Links 11/4/09

Anthropologist Levi-Strauss dies BBC

To Breed or Not to Breed? h+

The Fed Thoughtfully Strokes Its Beard, Flaps Its Gums Annaly Salvos (hat tip reader Scott)

About to think the unthinkable Wolfgang Munchau, Eurointelligence

Prichard Alabama Files Bankruptcy Over Pensions; Wildcat Strike In Philadelphia; Oregon’s Financial Gamble Michael Shedlock

Fears of a New Bubble as Cash Pours In Wall Street Journal. It is telling that the article describes this as something that the authorities worry will happen, as opposed to is happening.

Pull the plug on the Afghan surge Financial Times

Second Law of Thermodynamics May Explain Economic Evolution PhysOrg (hat tip reader pls)

Wilbur Ross: Commercial Real Estate Crisis Still Looms Boom2Bust

The Coming Collapse of the Municipal Bond Market Phil Greenspun (hat tip reader Dwight)

Should central banks be quasi-fiscal actors? Willem Buiter

Antidote du jour:

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  1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Concerning the Wall Street Journal piece, someone will be taking a bubble blood bath or a blood bubblebath soon.

    Right now, with the speculators having speculated on everything else, they are very close to a bubble-stage where the only greed they have to be greedy about is greed itself.

  2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Since we are talking about the second law of Thermodynamics, I might as well add something about the theory of Evolotuion.

    I think, if the shrewd can get away with all their shrewdness, and the shrewd men, with all the resources they shrewdly amass, can make themselves look reproductively attractive, and the shrewd women, again with all the resources they shrewdly amass, can make themselves look reproductively attractive because, sadly, while money can’t buy happiness, it can buy you beauty these days, then, pretty soon, we have the shrewd reproducing among themselves.

    The question then is, if the shrewd have more resources than the non-shrewd to reproduce, eventually, the world will be filled with only the shrewd.

    Here, we have come to a situation not unlike the Saving Paradox. If there is only one shrewd person, he or she can make a decent living amond his non-shrewd victims. But if everyone is shrewd, then who is going to get out-shrewded?

    Let’s call that the Shrewd Paradox.

  3. nowhereman

    So, the shrewd can purchase beauty these days, what happens when, reproducing among themselves they produce ugly progeny?
    Can the purchasers of beauty be sued for misrepresenting their reproducibility? Alas, the shrewd being sued for being shrewd.

  4. Richard Kline

    Kupchan and Simon’s remedies for the flesh-eating staph infection which is the US occupation of Afghanistan look ‘sensible’ in contrast to Stan McChrystal’s hunter-killer napkin-sketch—but are no less nonsensical and wrong.

    “Build up the Afghan police and Army”: Which is worthless now, and will so remain, as recruits have zero incentive to fight, enlist only for money, and are riddled with Taliban plants. Anyone with any moxie works for a warlord: cannon fodder recruits are trying to earn something for their family and stay alive. There will be no substantial, effective recruitment of _Pashtuns_ furthermore, without which an effective military in S Afghanistan is not possible. This notion ‘sounds sensible’ but is nonsense in context. It comes from a false analogy to Iraq where the strategy failed too: the Iraqi army was of little functional effect even eighteen months ago, and was routed utterly by Sadrist insurgents when sent to the field. The change in Iraq came when the tribal leadership was bribed en masse to desert the insurgency. (In my view, bribed by the Saudis and the Jordanians, but I’ve yet to see any reportage that confirms that hypothesis.) In short, it was a _political solution_. The analogy in Afghanistan would be to bribe the Taliban to split from the Pakistani Pashtuns, or at least not openly back them. The only effective bribe would be to stand down most US troops in Afghanistan outside of base enclaves at the periphery, mostly in the north and to hand the government of the country back to the Taliban. We’ll know that the US wants peace when they make that obvious move . . . about three presidential administrations from now.

    “Build up a rump state of effective institutions.” Look, in an ethnically segmented, 19th century state with no functioning economy outside of the export of raw opium, this is sheerest fantasty. A ‘rump government’ of Tajiks and Uzbeks will have no better weight on Pashtun opinion in the south than crepe paper. The only ‘rump government’ which might work is a Pashtun one sympathetic to the Taliban. Which is what Karzai wanted to be but the US wouldn’t let him so that what threadbare legitimacy he came in with five years ago was filched but colossally despised local warlords. Intensive US aerial bombardment of Pashtun areas has effectively aborted any remote possibility that this strategy could be effected as of Nov 2009.

    I won’t even bother with their third point because one sees the drift: they are operating in a fantasy where they are the ones in charge of future outcomes so that whatever might be desirable for them is, of course, possible. Very American, this self-serving optimism, but nonsense.

    To save them time, I will simply skip the fantasy and describe the four options which remain possible. 1) We keep bombing Afghans we perceive to be hostile until we get tired of the push-back and expense and leave. 2) We recruit another military power to occupy or annex Afghanistan for us and to take over the implementation of 1) while we leave. 3) We withdraw to peripheral compounds, cut a deal to hand the country to the Taliban, and set the bar as high as we can get for non-support of hostiles to us, and set a timetable for withdrawal. 4) We just cut to the endgame, get on the plane, and leave. Do I think that we’ll follow any of these policies? No: we’ll stay there bombing and fantasizing until Pakistan goes critical and we get dragged in there too, to our everlasting misery, regret, and totally deserved ignominy. Stumbling to perdition.

    1. Skippy


      We had this chat awhile back and it will just get worse hay.

      Skippy…Richard you know who Stan McChrystal is don’tcha, the same guy that lied about a friendly fire incident, silver star for getting shot by your own guys medal report writer, even when every one was sayin so, but made shit up any way.

      BTW Collin Powell was regimental commander at my post when we had that little 60 person riot, the one where the FOD armed with a .45 ran back to his truck when the guys only had sticks and fists and he did well. Its not fail upward it LIE up ward folks,

  5. Richard Kline

    The analogy of the Second Law to value flows in financal spaces is interesting, and thought provoking, beyond anything I have time to dissect. I’m not going to spare that energy for a specific reason: much of there hypothsis is leveraged upon game theory assumptions of players making subjective assessments of value. Now however interesting this may be hypothetically, I believe that it is fundamentally wrong in assessing systemic behaviors in financial flows at the macroscale. Flows have their own dynamics which are NOT simply subjective decisions writ large. The use of game theory is, to me, a fundamental misperception of how large scale flows work in this context. That’s not to say that game theory work, or this kind of thinking about the distribution of perceived value is without merit; in fact, it’s interesting from the standpoint of understanding investor psychology, a big issue for many participants in market processes _if understood to apply only to perceptions_. But systemic organization doesn’t work this way, to me.

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