The pathogens of Wells Fargo's corruption fester in every large corporation

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Despite the denials of its new CEO, Wells Fargo had a serious, widespread cultural problem that led it to commit at least 2,000,000 financial crimes. But the crimes and the culture are widespread across America's banks, and they spread further than that, because the system is rigged to reward financial crime. Read the rest

Delhi's "Sleep Mafia" control the nights of 100,000 homeless workers

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With an estimated 100,000 homeless people living on the streets of Delhi, and 18,000 shelter beds, the city's nighttime sidewalks are the only bed for tens of thousands of workers. Read the rest

Airlines try auctioning off seat upgrades at the gate

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Because aviation isn't already a perfect model for class war, privilege and the market's ability to erode comfort, pleasure and humane treatment. Read the rest

California's rising gas prices result from a grossly manipulated fuel marketplace

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“California oil refiners have used every trick in their playbook to raise gasoline prices artificially this year.”

There Is Such a Thing As a Free Lunch

On Crooked Timber, John Quiggin has been rehearsing the arguments from an upcoming book called "Economics in Two Lessons," and the latest installment asks why, if there's no such thing as a "free lunch," we're not all still living in caves? Read the rest

Jerktech: Silicon Valley's most shameful export

Jerktech is the very apt epithet for the class of "disruptive" startups that sell things that don't belong to them, like parking spots and restaurant reservations, simply raising the prices of them and making access to public resources a factor of your disposable income. Read the rest

The business/markets case for limits to copyright

You'll remember Derek Khanna as the Republican House staffer who got fired for writing a paper that used careful objective research to argue for scaling back copyright. Now, Khanna is a volunteer fellow at R Street, where he's expanded on his early work with a paper called Guarding Against Abuse: Restoring Constitutional Copyright [PDF], which tackles the question of copyright terms from a market-economics approach, citing everyone from Hayek to Posner to the American Conservative Union.

There are lots of critiques of copyright term and scope from the left, but this is not a left-right issue. Khanna is a rigorous thinker, a clear writer, and someone who shows that whether you're coming at the question from a business/markets perspective or one of free speech and social benefit, limits on copyright make objective sense. Read the rest

More evidence that financial speculators drive crazy food-price swings

A new study on the link between financial speculation in commodity markets and food-price spikes shows that the model can be used to predict future food-price spikes, strengthening the case that financial speculators (fleeing the collapse of the housing market) art the root cause of the violent food-price swings that have been blamed for global starvation, riots and political instability.

The new paper -- M. Lagi, Yavni Bar-Yam, K.Z. Bertrand, Yaneer Bar-Yam, UPDATE February 2012 — The Food Crises: Predictive validation of a quantitative model of food prices including speculators and ethanol conversion -- was produced under the auspices of the New England Complex Systems Institute.

In the new study, predictions made by the researchers’ original model are compared to actual food prices between March 2011 and January 2012. Placed on a graph, the lines match closely, and do so despite spanning a major change in price trends at the last bubble’s peak.

“If you have a straight line, extend it and say, ‘Aren’t we predictive,’ it doesn’t give that much confidence,” said Bar-Yam. “If it changes direction, that’s a much more severe test of what’s happening.”

Both the European Union and United States are now considering whether and how to limit commodity speculation. In the U.S., such limits are required by the Dodd-Frank Act, but have been fiercely resisted by the financial industry.

It’s expected that the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission will enact speculation limits by the end of 2012, though they might still be blocked in court. But even if the rules pass, they’re arguably weak, focusing on “position limits,” or caps on the maximum number of contracts a single speculator can hold.

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