Links 3/3/09

Is this the world’s ugliest cat? BBC. He appears to be well loved regardless.

Why Doctors Hate Science Sharon Begley, Newsweek

The Limits of a “3 Minute Rahm” in Obama’s Kitchen Cabinet Steve Clemons, Washington Note (hat tip reader Krishna). Suggests that Obama is falling into the same bad decision making process that felled Bush in Iraq.

Buffett’s Stock Picks Are Flat! Henry Blodgett, Clusterstock. You have to read this…

Who’s sayin’ there’s no such thing as bubbles? Economists for Firing Larry Summers

Secrets from the Treasury’s Survey: It looks like China bought a lot of equities just before the stock market tumbled Brad Setser

Pension bombs going off Chicago Business News (hat tip Jesse)

We need shock and awe policies to halt depression Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Telegraph (hat tip reader Dwight)

Bankruptcy Filings Spike in February 2009 Bob Lawless, Credit Slips

Is the Administration’s GDP Forecast Too Rosy? Menzie Chinn, Econbrowser

Freddie Mac chief quits after six months Financial Times. “Mr Moffett’s decision was largely unexpected and entirely his own. These people said Mr Moffett preferred to seek a role in the private sector without the limitations of government supervision and a public policy mission.” Ahem, I suspect he’s going to find that difficult to land, save at a mid-sized or small bank.

The Littlest Victims Michael Panzner

HSBC unit ‘destroyed’ $10bn Financial Times. That’s what you get if you buy a subprime lending unit that engaged in dubious activities.

Madoff: NYC Penthouse, $62 Million Are Mine WCBS (hat tip reader Betsy). Only in America.

Antidote du jour:

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  1. brushes9

    Simon And Garfunkel

    “Kathy,” I said as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh
    “Michigan seems like a dream to me now”
    It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw
    I’ve gone to look for America…

    …”Kathy, I’m lost,” I said, though I knew she was sleeping
    I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why
    Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
    They’ve all gone to look for America

  2. brushes9

    (Bertolt Brecht, ‘Late Lamented Fame Of The Giant City Of New York’, 1929)

    For one day there ran through the world the rumour of

    strange collapses

    On a famous continent, and its banknotes, hoarded only


    Were rejected in disgust like rotten stinking fish.

    Today, when the word has gone round

    That these people are bankrupt

    We on the other continents (which are indeed bankrupt as


    See many things differently and, so we think, more clearly.

    What of the skyscrapers?

    We observe them more coolly.

    What contemptible hovels skyscrapers are when they no

    longer yield high rents!

    Rising so high, full of poverty? Touching the clouds, full of


  3. Cathryn Mataga

    Okay, how about this…

    For maximum shock and awe, shut down the markets for a week — lights out. Have Obama go on TV and look Presidential and say they’re working on the problem. Dictate the terms of what the AIG derivative contracts are worth and unwind the whole mess this week. Mark anything suspicious on banks balance sheets to zero and recapitalize by increasing government stake. Put bank shares in the Fed balance sheet and put some kind of federal reserve bond on the bank balance sheets. Have Obama go on TV and have him look Presidential and declare the bank balance sheets as repaired. Turn the lights back on the next Monday and see what happens. Cross fingers and hope for the best.

  4. Anonymous

    “Hospital staff say the curious cat can scare and mesmerise people.”

    A male that can “scare and memerize people”, that sounds like GOP Presidential Timber.

  5. Anonymous


    Tis one of Simons’ finest songs you quote, but the first verse should
    have been included. After all
    he’s got some real estate in the bag.

    word verification – roguerow
    kinda funny

  6. Gentlemutt

    Yves, the piece on the Littlest Victims reminds me of a question that bothers: when will we start openly connecting the dots between starvation and other slow deaths, on the one hand, and the acts on wall street that set this global disaster in motion?

    What price Joe Cassano’s riches?

  7. Mean Mister Mustard

    Yves, thanks for posting Sharon Begley’s piece on doctors. You do a great job of showing the fallacies that undergird finance, I am afraid few understand that medicine suffers from very similar problems.

  8. Luke Lea


    I’ve read that the top 10% of U.S. taxpayers pay roughly 60% of total taxes. Doesn’t this mean the so-called “taxpayer bailout” is esentially a case of the top .001% of the population robbing the next 9.99%, assuming the looters of our financial system are among the relatively small number of super-wealthy?

    In other words, the billionaires are robbing the millionaires.

    If so, no wonder there is so much yelling and screaming.

  9. Anonymous

    The brush represents cleaning away financial decay, but how will that superficial routine change the reality of not dealing with the root canal?

    That just triggered another pre-coffee vision, which would have The Fed as crooked dentists and TARP as a mountain of gold which is being offered ….. no that didn’t work … what about TARP as a shrine that has human sacrifices, i.e, we could pick banker names from a hat every Thursday and then toss one of these winners into a vat of molten gold bullion, with the assumption that each winner would increase the amount of gold in the vat …. no, sorry,

  10. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Simon and Garfunkel’s America reminds me of a conversation I once had as I was about to catch a flight home from Paris.

    Stranger (I think she was trying to pick me up): I, Miss Russia.

    Me: You miss Russia?

    Stranger (pointing at her chest): Yeah, I, Miss Russia.

    Me: Well, if you miss Russia, you should go back.

    Stranger: Uh? I, Miss Russia, beautiful.

    Me: Yes, Russia is beautiful and if you miss her, you should go back.

    Stranger (almost screaming): I, MISS RUSSIA!!!!!!

    Then, another stranger came over.

    Stranger 2 (smiling): Hi, I, Miss America.

    Me: Me too! Let’s go home together.

    As for Bertold Brecht’s strange collapses, I wonder if it has anything to do with Kurt Vonnegut’s Ice Nine?

  11. Anonymous

    Regarding the Hippos, take just a minute and imagine the breathe: Oy, Coney Island at low tide!

  12. DocG

    If Brecht can post here, so can I:

    The Valley of Dry Bonds

    The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the Spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bonds,
    and caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry.
    And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bonds live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest.
    Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bonds, and say unto them, O ye dry bonds, hear the word of the LORD.
    Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bonds; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live:
    and I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
    So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bonds came together, bond to his bond:

    The Collateralized Mortage Obligation bond connected to the real estate mortgage investment conduit bond.
    The real estate mortgage investment conduit bond connected to the interest-only security bond.
    The interest only security bond connected to the principal-only security bond.
    The principal-only security bond connected to the pass-through mortgage-backed securities with senior/subordinated structures bond.
    Oh hear the word of the Lord!

    And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no confidence in them.
    Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Come from the four winds, O Hot Air, and blow hard upon these slain toxic assets, that they may live.
    So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the confidence came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great investment.
    Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bonds are the whole Financial System: behold, the bankers say, Our bonds are dried, and our hope is lost: our derivatives are cut off from one another.
    Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my toxic assets, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves to reinflate your bubbles, and return you into the land of high finance.
    And ye shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O my collateralized securities, and brought you up out of your graves,
    and shall put my Spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own bad bank: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Secretary of the Treasury.

    from Mole in the Ground:

  13. Anonymous

    Look out, everybody.

    Bloomberg reports that Bernanke said that rescuing AIG has made him “more angry” than any other episode in the entire financial crisis.

    You know what this means. When bankers get angry, they need to find an outlet. Often they purge the anger by spending money. Bernanke will release his anger at AIG by shooting a money cannon at it. Boom! Take that, BAD AIG!

  14. qafirarnaut

    I’ve read that the top 10% of U.S. taxpayers pay roughly 60% of total taxes. Doesn’t this mean the so-called “taxpayer bailout” is esentially a case of the top .001% of the population robbing the next 9.99%, assuming the looters of our financial system are among the relatively small number of super-wealthy?

    Buffet went on Charlie Rose in Oct last year and declared that compared to his secretary the amount of taxes he pays is virtually nil.

  15. john bougearel


    Jesse alerted us to the article on private pension funds blowing up, but BN reported this afternoon that underfunded public pension funds are blowing up too, but in the latter case, those are guaranteed by us, the taxpayer. BN writer David Evans posted a lengthy expose on the whole matter here, "Hidden Pension Fiasco May Foment Another $1 Trillion Bailout by Taxpayers" at

    Yves, you linked to a new blogger from Canada whose whole blog's focus is to be on pension funds. His blog should prove very interesting over next several years

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