Links 10/8/09

The Fall of the Maya: ‘They Did it to Themselves’ PhysOrg

Logbooks may yield climate bounty BBC

Obama trapped behind wall of containment Ira Chermus, Asia Times. Frames the US problem in the Middle East as a problem of containment. An intriguing take.

American troops in Afghanistan losing heart, say army chaplains Times Online

More American Workers Outsourcing Own Jobs Overseas The Onion (hat tip Michael Panzner)

Christmas This Year Will Be Less Tacky [Recession] Consumerist

Chamber Of Commerce Gets What It Wants On Tax Dodger Ban From Senate Committee Huffingtn Post (hat tip reader John D)

Hamas Finds Gaza Tunnels’ $500 Million Loss Worse Than Madoff Bloomberg

Krugman on the end of trade Felix Salmon

US still world’s biggest manufacturer but China gains: study Raw Story. Reader John D notes: “The Manufacturing Institute is spinning an intriguing tale with numbers here. They are pointing to manufacturing value an interesting number since
our biggest exports are high priced aircraft and war machines. Yet global
market share is down and manufacturing as a percentage of GDP is down but
not to worry about that.:

Consumer Credit Crumbles EconomPic Data

After subverting bank insolvency, our leaders are now about to make a mess of liquidity Willem Buiter

Vanilla afterthoughts Steve Waldman

In Merrill’s Failed Plan, Lessons for Pay Czar Louise Story, New York Times

Citi Review Said to Give Most Bosses Good Marks Eric Dash, New York Times. Stress tests redux. If this is the conclusion, clearly there is something wrong with the scorecard.

Antidote du jour:


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  1. Anonymous Jones

    A bunch of us in my office had a good chuckle when we saw the headline about the Citi brass. To be charitable, let’s just say that the number of times each day someone in my office says of one of our brilliant Citi contacts, “Why in the hell would they do that?” is not inconsiderable.

  2. Richard Kline

    Buiter: “Liquidity is not a thing – not something wufting around in the ether. Liquidity is a multi-demensional property of assets. The degree of liquidity of an asset (real or financial) depends on (a) the speed with which it can be sold (b) the transactions costs incurred in a sale (as measured, say, by the bid-ask spread) and (c) the spread between the realised price of the security and its fair or fundamental value. These three characteristics are of course not independent.” That is an excellent way to express the capacity, as a multi-dimensionl matrix relationship. And just as in this case of ‘liquidity’ problems in 2007 and 2008, it does not take a collapse in _all_ dimensions to radicially change the state of the matrix itself. If one collapses just one dimension—say trust—the dimensionality of an insturment’s ‘liquidity’ can collapse as far as the interaction space in which it is represented is concerned.

    This point which Buiter makes in this instance is something I’ve pondered for long with regard to other issues. We still commonly discuss things like liquidity, price, balance of power, industrial output and the like as if they are ‘entities,’ that is low-dimensional or single-dimensional volumes or states. But in fact most capacities are multi-dimensional in their state. This is one reason why things can seem to change suddenly or via radical trajectories, leaving us puzzled, because even small changes in non-obvious variables can make massive changes in the dimensional state of presumed to be ‘robustly solid’ states of being. And moreover, this complex dimensionality is, to my mind, far more prevalent than the presumed default robust unitary states most envision as determinative in the world around them.

    If life was different (and first of all twice as long), I’d love to write a book on this, but given what I’ve got to do now I’m laying no money on my getting to that text. But if somebody else’d write it, I’d read it tomorrow.

  3. attempter

    The lesson of the Merrill pay scheme is that even when on paper you have all the things “reformers” say will be sufficient, in practice it doesn’t work. The system is gamed and the damage is done.

    It’s the exact same lesson as in every other example. Only real structural Change can accomplish anything.

    What really needs to be done? For example, if you want to rein in executive pay and all its abuses (and not just for bankers), the one and only thing that can work within anything like this system is a fair progressive income tax with the correct marginal rates.

  4. Richard Kline

    One has but to read the Times article on the US frontline (such as it is) in Afghanistan to realize that it’s over. The end game is already clear; only the timeline is obscure. . . . I wonder who’ll be Gromov standing at the bridge? Won’t be “Teflon” Stan McChrystal, that’s a fersure.

    1. Skippy

      Yep, time to bring the expeditionary forces home, and we will feel the losses *far after* they come

      Skippy…they should get the same benefits as congressmen and senators.

  5. fresno dan

    In Merrill’s Failed Plan, Lessons for Pay Czar Louise Story, New York Times “That’s an awful lot of leverage,” said Brian Foley, a compensation consultant in White Plains. “Would you risk a buck in order to make six bucks? Yeah, you would. Maybe that’s why people there were focused on the upside and not the risks.”
    Leverage – its not only for taking excessive investment risks, but to circumvent pay reforms.

  6. dearieme

    Re the Mayas: “using a pair of proven computer climate models”: proven at what, one might enquire?

  7. Skippy

    That they ate them selves out of house and home. That they over extended them selves during the good times and used improved technology to put off small climatic bad times till it could not be corrected for. Then the ruling classes with the help of their enablers *the priests* went on a ritual sacrifice killing spree using the gods are not happy ploy *see pretend and extend aka HTM etc*.

    This worked for a good time as one long drought period ended before the population got wise, but with in a generation an other drought struck and having not fully recovered from the prior one *stressed* or changed their ways of old felt the affects even greater.

    The same ploy was used by the ruling classes as it had worked before, but the masses soon realized the truth of the matter and struck back before being wiped out feeding the gods. So they had a BBQ of the ruling class and their enablers before splitting up into small groups and looking for a better life…key music to JAWS…untill the Spanish came to Finnish off the job their rulers could not…diffrent god same result, En Fin.

    Skippy…climate models work great for the past as the data input comes from forensic samples, where the future is not as accurate, but with in reasonable probability and getting better all the time, especially when compared to economics lol.

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