Morning Links

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012
  • In Camden, the police union has negotiated bonus pay for cops who work night shifts. They’ve also negotiated bonus pay for cops who work day shifts. And thanks to sick and vacation day benefits, about a third of the force doesn’t show up for work each day. Mysteriously, the city is plagued by crime and debt.
  • Happy first anniversary of the death of free checking! Thanks Dodd-Frank, for making banking more expensive for poor people!
  • Always know where the camera is.
  • TSA agent convicted of stealing from passengers says stealing from passengers is common.
  • Consensus on the coming pension crisis: Basically, we’re all screwed.
  • Headline of the day.
  • Of possible interest to my fellow napping aficionados.
  • The Pentagon is working to make killer drones “sentient.” I don’t see any possible downside, here.
  • Fellow libertarians: You’ve been doing it wrong. There are two possible explanations, here. Either the government deliberately spread the false rumor that tin foil hats block mind-control rays in order to make it easier to manipulate us, or the government is behind this bogus study, because it fears that tin foil hats are an obstacle to taking over our minds. I happen to know which of these scenarios is correct. But you’ll have to subscribe to my mimeographed newsletter to find out.
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40 Responses to “Morning Links”

  1. #1 |  M | 

    Just because a few big banks stopped offering free checking doesn’t mean everyone else did too. PNC is still on that bandwagon, for one

  2. #2 |  Nancy Lebovitz | 

    Exoneration infographic from Wrongful Convictions. The thing that surprised me was that 81% of prosecutors consent to having DNA examined.

  3. #3 |  Aresen | 

    That Ostrich pillow looks wonderful.

    Of course, actually using one would probably cause someone to phone Homeland Security.

  4. #4 |  Mattocracy | 

    Housing bubble. Student Loan bubble. Pension bubble. There is a recurring theme here.

  5. #5 |  hilzoy fangirl | 

    So according to Reason, 39% of banks still offer free checking with no minimum balance. Yep, sure sounds like free checking is dead to me! And, of course, no information is given on what the rest of the banks offer – for all we know, they have free checking with a $50 minimum balance. Which would be just awful. Darn you, big government!

  6. #6 |  el coronado | 

    Thaaaat’s it, little sheep: stand up for and defend your government! “Our Shepherds looooove us and would never hurt us!”

  7. #7 |  Juice | 

    http://science.discovery.com/tv/hawkings-sci-fi-masters/episodes/episode-guide.html

    Sentient drones.

    Steven Hawking’s Sci-Fi Masters did it.

  8. #8 |  David | 

    Also the death of free checking occurred when the number of banks offering the service with no strings attached dropped from 45% to 39%. If I lose 6% of my body weight, I’m pretty sure I don’t disappear entirely from the Earth.

    (Dodd-Frank is still a bad law, but painting every bad law as the end of life on Earth is counterproductive and makes you look stupid.)

  9. #9 |  Michael Chaney | 

    Radley, I thought you would link to this at some point:

    http://healthland.time.com/2012/09/28/shave-it-off-how-bald-guys-can-look-more-manly-and-dominant/

  10. #10 |  aairfccha | 

    Via drugwarrant: Happy birthday prohibition. Now die.

    http://blog.seattlepi.com/vivianmcpeak/2012/09/30/happy-birthday-prohibition-now-die/

  11. #11 |  citalopram | 

    “The Pentagon is working to make killer drones “sentient.” I don’t see any possible downside, here.”

    Haven’t we all seen what happens in Terminator and Terminator 2?

  12. #12 |  James D | 

    Brought to you by Cyberdyne systems …. would be even more ironic if they could get Arnold as a spokesman ….

  13. #13 |  jesse | 

    Realistically I’d say most people will be unaffected by the government pension crisis. Let them go broke. The large majority of us still work in the private sector, and raising taxes even a little bit is politically difficult these days. Impossible to raise them enough to make any real dent in this problem, even at confiscatory rates.

    The one thing that really would screw the rest of us is the federal government bailing out the states.

  14. #14 |  Quiet Desperation | 

    I wouldn’t worry about sentient drones. Artificial intelligence is the fusion power of the computing world, forever just 20 years away. They’re also using a pretty loose definition for sentient. More like an expert system.

    Morality of war aside, if you think about it (sans the vapid Hollywood and “Skynet” twaddle) when it comes to civilian casualties, could they do any worse than humans? I know folks who have worked on military software. They have certifications and testing regimes that would make a commercial coder weep. It’s quite a different world from, say, coding the next Call Of Duty game for the XBox.

    I still don’t get why you’d want to fight an enemy like this from the air instead of going in quietly, in the dark, well trained dudes taking care of business, and getting out. You don’t even talk about it. Someone asks Obama and he says, “What? Some terror cell turned up with slit throats? Huh. Well ain’t that a thing. No idea, sorry.”

    BTW, my credit union still offers free checking, and pays interest on checking accounts.

  15. #15 |  MikeZ | 

    Regarding the free checking, I guess I’m most curious as to why didn’t banks charge those extra fees prior to Dodd-Frank? If those extra fees are big revenue boosts wouldn’t they also have been revenue boosts last year?

  16. #16 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    “The Pentagon is working to make killer drones “sentient.” I don’t see any possible downside, here.”

    Hell, I can’t think of any UPSIDE!

  17. #17 |  el coronado | 

    OK, a quick question for all of you “Libertarians” reflexively defending the (admittedly ‘only’ impending) death of free checking via Dodd-Frank. (One wonders if we’d see this same level of defense if it were known as, say, ‘Mccain-Imhofe’. One doubts it very much.)

    Didja know that, thanks to the Universally Loved Dodd-Frank “Democrats helping Banks” bill, that banks don’t have to cash their own checks? Yup. Present a bank with a check drawn on *their* bank, allow them to prove to themselves the money in question is in the account, present all the identification they demand, jump through all their sorry little hoops, and….

    If they don’t want to, they can refuse to cash it? Despite the fact that a check is a draft – an ‘order’ – signed by the account holder *instructing* the bank to “pay to the order of” whoever’s named on the pay line. But if the bank just doesn’t **feel** like it, they won’t. Also, even if they will (grudgingly) follow the instructions given them by the account holder – THE OWNER OF THE MONEY IN QUESTION – if you “don’t have an account with them”, they can slap you with a fee for cashing it. When I found this out, I went ballistic, and they of course didn’t give a shit. Because it is of course sanctioned by Dodd-Frank. The Comptroller of the Currency gave the banks their blessing for this because their masters on Wall St. told ‘em to, and D-F lets it stand without comment. So by all means, let’s continue to soft-pedal D-F, and the asshole who grinningly signed it into law, because that’s what teacher told us to in skuel. Slavery is Freedom!

  18. #18 |  Radley Balko | 

    (Dodd-Frank is still a bad law, but painting every bad law as the end of life on Earth is counterproductive and makes you look stupid.)

    I wrote, or I guess implied, that it spelled the end of free checking. I’m fairly sure that life on earth is not dependent on the existence of free checking.

  19. #19 |  Mattocracy | 

    I got the impression that the arguement being made is that free checking is on its way out, not that it has already disappeared.

  20. #20 |  C. S. P. Schofield | 

    “Ostrich Pillow allows you to look like a complete pillock anywhere, anytime”

    There; headline corrected.

  21. #21 |  citalopram | 

    @19 – It’s spelled ‘argument’.

  22. #22 |  Thalience | 

    So the Dodd-Frank bill turned a set of hidden “gotcha” fees into an up-front fee. I fail to see how that is bad for the free market.

    Bank of America, et al have not just suddenly started screwing over their customers with this change. They have always been screwing over their customers, but had previously been successful at hiding it in charges to the merchants (resulting in inflated prices for everyone).

    Now that those foolish enough to bank with BoA are seeing the fees directly, they have a market incentive to find a better bank.

    It is a bit strange to see Reason arguing against market transparency.

  23. #23 |  H. Rearden | 

    @21 – Thanks for the spelling lesson, pendant

    @17 – When I was in college and providing landscaping services to the 1%, I also had to pay a fee to cash checks at banks where I didn’t have an account. Of course I didn’t like it but I always thought my beef was with the bank, not President Clinton or the US Congress.

    Do you have any citation for a bank refusing to honor a check written against one of there accounts? Or it this just an interpretation of the language in the Dodd-Frank Law. Knowing how laws are written, I would guess that you could read anything into it. I find your story hard to believe but would also be outraged if shown to be true.

  24. #24 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    What the hell! A Colts fan posting a Pats pic?

  25. #25 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    RE: Pensions Article:

    Austan Goolsbee is an ass.

  26. #26 |  crazybob | 

    OMG! A 6% decline in the number of banks that offer free checking! The WORLD IS COMING TO AN END!

  27. #27 |  crazybob | 

    “It is a bit strange to see Reason arguing against market transparency.”

    Reason ALWAYS argues against market transparency: corporate “freedom” is always promoted over disclosure to consumers.

  28. #28 |  Mattocracy | 

    @ 26, read comment 18.

    @ 22 and 27, I don’t see how capping one set of user fees suddenly created transparency or how there wasn’t transparency previously. Banks are required to disclose their fees and rates to account holders. I don’t see how these were “hidden” or “gotcha” fees.

    Also, how can you argue that people should leave BoA over their fee structure when all of the banks are doing basically the same thing by law? Don’t get me wrong, I hate BoA and closed my accounts there. It just wasn’t due to a lack of transparency.

  29. #29 |  James Hare | 

    Radley:
    Several commenters have pointed out that proclaiming the “death of free checking” is a bit premature. Will you correct your error? I doubt it. Only responsible people correct their errors. You make great hay out of the mistakes government employees make but make no effort to correct your own errors.

    I guess “Libertarian” is another ideology of “it’s good for thee but not for me.”

  30. #30 |  Bob | 

    Free checking is dead? I hadn’t noticed.

    To be fair, though, perhaps you might not have noticed that the FED has been clamping interest rates for years now, and with no end in sight. So yeah… getting shit for free because your money is an asset for the bank is far less of a factor now.

    The big problem here is the low interest rates. Oh! You have some pissy fee for your checking account now? This is insignificant next to the lack of earning in your savings account, and the inflation that is destroying said savings.

  31. #31 |  crzyb0b | 

    Banks are free to charge whatever interest rates they choose. If the interest rates are too low you are free to take your savings where ever you like.

  32. #32 |  John David Galt | 

    Is it April Fools Day in your time zone?

  33. #33 |  V | 

    Camden is a problem, but it can’t be directly correlated by police union benefits. The city suffers from ineffective budgetary mismanagement by the local municipal government, poor property values, refusal to raise property taxes more than 2 percent per year, government employee benefits, city corruption, and a host of other factors.

  34. #34 |  bbartlog | 

    As regards the pensions, the poll didn’t include any mention of printing money (and massaging the stats on the resulting inflation) in order to erode the real value of pensions and make the problem disappear. Of course a direct bailout of the pension funds with printed money would also be possible…

  35. #35 |  Stormy Dragon | 

    A drop from 45% to 39% of banks offering free checking is a 13% drop. Everyone calling it a 6% drop, please go stand in the corner and feel appropriately ashamed about your innumeracy.

  36. #36 |  supercat | 

    All of the financial institutions I’ve seen that offer “free checking” require that one sign up to have paychecks directly deposited with them. What has happened to the percentage of financial institutions that would offer “free checking” to people whose source of income cannot process direct deposits (an actual question; I would not be surprised if the number of such institutions has diminished far more than the number of institutions which offer “free checking” with direct deposit).

    I dislike the notion that what are supposed to be cash-equivalent negotiable financial instruments can have a face value which exceeds the redeemable value. While it’s somewhat icky that a merchant who accepts a credit card for a $10 purchase is really selling his goods for closer to $9.70, merchants agree to such terms *in advance of processing any credit card transactions*. Merchants are free to accept such agreements if they think the benefits of accepting credit cards exceed the cost, and decline them if they do not. By contrast, if a merchant receives a $10 check from a local bank with whom the merchant does not have a business relationship, then in the absence of an agreement to accept less than full payment, I see no basis for the merchant not being entitled to $10. If a surcharge has to be placed on someone to process a check, it should be placed on someone who has agreed to it; if the account-holder is the only one who has any business relationship with the bank, nobody but the account-holder should be required to pay it (e.g. by having a $10 check result in a $10.50 debit to the account).

  37. #37 |  Personanongrata | 

    Of possible interest to my fellow napping aficionados.

    I know several people who spend their days walking around with their heads shoved-up something only it isn’t an orstrich pillow it’s their assholes.

  38. #38 |  Personanongrata | 

    Fellow libertarians: You’ve been doing it wrong. There are two possible explanations, here. Either the government deliberately spread the false rumor that tin foil hats block mind-control rays in order to make it easier to manipulate us, or the government is behind this bogus study, because it fears that tin foil hats are an obstacle to taking over our minds. I happen to know which of these scenarios is correct. But you’ll have to subscribe to my mimeographed newsletter to find out.

    I only wear my tin-foil-hat when I’m not in my Fermi-cage.

  39. #39 |  StrangeOne | 

    Wow, heaven help you if you ever make a real mistake like a typo or fuck up a hyperlink Radley.

    When I read a hyperbolic statement, I generally just ignore it and move on. I guess the appropriate response is to make the wildest accusations possible against your character and politics.

    I thought I was losing my free checking when Wachovia was bought by Wells Fargo, but they pretty much just keep it going as it had been. However if I were to close the account and open a new one I couldn’t find a free option that didn’t require at least a minimum monthly average of $1000.00. This is why I think even the 39% figure is inflated. What are the riders attached to the current “free checking” accounts offered? In the past you might of gotten some hefty overdraft fees, but now you get a monthly charge AND overdraft fees (albeit smaller ones).

    I also got burned by that “fee for cashing our own checks” bullshit from Bank of America in the past. Not a fan of Frank-Dodd either way, but then again I’m not a fan of the old overdraft structuring either. Ultimately I reached the conclusion that we can’t have good banks because all the current ones lobbied for laws that require banks to treat their customers like shit.

  40. #40 |  Weird Willy | 

    Wait a minute, so my free checking accounts are now dead? Both of them, with completely different banks? What happened to my money? Why do my online banking reports indicate that both accounts are still open, with their balances fully intact? How is it that I am still able to withdraw cash at ATMs? What is happening here?!!!

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