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Links 8/13/10

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Home computers discover rare star BBC

The type of interaction between species might play a fundamental part in the stability of ecological communities PhysOrg

Algonquin Toasts Its Famous Feline Wall Street Journal

A, B, C, 1, 2, 3 Lambert Strether

Historic Voter Volatility in This Year of Fear Wall Street Journal (hat tip Joe Costello)

Timebends: The Further Fruits of Revelation Chris Floyd

Identifying Psychopathic Fraudsters: These Men Know ‘Snakes in Suits’ Fraud Magazine (hat tip John M from Barry Ritholtz)

The Intelligent Universe maison neuve

Feds rethink policies that encourage home ownership USA Today

Florida Law Firms Subpoenaed Over Foreclosure Filing Practices Office of the Attorney General of Florida

Elizabeth Warren, likely to head new consumer agency, provokes strong feelings Washington Post (hat tip reader Fred A). The length and sympathetic tone of this piece suggests Warren will get the nod.

Whitacre’s Resignation: Abdication or Ouster? Conglomerate

Does the Money Multiplier Exist? Ed Harrison. I grumbled about the Fed operating from the discredited loanable funds theory yesterday. Ed does a nice job of explaining and debunking it.

This Isn’t Funny Anymore Mark Thoma (hat tip reader John M)

Welcome to the World of the “New Normal”, UK Style Marshall Auerback, New Deal 2.0

Michal Kalecki – The Political Aspects of Full Employment billy blog

Modern Portfolio Theory: Break free dude! AllAboutAlpha

Consensus Plays Catch Up to the Fall in Interest Rates BondSquawk (hat tip Abnormal Returns)

Paralysis at the Fed Paul Krugman, New York Times. Krugman only recently has taken to criticizing his former Princeton colleague.

MBIA Unit Asks Judge to Make Bankrupt Vallejo Use Fees for Debt Bloomberg. OK, I hate to be dense…so if muni bond insurance doesn’t pay out when a municipality BKs, what is it good for? (Yes, I know it was meant to be phony insurance for issuers to small to afford to be rated, but you aren’t supposed to make it obvious that it’s THIS phony…..)

Antidote du jour:

Picture 19

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37 comments

  1. El Snarko

    So ref: The Intelligent Universe…
    If the singularity is achieved then the rating agencies can be replaced ?

  2. AngryPedestrian

    Regarding MBIA–the article doesn’t say MBIA is not paying bondholders on their policy, they’re paying and also trying to recover their losses through this lawsuit.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I know, but I suppose I am sick of this game of “let’s see if this insurance is really worth anything when you try to collect.” And I do have one policy (won’t jinx it by telling you) where they have paid like clockwork on every claim, including one large one.

      1. NOTaREALmerican

        Well, come on. It’s subsidizing the owners of the government. It’s working perfectly.

    1. Anonymous Jones

      All right, everyone remain calm…

      This is FHA SOP, hardly outrageous in light of the pervasive looting going on elsewhere in the government and by the banks.

      This is not a “bailout.” Should FHA programs be operative in Alabama, just not NEW YORK CITY?

      I’m against the FHA. I was always against the GSEs. But seriously, this is just standard FHA rules applied in NYC. It’s hardly going to make much of a difference because the $729k cap means any borrower will have to put up significant personal funds or find gap financing (with mortgage insurance type rates).

      You can rail against the existence of the FHA. You can rail against the raising of the cap to $729k (which was like two years ago!). But this is not an outrageous example of these two things, just a minor, run-of-the-mill piece of the whole operation.

      Seriously, you’re making *me* defend the FHA? Oy…

  3. hdawn

    That manhattan condo link is absolutely infuriating…as if bailing out the banks wasn’t enough. When does the country start to care?

  4. AngryPedestrian

    The article doesn’t say that MBIA is not paying insured bondholders. My impression is that MBIA can pay bondholders while simultaneously exercising legal remedies against the City to recover its (MBIA’s) losses.

    1. aet

      Yes, that’s what insurers do.
      If there’s a hope they may recover enough to cover the legal fees and then some.

  5. Allan Connery

    Re the intelligent universe:

    Will this imminent wonder emerge from the same technical culture that has taken 25 years to progress from Windows 3 to Windows 7?

    Maybe it will come from the wizards at Google, whose translation service appears to be fluent in all the languages of mankind except the ones you happen to speak.

    I have literally grown old hearing forecasts of the marvellous things machines will do just 10 years into the future. Meanwhile, in the last five decades, computers have grown 30 million times more powerful, per Moore’s Law. I think we’re all familiar with the results.

    So when do the miracles start? I hate to sound like a cynic, but I’m beginning to suspect the futurists have been bullshitting me.

    1. NOTaREALmerican

      Re: bullshitting me

      Naaaa… The flying cars are on the way.

      Btw, can you imagine what America would look like with flying cars? Every building in the country would be leveled; there’d be flying-cars pimples in every high-rise.

      The future will be glorious!

  6. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Let’s say if Lassie here wants to marry the lil’ blond duckie here, will anyone object?

  7. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    This is a bit of my own link, sort of.

    What doe you think Apple will call its new products when it gets into

    1) selling dolls? iDolls?

    2) the brokerage business? iDeals?

    3) health care? iDoctors? And no foot doctors?

    4) construction? iCon?

    5) real estate? iLand?

  8. EmilianoZ

    RE: A,B,C,1,2,3

    Reading that piece I just realized that all this time I’ve been reading a blog that’s just in the C list. For a long time the readership of NC oscillated between 10,000 and 13,000. Now it seems to plateau a bit above 13,000.

    Can somebody recommend some good blogs in the A or B lists? I don’t want anything from NYT or Wapo. I’m tired of Krugman.

    1. BDBlue

      C List writing is better, IMO. So be warned, there can be a lot of “look over there, Sarah Palin!” on the A-list. But if you want to go A-list, you could do worse than Atrios/Eschaton (in this site’s links). He links to a lot of other blogs, including a lot of A-list ones, so it’s a decent way to find your way around the Blogosphere.

      1. EmilianoZ

        I’ve just visited Eschaton. Come on, let’s be serious, this cannot be a A-list blog. It’s more like twitter. Plenty of one-line posts and nobody ever comments there. It’s probably a mistake it’s on NC’s blogroll. “Attempter” who comments here has a better blog and he/she is a Nietzsche specialist (one always needs a Nietzsche specialist).

        What about Felix Salmon? On which list is he? The weasel never displays any stats. His writing is mediocre but he sometimes has good links. Being on Reuters he must be at least on the B-list.

        It pretty depressing to think that even if NC and Baseline Scenario were merged, they wouldn’t make the B-list.

        1. BDBlue

          Well, first the numbers given in the Corrente piece were not the true cut-offs, just illustrative.

          Second, Atrios is mostly a links kind of blog. If you want more substance, I’d go with Glenn Greenwald at Salon. He’s excellent. There’s also Digby and Firedoglake. Both of which have some good pieces (empty wheel at Firedoglake is a great source on executive power over reach), but personally I don’t read either of them regularly any more. I do still read Greenwald daily. I’d say he’s the only A-lister that I read regularly.

          1. EmilianoZ

            I really liked your explanation of the delusions caused by the S-V structure of language. When I read the original Nietzsche text I found the idea interesting but couldn’t understand a thing of his explanations. Yours makes it clearer, though I still wouldn’t claim I understand it completely.

            Have you seen Chris Hedges’ column about Nietzsche a few months ago?

            http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/after_religion_fizzles_were_stuck_with_nietzsche_20100510/

            He talks about Nietzsche’s concept of “the last man”, which seems to be what he thought humanity would become if it failed to become the Ubermensch. I haven’t read Zarathustra so this was new to me. Did Chris Hedges get it right? How much do we resemble this “last man”.

          2. attempter

            I hadn’t seen this although I usually like Hedges. I guess it’s not surprising that this one didn’t get as much linkage, given its subject matter.

            His citation of the Last Man is right on. Today’s “consumer” is exactly the type Nietzsche foresaw with dismay and disgust – materialistic, pseudo-educated, anti-intellectual, willfully ignorant of how he lives (“where does food come from? the supermarket!”), smug and self-satisfied about the status quo, shallow, complacent, conformist, obsessed with luxury and delusions of “security” at the expense of freedom and experiment (and long-term security as well), a combination of arrogance, sense of entitlement, and utter meanness and paltriness.

            I like the Chalmers Johnson quote, that this has been a “consumerist Sparta”. It reminds me of the difference between true austerity undertaken for the sake of transformative goals, vs. the Orwellian “austerity” the elites seek to impose on the people for the sake of their own program of robbery and power aggrandizement.

            To restate the S-V myth, the “subject” is nothing more than a grammatical placeholder. Our way of thinking and speaking seems to require this placeholder. That’s fine as long as we keep in mind that in reality there are no “subjects”, only bundles of qualities which are all incessantly evolving processes. In other words, only what we signify with verbs actually exists. Any noun is really a bundle of verbs.

            So to say “I think” really means, thinking is happening, and for grammatical convenience we invent this “I” as the “thing that thinks”; but there’s really nothing but the thinking itself. The same goes for willing and any incarnation of doing.

            The practical and moral conclusion: None of us are anything more than the sum of our characteristic actions.

            As for the post on the blogs, that measure of importance applies mostly to the decrepit liberal blogs, which pathetically hash over an ideology which has no future. It doesn’t apply to the more intrepid econoblogs, where we see some outlines of possible futures.

            The best “progressive” blogs (the ones which turned against Obama but still cling to the liberal nonsense in theory) can probably serve as decompression chambers for soon-to-be ex-liberals on their way to completely renouncing the system pseudo-politic.

            So I don’t think hit counts accurately track importance for the future, at this point. It’s a gradual process.

    2. NOTaREALmerican

      Is this like Mc-Donalds winning the best hamburger contest every year in the local paper?

      Generally, the more popular it is the more average it is.

    3. Yves Smith Post author

      Hey, you are misrating this blog. That 13,000 ish # is RSS readers (a pretty live #, anyone who has it on RSS and has actually looked at an article in the last 24 hours). We also have e-mail subscribers and people who don’t use RSS, around 25,000.

      More germane, that gets us to 1 million + page views a month. That puts NC at #4 at Gongol, and between #3 and #5 on Technorati (has to do more with who is linking to us) among 7000 finance and econ blogs.

      So don’t diss NC. Political blogs have higher readership, that’s the nature of that category. We do fine in our space.

      1. EmilianoZ

        I’m sorry I completely misunderstood what “readers” in Site Statistics meant. I thought it was a clever way to determine the number of individuals reading NC. “Visitors” seems to be the hit count but hit count strikes me as very bad measure. Most of us here probably visit this site many times a day. So one single person could account for say 10 hits a day. I thought the “readers” counter would try to verify if the same person is responsible for those 10 visits using IP address or cookies. “readers” should be changed to “RSS readers”.

  9. K Ackermann

    Ray Kurzweil doesn’t dream large enough. He still thinks silicon is a suitable substrate and Turing machines are flexible enough.

    His hyperbolic growth will not come from machines but rather it will come from us. Find the genes that control the amount of wrinkling in our cerebral cortex and start increasing the surface area of the brain.

    It will self-reinforce.

    1. aet

      You’d be surprised how many genes have multiple roles…monkey with one such aspect, and others get changed too.

  10. NOTaREALmerican

    Nice article on the sociopaths.

    Looks like we’re doomed. These are the people our society (generally) deems to be “leaders” and continuously elects or strives to emulate. Can a society be sociopathic?

    The threshold for “psychopathy” also is somewhat arbitrary, but generally is set rather high, at a level where the individual’s manipulative, callous, egocentric, predatory, irresponsible, and remorseless behaviors begin to infringe upon the rights and safety of others.

    Dude, what can happen, dude! Like total, dude!

    1. Diogenes

      “Can a society be sociopathic?” Great question. I would think yes. You could apply the same Hare test questions to the behavior of a society.

  11. KFritz

    Re: Snakes and Psychopaths

    A few years ago, as a subcontractor, I met a new employee of general contractor. He seemed to know his stuff and had good workrate. As a former college athlete, I was pleased to find out he’d done the same. As he told me how much he’d accomplished while being a college athlete, I wondered how he’d done it all, experiencing doubt but not worrying about it because it was none of my business. Other parts of his life story elicited more mental ‘clicks.’

    Several months later I noticed the employee was MIA, and I asked the GC about it. The GC, who is one of the toughest people I’ve ever met, told me that he hoped never to see this guy again so that the GC wouldn’t commit mayhem. To be brief, the ex-employee was a chronic liar and thief, and addicted to meth and/or heroin. In a word–a psychopath, with great first presentation and trouble ahead. Since then, I’ve paid much more attention to ‘clicks.’

    Recently I met someone who claimed to have been a govt agent, advertising exec, AND to have helped 30 people with mortgage and debt problems. Click.

  12. curlydan

    Thanks for link to Chris Floyd’s article, highlighting the shameful Time magazine cover. As I passed by a newsstand and saw that pathetic piece of MSM trash, I thought, “Time could easily change the title to ‘What happens if we stay in Afghanistan’ and it would be equally valid”. Of course, this is just par for the course for war-mongering Time.

  13. Jojo

    Re: The intelligent universe

    Alastair Reynolds is an enjoyable British SF writer who has incorporated the the theme of a very old machine intelligence that is bent on destroying human civilizations when they reach a particular stage of advancement. This machine intelligence is an outgrowth of a weapon created by past civilizations now long gone (after all, the universe is 13 BILLION years old and a lot of races could have existed and died prior to humans). He mainly focuses on space opera and is most famous for his Revelation Space book series.

    More info:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alastair_Reynolds

  14. EmilianoZ

    Re: Elisabeth Warren

    The Wapo piece mentions her 2007 interview in “Conversations With History” but doesn’t link to it. Here’s the video:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S1Uk-DwUvJw

    Even if she gets the job, I bet she will resign within one year. I’d rather see her resign than put her name to some lame legislation.

  15. Sundog

    *** Obama could yet somewhat redeem himself by going for root & branch reform of the tax system — this is a fight well worth taking on no matter how the mid-term results come out.

    Barbara Ehrenreich, “The Corpo-Obama-Geithner-Petraeus State”
    http://www.thenation.com/article/154017/corpo-obama-geithner-petraeus-state

    Some object to the Tea Party characterizations; my beef is that Petraeus might be on the right track by promoting local militias at the expense of the illegitimate Karzai narco-state apparatus and in any event the US military (as opposed to the neo-cons and the NoVa contractor complex) didn’t seek the mission.

    *** Also, this edition of KRCW’s “To The Point” has an exceptionally good discussion of problems in Mexico related to the role of the informal economy and US demand for controlled psychoactive substances; begins about ten minutes into the show.

    Warren Olney, “Mexico Seeks a Way Out of Its Drug War”
    http://www.kcrw.com/news/programs/tp/tp100813mexico_seeks_a_way_o

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