Links 1/11/10

Biodiversity loss is ‘wake-up call’, warns UN BBC

Ant Has Given Up Sex Completely, Researchers Confirm Science Daily (hat tip reader Michael T)

Are Photo IDs a waste of time? h+ (hat tip reader David C)

Taliban make ‘undetectable’ bombs out of wood Independent (hat tip reader John D)

Factory Farmed Meat Can Trigger a Global Pandemic That Wipes Out Sixty Percent of Those Infected Truthout (hat tip reader John D). The headline is sensationalistic, but the fact set is not pretty.

New Study: Wal-Mart Brings Zero Jobs to Chicago Huffington Post. Frankly, it seems entirely logical that Wal-Mart would destroy jobs. The smaller retailers it displaces presumably have higher store staff costs relative to sales.

Disappointment ahead for UK — and big test for euro Anatole Kaletsky, Times Online (hat tip reader Albert S)

Sea slug steals genes for greens, makes chlorophyll like a plant Science News (hat tip reader Paul S)

The Shadow War : Making Sense of the New CIA Battlefield in Afghanistan Tom Engelhardt and Nick Turse (hat tip Crocodile Chuck)

Census as Jobs Program Still not Good Enough DoctoRx Uncle Sam is hiring more than twice as many workers in 2010 as it took to conduct the census in 2000.

Geithner Has Support of Obama, Democratic Lawmakers, Aides Say Bloomberg. Probably more important, no media follow through. Reader John L channel surfed the Sunday TV news programs and didn’t catch a single question re Geithner.

China banks eclipse US rivals Financial Times. Shades of Japan. In the years before the crash, Japanese banks were not just the highest market cap banks in the world, but among the highest cap companies. And we know how that movie ended. To give an idea of how rich three times book is, that’s the HIGH end of the range investment banks used to sell for (meaning that price includes an acquisition premium)….in the days when investment banks were vastly more profitable than commercial banks.

America slides deeper into depression as Wall Street revels Ambrose Evans Pritchard, Telegraph (hat tip reader Albert S). I had wanted to write a post on Friday’s tape painting (of course, it is ongoing, but Friday was SO blatant) but I ran out of steam.

The Americanization of Mental Illness New York Times. Today’s must read.

Antidote du jour:

Picture 12

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Daniel de Paris

    Had it not been for the inexplicable policy blunders of Henry Paulson, the US Treasury Secretary, in mid-2008, above all the decisions to wipe out shareholders in Fannie Mae and to bankrupt Lehman Brothers, but also his refusal to counteract the speculation that drove the oil price to $150 in mid-2008, the world economy would probably have suffered nothing more serious than a mild recession.

    This one (Anatole Kaletsky) is a good one.

  2. MarcoPolo

    “Frankly, it seems entirely logical that Wal-Mart would destroy jobs. The smaller retailers it displaces presumably have higher store staff costs relative to sales.” – Yves

    Myth, overall payroll costs come out about the same as is the case with all big box retailers.  Lower in-store labor costs are balanced by higher back-room management salaries.  Occupancy costs (real estate, etc.) are far above the small stores they replaced.  I have watched as Wal-Mart tore down perfectly good buildings in order to errect new ones which looked just like it.  I still don’t know how that works and suspect they have a banker in charge of that part of the balance sheet.  Or to be less glib, part of what should be merchandising cost is amortized with the building.  And I’m convinced that’s the case with those pad site chain restaurants.  Overall margins are better only because they have the ability to squeeze that out of their suppliers.  Their only real cost advantage is in the COST OF CAPITAL.  Private money doesn’t build those big stores and can’t generate the market impact.  And without that you are not competitive. 

    There are other ramifications which pertain to the complexity of the supply chain, viability of location, necessary infrastructure and value of the dollar.    

    1. Anonymous Jones

      This analysis is interesting. I’d like more backup on the occupancy costs data. Based on my experience, I’m going to remain skeptical of the claim that Wal Mart is paying more PSF (far above seems totally implausible); also, increased revenue PSF may mean we should be looking at occupancy costs as a percentage of revenue rather than PSF (not sure about this, but it’s obviously a complex comparison). Perhaps there has been a comparison between legacy nominal lease rates of the displaced smaller stores versus forward costs of the new Wal-Mart? Also, I need finer granularity on the payroll data. Are the back-office management salaries replacing owners’ distributions? And if so, are we sure any calibrations correctly adjusted for the “compensation” portion and the “cost of capital” portion if the small store owner both works and provides the capital? Tough to say this is a myth in the face of insufficiently developed facts.

      1. MarcoPolo

        I’ve been out of this so long I wouldn’t have good numbers.  What do you suppose it costs to build one of those buildings?  $100/sf. And the parking $25/sf?  I bet it’s more today. Plenty more.  See your contractor.  Even if the developer gives that to his “magnets” at cost contrast that to what you might lease industrial property for.  About 1/3 I should think.  On a sales $ basis there is less difference, but still a difference. Or do the numbers this way:
        Margin 40%
        Wages & salaries 18%
        occupancy 8%
        all other 10%
        Compare that to a current annual report.  

        Tough to make a fuller argument in this space.

    2. Skippy

      See Jeff’s rely and may I add the tax concessions they receive which upon activation (2 years avg) they renegotiate or fold up tent and move across tax boarder leaving big building to rot on councils dime.

      For an interesting populist view point see:

      Skippy…let not even start on their environmental record, fertilizers and weed killers palletized in parking lots next to open sewer drains leading to drinking water reservoirs etc….their cost is more than a balance sheet issue me thinks.

  3. DoctoRx

    Re China’s bank valuations, the giant US bank holding companies routinely sold for 3-4X tangible book value in the 2005-7 period. This was a red flag that the “value” investors who thought the high dividends implied value ignored.

  4. Dan Duncan

    On the “Must Read” regarding the Americanization of Mental Illness:

    How long before a Leftist Intellectual coins the phrase: “American Schizoid Imperialism”?


    The article mentions a Cartesian-split between mind and body. Additionally, it refers to the “American brand of hyperintrospection” that forms much of our collective neurosis.

    Interesting stuff.

    Only…it’s not really “hyperintrospection”, rather it’s hyper-rationalism. And hyper-rationalism is the product of what Antonio Demasio would refer to as “Decartes Error”, which is the great error of the Leftist Intellectual.

    Decartes’ Error is the mistaken belief that the brain and body are somehow separate. As the name indicates, it comes from Decartes contention of mind-body dualism. More specifically, the error of mind-body dualism is that it treats rational thought as if it’s completely separate from any emotional input. Think Mr. Spock.

    Our Leftist Intellectuals continually engage in this error because these academic types think of themselves as “The Brain” for the rest of the body politic. As the intellectual center of the body, these academics are separate and distinct and charged with charting our course.

    As such, they feel empowered to make decisions and shape policy about “what’s best” for the ignorant, unthinking body.

    On a certain level, this mind-body distinction is helpful. It allows for self-analysis and self-awareness. This, of course paves the way for self-improvement. And maybe, just maybe…with enough self-improvement, we might reach a state of Western Nirvana—Self Actualization!

    But, as any loyal Oprah-watcher will tell you…Self-Actualization is quite elusive. In fact, the elusiveness is baked in because the hallmark sign that one is NOT self-actualized is their contention that they ARE self-actualized.

    Thus, critical self-analysis eventually turns into neurotic self-awareness. [Think Woody Allen.]

    Spend too much time in this neurotic state of self-awareness and the familiarity will breed A LOT of contempt.

    And we enter the barren terrain of Self Loathing.

    Remember, though…the Leftist Intellectual has the benefit of the error that he is distinct from the Ignorant Mass. Thus, the Leftist Intellectual simultaneously loathes that which he is a part of…while congratulating himself that he recognizes how much we all deserve to be loathed.

    What started out as an exercise in self-improvement becomes a neurotic, narcissistic, masturbatory exercise in self-flagellation.

    Self-loathing never felt so good!

    “Cogito ergo sum”…should really be translated into:

    “I think, therefore I am…sure we are an evil, despicable, imperialistic hegemon!”

    Yves Smith’s association with The George Washington Blog is a perfect example.

    Yves’, being too smart to come out with that marginalizing trash herself, simply allows it to be spewed on her site. Obviously she agrees with this George Washington– otherwise she would not give him this forum as a regular Poster (as opposed to a commentor). Yet, since she didn’t actually write it, she can also distance herself from what she knows is the worst sort of dumbed-down pandering pile of dogshit.

    So…on Naked Capitalism, the blog that’s “Too Smart to Sleep”…The belief that these wars are a contemptible waste just is not good enough. Arguing against them with carefully reasoned facts is insufficient.

    No, instead it has to pander; and Naked Capitalism asserts that our soldiers are masochistic madmen who systematically torture children.

    “Cogito ergo doleo”.

    1. jimmy james

      One also has to wonder about the mental state of someone who keeps reading a blog for months (is it years yet?) after he decides he hates it.

    2. aet

      Mr. Duncan, that’s some fine nonsense. Build me a strawman…

      The appeal to emotion is always “right”(-ist), eh? The mind is the body…the physically beautiful is the true…that’s National Socialist ideology, eh?

      Tell us what you stand for, without telling us what you do not stand for…the latter, we can figure out on our own from the content of the former. Do you personally approve with the use of torture as an instrument of state policy?

      And what’s your evidence (besides observations based upon the apparent results of torture and violence) as to the unity of the mind and body?

    3. craazyman

      wheeew . . . wheeew . . .

      This is the thought police.

      I’m giving you a ticket, sir, for meglomaniacal exxageration and shallow rhetoric.

      Saul of Tarsus started all that, no doubt under the weight of his Roman super-ego, long before DesCartes, who should rightfully be blamed for every two-dimensional correlation used to defraud the public purse.

      The fine is $1 per word, payable to:

      Noouspheric Highway Patrol
      5 Federal Plaza
      St. Germain of the Clouds, Magonia

      A late fee is assessed after 30 days.

    4. Francois T

      “No, instead it has to pander; and Naked Capitalism asserts that our soldiers are masochistic madmen who systematically torture children.”

      One more statement like this one, and its author will need to be watered twice a week.

    5. Jeff65

      I’ve noticed that you fail to address the substance of any post you are ostensibly replying to. Instead it’s all about attacking the person. This is typical of someone unable to defend their beliefs and unwilling to reconsider them.

    6. Dave Raithel

      I think you mean that Descartes argued “mind” and body are separate. Brains are parts of bodies.

      Writing as an anti-Cartesian leftist, I’ve never felt more longing for him till reading your commentary. The questions about “mental” diseases starkly raise that very distinction. Perhaps a “software” versus “hardware” analogy makes more sense? Could be that some people have hardware problems; could be that others have software problems – but what software will run is relative to the operating system, the culture which permits and prohibits. Some OS’s are just more tolerant of eccentricities. Other OS’s might demand that brains make minds do what bodies cannot tolerate.

      I got around to seeing “The Soloist” the other evening. Two lasting impressions: 1) When the musician assaults the journalist, one of the things he says in anger is: Why are you always Mr. Lopez, and I am always Nathan? 2) The narrator says: The very existence of a friendship can alter one’s brain chemistry …

      Those are the issues raised by the article. George Washington – neither the slave holding president nor the blogger – were even mentioned….

  5. Jim in MN

    Evans-Pritchard’s article is worth reading, but the 140 (and counting) comments attached show all the greed, fear, whining, and empty-headedness of contemporary American thought. That is the story of our doom coming for us.

  6. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    I always thought it was ‘I am, therefore I think’ and ‘If I am not, then I don’t think.’

    As for Chinese banks and the Chinese economy in general, I am convinced that, due to ‘lost in translation,’ it should be ‘The Roman economy was not built in one day’ and not ‘Rome was not built in one day.’ Nor was the Great Wall built in one day. It took centuries and dynasties…in between a few barbarian invasions. They found out if they rushed things, the quality tended to be shoddy and the foundation weak.

    1. aet


      You sure Descatrtes’ did not mean “thus”?

      Not :”I think, therefore I am”, but: “I think, thus I am”. No? Perhaps this “cogito” is not a logical operation, but an existential statement…misunderstood by logicians.

      What operation of the mind is denoted by the word “therefore” in this context?

      Nietzsche’s take was to ask (I paraphrase: am I to be a barrel of memory?) : ” ‘I’? Wherefore, with what justification, is this term used by Descartes , this “I”? Descartes is assuming his conclusion….perhaps “It thinks” would be more accurate.”

      1. attempter

        Yes, N insisted that the “subject” is just a grammatically generated myth. Language forces us to phrase things in such ways as, “I think”, but really all that exists is the attribute, the thinking. Take away the thinking and what’s left over of the “I”? Nothing.

        So Descartes’ famous saying is just a tautology. Since he dogmatically postulates the “I” in the first place, he’s really saying nothing more than, “I am, therefore I am”.

        N called this the fiction of soul atomism. (Beyond Good and Evil section 12. Sections 16 and 17 are also key for this point.)

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        I? is the little man inside the brain.

        And where is the little man’s I?

        Well, I believe there is another little-little man inside the little man’s brain.

  7. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    And if you agree overthinking is the problem of the modern man or post-modern man for that matter (maybe I should say ‘especially), then you believe, ‘I think, therefore I am not’ as in ‘I am not happy.’

    1. aet

      “Overthinking the problem of modern man”?

      Now that IS fascist: we would not want to think too much before we follow our Orders from the Fuhrer, eh?

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Non-thinking is never fascist. We could only hope der Fuehrer was non-thinking.

        You are over-thinking.

  8. Stephen V.

    Re: WMT in Chi-town. It is high time that Joe the Plumber & Co. grasps this simple economic fact: one person’s expenditure is another’s income.
    If you shop there, don’t rail about their *associates* (so-called) low wages & the attendant social costs that WMT externalizes on the community.

  9. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    What the heck…I am going all out.

    Thinking IS the problem and Zen mediation, by emptyinng your mind of all thoughts, is the salvation.

    Personally, I have found out, by trial and error, the best way to empty one’s mind of thoughts is to watch daytime TV.

    Just thought I’d share that secret with other Naked Capitalists.

    1. Jim in MN

      The cherry blossoms each year
      bloom on Yoshino Mountain

      Try to see where is the flower
      by cutting the trees.

      –Ikkyu, d. 1481

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Very good, the secret is there is no secret.

          But a white horse is not a horse, so said the Chinese philosopher.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Beautiful, Jim in Min.

        I shalll come again
        to see it – come creaselessly
        as grows velvet moss
        in the Yoshino River
        of which my eyes never tire.

        By Hitomaro for Empress Jito at Yoshino (ancient name of Nara), poem 37 of Manyoshu.

    2. emca

      The therapeutic qualities, let alone spiritual qualities of day-time TeeVee have not been fully appreciated. I watch “Beverly Hillbillies” (137th rerun), therefore I am (really). – additionally, whatever I am, I am not Jethro Bodine, nor, more importantly, is the lack of ability, aptitude or general understanding of reality an impediment to great wealth, ala Jed Clampett.

      These are great lessons to be learned, but I stray from my original intent, whatever that was…

      1. Dave Raithel

        I’ve wondered, for years now, what would come of a conversation between Jethro Bodine and Wittgenstein?

  10. DellaTerious


    All this time reading your blog (such an ugly name for such a wonderful thing), I get so involved with the issues I forget to extend my thanks and appreciation to You for providing this wonderful space. Yours is the only blog that has not only great economic essays, including your own cogent commentary, but includes in it the “Links” section, which I love, and the “Antidote du jour”.

    Can’t wait to read your biography, “All About Yves”.

    Thank You so much: You da Boss!

  11. kevinearick

    I left this over at Wiki, along with general specifications for a trestle. I am leaving it here so you can see the articulation of an output gap information system:

    The global demographic acceleration economy has been paying people to be willfully ignorant, the more ignorant, the higher the pay, until it has finally tapped itself out. Less than half of the US population is working, and most of them are producing an economic loss, because their boss is a computer, pushing efficiency like a drug.

    And don’t fool yourself if you live in another country. The computers have tied all the nation/state systems into one too-big-to-fail package. That’s the lesson, employing computers to replace people, to be avoided. Scandinavia is just as addicted to the oil economy as everyone else.

    The abutment is ready; the bloggers have created the vortex. The trestle, an effective public education system, comes next. Build it or don’t build it. Species walk off the cliff in nature all the time, due to the pressure of group psychology. Swimming against the current is a choice. If you choose to proceed, the pier builders will be right at your back, with an open and transparent job certification process.

    The municipalities may want to start participating, through the expansion of purely municipal interest law, before they get pushed over the cliff by the states, which are being pushed off the cliff by the federal government, which is being pushed by the momentum of the collapsing multi-national cartels. They may want to focus on replacing the artificial distribution system locally before the suprastructure collapses.

    Governments, corporations, cartels, and empires come and go, with increasing frequency, because they seek to protect non-performing assets. Don’t waste your energy; drop the non-performing assets and move forward.

    Off the cliff or over a bridge of your own construction, that’s your choice.

    Now that the façade of debt is falling, participants in the latest mythology, of government creating jobs and capital building bridges to nowhere, are looking for the countervailing power. Labor moved on decades ago. The other abutment is already built. Begin with a familiar sub-circuit, like the sun, a species, and the earth, and build out, until you see the energy common. A snippet is already strung as a footbridge across the abutments.

    If you want a middle class capacitor, start building it, before that black hole behind you expands again. Necessity is the mother of invention; the amount of pain in birth depends on you.

    Money is nothing more than a communication tool. Allowing a handful to define it is like teaching only a handful English, and conducting all transactions in English. If you think about it, the bar is set pretty low, US $500 Trillion in global unfundable liabilities. Surely the roadway builders can do a better job than that.

    Last time around, Paul Volcker had the Internet development motor to pull current from. That current is fading fast due to capitalization.

  12. alex

    Re: Taliban make ‘undetectable’ bombs out of wood

    Nothing new unfortunately. The German’s made wooden mines in WWII to defeat allied mine sweeping.

  13. right-wing loser watch

    Dan’s got a few more weeks to kill until his super extra emergency unemployment runs out. Then he has to fabricate a resume to obscure his cascading avalanche of personal failures, and that’s kind of a project, so he’ll stop with the trying to sound smart for a while. He’ll come back with zits from the oily aerosols of the deep-fryers at McDonald’s, doubly infuriated by his annihilated hopes and dreams but still too chickenshit to enlist in the armed forces he defends.

  14. Moonbeam McSwine

    …and that is when I make my move on that lil hunkahunka burning downward mobilidy Dan Duncan. I always wanted a Wall Street fella but I will settle for a broke loser hanger-onner like that Dan who knows all about stuff even if he can’t ever cash in on it or make sumpin of hisself. Losers is the best patriots cuz America’s all they got – born American, then it’s all downhill from there. I will redeem him with my gamy lurrrhve.

  15. KFritz

    “US Slides Deeper Into Depression……….” precedes the “Americanization of Mental Illness.” Good product placement, I say. Our economic modeling and psychological modeling are equally efficacious.

  16. asphalt_jesus

    On the “Must Read” regarding the Americanization of Mental Illness:

    This is really old news. The field of study is called Sociology and has lots of interesting observations regarding ‘illness’ that could improve the practice of Medicine.

    The work being reconstituted as Psychiatry in order to gain any consideration at all tells you how far Sociology has fallen off the cultural relevance spectrum.

  17. mark

    re: Wal-Mart column.

    Not once in the column does the guy mention the impact of the recession on jobs in the West Chicago area. He cites the period that the data was studied and notes that it’s late 2006 to mid-2008. Um, the economy as a whole lost about 6 million jobs over that time and plenty of small businesses were shuttered. So in other words, it is not an apples-to-apples comparison and correlation does not equal causation. Does he know what the impact on jobs would have been if Wal-Mart had NOT opened that store? Also, he (the study?) is only comparing retailers, what about any restaurants or other businesses nearby? Did they add jobs? Is the store driving traffic in the area?

    I did not read the study, only this guy’s interpretation of it, but it’s a lazy, incomplete analysis that seems like it was presented to try and convince the convinced that Wal-Mart is the devil incarnate.

Comments are closed.