Links 1/8/10

Galleries / Frankenhuman! 9 Lab Animals That Add Up to 1 Person Discover

WH security report was further redacted before release Politico

What’s new in the British police state? Josh Fulton

Fully Played Out? Michael Panzner

Why Is the Whistleblower Who Exposed the Massive UBS Tax Evasion Scheme the Only One Heading to Prison? Democracy Now (hat tip reader Stephen V)

Dorgan Basically Adding To The Hold On Ben Bernanke FireDogLake

The mess that Bernanke is making worse Tim Iacono

Discover® U.S. Spending MonitorSM Drops 3.3 Points in December, as Consumers Anticipate Spending Less after the Holidays Discover (hat tip DoctoRx). This is a Rasmussen poll conducted by Discover, not a survey of its cardholders.

Goldman Sachs Directors Bled The Bank Dry, Shareholder Says Courthouse News Service (hat tip reader Maggie)

2009 US corporate bankruptcies hit third-largest total Raw Story (hat tip reader John D)

Contrarian Investor Sees Economic Crash in China New York Times

Former McKinsey tipster netted $2.6m Financial Times.

One Economist to Rule Them All? Really? Do We Have To? Paul Kedrosky. More or less yes (or at least one doctrine) if you want to pretend economics is a science.

Fed Advice to A.I.G. Scrutinized New York Times. The annoying bit about this article is it parrots an irrelevant defense, “Oh, companies that are in trouble often don’t discuss their dealing with their regulators because it might cause a run.” Huh? AIG was ALREADY government backstopped. Moreover, in those circumstances, it is the company that wants to keep the information private. Here it was AIG that wanted to make the disclosure and the Fed that wanted it kept under wraps. This was NOT about protecting AIG and all about protecting the Fed.

Rents Signal Rise of D.C., Fall of N.Y. Wall Street Journal

Walk Away From Your Mortgage! Roger Lowenstein, New York Times (hat tip reader Don B). The most interesting argument is that if more borrowers walked, banks might be more willing to do mods. No more servicing fees if the homeowner mails in the keys.

(In)Appropriate Policy Responses to Financial Bubbles What Would Diogenes Say?

Is Ben Bernanke descended from the Bourbons? John Cassidy, Financial Times

Antidote du jour (hat tip reader John B):

Think pink … you’re not seeing the world through rose-coloured glasses: This albino dolphin is pink..


Unique … the bottlenose – first spotted in Lake Calcasieu, an inland saltwater estuary in Louisiana, by boat captain Erik Rue, 42, in 2007 – has surfaced again.


Attraction … tourists are flocking to the lake in hopes of seeing the rare mammal.


Rare sight … “Pinky” is believed to be the only pink dolphin in the world, and has “reddish” eyes. It is usually spotted with its dark grey mother.

One of a kind …. there are only 14 other known albino dolphins in the world, all of them white.

Still No To Bernanke Simon Johnson

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  1. B

    There are naturally pink dolphins in Hong Kong, although they are getting more rare due to the horribly polluted water.

  2. fresno dan

    Why Is the Whistleblower Who Exposed the Massive UBS Tax Evasion Scheme the Only One Heading to Prison? Democracy Now

    “What’s triple outrageous—I’m going beyond double—is that then they recommend thirty months imprisonment for Birkenfeld. He gets forty months, more than probably every single tax cheat, the 19,000 of them that he turned in, will get collectively. Olenicoff, the billionaire, who for twenty years was hiding millions and millions of dollars willfully, got probation. A guy named Liechti, who was Birkenfeld’s third line supervisor in the Swiss bank, who was in charge of all the illegal accounts, who was detained and arrested by the Justice Department, was released and let to go back to Switzerland with no prison time or even a conviction, whereas Birkenfeld, who blew the whistle on the whole scheme voluntarily, is going to serve more time in prison than the worst of the wrongdoers that were involved in holding back $20 billion in illegal accounts.”

    The guy is lucky that didn’t give him the death penalty.
    I raise the triple outrageous to super duper quadruple outrageous. If one really looks at the behaviour of prosecutors, it is full of examples of lying and obstruction of justice. Honest judges point this out, but since the only one who can prosecute is another prosecutor…well, catch 22.

    If you looks at the behaviour of US treasury secritaries, chairman of banking committees, et al, it is pretty apparent that the most serious crime today in the US is doing anything not in the interest of a big bank.

    1. Peripheral Visionary

      The more I think about it, the more it becomes clear that this is precisely the situation that the Presidential pardon was created for. When someone acts in the best interest of the country but still gets sentenced for a crime because the judiciary and/or the bureaucracy can’t see the bigger picture, it’s the perfect opportunity for the President to step in and send a message about the country helping those who help it.

      I doubt it will happen, of course, because this is Obama. Maybe if it was an administration official being convicted for criminal perjury there would be a chance for a pardon, but some hapless politically unconnected citizen who just tried to do the right thing doesn’t stand a chance.

  3. attempter

    Re the Lowenstein piece, mortgage walkaways:

    It seems this issue is one of those where it’s already clear that there does not exist a legitimate “con” argument.

    I’ve read maybe two dozen such pieces and none of them could find anyone not being paid to argue against it, and none of the mercenaries or their wannabes in comment threads have come up with a remotely coherent argument for why non-rich individuals up against the system shouldn’t act in exactly the way the rich and the system in general always do.

    The only way we can again have a society and a government is to build a new one from the ground up, starting among our own relocalized economies.

    1. DownSouth

      When those at the pinnacle of the socio-economic order–Paulson, Obama, Geithner, Dimon, Blankfein, Mack, Gorman–are so cavalier about breaking promises, one has to wonder what sort of example this sets for us peasants.

      For a great portrayal of hypocrisy and double standards, I highly recommend a Chinese movie that came out a couple of decades ago, “Raise the Red Lantern”:

      The master of the house philanders with abandon with his five wives. But a moment of indiscretion on the part of one of his wives results in her being dragged to a lone room on the roof of the estate and hanged to death by the master’s servants.

      The movie really captures the mentality of the bankers and their belief that their money gives them the right to dehumanize anybody and everybody:

      Songlian: Mother, stop! You’ve been talking for three days. I’ve thought it over. Alright, I’ll get married.

      Songlian’s mother: Good! To what sort of man?

      Songlian: What sort of man? Is it up to me? You always speak of money. Why not marry a rich man?

      Songlian’s mother: Marry a rich man and you’ll only be his concubine.

      Songlian: Let me be a concubine. Isn’t that a woman’s fate?

      1. attempter

        Yes, around here the mother wouldn’t have argued.

        “Rich man? Of course rich man. What other kind of man is there? Otherwise you’re just a failed whore.”

  4. dearieme

    “if you want to pretend economics is a science….” – depends on whether you reckon “Climate Science” is a science.

    1. Dan Duncan

      They should be categorized as Dentine Science…where “science” is predicated on the fact that “3 out of 4” Dentists, Economists or Climatologists recommend Dentine bubble-gum, Keynesian-tripe and Anthropogenic Global Warming.

      In the annals of science, Francis Bacon is about to be replaced by George Gallup as the Method is now the Madness.

      While we’re at it, we should replace “Anthropogenic Global Warming” with the more accurate and revealing:

      Anthropomorphic Global Warming.

      1. DownSouth

        Dan Duncan,

        It’s rather obvious you fancy yourself quite a wordsmith, believing you can make words dance, working their magic.

        The factual situation is this: All but a handful of scientists endorse the consensus position on global warming.

        Now normally this would be a very good thing for the consensus position on climate change. So the chore of the climate change denier like yourself is to take something good and turn it into something bad. It’s kind of like alchemy in reverse–turning gold into lead.

        So how do you do this? You do it by taking a widely popular slogan that touts a consensus—“3 out of 4 dentists recommend”—that is used in the marketing of dental hygiene products. This slogan casts dentists as crass hawkers of these products. By inductive logic you then try painting all scientists with the same brush.

        Of course there are several things wrong with this.

        To begin with, dentists aren’t really scientists. Many of them aren’t even doctors. So you’re not really comparing apples to apples.

        But if we dig a little deeper, we find that what you have based your entire argument upon is a rather disingenuous bit of Madison Avenue deception.

        Here’s an actual study upon which the dentist claim is made:

        Opinions Regarding the “Goodness” of Various Sources of Fluoride

        Dentists felt that professional treatments were the best source of fluoride. Both OTC rinses and toothpastes containing fluoride were also seen as good sources, just not as good as the professional treatments. Tap water is seen as a “moderately” good source of fluoride and bottled water as a poor source.

        Sources of Fluoride and % who gave that source a high rating:

        • Professional periodic dental fluoride treatment 86%
        • Over-the-counter fluoride rinse 66%
        • Toothpaste containing fluoride 63%
        • Tap water 46%
        • Bottled water 4%

        Preference for Various Characteristics of Mouthwashes

        When asked about their preference for various mouthwash characteristics, more than 8 out of 10 dentists prefer a mouthwash to contain fluoride, fight plaque/gingivitis and kill bad breath germs. They do not want it to contain alcohol and are indifferent to whether it contains CPC.

        The claims made in these commercials are quite different from what the polled dentists actually said, and have little resemblance to the wording of these surveys. But it gets worse, for on top Madison Avenue’s distortions you add another layer of artifice of your own.

        But I believe you overplay your hand. You confuse cute and clever with intelligence. And although this sort of argumentation may work with the average bear, I think you way underestimate the intelligence of the average reader of this blog. I’d be willing to wager that most of them don’t even have to go through the exercise I did, deconstructing your sophistries, in order to know that polemics like this one are quite high on histrionics, but abysmally low on substance.

    2. DownSouth

      dearieme and Dan Duncan,

      While reading I happened to stumble upon your primogenitor the other day, the Cardinal Bellarmine:

      Up until the sixteenth century, the dominant view of the universe was that it was a closed space, bounded by a spherical envelope, with the earth at its center and the celestial bodies, including the stars, the sun and the planets, revolving around it. This geocentric view of the universe was elaborated with great ingenuity by Ptolemy and his followers into a complex astronomical theory that was able to predict the movements of the heavenly bodies with remarkable accuracy.

      Nevertheless, by the time Copernicus turned his attention to the study of the heavens, astronomers had compiled a large mass of detailed observations, principally concerning the locations of the planets and the precession of the equinoxes, that the Ptolemaic view could not comfortably account for.

      In 1543, Copernicus published his “De Revolutionibus,” which proposed that the known astronomical observations could be explained better by supposing that the earth rotated on its own axis once a day and revolved around the sun once a year. Several decades later, Galileo, using one of the first astronomical telescopes, produced dramatic evidence in favor of Copernicus’ theory. The Copernican view suggested that the planets should resemble earth, that earth is not the only center around which heavenly bodies revolve, that Venus would exhibit phases and that the universe is vastly larger than had previously been supposed. When Galileo’s telescope revealed mountains on the moon, the moons of Jupiter, the phases of Venus and a huge number of previously unsuspected stars, the stage seemed set for a radical reconception of the universe.

      For his efforts, Galileo was summoned to Rome in 1615, to defend his views against the charge of heresy. The Vatican case was prosecuted by the infamous Cardinal Bellarmine, who when invited by Galileo to look through his telescope to see for himself, is reputed to have refused, saying that he had a far better source of evidence about the make-up of the heavens, namely, the Holy Scripture itself.
      –Paul Boghossian, Fear of Knowledge: Against Relativism and Constructivism

      1. Dan Duncan

        A classic DownSouth response.

        Seriously, I always get a kick out of your malapropisms.

        Primogeniture?! So…are you saying that Cardinal Bellarmine is the 1st born son of myself and dearieme? [Ah, Dearieme, is there something you need to tell me?]

        The best part, DownSouth, is that you never fail to bludgeon some word (or concept) at those times when you are digging deep to impress with your erudition.

        If Cardinal Bellarme is my Primogenitor, then DownSouth… your PROGENITOR is straight from Richard Sheridan’s 18th Century play—“The Rivals.”

        Her name is Mrs. Malaprop.

        Of course, with all your “Air You Dishin'”, I’ve no doubt you’re quite familiar this work.

        Perhaps you could regale us with another riveting multi-page block quote?!

        Look for the part where Mrs. Malaprop comforts Lydia by counseling her to “promise to forget this fellow–to illiterate him, I say, from your memory”.

        It would be the very Pine-Apple of literary references.

        DownSouth, I really do hope you reprehend the meaning of what I’m saying.

        1. DownSouth

          Dan Duncan,

          You say: “Perhaps you could regale us with another riveting multi-page block quote?!”

          Well let’s try this one:

          Climate change caused by rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) is now widely recognized. But the other side of the equation—the massive absorption of CO2 by the ocean—has received far less attention. The planet’s seas quickly absorb 25 to 30 percent of humankind’s CO2 emissions and about 85 percent in the long run, as water and air mix at the ocean’s surface. We have “disposed” of 530 billion tons of the gas in this way, and the rate worldwide is now one million tons per hour, faster than experienced on earth for tens of millions of years. We are acidifying the ocean and fundamentally changing its remarkably delicate geochemical balance. Scientists are only beginning to investigate the consequences, but comparable natural changes in our geologic history have caused several mass extinctions throughout the earth’s waters.

          That careful balance has survived over time because of a near equilibrium among the acids emitted by volcanoes and the bases liberated by the weathering of rock. The pH of seawater has remained steady for millions of years. Before the industrial era began, the average pH at the ocean surface was about 8.2 (slightly basic; 7.0 is neutral). Today it is about 8.1.

          Although the change may seem small, similar natural shifts have taken 5,000 to 10,000 years. We have done it in 50 to 80 years. Ocean life survived the long, gradual change, but the current speed of acidification is very worrisome. Emissions could reduce surface pH by another 0.4 unit in this century alone and by as much as 0.7 unit beyond 2100. We are hurtling toward an ocean different than the earth has known for more than 25 million years.
          –Peter G. Brewer and James Barry, “Rising Acidity in the Ocean: The Other CO2 Problem,” Scientific American, October, 2008.

          I wonder, what it’s like to live in a fact-free universe?

          To be ignorant is one thing. But to be willfully ignorant is entirely something else. And then on top of that, you, dearieme and a couple of others come on this blog and, almost on a daily basis, search for the slightest little hook upon which to hang your anti-scientific, anti-scientist hyperbole.

          But then, lo and behold, when someone challenges you on your flat-earth nonsense, you go ballistic, becoming indignant. I just don’t get it. You can dish it out, but when it comes to taking it, your skin becomes as thin as tissue paper. But then, I suppose that’s the only rhetorical strategy available to you. You certainly can’t defend your anti-science based on any factual reality.

        2. Anonymous Jones

          Oh seriously, Dan, who the f*ck the cares?

          Attacking style or slips-of-the-tongue or malaprops is the last refuge of the man who has nothing to argue on the substance of the matter.

          And I hesitate to even mention this, but I assume you’ve already realized that “primogenitor” is *not* the same word as “primogenture.” I am hesitating to bring it up because your comment was so infantile that your ignorance of vocabulary is really far down the list of your problems today. I would laugh at you if I didn’t think it beneath me.

          Sometimes I really wonder why I waste my f*cking time with these comments. It’s not the just that the idiocy is only on the surface; there’s multiple levels to the idiocy! It’s like a f*cking onion…every f*cking new layer makes me cry.

          There’s apparently no hope of ever educating anyone.

      2. craazyman

        I have referred to Ptolemaic astronomy as the blueprint for today’s Washington-DC-Fed/Treasury/Industrial complex inspired financial regulation.

        They will contort all sorts of risk management theories dressed up with math and equations so the looters can continue to loot.

        But let there be a Copernicus that comes along and would say . . . “No proprietary trading / No looting / No bailouts” . . . he’d no doubt be treated like a Copernicus by today’s “Holy See”. The See your tax money and they take it.

    3. wunsacon

      If there is predictability in some models, then you should call it “science”. Carl Sagan predicted Venus would be very hot based on its greenhouse gases and a very dense atmosphere. That’s why its surface temperature is hotter than Mercury by some 300 degrees F. If you absorb more heat than some prior baseline, then your atmosphere will heat up.

      It’s the precise timing of temperature change that’s difficult to nail down. Will the global average temperature increase by 0.15% in 10 years? In 30 years? Very difficult to predict. By the time we achieve the certainty you demand (before we crimp your lifestyle), I bet we will be past important tipping points.

      Scientists put a man on the moon 40 years ago, with the computing power of calculators. They’re a lot more accurate than economists, bankers, realtors, and lobbyists working for the fossil fuel mining industry. What’s your profession, that makes you so knowledgeable as to disagree? What makes you so smart that you know better than 99.5% of scientists?

    4. old fat guys

      If your little science mots aren’t published in a peer-reviewed journal then fuck off. You know shit about statistics. You know shit about differential equations. You Birchers talk about climate change like pedophiles talk about the Olsen twins. You won’t ever know what you’re talking about.

  5. sherparick

    Rents in D.C. are falling and in the next year the vacancy rate, already high, will soar with the movement of DoD personnel onto Ft. Belvoir, Bolling A.F.B, Washington Navy Yard, and Andrews and other Government owned and controlled accessed facilities. This is a total of 30,000 workers.

    Ed Glaeser has noted that household formation in the U.S. is now half what it was during the bubble years. I don’t see it picking up either with official unemployment around 10% and U6 unemployment near 18%. Adult children moving in with parents, parents moving in with adult children, siblings moving in together, friends, and roommates. This means that it will take even longer for all that excess housing inventory to get soaked up.

    1. Peripheral Visionary

      I am in D.C., and vacancies have been higher than usual, which I believe is putting downward pressure on rents. My own complex is just one of several others in my moderately respectable neighborhood that have been actively looking for more tenants.

      Demand has held up reasonably well, thanks to an increase in jobs from Federal hiring, so the root of the problem is a huge glut of new supply, primarily in the form of massive condominium complexes converted to apartments at the last minute as the bottom fell out of the mortgage market. The new condos-turned-apartments have put pressure on the high end of the apartment market, which in turn has put pressure on the mid-range apartment market, which was overpriced to begin with. Apartment rents are finally moving in a rational direction–down–but there is still some distance to go before rents and incomes get back into balance.

      Commercial real estate is an utter disaster, of course. K Street vacancies are filling up (cue the “Hope and Change” jokes), but the Dulles Corridor is a wasteland of see-through buildings. Overall, the D.C. real estate/rental scene isn’t “great” as much as it is “not horrible”, which puts it ahead of much of the country.

  6. craazyman

    If the Wall Street 3-Card-Monte firms (I mean banks) did walkaways they’d find a way to recognize a profit from the reduction in future liabilities, and then get taxpayer money to cover their bonus for it.

    Good for Lowenstein to write that. I loved his book “When Genius Failed”.

  7. dearieme

    You’ve got to be pretty brave, not to say foolhardy, to accuse an anonymous commentator of being anti-science without pondering the possibility that he is himself a scientist, but one who hates to see the reputation of science damaged by the antics of the duds and hoodlums who comprise the Global Warming Gang.

    1. snarkman

      While no one can prove conclusively that you are not a scientist, it looks like a virtual certainty that you are not a climate scientist, and no one would take seriously the opinion, say, of a biologist or a geologist on climate science.


      1. You seem very vested in the anti-global warming point of view; you would have mentioned your status as a scientist to bolster your credibility, instead of using it defensively to attack a poster who believes in global warming

      2. If you were a climate scientist and had some credible evidence (as in something you had published in a peer reviewed journal or knew of) you would have linked to it

      3. Your denigration of climate science confirms you are not a scientist with expertise in this area

      4. Anyone who merely knows logic or rhetoric, as Yves likes to remind us, knows that an ad hominem attack, which is all you have offered, is the refuge of someone with no substantive argument

  8. Jessica6

    According to Douglas Adams’ “Last Chance to See…” there were pink dolphins in the Yangtze River in China but they were dying off due to pollution. They might very well be extinct by now. Supposedly there are also pink dolphins in the Amazon. However, I believe those are all freshwater Dolphins rather than saltwater ones.

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