7 things @ 11 o’clock (7.24)

1. Goldman Sachs may be in trouble for running some kind of aluminum-hoarding commodities trading scheme. (In the case of Goldman Sachs, of course, “in trouble” doesn’t refer to criminal or civil penalties — those don’t apply to the Too Big to Jail firm. But if it can be proved that Goldman is doing something illegal, then lawmakers may crack down hard with several uncomfortable questions for the next Goldman exec nominated to a state or federal cabinet post. And that could be briefly awkward.)

Izabella Kaminska explains how this scheme works (free registration required) using a familiar story:

This is Joseph. He is a well-known commodity forecaster. This is Pharaoh. Pharaoh is worried about future scarcity of commodities …

Another reminder that the biblical Joseph is a pretty despicable character. Preying on the desperation of starving people to steal their land and enslave the entire world doesn’t make you a Good Guy. (Alas, my old post on this — “Joseph and the Appalling Tyrannical Despot” — got lost in the move to Patheos.)

Meanwhile, Consumerist’s Laura Northrup explains commodities trading by using a different set of familiar characters: Billy Ray Valentine and Louis Winthorpe III.

Turns out the insider-trading at the heart of Trading Places wasn’t illegal back in 1983 when that movie came out. It’s illegal now thanks to a provision of the Dodd-Frank Act. That provision is called “The Eddie Murphy Rule.”

2. World keep on turnin‘. … Stevie Wonder’s Florida boycott has picked up some big support, including Jay Z, Kanye West, Rihanna, Madonna, Usher and Justin Timberlake.

Wonder’s boycott calls for the repeal of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. I think that’s a more constructive long-term challenge than the call for a retrial of George Zimmerman on civil rights grounds. It’s a specific and measurable demand, which could make this boycott an effective strategy — particularly if it broadens from entertainers refusing to perform there to include tourists refusing to go there. If attendance drops off at Disney and Florida’s beaches, that could really start to pinch.

3. This is terrorism.

4. Checks for the $40 million settlement over Skechers “Shape Ups” are on their way to consumers who bought the sneakers based on the misleading ad campaign that promised fitness results the shoes don’t deliver. I think of the brief, weird popularity of Shape Ups and its various, equally ineffective competitors whenever I see one of those ads for Lumosity.com. “It’s like a personal trainer for your brain,” the ads say, “improving your performance with the science of neuroplasticity.” I suspect that’s pretty much the same thing as neurophlebotinum.

“With shape-ups you can finally get in shape without going to the gym,” the old Skechers ads promised. Now Lumosity promises you can finally get smarter without going to the library.

5. This is what the actual Bible actually says in Ezekiel 16:49-50:

This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty, and did abominable things before me; therefore I removed them when I saw it.

I repeat that a lot. But I’ll keep on repeating it so long as there are biblically illiterate Christians out there pretending that the story of Sodom justifies the condemnation of gay people.

Future generations will look at the horrifically mangled exegesis that gave us the ugly misnomer of “sodomy” precisely the same way we now view the vile twisting of scripture that gave us all that racist “curse of Ham” crap.

6. Real Clear Religion offers a couple of link-sucking photo galleries: “The Ugliest Churches in the World” and “Even More Ugly Churches.” I suppose ugly is in the eye of the beholder, because some of these look beautiful to me.

7. Update your bookmarks and RSS feeds: Addie Zierman’s “How to Talk Evangelical” blog is now just AddieZierman.com. Jamelle Bouie has left The American Prospect to become a staff writer for the Daily Beast. If you’re not familiar with either of them, follow those links and check them out.



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  • Carstonio

    I meant that you seemed to be ridiculing boycotters, not all opponents.

    “Dim view” suggests that you do care.

    I would agree that boycotts are ineffective at causing change by themselves. They’re really about personal conscience and public protest.

  • zmayhem

    I really, really don’t understand what’s up with the judgment on the mosque in particular… I looked at the exterior and interior photos for a solid five minutes and couldn’t find anything about them that wasn’t deeply, eyeball-nourishingly gorgeous.

    Also, sigh. I knew my local cathedral (a.k.a. Our Lady Of the Spin Cycle, as when you drive all the way around it it looks *exactly* like a washing machine agitator) would be on the list. The thing is, once you go inside it’s quite beautiful. The agitator is a giant cross, and what looks from the outside like big black stripes is actually four ground-to-sky panels of stained glass. The very modern architecture is balanced by plain homely pews of polished but unadorned blond wood, and the few bits of art inside are all designed to draw your eye up and up and up. It’s filled with light, and it feels like a place where something startling and wonderful either has just happened or is just about to happen.

    I wish we could see more interior shots — I wouldn’t be surprised to see that many of the experimental-ugly-on-the-outside ones are, well, bigger on the inside.

  • aunursa

    If I were ridiculing, then I would also be ridiculing Evangelicals who boycotted Disney and and conservatives who boycotted 7-Eleven.

    If boycott promoters stated up front that they are ineffective, I would agree with you. But most boycotts begin with a stated goal to effect a change in policy or punish the offender.


    “We feel after nine years of boycotting Disney we have made our point.”

    And what was your point … that your boycott failed?

  • Carstonio

    Any change in policy would be an indirect effect of the boycott, not a direct effect. That’s because a boycott would have to be very large indeed to directly impact the company’s bottom line, particularly one as large as Disney. The indirect effect would be bad publicity for the company, or other companies backing out of deals like with Paula Deen. The evangelical boycott of Disney failed partly because the general public rejected the group’s moral argument.

  • stardreamer42

    The evangelical boycott of Disney failed partly because the general public rejected the group’s moral argument.

    That’s the key, right there. Boycotts can help a movement, but not if they’re pushing back against the tide of history. Which type this will be is yet to be seen.

  • SamEtic

    Fred, I found it copied in full on a Google+ post through a Google search as well.

  • aunursa

    A change in policy is often the stated goal of a boycott. Most boycotts aren’t called in order to cripple a company financially, but to get it to change a policy. If the company does change the policy because of a boycott or even the mere threat of a boycott, I would consider that to be a direct effect.

  • #2: Umm… when pushing for a boycott of Florida, please do keep in mind that some of us have to live here. And as much as we complain about tourists, the vast bulk of our economy comes from tourism. If people stop coming to Disney, for instance, several of my friends become unemployed.

    I’m pushing for an end to Stand Your Ground as much as anyone, but I’m giving the hairy eyeball to anyone who’s pushing for it in a way that’s going to primarily hurt the people on the ground. Governor Skeletor may feel the heat if tourism starts losing profits, but he’s not going to worry about feeding his kids if it happens. Me and mine will.

  • alfgifu

    You probably have to be on the ground while a wide-scale terrorist campaign is being conducted to appreciate how much the idea lingers. For those of us in England, the IRA were an active threat only a couple of decades ago – as the fighting in Northern Ireland died down, the terrorist campaign intensified.

    I remember several times being evacuated in a hurry – from school, once – because of a credible bomb threat, and seeing the actual bombs on the news regularly sort of reinforced that ‘it could be you!’

    So, wrongheaded as the comment is, I wouldn’t be surprised if Sue R has experienced the IRA as a direct threat to hir own safety relatively recently. It is quite possible that somebody zie knows was killed or injured.

  • de_la_Nae

    Yeah, that seems like it makes sense when you put it like that.

    Man, you know what would be crazy? If they somehow were close to all 3-4 examples they gave. That’d be, like…the worst luck.