Links 3/5/09

Bionic eye gives blind man sight BBC

Lighting Up the Darkness in Rural Africa Eric Taub

German industrial orders in free fall Eurointelligence

Martin Feldstein and Simon Johnson on the U.S.’s Lost Decade Paul Kedrosky

Rethinking subsidized finance Steve Waldman

If this becomes Obama’s war, it will poison his presidency Seumas Milne, Guardian

China’s Luxury Mall Calamity Peking Duck (hat tip reader Michael)

Here’s £10,000, take a year off, law firms tell graduate recruits Times Online

Abruptly, Expatriate Bankers Are Cut Loose New York Times

Oil producers running out of storage space Associated Press

Could TALF Be The Biggest Disappointment Yet? Tyler Durden. A great little post.

A chance to remake the global financial system Paul Keating, Financial Times. This is an important piece. Connects some dots that I missed (and frankly, I haven’t seen connected elsewhere either).

Antidote du jour (hat tip reader Oliver):

And an extra courtesy reader Laurie:

I know you don’t clean your screen very often and it is hard to do the inside, so click here

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  1. Swedish Lex

    On Keating’s oped.

    Reforming the international institutitions is a big thing for the EU, although no consensus exists here for how. We should however expect a lot of movement in this area ahead of the G20 and after from the Europeans.

    The elections to the European Parliament and the change of EC Commission this year will also work as catalyst.

    There was a big conference in Paris in January – “New World New Capitalism” – with participants from all over the globe, including Merkel, Blair, Stiglitz, etc. :

    If the EU gets its house in order – which is far from certain – it could become the driver of this process. According to the FT, Gordon Brown (at least in public) pushed for global banking rules before the U.S. Congress. If Brown truly is more European than UK/U.S. on this issue, it could mean a lot.

  2. purple

    The talk about a new global financial system from the EU, and Asia (with the Keating as intermediary) is about kneecapping the U.S and especially the dollar. Bankers in the EU would love the Euro to match the dollar as a co-reserve.

    The common people matter little in this in-fighting between plutocrats.

    Nothing will happen at the G20 , because they are too many competing interests, and even the EU-minus the U.K. can’t agree.

    Protectionism is taking hold everywhere – witness Sir Gordon’s lecturing to Congress even as he talks about “British jobs for British workers” back home, Sarkozy props up Renault, Japan loans money to Toyota, the US bails out AIG and everything else, and China gives a big F.U. to the world with its inward looking stimulus.

    It’s a world of nation-states right now, each with different elites, who will defend their interests when it comes down to it.

  3. brushes9

    -On Men and Rodents

    I’ve seen that graph that charts unemployment against months into this recession, and the line is pointing nearly straight down; a “cliff dive.” That, and knowing how most Americans’ lifestyles have high, fixed cost, and I KNOW that we are headed for a world of hurt.

    If that world is anything like the 1930’s, then you might hear, one day, that 8,000 men spontaneously assembled on a rumor. That is the kind of world where men are no longer treated, nor behave as mammals, but as large rodents.

    I’m scared.

    There will be time to talk up trust and confidence but, now, we should take some time, to feel our fear directly, and to begin putting a couple of handles and hinges on it.

    It is going to get bad. It is going to get ‘can you walk five miles and stand in a fourteen hour line without getting blisters, or do you know someone who can’ UGLY! Are you ready for that? Are you afraid? You should be!

    Yes, ‘men no longer men, but rodents,’ is where we are headed friends, and we already are there in some localities.

    I wish that there were an Eastern mind solution,..well, maybe there is a lesson: “accept yourself, with the fear and the pain.”

    Don’t declare war on yourself, but start developing an appetite for the discomfort of austerity, then double it.

    The only fear that is unendurable is the fear that comes from lack of trust, in anyone,..well, I take that back. I suppose that you can put a handle on that too, somewhere.

    I believe that the strategy in Appalachia in the 1930’s was simple: get real close to someone, even if it is your sister.


  4. Swedish Lex

    To purple.

    A bit too gloomy.

    The EU States are pregnant with this crisis together, through the euro and otherwise, and are forced to find common solutions. Intra-EU protectionism is tempting to many, but there are egal/political ways of addressing that.

    Protectionism between the global trading blocks is likely to continue to grow, however. The Europeans know that the only way of dealing with that, is to stick together.

    If the EU and/or Asia propose “a new global financial system” and if such a model attracts support globally barring the U.S., it would simply mean that the U.S. is failing to lead. We are however far away from such a scenario actually happening.

    The G 20 could indeed be a flop but it could, on the other hand, constitute a turning point in global financial regulation that will impact finance and international relations going forward.

  5. Anonymous

    The FT article describe Paul Keating as a former Australian Prime Minister (the second last one, before John Howard). It should be noted that immediately before THAT Mr. Keating was the Australian Treasurer for several years while Bob Hawke was PM.

    There were some very significant changes to the overall Australian Financial and Taxation systems during Mr. Keating’s spell as Treasurer, the pro’s and con’s of which are vigorously debated to this day . . .


  6. Richard Kline

    Regarding Keating’s piece, my gods, where do I begin? Well, with the one, the only, point of agreement I have with his perspective: the feckless, dufus, US-lackey IMF needs to be ‘rightsized’ down to a nubbin. It is a ‘failed org’ if ever there was.

    Keating poses some interesting questions, but then answers them all skewed and belching from inside a ‘West-centric’ perspective that is (I think unintentionally) insulting as all get out to RoW. Look, it is NOT up to the US, or the EU, or the G7 to designate who is and who is not a ‘worthy nation.’ That sensibility in this piece is odious. Russia, China, Brazil, Mexico, India: these places exist, and they will decide their _own_ fates. More importantly, their peoples exist, and their perspective on what they want their lives and countries to be is for them to decide. The notion of ‘developing’ states and developed ‘powers’ is, in my view, contemptible. The political order in many places might be better, but it will or will not be there as a function of what those who live there can and do achieve for themselves.

    The idea of a permanent G20 as some kind of ‘World Committee’ would be laughable if he didn’t mean it. No; I vote no. No in-group/out-group. And the idea that the Sixty-Year Clique of rich nations would volunatrily cede some level of control and hence sovereignty to ‘junior partners’ flies in the face of every American action of thirty years; we aren’t going there, even if 25% of us or so think we should. Ain’t happenin’.

    China and India and Russia will assume more power as they have the money to force themselves onto a proper seat at the table. That table may not include all of the former sitters there at. And then there is the problem that the issues facing the former G7 countries and those facing so-called ‘developing countris’ are TOTALLY different, have little to do with putative notions of savers vs. shoppers, and are substantially exclusive of each others problem spaces in their optimal configurations. We may not have to compete, but there is no ‘common strategy’ that will work equally well for all. That’s the rub o’ the nubbin. Over and over again there seems to be the idea that ‘the New Guys will have to fit in.’ It may very well be that the Old Guys have to move on; that is the way history shows more often. Think that’s gonna get settled round a five star table anytime soon? Fuggedaboudit.

    The real problem here, which Keating does not address because he evidently cannot conceive it, is this nation-state thing; these private, exclusive charters to money, power, and presumed worth. As long as its us for US and them for Them, the situation is inherently competitive, will seldom be other than zero sum. It is links outside of nation-governmental power bases which will make for cooperation. Any ‘mechanism of the Gx’ will be designed to keep the power classes of those places in power, not to make a better financial system, improved democracy, or any of that claptrap for TV distribution to the Sheeple.

    I’m not against any kind of G20, but to expect it to function as an actual problem-solving forum is ludicrous. Did the last one, ever? Oh come on. And the real purpose of this G20 thing is to keep the Other Ranks not include, down, out, and cooperative. I do not trust any mechanism negotiated by the greedy Ineptocracy which passes for the present global power elite. We need new ideas, and new organizations, not these nation-thingys which are all about property rights.


  7. Benign Brodwicz

    Re: Keating’s article

    One of the strongest results of network theory is the relative stability of sparsely connected networks.

    What we’re witnessing now, with the spastic reactions of monetary and fiscal policy makers worldwide to the debt deflation that they allowed to happen, is probably the supernova of the Bretton Woods monetary system that the USA has exploited so well.

    I am skeptical that “global coordination” is going to help at all. Look at how well centralized policy making has worked in the world’s largest economy.

  8. joebhed

    This goes to Keating’s FT piece that I am sorry to say I did not find illuminating.

    Here’s the deal.
    If you want to make REAL change and be sure to avoid the future internationalization of what are essentially monetary crises, then the FIRST thing that needs doing is the elimination of PRIVATE central banking function by all nations whether G20 or G134.
    If you want to place the importance of the people of all these countries over the priorities of the private bankers of these countries, then you have to put the PEOPLE’s representatives in charge of deciding what happens next.
    Money-creation should be a government function.
    PERIOD !
    How deep do we have to go before we realize that the private bankers are the cause of the problem, and thus, they cannot be the solution.
    See Milton Friedman’s “Monetary and Fiscal Framework for Economic Stability”.
    Put the bankers back to banking and the government back to creating money.

  9. Anonymous

    I don't know, maybe its because the last names end in "w" that paramecia like Madow resemble slugs like Darrel Dochow, but at least Madow's treachery was hatched as a private citizen and not a so-called "public servant", whatever meaning that term ever has has:

    If Chinese, Dachow's behavior would have earned him a trip to a large football stadium and the public gift of a bullet in the back of the head. But here in America where we're more apt proudly to murder unborn children than execute those that so abuse the public trust, people like Dachow simply slip away virtually unnoticed.

  10. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    I hope to see some spiders as antidotes du jour some day.

    From my favorite haiku poet, Issa, or One Cup of Tea (loosely translated of course):

    Don’t worry
    I clean house casually!

    Well, I am looking forward to tomorrow night – my weekly mud wrestling contest with my cat.

    And next week, the first round of my annual ‘cutest flea of the hovel’ pageant.

    Then, if I am not too busy, there will be a ‘laziest ant’ competition. If you know of any that you would like to enter, please let me know.

  11. Anonymous

    Citigroup, a Dow component, fell more than 13 percent to an intraday low of $0.98, hammered by continued fears over the bank’s health and ability to avert nationalization.

    Why is this garbage not delisted by the bogus and fraud tainted exchanges and indexes? Citi deserves full humiliation and they need to be viewed as the laughing stock crooks which they are! I applaud Obama for not wanting to nationalize them, because they need to fail and shut the doors and the crooks that all work there and all their friends and families that are thieves should be thankful to find jobs cleaning up after pig crap.

  12. doc holiday

    Stagflation ahead after the recession?

    Wish I knew what this all meant, but without accountability or without our government playing hardball with crooks, the market may just implode, in an effort to do a little self re-organizing (on its own). I Kant understand any of this crap no more: In such a natural product as this every part is thought as owing its presence to the agency of all the remaining parts, and also as existing for the sake of the others and of the whole, that is as an instrument, or organ… The part must be an organ producing the other parts—each, consequently, reciprocally producing the others… Only under these conditions and upon these terms can such a product be an organized and self-organized being, and, as such, be called a physical end.

    Also see jet fuel being poured on the Treasury prices as yields melt >> 2-10-yr yield spread at 199.6. (updated 3-4-09)

    The curve went out well steepened at 145 on the 2-10-yr yield spread in a year of running in a 270 point range while the 3-mo-10-yr swung a whopping 375 (versus the 2001 run of 425). Last Updated: 2008-12-31

    Typically the yield on 30-year Treasury bonds is three percentage points above the yield on three-month Treasury bills. When it gets wider than that — and the slope of the yield curve increases sharply — long-term bond holders are sending a message that they think the economy will improve quickly in the future.

    If you expect the steepening to continue, you can capitalize on this outlook by buying the yield curve using CBOT 2-year and 10-year T-note futures. Note that with a futures strategy of this kind, you buy or sell the yield curve in terms of what you do with the shorter maturity futures contract.  Thus, if you anticipate a steeper yield curve (i.e., a widening yield spread), then you would buy the curve by buying 2-year Treasury note futures and selling 10-year Treasury note futures. Conversely, if you expect the yield curve to flatten (i.e., a narrowing yield spread), you would sell the curve by selling 2-year T-note futures and buying 10-year T-note future.

    * Keep in mind that The Stimulus Plan has allocated about $600 million for state technology jobs, which is obviously much less than the XMAS bonuses for the crooks at one wall street bank, but I could be wrong on that, but who cares…

  13. Eleanor

    The rat with the teddy bear is utterly wonderful. I love it. I have thought for years of getting some rats as pets, but they have short lives. It would be unbearable, so to speak, to lose them.

  14. mxq

    I hate to pick at an old scab (yuck), but the fact that producers are running out of space is indicative of a “loose” market.

    If i remember correctly, the volatility in the oil markets during the first half of 2008 were chalked up to “tightness” in supply.

    What i don’t understand is, we’ve already seen a half dozen or so days where WTI has ended the day +/- 10% during 2009. It seems like the daily volatility has gotten worse since markets have become more loose.

    I can’t imagine why that would happen…

  15. brushes9

    MLTPB’s koan was:

    It’s not this
    It’s not that
    It’s not both
    and it’s not either.

    So what is it?

    This koan has immediate significance to the blogging economist. For, instance you do not want to be like the revolutionary who spends all night writing his “Manifesto For The People,” only to find, in the morning, that one of the “The People” has stolen his car. That hurts one’s feelings, deeply.

    Put another way, if you try to win an ideological war, your gains may always remain imaginary.

    The non-ideologue, the person who understands that the real world is always “out there” and beyond control, will look to achieve incremental, but real change. Changing, or destroying specific financial instruments, or their markets, comes to mind.

    I am the artist. Leave it to me to regiment the dragons and to light people’s hair on fire.

  16. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Brushes, hopefully we are all artists. I always believe that art is not something you hand on the wall, but a way of life – for instance, how creative you can be in taking out the trash you wife just commanded you to perform. Do you do it the abstract style and take out only the essence that is garbabe or do you just do an impression of taking out the trash?

    Giraffe is my favorite, maybe even my totemic animal. His head is in the clouds and yet his feet are firmly on the ground.

    What is the sound of one hand clapping, asked Master Hakuin.

    Well, it’s the sound of the sun warming my armpits.

  17. brushes9

    By bowing to the sun and feeling the her warmth on the back of my neck, I get the impression that my mental model of “reality” is a sad fascimilie of the space that I have invaded.

    When I take out the trash, it end up in the city dump.

  18. doc holiday

    1. It’s time to face the truth. We need more animal photos ASAP, maybe a massive blast of like maybe 25, or enough to fill a small ark.

    2. Nonetheless and not related, something tells me that Yves is giving up on financial surfing and focusing on smaller and smaller animals that are doing weirder and weirder things.

    3. As a small personal request, which obviously doesn’t need to be granted, but is it possible, if I may call you Yves, that you post a photo of an animal with a pirate hat or a patch on one eye, or even a symbolic bandana that might suggest some type of pirate-like behavior? It’s these little things that are so important to me as I lose my mind….

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