08/22/2012 08:02 am ET

BREAKING: Private Equity Perhaps Not Entirely Evil: Seven And A Half Things To Know

Thing One: The Many Faces Of Private Equity: Private equity is apparently a far more complicated subject than we had been led to believe. For example, did you know that there are at least two different private-equity firms in existence? Believe it or not.

My old employer The Wall Street Journal, surely not out of any political motivation, but, you know, just saying, plasters on its front page today a "gotcha" story about how the White House encouraged a private equity firm, Carlyle Group, to rescue a failing Philadelphia refinery. Ah-ha, the WSJ seems to say, so you mean all private equity is not evil, like the Obama re-election campaign says it is! Except, the WSJ also acknowledges that the Obama re-election campaign has not really said that all private equity is evil, instead focusing specifically on Mittens Romney's time at one private equity firm, Bain Capital. And the story quotes a union official from the Philly refinery as saying that he was just fine with Carlyle taking over the refinery, but would have been horrified by Bain doing the same because of what he calls its penchant "to strip and flip and walk out with as much as they can." The message here, I guess, is that not all private-equity firms are exactly alike. Lesson learned.

Another interesting lesson about private equity firms is that they are not exactly the paragons of pure free-market capitalism that the Romney election campaign suggests they are. Yves Smith and a "private-equity insider" called "Nanea" (not their real names) took to Smith's Naked Capitalism blog yesterday to point out that private-equity firms rely heavily on tax subsidies and on an influx of capital from the government for their survival, not to mention a steady stream of former government employees who move on to high-paying private-equity jobs: "Private equity firms not only depend directly and substantially on government support, they have also actively cultivated links to the state," the bloggers write.

Thing Two: OK, UK Banks, We Get It, You're Evil: Congratulations to the UK banking community, which has just about made the US financial sector look like amateurs when it comes to ripping people off and wreaking havoc on economies. The Libor scandal, which originated in the UK, has hardly gotten off the ground, but another new bank scandal is already on the rise in the UK. Reuters writes that this one involves UK banks forcing small businesses and other borrowers to take out insurance policies against rising interest rates, but hiding from those businesses the horrific costs that would ensue if rates fell instead of rose. Which is exactly what happened.

Thing Three: Wait, Stocks Did What Now? While no one has been watching or caring, or trading, the U.S. stock market has snuck to its highest level in four years, the Financial Times writes. A lot of this has to do with possibly misplaced hopes for more stimulus from the Fed or from the European Central Bank, and a lot of it has to do with the fact that even the stock-trading robots are on vacation this month. But some of it is real, based on the fact that the U.S. economy has shockingly not fallen into a black hole of utter despair just yet. And that is helping keep President Obama just barely afloat in his reelection campaign, according to the latest NBC/WSJ poll, despite a weak economy. It also helps that Todd Akin has turned the election into one long conversation about how, exactly, Republicans define rape, but that's a subject for a different newsletter.

Thing Four: Europe Refuses To Stay Out Of News: Also quietly bubbling along on the back burner is the European debt crisis, which you will be perhaps shocked to learn is still going on. The Wall Street Journal writes that Greece is almost certainly going to need more money very soon. Germany, the only nation in Europe that has any money, is almost certainly not going to want to give Greece more money. That means Angela Merkel will have to decide between losing Europe and losing her job. Wonder which one she'll choose.

Thing Five: Children's Data-Mining Crusade: A group of children's advocates plans to complain to the Federal Trade Commission today that several web sites, including those run by McDonald's and Nickelodeon, are unlawfully collecting data on children, The New York Times reports: "in complaints to the F.T.C., the coalition says six popular Web sites aimed at children have violated that law by encouraging children who play brand-related games or engage in other activities to provide friends’ e-mail addresses — without seeking prior parental consent."

Thing Six: Waste Food Nation: Americans throw away 40 percent of their food every year, or about $2275 worth of food per family per year, according to a depressing new analysis by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Washington Post reports. "These wasteful tendencies have worsened over time, with the average American dumping 10 times as much food as a consumer in Southeast Asia, up 50 percent from the 1970s."

Thing Seven: What's It All Barry Diller and his strange corporate whatchamacallit thingy IAC/Interactive have for some reason offered $300 million to buy from the New York Times Co., Reuters writes, which apparently beats a $270 million offer the NYT has gotten from We're no deal experts or anything, but for God's sake take the money and run, New York Times Co.

Thing Seven And One Half: The Best Thing We Can Hope For Now Is An Asteroid Strike: Breaking news this morning: Famous eyeliner model Avril Lavigne is engaged to marry Nickelback hair accident Chad Kroeger. Soon he will impregnate her with his Ed Hardy-branded seed, ushering in the musical Apocalypse.

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Calendar Du Jour:

Economic Data:

10:00 a.m. ET: Existing Home Sales for July

2:00 p.m. ET: FOMC Minutes for 07/31

Corporate Earnings:

Before Market Open:

Toll Brothers

After Market Close:

Hewlett Packard

Krispy Kreme

Heard On The Tweets:

@DaveCBenoit: Peter Thiel is a very rich man. Just cashed out nearly $400 mln of Facebook, meaning he's sold over $1 bln this year. He invested $500k.

@TheStalwart: If you're doing anything right now besides just trawling through this huge new FRED database, there's 0% chance we can be friends.

@JustinWolfers: @TheStalwart: C'mon, the NBER macro-history database has been online at the NBER for years. Been there, done that. #hipstereconomics

@jimcramer: The idea that VCs are there to "take profits" is nonsense IF they think the stock could go higher. Thiel's sale says he doesn't think so

@ReformedBroker: Best Buy sells 6 phone chargers and a Ke$ha CD this quarter. Misses earnings, suspends buyback and guidance. $BBY

-- Calendar and tweets rounded up by Khadeeja Safdar.

And you can follow us on Twitter, too: @markgongloff and @byKhadeeja