Bits & Pieces (Hump Day Open Mic)

Busy day. Things messing up, meetings coming up and the most inopportune moment, etc. So, in short, I got nothing.

Here’s a picture of a dog.


To help a brother out, a link to the economic year in graphs

Time chooses the Protestor as its Person of the Year.

And the abstract to a paper in Science about empathy in lab rats.

“Whereas human pro-social behavior is often driven by empathic concern for another, it is unclear whether nonprimate mammals experience a similar motivational state. To test for empathically motivated pro-social behavior in rodents, we placed a free rat in an arena with a cagemate trapped in a restrainer. After several sessions, the free rat learned to intentionally and quickly open the restrainer and free the cagemate. Rats did not open empty or object-containing restrainers. They freed cagemates even when social contact was prevented. When liberating a cagemate was pitted against chocolate contained within a second restrainer, rats opened both restrainers and typically shared the chocolate. Thus, rats behave pro-socially in response to a conspecific’s distress, providing strong evidence for biological roots of empathically motivated helping behavior.”

Empathy and Pro-Social Behavior in Rats

— Mike


I am really pretty sure some of you will find this funny.


Bernie Sanders’ sad SAD amendment

James Taranto, in his Best of the Web column yesterday, highlights Bernie Sanders’ Saving American Democracy (SAD) amendment to the constitution.

Section 1. The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons and do not extend to for-profit corporations, limited liability companies, or other private entities established for business purposes or to promote business interests under the laws of any state, the United States, or any foreign state.
Section 2. Such corporate and other private entities established under law are subject to regulation by the people through the legislative process so long as such regulations are consistent with the powers of Congress and the States and do not limit the freedom of the press.
Section 3. Such corporate and other private entities shall be prohibited from making contributions or expenditures in any election of any candidate for public office or the vote upon any ballot measure submitted to the people.
Section 4. Congress and the States shall have the power to regulate and set limits on all election contributions and expenditures, including a candidate’s own spending, and to authorize the establishment of political committees to receive, spend, and publicly disclose the sources of those contributions and expenditures.

Taranto points out, and it seems correct to me, that if this amendment were ratified, section 1 would deny corporations of literally all constitutional protections. As Taranto puts it:

Among other things, that would mean that the government (federal or state) could subject such entities to bills of attainder and ex post facto laws, impose criminal or civil penalties on them without due process, search their premises without a warrant and seize their property without compensation.

And despite section 2’s clause limiting any potential legislation against corporate acitivty to being consistent with “freedom of the press”, it seems to me the amendment itself would, by its language, eliminate freedom of the press for any corporate media outlet. Afterall, if “the rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons and do not extend to for-profit corporations”, that means that, for example, neither the NYT, nor the WaPo, nor FOXNews is protected by the first amendment’s right to freedom of the press.

Granted this amendment has virtually no chance of ever getting passed and ratfied. But I am curious to hear what our resident lawyers have to say about this attempt by Sanders to seemingly eliminate freedom of the press as we know it.

Morning Report

Vital Statistics:

Last Change Percent
S&P Futures 1218.3 -1.9 -0.16%
Eurostoxx Index 2240.9 -20.040 -0.89%
Oil (WTI) 98.38 -1.760 -1.76%
US Dollar Index (DXY) 80.477 0.240 0.30%
10 Year Govt Bond Yield 1.96% 0.00%

Stock indices are flattish as the market digests the Fed’s statement and people watch the declining Euro. Supposedly 1.30 is some sort of magic level (the press loves big figures), but people forget that a decade earlier it was around 90 cents. Euro sovereign levels are slightly firmer and commodities are getting hit. Volumes have been light lately and will only dry up further as we head into year end.

The NYT has a story on Comedy-Bank (Commerzbank) and its capital woes. The German state already owns 25% of the company, and the European Banking Authority has said it needs another 5.3 billion euros in capital, which is a tall order when your market cap is only 6.2 billion euros to begin with. Looks like the German Government is going to have to kick in some more equity. A German broker once told me that the men’s room on the Commerzbank equity trading floor has an eye-level window in front of the urinals with a view of Deutsche Bank’s headquarters across the park. Ja, und now we piss on Deutsche Bank! I can’t verify the veracity of this, but it would be funny if it is true.

Today is Mitt Money Day with the NYC finance sector. Big shindig at Steve Schwartzman’s pad tonight, with J Tom Hill, Paul Singer, Dan Loeb and others tonight. NYC Wall Street cash is all-in with Romney and the Republican primary. Obama will raise some cash from the dyed-in-the-wool Democrats, but the Republican nominee is going to raise a ton. Don’t read too much into the initial fund raising numbers on WS yet – Romney hasn’t even gone to bat yet.

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