Links 11/23/09

Moab man embraces simple life living in cave Denver Post (hat tip reader EV)

Early Data Suggest Suicides Are Rising Wall Street Journal

A risky trial that offers little reward Clive Crook, Financial Times

After the crash, Iceland’s women lead the rescue Guardian, I actually find this sort of gender stereotyping annoying, and worse, the women here are playing it up. Women are not paragons of virtue. The reason that women can be useful reformers is they are typically only marginal players in the power structure, and they therefore have little to lose and much to gain by taking high-profile cleanup roles.

World’s largest ice sheet melting faster than expected Guardian (hat tip reader John D)

Greece tests the limit of sovereign debt as it grinds towards slump Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Telegraph

Timmy!’s Testimony Streetwise Professor (hat tip Jim Chanos). Raises a point the SIGTARP missed: why didn’t the Fed simply guarantee the positions? And all roads lead to Goldman’s Start transactions:

The SIGTARP report states that, unlike the other AIG counterparties, “Goldman Sachs did not hold the underlying CDOs but rather had sold equivalent credit protection to its clients who held those positions.”

Wave of Debt Payments Facing U.S. Government New York Times. The bond market vigilantes are speaking.

The Phantom Menace Paul Krugman

“Black Friday” deals may not signal retail comeback Reuters

Rep. Hinojosa drops support of bank overdraft legislation The Hill (hat tip reader John D)

Newsflash: Posner Gets Japan Wrong Economists for Firing Larry Summers

Antidote du jour (hat tip reader Richard):

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        It looks suspiciously like the next species to replace the Homo Not-So-Sapiens Not-So-Sapiens as the masters of the universe.

        It’s not easy work, but some one has to be on the lookout for our replacment.

    1. ozajh

      I don’t want to buy into a flame war, but I DO note that this article references another by Andrew Bolt, of the Australian Herald-Sun.

      So we have an article by a columnist in the UK Telegraph (which I believe is a Murdoch paper) referencing an article by a columnist in an Australian Murdoch newspaper. This makes me wonder about the quality of the rest of the references, especially as I consider from my own experience reading his articles that Bolt is intellectually dishonest in his efforts to slant everything towards a far-right-“libertarian” agenda.

      (And I acknowledge that there are writers who are equally intellectually dishonest in the opposite direction.)

      1. ozajh

        Disregard my previous comment (except for the views on Andrew Bolt). The UK Telegraph is NOT a Murdoch paper.

    2. Anonymous Jones

      Lucifer — Thanks for the link. I found the blog entry to be more self-defeating sarcasm and vitriol (I simply don’t know why the evidence cannot be presented in a compelling fashion without resorting to sarcasm about media bias, but whatever, I do want the issue investigated), but the comment thread is really something to behold. There is a really awesome comment that I’d like to republish here: “I am left wing, personally, and so am acutely aware that my belief in climate change tesselates almost too neatly with my political views. As a result I engage myself regularly in a sort of ‘reality check’ process, checking my political beliefs on the door, going back to basics and working out whether there is a rational basis for my beliefs. Coming to forums like this one is part of that process – it informs me of the ‘null hypothesis’, i.e. that scientists are all ludicrously left wing/ money grabbing bastards/ genocidal bilderbergers who have invented global warming for world domination/cold hard cash/world domination again.

      I deliberately question my own opinions and the facts … I do all this because having an objective viewpoint is important to me.”

      See, some sarcasm can actually be a powerful advocacy tactic, while the vitriol of endless bitter sarcastic complaining makes one look like a d-bag.

    1. jdmckay

      The Obama Administration’s decision to restart the financial play (instead of restructuring the U.S. economy)

      About sums things up AFAIC… just another reminder that kind’a puts into context what the meaning of “change” is, or was, or ???????

  1. nowhereman

    Sea Levels rising, Yeah, like when your water glass overflows when the ice melts???? Some clever Science going on here.
    Thanks for the morning laugh.

  2. now here man

    Yeah in fact most of the world’s ice is presently sitting on dry land, nowhereman….science needs observation of phenomena first. Most of the world’s ice ain’t afloat, matey.

    1. Skippy

      Yeah don’t even start with the reduction in tectonic pressure

      Skippy..if dams compress land mass and ice weighs how much [?] per sq cubic meter the reduction + uplift x the plasticity of crust = some ones going to get screwed via the maritime mark or seismic activity.

      1. jdmckay


        Neo-post-trickle down-CATO-libertarian-free market-Republican-K-street lexicon lookup…

        Surreal: Removing the real from reality.

        Or, for shit’s and giggles (not that it’s relevant anymore)… Webster’s definition:


        Main Entry: sur·re·al
        Pronunciation: \sə-ˈrē(-ə)l also -ˈrā-əl\
        Function: adjective
        Etymology: back-formation from surrealism

        1 : marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream; also : unbelievable, fantastic

      1. i on the ball patriot

        The ice melting story was concocted as a decoy story to mask the REAL CAUSE of sea level rising — the displacement of water by the hundreds of thousands of the wealthy elite millionaire’s mega yachts that are added to the oceans each year. These behemoths are getting bigger and bigger each year, and the rich, notorious for screwing everyone else, under report the tonnage (amount of water they displace) so as to cheat on yacht registration taxes.

        Putting a huge boat like this in the water is like placing a huge grossly oversize gluttonous greedy rat in an olympic size public swimming pool. Most all the water would be forced out destroying everything in its path and there would be little room left for swimmers or other uses of the common person. The giant greedy rat of course would be having a ball.

        It only takes 179 mega yachts, displacing 47,000 tons of water each (average displacement), to equal the size of the ice berg that sunk the Titanic. Al Gore has a mega yacht, under a fictitious registration in Greece, that displaces 37,000 tons of water. Greedy Corporations are now making big island size cruise liners that accommodate over 6,5000 people and that displace over 200,000 tons of water!!! These greedy corporations plan a 9.7 % increase in tonnage for 2010 and an astonishing increase of 11,2 % in 2011. This makes the calving of ice bergs in northern glaciers look like chump change and a day with Mr. Rogers combined!

        You can prevent beach erosion and help save our coastal sea shores! Write to your elected representatives and protest this horrendous travesty and this big lie. Tell them that you want rich mega yachts put back on land and used for housing for the homeless people that are homeless because the rich have denied them fair opportunity and stolen their resources for self serving products like these mega yachts.
        Thank god We have freedom and democracy to stop all of this!

        Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

        1. psychohistorian

          Thanks for the emotive relief provided!!

          With apology to Voltaire….Sanity, like history, is a lie commonly agreed on.

          Let them eat popcorn!

  3. now here man

    Didn’t notice the link to the Antartic thinning story, nowhereman?

    the e-mail story is a political story which does not speak to the validity of the science underlying climate change: to put it another way,climate change is a matter of physics, not personality.

    Although American media never seems to understand anything unless it has a face and name attached….

  4. jdmckay

    re: Timmy!’s Testimony

    from SW’s article:

    Given that the CDS were so far underwater to AIG, if the government had guaranteed them, the likelihood that the Fed would have become a creditor to the banks on the other sides of the deals was exceedingly remote. That is, it was highly unlikely that the Fed would have been exposed to default losses on these deals, meaning that the “credit relationship” was a fiction.(…)

    Second, “there was a lack of statutory authority of the Federal Reserve to provide such a guarantee.” Please, again. (…)

    Summary: Timmy’s been hedging the truth, or trooth, or whatever word (still?) exists in the English language to accurately describe some slice of “what is”.

    Garbage in, garbage out… rinse & repeat.

    As an observation, just another marker along the way of creation’s guarantee that dishonesty (lies) corrodes things. It also strikes me that watered down (to put it mildly) accounting (funny… even meaning of that word not reflective of practice in the industry these recent years)… eg. lies, has permeated the industry.

    Geithner is (and AFAIC has been) an unreliable source.

    (…)if AIG hadn’t been born and hence not around to sell protection, the owners of the CDOs would have taken a bath. Thus, it is not credit default swaps per se that were the ultimate source of the problem; it was the underlying CDOs. Only to the extent that the existence of AIG contributed to a larger CDO market could CDS have contributed to the financial crisis.

    Indeed. But really already knew this by inference, didn’t we? I mean, if it smells like a rat…

    It also strikes me (boy, sure getting struck a lot these days) that the volume of bullshit flowing uninterrupted is so saturating that, even partially reconstructing the crimes… anecdotally of course, can become a full time job.

    And yet, despite the (at least in my case) massive amount of time required to stay ahead of the curve (eg: avoid having the financial gangsters get mine), somehow I’ve been reading @ Bloomberg that we are enjoying increased productivity.

    Go figure.

  5. dunkelblau

    Yves, yes but WHY were Iceland’s women “only marginal players in the power structure”?
    Perhaps they are not paragons of virtue, and they simply ran into the glass ceiling.
    Or perhaps they failed to rise not because of discrimination but because they
    were determined not to sacrifice their virtue? My admittedly limited understanding
    of Nordic culture suggests to me that the latter interpretation is more plausible.
    And as for “playing it up”, I suspect that any investment banker who has remnants of
    a conscience would love to be involved in an undertaking where doing the right thing
    garners public accolades.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Michael Lewis in his Vanity Fair story on Iceland made all kinds of not flattering remarks about Icelandic macho-dom. In general, women are not part of the power structure anywhere, with a very few exceptions (readers are welcome to correct me, but I believe Norway has substantial representation of women in political leadership roles, but I have no idea of their level of participation as far as women executives are concerned).

      Research in the US has found that men strongly prefer working in an all-male environment, while women are indifferent to gender mix.

  6. Valissa

    Yves, given that you are someone who is aware of the power of media propaganda, I am surprised that you appear not to see that the whole “global warming” thing is a masterpiece of liberal propaganda. And I say this as someone who cares upon about the environment and wants to see major improvements on pollution issues worldwide.

    Once upon a time, the “villain” was pollution, something easily measured and an obvious “evil”. Humans learned to clean up pollution in many areas of the US. Why has the political focus moved from pollution (a precise word which elicits disgust) to global warming (a vague phrase about the weather)? Even the phrase “global warming” and the way the media and certain elties have discussed it has all the characteristics of propaganda. Why are AL Gore’s buddies at Goldman Sachs so interested in global warming… perhaps another financial bubble toy?

    Personally I have a degree in mathematics and a minor in geology and a long standing history in earth science and a fascination with dionsaurs as a kid. Since the age of 10 I have known that our planet has had many local, regional and planet wide changes in temperature, and corresponding wth that all sorts of species dying off, new species evolving, etc. etc.

    When this whole think about global warming starting getting public attention my first response was to read some more history of climate, and ice ages books. I did this because I do not trust what I read/hear from the media. Plus, I subscribe to several science magazines and have for many years… and I found it rather suspicious that they do not have all sorts of articles full of data and interpretation regarding this climate change issue. Once upon a time they all were full of data and conclusions about pollution. Why not a similar treatment of “climate change”? Where are all the articles with data and diagrams and competing interpretations that are so typical of popular science articles?

    As someone with a background in math I know how problematic models are for predicting. (HINT: Climate models are about as valid as economic models.) Especially in this case… since scientists still have various competing theories for why the planet has gotten hotter and cooler over the years and why it’s atmospheric gasses have changed proportion BEFORE humans came on to the scene, there is no baseline of knowledge for comparing the combined effects of humanity, animals, and plants on climate. Models have been used to play around with various climate theories, but that’s strictly experimental and should not be the basis of political economics. It’s all conjecture and competing scientific interpretations. This is how science always is and always has been. Isn’t it suspicious that one of these theories has become politicized and irrationalized so that people get that “special apocalyptic feeling”?

    Science today can not even change the weather on purpose for one day anywhere on the earth, so how is it that legislating about so-called “greenhouse gasses” will have anything to do with “changing” the climate?

    There is so much irrationality on the subject of climate change that it reminds me of something Noam Chomsky said about detecting propaganda… something about lack of information combined with irrational attitudes/behaviors.

    One last point… if the progressives could never even get the auto mileage minimums for automakes increased to help the environment, then why all of a sudden are all these congress critters so interested in this cap and trade bill? Why isn’t the government making more stringent regulations via the EPA?

    Follow the money…

    1. Valissa

      Please note I do believe that our planet’s climate changes and I even believe that humans have some effect on that, but there is no science which proves how much of an effect humans have on the climate or that proves that we can do anything to change that. Humans have proven that they can clean up pollution and they can regulate polution, so I think we should stick to what we know. If we focus on land, air and water quality I think we can leave the climate to take care of itself.

      So what if the climate changes… IT’S NATURAL… it’s AN ORGANIC PROCESS. Water levels raise and lower throughout history, sometime because of climate change and sometimes because of plate tectonics. It makes sense for countries who expect water level changes to plan for how to handle the impact of that. That seems more productive then money gambles on cap and trade.

      BTW, should we end up with global cooling rather than global warming that would cause much greater hardship.

    2. Yves Smith Post author


      With all due respect, you are way off base here, and it is very clear that there is a well funded effort seeking to discredit those who are concerned about greenhouse gases. The techniques are identical to those used to muddy the waters for over two decades around the role of smoking in lung and other cancers.

      The impact of human activity on the temperature has been confirmed via oceanographic studies, so this is not a mere matter of natural variability. And separately, the acidification of the ocean resulting from higher CO2 levels is a much less well publicized disaster in the making.


      1. Valissa

        Yves, as I said in my followup, I do believe that humans have an effect on the climate and that there is science to support that. However…how much of an effect we have, and how much of that is “reversible” and at what cost are my questions. Personally I think it’s hubris to believe we can change the climate, and the consequences of this hubris will be fascinating to watch. It is rather entertaining to see how the Dems and Repubs propaganda the issue differently. Both claiming the great god science is on their side.

  7. rickstersherpa

    I almost became a geologist, before I was tempted away into law. When you have a science that is impacting on lots of money and cherished beliefs, you really can’t keep the politics out of it. Especially, when the libertarians and neo-cons do have a half-truth that their political adversaries on the Left tend to want to believe the worse about human caused global warming and ignore the variability of the Earth’s climate and the liklihood that current period remains part of an Ice Age, at least until we showed up. But we have shown-up.

    And we are putting CO2 and other global warming gases into the atmosphere at the rate equal to 16 new volcanoes erupting annually.

    Now, dear deniers, the Earth’s climate is a complex thing, but the remarkable thing about it over the last 2 billion years, since the transition from predominately CO2 and water vapor to Oxygen and Nitrogen, has been how stable the system has been. Just like the porridge in Goldilocks, it is not to warm and not to cold. But there have been a few major disturbances during that time and each time they have been surprisingly fast changes and changes driven by changes in Co2 levels, from Snowball Earth, when CO2 feel to low, to the the Permian extinction event when it apparently rose to high.

    Getting back from deep time to near time, the Earth has been cooling since India began to slam into Asia in the late Miocene, primarily through the uplift of the Himalaya, which by chemical weathering removes CO2 from the atmosphere. See

    Eventually, this reduction of CO2, along with the isolation of Antartica, the circumpolar current, and the isolation of the Artic by continental drift, left the Earth vulnernable to ice ages when the amount of solar energy it received fell by a few percent as the result of the permuatations and oscillations in its orbit of the sun and spin on its axis. But one of the results of widespread glaciation is that in covering exposed rock. Thereby the glaciers reduce CO2 capture by chemical weathering, CO2 starts to increase in the atmosphere and that, along the eventual increase of solar energy during a new stage in the orbital and axial cycles, causes the glaciers to retreat. But we are still in an Ice Age. At least we were until we came around.

    Now, we ourselves are a huge natural force; our human mind has created a technolgy that pumps the equivalent of 16 average volcanoes worth of CO2 a year into the atmosphere. Nothing like this has been since the end of the Permian when the Deccan and Siberian traps were created in two of the largest volcanic events of since the Cambrian occurred. Since this was also the worse extinction event in the history of life on this planet, a human experiment to see if the result can be repeated is probably not a wise idea. The fact remains, geologically, that the biggest driver of climate has been CO2 level; when it rises rapidly, Earth’s climate rapidly warms; when it falls, the climate cools.

    The stolen e-mails appear to be arguments about the last 1,000 years of temperture data, which for the most part is derived from indirect evidence and is based on inferences and starting points, and the inferences and starting points can be shaped by the particular scienctist political beliefs. A scientist who does not want to accept human caused global warming can probably find lots of nit-noid matters to dispute, especially if they ignore the human caused countervailing effects of increasing sulfur dioxide and particulates, the cooling effect of which can, for a short period of time, off-set the CO2 and other heat trapping gases.

    Libertarians believe every autonmous human being should be free to do as he or she likes, preferably for profit, as long as he or she is not harming another. Hence their hatred for the idea that human beings can adversely affect the environment because by definition, human being pursuing their personal profit while dumping adverse materials into the environment means harming others and that makes such behavior subject to regulation either under system of ethics based on cost-benefit anaylsis if one is applying strictly utilitarian ethics (but still allowing State interference where the costs outweigh the benefits) or an imperative for the State regulation to prevent harm if one is a Kantian or religiously based in his or her morality (“what thou does to the least of thy brothers, that thou doest to me”).

    This hack into a facility and theft of property (something libertarians usually frown upon, but “ends justify the means” I guess), will give Faux News and the right wing blogosphere lots of talking points the next few weeks, but it does not change the physical facts. And the fact remains, far more people have made fortunes as climate deniers as global warming advocates (Gore made his money by his media investments and speeches, not his environmental activism, which appears to be a loss leader.)

    1. Valissa

      BTW, it’s not so simple as “believers” vs “deniers”. That’s just polarizing rather than eliciting discussion.

      Lots of folks (like me) believe the planet is warming and that humans are also a factor but don’t believe this cap and trade bill will actually have any impact on global warming and that indeed it is a big scam. I would like to see polluters discouraged in some way, but I don’t think this bill is the way to do it. Why are some people so afraid of the planet getting a little warmer? If I am denying anything… it’s the propagnda and fear-mongering.

  8. MIT man

    Valissa: You may have studied geology, but your comments spotlight that you no longer believe in the scientific method. I have been a climate scientist since 1978 and the and the warming trends are undeniable.

    And thank you Yves for pointing out that yet another campaign to discredit the hard facts is behind this latest email “expose.” Only someone who understands nothing about the data would think those emails prove that global warming is a hoax.

    I despair, I despair.

    1. Valissa

      I believe in the scientific methods but I am also aware that science has it’s own type of “believers” and scientists are rarely unbiased. The history of science is replete with examples of strongly held scientific beliefs eventually being replaced with better science which becomes the new myth. Science has it’s own myths and priests just like any other belief system. That’s why I left the profession of science to study socioogy, anthropology, religion and spirituality, at least there it’s more obvious how creative humans are when they put their energy into believing something. And I found it amazing that I could apply the insights I gained about humans in groups and their beliefs back to the field of science.

      Science has had this problem of being linear, reductive, and cause seeking and is really pretty bad at predicting anything to do with complex systems like the environment, weather/climate and even the complex interactions within the human body.

      I am most definitely not a “denier”. I am not deying that global warming exists or that humans have added to that. Those seem rather solidly established. The thing is I’m not afraid about the climate changing. The climate has always changed and it will always continue to change. It’s natural. It’s alos natural that since there are more humans and animals that the overall climate is a bit warmer in response. So what? I am more concerned about pollution than temperature.

      btw, Once upon a time, a long time ago, I was a Democrat but have been an Independent for years, typcially voting Dem though occasionally not. NOw I consider myself OVER the whole highly propagandized Left-Right corporate paradigm and find myself wondering if it’s even worthwhile to vote in anything other than local elections.

    2. Dan Duncan

      I love this post. You’re lecturing Valissa on the Scientific Method…

      While you have no problem with the “scientific method” being employed by the “scientists” behind those emails.

      Using your words: Only someone who understands nothing about the scientific method would approve of the methods of those scientists.

      But don’t despair.

      Despair ruins some; presumption many.

      1. Dave Raithel

        They are not the whole of the case confirming the global warming hypothesis; nor has yet anything but a piss fight yet been shown. Do you really believe that scientific theories stand or fall upon a single bit of counter-evidence or failed prediction? Not until there is, and if even then, uniformity of belief as to what the theory requires does a “crucial” experiment kill or save that theory – the Michaelson-Morley experiment comes to mind (or detecting the bend of light during an eclipse as required by general relativity, but I don’t know a short-hand FOR that “experiment”.)

        Old story, probably true: When Galileo offered to let the agent of Pope look through his telescope to see for himself that other heavenly bodies hung round other heavenly bodies, the agent dismissed the telescope as a “tricking device.”

        There is, after all, always another logically possible explanation to substantiate one’s prior beliefs contrary to evidence.

        And some people will tell you it’s raining when they are spat upon.

  9. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    I don’t know about women being more inclined to reform because they have less stake in the existing order of things, but I do know that it’s easier for old people to preach abstinence than a teenager.

    That’s why I am becoming more vituous as I age, since it is getting harder for me to sin.

    As for science (and thus technology as well), if debt caused the problem we are having now, you would say the solution is not more debt. Now, if science (and technology) is the cause of the problem, then more science is not the solution.

    Now, about caving living – I don’t advocate living in a cave like the Moab man linked above. I suggest we go slowly, gradually. It is the same technique they use in trying to recall past incarnations – you first go back to your teeange years, then your grade school years, then when you were a baby, then an infant until you can recall your stay in your mother’s womb and then, voila, you see what you were in the last incarnation.

    Similarly, first we go back to the Agriculturala Age, then the Bronze Age and finally the Stone Age. Only then can we settle comfortably in our caves.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      How to deal with China:

      Interesting piece of info I came across this weekend – in China, it used to be that you can make payments for commerical transactions with tea bricks – yes, powdered black tea made into bricks with scoring so that you can break off and make change.

      That may be the next investment to get into – tea bricks.

      And if I am not mistaken, in ancient China, you can pay your taxes with bolts of silk.

      To summarize, I suggest a diversified portfolio of the following to survive the coming Pax Chinois:

      1. Tea bricks
      2. Cowrie shells
      3. Bolts of silk

  10. now here man

    A stitch in time saves nine.

    Funny how “conservatives” react, when the facts show that in order to conserve what we’ve got, we need to radically change.

  11. now here man

    Hey Valissa if our emissions should in the aggregate push the climate outside of the boundaries & parameters within which the human species evolved (and in which many of the other species we indirectly depend on to survive co-evolved) all bets are off, huh? My old friend Prudence says it seems a pretty high risk for the entire species, for the “rewards” of the mere conveniences and comforts of living for the present generation.

    Fossil fuels have gotta go…get over it, already.

    1. Valissa

      Agree we need to detox on the fossil fuels… I’m all for alternative energy. You don’t need to believe in anthropogenic global warming to be concerned about peak oil, peak water, etc. I am most certainly pro-environment but obviously in a different way than you are.

      “push the climate outside of the boundaries & parameters within which the human species evolved”

      I don’t believe that’s what’s happening, but I beleive in your right to believe it. I’m not afraid that’s going to happen based on the evidence so far. Science has a horrid track record on this type of predicting. Real science is about evidence, the rest is speculation and propaganda.

  12. Jack

    Greenland glaciers are far greater in extent than a few hundred years ago. Mt. Shasta glacier is growing in CA. Global temps have stopped warming for 11 years.

    Ice is growing in the Antarctic. Ice in the Arctic experienced a minimum in 2007 but is also growing thicker and in extent.

    Stick to economics, Yves. Your climatology is way off base ( to put it gently).

    1. Yves Smith Post author


      I know people in the Explorers’ Club, and many members were deeply involved in the Polar Year research. To a person, all are alarmed by the changes and no one (and the club has heavy membership of scientists as well as explorers and is most decidedly not partisan) thinks the obvious and rapid shifts are the result of natural forces..

      And your statement regarding Greenland is an out and out falsehood, see for one of many examples:

      So if one is wiling to engage in complete fabrication, yes, everything is fine.

  13. Carrick

    Here is the website of Daniel Suelo (the moneyless ‘cave dweller’ in Moab)

    Its design looks like a lot of crack pot websites, but there’s some interesting stuff there — particularly anecdotes about how he survives, a long FAQ page, how friends and strangers respond(ed) to his choice, and general thoughts on wanting, having and needing.

Comments are closed.