Links 9/26/10

Lehman Bros art makes $12m in US BBC

Can We Build in a Brighter Shade of Green? New York Times. This is actually pretty cool technology. But there is another technology popular in the colder parts of Europe, using geothermal wells, which from what I can tell, is also unused here.

Study: Most Americans want wealth distribution similar to Sweden Raw Story (hat tip reader John D)

NASA v. The Scientists Air & Space. You need to read about the “suitability matrix”.

US seizes chance as China rattles Asia AFP (hat tip reader Skippy)

Iran Fights Malware Attacking Computers New York Times (hat tip reader Crocodile Chuck)

Irish response to crisis will make economy stall Independent. Um, nominal GDP is down by something like 20%. Sentiment is valid, but need to use a different tense in describing the state of the economy.

Irish Government Loses Another Supporter, Collapse Imminent Clusterstock and Mattie McGrath informs Government they’ve lost his support (hat tip Richard Smith)

The race is on for Greenland’s Arctic oilfields Telegraph

Ally’s GMAC unit withdraws foreclosure affidavits signed by second employee Washington Post (hat tip 4clsourefraud)

Citigroup’s View of the Obama Administration in February 2009… Brad DeLong (hat tip reader John M). Citigroup engages in removing useful historical information.

Wall Street Bond Girl. Movie review.

Questions, and Directors, Lost in the Ether Gretchen Morgenson, New York Times

Citi Boosts Executive Pay Associated Press

New Proof Wall Street Knew Its Mortgage Securities Were Subpar: Clayton Execs Testify Huffington Post. This is a frustrating piece, now that I have dug a bit. Clayton is astonishingly disingenuous. They were hired to “underwrite” subprime deals, as in screen for credit quality. Rating agencies were known to look more favorably upon underwritten deals. Clayton claims they told their clients (meaning here, investment banks) the origination had problems, yet they continued to happily take fees when they could clearly see the banks not making appropriate representations in the offering docs. Oh, and they testified to Cuomo ONLY after negotiating immunity. And they were also hired by the buy side, multiple times and gave no warnings (I have this from a client so this is direct experience plus inference from others who got input from Clayton yet kept investing in subprime). But they are presented as heroes who weren’t listened to. Barf.

Antidote du jour (hat tip reader Richard, via ZooBorns):Earlier this month, Sweden’s Parken Zoo welcomed two new Sand Cat kittens. Small and stocky, the Sand Cat’s oversized ears help to dissipate heat and detect prey scurrying along the sand, much like the Fennec Fox. Watching the curious kittens exploring their enclosure can’t help but make you think of their domestic cousins.

Picture 11

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. purple

    re:US seizes chance as China rattles Asia

    Undiscussed in the U.S. is rampant anti-Chinese sentiment in Asia, especially SE Asia. PRC bellicosity reinforces those moods and plays right into U.S. hands.

    1. Richard Kline

      Oh please, can we have some balanced commentary on this? The single cited source in the article is a Heritage Foundation hack. That is not a credible source. How about someone go to _a government source and the undersecretary level_ in ANY of these SE Asian countries allegedly ‘rallying around the US’ after this tiff. Of course no one bothered—because this is pure propaganda for English-speaking audiences. The US had a ploy blow up in the face of its client, so now we have damage control bloat floated days after. [I’m not being critical of the decision to link this piece, or skippy’s following the issue here; it’s important to follow the bread crumbs, that’s my view.] There are _some_ SE Asian countries on the wrong side with China. Malaysia comes to mind, a country uneasy at the closeness of their Chinese minority with China proper, and also with high hopes of exploiting undersea resources in this zone. I encourage anyone who wants to follow this to review the last dozen years of Chinese engagement with its immediate neighbors here. At the governmental level, and the level of engaged economies, China is entrenched, closely. Anyone recall that these countries have talked and talked quite substantively about floating a regional joint currency, like a precursor to the euro? How does _that_ substantive reality fit with the allegation from_ entirely American sources_ in this spin-piece that some of those same countries are ‘turning to the US?’ It doesn’t. Is there anti-Chinese popular sentiment in some parts of some populations amongst its neighbors? Yes. The economic elites have made their choices, and nothing in this confrontation does anything but reinforce that China is on the rise and US-Japan has no answers but bluster.

      The US blew it, badly here, and has suffered a significant loss of credit; that is my view. The US pushed its client into a confrontation, then left that client, Japan, twisting in the wind. The NY Times yesterday, chosen propaganda organ for matters like this, talked about how ‘Japan had misjudged the situation,’ which is a canard of such common feather it quacks and rubs oil into its feathers. If any country came out of this confrontation looking badly to those who follow these issues year by by year, it’s manifestly the US. So it’s no surprise that we get an American sourced spin piece, published in English, for audiences who speak the same saying, ‘Chinese overreach.’

      1. Skippy

        I thought it was obvious, hence the other link a few days ago…lol.

        China’s chosen the Australian navy as its partner for what is being called “the most intense war games with a foreign power” in its history.

        Australia’s RE & Commodity market have survived the GFC why[?] cuz the U.S. up-graded our Air Force (Afghanistan beanies) nope, cuz China has backstopped the two most important sectors over hear…with PERCHASE ORDERS.

        Skippy…have a nice holiday.

    2. Richard Kline

      On a parallel note to Kevin de Bruxelles, sorry I didn’t reply to your long comment in Yves’ 9/24 links post on this tiff in the East China Sea; I’m on vacation. But you made one point there I’d like to make an observation on, that US policy has the goal of preventing the EU from preferentially coordinating with an emergent Russian-Chinese bloc alliance. I agree with your remark only I would put it more strongly: The focus of _all_ major American global strategy initiatives since 1989 has been to find a way to keep Europe subordinated to US interests now that the collapse of the Warsaw pact has removed a gun from Europe’s head. This is the real agenda, in my view: all the rest is spin. Yes, yes, the US wants to make money off of oil this and armament sail that &etc. The real problem is that Europe simply doesn’t need an American alliance. So we have to go after their oil. We have to find ‘a Muslim menace’ which is non-existent for us (previously) but of concern to some there. The closer Germany becomes with Russia, the more we must find ‘Russian threats’ in Georgia, Ukraine, etc. And etc. All of this is really sound and fury to keep the Europeans in line, and with some success. We bullrushed Europeans to shipping off troops to the Gulf in 1990, and to Afghanistan even now, forcing them to dance to our tune. Hasn’t worked out at all well _for Europe_, but US objectives have been achieved.

      When the EU decides to end its subservience to the US, we will have a radical realignment of global power blocs. This is a far larger issue than Sino-American faceoffs. It is a far larger issue than the (re)emergence of China as a world power, to be frank. And exactly because no one is publicly debating or preparing for this shift, it will be all the more destabilizing when it comes. I don’t mean to imply that the EU will even necessarily become hostile to the US; I wouldn’t see that as the most probable outcome. But just consider this I suggest to you all: US imperial actions are designed to keep Europe in line as their strategic residual regardless of their immediate stated intent; “You still need us. We’re too powerful to mess with. It’s a dangerous world if we don’t carry the ball. Your comfortable stability falls to the ground if you stand up.” The narratives make far more sense from that perspective, but you’ll never read about it in the papers.

      1. Kevin de Bruxelles

        You are correct. I’ve discussed this with officers from several European armed services and during the Bush years they used to openly talk about a timeline of twenty years for an independent EU military organization. The election of Obama has cut some of the urgency. From the American side there is a huge amount of scepticism that the Europeans will ever be able to organize themselves into a coherent military force; and the Yanks are doing all they can to keep it that way!

  2. attempter

    Re Wall Street (the movie)

    I haven’t seen it, but the review sounds like what I expect. It really has nothing to do with the original characters, and it’s only a sequel carrying along Gordon Gekko because they think that’ll be more profitable. (I guess that old scam is appropriate here, given the subject matter.)

    Who the heck wants a geriatric Gekko as a good guy? I’ve masochistically watched the original many times, and the refreshing thing about Gekko is how openly evil he is, how honest about what a thug and parasite he is. So much better than the real life lies of neoliberal “democracy”.

    (I read that Gekko gets out of prison. I’d be interested in learning what evidence sent him to prison, because it certainly wasn’t anything he says on a wire at the end of the first movie. That could’ve been a WSJ op-ed.)

    Re sand cats:

    After yesterday’s links I asked my cat if all her yapping is on account of having come from the primeval forest.

    But, I said, that’s false as well, because we know that the ancestor of the domestic cat wasn’t the forest-dwelling European wild cat, but the North African sand cat.

  3. RJ

    The income distribution in Sweden as measured by the Gini coefficient is more equal than in USA but the wealth distribution is not. The distribution of wealth (assets) is more equal in USA. Gini coefficients 2006 according to Luxemburg Wealth Study: USA 0.81, Sweden 0.89.

  4. LeeAnne

    not a mathematician -if income is distributed fairly among people in Sweden and one guy has $1 billion in stocks, real estate and yachts; than I guess the wealth distribution is lousy.

    In the US, if 60% own their own homes (forget about the mortgage) and are shareholders, while tens of millions are unemployed or competing for income with the slave wage earners of the world, than wealth distribution is more equal.

  5. tomk

    With regards to the NYT article on the super insulated house. I’m a carpenter in Maine. We’ve built houses like this and they do work but the cost differential to traditional building practice is far greater than the article maintains. These are green trophy houses. I guess the hope is that they may lead the way but do we really want to live in houses so tight that one might suffocate if the power goes or the ventilator fails? How the (usually spray foam) insulation ages, moisture in the walls, sensor or control unit failures, long term power outages (generators suck up propane pretty quickly, and it might be tough to get the tank filled in extended blizzard or ice storm conditions), air quality, are just a few of the issues that need to be thought through. We need to move away from the suburbs.

    Geothermal heat pump systems are starting to become available here in Maine but they are rare. It seems like a very promising technology and I do hear a lot of talk, I hope to work on project with one soon.

  6. ex-PFC Chuck

    re the link “Can We Build in a Brighter Shade of Green?”

    Ground source heat pumps, which are a type of geothermal energy source albeit not very deep, are widely promoted by electric utilities in various parts of the country. Midwestern rural cooperatives are especially heavy into this. Also, Pacific Gas & Electric has extensive geothermal generation capacity throughout much of northern California.

  7. Kevin de Bruxelles

    That was a very interesting article on the passive house. My comment would be that normal American residential construction practices make achieving their goal quite difficult.

    For example why did they go with wood framing? Nasty ass particule board in an airtight house? Surely for both increasing thermal mass and attempting such a high degree of air tightness, masonry and concrete would seem the be the obvious choice. My fairly normal house built in the sixties here in Belgium only uses wood for the roof framing. The floors are concrete slabs and all walls are masonry blocks. Electric conduits are run in screeds on the slab and when they reach a wall a channel is routed out (dusty work) to reach the receptacle or light switch. Not only do houses here feel much more solid, in the summer the thermal mass helps keep the interior cool – but only if you have a way to resist solar gain through the windows.

    Which brings up another thing I would question on their design. Why not use an operable exterior shading device on the windows? Anyone who has been to Italy or France has seen the wood shutters there shut against the summer sun. The problem there is that is tricky to incorporate a bug screen into this type of window assembly. In Belgium aluminium roll down shutters (volets) are common on many homes. The more modern ones are powered by electric motors. They are very versatile. In the summer they can be dropped (partially or fully) to block unwanted sun. In the winter they can be dropped at night and increase the insulation value of the window assembly. They obviously provide a level of security against burglary as well, although any motivated thief could get past them, only it would take time and create noise. So for example in this house on a hot sunny day the shutters would help block solar gain while in the winter or on a cloudy day, when you want light in, they would remain open. In this way it is not so critical which way the windows are oriented although south should still be favoured. And this system works with bug screens.

    The super air tight seal is quite normal in office buildings. Seems like overkill to me in a residential situation though. The two air barriers could trap moisture between them. I wonder how they control humidity in the house from say boiling a pot of pasta or from taking a shower. And you have to run supply air ducts to each room (exhaust from the bathrooms though of course!) like a forced air system. I think especially this portion of the passive house package will limit its widespread adoption.

    1. bob

      In the Northeastern US there are many more problems. There are months at a time in the winter when 1 to 2 hours of indirect sunlight are the norm.

      Traditional natural gas tank water heaters are the norm here, and not venting them properly (VERY common) can kill the indoor air quality. Ditto with NG on demand tankless water heaters.

      Most of the passive house design principals are built on ready access to power. In VT, this is hardly guaranteed.

      One of the biggest problems for indoor air quality in the US, beyond the water heaters, is an attached garage. Especially in the NE, this is a “must have” for people dropping a half a million dollars on a house.

      The ideas are interesting, but without cost effective off the shelf appliances to fill these houses, there is little chance of it taking off.

      I also wonder about the “thermal mass” as you point out. Insulated concrete foam form walls are the new must have, and I think the the way to go.

      I am very familiar with LEED, and its downfalls. One of the major “credits” it gives is for a percentage of a building to be made of recycled material. Almost all structural steel in the US(and the world) is made from recycled material. This places a huge incentive for it to be used in construction. Again, this may make sense in areas other than the NE US.

      Ground source heat pumps are still dependent on the delta T of the source. I am familiar with wells in in the NE US where 300 feet(100m) down, the temp is still 40 degrees F (3-4c). Not much potential there, and VERY high upfront cost. And still dependent on reliable power for the pump.

  8. chicago dyke

    that’s the cutest cat pic ever. but i have to hope they have nice, warm cages for these critters up there in Sweden. dissipation of heat is not exactly the main problem there, yo.

    wealth distribution is not.

    what they understand and we do not: even radicals like me accept the fact that “the rich will always be with us.” i really don’t care if the 15th Viscount of Poppinjay has a big palace, fancy airplane, and pricey clothes. so long as that person pays a truly fair share in terms of their taxes, and that wealth is heavily taxed on the event of death, i’m satisfied to live in the same society as them. they can even ignore me and refuse to socialize with me (for all that’s a big part of our problem here right now).

    real progressives and even real radicals often have enough human compassion to tolerate the stinking rich, so long as they aren’t spending that money in an attempt to kill or control us. i really wish the overclass could understand that, but i suppose having as much blood guilt as they do makes them paranoid.

  9. GA

    Geothermal was promoted quite heavily by the government in Manitoba, and a friend put one in a house in Toronto. His general comments were that i) very difficult to retrofit a house without forced air; ii) minimum size/cost is such that doesn’t make much sense for single-unit houses in many cases (unless very large); iii) at least in his climate, needs to be used for cooling as well as heating to make sense. It’s only a couple years old but working well.

    His biggest surprise was that the technology is more common in commercial real estate than you would think.

    1. Richard Kline

      If I was to guess at the source of this malware, I’d guess Israel. But while I haven’t followed this story closely enough since it broke a bit back to do more than guess. Israel has the means, however. It has the incentive since it is fully apparent that Israel wants to attack Lebanon again but is uneasy about this if Iran is factored out of the equation. And Israel isn’t going to bomb Iran on its own and furthermore appears to have been told very specifically not to do so by the US into the bargain. The telling sign to me is that the malware has been introduced to Iranian manufacturing firms generally: this isn’t simply an attempt to harm Iranian nuclear development or security infrastructure but to short-circuit the Iranian economy. If it’s a successful attempt, look for an Israeli attack on Lebanon in the very near term.

  10. Francois T

    Re: NASA v. Scientists

    Has anyone on the Federal Govermin stop and ask some basic questions, such as, “WTF do we need that for?”?

    My money is on the “no” answer.

    Alas, such is the way the Nazional Sekurity Apparatus function; it self-reproduce and grow outside any meaningful control while invading every corner of society it possibly can. Note how strikingly similar to cancer cells this set of behaviors is.

    I’m counting on the Supine Court to uphold the limitless background checks, since they’ve rarely met a restriction to civil liberties they didn’t like.

    How do stay productive (you sell creativity, something that is out of norms, by its very definition) as a scientist when any behavior, writing or statement can be taken out of context, “analyzed” by people with too much authority and probably not enough training and common sense to match and used against you?

    This could end up badly. Scientists are free spirits by definition; the idea that anyone they’ve known could crimp their careers on a say so or two is a rather disquieting prospect, that, above all, do not serve any public purpose or national interest.

    I guess we do not have enough problems right now. We need to bother and crimp scientists that have helped this country to stay at the forefront of innovation, science and technology because…what exactly?

    A unified federal ID badge?

    Give me a freaking break!

  11. anon48

    @New Proof Wall Street Knew Its Mortgage Securities Were Subpar: Clayton Execs Testify

    “But they are presented as heroes who weren’t listened to. Barf.”

    Stuff like this is why I keep coming back…

  12. Lidia

    Yves, I would love for you to do a post called “what GDP means to me”.

    I have come to the conclusion that GDP is a statistic that merely measures spending and—above all—waste, rather than prosperity.

    If I buy a hunk of cheese from the farm stand here, there is no marketing, no refrigeration, and no packaging. If I buy some cheese at the big box store, it comes pre-sliced in a rigid plastic tray. Not only do I have to pay someone for the tray, I have to pay the garbage man to haul away the plastic tray. Then I have to pay for the landfill or (only in the best of cases) the recycling of the plastic tray. I have to pay for the diesel fuel for the garbage truck, and the troops to secure the flow of diesel fuel, the cost of increased traffic and road maintenance. Yet all that stuff supposedly ADDS to GDP!! I get the idea that everyone, even people who should know better, think all that “economic activity” is good, even when it is really double-plus-ungood. Correct me if I am wrong.

    Why does someone not try to tease out the destructive ‘production’ (bombs?) from the constructive ‘production’? My personal prosperity increases, the less bullshit I have to support… why should it not be the same with countries?

    Though I am not an expert in modern economics and so probably have overlooked anyone addressing this, it still seems like a major blind spot.

  13. rd

    This could get interesting:

    Apparently a Chinese bond rating agency is being turned down by the SEC to be an official bond rating agency. Apparently they don’t meet “record keeping, production, and examination requirements of the federal securities laws”.

    I wonder what ratings agencies they compared them against to come up with this concolusion. Are they using the US rating agencies that did such a stellar job over the past decade as the benchmark? I would imagine that as long as the Chinese rating agency could balance its checkbook, that it would be comparable.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I know some people with really good backgrounds who want to start a new rating agency. The process is very onerous.

  14. Brighton

    Socialism has not ‘failed’ – there is a long history of fluctuation in the continuum between oligarchic economic management (royalism) and collectivism. We are now and will always be somewhere on that continuum. The divide between left and right is much more about becoming more like Sweden than Stalin. The right sees this more clearly and has become adept at protecting its interests. They argue Stalin but they fear Sweden. Check it out:

  15. anon

    To me, the important part of the HuffPo article was that this was the last hearing of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. They will not dig any further into the underlying problems.

    IMO the last hearing highlighted the broken and fragmented nature of a system that fails to protect investors and instead works to perpetuate and protect greed and fraud. While the information revealed in this last hearing may help pension funds and other investors recover, the means of recovery (lawsuits) is expensive, slow, uncertain, and stacked against the investors. The political system (and the FCIC itself) seems to mirror those problems.

Comments are closed.