05/23/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Scritti Politti: April 22, 2009

Well, shucks. I didn't think it'd be possible to ride in that Well Fargo wagon, what with it's wheels all broke and it's axle all draggin'. Turns out though, they bank is laying claim to a tidy profit! How did this happen? All thanks to the magic of Mark-To-Market, which is being taught at the Hogwarts MBA program even as we speak, mostly to Slytherins. Let's have Clusterstock explain:

In fact, while most banks said they saw little effect from FASB's mark-to-market rule change, Wells took advantage of it in a big way.

This note was in the release:

The net unrealized loss on securities available for sale declined to $4.7 billion at March 31, 2009, from $9.9 billion at December 31, 2008. Approximately $850 million of the improvement was due to declining interest rates and narrower credit spreads. The remainder was due to the early adoption of FAS FSP 157-4, which clarified the use of trading prices in determining fair value for distressed securities in illiquid markets, thus moderating the need to use excessively distressed prices in valuing these securities in illiquid markets as we had done in prior periods.

So that's about a $4.4 billion benefit form the rule change. Given that the bank only made a net profit of $3.05 billion, that more than explains the whole thing.

Still to be explained, of course, is how Wells Fargo arrived at their magical four-billion-and-change number here. I am imagining augurs, and chicken entrails.

A Terrifying Look At The Real Welfare State: Okay. So Dennis Blair, in a private memo and in subsequent public statements, says torture "yielded 'high value information' that has 'provided a deeper understanding'" but that "despite those facts, torture still does more harm than good and is not essential to our national security." Think anyone is going to totally miscontrue those remarks? OF COURSE SO, and not surprisingly, it's Bill Kristol, who gets Blair's comments wrong, in the same way he gets everything, ever, for all time wrong. And the consequences? Someone's going to hand him $250,000! AHH, CAN YOU SMELL THE MERITOCRACY?

Another Interrogator Heard From: Greg Sargent brings you the insight of Torin Nelson, who's been an interrogator at GITMO, Bagram, and Abu Ghraib. Nelson says that terrorists can, in fact, train themselves in torture resistance if they are aware of the techniques they will likely face. However:

But he rejected the argument as irrelevant. Such a trained detainee, he said, is more likely to get tortured for longer, which makes it more likely that he'll volunteer falsehoods. The question is not whether "they can totally withstand torture," Torin said. "The question is the quality of information that they give up. The information is most likely false," designed to "make the immediate treatment stop."

Torin also rejected another key Bush argument: That terrorists don't know about the "outer limits" of torture techniques. He said that much info has already been public, that released inmates readily communicated such info with comrades, and that he'd personally dealt with detainees who knew these "outer limits" already.

"There was never a detainee who wasn't ready for the worst treatment," Torin said. "The information [released in the memos] from a couple of years ago is nothing new to them."

Annals of Bad Logos: Andrew Sullivan is a little creeped out by an old logo of the Catholic Church's Archdiocesan Youth Commission. But seriously, that's tame compared to these classics.

Just Don't Try Any Mark To Market Tricks: Megan Carpentier finds today's economic silver lining: prices are dropping at German brothels! "Some brothels have cut prices or added free promotions while others have introduced all-inclusive flat-rate fees. Free shuttle buses, discounts for seniors and taxi drivers, as well as "day passes" are among marketing strategies designed to keep business going." At last, a form of deflation that brothel consumers can enjoy.

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