Audit Notes: Bubble Machine, Apple Pushback, Quitting Facebook

The Wall Street Journal has a good explainer on how banks like Goldman Sachs used credit-default swaps to fuel the bubble’s most dangerous phase:

In one case, a $38 million subprime-mortgage bond created in June 2006 ended up in more than 30 debt pools and ultimately caused roughly $280 million in losses to investors by the time the bond’s principal was wiped out in 2008, according to data reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Taibbi put it best when he called Goldman (an Audit funder) the “Great American Bubble Machine.” Others blew it up, too, but Goldman was smart (or devious) enough to get out on time:

By late 2006, Goldman had a large bullish position on the ABX, because it had taken the other side of bearish bets by hedge-fund clients, according to the Senate documents. Subsequent deals would help reverse that position.

In other words, Goldman helped inflate the bubble in 2006 by creating toxic securities for its clever clients to short. It then saw the market cratering and unloaded its long position by selling toxic securities to its not-so-clever clients—without telling them that it was betting against them at the same time.

David Carr slams Apple in The New York Times this morning for its control-freak policies, ones that have resulted in the rejection of political speech from its iPad (however temporarily) and the raiding of a journalist’s house by the cops.

According to a report from Wired, at some point people identifying themselves as representatives of Apple visited the home of the man apparently trying to peddle the phone, asking to search the premises. Home visits seem a little more up the alley of the Church of Scientology, another nongovernmental organization preoccupied by secrecy…

The media’s crush on Apple has always been an unrequited love affair. The company has a few familiars in the press whom it favors, but Apple has “no comment” programmed on a macro key. The company has unsuccessfully sued bloggers who, it believed, had punctured its veil of secrecy, and important tech news organizations like Wired have been shut out as a result of coverage deemed ill-mannered.

This is exactly what I was looking for when I called for the press to bush back against Apple. It’s a start.

This is a good blog post on 10 reasons why you should quit Facebook. Here’s No. 7:

Facebook is pulling a classic bait-and-switch. At the same time that they’re telling developers how to access your data with new APIs, they are relatively quiet about explaining the implications of that to members. What this amounts to is a bait-and-switch. Facebook gets you to share information that you might not otherwise share, and then they make it publicly available. Since they are in the business of monetizing information about you for advertising purposes, this amounts to tricking their users into giving advertisers information about themselves. This is why Facebook is so much worse than Twitter in this regard: Twitter has made only the simplest (and thus, more credible) privacy claims and their customers know up front that all their tweets are public. It’s also why the FTC is getting involved, and people are suing them (and winning).

True, but Facebook has its users locked in by now. We’re over a barrel. Now what?

(h/t Business Insider)

— Finally, this ad on the Los Angeles Daily News site caught my eye. It’s all kinds of awesome:

The fake SWAT T-shirt, the backward baseball cap, the Lamborghini police cruiser (!). Not exactly the paper-shuffling G-man image I had in my head.

Something tells me this is not the way to “become FBI.”

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.