Links 10/20/09

Using Human “Wetware” to Control Robots h+ (hat tip reader David C)

Cosmic pattern to UK tree growth BBC

The Myth of The Strong Dollar Policy Macro Man

Why Obama Has to do What Letterman Did: Refuse to Pay Hush Money Robert Reich (hat tip DoctoRx)

Computational Complexity and Information Asymmetry in Financial Products Alea. Very cool and will confirm most reader’s suspicions.

The City is doomed if the politicians carry on like this Telegraph (hat tip Swedish Lex). Horrors!

Why is the Chamber of Commerce Defending Big Banks? Simon Johnson

The White House Readies a Stealth Stimulus Time (hat tip DoctoRx)

Thin Line Separates Insider Trading and Research Alex Berenson, New York Times. One can make a strong case that the SEC is responsible for Rajaratnam by not going after Gerson Lerman, which despite cute protests to the contrary, pays mid level staff in the employ of large corporations to report on stuff like shipment trends at their companies. If that isn’t inside info, what is? I’ve heard from numerous people that the information that Gerson Lerman wants can be known only by current employees or very very recent ex employees.

Safety Nets for the Rich Bob Herbert. Great piece. Today’s must read.

Antidote du jour:

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  1. rootis0

    This would be the third stimulus. Bush was in office when recession started and Congress voted the first stimulus. After the elections, Obama signed on the second stimulus. So, the discussions are now going on what to put into the third stimulus.

  2. Bob Goodwin

    The gist of the article on insider trading is that there are grey lines, and ‘foot fouls’ are inevitable. This leads to two lines of reasoning. One is ‘prosecute all foot fouls’ (or zero tolerance), and the other is ‘get rid of the rules’. Both arguments obscure the fact that Raj is a known sleazeball, and serial offender. The wire taps clearly demonstrate that he knew he was well across the line of defensible action.

    Relativism is a natural response to prosecution. On this one we shouldn’t go wobbly.

  3. DownSouth

    @”The City is doomed if the politicians carry on like this”

    Anytime a writer uses a word like “talent” in conjunction with “banking” or “finance,” red flags should immediately fly up all over the place. And Warner’s article is certainly no exception.

    Warner begins by wisely ceding the moral ground. This is actually quite a concession. Or should we say an admission? Neo-classical economists have, after all, labored for years, arguing either that morality doesn’t exist at all or, if it does exist, that it should play no role in decision making. But I suppose with the hoi polloi growing madder by the day and the swish of the guillotine looming in the background, it’s perhaps best not to try to tell the people how irrational their morality is.

    So Warner resorts to other rhetorical devices. For instance, he tells us: “Bankers and their bonuses invite fierce anti-wealth popularism in all the major political parties.” Now that’s funny, because I don’t hear the crowd calling for Warren Buffett’s or Bill Gate’s scalp. Could it be that the objection isn’t so much to wealth, but to stolen wealth?

    But it’s when Warner makes his argument against regulation based on pragmatic grounds that he is most beguiling, for he’s entirely too adroit a polemicist to make a frontal assault on regulation. Instead, he tells us: “If they cannot do it (steal our money) within the banking system, they’ll only move into the private equity and hedge fund worlds and do it there instead.”

    But that problem has a rather easy and obvious solution, which is to regulate private equity and hedge funds as well. Problem solved! See how easy that was.

    So Warner’s second line of contention is to caution us that if we regulate the finance industry it will just seek greener pastures. “If the reform agenda succeeds only in driving financial market activity offshore, then it threatens to be largely self defeating,” he counsels. “The supposed ‘recklessness’ of financial markets would persist but without the redeeming features of tax and wealth generation.”

    Therefore, Warner concludes, any regulation must be bilateral. “Any country that does so (regulates) without global implementation,” he alerts us, “faces a mass exodus to rival centres only too happy to take the jobs, wealth and tax revenues of international banking.”
    Now I don’t know what Warner perceives a nation like Great Britain to be like. Personally I think an appropriate metaphor might be to look at it as being like a forest that is owned by the people. Now the people can decide to let that forest out to wild game hunters. And if the hunters come in and turn the oats patch into a motocross, tear down the fences, use the windmills for target practice, chop down the trees for firewood, strew beer bottles everywhere, shoot the livestock and risk burning down the forest with their reckless campfires, then what should be the people’s response?

    Now I suppose it could be argued that, if the hunters pay enough to compensate for all the actual and potential damage they cause, plus some extra to boot, then there should be no reason to try to rein them in. And it could also be argued, I suppose, that if we raise the rent too much or place too many rules on them, then the hunters will move on to some cheaper or freer forest, leaving us without any rent. These seem to be the two arguments Warner is making; the hunters, of course, being the financiers.

    Warner’s entire argument, however, seems to be underpinned by three rather dubious assumptions.

    First, he assumes that the hunters are paying more rent than the damage they cause.

    Second, he assumes that if the hunters decide to take their road show somewhere else, that they can still continue to hunt in the people’s forest.

    And third, he assumes that the hunters can easily find some other forest to rent and destroy. The assumption here is that other nations will join in a race to the bottom. But just how true is that? I would think that in other democratic nations the hunters would soon encounter the same sort of problems they have in England, and in less democratic nations our prima donnas might just meet their match:

    In Russia, for instance, certain groups enjoy a very high standard of living. The trouble is only that whatever these people may have at their disposition—cars, country houses, expensive furniture, chauffeur-driven limousines, et cetera—they do not own; it can be taken away from them by the government any day. No man there is so rich that he cannot be made a beggar overnight-without even the right to employment—in case of any conflict with the ruling powers.
    –Hannah Arendt, Crises of the Republic

  4. PlayDumb

    …ok, it’s a slow day for me…nice photo…i’ve always wondered about giraffe births, does the baby giraffe just drop down head first from mother giraffe at a height of 6-8 feet? how has nature solved this?

    1. chad

      i was going to post that a new born baby giraffe surviving the fall is left up to chance but from wikipedia

      “The mother gives birth standing up and the embryonic sack usually bursts when the baby falls to the ground. Newborn giraffes are about 1.8 m (6 ft) tall.”

      So i’m guessing as the giraffe is being born the embryonic sack sags downward from the mother draining all the fluid down towards the bottom. When the giraffe finally falls, it falls on the fluid filled portion of the sac which then bursts absorbing most of the energy. However, I’ve seen some giraffe births in documentaries and it certainly looks like just a 6′ fall to the ground landing with a “whump!” hah.

  5. wunsacon

    I love reading everyone’s comments. And I love that Yves is back.

    I gotta say that I started *liking* the guest posts a little more in the past — dunno — month or so? There was “that Washington guy”, Jesse (of course), and maybe some others.

    (Sorry, guest authors, for not remembering your names/psuedonyms. I’ve been too busy with work though and resort to skimming lately.)

    I now return to my lurking…

  6. Lavrenti Beria

    “We’ve allowed so many people to fall into the terrible abyss of unemployment that no one — not the Obama administration, not the labor unions and most certainly no one in the Republican Party — has a clue about how to put them back to work.”

    Bob Herbert’s a good guy, good instincts, good writer. How he ever consented to work on the same paper with a slug like Tom Friedman utterly escapes me. Here he strikes a note that is frequently overlooked in the discussion about unemployment, the decided hopelessness of the situation of the unemployed when considered against the present political background. But where Herbert would see the cluelessness of the governing class as being based in a lack of imagination, I see it as rather the consequence of deliberate choices not unlike those involved in Afghanistan where the lives of innocents are subordinated to the main mission and their destruction characterized as “collateral damage”. Here, choices to focus exclusively on the interests of the most powerful were made and without any regard whatsoever to the effect on common men and women. In this case it these latter who are the collateral damage. The Obamas and the McCains of this world would do well to read Edwin Markham’s poem, The Man With The How, and ask themselves the question posed by its final stanzas:

    “O masters, lords and rulers in all lands
    How will the Future reckon with this Man?
    How answer his brute question in that hour
    When whirlwinds of rebellion shake all shores?
    How will it be with kingdoms and with kings —
    With those who shaped him to the thing he is —
    When this dumb Terror shall rise to judge the world.
    After the silence of the centuries?”



    I highly recommend watching this episode of Frontline from PBS… It played tonight and it features as villains the likes of Bob Rubin, Alan Greenspan and Larry Summers. With innuendo directed at Tim Geithner…. Poor Obama, what is he thinking, surrounding himself with people like these? If I was an advisor to him I would tell him….

    “Mr. President with all due respect, there hasn’t been a lynching in this country since the 1960s, however with the likes of Summers, Geithner and Bernanke guiding your policy, you may very well be the next one…?

    I think that Obama is completely clueless….



    “We didn’t truly know the dangers of the market, because it was a dark market,” says Brooksley Born, the head of an obscure federal regulatory agency — the Commodity Futures Trading Commission [CFTC] — who not only warned of the potential for economic meltdown in the late 1990s, but also tried to convince the country’s key economic powerbrokers to take actions that could have helped avert the crisis. “They were totally opposed to it,” Born says. “That puzzled me. What was it that was in this market that had to be hidden?”

    In The Warning, veteran FRONTLINE producer Michael Kirk unearths the hidden history of the nation’s worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. At the center of it all he finds Brooksley Born, who speaks for the first time on television about her failed campaign to regulate the secretive, multitrillion-dollar derivatives market whose crash helped trigger the financial collapse in the fall of 2008.

    Best regards,


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