Links 3/1/10

Apologies for thin posts tonight. Your humble blogger feels like death warmed over.

Chimps are intelligent enough to appreciate a full pint BBC

US manufacturers face skills shortages Financial Times

Network News at a Crossroads New York Times

The illusory China-selling TIC data FT Alphaville. This is not the first post of this sort (I think Michael Pettis gets the credit of filling in, at least as far as China is concerned, for the much-missed Brad Setser), but more eyes on the data are always welcome.

Size doesn’t matter, says white paper on systemic risk Risk (hat tip Richard Smith). The title overstates the case made by the paper, which makes some sound observations.

Germany leans against giving aid to Greece Eurointelligence. European stock markets all up nicely as of this writing, and Bloomberg also has a story, Corporate Bonds Rally by Most Since August on Greece Plan, which together suggest these issues have not yet registered on markets.

The Meaning of MERS The Chink in the Armor. Makes a bold claim, that the failure of MERS to hold the promissory note (essential for it to have legal standing) has broad implications as far as the legitimacy of title and title transfer are concerned. I’d welcome knowledgeable reader input.

Pictures of a Market Crash: Beware the Ides of March, And What Follows After Jesse

Hyperbole and outright lies billy blog

RBS paid £1.3bn bonuses on profit of just £1bn Telegraph (hat tip reader Swedish Lex)

Europe: A meeting of minds Financial Times (hat tip reader Swedish Lex)

Greece urges expatriates to help cut its debt Guardian. Wishful thinking, big tim.

Soros Criticizes Obama’s Bailout Wall Street Journal

Greece Now, U.K. Next as Scots Investors Ready for Pound Plunge Bloomberg

Financial Reform Endgame Paul Krugman, New York Times. I differ with his argument re the merit of passing an imperfect health care reform bill, but that’s an aside in an otherwise very sound piece.

Antidote du jour. From the BBC:

A tigress was returned to the wilds of Storekhali forest in India on Wednesday. She was found wandering near human habitation and caught by conservationists. They have now fitted her with a radio collar to track her progress and released her.

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  1. attempter

    Hope you feel better, Yves!

    As for Krugman, he gives no rationale for why phony health racket bills are different from phony finance racket bills.

    I always go with Smash the Charade over the craven, wretched “let’s get some kind of crumbs and try to make a meal out of it years later”. So kill both bills. It’s insult added to injury. Make them own their shame, as Krugman correctly says about the finance bill but fails to say on the health bill.

    And the health fraud is actually far worse. So far as I can tell the finance sham would mostly confirm the status quo ante and not add much in the way of new assaults.

    But the health racket bailout not only entrenches the status quo, not only lies about cost controls and extending coverage, but would very aggressively attack the people through this tyrannical mandate. The intent is to round up a conscript market, so that the antitrust-exempted rackets, who already face no market competition, would also no longer have to compete with non-participation. They would then have total freedom to raise rates however high their pleasure dictates. The IRS would be the hired thug collecting these extortion payments.

    And the implications go much further than that. If this mandate to purchase a worthless private product could pass constitutional muster, it’s difficult to see how the government could be prevented from mandating any purchase of any worthless thing from any well-connected corporate interest.

    Forget the CFPA – how about an agency mandating that individuals buy mortgage securities? If we don’t all personally support housing bubbles we’re being antisocial, right? Obama certainly thinks so.

    I think Krugman maintains some level of independence where it comes to direct “economic” issues, but on anything which spills over into the broader political realm, like health racket bailouts, he’s a mere Democratic hack.

    (Another example – after his excellent opposition to Bush’s private Iraq war, K’s silence on Obama’s private Afghan escalation, not to mention O’s backpedalling on Iraq withdrawal, speaks volumes. Hackery.)

    1. jimmy james

      As for Krugman, he gives no rationale for why phony health racket bills are different from phony finance racket bills.

      Hate to defend Krugman here, but he does give a reason. A pretty decent one, in my opinion (although I disagree with his ultimate conclusion).

      The idea is that we won’t know, empirically, that financial reform is a pile of shit until the whole thing blows sky-high, whereas with health care we will know that it’s a pile of shit immediately (and thus we’ll be more likely to fix it).

      For what it’s worth.

      1. attempter

        I did see that, but I rejected it as a reason to be taken seriously. Everyone already knows how bad this bill is and they’re not fixing it now. Why would anyone change afterward?

        We already know this proposal won’t reduce costs or extend coverage. We already know any racket will easily evade any “regulation”, and any “regulation” will never be seriously enforced by this government.

        For example, a ban on pre-existing? They’ll just ramp up the rates on any such undesirable policy as to render it unaffordable. Ban on rescissions? We already know that’s a flat-out lie, since the bill contains a huge loophole which would leave the ststus quo intact.

        Meanwhile the mandate places the captive market at the complete mercy of these criminals. The only limit on their abilities to raise rates infinitely would be how much blood they could squeeze. “Subsidies” will cover it? A lie. The same scum who are promising subsidies are those who want to gut SS and Medicare as we speak. Government will somehow restrict those rates? How? Through Obama’s pathetic puling?

        No serious person thinks this bill will restrict the rackets in any way.

        So we already know this bill won’t fix anything and will only make things worse. That Krugman himself can stand there right now and lie is a good refutation of his premise that when things get even worse, immediately, they’ll have to take further action to really fix the thing this time.

  2. Ina Pickle

    Feel better, Yves! So much of property/foreclosure is a state law question, it is possible that there are 50 different answers to the MERS problem. Sure, lots of this is quite uniform – in letter. It interests me, therefore, how much of this is going to end up running through state court and how much will move through the Federal bankruptcy system. The answer might be different, even purporting to apply the same law.

    This failure to hold the note, to physically be able to hand over the piece of paper, could be a serious technical roadblock to collecting on the note. I doubt that the courts will void the note, though. I am not sure that I agree that title cannot be cleared under the current system, but I only know one state’s law on the matter (and that state is incredibly generous on this issue of title): perhaps the problem is more one of whether you can actually insure that title – a roadblock in and of itself.

    Of course, this isn’t really a paperless system: I find it incredibly hard to believe that anyone held a closing without a signature on a promissory note. The issue is WHERE IS IT, and are the assignments purporting to transfer that note in order? Remember that the note itself has power, and can be used to collect even if fully satisfied. As the homeowner, I want that original note back. If it was imaged and shredded, that sort of flies in the face of hundreds of years of practice and we’re on some odd ground. But really, what are the chances that the banks will lose out on this, rather than the homeowners? Bad facts make bad law, as we say, and I think some bad law is about to get made.

    1. David

      NY State has voided two mortgages that I know of, but I’m not sure of whether both of them were for failure to produce the note. On the other hand, have any mortgages been upheld despite failure to produce the note?

      Somebody must be keeping track of outcomes here, and I would expect that by now the argument that the note is missing has been raised in multiple cases. We’ve known this is a problem for months now. What are the results looking like, does anyone have a good idea of it?

    2. Catherine Isobe

      Yves, I am a foreclosure defense attorney in New York. Inapickle is correct that the MERS debacle mostly plays out in state courts, with varying results. But the issue of missing notes is only a small part of the opportunity, er problem, created by the MERS scheme.

      MERS itself has only a few employees, and it relies on “officers” allegedly appointed by corporate resolution, to sign off on the thousands of mortgage assignments done in its name. The “officers” are actually employees of mortgage servicers or document custodian companies, but almost never are they employees or bona fide agents of the actually entity purportedly doing the assigning.

      Most assignments of securitized loans I’ve seen go directly from the originator to the trustee, skipping at least 2 steps in the chain of title incident to a securitization as described in a PSA. I’ll leave the securities experts to catalog the problems caused by this little shortcut.

      The MERS scheme (or more accurately, sloppy securitization) has in effect deprived many NY foreclosure plaintiffs of their standing to sue– their ability to prove ownership of the note & mortgage at the time of commencement of the foreclosure action. So pretty much every foreclosure case I get my hands on within the defendant’s time limit to file their answer, I can stop. Eventually, the transaction costs force the plaintiff to negotiate. That’s what all litigators want- a bigger stick with which to force a settlement favorable to our clients. I don’t call it bad law. I call it karma.

    3. Tom Blanton

      Much of what the MERS article contains is pure bunk. Ina is right about there possibly being 50 different answers to the MERS problem. Here in Virginia, a Deed of Trust state, MERS has presented no problem as there is no judicial sale, but rather a Trustee’s sale. The stuff about not being able to ever get clear title though is hogwash. There will always be some remedy for releasing liens where a noteholder can’t be determined. The borrower knows who he has been paying, I would hope.

      There is just so much wrong with this article, it would take too much effort to address it all. There are some good comments at the chink in the armor site.

      The original source of the article is which is known for bizarre conspiracy stories. But, it is apparent that the author is unfamiliar with MERS and real estate law in general.

  3. DownSouth

    ► “Hyperbole and outright lies” billy blog

    Absolutely superb!

    This guy is dead on as to how the international criminal banking cartel operates.

    And he hits on one of my favorite themes, which is that Argentina showed Greece the way:

    The riots in December 2001 brought home to the Government the folly of their strategy. In early 2002, they defaulted on government debt and trashed the currency board. US dollar-denominated financial contracts were forceably converted in into peso-denominated contracts and terms renegotiated with respect to maturities etc.
    This default has been largely successful.

    So I say to the Greek people: Protest! Riot! Drag your sorry lying bag-of-shit elite politicians out onto the street and set their sorry asses on fire! Do whatever it takes to demonstrate to them that they work for you and not the neoliberal banker Euro-fascists in Athens or in Brussels.

    1. Greg

      Thanks again Yves for another link to “billy blog”. He really knows the monetary system and how the banksters are gaming it.


      I hope you visit his site more, ask questions and add to the comment section (probably the most informative comment section in the blogosphere). I’ve known of the place for 3-4 months and cant get enough. Look forward to seeing you there.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Between the bankers and the Greek people who voted for all those prestidigitatory-banker-friendly governments, it’s hard to decide which one to root for.

      I am not able to get too excited about this new paradigm of ‘the government of the angry people, for the angry people and by the angry people’ when for a long time, the good Greek people have acquiesced to ‘the government against the people, versus the people and over the people.’

    3. john bougearel


      And on the Yves of your BPD you decide to feel like death warmed over? Maybe this is a signal for a much needed vacation on a sunny island somewhere’s over the rainbow.

      Get well soon!

      The comment thread to “Chink in the Armor’s bold claim that MERS failure to hold a promissory note gives it no legal standing with regard to title and title standing which may be of interest to you was as follows:

      MinnItMan says:
      March 1, 2010 at 11:15 am

      This post seriously misstates what MERS is and is not. MERS is neither a lender nor an active servicer. It is a clearinghouse for tranferring security interests (that is, the real-estate-secured part of loans) without the necessity of recording actual assignments of those interests. My state has a specific statute authorizing MERS to act as the nominal party in interest for a “mortgagee” for the party(ies) who are the actual owners. See Minn. Stat. Sec. 507.413 AUTHORITY OF MORTGAGEE DESIGNATED AS NOMINEE OR AGENT.

      Before you conclude that they are cheating the system, it pays to know the history. Before MERS, public records systems were lousy with title defects caused by incorrect and missing documents in the chain of title. Lenders, of course, were on the hook to correct the problems, but it didn’t really matter since most were no longer in business. MERS was a good solution for this, and it was in the public interest to accomodate this system. MERS was a significant step forward, and despite claims to the contrary, has provided significant benefits to the consumer, which only come to light when old-style problems come to light for non-MERS mortgages.

      MERS definitely greases the skids for securitization, which may ultimately be an unsupportable concept, but even there, people need to be careful what they wish for – a world of merely originate-and-hold mortgages.

      Certainly, Countrywide was a main player in the housing crisis, but it was far from the only one, and it was one, that at least in some sense, ceased to exist, unlike others.

      I am a consumer rights lawyer, and posts like this are not all that helpful. There are plenty of real problems out there, and regardless of technicalities, the typical foreclosure defense case really comes down to: “did you borrow money? Did you think you don’t need to pay it back? Do you think you can live in your house for free?” Common sense still means something.

      admin says:
      March 1, 2010 at 11:58 am

      In 2005, MERS argued at the State appellate level, and won, the right to define themselves exactly as we are defining them now. The ID BK decision confirms it at the Federal level. The world you describe, while utopian, does not address the FACTS. The facts are that MERS is exactly as they are being descirbed and further court decisions all over the country are affirming that description and defining the ramifications thereof. MERS has no actionable interest in relation to any given deed of trust.

      We do not bring this issue to light in defense of those who have fallen on hard times and are no longer able to pay rent, much less mortgage because their heretofore productive jobs have been shipped overseas; we do this for those who are still making it, the ones further up the treadmill. They have to see that as the system is set up to operate, they own nothing after 20-30 years. They are doomed if they continue on the road they are on and by the time they find out, it will be way too late to do anything about it. They buy in at an early age, and when at an age when it is more difficult to adapt a changing life condition, they realize they are trapped.

      These are the facts. These are the ramifications. Read the court cases. Jurisdiction after jurisdiction are confirming it at the state and federal level

      MinnItMan says:
      March 1, 2010 at 12:11 pm

      I can only speak to my jurisdiction. MERS is the nominee on the mortgage. Usually, there is a final assignment of the mortgagee’s interest before foreclosure starts, and the mortgage (really the Mortgage ID Number – MIN) drops out of the MERS database. The mortgage foreclosure then proceeds in name of the last assignee.

      The MERS as nominee issue is mostly dead here, and was largely settled in the Jackson case. “The assignment of an underlying indebtedness, unaccompanied by an assignment of the security instrument, is not an “assignment of the mortgage” which must be recorded before commencement of a mortgage foreclosure by advertisement under Minn. Stat. ch. 580 (2006).
      Certified question answered in the negative.” Jackson, et al. v MERS, Opinion (Minn. Supreme Court, Aug. 13, 2009).

      Assuming that the above comment is directed at me, I think the burden is on those saying that this is a great issue to come up with high-impact results, preferably appellate decisions that control for litigants going forward. I’ve followed this for years, and the favorable cases so far are out-liers for the most part.

      admin says:
      March 1, 2010 at 12:23 pm

      See the correction. Mea Culpa.

      marlborojones says:
      March 1, 2010 at 4:23 pm

      As a hard working title searcher in the trenches, I have to say that MERS made properly releasing mortgages a lot easier. But now I guess they’re calling it illegal.

      One of the problems with mortgages that I have never really seen hinted at is the profound problems in the chain of title that a lot of them had. With some of these bad mortgages and titles, the first mortgage holder never had a superior lien on the property.

      I guess that’s why one of my old employers, Commonwealth Land Title, declared bankruptcy. They had issued too many policies on too much sloppy title work.

      admin says:
      March 1, 2010 at 5:53 pm

      It’s the chain of title and the corporate documents creating MERS that we are talking about here. That is the very crux of the issue. Take a look at MERS v. Nebraska Dept of Banking and Finance

      The link to the MERS v Nebraska case is

  4. Keenan

    RE: US Manufacturers Face Skills Shortage

    Cost containment is highly incentivized in the management of U.S. industry, perhaps to the degree that it is imperiling the long term prospects of the enterprise.

    The prevailing mindset calculates along these lines:

    Offer the skilled incentives to stay on the job?
    No, higher pay rates / insurance / benefits for high seniority personnel all add up to more costs – reducing management bonuses.

    Invest in training programs? No, another cost that we don’t want to internalize. And why train them when a competitor will hire them away.

    Socialize the costs and privatize the profits – just not quite as outrageously as did the financial biz.

    Yves – hope you’re feeling well soon.

    1. Borealis

      Keenan – Yes. They keep trying to square the circle of a profit-maximizing, no-investment “flexible work force”, while removing the incentives and career stability necessary to provide the experience, and develop the competence and expertise, that fosters innovation and maintains crucial “institutional knowledge”. Some of the companies mentioned in the article have been actively avoiding hiring American workers for years, and then act like its a big mystery that young people haven’t been investing time and sweat, and undertaking ruinous amounts of debt, in order to offer themselves as disposable, disrespected widgets for the convenience of management.

      These “skills shortage” articles have been filling up column inches for years, but I guess they just don’t see the irony of bemoaning the alleged indifference of the young to technical careers, all the while they are laying off their parents in droves, and offshoring and outsourcing anything not nailed down. Anecdotally, I’ve come across many stories of those “soon to be retiring” crucially skilled workers mentioned in the article, who have advised their own children away from their fields, precisely because of these unfortunate short-sighted attitudes.

      I was gratified recently to recently hear a local manufacturing CEO recognize that this mind set of the last couple of decades has led to our “eating our technological and manufacturing seed corn”, but I don’t get the impression that he or anyone else has any ideas for correcting or reversing this state of affairs.

      1. Claire

        Woah–slow down there for a second.

        I am an engineer who used to design/build/test High Voltage equipment for a manufacturer until I left to a utility for higher pay, less stress, and more job stability. In my experience, some of what you say is correct, but you are missing some other aspects of the business.

        1. A single company can’t do much. My company basically spent a lot of money to train me, but because there are shortages everywhere in this industry, other places wanted to hire me once I was trained. My company basically subsidized the training of the local utility, which needed my expertise because they spent the last two decades cutting back on costs, partly because the public screamed bloody murder any time it tried to increase absurdly low power prices. Other manufacturers were also trying to lure me away for the same reasons. Meaybe the entire industry should have collectively spent more on training, etc, but as the situation currently stands, anybody who trains their engineers is basically subsidizing a competitor’s future labor (who can afford to pay more on salaries because they are spending less on training). Given this predicament, how should management react?

        2. The skills that even my (former) specialized company is seeking has changed rapidly over the last decade. It’s not a matter of paying some money upfront to train somebody once and to then live off that investment. Training is now more like a computer–a rapidly depreciating asset that is more or less worthless after three or four years. In the case of training, though, the company doesn’t even own what it paid for–the employee does, and the employee uses this to go to greener pastures.

        3. Most manufacturers (at least in my industry) are now foreign owned, and decisions are no longer made by local management, but by people halfway around the world. I was (and am) extremely critical of the stupidity of local management, but you must understand that when it came to salaries, etc, they also had to defend their decisions to higher ups and they can’t justify spending 1st world wages when they can pay 3rd world wages elsewhere.

        4. Our customers normally insist on paying the least amount of money for their products, everything else (including quality) be damned. This is partly for budgetary reasons, but mostly for reasons of “transparency” (to ensure that those involved in purchasing a piece of equipment aren’t taking bribes to select a higher-priced quotation). At least in power-related manufacturing (which is what I am most familiar with), there really isn’t that much money paid to management salaries and bonuses. Everyone in the entire company is getting squeezed.

        5. Running a manufacturing plant has very high fixed costs. Without keeping all variable costs down, it becomes very difficult to keep a place running. Salaries (and training) are among the few costs that management had any control over.

        “Anecdotally, I’ve come across many stories of those “soon to be retiring” crucially skilled workers mentioned in the article, who have advised their own children away from their fields, precisely because of these unfortunate short-sighted attitudes.”

        Congratulations. You have just identified a market bottom.

        1. Borealis

          Thanks for the detailed response, Claire – I’m very interested in this topic across industries. It’s surely true that a single company can’t do much, and the responsibility for preserving and guarding the nation’s technological mojo can’t be wholly dumped on individual companies trying to make a buck in a competitive world.

          Re talent poaching: Keenan did mention this problem in his original comment. As you illustrate, a skills shortage obviously leaves companies open to talent-predation by rivals (and loss of investment). But this lack of training opportunities also leads to…skills shortages. I’m not sure where a steady supply of workers with highly specialized skills is supposed to come from if no one will train them. Rely on fresh grads trained in the latest? I guess you can go that route, but that does kind of kill incentive to enter the field in the first place, if rapid skill depreciation with no on-the-job training means you’re unemployable in a few years time. Apropos of skills depreciation, do you think experience, in your field, is of value (assuming one remains current)? Or is a fresh grad as desirable as a 20-year veteran (aside from just being cheaper), assuming both have the desired current skills?

          Re the sticky problem of remaining a First World country on a planet of Third World wages. Nice cosmic joke the way that, in order to remain competitive as an advanced high tech nation, (some say) we’re going to have to accept the wages and living conditions of people in less developed nations who can work for a lot less. Bit of a paradox, eh? Kinda kills the whole point of being an advanced high-tech nation. (Not being entirely facetious here.)

          Interesting point about the low-quote/low-quality/avoiding the appearance of bribery phenomenon. Was that your U.S. clients or is that true of everybody?

          1. Keenan

            Going one step further, on a planet of third world wages will there be a sufficient market to sustain innovative products through their early stages. Would the automobile have emerged as the economic driver of the twentieth century if Ford hadn’t implemented his pioneering compensation policies.

          2. Claire

            Anytime, Borealis. This topic has been in my head a lot since I first started that job. I find it fascinating, to be honest. Doctors and other professionals have managed to keep their salaries high by limiting their supply, both through domestic admissions and by making it difficult for foreigners to gain accreditation domestically. This is not a sustainable fix, though, and it will be interesting to see if doctors will continue to make so much more than the median income 20 yrs from now.

            Again, I can’t speak for other industries, but in mine, much of the fresh talent came from experienced people in the third world who wanted to live in the first world, or students from the third world who would take jobs to get citizenship. There are, relatively speaking, few electrical engineering grads who were born and raised in the first world (“it’s too tough/boring/time-consuming”), and the ones who made it through generally left the field soon thereafter to get into the lucrative finance/management areas. Almost all of those who stayed went to work for the Silicon-valley type companies (minus communications and electromagnetics–those classes were filled with foreigners for the most part) and DoD-related firms, which are reluctant to hire foreigners for security reasons.

            The irony is that all these foreigners actually masked the skills shortage for a while. The shortage only became apparent once the industry started growing and foreigners found that they could live even better at home than in the country. I’ll bet that if the US continues to decline and foreigners go back to their home countries in growing numbers, you’re going to find that nothing will get done in the engineering-related sectors until a new batch of geers have time to graduate.

            When going through university ~15yrs ago, I assumed that tech and finance would cool down eventually, and that everyone would go back to power and manufacturing (I clearly wasn’t the sharpest 20yr old…). I think a lot of this could have happened a long time ago in the financial sector had Greenspan and Bernanke let the industry take its lumps when things got out of hand (in 97, 98, 2001, and 2007). If America becomes more protectionist, I imagine some of those skills will come back as well eventually (and I’ll hopefully make a small fortune between the demand shock and the time it takes to create a new supply). But something that’s lost in all these discussions about saving banks, etc, is that talent what is in scarcest supply and in highest demand. By essentially subsidizing the financial sector, the US is destroying its high-tech sectors, because, as you said, nobody’s going to go through all that work for a measly salary and no job security. I have never seen this topic addressed.

            As for skills depreciation–the knowledge I gained is still relevant, but the ways of carrying out the work becomes less so. The best analogy I can give without going into details is that all those guys who built ships and planes by using a slide rule and blueprint drawings were still incredibly important once computers came about, but their methods were supplanted by programming and CAD. Very few of the new and undertrained people who could produce because they knew CAD software actually know what they are doing in a very basic sense–they just have a powerful design tool that means that they don’t need to understand what’s going on until something goes wrong. It’s very hard to replace accumulated knowledge, but companies and utilities seem to work around that by hiring the “old guard” as consultants when they are needed.

            “Interesting point about the low-quote/low-quality/avoiding the appearance of bribery phenomenon. Was that your U.S. clients or is that true of everybody?”

            Everybody, although some countries will only use local manufacturers, cost be damned (this in turn results in the manufacturers screwing them over, because they can without penalty). The way manufacturers get around this rule btw, is to either undercharge initially and then charge an arm and a leg when customers make changes (which is often, because the utilities lost so much expertise that they no longer have any idea what they are doing), or to cheat on the manner in which they test products before shipment using the Goldman Sachs model–just barely within the confines of the rules, but not at all ethical or in the spirit of them.It makes me laugh to realize that the Goldman Sachs lawyers who are screwing the world with technicalities may wake up one day to find themselves with no power because thepower companies’ lawyers learned from their chicanery….

            As for the first world/third world, I think the entire discrepancy may just have been a historical accident that is now correcting itself. China and most of Latin America, for example, were screwed up places first because of colonialism, and then because of Mao’s idiocies. After they started following a somewhat market-based model, they were bound to eventually catch up with the existing 1st world. Of course, since they are also now competing with the 1st world for resources, living standards in the 1st world (which were higher than they would have originally been with competition) will also decline.

            I guess another way of looking at it is that if Asia, Africa, and Latin America never fell behind a few hundred years ago, this wouldn’t even be a discussion point today. It doesn’t console me very much personally, but maybe it’s just inevitable. I keep turning this one over in my head.

            Hope this provides some insight. In the meanwhile, going back to my original post, if you ran, say, GE or Siemens or ABB, what would you try to do to keep an edge? I too am very curious about possibilities here

          3. Claire

            One more thing–the fact that everybody is encouraging their children to not enter these fields really suggests a market bottom. The market is delicate enough right now that any push could really send salaries soaring. The same thing happened in the oil industry a few years ago.

          4. Borealis

            Claire – so much interesting stuff! Don’t want to hijack Yves’ thread too much here – just a few comments. What would I do to keep an edge? Hmm, I’m sure you don’t want me making the strategic decisions – but they also serve who only complain and ask questions! Your examples of Siemens and GE do make me think of the influence of “institutional culture”, and (again, anecdotal) commentary from people who’ve had the corporate experience in one or the other. Siemens (as one might expect for such an enduring company) struck my acquaintances as having a markedly more “long haul” attitude than other big corps they’d worked for, not the destructive “attention-deficit disorder management”, as one described their other employment experiences. (It’s not like they said “hey, kids, wouldn’t it be fun to trade in a century and a half of engineering mojo and go nuts on financial services instead!?”) I know, this doesn’t really answer your question, just a random comment.

            As for immigrants masking the extent of real shortages, I suspect native lack of interest becomes a self-reinforcing trend, even after it gets kick-started by all the native engineering talent, as you say, heading for the greener pastures of finance, instead. “Stapling a green card” to every foreign graduate’s diploma sounds like a good idea in itself, but must have some effect on opportunities for natives in the longer-term. Which ties up with that your essential point about: “By essentially subsidizing the financial sector, the US is destroying its high-tech sectors, because, as you said, nobody’s going to go through all that work for a measly salary and no job security. I have never seen this topic addressed.” I *have* seen this addressed, just not by anybody with a public pulpit, or “anybody who’s anybody” in our political class. Mainly people like you, in blog posts, occasionally with a link to some unread paper on the subject. If “somebody who’s somebody” writes about in a better-known venue, it’s usually some glib boilerplate about “investing in education”. (Yes, lots of our schools suck, but it’s a big country, and we graduate thousands of talented, well-prepared students every year, who do not suck, and can compete with the best of ’em. Nobody who’s anybody is interested in what they’re doing, because it’s easier to write the 50,000th vacuous op-ed about “investing in education”, than strive to inform the public, or make policy, about what is actually a complicated economic issue.)

            I’ve heard lots of variants of your comments about CAD and real understanding. I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but I had an old-school physics prof (hard-ass, buzz-cut, horn-rim glasses and all) in college (c.1990) who allowed no “new fangled” tools of any sort in his lower-level classes, as he believed they interfered with a student’s developing genuine understanding and intuitive “feel” for the material.

            Re First World/Third World – yeah, there’s a lot to be said for it’s being so much historical ephemera. Things change. Sometimes they even improve despite all reasonable predictions.

            “It makes me laugh to realize that the Goldman Sachs lawyers who are screwing the world with technicalities may wake up one day to find themselves with no power because thepower companies’ lawyers learned from their chicanery….”

            This cracked me up. Best of luck to you with making a killing out of passing on your skills subsequent to that possible market bottom. Hopefully the tech base isn’t so gutted that we can’t get quickly up to speed with a new generation. I’ve lived in countries where nobody knew how to run the utilities properly (or were prevented from doing so by corruption), and it’s no fun. Though there are those who richly deserve the trouble.

          5. Borealis

            Keenan – somebody out there must be quantifyin’ and running regressions and coming up with metrics for real innovation. I’ve wondered myself whether the “race to the bottom” has a deleterious effect on innovation. Even within the First World you hear the old timers sigh about how “the [Silicon] Valley ain’t what it used to be”. But old timers always say that, everywhere and in every time. Maybe modern global corporate (and academic?) culture just isn’t all that amenable an environment for truly original talents. But there may be amazing stuff developing out there that I’ve never heard about.

          6. Keenan

            Borealis writes: “Maybe modern global corporate (and academic?) culture just isn’t all that amenable an environment for truly original talents.”

            Academic institutes which partner with corporate entities cede at least some degree of independence in the conduct of their R&D. It seems to me inevitable that the funding partner not only steers the effort but also subtly remolds the culture of the academic. Michael Crichton depicts such a joint effort gone amok in his most interesting novel “Time Line”.


  5. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Is RBS trying to become a non-profit, giving more bonuses than profit?

    On the other hand, how do non-profit organizations survive if they don’t make a profit on investment returns or profit from their fundraisers? Aren’t they clearly for profit?

  6. VT

    Re: MERS Can’t Deliver Clear Title:

    Check out the pertinent court cases.

    No standing to foreclose because there is no actionable interest in the mortgage or deed of trust also means no standing to deliver clear title. No actionable interest in no actionable interest be it foreclosure or delivery of clear title.

    It hasn’t been adjudicated yet, but the truth of the issue is there. Rumour control has it that the Chinese own most of much of these non-actionable titles.

    1. Ina Pickle

      Thing is though, typically the title doesn’t get registered in the name of the mortgage holder. It might get filed in the name of the trustee, but it typically is going to be filed in the name of the mortgagor, with a lien on the title in the name of the mortgagee. If the lien gets extinguished, I fail to see the problem. I may be dense. But if you can’t get the lien released in the records (which you are legally entitled to under the circumstances, usually), you can contract around the risk to the purchaser in the documents. It might cost you, but it can be done.

      The other way around the problem is that the law hates to have a piece of land be “unowned.” There are many ways to acquire title that will pass the smell test. . .even after a lapse in title, even if you have to file something to declare yourself adverse to the mortgagee and wait out the statute. No one with a superior title to the property is likely to show up to give you grief, or we really would have a war on our hands. So I am not sure that I understand the problem. Again, it wouldn’t be the first time! But I am missing something here.

      Now, as far as whether you can get the title that you have INSURED so that you can sell the property, that is a horse of a different color. That is really only a problem in a traditional mortgage system, however, which we apparently no longer have. If the government is going to be the one providing all of our mortgages, it seems to me fairly trivial to write the rules to socialize this risk. It’s not like much larger, more damaging ones haven’t been socialized recently for less benefit.

  7. Evelyn Sinclair

    Here’s to your improved health.

    In the news * this morning:

    Obama has decreed that schools performing very badly may need to do some drastic things, like firing principals and maybe even shutting some of the schools down.

    So far he has not figured out the same lesson regarding Wall Street bankers!

    Or is “moral hazard” and corruption just SO much greater in the public school system?

    Maybe we should offer the worst principals HUGE bonuses to retain their talents.


    Obama’s unveils ‘turnaround’ grants for schools

    $900 million in grants will be available next year to low-performing schools that opt for one of four reform models, which include firing the principal and even closing the campus.

    Reporting from Washington – President Obama today announced a new intervention program for 5,000 of the nation’s lowest-performing schools, available to districts where officials take actions as drastic as firing principals, clearing out staff and even shuttering some campuses.

    .. The more dramatic options include a “turnaround” model, which requires replacing a principal and half the school staff and setting up a new structure of school governance and instructional program. Another “restart” model calls for closing a school and reopening under charter management, while the “closure” model requires sending students to better schools in the district…..

  8. Evelyn Sinclair

    US manufacturers face skills shortages — ?

    Must be why:

    Fritz Henderson is back at GM, for $3,000 an hour
    By Alex Taylor III, senior editor
    February 23, 2010:

    NEW YORK (Fortune) — After resigning as president and CEO of General Motors in December, Fritz Henderson might have gone into hiding or decided to sit out the harsh Michigan winter on a Florida beach.

    Instead, here he is popping up again, this time as a consultant to GM on international operations at the very fancy fee of $59,090 a month for 20 hours of work a month. That works out to almost $3,000 an hour for a CEO who was ousted after just eight months on the job.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      It’s amazing what the Homo Not-So-Sapiens Not-So-Sapiens could accomplish.

  9. kevinearick

    so the nexus is going to openly pay off democrats, who would lose their next election anyway, to vote the healthcare bill through … what constitution, the survivors are just the ones with the biggest special interest warchests that can pay off a consistently controlled, dependent, majority of so-REGISTERED voters.


    back in the day, the court jesters controlled the gate at the vortex. It’s the same process today, but has grown more sophisticated with 7 billion people.


    you want to be able to electrically change the program, pay attention to EAROM, and the data, when doing a mod on existing.


    the demand is there, but communities need a mobile team to replace the corrupt, local development industry, to rebuild from the ground up.

    the shortage is not in manufacturing. we do not make anything that anyone wants; we only make what we can force down their throats.

    1. kevinearick

      I see Canada has reversed course, and taken all the old tools out of the toolbox, hoping to time the collapse correctly.


      I love those old commercials, get rich entering a trade, and buy a BMW.

    2. kevinearick

      human critters are running a linear series circuit with series circuit inputs, subsidized by previous critters that did the same thing.

      the rest of the critters are running parallel and series circuits simultaneously, in a continuous loop.

      from the perspective of other critters, humans are stupid, stubbornly ignorant.

      the planet’s solution is to increase environmental variability.

      after so many iterations, the universe’s solution is to increase the planetary solution by the necessary magnitude.

      1. kevinearick

        in the name of efficiency, the global cartels have endeavored to make the sub-circuits in each layer of the pyramid identical, running objective-based management from the top, down, and best business practices across, resulting in an inverted pyramid of personnel, hiding and chasing symptoms, and measuring the process, economic activity, as profit, disassociating short-term profit from long-term cost by only measuring the accounting drain, every 3 months, depositing public costs off sheet, in ever more clever wrapping.

        1. kevinearick

          we are dismantling the diversity of the corral reef that the planet paid us to build.

          that is unwise.

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