Archive for January, 2012

19
Jan
12

BCS Don’t Care

Another year of the BCS system has passed again, stumbling to an unsatisfying end. The horrendous game played by LSU and Alabama (the second abortion not the first) can hardly be blamed on the lack of a playoff system but one is left wondering what manner of games we might have seen if the teams were pitted against other schools. Using an 8-team playoff format with the final pre-bowl BCS rankings, we would have seen these games:

This would have produced at least one contest that already had taken place: Stanford-Oregon, in which Oregon won handily 53-30. Assuming LSU would make quick work of Kansas State (who fell to Arkansas 29-16 in the Cotton Bowl, a team LSU had beaten earlier in the season), the Tigers and Ducks would meet in a repeat of the season opener LSU took 40-27 and was played in a less-than-even “neutral” location due to the relative proximities of Baton Rouge and Salem to Dallas. So, for all the hand-wringing over a rematch game, that might have occurred multiple times in an eight team playoff.

This isn’t to say that such a playoff isn’t warranted as much as a BCS produced replay in and of itself isn’t a sufficient argument for one. Five games with championship implications after the regular season can be said to be better than one meaningful game that takes place after a month-plus hiatus for both teams and when non-affiliated fans forgot that this college football business was still trudging along. Why the bowl system, for all its harangues about tradition, has seen fit to fuck the historical schedule of an orgy of New Year’s Day bowls for a splattering of pomp and circumstance contests punctuated by an anticlimax during early grey days of another dismal January when resolutions’ luster has already jumped the shark, is a question only the hypocrites don’t fully appreciate. Speaking of tradition, having not myself, nor having anyone in my immediate family, attend a university known for football is probably why the tradition aspect is lost on me. The universities in closest distance to my childhood home have fielded mostly mediocre teams, albeit with a memorable instance of a number 1 ranking lasting less than a fortnight. While I enjoy it when this team succeeds, I hardly call myself a fan of any particular school, or even conference. I find the trumped up traditions of any conference annoying, though it’s always fascinating to see institutions of higher learning administer themselves a rimjob by naming divisions “Legends” and “Der Furhers”. My focus is then mainly on watching compelling football games—which does not include, ex ante at least, virtually any bowl game outside the national championship—and is why I find a playoff scenario so enticing: teams that wouldn’t normally face-off playing each other for a shot at the national title rather than the Chick-Fil-A trophy.

(Please don’t ban me Chick-Fil-A. I need you so much. IN ME.)

There is always the old bromide that college football has the most compelling regular season because “every game counts”. A playoff system can account for this to some extent; for instance it could mandate that the first round of games be played at the higher seed’s home field (an option suggested by Sports Illustrated years ago). The Wall Street Journal’s Darren Everson referring to college football’s regular season as “unique” doesn’t tell us much other than the system is singular in its idiocy. Indeed college football’s regular season, now with the BCS rankings in place, is in fact a convoluted playoff system in which major conferences are favored by the humans and algorithms that eventually spit out two top teams from the hash. Its uniqueness lies in its obvious arbitrary nature and, while even an eight team playoff would be subject to questions surrounding which teams were and were not included, distinguishes itself by conspicuously avoiding highly ranked teams from different conferences face off from one another in games bearing on the national championship.

Everson addresses the eight-team playoff in a fictitious universe that intends to poke fun at this supposed alternate system of do-overs by demonstrating how devoid of meaning Iowa State’s upset of Oklahoma State, Oregon’s loss by USC, Boise State’s loss to TCU would be in a world of playoffs. This excludes from the argument that in the BCS system, ALABAMA GOT A FUCKING DO-OVER, which was becoming apparent at the time the article was written. More than that, LSU was disadvantaged in victory by having to play another game (the SEC championship) in which it could have lost again, possibly excluding it from BCS contention or, even in a win, could have suffered major injury to key players. Everson doesn’t seem to have a problem with this bonus ball as it was, to rearrange his phrase, without question the best possible match-up based on a qualitative judgment, which, as far as I can gather, is like saying “it is without question that this is in my mind the best possible match-up”. Peter King would be proud. I think. Then again aren’t we all just making subjective statements of preference here? (see two paragraphs about on my lack of conference allegiance)

FUCK IT ALL.

My point is here if you’re going to make a snide commentary about the ludicrous nature of the do-over playoff clusterfuck, don’t promptly praise a do-over championship two weeks later. And pointing to the fact that Alabama took advantage of its second chance is a fantastic way to miss the fucking point.

Going for broke, Everson also assumes that all playoff games will be at bowl game locations (which isn’t a terrible assumption given the primacy of the bowl system but contradicts some playoff suggestions) and that many fan bases wouldn’t sell out early games out of fear they wouldn’t have money to travel to later games. This is after the sell-out in Dallas (a good seven hours away from Baton Rouge) in LSU’s season opener. If they can sell that out, why couldn’t—oh fuck it.

Then again this is the person who earlier in the fall wrote another satirical column in which begins:

The initial Bowl Championship Series standings came out Sunday, and the evil lords of college football are at it again. Their polls, their computers and their fear of Kellen Moore are once again disenfranchising undefeated teams across the country. Where does one even begin outlining the myriad outrages?

SARCASM. I HAS IT. Keep in mind this is before many teams were into the heart of their schedules. Witness:

Kansas State Wildcats (6-0, No. 11 BCS): The Big 12 has a true round-robin schedule—that is, all 10 conference teams play each other—so, in theory, Kansas State has its chance to upset conference mates Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and move up. But still: 11th? How are the undefeated Wildcats supposed to feel good about themselves with such an insulting ranking? If the Sooners or Cowboys drub K-State like they have in recent years, that’s what I’m blaming it on. (Not the 114th-ranked passing game.)

How can you get an insulting ranking before playing the strongest teams on your own schedule? Who would ever make this argument? I suppose this is meant to be a corollary to small conference teams (e.g. Houston this year) never being able to play a top tier team, going undefeated (not so much Houston) and then complaining about a lack of respect but in K-State’s case they are going to play top tier teams. This lack of respect is moot by the time the BCS rankings decide the national championship contestants. Everson more or less admits this in the same paragraph. You can’t poke fun at a situation or team if your trenchant observation makes no sense. Everson basically says, “well if K-State runs the table, they deserve to have a national championship shot but now they might feel some disrespect even though they likely don’t care and…I have no comment”. As far as I can tell, he wrote this column to take the opportunity to disparage any team not in the SEC and used the BCS as cover. This paragraph in particular makes sense only if used as toilet paper. For your mind because the paragraph itself is in your mind–

Wait, hang on, the hell is–

Hmm. Hopefully that paint’s non-allergenic. She could get a nasty rash.

Where was I, oh–

Having finished trolling Darren Everson, who is probably a good and decent man that gives substantial amounts to charity while I shop for a new pair of boots so the poor and downtrodden don’t get my feet dirty when I trod on their backs, other daring scenarios for a true playoff system, separated cleanly from the regular season as opposed to the +1 circle jerk we knock one out in presently, could include either of the following:

Although the eight team playoff with the first round played at the higher seed’s home field is likely the best, or at least the most feasible, format, a sixteen team playoff (or something very close) is used by other college divisions and lends us an extra week of football—much like how traditional bowl systems and Barney’s film had heart, playoff systems have more football and “Football in the Groin” had a football in the groin. Any more than this and the playoffs become almost another season which would only serve to fuel traditionalist criticisms of regular season games losing gravitas and might perhaps create too much of a workload for supposedly amateur athletes.

Along the same lines a 12-team format (so it would include all the top ten teams) would mirror the NFL’s practice of giving the top four teams byes, thus making their reward considerably higher:

Finally, a more ambitious scenario would move further in the direction of the current trend of mega-conferences that have little to do geographic location or even traditional rivalries, but more with money in the form of TV contracts and potential bowl appearances. Starting from the old conferences prior to the shifts of Colorado to the Pac-10 and Nebraska to the Big Ten (but keeping Utah in now the Pac-11), the six primary BCS conferences (Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, Big East, ACC and SEC) would absorb the remaining 54 FBS teams to form the major conferences. Below is a possible resulting realignment. Although the conferences aren’t symmetrical in terms of number of teams, conferences could be split into two divisions (most already are) and games could be played so that every team plays 10 games entirely within their own conference mainly against teams from their own division. Exceptions would include those conferences with 8 teams in each division (would have to play 2 teams from the other division). For those with an uneven number of teams between divisions, the 8/9 conferences would have the 8 division play one team from the 9 while replaying one team from the 8 (or possibly going out of conference) with the similar rules for the 9/10:

The winners of each division would then play a conference championship game (possibly all in one weekend given all teams play the same number of games). Conference winners would then be placed into a Champions League consisting of six teams that would all play one another one time. The team with the best record would win. In the event of a tie record, the head to head match-up would determine the winner. For any one team, the maximum number of games is sixteen, two or three more than many teams played this year, with most ranked teams between 12-13 regular season games and a bowl game.

Bold, novel and disastrous. Even if the six conferences could be created (highly unlikely given the money at stake in television contracts), it would be even less likely that teams would agree to a round robin that would likely create a number of throwaway games, not to mention what the remaining college teams would do in the meantime (bowls are always a possibility—not like they’d be of lower worth than they already are). Moreover, with six teams and five games apiece, this would leave an uneven number of home-away games, which could be solved with neutral site games, although there isn’t an obvious way in which this would be decided. This is the hardest to conceive of not only because of the unorthodox schedule but also the gargantuan realignment that would have to take place. However, the primary, and possibly sole, compelling aspect of this design is that rankings would not play a role at all in determining either playoff entrants or a national champion. It would all be decided in conference and champions league play. This wouldn’t necessarily completely relieve complaining as many might argue that one conference (or even division—as was often the case in the Big 12 or SEC) was stacked with several teams that cannibalized each other while weaker divisions were able to send teams to the Champions League. However, the counterargument would follow that this assertion would be confirmed by dominance in the Champions League by the team from the power conference.

The BCS has driven me to madness, my babies.

As a postscript, don’t weep for your loss, Boise State, the world will always have Blount-Hout 2009:

19
Jan
12

Roundup – GIF Fiesta

Line O’ the Day:

Shameless/House of Lies/Californication (Showtime, Sunday) – I just finished my “Californication” spec script. Lemme know what you guys think: DAVID DUCHOVNY: Hey, I’m kind of a tool. PRETTY GIRL: [removes shirt]. (repeat until credits)

- Danger Guerrero, Weekend Preview: British People, Awards, and Pageants [Warming Glow]

Best of the Best:

Breaking News: Feds Falsely Censor Popular Blog For Over A Year, Deny All Due Process, Hide All Details… [Mike Masnick on TechDirt]

Let’s just take stock here for a second. We have the government clearly censoring free speech in the form of a blog that discussed the music world and was widely recognized for its influence in promoting new acts. The government seized the blog with no adversarial hearing and no initial due process. Then, rather than actually provide some sort of belated due process in the form of an adversarial hearing, it continued to deny any and all due process by secretly (even to Dajaz1′s own lawyer) extending the seizure without any way to challenge those extensions. All in all, the government completely censored a popular web site for over a year, when it had no real evidence for probable cause of infringement, as it had falsely claimed in the original rubber stamped affidavit. As we noted in reviewing the affidavit, the case had been put together by folks who clearly did not understand the law, the site or the music space. But to then double down on that and continue to hold the domain for a year in secret? That just compounds the error and takes it to new extremes.

The disappearance of the elephant caused the rise of modern man 400,000 years ago [Physorg]

When elephants began to die out, Homo erectus “needed to hunt many smaller, more evasive animals. Energy requirements increased, but with plant and protein intake limited, the source had to come from fat. He had to become calculated about hunting,” Ben-Dor says, noting that this change is evident in the physical appearance of modern humans, lighter than Homo erectus and with larger brains.

Inside Wukan: the Chinese village that fought back [Malcolm Moore on The Telegraph]

For the first time on record, the Chinese Communist party has lost all control, with the population of 20,000 in this southern fishing village now in open revolt. The last of Wukan’s dozen party officials fled on Monday after thousands of people blocked armed police from retaking the village, standing firm against tear gas and water cannons. Since then, the police have retreated to a roadblock, some three miles away, in order to prevent food and water from entering, and villagers from leaving. Wukan’s fishing fleet, its main source of income, has also been stopped from leaving harbour. The plan appears to be to lay siege to Wukan and choke a rebellion which began three months ago when an angry mob, incensed at having the village’s land sold off, rampaged through the streets and overturned cars. Although China suffers an estimated 180,000 “mass incidents” a year, it is unheard of for the Party to sound a retreat.

Two Families, Two Takes on Virtual Schooling [Heidi Mitchell on The Wall Street Journal]

The number of students in kindergarten through 12th grade enrolled in virtual schools nationwide has grown to 225,000 from 50,000 a decade ago—and 30% year over year since 2001, says Susan Patrick, chief executive of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, a nonprofit advocacy group. Some parents choose virtual schooling to accommodate a heavy schedule of extracurricular classes or interests; others feel their children’s needs are better served outside a traditional classroom.

Daron Acemoglu on Inequality [Sophie Roell Interviews Daron Acemoglu on The Browser]

At the centre of our framework is the tension between people who have political power and how they can use that power for their own interests and against the interests of the rest of the society. We don’t live in a zero-sum world – and there is a lot of prosperity-creating capability that many societies have exploited – but there are also some zero-sum aspects. Often there will be tensions within society, about who is going to get the biggest slice, and people will try to manipulate the entire fabric of our institutions in order to get that slice. So that’s the narrative we develop for understanding how societies have developed their institutions. The absolutist institutions created a very unequal distribution of political power and a very unequal distribution of economic gains in society and the two became synergistic – the very unequal distribution of political power locked in a very unequal distribution of economics gains. This created a vicious circle, but the conflict it engendered sometimes led to a breaking down of the institutions that this unequal distribution depended on, opening the way for more open institutions, which are one of the engines of prosperity. The last part of the book is the converse story, which is how these inclusive institutions, which create a more equitable distribution of political power and so a more level playing field, are going to be constantly challenged. These inclusive institutions don’t guarantee that everything is going to be equally distributed but will at least prevent the most egregious and unfair distribution of resources. They also ensure a more equal distribution of political power in society. But there is no guarantee that they will last for ever. If you are able to garner a little more support, and a little more political power, the danger that you can start tweaking these institutions to your benefit is always present. There are continuous challenges to the inclusive nature of political institutions. So in this framework you can see the threat of the increased inequality in the US as a symptom of the sorts of challenges to the fairly inclusive set of institutions that the US has had for over 200 years.

How renewable energy may be Edison’s revenge [Sara Ledwith on Reuters]

At the start of the 20th century, inventors Thomas Alva Edison and Nikola Tesla clashed in the “war of the currents”. To highlight the dangers of his rival’s system, Edison even electrocuted an elephant. The animal died in vain; it was Tesla’s system and not Edison’s that took off. But today, helped by technological advances and the need to conserve energy, Edison may finally get his revenge.

Alarm as Dutch lab creates highly contagious killer flu [Steve Connor on The Independent]

For the first time the researchers have been able to mutate the H5N1 strain of avian influenza so that it can be transmitted easily through the air in coughs and sneezes. Until now, it was thought that H5N1 bird flu could only be transmitted between humans via very close physical contact. Dutch scientists carried out the controversial research to discover how easy it was to genetically mutate H5N1 into a highly infectious “airborne” strain of human flu. They believe that the knowledge gained will be vital for the development of new vaccines and drugs…What makes H5N1 so dangerous, though, is that it has killed about 60 per cent of those it has infected, making it one of the most lethal known forms of influenza in modern history – a deadliness moderated only by its inability (so far) to spread easily through airborne water droplets.

Fair Trade Proving Anything But in Growing $6 Billion Market [Simon Clark and Heather Walsh on Bloomberg]

The future of fair trade boils down to Roozen’s and van der Hoff’s rival visions. A test of their arguments can be measured in southern Mexico, birthplace of the fair-trade labeling movement and the center of its burgeoning organic-coffee production.

Ron Paul Ugly, Racist Newsletters Not Going Away, But Do They Invalidate His Candidacy?  [Conor Friedersdorf on The Atlantic via Nick Gillespie  on Reason]

What I want Paul detractors to confront is that he alone, among viable candidates, favors reforming certain atrocious policies, including policies that explicitly target ethnic and religious minorities. And that, appalling as it is, every candidate in 2012 who has polled above 10 percent is complicit in some heinous policy or action or association. Paul’s association with racist newsletters is a serious moral failing, and even so, it doesn’t save us from making a fraught moral judgment about whether or not to support his candidacy, even if we’re judging by the single metric of protecting racial or ethnic minority groups, because when it comes to America’s most racist or racially fraught policies, Paul is arguably on the right side of all of them. His opponents are often on the wrong side, at least if you’re someone who thinks that it’s wrong to lock people up without due process or kill them in drone strikes or destabilize their countries by forcing a war on drug cartels even as American consumers ensure the strength of those cartels.  Even Obama, who has spoken so eloquently about the harm done by the drug war and lost civil liberties, is now on the wrong side of those issues, and shows no signs of reversing himself. As bad as the Paul newsletters are — let me emphasize again that they are awful — I can’t persuade myself that they should carry more weight than war, or civil liberties, unless Paul in fact wrote them, which would mean that he is lying about his core philosophy of individualism, equality, pluralism, and opposition to bigoted laws. In that case, there would be no reason to trust him.

News as a Process: How Journalism Works in the Age of Twitter [Matthew Hunter on Gigaom via Bloomberg Businessweek]

Another benefit of a distributed or networked version of journalism is one sociologist Zeynep Tufekci has made in the course of her research into how Twitter and other social tools affected the events in Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere. As she wrote in a recent blog post, one of the realities of mainstream media is what is often called “pack journalism”: the kind that sees hundreds of journalists show up for official briefings by government or military sources, but few pursue their own stories outside the official sphere. Social media and “citizen journalism,” Tufekci says, can be a powerful antidote to this kind of process, and that’s fundamentally a positive force for journalism.

Special Report: The watchdogs that didn’t bark [Scot Paltrow on Reuters]

The Steven J. Baum P.C. law firm, based near Buffalo, New York, in recent years filed approximately 40 per cent of all foreclosures in New York State, on behalf of banks and other mortgage servicers. Court records show that the firm angered state court judges for alleged false statements and filing suspect documents. Arthur Schack, a state court judge in Brooklyn, in a 2010 ruling said that pleadings by the Baum firm on behalf of HSBC Bank, a unit of London-based HSBC Holdings, in a foreclosure case were “so incredible, outrageous, ludicrous and disingenuous that they should have been authorized by the late Rod Serling, creator of the famous science-fiction television series, The Twilight Zone.” Another state judge that year imposed $5,000 in sanctions and ordered the firm to pay $14,500 in attorneys’ fees, ruling that “misrepresentation of the material statements here was outrageous.” But the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan filed no criminal charges against the Baum firm. Instead, it signed a settlement with Baum ending an inquiry “relating to foreclosure practices.” The agreement made no allegations of wrongdoing, but required the firm to improve its foreclosure practices. Baum agreed to pay a $2 million civil penalty, but didn’t admit wrongdoing. The law firm said it would shut down after New York Times columnist Joe Nocera in November published photographs of a 2010 Baum firm Halloween party in which employees dressed up as homeless people. Another showed part of Baum’s office decorated to look like a row of foreclosed houses.

Twitter by Post [Giles Turnbull on The Morning News]

Twitter is the contemporary postcard—social updates that are limited by size, but not imagination. For a month, with a billion stamps, our correspondent moved his tweets from the laptop to the post office, and rediscovered the joy of mail.

Curiously Strong Remains:

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The content on this site is provided as general information and entertainment only and should not be taken as investment advice. All site content shall not be construed as a recommendation to buy or sell any security or financial product, or to participate in any particular trading or investment strategy. The ideas expressed on this site are solely the opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of firms affiliated with the author. The author may or may not have a position in any security referenced herein and may or may not seek to do business with companies mentioned via this website. Any action that you take as a result of information or analysis on this site is ultimately your responsibility. Consult your investment adviser before making any investment decisions.

05
Jan
12

Roundup – Community with the Dragon Tattoo

Line O’ the Day:

The MVP dilemma. Brees made it a horse race, and more than that.

It’s a horse race… ONLY THE HORSES ARE ALSO CARRYING GUNS.

- Big Daddy Drew, Which Interesting NFL Columnist Relies On The Legendary Josh Bickford For His MVP Thinky Thoughts? [KSK]

Best of the Best:

‘Magic Mushrooms’ Return to Psychology Labs 40 Years After Leary [Elizabeth Lopatto on Bloomberg]

Almost 40 years after Richard Nixon called former Harvard University psychologist Timothy Leary the most dangerous man in America for promoting use of hallucinogenic substances, there is a rebirth of interest in their therapeutic benefits. Reamer was enrolled in a clinical trial at Johns Hopkins to relieve fear of death in cancer patients, one of a half-dozen similar studies under way at New York University, Harvard, the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of New Mexico. The new research, largely driven by the psychiatric community, is also testing psychedelics for use against depression, chronic headaches and addiction as current scientists, much like their 1960s predecessors, seek to understand the “consciousness-expanding” effects of the drugs.

‘It was priceless’: The moment angry Pearl Harbor veterans gave the stars of Hawaii Five-O a mass one-fingered salute [Mail Online]

The obscene gesture was delivered in unison from a bus as they were leaving, and left them all in stitches of laughter. Mr Tubbs said: ‘This was immature of me, but I said, “Gentlemen, if you so choose, how about we give them one big one-fingered military salute?”’ The last thing the production crew saw, he said, was a bunch of 90-year-old men flipping the bird at them. ‘It was one of the priceless moments of my life.’

Americans Set “Rich” Threshold at $150,000 in Annual Income [Gallup]

Americans say they would need to earn a median of $150,000 a year to consider themselves rich. However, 30% say less than $100,000 would be enough, including 18% who would consider themselves rich if they made less than $60,000 a year. On the other hand, 15% say they would need to earn at least $1 million per year before thinking of themselves as rich.

Why We Unfriend People on Facebook [Nielsen via The Atlantic Wire]

A newly release chart from Nielsen shows the most common reasons we friend — and more importantly, unfriend — people on Facebook. The No. 1 reason anyone sends anyone else a friend request is obvious: they know the person IRL. But our reasons for performing that online sacrilege that is unfriending are of course juicier. Most of those surveyed (55 percent) say they have unfriended someone because of “offensive comments” they have made, followed by not knowing the friend well enough at 44 percent.

The More Things on the Small Screen Change [Terry Teachout on The Wall Street Journal]

Network television as we know it came into being on Sept. 4, 1951, when AT&T threw the switch on the first transcontinental coaxial cable. Up to that time, TV had been an essentially regional phenomenon. The most important network shows were all performed live in New York, and the only way for West Coast viewers to see them was for fuzzy-looking film copies called “kinescopes” to be shipped to Los Angeles and broadcast a week later. The coaxial cable changed that by making it possible to transmit live video signals from coast to coast—in both directions. Within a matter of months, Hollywood had become a major center of TV production.

The Worst Hockey Game Ever: On Nov. 9, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay Did Literally Nothing for Long Stretches [Mike Sileski on The Wall Street Journal]

Twenty-seven seconds after the puck was dropped, as the Flyers took possession in their own end, things got weird. Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds passed the puck backward to defenseman Kimmo Timonen, who slid it over to fellow defender Braydon Coburn in the right faceoff circle. There Coburn just leaned on his stick, with the puck at rest behind the blade. The aim of this tactic, Laviolette said in an interview later, was to force Tampa to drop the defensive style it had used to such great effect before. By having Coburn stand still, Laviolette hoped to draw the Tampa forward at the top of the 1-3-1 alignment out to challenge the puck-carrier—thereby taking Tampa’s defense out of the trap. What Laviolette didn’t anticipate is that the Lightning’s forward, Martin St. Louis, would never go anywhere near Coburn. Instead, he stayed in the circle in the middle of the ice in his proper spot. After watching Coburn do nothing for close to 30 seconds, referees Rob Martell and Chris Rooney blew their whistles to stop play, then told Laviolette that his players have to keep the puck in motion. The crowd began to boo.

Far Fewer Enter U.S. Illegally From Mexico [Miriam Jordan on The Wall Street Journal]

At 150,000 last year, Mexican immigration to the U.S. was one-fifth of what it was in 2000, when 750,000 Mexicans flocked to the U.S., the majority of them illegally. All told, net immigration from Mexico is “essentially zero,” said [Jeffrey Passel, a senior researcher at the independent Pew Hispanic Center]. Nearly 21,500 agents, about twice as many as in 2004, guard the Southwestern border. They are backed by hundreds of miles of fencing and high-tech surveillance, including thermal imaging and unmanned aerial systems. Mexican drug cartels also may play a role in discouraging people. The cartels often ply the same routes to the U.S. that undocumented immigrants use, making those paths violent and dangerous. Some crossers have been forced to serve as drug carriers for cartels. Some demographers say more undocumented Mexicans may be leaving the U.S. than arriving as a downturn in construction, hospitality and other industries makes low-skill jobs scarce. Thousands of illegal immigrants have lost their jobs after the U.S. has audited company payrolls to find undocumented workers.

The Limits of Bigger Penalties in Fighting Financial Crime [Peter J. Henning, professor at Wayne State University Law School via New York Times Dealbook]

Before any punishment for financial misconduct can be imposed, the government must prove an intentional violation, which in a criminal case requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt. That is often the rub, because the perceived financial “crimes” committed by Wall Street firms and others believed responsible for the financial crisis would involve showing intent to defraud, a difficult standard to meet. The recent collapse of MF Global is a good example of just how hard it will be to prove criminal violations. A lawyer for the bankruptcy trustee said that the apparent loss of more than $1 billion in customer money was the result of “suspicious” transactions. The New York Times reported that there were multiple instances in which customer money was used to keep the firm afloat, perhaps going back as far as August 2011. In his testimony last week before the House Agriculture Committee, Jon S. Corzine, MF Global’s former chief executive, said he had no idea how the customer money disappeared. He asserted that he “never intended to break any rules,” and that if any employee claimed the transfers were at his direction, then he was “misunderstood.” This is the classic defense offered by senior corporate officers when there is wrongdoing at a firm, that they were not directly involved and therefore did not have the intent to mislead. Any decision to transfer customer money likely involved multiple layers of corporate management, meaning that fingers can be pointed elsewhere if no one had the primary responsibility for the decision.

Life Under the Gaze of Gadhafi’s Spies [Margaret Coker and Paul Sonne on The Wall Street Journal]

Mr. Mehiri’s tangle with the Libyan surveillance apparatus shows how U.S. and European interception technology, though often exported for the stated purpose of tracking terrorists, could instead be deployed against dissidents, human-rights campaigners, journalists or everyday enemies of the state—all categories that appear in Libyan surveillance files reviewed by the Journal. The story also underscores how the intelligence apparatus overseen by Mr. Senussi, the spy chief, invaded the lives of Libyans amid acquiescence from the West.

Blinded by the ‘animal spirits’ myth [Daniel Ben-Ami on FundWeb]

The statistic used more than any other to support this argument is that about 70% of American GDP is accounted for by consumption. At first sight it seems like game, set and match to the proponents of consumer capitalism. It also appears to follow that the recipe for economic recovery lies in reviving consumer demand or what are sometimes called the “animal spirits”. Once consumers regain confidence it is argued that the economy should move back to an upward path.  If only the 70% figure were interrogated more often it would become clear it does not support the consumer capitalism argument. On the contrary, capitalism is just as dependent on production as in the past. Indeed without the act of production it would not be possible to have any consumption. Once this point is understood it provides a fundamentally different perspective on solutions for the current crisis.

Curiously Strong Remains:

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