Links 8/1/09

Baby croc scares plane passengers BBC. The passengers were wimps.

Flying Saucer Drone Hovers Over Hapless Human Wired

Speculation hots up as Alaska goes cold on Sarah Palin Times Online

Will Krakatoa rock the world again? Last time, it killed thousands and changed the weather for five years, now it could be even deadlier… Mail Online. If you need something to worry about besides Sarah Palin becoming the next Rush Limbaugh. The photos are very cool, regardless and the story is predictably less scary than the headline.

Post-racial America? Dream on Guardian

Back to the Good Times on Wall Street Lucian Bebchuk and Alma Cohen, Wall Street Journal

Plain Vanilla Mortgages Mark Thoma. Thaler and Posner duking it out over plain vanilla mortgages.

Jenga Time in CRE Michael Panzner

The Re-Election Campaign of Ben Bernanke Brian Doherty (hat tip Richard Rosenthal)

“Shadow” inventory lurks over U.S. housing recovery Reuters

‘Nice’ Wasn’t Part of the Deal Joe Nocera New York Times. Here I thought Nocera, who is smart but a more than a tad co-opted by the financial services industry, finally got it. The piece is very good until the very end, where he punts. But that bit has a very revealing exchange.

Antidote du jour (hat tip reader Paul S, from the Telegraph, “Pet cat catches the daily bus for four years“):

Casper, which is 12 years old, boards the No3 service at 10.55am from outside his home in Plymouth, Devon, and travels the entire 11-mile route before returning home about an hour later.

On the route, the cat passes an historic dockyard and naval base, a city centre, several suburbs and the city’s red light district.

Susan Finden, 65, a care worker who is Casper’s owner, said: “Casper has always disappeared for hours at a time but I never understood where he was going.

“I called him Casper because he had a habit of vanishing like a ghost. But then some of the drivers told me he had been catching the bus.

“I couldn’t believe it at first, but it explains a lot. He loves people and we have a bus stop right outside our house so that must be how he got started – just following everyone on.

“I used to catch the odd bus too so maybe he saw me and got curious what I was doing.

“Casper is quite quick for his age so he just hops on to the bus before the doors close. He catches the 10.55am service and likes to sit on the back seat.”

Rob Stonehouse, one of the drivers on the route, said: “He usually just curls up at the back of the bus. Sometimes he nips between people’s legs but he never causes any trouble.”

Casper has travelled an estimated 20,000 miles but Mrs Finden says because he is getting old the drivers often have to shuffle him off at the right stop.

A spokeswoman for First Bus said the firm has put a notice up in the office asking them to look after the non-paying passenger.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Carrick

    Wild Dogs Take the Train to Commute in Russia

    "Scientists believe the phenomenon began after the Soviet Union collapsed in the 1990s, and Russia's new capitalists moved industrial complexes from the city centre to the suburbs.
    Dr Andrei Poiarkov, of the Moscow Ecology and Evolution Institute, said: "These complexes were used by homeless dogs as shelters, so the dogs had to move together with their houses. Because the best scavenging for food is in the city centre, the dogs had to learn how to travel on the subway – to get to the centre in the morning, then back home in the evening, just like people."

  2. attempter

    Most of the Nocera piece was actually better than I was expecting from the headline and from his normal flunkeyism.

    (Of course the word "deal" in the headline is utterly offensive.

    1. The taxpayers never made any "deal" with these criminals. They were against the bailouts from the start. It was the politicians and media waterboys like Nocera who presumed to make some kind of "deal" against the people's will.

    2. The deal, such as they marketed it, was that the banks would receive liquidity, they'd "resume lending", and we'd all live happily ever after.

    Now we see how that was a damned Big Lie. No amount of liquidity can help restore the solvency of the zombie banks, and they never had the slightest intention of lending anything they could loot.)

    I guess the good part was just to butter up the reader. His real point in writing the piece comes toward the end.

    After commenting on the banksters' "frame of reference" they cannot see beyond, Nocera recapitulates his own rancid frame of reference from which he cannot escape: that this finance sector somehow provides some mysterious "value", and that's why it needed to be bailed out.

    And therefore he idiotically parrots Geithner's nonsense:

    Late this week, I asked the Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, what he thought the banks owed the country. In responding, he made a point that often gets lost in all the anger. We did get something in return for all that bailout money, he said. We got a salvaged economy, and a still-functioning banking system. “Nothing we did was for them,” he said. Rather, it was for the American people, who would have been in far worse straits if government had allowed the banks to go bust.

    I have to admit, Mr. Geithner’s answer caught me up short. Last fall, I was keenly aware of the reasons the government was rescuing the banking system, and wrote often about the rationale and why it made sense. But as the crisis receded, and the banks began returning to business as usual, I had lost sight of that important fact. Instead, I was just as angry as everyone else.

    Turns out, bankers aren’t the only ones who have forgotten what the government did 10 months ago.

    "Salvaged economy"?! TO DO WHAT? It was hemorrhaging jobs thanks to the banker-globalization onslaught even before the crash.

    "Still-functioning banking system"?! Functioning to do WHAT? Further consolidate, further facilitate M&A, further empower monopoly, accelerate its treasonous assault on the American worker?

    What are these benefits? Restored to do what? To us in the real world, this is apparently supposed to remain some kind of mystery. Only the initiates like Geithner and Nocera know the real level of crime.

  3. DownSouth

    Joe Nocera's sophism on behalf of the banking industry includes some pretty outrageous historical revisionism.

    I loved the part about "why many bankers didn’t fight the set of regulations put in place by President Franklin D. Roosevelt." Frederick Lewis Allen, in Since Yesterday,, paints a pretty different picture:

    The outcry of protest from Wall Street–which was echoed generally in the conservative press–was terrific. The Securities and Exchange Bill, if passed, would end the liquidity of the investment markets and bring general economic ruin! Roosevelt
    was taking the high road to communism! Had not Dr. William A. Wirt of Gary, Indiana, told of being at a "brain trust" dinner party where, he insisted, government employees had spoken of Roosevelt as merely the Kerensky of a new American revolution? Did not Rexford Tugwell, the Assistant Secretary of Agriculture, appear to be practically a communist–especially to those newspaper proprietors who feared that his proposed bill to regulate food and drug advertising might cut into their revenues? The government was out to ruin all investors in public utilities: it was enlarging the TVA's sphere of competition with Southern private utilities, it was subsidizing municipalities which wanted to have municipal power and light systems and take their power from the TVA, it was building new dams at Grand Coulee and Bonneville in the West, which would enlarge the area served by public power–and now it was proposing, through the Holding-Company Bill, to apply a "death-sentence" to a lot of helpless holding companies! The issue was clear, shouted the conservatives: it was economic dictatorship versus democracy.

    And then you've got to love Nocera's zinger about how the bankers' "priority is to maximize profit for shareholders." No, Mr. Nocera, if events of the last couple of years have taught us anything, it is that the banker's priority is not to maximize profit for shareholders, it is to maximize profit for themselves.

    But of course Nocera saves his biggest lie for the last. In paraphrasing Timothy Geithner he asserts that "we did get something in return for all that bailout money… We got a salvaged economy, and a still-functioning banking system." But again, a closer look at the sordid history of U.S. banking over the last 30 years tells a very different story. As Kevin Phillips so meticulously documents in Bad Money, what we have seen since the early 1980s is a pattern of serial bubble blowing, each successive bubble being greater than the last, accompanied by a series of bailouts of the financial sector, also growing relentlessly in size and scope. What we got last fall was just the latest installment in this disturbing trend.

  4. fresno dan

    ‘Nice’ Wasn’t Part of the Deal

    Pretty much agree with the other posters on the Nocera article. Especially "Attempter" – when he asks about the "value" investment banks provide. What is the "value" of making too many loans on overpriced assets (because too many loans are being generated to begin with), other than over compensating bank executives, and sticking the losses with the taxpayer???
    Seriously, building more houses and strip malls than can be supported by the income of people is just malinvestment – why do we want people who have unequivacally demonstrated that they don't know the most fundamental precepts of banking…to continue to run banking????

  5. LeeAnne

    Joe Nocera New York Times

    I have to admit to finding the comments profoundly interesting and read them first. I can hardly bear to read crap like this article anymore. From just a few lines I offer the following:

    "But what are those obligations? Here we are 10 months past the frightful events of last September, when it appeared that the financial system was headed off a cliff."

    How about "claimed" that the financial system was headed off a cliff immediately with no time to explain -and how would you dunces understand anyway?

    "A number of the banks, including JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, have returned their TARP loans to the government."

    How about modifying 'returned' to returned taxpayer funds to the government at a discount.

    And this:
    "All of which raises the question: what do the banks now owe the country??" Aw come on.

    The banks owe the country their government. Give us back our country or we'll take it back.

  6. DownSouth

    @"Post-racial America? Dream on"

    Pamela Merritt adds more fog than light to this debate. Here we have the upper class college professor (black), friend of the President, vs. the lowly beat cop (white). It seems to be completely lost on Merritt that this embroglio has just as much, if not more, to do with class than it does with race.

    Fortunately, Merritt's commenters and readers seem to have a lot more wisdom than she does. Take her top-recommended comment for instance:


    No the problem is more that your access to justice and protection from abuses depends to too large an extent on your own income bracket, Gates was complaining because he perceived that his race was interfering with the assumed advantage his social status and wealth should afford him. O.J Simpson was acquitted, Gates had a President making public comments on his behalf, these were never examples of victims of racism, they were examples of class advantage… I am sure there are some black innocent guys (and probably white, Latino too) in Max Security or death row who are truly deserving of an Obama intervention that will of course, never come.

    Or the second-rated comment:


    One "advantage" that the USA has over us, and the OJ trial illustrated, was that money matters more than race. It's better to be rich and Black than poor and White. Poor and Black and you're totally screwed.

    Merritt spends almost all her ink talking about the "Birther movement" and people like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. And these assholes are, pray tell, representative of whom? Of what? I don't think Martin Luther King ever fell prey to this kind of orgy of racist victimization that Merritt wallows in:

    There are pittifully few Negro millionaires and few Negro employers. Our needs are identical with labor's needs: decent wages, fair working conditons, livable housing, old age security, health and welfare measures, conditons in which families can grow, have education for their children and respect in the community. That is why Negroes support labor's demands and fight laws which curb labor. That is why the labor-hater and labor-baiter is virtually always a twin-hated creature spewing anti-negro epithets from one mouth and anti-labor propaganda from the other mouth.

    –Martin Luther King, address on 11 December 1961 before the Fourth Constitutional Convention of the AFL-CIO

  7. DownSouth


    Poor benighted thing. Merritt doesn't even seem to know where the true battle lines are drawn.

  8. GregG

    The whole birther thing is really odd to me. I'm amazed at how many democrats seem to go Republican-Ballistic when you bring it up — they go all upper-case "HOW DARE YOU?".

    The Birthers really don't like it that they lost this round (or ever) and they're looking for an easy technicality (like trying to impeach Clinton for a B*****b rather than trying to impeach someone for crimes against the constitution, say). The Birthers have been assured that this technicality exists (no physical birth certificate, conflicting reports of its existance, issues about the definition of "natural born", years required of residency for mixed citizenship parents, etc.) — all technicalities at least as good as "not having sexual relations with that woman".

    So they're not really wrong (certainly, legitimately in their minds) for pursing a technicality that they've been told exists. That's why I think the Dems should just hold their noses and get on with a proper debunking, rather than getting all snitty about it. (they don't have you on a technicality, guys… do they? guys? Now I'm even wondering…)

    So although race is part of the mix, it's not *the* reason, it's all tangled up in there; but the real reason is they think they've got you on a technicality, a legal foul, a political foot-fault, is that they've been told and think they have an easy win that will put the world back "to normal" for them.

  9. Anonymous

    So here we are 6+ months down the road from the election and we have GregG above beating the Agnotology drum of serial doubt about a proven subject matter. I have not even payed attention to this smoke screen and have seen Obama's real birth certificate many times online.

    Tell us GregG how old you think the world is and your opinion on global warming? Do you think that smoking is linked to cancer or is there still some doubt in your mind that you think should keep society from inhibiting children from getting addicted to cigs?

    Why have we allowed the world to evolve to allow this lack of critical thinking?

  10. GregG

    Anonymous @ 5:35pm. You are part of the "HOW DARE YOU?" clan — you've missed my point entirely. *You* know that Obama is a tried & true American citizen, and *I* know that Obama is a tried & true American citizen, but *huge* percentages of GOP, Southerners, and therefore USA in general, don't. At least they are going with what they've been told and hope is true.

    My point is stop leaving these people twisting in the wind; simply pointing to an online image and tut-tutting them doesn't appear to be an effective solution to this, and nor will more tut-tutting.

  11. JD

    Great comments on Nocera; the word is that in the White House Summers lost the battle with Geithner over how to harshly treat the banks. These exchanges are indeed very telling. Geithner may not have 'done it for the banks', but he has sure institutionalized the 'heads I win, tails you lose' business model on Wall Street.

  12. ComparedToWhat?

    Nice antidote! Brought to mind the New Yorker's "There will always be an England" tidbits….

    The Economist:

    "Economists disagree about the extent to which the yuan is undervalued. In the IMF’s “Article IV” assessment of China, published on July 22nd, officials were split over whether the currency was “substantially undervalued”. Morris Goldstein and Nicholas Lardy, of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, have done some of the most extensive work on China’s exchange rate. In a new study, they estimate that the yuan is undervalued by 15-25%, based on the adjustment needed to eliminate the current-account surplus."

    The Economist's latest Big Mac index puts undervaluation at 49%.

    Peterson Institute has put up video, audio and slides of a book release event by Goldstein and Lardy, "The Future of China's Exchange Rate Policy". They speak for 40 minutes and take questions for another 40.

    I got a kick out of a questioner at 71:30 asking, well if the yuan is so undervalued then why aren't the markets making big bucks on arbitrage?

    The reply seems to be CEPHALOPOD that hot money inflows are being laid off on BLOOD FUNNEL the US thanks to effective capital controls. I would add thanks VAMPIRE to media pandering to OMG TEH CHNIZ NO WANTS $$$??? LIKUIDATE!!!

    Cheers all, off to take my Asperger's meds.

Comments are closed.