Links 12/30/09

San Francisco’s Famous Sea Lions Have VANISHED Huffington Post. Aaaw! I saw them. They were very entertaining. Do not despair, however, some still remain.

Kodak, Bill Gates and efficient markets John Hempton

GMAC Set for Another Cash Infusion Wall Street Journal.

Don’t trust those servicers Felix Salmon

Opinion: Australians are now the biggest borrowers in the world Digital Journal

Pimco CEO: We’re Trained to Think the “Farther You Fall, The Higher You’ll Bounce Back. We’re Hostage to the V”-Shaped Recovery Model George Washington

The challenges of managing our post-crisis world Martin Wolf, Financial Times

Today in “Economists Are NOT Totally Clueless” (Part 1 of 2 or 3) Ken Houghton, Angry Bear

Forecast 2010 James Howard Kunstler. Today’s must read.

Antidote du jour (hat tip reader Barbara). Title: “Snowmobile trail closed due to traffic jam”.



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  1. craazyman

    One of Thoreau’s more memorable discoveries, was, to my mind, the Very Reverend Samuel Treat, Calivinist minister to God’s children of Eastham, Massachussets, in the late 1600s.

    Thoreau’s “Cape Cod” sketches Reverend Treat’s tense relationship with his wards with great hilarity, and acknowledges the Reverend’s prediliction for practical jokes.

    I mention all this because those who enjoy Reverened (er Mister) Kunstler’s depictions of hell might also like the following passagers from Reverend Treat’s sermon,”A Discourse on Luke xvi. 23, Addressed to Sinners” . . .

    [2] “Thou must ere long go to the bottomless pit. Hell hath enlarged herself, and is ready to receive thee. There is room enough for thy entertainment….

    [3] “Consider, thou art going to a place prepared by God on purpose to exalt his justice in, — a place made for no other employment but torments. Hell is God’s house of correction; and, remember, God doth all things like himself. When God would show his justice, and what is the weight of his wrath, he makes a hell where it shall, indeed, appear to purpose…. Woe to thy soul when thou shalt be set up as a butt for the arrows of the Almighty….

    [4] “Consider, God himself shall be the principal agent in thy misery, — his breath is the bellows which blows up the flame of hell forever; — and if he punish thee, if he meet thee in his fury, he will not meet thee as a man; he will give thee an omnipotent blow.”

    [5] “Some think sinning ends with this life; but it is a mistake. The creature is held under an everlasting law; the damned increase in sin in hell. Possibly, the mention of this may please thee. But, remember, there shall be no pleasant sins there; no eating, drinking, singing, dancing, wanton dalliance, and drinking stolen waters: but damned sins,bitter, hellish sins; sins exasperated by torments, cursing God, spite, rage, and blasphemy. — The guilt of all thy sins shall be laid upon thy soul,and be made so many heaps of fuel….

    [6] “Sinner, I beseech thee, realize the truth of these things. Do not go about to dream that this is derogatory to God’s mercy, and nothing but a vain fable to scare children out of their wits withal. God can be merciful, though he make thee miserable. He shall have monuments enough of that precious attribute, shining like stars in the place of glory, and singing eternal hallelujahs to the praise of Him that redeemed them, though, to exalt the power of his justice, he damn sinners heaps upon heaps.”

  2. Michael

    Forecast 2010 is indeed an interesting – if depressing – read.

    The problem with forecasting is the dates, and I suspect he’s being a bit over-pessimistic in some places. But otherwise, I think we’re in for a rough decade ahead and the article is food for thought. Speaking of food, the fisheries situation is rather dire too – another source of potential conflict. As is the imminent exploitation of Africa by agri-business.

    The Australian debt situation is also interesting and scary.

    Property is way overpriced here, particularly anything near the coast (and much of it destined to be underwater in the future?), and still going up. But I think the bubble can continue for quite a while yet, for one specific reason: population growth, through immigration and a new baby boom. This is being used to `hide the problem’ by keeping demand high. It can’t go on forever of course, but Australia’s relatively small population and huge land-mass means it can go on for quite some time yet. And people here have a demonstrated ability to sacrifice lifestyle for their mortgage and their car, so even a rise in oil prices wouldn’t dampen things much.

  3. Doug Terpstra

    Kunstler is one reason I look forward to Mondays. It feels good to be alive now, before stumbling down “the road” of the slow-motion apocalypse of Kunstler’s “Long Emergency”. Kunstler comically reveals unique dimensions of hell on earth, including the wages of sin in the artless, homogenized slum-divisions of America’s exurban sprawl.

  4. fj

    Re: “traffic jam”

    This is the problem in our world, not only are people growing more and more lazy, but even the deer are getting burned out and taking the easy way out….

  5. Hugh

    I agree with much of Kunstler’s assessment. It is what I have been trying to say here and elsewhere for a while. Much of what he forecasts for 2010, I would put in 2011. I think he underestimates to what lengths the Administration will go to prop things up through the November elections. We have already seen the announcement of the $200 billion jobs program paid for by TARP funds. And the Fannie/Freddie bailout whatever the long term negatives in the short term should keep the housing market afloat. There will also be a supplemental bill to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan next year so further stimulus (called something else) will likely get attached to that.

    I also disagree with him about peak oil. I mean I do believe we are in the peak oil plateau right now, but I don’t think it has had anything to do with the pricing during the last spike and currently. These are related to excess speculation (read Goldman and Barclays) which has been at work since 2004.

    His more apocalyptic stuff is inevitable but here too distinctions have to be made. When the economy definitively tanks whether in 2010 or 2011, there will be a destabilizing populist backlash. This is part of the pre-revolutionary state I sometimes have talked about. Resource shortages and conflicts will be seen as well. Indeed we have already seen some. But these will become more frequent and larger in the coming decades. It isn’t just oil, but energy generally, water, food, and specific commodities like rare earths. So we really should distinguish between the shorter term, depression related turmoil and longer term chaos.

    I am not sure if I am an optimist or a pessimist with regard to all this. I think that both the current economic problems and our longer term resource issues are solvable. Both will require major restructuring of our society, but I also believe that our current elites, financial, political, academic, and media are completely incapable of dealing with them or even talking about them honestly.

  6. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    How cute! Little boy deer and girl deer on a winter outing to watch un-caged humans in the wilderness instead of watching these Homo Not-So-Sapiens Not-So-Sapiens in a zoo.

  7. Ed

    On websites of people who believe in the peak oil theory, and monitor whether its unfolding, there seems to be a divergence of opinion about whether there will be a “fast crash” (with the Soviet Union as a model) or a slow decline.

    Kunstler’s book is titled “the Long Emergency”, and much of his actual analysis would put him in the slow decline camp, but in fact his rhetoric identifies him as believing in the fast crash scenario.

    A fast crash is better than a slow decline. The reason is that the slow decline or stagnation lasts longer than the human lifespan. In a stagnating society you are condemning at least one generation to living their entire lives in a failed system, while a fast crash gives people the opportunity to at least start over before its too late. I submit that being born in Russia in 1970 would be better than being born in 1940, and I think I’m born out by how many Russian men in the 50s and 60s essentially drank themselves to death as the USSR imploded.

    While I think there is substance to the peak oil theory, I also think we definitely are in a slow decline in the US and a fast crash is unlikely.

    1. aet

      Oil has been over-priced in US $$ since 1972.

      As to “peak oil” (differs from “peak coal” [look it up] how?):

      The oil price needs to go up (and stay up!) because it is toxic (even when used as intended) , not because it’s “expensive to find and produce” – this latter statement is true only so long as there is “geo-political tension” in the mid-east, and that “tension” is not there “because of the oil”.

  8. bob

    They are very hungry deer. I am guessing that the picture was taken in the late winter. They ‘herd up’ like that to try and preserve heat, and because of that need less calories.

    Haven’t seen deer do that in at least a decade in my neck of the woods. When I did see it last they were in a corn field, thousands, trying to pick silage through the ice on the ground. The herd traffic did soften the ice up.

  9. carping demon

    It’s been my experience that things change much more slowly than you expect them to, even after allowing for the fact that they change much more slowly than you expect them to. You might point to the events of Sept. 2008 as a time of pretty fast change, but for me, and everyone I know, it was just a news event. Everyone’s still in business, or employed, or whatever, the supers’ are still stocked, the ATM (the real one) still works, it even rained here in L.A. the other day, etc., etc. Neoclassical economists are still in thrall to the idea that the future is revealed in the past, and it seems to makes them feel that something is bound to happen soon. I’ll bet it doesn’t. (Though, of course, “soon” depends somewhat on how old you are, I suppose.)

  10. jose

    I’m a new reader – maybe two months in – via The Browser. I greatly appreciate these link dumps.

    Posting the link to Kunstler’s blog and adding simply “Today’s Must Read” confounds me. The disappearance of seals in SF Bay gets more context than his rant. A rant which, to me, boils down to: “No, really, this is the year we’re all going to hell because our people are not disciplined enough.” (Do a find for the word “louts” – *that* paragraph.)

    Is this the same blog that just took on McClatchy for a “muddled” piece about CDO’s? But Kunstler gets a walk?

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