Links 10/2/10

Ig Nobel for ‘whale breathalyser’ BBC. Yo! Magnetar shared in the economics prize!

Animal farms are pumping up superbugs International Business Times (hat tip reader Skippy)

Craig Venter: Without Scale, Algae Fuel Companies “Playing” Giga (hat tip reader Crocodile Chuck). I recall NC readers raising objections along this line a LONG time ago!

The Bosom is Back Wall Street Journal. I wonder what trend mavens will make of this. Is it simply making a virtue of necessity, a concession to greater bodymass and breast implants among otherwise slender women? Or does this say something the zeitgeist?

Friendly Fire: Whining Up Front, Warmongering in the Back Chris Floyd

France and China hold talks on exchange rates Financial Times

Income gap between rich and poor in U.S. at record high International Business Times. I was interviewed on RV TV last week (clip out next week) and the interviewer said the income disparity in New York (presumably Manhattan) was worse than in India. I’d love to get a source for that factoid

These Families Shop When Aid Arrives Wall Street Journal. This is really depressing

Luxury stores caught out by surging demand Financial Times

Defective Chinese-made Drywall–repairs are casualty losses Linda Beale

BofA: Let Us Email You Disclosures Or Get The Hell Out Consumerist

In Comments, Fed Officials Signal New Economic Push New York Times. The story says the Fed will probably resume QE after Congressional midterms. Hhm, political considerations are dictating timing, yet the Fed pretends to be independent?

The NYT Could Not Find Any Critics of the TARP Dean Baker

Antidote du jour:

Picture 19

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. skj

    Also, the ratio of the incomes of the richest 10% to the poorest 10% is about 8.6 in India, 15.9 in the US. The richest 20% to in India earn only about 5 times the poorest 20% in India. The same factor is 8 times for the US.

  2. Neil D

    Another linkL

    Joe Nocera takes apart Wall Street defenders. Good stuff. Yet that same denial infects Main Street too. And these same Main Streeters in denial blame – wait for it – President Obama because he wasn’t tough enough on the banks. The result is – wait for it – they will vote for Republicans in a month and hand power back to the very people on Wall Street who they say are to blame.

    I know – there is no difference between the Dems and the GOP so it doesn’t matter if we put the GOP back in control of Congress. I hope you are right. We’ll find out soon enough.

    1. carol

      thanks for the link.

      Quote: “Goldman is the American dream factory. They can move people from the lower middle class to the ultra rich in one generation.”

      Apparently, what is a nightmare for non-wallstreeters: becoming rich by stealing, looting, frauding and deceiving, is wall-street’s ultimate dream.

  3. attempter

    Dean Baker:

    If they did, and they talked to them for their article on the end of the TARP, the critics likely would have told the NYT that the TARP preserved Wall Street as we know it. Had the market been allowed to do its magic, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, and many other fine institutions would have been bankrupt. This would have redistributed more than a trillion dollars of wealth from the shareowners, the creditors, and the top executives to the rest of the country.

    The NYT knows that but doesn’t follow you. Where’s the criticism? The TARP averted all the disgusting things you describe.

  4. Skippy

    Just thinking off the cuff much value (stocks/bonds/markets in total), US / global GDP can we attribute to the housing fraud machinations over the last 30, 15, 10, 5, years in slices. How much of that fictitious, bloated, obese value was transferred, laundered, moved out of country and to

    Skippy…and I don’t mean the stooge CEO’s or corrupt politicians of all stripes…I mean like the people that buy and sell banks like polo ponys, as a kind of hobby …lets see their names in the MSM please.

  5. Ina Deaver

    “Busts are back” — yeah, right. Actually, if you look, they are calling these styles “for the hourglass figure.” One only has a teeny, tiny waist when one is very young (and/or has not reproduced – your waist stays at least a little smaller as you age if you never have any kids).

    An hourglass is even harder to maintain, if you have one, than a stick figure (what a friend of mine used to affectionately call “the mop look”). You can always starve yourself down to a stick, but it is not really possible to achieve an hourglass by starving unless you have, ahem, surgical assistance.

    Without the return of the girdle/corset, this is even worse for normal women to try and achieve.

  6. LeeAnne

    The Bosom is Back Wall Street Journal

    but this is the real deal -like gangsta finance is real and the Wall Street Journal isn’t owned by Murdoch

  7. JRinNYC

    re: income disparity in New York vs. India

    Here’s an excerpt from a Sept. 29th post on NYC Coalition Against Hunger’s website:

    “New Federal Data: NYC Poverty and Inequality Soar, Average Family Income Down

    Manhattan Now Has Higher Inequality of Wealth than Haiti and Brazil

    Despite the skyrocketing wealth of the city’s 57 billionaires, the median income of families in New York City declined and the number of people in poverty soared, according to federal data released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

    All of New York City has a higher inequality of wealth than Burkina Faso or India. In Manhattan, which has the greatest income disparity citywide, the index is higher than Haiti or Brazil. …”

  8. LeeAnne

    Manhattan is so heavily weighted with billionaires that, not a mathematician. I wouldn’t take that particular statistic seriously.

    There’s no one starving in the streets in Manhattan. Even the panhandlers wear spiffy sneakers and look healthy.

    There are kitchens all over the city; my church is one of them. food stamps are given out liberally, and poverty will always be with us.

    Its relative.

    That isn’t to say that I am not OUTRAGED by the scarcity fraudulently created by Wall Street/Flett Street/Central Bankers et al for their own personal gain.

    But they’re just pigs. They won’t be there forever.

  9. wunsacon

    >> Income gap between rich and poor in U.S. at record high

    The top 1% own 50% of the financial wealth. So, what do you think happens to 50 cents of every $1 spent in TARP, QE, Fannie/Freddie MBS repurchasing or any program that buys worthless assets at face value or guarantees financial assets? It’s a subsidy for the top 1%.

    That’s why you see news like this:

    These bailout programs are dramatically skewed in favor of the rich! If capitalism had been allowed to run its course (and allow insolvent/corrupt/overleveraged firms to fail), they would’ve lost most of their supposed “wealth” — save the $250k guaranteed by the FDIC on every account. Suddenly, many of them would’ve become “middle class” like the rest of us.

    This isn’t capitalism. And this isn’t “socialism” either. (It’s disgusting.)

    1. wunsacon

      Also, remember that your “wealth” isn’t based on the absolute number of dollars in your pocket but your percentage share of all the dollars in circulation. *That’s* what gives you purchasing power. So, think of “handing out money” the same way you think about stock dividends: if all you get is an equal share, you’re no richer.

      Now, imagine I give people in the bottom 50% each 25 cents but give the top 50% each 75 cents. In that scenario, because I’ve given the top 50% more purchasing power than the bottom 50%, I’ve actually made the bottom 50% poorer.

    2. Ignim Brites

      Right on. If capitalist liquidation had been allowed to proceed the wealthy would have lost a ton. But so too would have the middle class. The real name for this is plutocracy. Keynesian economics has a lot to answer for in this respect. Of course, Keynesians are modern so a concept coming out of classical political philosophy is probably something they cannot understand.

      1. john

        Was it Keynes’ idea to provide perpetual government backstop or was his idea to provide temporary government support? Maybe the latter is impossible, but I tend to think Keynes’ ideas were bastardized beyond recognition while still retaining his name.

        1. Ignim Brites

          Sure perhaps in theory. But in practice, and after all, what are we talking about here?; we’re talking about practice, it is Keynesian economics that provides the rationale for the bailout of the plutocrats when the consequences of their errors are about to wipe them out. And after all what we’re talking about here is practice.

    3. Glen

      Yes, TARP and the bank bailouts had very little to do with saving the average American and everything to do with preserving those same people that screwed the world economy.

      No doubt we’ll be bombarded with a slew of articles this weekend touting the “success” of TARP. What a crock.

    4. Francois T

      Even if the TARP started under Bush (something the Reichpubliscums try very hard to deny), the fact is that Obama has been the most Wall Street-friendly President ever.

      Despite the most cataclysmic meltdwon since the Great Depession, and proof of rampant fraud, not ONE WS exec has been even bothered by the DOJ or the FBI. How the f&^% is this even possible?

      Is it any wonder he’s trying hard to lay the blame of the eventual defeat of the mid term elections at the feet of the “professional Left”? He just doesn’t want people to remember how servile and obsequious to the financiers he’s been and continue to be.

  10. john

    On the algae article: ExxonMobil thinks highly enough of algae fuels to feature some biologist nerd in its commercials. Grrrrr. Every time I see that guy, I think he’s got the easiest gig in the world. Show up, provide cover, shoot a commercial, collect cash — while his employer drills, baby, drills.

    1. Crocodile Chuck


      you don’t think Exxon knows its running out of places to find oil and that the jig will be up?

  11. emca


    The article linked is not anti-algae or is even critical of manipulation of the organism as a possible nexus in the conversion of carbon to fuel on a commercial scale. Its focus is Venter assertion that the commercial scaling involved is a necessary step in that realization.

    Summarizing, Venter’s view is that algae stands well on the overall sphere of fossil fuel alternatives, but one needs the prime mover in the current state of affairs, ‘Big Oil’, at least on the production/distribution side, to become a serious contender (or player?) with the current paradigm.

    Ironic, but whether you buy the assertion or not, is hardly course of a non-believer.

    Venter’s originally claim to fame is human genome sequencing project. Noteworthy bric-a-brac from related Gigaom articles:

    “Corn-to-ethanol just is not going to get us there. It’s a negative carbon balance and has been heavily subsidized by all of us,”

    “He (Venter) quipped that in a meeting with oil executives he told them if they don’t want to invest to solve the problem they helped create, then he would be perfectly happy developing the solution without them.”

    (coincidently, Exxon-Mobil was to announced not long after that they would invest 600M in Venter’s photosynthetic algae biofuels program.)

    A look at the opposite side of the coin, Big Oil, is also enlightening. Most if not all large oil concerns (Exxon-Mobil, Chevron, Dutch Shell, BP) have some investment in biofuel technology. PR? Yes, but as a commentator suggested, there would be a terrific competitive advantage for the first to grab the golden ring, government contracts alone (military, – the DOD wants to have 50% of its energy sources FF alternative by 2030) would generate billions in sales (which in why scaling is so important).

    some items on algae:

    There are thought 200,000-800,000 species of microalgae of which about 35,000 species are described. Venter’s research has been in manipulating gene matrix (outside those naturally occurring) to produce a ‘synthetic’ variant that produces only hydro-carbons, and little else for a very high organism-to-oil conversion rate (expenditure on reproduction not necessary).

    Although he makes a good argument, his is not the only path of algae research being pursued.

    Other companies are looking into variants of algae in micro-settlings which may have greater efficiencies in-situ than your common garden pond scum. Others are researching possible by-products which might overcome financial obstacles arising from an algae-based fuel production.
    The goal is to produce a bio-fuel in the range of $2.00/gal, or about what fossil fuels do now, in sufficient quantities to satisfy demand.

    Unlike corn, soybeans, humans have to no track record of raising algae, certainly not a large as scale as will be required if it is to be a significant bio-fuel. Uncertainty is the key; the mechanics alone of how this can be done is a large part of the research being done now.

    Algae may have other possibilities, or dual roles outside the singular production of bio-fuel. Being a plant, it uses CO2 in photosynthesis and could help in removing quantities of this gas from the atmosphere. It could help process waste (human or otherwise), using these effluents as feed stock for its processes.

    Craig Venter’s company, Synthetic Genomics, is not the only player in the algae base fuel gamble, nor is it the largest or most advance. Some of that acclaim might go Sapphire Energy who has already delivered 20,000 gals of algae bio-fuel to the U.S. government and is contracted for 150,000 more in a few years. Its goal is to provide one billion gals by 2025, which alone would be 3% the renewable fuel standard. This by the way is again why Venter is stressing scaling.

    Even those two does not begin to tip of iceberg. The following is a list of the top bioenergy companies in the World:

    Not all are bio/algae, but Solazyme, at the top is. Most of these companies are U.S. based, and U.S. employers, which on another rant poses the question, “will the technology in production stay in this country given its success?”

    In the world of algae based bio-fuels, what was cutting edge news in 2008-2009 needs to be updated to 2010-2011 and so on. The technology is moving very rapidly toward its tipping point. While the technology and commercial potential of this source is not completely proven, it is a risk, the rewards for the right guess are enormous.

    Outside the above, and to take a step aside, this is not exclusive to algae, or bio-fuels, or even transportation related endeavors but across the alternate energy spectrum. There’s a lot being done, both small scale and large, national as well as world-wide, as even a cursory glance at news items would show.

    Its seed and means is finance, venture capital both private and public, but it returns optimism outside the realm of dissipating, incestuous financial manipulation we’re mired today.

  12. chicago dyke

    boobs are “back” because widespread poverty is back. it’s hard to get the starving masses to spend their last 25c on a geegaw they don’t need when using stick thin models who proclaim heroin chic proudly.

  13. Sundog

    Paging Mr. Das….

    [Ireland finance minister] Lenihan had been speaking for less than two minutes on Friday before a mistake by Citigroup meant that the bank’s clients were all able to be heard on the line.

    Between 200 and 500 investors are understood to have been on the call, and as they realised their lines were not muted many began to heckle Mr Lenihan.

    Some traders began making what one banker on the call described as “chimp sounds”, while another cried out “dive, dive”. A third man said “short Ireland” before adding “why not short Citi too?”

    As the call descended into chaos, with one participant heard to say “this is the worst conference call ever”, Citigroup officials shut down the line.

    Harry Wilson, “Ireland’s finance minister Brian Lenihan ridiculed by City investors”

  14. Jack Parsons

    Boobs never went away. Cleavage has been a clothing constant here in Cali since the 90’s.

    This is just fashion designers jerking around the ultra-rich, as usual.

  15. Sundog

    Worth a read, very nice aside on Chinese media, but he doesn’t address the fraught question of what’s required to maintain industrial competence.

    There’s no question that China can extract rare earths at the cheapest price, in purely monetary terms. But now China’s trading partners must be seriously wondering, what could the real price amount to, when the bill eventually comes due?

    Patrick Chovanec, “The Politics of Rare Earth”

  16. rd

    You didn’t highlight these two IgNobel Prizes that are near and dear to this blog’s heart:

    Economics Prize: Awarded to the executives and directors of Goldman Sachs, AIG, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, and Magnetar for creating and promoting new ways to invest money — ways that maximize financial gain and minimize financial risk for the world economy, or for a portion thereof.

    Chemistry Prize: Eric Adams (US) and colleagues for disproving the old belief that oil and water don’t mix. The research, supported by BP, was published under the title: “Review of Deep Oil Spill Modeling Activity Supported by the Deep Spill JIP and Offshore Operator’s Committee”.

Comments are closed.