TO ADD: You can draw a distinction between AIG and Madoff, but it’s the distinction between two separate categories of crime, not between the guilty and the innocent.)

Repeating what I wrote in answer to Shankar’s question “Criminal Prosecution for what?” last night:

Well, that’s the job of state and federal prosecutors to determine. But there’s plenty of reason to think that (say) underwriting billions trillions of dollars in insurance obligations you know you have no capacity to pay out on is an abrogation of your fiduciary obligations — just for starters. Fraud and dishonest account methods were rampant in the banking industry, which has strict rules about this sort of thing that plainly weren’t followed. It’s not *just* stupid — in many cases it was stupid and illegal. Or so it seems to me.

…To add the obvious disclaimer, I’m not a lawyer, much less a prosecutor. But the treatment of the issue in the media tends to frustrate me on this point. Generally speaking the operative assumption seems to be “Oops, and they all got away with it” — that what they did was obviously legal, just slimy, and so we’re all just going to have to swallow our anger and move on. I don’t know that it *was* legal in all cases, and if CEOs and CFOs broke the law in chasing these bogus returns then DOJ and state AGs absolutely need to get involved. It’s a much higher priority for me than retributive taxation of contracts that are obscene (but probably legal) in an industry where the payment of obscene salaries is already (and still) an unchallenged norm. The bonuses are peanuts compared to the amount of money that’s already vanished.