Links 4/2/10

Wolves are being used to improve German business skills BBC

Rep. Hank Johnson: Guam could ‘tip over and capsize’ The Hill (hat tip reader John D). No, this is NOT a left over April Fool’s Day story.

Sarah Palin’s TV career hits early controversy Telegraph. What’s the Alaska version of “all hat, no cattle?”

Look Who’s Funding Climate Change Denial Seeing the Forest

Counting a billion: India begins new census Times of India. They want fingerprints and photos!

Iron ore price deal sparks steel fury Financial Times. Bye bye auto industry recovery once this cycles through to finished goods. As Crocodile Chuck remarked, “Mark my words-this shameless greed will backfire on the Australian producers…BIG TIME. I give it 4-6 months-until the NEXT downturn happens.”

Moves to Garnish Pay Rise as More Debtors Fall Behind New York Times

Financial Reform 101 Paul Krugman

Student debt keeps rising Rolfe Winkler

Gaming Uncle Sam’s Mortgage Modification Program Larry Doyle, Seeking Alpha

Behold China James Mann, The New Republic (hat tip reader Paul S)

Book Reviews: 13 Bankers, Econned Mike Konczal. Thanks Mike!

Dean Baker: Did We Make a Profit on Citigroup? Dean Baker, Huffington Post. Today’s must read.

Antidote du jour:


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  1. attempter

    So Krugman’s hack maneuvers continue. It looks like he’s going to go for a reprise of his lies about the health racket bill:

    1. Claim, according to some unexplained religious fundamentalist faith, that:

    2. the same government which has systematically refused to encode serious regulations or enforce even the meager ones it does encode,

    3. will now encode serious regulations (and never mind that these regulations don’t look very serious, that in fact they look completely phony; just trust me, Paul Krugman, on my religious authority, these are “real”);

    4. and will then enforce them,

    5. so we don’t have to break up the rackets.

    The NYT’s transformation into a voodoo fundamentalist pamphlet continues apace. But in the interests of journalistic confirmation they really ought to at least provide photographs of the entrails after Krugman reads them. Given his sermons on the health bill, those must’ve been some auspices, some trances, some visions.

    What does the Public Editor say about all this?

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Nobel as a brand has never issued a recall before, though not because its endorsements are infalliable, particularly in the Peace sub-category, but because its ego does not allow it to.

        1. Roger Bigod

          Yes, there have been definite quality control problems with the Peace series. They have a project underway to achieve Ought Point One Sigma, but it’s an uphill fight.

          The Economics “Prize” is isn’t brand dilution, it’s brand pollution, the equivalent of a Rolex sold by a Hong Kong street vender.

          1. attempter

            There was a comment here some weeks ago describing the way the scam economics pseudo-prize was first established, as a fraudulent way to confer bogus “respectability” on neoclassicists.

            Of course by now the “peace” prize is just as much of a joke.

        1. Roger Bigod

          The one for Henry ‘Peace is at hand’ Kissinger is excusable. After all, he was the only person on the planet who could handle the nutjob-in-chief, so we were all his hostages. When you’re a hostage and you find yourself swept up by feelings of gratitude and adoration because your captors are really really down deep good people, this is known as Stockholm
          Syndrome. Not Oslo, but close. Just ask President FISA.

  2. YY

    Though not all that suited to Palin, All hat, no cattle
    reminds me of what Paul Keating said of the opposition treasurer (or may be the leader). All tip and no iceberg..

  3. Richard Kline

    Yves: “What’s the Alaska version of “all hat, no cattle?”
    All fool and no gold.

  4. Richard Kline

    Financial Reform 101: Grade, F. I can’t believe someone of Krugman’s real intellectual capacity could pen the argument he makes in that column, to ‘extend regulation to the shadow banks.’ It crosses ones mind that he’s turned completely defeatist on actual reform, and only hopes to bulk up some of the old firewalls to protect the domestic economy—but no, that’s giving him to much credit and too much room for a shoddy, even tentedentious argument. Domestic banks and the shadow banks _have completely different ‘customer’ bases. Comparatively little prudential regulation existed even in the golden age of his imagination for the likes of JPM for example, so his notion of a regulatory regime for the shadow banks is fallacious on the face of it. But furthermore, the shadow banks only existed as a way of _circumventing existing regulation and conventional risk management_. These institutions came into existence as a medium for speculation: regulating them, supposing it was possible, completely defeats their purpose. Then there is the further issue in his piece, an elephant in the living room covered with a doile of argument, that the poliitical process in this country is wildly distorted by great concentrations of wealth, specifically huge speculative financial enterprises. The fact that he evidently sees no problem with that, that he is willing from the get go to completely surrender to that distortion, renders his increasingly eccentric whinging about ‘those Republicans’ a laughable pet peeve rather than an act of political conscience. If he signs off on the puppetter why should one _care_ whether he finds one puppet better dressed than the other?

    Paul, take a vacation; a long vacation. Come back when you’ve found some convictions again. You’ve lost them at present and are just another Weimar Liberal.

  5. OwenFinn

    Re – the wage garnishment article. That was not good for my blood pressure.

    The bankers, and the pols that work for them really knew what they were doing back in 2005 with the bankruptcy “reform” law. How prescient of them to close off the bankruptcy escape routes before the bullshit sub-prime financial “innovation” economy imploded!

  6. Bruce Post

    Regarding student loan debt:

    Having once been in the business, I consider the focus on what students owe to be one component of the problem. There are also federal PLUS loans — Parent Loans to Undergraduate Students. How many parents are having trouble paying back these loans? Some will force their kids to do so; others will try to repay on their own. Yet, both parents and students are sucked deeper into the hole of debt.

    AND, I absolutely hate the promotional material coming forth from the higher education/student loan complex: Namely, the more education you have, the higher your lifetime income. How many charts have you seen showing the average income for someone based on the degree they received or lack thereof. I cringe every time I hear that argument. Why? Well, take a room with 100 college graduates. Say, the average income is $75,000. Then, Bill Gates — college dropout — walks in. What subsequently happens to the average income of all the folks in the room? Well, it goes astronomically upward, but no one is actually any wealthier.

    This is not an argument against post-secondary education, but it does highlight what I consider to be an issue. Is higher education in America just another business depending on over-leveraged Americans for its own financial well-being?

    1. alex

      “How many charts have you seen showing the average income for someone based on the degree they received or lack thereof.”

      Excellent point. They always cite the mean, but not the median. Also useful would be the mean of the “trimmed” distribution (e.g. mean of the 5th to 95th percentile). And break it down by major!

      Maybe all those people touting the wonders of a college education should take a course in rudimentary statistics.

      “Then, Bill Gates — college dropout — walks in.”

      You could use Warren Buffett if you prefer – IIRC he has a master’s from Columbia.

      “Is higher education in America just another business depending on over-leveraged Americans for its own financial well-being?”

      And why the hell is it so expensive? Everybody complains about it, but I never see a breakdown of the change in costs (total costs, including government support, not just tuition). This information should be completely public for state universities.

      1. Jojo

        You don’t understand.

        The goal of all this “must go to college” pump is to drum up businesses for colleges.

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        It’s called the College Education Paradox.

        If you get a college education, it could, might or likely to get you a better job. But if everyone is college educated, then you will be looking at over-supply. It’s similar to the Thrift Paradox or any other kind of composite error in logic.

        In any case, knowledge should be for knowledge’s sake. That’s the key point. Just as a home is not an investment, a college degree should not be a career path. It should be for enriching one’s intellectual and, this might be hard to imagine, but spiritual experiences.

        I advocate, for example, getting a degree in science to become a cook or carpenter. I think the society will be better off if our trash collectors have degrees in English literature, to use another example.

      1. Jim in SC

        A college degree used to be a marker to employers that the holder was smarter than average. Private industry started requiring that its white collar employees have bachelor’s degrees after this became a requirement for many federal jobs. It is, in a sense, encouraged by labor law, which distiguishes between management and labor strictly.

        It has not been my experience that the college educated necessarily earn more. I’ve kept up with many friends from high school, some of whom did not finish college. The most literate guy I know–in the sense of always having a book in hand and an idea in mind–dropped out of community college after a week to join a band. He ended up being the top national saleperson for a music store chain before dropping out to have more time to read and exercise.

        My own experience: finishing a BA in philosophy at an top notch college and an MBA at an top notch graduate school, was that both experiences gave me lots to think about, but didn’t help much in the job market. I ended up teaching music, a skill which I would have had to nearly the same extent had I dropped out of high school at sixteen.

        Our economy is too competitive for markers of excellence like a college degree to have meaning anymore. Your value as an employee needs to be immediately apparent to your employer without any markers being required. The lead steers have long ago left the barn.

  7. alex

    Re: Dean Baker: Did We Make a Profit on Citigroup?

    Does a great job of demolishing the “most of the bailout has been paid back” propaganda that’s so popular. Of course this specifically addresses Citi, but elsewhere he does a great job of demolishing it in general.

    Unfortunately the propaganda is mindlessly repeated so many places that people believe it. Stop it! It’s imperative that people realize what garbage it is, and that the finance industry really did receive (and is still receiving) a mind boggling bailout. All outrage is justified.

    Are most reporters shills, or just so ignorant that they can only repeat what they’re told by their “sources”? Most of what they have to do to educate themselves is just read Dean Baker and Naked Capitalism.

  8. Alexandra Hamilton

    Studying the behaviour of wolves or wolf packs for business purposes has been done for some time, but I think it is fitting to remind people of that this is being done.

    First, wolves are predators. The fact that they don’t study cow herds or ducks instead, tells you everything you need to know about where this development is going.

    Second, the personality type that is needed to make it to the alpha male (and alpha female) post tells you everything you need to know about who they will be looking for for leadership posts.

    Once you digest that, you will have no problems recognising the world that is being created as being a predatory one, led by people with serious and dangerous (for others) psycho-pathological issues, i.e. psychopaths.

    Good luck.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Real Alpha wolves are stewards of the pack. Every now and then a wolf pack is without an alpha and an inferior wolf takes over and the pack self-destructs or is destructive.

      If we are to take this wolf metaphor to the next level, the real problem is we are without true alpha wolves in the economic and political world. Yes, big wolves are in charge but they lack the control and discipline of real alphas.

      For example had this malamute which was the biggest, toughest dog on the block, but it wasn’t a true alpha. He had to move into the city and had to send the dog elsewhere (O/T I loved that dog), but the big dog was in for a rude awakening when it encountered a real alpha dog(a Siberian Husky, 40 lbs smaller than the Malimute). The Malimute was taken into the kennel and after a few minutes of intimidating the other dogs and walking around like he owned the place, the Malimute decided it was time to drink out the Siberians water bowl or my toddler water park. That was a bit of a problem. The Siberian flipped the Malimute onto his back and had his jaws around the neck of the Malimute. After that, my the Malimute which formerly had his own pack of neighborhood dogs quivered whenever the Siberian looked at it. The Siberian wouldn’t tolderate an outsider approach his dish, but he was going to let a baby in the pack play and knock over his dish as often as the baby wanted to.

      A guy like George Washington is an example of the true Alpha. Guys like our current financial class are the thuggish false alphas that thrive in their absence.

      1. Alexandra Hamilton

        Good example.
        A wolf pack is all about hierarchy, obedience and domination of one to or by the other. The one on top gets the biggest perks.
        That’s the society you want? Than you don’t need to do much, because you already have that. It’s called capitalism.

        I can understand your GW analogy. However, that’s the old dream of the philosopher king, or the wait for the messiah to come and solve all problems.
        In 99% of the cases (or even more) you will not end up with someone like Mahatma Ghandi or Martin Luther King in power, but more with someone like Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler. Because they are better at flipping the other guy to its back.
        The US was happy to have George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and others. However, they were the exception, it’s not the rule.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Alexandra Hamilton, we will have our Georgina Washington alpha female one day.

  9. Valissa

    The real truth is that big oil and other vested interests have have hijacked the global warming research for their own neoliberal ends over the past 30 years… meaning that they are controlling the climate research that gets done by doling out research funds appropriately. Many scientists have observed the decreasing quality of scientific research in climate science (a big one is overuse of modeling and less real empirical science), since the 70’s…a time when pollution was the known culprit. Well that converstaion has been changed, hasn’t it. Instead of actual toxic chemicals and waste and real specifications and limits, now it’s all about “greenhouse gases” and carbon trading. The left is being totally played on this issue.

    btw, when I first started studying propaganda it was very easy to see it on the right, but I had to learn how to see it on the left as much of the left propaganda presumed and played successfully on my own biases. As someone who does care about the environment I once was easily suckered on such issues.

    Stanford University has received $225 Million from ExxonMobil, Toyota and Schlumberger for its Global Climate and Energy Project. That money will be combined with a $50 Million donation from alumnus Jay Precourt whose career as an oil engineer included such companies as Hamilton Oil and Tejas Gas Corp. The new entity will be named the Precourt Center for Energy Efficiency, see

    Compare these numbers with a total of ~$6.4 Million over a 4-year period between 2002-2005 provided to non-academic and presumably more conservative think tanks by ExxonMobile according to data acquired by EDF (Environmental Defense Fund). See

    1. anon

      It’s bad for cats too. Goat’s milk (or special formula milk) is good for kittens (and I think baby hedgehogs) but not for adults. And cow’s milk is always bad.

  10. KFritz

    Re: Gaming the new mortgage mods

    The article ended badly, kvetching (in code) about Liberal wealth redistribution. (That’s how I deciphered the code.) It’s true that venal folk of limited means and capacity are gaming the system. There were very few complete innocents in this meltdown. But once upon a time when the Financial System was better designed and administered, the same class of people managed to live decently without recourse to fraud. The redesign of our financial architecture by True Believers and their more practical cohorts/sociopaths, i.e. a financial industry which recognized an opportunity to enrich itself, is what made this whole mess possible and encouraged small fry to behave badly. If Seeking Alpha doesn’t recognize that this fish rotted from the head, then his insight is wasted on him, if not the rest of us.

  11. eric anderson

    Even the title of the report, “Koch Industries: Secretly Funding The Climate Denial Machine,” is misleading. Very few people deny some degree of global warming. Legitimate questions have been raised about the causes and the historical context of this warming. Persons who raise such questions are inaccurately termed “deniers.” “Skeptics” is certainly accurate, as they are justly skeptical of the way the science was conducted and of the conclusions reached.

    The most effective critics of anthropogenic global warming science have been amateur bloggers and interested academics with no connection to Big Oil.

    Judith Curry, Professor at the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology wrote the following:
    …the CRU emails reveal that core research values became compromised. Much has been said about the role of the highly politicized environment in providing an extremely difficult environment in which to conduct science that produces a lot of stress for the scientists. There is no question that this environment is not conducive to science and scientists need more support from their institutions in dealing with it. However, there is nothing in this crazy environment that is worth sacrificing your personal or professional integrity. And when your science receives this kind of attention, it means that the science is really important to the public. Therefore scientists need to do everything possible to make sure that they effectively communicate uncertainty, risk, probability and complexity, and provide a context that includes alternative and competing scientific viewpoints. This is an important responsibility that individual scientists and particularly the institutions need to take very seriously…

    …Climategate isn’t going to go away until these issues are resolved….

    In 2006 and 2007, things changed as a result of Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth” plus the IPCC 4th Assessment Report, and global warming became a seemingly unstoppable juggernaut. The reason that the IPCC 4th Assessment Report was so influential is that people trusted the process the IPCC described: participation of a thousand scientists from 100 different countries, who worked for several years to produce 3000 pages with thousands of peer reviewed scientific references, with extensive peer review. Further, the process was undertaken with the participation of policy makers under the watchful eyes of advocacy groups with a broad range of conflicting interests. As a result of the IPCC influence, scientific skepticism by academic researchers became vastly diminished and it became easier to embellish the IPCC findings rather than to buck the juggernaut. Big oil funding for contrary views mostly dried up and the mainstream media supported the IPCC consensus. But there was a new movement in the blogosphere, which I refer to as the “climate auditors”, started by Steve McIntyre. The climate change establishment failed to understand this changing dynamic, and continued to blame skepticism on the denial machine funded by big oil…

    So who are the climate auditors? They are technically educated people, mostly outside of academia. Several individuals have developed substantial expertise in aspects of climate science, although they mainly audit rather than produce original scientific research. They tend to be watchdogs rather than deniers; many of them classify themselves as “lukewarmers”. They are independent of oil industry influence. They have found a collective voice in the blogosphere and their posts are often picked up by the mainstream media. They are demanding greater accountability and transparency of climate research and assessment reports. END QUOTE

    Takeaway points: The problems with the integrity of global warming research are real. Big Industry, Big Oil are not behind the legitimate criticisms produced by the new class of critics, the climate auditors.

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