Links 3/13/10

A Game of Tag Breaks Out Between London’s Graffiti Elite Wall Street Journal (hat tip reader Lance)

Climate linked to smaller birds BBC

The Dollar, the Deficit, and Accounting Identities Dean Baker

Fragile riches Rolfe Winkler

CSI Lehman-Barclays: Who Really Killed the September 2008 Deal? WSJ Deal Journal. Note the examiner’s report suggests that the FSA did not kill the Lehman deal; rather it set criteria as early as Sept. 10 and was never presented with a deal.

U.S., Europe at odds over global financial reform Washington Post. Pure Treasury PR.

Are Shipping Numbers Masking A Stealth Commodities Selloff? Clusterstock

Robert Reich: The Sham Recovery Huffington Post

The German Finance Minister Needs To Confront Investment Banks Simon Johnson

China May Face ‘Massive’ Bank Bailouts After Stimulus Program Bloomberg

Centrally Planned Suburbia Matt Yglesias

‘Apartheid’ call system filters out poor Barclays clients Daily Mail (hat tip reader Steve L)

Mortgage lending falls as buyers leave market Times Online

Not Durable? Michael Panzner

Antidote du jour:


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  1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    I am not sure I want to mix quack science with dismal science, but I have been told that it’s important for our psyche that when we suffer, we know we are not alone, that there are others with us.

    In the case of Reich’s piece, I would add that if you are not doing well financially, it helps with the healiing if the media can accurately report on the situation. So, if your business or work is slow and in reality many are like you, but the painted picture or the focus is on a few people or companies doing well, leaving the impression that everything on the way, it just depresses you more than necessarily. It makes you wonder if there is something wrong with you.

  2. emca

    Matt Yglesias’ article on ‘Planned Sprawl’ brings to for again the topic of zoning within the web of nation health and wealth, economic and otherwise (economic in that sprawl equals more travel equals greater energy use equals increase trade imbalance – ultimately and ironically, an increase loss of choice).

    Some thoughts:

    A few comments following Matt’s short post reflect a general misunderstanding of the distinction between zoning and building regulations, particularly in nature of benefits either set of rule pose toward the greater good of society. The two are completely independent even if both are permitted activities, operating for the most part under their own objectives and mandates.

    In those roles a building code is a set of rules governing how a structure is to be built. Its primary concern is the preservation of human life, that is, a building does not burn down, fall down, blow down or otherwise fail as shelter without its (the building’s) users at least being able to exit to safety before failure occurs. Coincidentally, a code’s obligation in preserving properties’ value is zero, or as close to that reasonably read (and while recently secondary functions aim toward increasing energy efficiency, they are seen under the context of greater public good, sans any evaluation of individual wealth or wellbeing thereof).

    Zoning contrariwise is not about substance, but about appearance and the overall organization of buildings to meet ‘livability’ goals outside fire, life safety concerns. Its modus operandi on a larger scale is its namesake, to break a region or area into zones within which only designated activities can occur. It also operates on a non-government mode under the auspices of HOA’a (Home Owner’s Associations), which further restrict and curtail activities and appearances seen as detrimental to the overall association’s good, i.e. the most recent I’ve seen is prohibition on on-street parking).

    While zoning codes are, some will maintain, dispensable, no one would seriously argue the same of building codes. Unsafe aspects of early historic construction, particularly in tighter urban settings (the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 as example) have been eliminated or at least mitigated through stricter enforcement on building practices.

    It is zoning however that determines whether you live next to a liquor store, church, big box, or other amenity sometimes (or often) judged unsuitable to a residential lifestyle. It is zoning ordinances that indirectly say you have to drive (walk?) 4 miles to get a loaf of bread, or 50 miles to go to work, that you need to have a 35 foot setback on your front yard from street and even that you can’t till that front yard and plant rhubarb instead of lawn.

    Zoning by its nature is political. It is something people can take sides on. Being so the broader question is that given the culpability of zoning to an inefficient, wasteful, compartmentalized, sanitize existence the presence of zoning codes, or rather the application? Is it the justification for zoning void, or is are the objectives wrong and in need of revision?

    My inclination is toward the later. Why, suffice it to say that I’m not a believer in the powers of the marketplace. As in finance, I see them as woefully misapplied. In short they short circuit and destroy the freedom and choices of many for the enrichment of few. They rely heavy on a self-evident, self-propagating edict of how reality is or at worst what may right for some is therefore the prescribed manner for all. The side argument that people want or are required to accept a condition because it is what they really want or need, is also suspect. Motives and tactics of a public are not definite, eternal or even easily defined, more often used as retrofit to justify someone’s personal profit.

    All said, a recent sift in emphasis of sprawl enhanced zoning toward a more reasonable (mirroring at times historic instance) approach in local planning and governing is encouraging. The light has come on in some quarters. If only such insight would permeate upward toward national regulatory instruments of fiscal management as integrated economic policy.


  3. jdmckay


    U.S., Europe at odds over global financial reform

    … author says:

    The chief concern is with Europe, the world’s other major capital market, where officials want to deal more rigorously with some types of activity — effectively barring U.S.-based hedge funds from operating there, for example — while remaining more relaxed in areas where the United States has taken a tougher line.

    Differences are emerging over the regulation of derivatives.

    But of course, can’t ask WS to make an honest buck, now can we?

    In response, U.S. banks have disclosed most of their losses while raising about 87 percent of the capital that they need to cover those write-downs, according to International Monetary Fund data.

    Ok, I’d sure like to see the footnotes to that claim. How much TA is Treasury holding? And does accepting TARP for carry trades constitute “raising” capital? Or am I just behind the curve here…

    A crisis in the financing of Greek government debt has led European leaders to call for a prohibition on some forms of those (derivative) investments, something U.S. authorities are unlikely to endorse.

    “U.S authorities”… talk about an oxymoron. And I guess we’ve spread freedom and democracy in Iraq, and we don’t torture, right?

    Greek Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou visited Washington this week urging quick action to regulate the speculation in government-issued bonds that he partly blames for his country’s problems, but he was met with a tepid response from the Obama administration.

    “Change you can’t count on”, isn’t that what BO ran on?

    Obama administration officials played down these differences, saying that not every country has to adopt the exact same methods, as long as the global regulatory network does not have major holes that can be exploited by big financial firms.

    Ahhh… just a few little quibbles to resolve. Got’a love way BO takes a stand on things.

  4. jdmckay

    and from same article, in closing:

    And the difficulties are not just at the transatlantic level. Within the European Union, the differing approaches of major powers such as France and Britain have stymied development of new European policies.

    “France and Britain” are w/in the EU? sheesh…

  5. bob goodwin

    “Songbirds in the US are getting smaller, and climate change is suspected as the cause.”

    I posit that climate change is caused by smaller birds.

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