Links 9/23/10

Still in catch up mode….

Baby snow leopard filmed in wild mountains of Bhutan BBC (hat tip reader John Moore) Cool footage

Stuxnet malware is ‘weapon’ out to destroy … Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant? Christian Science Monitor (hat tip Crocodile Chuck and John D)

“We Should Have Gone Swedish . . .” Barry Ritholtz (hat tip reader Swedish Lex)

Long-Sought Viking Settlement Found Science

KFC pays college women for ad space on buns USA Today (hat tip reader John D)

“The Giant Elephant in The Room” Larry Doyle

GENOCIDE WIPED OUT NATIVE AMERICAN POPULATION Discovery (hat tip reader John M). Huh? This is hardly new. They’ve been talking about this for the Anasazi in Chaco Canyon in New Mexico for at least 15 years.

Recession over? Don’t try telling that to advisers Investment News

Wealthy benefit most from tax subsidies: study Reuters (hat tip reader John M). This should be dog bites man but a lot of people don’t recognize this fact.

No. There’s No LIfe at MERS Stop Foreclosure Fraud. A good overview piece on MERS.

Oops! No mortgage and still foreclosed on Calculated Risk

Why We Don’t Need to Pay Down the National Debt James Galbraith, Atlantic

Antidote du jour:

Picture 7

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  1. dearieme

    Your plat du jour, Yves, makes me realise that I’ve often sipped Mock Turtle Soup, but never the real thing.

  2. Bas

    RE Gailbraith on not paying down public debt: didn’t Rogoff and Reinhard recently find a strong correlation between public debt levels above 90% of GDP and weaker growth?

    Sure, paying off too much of it too quickly will harm private investment, but that will not become a problem anytime soon for any developed country.

    Remarkably poor reasoning from JKG

    1. Jim Haygood

      Galbraith: ‘Just for instance, CBO assumes that short-term interest rates, now near zero, will rise to 5 percent while inflation stays at 2 percent; this is a big factor in their forecast. But why would a rational Federal Reserve do any such thing?’

      AH HA HA HAH … space cadet Galbraith thinks the Federal Reserve can just dial the interest rate to any level they choose, forever.

      Well, Jimmy, why doesn’t your almighty Fed just freeze the whole yield curve at zero and be done with it? Then the national debt will cost us nothing, and we can go on a spree and run it up higher.

      Oh Ben, won’t ya buy me … a Mercedes-Benz?‘ etc.

      OMG, what a goofball this Galbraith character is! Fiateers — don’t they just kill you?

      1. traderjoe

        And the argument that because yields are currently low means the market doesn’t mind high debt levels. Drivel. Greek bond yields were low, until they weren’t – and then they needed a bailout. It all happened pretty quickly (months).

        Right now, the Fed is buying the whole yield curve, and also making/letting/wanting the TBTF banks to buy UST’s after borrowing at the discount window. They are playing the yield curve instead of lending. Why wouldn’t they?

        Of course, that’s all a form of circular reference, and none of it benefits the real economy. If we do get a crisis, yields will shoot up at some point, and the SHTF.

  3. DownSouth


    I thought the comments to the article were every bit as interesting, if not more interesting, than the article itself.

    It’s amazing how quickly the conversation degenerates from science, or how human beings did behave, to religion, or how human beings ought to have behaved. Perhaps the problem arises so quickly because, as Pat Churchland has stated, when it comes to human behavior an “ought” quite frequenly becomes an “is” (or at least thinkers in the tradition of Erasmus, like myself, like to believe so).

    Then there’s the dynamic of the two competing myths, the myth of the superior Westerner vs. the myth of the superior person of color (in this case native American)—-the countermyth that arose out of the 1960s counterculture to upend the myth of white superiority.

  4. nowhereman

    Re: “GENOCIDE WIPED OUT NATIVE AMERICAN POPULATION” Reminds me of Kennewick Man: . It appears there is evidence that a “non” Native American presence had settled in the North Western US. They had entirely different DNA from current Native Americans. Could this “genocide” have been due to as John McLelland states; “He found that the population at Sacred Ridge in the early 800s was distinct from others in the area.”
    Could it be that the first “Indigenous North Americans” where wiped out by the current Native Americans, and that the history of North America needs some serious revisions.

  5. Pwelder

    Liz Warren was on two NBC cable shows this morning, and IMO did very well. In particular, she dismantled Jack Welch during a conversation on CNBC, where Welch apparently wanted to show that she was over her head in terms of managing the start-up of an agency. It quickly became clear that Welch was in over his head.

    There has been too much premature defeatism around here wrt the future of Ms. Warren and the CFPA. In addition to her other accomplishments, Warren is a major-league talent as a political performer and public advocate for the new agency.
    Her current assignment is not only right on substance, it is going to be great politics for the Dems in the run-up to 2012.

  6. Dikaios Logos

    Thanks for the snow leopard footage. I spent the better part of day a few years ago watching a herd of blue sheep on very steep mountainside, hoping desperately to see a snow leopard attack a sheep. It didn’t happen: even people who are regularly in those mountains have never seen them.

  7. spc

    Snow Leopard without Apple’s authorized hardware underneath –
    that’s violation of their EULA, copyright and trademark law . Simply outrageous.
    This kind of behaviour costs american jobs and billions in taxes revenues.
    Goverment must do something about it – I suggest sanctions and diplomatic pressure an Butan.

    1. readerOfTeaLeaves

      Damn, you’re laugh-out-loud funny!
      I’m going to be chuckling the rest of the day.

      However, it’s probably only a Snow Leopard avatar; that MacBook the BBCer was using probably has a geolocation app that overrides the usual trademark laws, if and only if >= 7,500 ft, and AND ALSO located within Bhutan ;-))

  8. Wade Nichols


    Blame GW Bu$h! Blame Whitey! Blame the Catholic Church!

    Physical traces of ethnic cleansing that took place in the early 800s suggest the massacre was an inside job.

    Oh, forget it!

  9. jbmoore

    I thought of Chaco Canyon as well when I read the genocide piece. But it is subtly different. Chaco Canyon wasn’t just genocide, it was also cannibalism. Chaco Canyon may have been a fight between the same group of people. The people who were killed at this second place were murdered quickly, but there was no evidence of cannibalism. Genetic analysis showed that they were different (a distinct population) than the other people around them (but this may be an artifact if they didn’t have many samples from the surrounding area). They were likely killed because they were different and because they were different in some important way. While the Chaco Canyon people were killed and eaten as an example to spread fear, these people were killed just because of where they were and what they were. May be they were spiritual leaders and their families. Some plains tribes venerated people who were born with different features such as hermaphrodites.

    Also, there is indirect evidence that Israel wrote the Stuxnet worm to take out the uranium enrichment ultracentrifuges at Natanz. The Bushehr reactor hasn’t been fueled yet. So why attack something that isn’t running? The worm seeks out and attacks a running industrial process. It was a very cost effective and successful attack since they could likely monitor its progress remotely.

    1. LeeAnne


      “…Some plains tribes venerated people who were born with different features such as hermaphrodites”

      Do you have a link or reading suggestions on this? I have a special interest in reading up on it. There are transgendered homeless youngsters I have reason to believe I’ll be meeting soon.

      1. jbmoore

        I believe that it is mentioned in this book: Son of the Morning Star ( But I don’t own the book and it was almost 20 years ago. Here’s a few links I found:

        These Native Americans used to be called berdaches (, but the PC term is two-spirit.

  10. jbmoore

    As I understand it private debt levels exceed public debt levels by an enormous amount. The public debt level has doubled because the government assumed the banks debts, but it’s still a drop in the bucket compared to the levels in the private sector. So, the public sector debt is a bit of smoke and mirrors to distract people from the fact that Wall Street and the FIRE sector is still broke and on life support.

    1. Glen

      I think you are correct especially once the estimates for the OTC derivatives market get included. Some mind boggling number like $600 to $1200 trillion. As a basis of comparison the “fair market value” of the Earth was considered to be $200 trillion by these same guys. I have absolutely no way to know if these numbers are correct.

      I don’t actually care too much if people go off in their own world and make bogus debt. It’s only value is what can be squeezed out of these people between each other. (In my estimate, if the US had not bailed out AIG and instead said that unregulated OTC derivative “contracts” must be valued between the counterparties in a court, then the “value” of the OTC derivatives would have rather quickly dived to nothing.) The problem with making US taxpayer debt at full value is it very suddenly attains a value which it plainly does not deserve.

      You cannot have it both ways. If the government don’t regulate or backstop the market, then the government cannot intervene. If the government does regulate the market, and intervenes to stop a threat to the very existence of world financial markets, then those threats must be dealt with in a serious manner. Every TBTF bank must be audited, investigated and broken up like Standard Oil.

  11. Leeanne

    off topic -but priceless from Max and Stacey, always good for a laugh on serious finance:

    Swedish artist attempts to levitate the Bourse, says levitating the Bourse is less absurd than what’s going on inside here preceded by opinioin that, since Citi and Goldman Sachs are opening branches in Tehren, the WaR that has barely begun is obviously OVer.


  12. derek

    Rich people tell me the public debt must be paid down, and I don’t say they’re wrong. Really. I’m not being sarcastic. I have no objection to the idea that high debt levels are damaging to everyone, and they ought to be reduced.

    I only get suspicious when they say the debt must be reduced by reducing spending. Why can’t it be reduced by increasing their taxes, as they’re so keen on it?

    Then I really get suspicious when I notice they want to reduce their taxes *at the same time*. I begin to get the impression they only want to reduce spending to reduce their taxes, and not for any debt reduction at all.

  13. Hugh

    Re the MERS article, “In Mr. Arnold’s [MERSCORP Pres, and CEO] own words, ‘For these servicing companies to perform their duties satisfactorily, the note and mortgage were bifurcated. The investor or its designee held the note and named the servicing company as mortgagee, a structure that became standard.'”

    It is that bifurcation that is key to the whole MERS fiasco. Those who have a financial interest don’t hold the mortgage and hence have no standing in a foreclosure proceeding. Now you can argue whether MERS is even a proper nominee for mortgage holder, but even if it is and it were granted standing, it has no financial interest to pursue in foreclosure. These idiots constructed a perfect Catch-22 against themselves.

  14. joebhed

    On Larry Doyle’s giant elephant hypothesis –

    There are two aspects to this problem – one is the lack of accounting reality presently in vogue and practice to not price these real estate assets at what they are worth.
    But, how can we really know what they are worth?

    The second part of this illusion is contained in the GIANT BUBBLE of non-foreclosed mortgages.
    This less-mentioned bubble is completely supporting the CDO-MBS-SIV “superstructure” of financial exotica, that which, if it tumbles, pushes us over the edge, into the abyss.

    Reportedly these underlying mortgage assets are on average about 9 months in arrears, meaning they would ordinarily already be written off, the losses incurred, and, again, the assets revalued at today’s reality.
    So, we would know what they’re worth.

    The operating financial fiction of the lapse of proper accounting, coupled with the fraud of avoiding the necessary and appropriate mortgage foreclosures, is what allows the dead-men-walking, a.k.a. investment bankers, to keep up their multi-million CEO bonuses we will soon be paying.
    It is a national fraud against good business practice and our national economy.
    Soon coming to an end.

    1. Hugh

      We can make educated guesses about a lot of this. Most HELOCs behind non-performing firsts are probably worth zero. Those behind underwater firsts are in serious jeopardy. You could probably correlate the value in terms of how underwater the mortgage is. Re the firsts or rather what houses should be worth, a base figure would be comparable pre-bubble, say 2001, prices. You can then discount off from the amount of oversupply in a given market. However, if we enter into depression, then values could go considerably below even a 2001 base.

      1. Skippy

        What if you factor in the bubbles since the S&L debacle and their correlation to lifting* national* RE/CRE median, with wage arbitrage war fair inserted in to the equation.

        Skippy…how long since RE/CRE has been fair value to wages…equity…a fickle lovers promise?

      2. joebhed

        I would not disagree with your estimate nor the method at all.
        My point was about the resulting fiction that we’re riding out there.
        Those distorted housing-mortgage-paper values underlie the entire book of the shadow bankers, and you really need to wonder just how big they can get before Moody’s is forced to say that the risk of repayment is great?
        Somewhere in there is the house-of-cards factor, I’m sure.
        And the relevant short.

  15. Sundog

    This article on the press and the war in Mexico is worth a look.

    Think about it: the most powerful drug-running organizations – governments – have set the tone, the language, the sensationalist buzz words and the matrix by which most of the press covers the “drug war.” If you’re a street level drug dealer or a leader of one of the competing illegal drug trafficking organizations, the headlines in most of the media are probably pissing you off daily. The hypocrisy is so great as to be enraging, even if you’re not involved in the drug business but simply hate it when big lies get repeated over and over again, louder with every day’s broadcast, and especially when it causes so much human pain, misery, death and destruction.

    Al Giordano, “Telling the Whole Truth About the ‘Drug War'”

  16. Jack Parsons

    “dog bites man”. I think you meant “man bites dog”, as in “nothing new here”. “Dog bites man” is a really good movie. Profoundly creepy, but funny as hell.

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