Links 11/9/10

Nuclear debris could reveal clues of bomb’s origin BBC (hat tip reader John M)

Mob-sourcing: the prejudice of crowds ZDNet

Pompeiians Flash-Heated to Death—”No Time to Suffocate” National Geographic (hat tip reader John M)

In Race Between Humans and Bacteria, My Money’s on the Bacteria Paul Kedrosky

A Recipe For Fascism Chris Hedges TruthDig (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Visas delayed for Northern Virginia Muslims traveling to Mecca Washington Post (hat tip reader Buzz Potamkin)

At Legal Fringe, Empty Houses Go to the Needy New York Times

Clear Capital: Home prices drop 5% in three months HousingWire

MERS: Symptom or Cause Katie Porter, Credit Slips

GMAC Foreclosure Case May Set Anti-Bank Precedent Bloomberg. The story is not new, but this account provides a lot of detail

1.2 Million Unemployed Want A Job But Have Given Up Looking Huffington Post

The Flash Crash, in Miniature New York Times

China Pension Chief Dai Proposes Setting Dollar Trading Range Bloomberg

East Asian Exchange Rates and China’s Trade Surplus Willem Thorbecke, Econbrowser. Explains why China’s 20% rise in the renminbi since 2005 did so little to lower its trade surplus.

Don’t Count on Global Governance Dani Rodrik, Project Syndicate

Our unemployment crisis is not structural Mike Konczal (guest blogging at the Washington Post!)

Markets alert for credit crunch 2.0 Jeremy Warner, Telegraph

It’s time for some trend reversals John Dizard, Financial Times

European Panic Over QE2 Eurointelligence (hat tip reader Swedish Lex)

Return to the Gold Standard would be madness Edmund Conway, Telegraph

Antidote du jour:

Picture 17

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  1. attempter

    Re redemption of vagrant houses:

    That’s the kind of thinking and action we need. That’s the kind of thing I’ve often advocated, calling it “organized squatting”.

    And here’s the same agrument I’ve made, meeting strange incomprehension:

    And neighbors generally agree. “There is no telling who was in and out of that house,” said Rawle Thomas, who lives next door to Mr. Ferguson and his family. “I like them, and I’d much rather have someone in there than the house empty.”

    The tone of the piece is backhanded, though. The basic idea here is creative and constructive. (It’s interesting that the quoted detractors are all bank flacks and flunkeys.)

    The piece does make clear that we have to guard against unscrupulous organizers who may just be another kind of crook (one possible example is briefly mentioned).

    The best way to organize it is on a non-profit basis, in alliance with local authorities. I expect such alliances to become more and more plausible as municipal budgets become ever more tight and more and more lots go vagrant. Chris Whalen (a moderate) thinks state governors themselves will soon be telling people to do exactly what this article describes – live openly, keep up the property, pay the proerty taxes, but don’t pay the banks.

    Done right and extensively, this can be stage one of the land reform America needs.

  2. john

    RE: A Recipe For Fascism – I agree this could be a recipe for fascism, but I dont agree with his assertations. He is too caught up in the left/right paradigm. He paints liberals as the only voice of reason, and tea partiers as lunatics who want to tear down govt except the security state? As far as I can tell, the security state and hyper invasive surveillance framework (which has been steadily expanding under both parties) is a prime concern of the tea partiers. And his comment that liberals sanity is the only thing holding back corporate fascism today is crazy..Corporations are unrestrained in this environment. I dont know what the Beck colored tea party ideals look like..but I consider him and Palin to be trying to capitalize on and lead (read steer) something not of their own creation. Reminds me of the pied piper. When a herd is whipped into a frenzy they just blindly follow without really examining where they are going. The fear pressure cooker has been on high for a long time. Things are very polarized right now. Everyone needs to take a breath and find center.

  3. KingBadger

    Re: Nuclear debris could reveal clues of bomb’s origin

    “many consider the threat of a nuclear attack by terrorists to be very real.”

    The complete lack of a nuclear terrorist attack is the only snag in their theory. Nation-states are the only entities proven to own nuclear weapons, with several having long-range ballistic missiles that can be activated within a very short space of time – such as in the next hour. Of course, we don’t have to worry about nations using WMD – only terrorists have a history of WMD usage.

    “Such an attack could potentially wipe out whole cities”

    Well gosh and golly, it’s a good job nation-states don’t go in for that kind of stuff – it’s only terrorists who stoop to such acts. This is why nation-states are so much better than terrorists.

    1. Francois T

      Those who consider the threat of nuclear attack by terrorists to be “very real” remind me of those patients who would read and study countless posts, articles or chapters about a given disease…of course, they became pretty convinced that the disease in question was a “very real” threat!

      Fortunately, a 5 to 10 minutes dialogue peppered with quite a few pointed questions from my part was usually enough to provide reassurance…and a reminder of the chasm between information and knowledge.

      I don’t have a lot of information, let alone knowledge about atomic weapons. But I’m very much aware (thanks to my engineer Bro) of the immense chasm between the theory of radioactivity and the enormous infrastructure of scientists, engineers, technicians and money needed to develop and maintain an atomic weapon program. After all, if it was that easy, a lot more countries would have done it already…no?

  4. craazyman


    The great crevasse of Western Economic Thought seems illuminated to its depths by a comparison of Mr. Rodik’s survey of the impediments to an enlightened globalization “Don’t Count on Global Governance” with Mr. Hedges’ beating of the devil “A Recipe for Fascism”.

    Mr. Rodik writes (as only an economist can, it would seem), “It is a mistake to imagine the world economy as if it were like, say, global climate – with its health and stability ultimately depending on the pursuit of universal instead of parochial objectives. Economists teach the virtues of open trade because it benefits us – not because it benefits others. . . Exposing the domestic economy to global markets – unlike curbing emissions at home – brings its own rewards.”

    Mr. Hedges is less impressed. He says “The ‘inevitability’ of globalization has permitted huge pockets of the country to be abandoned economically. It has left tens of millions of Americans in economic ruin. . . . They [the utopian idealogues] always demand that we sacrifice human beings for a distant goal. The propagandists of globalization-—from Lawrence Summers to Francis Fukuyama to Thomas Friedman—-do for globalization and the free market what Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky did for Marxism.”

    When Mr. Rodik’s arid abstractions are set next to Mr. Hedges’ notes from the front, the thought forms that compose the theological insanity of our time light up like a canvass by Caravaggio.

    Each century it seems, confronts this boulder like Sysiphus and each has its apologists and rationalizers who find ways of saying that the pushing is good exercise (as long as someone else pushes it). ha ha. Ecce Homo.

    If they dumped a 100 thousand Indian and Pakistani economists onto America to work for $20,000 per year in the name of ‘efficiency’ — all of them full of the same equations and theories as the six-figure dudes, indistinguishable from them, in fact, fungible even, like wheat or hog bellies — then I wonder whether our economists would change their tune.

    Yes what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. As the preacher sayeth “Ask not for whom the bell tolls . . .”

    1. attempter

      I’d say that comparison of globalization and Bolshevism, while not “wrong”, is a false equivalence.

      Someone who believed in Bolshevism and then became disillusioned as it betrayed the revolution could say with some legitimacy, “No one had ever done anything like this before, so I got carried away in believing in it.”

      (Although there too there were no lack of warnings beforehand, especially from the anarchists. Bakunin said so from the start.)

      But for a globalization believer to say, “How could I have known what would happen when you let corporations and capitalists run wild?”, is just offensive in the way it insults our intelligence. There they certainly can’t say no one had ever tried it before, over and over, with the same result every time. (And of course almost none of them have actually changed their actions; they’re just too cowardly to engage in the same triumphalist rhetoric. But the likes of Summers and Friedman are the same criminals they always were.)

      When they say that, it’s really just a tactical maneuver while they regroup to try to sell the same Big Lie yet again.

    2. Cedric Regula

      Obama just proved how easy it is for the US to compete in global markets. He showed us he can be a very aggressive airplane salesman during his India tour this week. Good salesmen know timing is everything and when your only competitor in the world has engines that burst into flames and your central bank announces a sale on all dollar denominated products and assets, you know it is time to ask for the order!

      But compromise the the art of the deal, and all Obama had to give up was the keys to the rest of the US economy. But Indian officials still seemed to take it all pretty well, at least if we assume the smiles on their faces were genuine, and not just diplomatic posturing to cover up their hurt feelings.

      1. attempter

        Here’s more on the level of Obama’s crimes:

        Mr. Barak Obama is in New Delhi today, to seek greater market access for the American agricultural goods in India. What the US couldn’t achieve through the Doha Round of WTO negotiations, Mr. Obama would try to get that through a bilateral deal with India. Today, the Bhartiya Kissan Unions staged a massive demonstration at the Parliament Street in Delhi protesting against Obama’s visit to India and his agenda to sign bilateral agricultural and trade deals to facilitate takeover of Indian agriculture by the US multinationals.

        The United States is pushing India for removing all barriers in the way of US exports to India and we are quite sure that Mr. Obama’s would secure this today, without making any commitment towards reduction in US farm subsidies, especially in cotton, which India has been demanding during the 9 years of Doha negotiations. The increased market access to agricultural goods of the United States would be disastrous for the Indian farmers who had suffered a lot in the last 15 years of WTO regime due to the dumping of subsidized cotton from US which resulted in sharp fall in cotton prices and increased farmers suicide in the cotton belt of India

        We, the farmers of India, mainly from Bhartiya Kissan Unions, are also quite agitated and upset with the furthering of Indo-US cooperation in agriculture. Since 2006, when Mr. Bush signed the Indo-US Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture, we have witnessed a greater penetration of US agribusiness companies in our policy making on agriculture as well as in our agricultural research institutions, such IARI, ICAR and agricultural universities. This also resulted in different policy initiatives in agriculture, like the new Seeds Bill, the National Biotechnology Regulatory Authority bill 2009, Protection and Utilisation of Public Funded Intellectual Property Bill, 2008 to benefit US agribusiness mainly Monsanto, DuPont, Cargill and others. Moreover, the US retail giant, Wal-Mart, has been publicly lobbying for opening up India’s retail sector to FDI and in this visit the thrust of Obama’s engagement would be on opening up of the food retail, which would result in complete takeover of Indian small retail. We, therefore, fear that any kind of the Indo-US agricultural treaty, focusing on agricultural research, biotechnology, retail, would bring Indian agriculture under the direct control of US Corporate houses.

        He and all other neoliberals are the murderers of those suicides.

        1. Doug Terpstra

          What a tragic story of criminal hypocrisy. Taxpayers are forced to subsidize US agribusiness, Monsanto, ConAgra, et al, to destroy lives and food sufficiency of people around the world. This and NAFTA are directly responsible for the destruction of Mexico’s economy and the unrest they are suffering now, all of it foreseeable and planned by the economic elite — guilty of murder as you say.

          Chris Floyd reports another hideous reason for Obama’s trip, representing US merchants of death:

          “Obama’s Peace Dividend: War Profiteering in the land of Gandhi” “…he has come to seal the deal on the sixth largest sale of war weapons in the history of the United States: $5 billion for the bristling, burgeoning Indian military, currently waging war on millions of its own people in Kashmir and the poverty-devastated state of central India, where the despair is so deep that suicide among the poor is epidemic.”

  5. Doug Terpstra

    I found Hedges’ “Recipe for Disaster” a powerful must read and shared it with others (thanks Yves and Furzy). Chris Hedges is truly a gifted thinker and writer.

    Hedges is saying the left/right paradigm does NOT work because there is very little left left. “All sides of the political equation are lackeys for Wall Street”, he writes.

    “On one side stands a corrupt liberal class, bereft of ideas and unable to respond coherently to the collapse of the global economy, the dismantling of our manufacturing sector and the deadly assault on the ecosystem. On the other side stands a mass of increasingly bitter people whose alienation, desperation and rage fuel emotionally driven and incoherent political agendas. It is a recipe for fascism.”

    It was co-opted and bought off; it sold out for personal peace and affluence:

    “The steady destruction of the movements of the left was carefully orchestrated. They fell victim to a mixture of sophisticated forms of government and corporate propaganda, especially during the witch hunts for communists, and overt repression. Their disappearance means we lack the vocabulary of class warfare and the militant organizations, including an independent press, with which to fight back.”

    But he’s right about the strange pro-corporate dissonance in the tea party, likely a manifestation of its billionaire backers (Koch bros) and Palin and Beck jumping out in front of the parade, using “hatred as a mobilizing passion to get the masses, fearful and angry, to call for their own enslavement as well as to deny uncomfortable truths, including global warming.”

    How weird is it that the tea party hardly mentions the multiple decade-long wars? Why is it that their attacks on the state frame it as Marxist , while Obama and Dems remain mute about such a fundamental fallacy? Because such nonsense and divisive paralysis serves both parties of the fascist state.

    1. Doug Terpstra

      I should have said, “The ‘left’ was co-opted and bought off…”

      One other point from Hedges:

      “Dealing with poverty is the basic responsibility of the state. But the state no longer has the interest or the resources (by design) to protect us. And the next target slated for elimination is Social Security.”

      Failure to privatize Social Security is, in his own words, Bush’s greatest regret — not the torture he boasts of approving or criminal wars based on proven lies and the murder of hundreds of thousands of innocents, maybe millions. But, IMHO, Obama is now the camouflaged wolf carefully selected to dismantle SS from the deep cover of the newly engineered GOP briar patch. First, watch for Obama to extend the plutocrats’ tax cuts — all but guaranteed. This is Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine formula to a tee — exploiting the traumatic paralysis wrought by the “creative destruction” of disaster capitalism in order to establish neo-feudalism. Many of the South American plantations have painfully wised up to this strategy, but the fattened sheeple of the homeland have been rendered defenseless — save for blogs like NC, New Deal, etc.

      1. BondsOfSteel

        I fear that Obamba is a lame duck.

        I personally doubt he has the ablity to influence Social Security reform in any meaninfull way even if he chose.

        Look at the way he’s handled DADT. He waited untill the 11th hour to try and pass it… failed. It was overturned by the court, but he _defended_ it with the rationale that

        1) It needed to be overturned by congress
        2) We needed to wait until the Dec military review came back
        3) It didn’t matter because ‘it would end under his watch’

        Hmm. Now it just takes a couple republican senators to block a major campaign promise, put off a good section of his base, and make him look powerless.

        This is something that > 70% of the population (including a majority of the military) support… AND something that most of his supporters feel is a fundamental civil right.

        I don’t think you have to worry about Obamba.

        P.S. You could argue that he’s really aganist repealing DADT, and this is some plot. If so, it’s the worst plot ever. It’s lose/lose for him… win/win for his opponents.

        1. Doug Terpstra

          Good point: DADT is a baffling example of a “flub” that seems to have no discernible upside … yet anyway.

          Obama is quite a puzzle. Sometimes he looks like Machiavelli reincarnate, sometimes a tool like the Manchurian candidate, and sometimes a pitiable fool. I still lean toward Machiavelli.

          1. attempter

            There’s no puzzle. On top of his kleptocratic corporatism, he’s also a bigot. His loathing for gay marriage has long made that clear.

            So he’s not only a hard-core economic and political reactionary, but he’s not even a social liberal.

  6. Dikaios Logos

    I am super glad to see the NYT piece, “At the Legal Fringe, Empty Houses Go to The Needy”. I adversely possessed a piece of property a few years ago and the legal principles involved seemed quite wise. I feel a tad better knowing that some of this wisdom is being employed to the benefit of the disadvantaged.

  7. Dirk

    Re: humans and bacteria. My money is on the bacteria too. Anyone with half a brain and who understands evolution should have known this was coming for years.

    1. Sundog

      Anyone in the mood for more on bacteria could do worse than have a look at this piece by Valerie Brown, which highlights recent advances in microbiology and attempts to provoke the reader into re-thinking assumptions. She also addresses bacteria in relation to some human issues such as antibiotics, obesity and mental health. For me the big takeaway is how quickly the domain of the “known unknowns” seems to be growing in this field.

      I’m not a microbiologist but this seems a terrific example of writing about science for a mass audience. It’s a bit long but well worth taking a few minutes to read.

      Regardless of the scale at which we explore the biosphere — whether we delve into the global ocean or the internal seas of individual organisms — bacteria are now known to be larger players than humans ever imagined.
      In a series of recent findings, researchers describe bacteria that communicate in sophisticated ways, take concerted action, influence human physiology, alter human thinking and work together to bioengineer the environment.
      The tree-of-life notion remains a reasonable fit for [some organisms], but emerging knowledge about bacteria suggests that the micro-biosphere is much more like a web, with information of all kinds, including genes, traveling in all directions simultaneously. Microbes also appear to take a much more active role in their own evolution than the so-called “higher” animals.
      Bacteria are the sine qua non for life, and the architects of the complexity humans claim for a throne. The grand story of human exceptionalism — the idea that humans are separate from and superior to everything else in the biosphere — has taken a terminal blow from the new knowledge about bacteria. Whether humanity decides to sanctify them in some way or merely admire them and learn what they’re really doing, there’s no going back.

      Valerie Brown, “Bacteria ‘R’ Us”

      1. Sundog

        [Netizens] are the sine qua non for [contemporary society], and the architects of the complexity [the Party] claim[s] for a throne. The grand story of [Party] exceptionalism — the idea that [Party elites] are separate from and superior to everything else in the [social realm] — has taken a terminal blow from the new knowledge about [netizens]. Whether [the Party] decides to sanctify them in some way or merely admire them and learn what they’re really doing, there’s no going back.

        Duncan Hewitt, “The march of the netizens”

        1. Dirk

          Thanks for the interesting links both of you. And MLTPB: I’m not sure how deep your rabbit hole of irony goes, but I’ll guess and say that to judge by some of my friends, robots and humans will merge before any serious battle occurs.

    1. F. Beard

      I’d love to hear from Frankenbeard on the gold standard link. Chris

      I suppose that might mean me. I haven’t given it much thought yet. I, of course, oppose government sanction of any private money or money class such as gold or silver. If the free market dictates that I buy gold in order to buy an ipod from China, then so be it. However, if our government tries to require or accept taxes in gold then we should all strenuously resist that effort since it would be a government sanction of a private money form. The private money forms that do not require gold such as common stock would be disadvantaged.

  8. Hugh

    Like so many stories on this topic, the job numbers story is garbage. The full length story is here:

    It begins:

    “A heartening jobs report last week masked an ominous statistic: Discouraged workers hit a record 1.2 million”

    News flash to USAToday, it was 1.2 million in September too. I wonder how and where these stories get generated because it is obvious the writers of them never go and actually read the tables at the BLS. That 1.2 million number comes from the A-16 table (Persons not in the labor force and multiple jobholders by sex, not seasonally adjusted) category Discouraged Workers. The BLS helpfully defines these as:

    “Includes those who did not actively look for work in the prior 4 weeks for reasons such as thinks no work available, could not find work, lacks schooling or training, employer thinks too young or old, and other types of discrimination”

    This is a subset of the more pertinent category (also in the A-16) Persons who currently want a job. That number is 5.867 million. That is a substantially bigger number. And remember these are not counted as unemployed. They are defined as not being part of the workforce but wanting to join it. But even here there is a caveat. The BLS claims that this category decreased by 82,000 in October and has been trending down for months.

    My own calculations put the number of those not in the workforce but wanting in, also referred to as the BLS undercount (because they are not counted as unemployed) was 5.911 million and represented a 393,000 increase over September. So I am not buying the BLS story about an improving trend.

    I would also note that the U-3 unemployment rate of 9.6% stands for 14.8 million unemployed Americans. The U-6 measure of under and un- employment is at 17% and covers 26.2 million Americans. Add in the BLS undercount and we are talking 32 million and a disemployment rate of 20.1%.

    Stories like the USAToday one linked to by the HuffPo are a kind of bait and switch, citing discouraged workers as if this number represented the much larger BLS undercount.

  9. Conor

    RE: Pompeiian style of death: (heh,heh,heh)… Well I’d rather die of pasteurization than asphyxiation, would you? Nicer ride outa’ town me thinks.

  10. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    First, China pension chief wants a dollar trading range.

    Then, China ratings agency will downgrade US bonds…wait, they just did that today.

    Then, Chinese Communist Central Committee on Beauty will declare only almond eyes can be considered beautiful…that will be the last blow to our remaining competitive industry – Hollywood.

  11. harminder

    Hi Yves, Richard et al,

    have you guys seen this:
    Bank of America Edges Closer to Tipping Point: Jonathan Weil
    By Jonathan Weil – Nov 4, 2010

    … “Its market capitalization stands at $115.6 billion, or 54 percent of book value. That’s the second-lowest price-to-book ratio among the 24 companies in the KBW Bank Index, and well below the 76 percent ratio the company was at in October 2008 when it landed its first round of TARP dough. Put another way, the market is saying there’s a $96.8 billion hole in Bank of America’s balance sheet. ”

    Would be interesting to see if someone’s doing some comparisons across banks- have their market values and CDS spreads become worse with the foreclosure fiasco?

  12. Sundog

    Willem Thorbecke says the world should institutionalize an East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere v2. I would rather see some alternative in which smaller states could play amongst China, India, Russia, the West, and each other.

    Dani Roderik says it’s time to throw sand in the wheels of globalization. I very much agree but as an American who lived 10 years in Japan, I saw how feeble protected sectors can become.

    This was made very explicit when Japan bet on finance post-Plaza and blew itself to shreds, but there were many other examples in everyday life. But I always thought protection of the retail sector made sense as a way to create employment in the formal sector for people who would otherwise be driven out due to their unwillingness to move to urban conglomerations, their lack of ability to accomplish more productive tasks, their ties to land and family, etc.

    This is why I advocate a major reset and simplification of US tax code — away from debt, away from hidden subsidies, away from corporate welfare, away from employers — and toward consumption.

    Meanwhile Guy Sorman imagines a cohesive national population happy enough to get off the tread-mill.

    More strikingly, stagnation has found its promoters in Japan itself. A leading public intellectual Naoki Inose, who is also Tokyo’s vice governor, has declared that “the era of growth is over.” When Japan was threatened by Western imperialism, he says, the country had to open up (in 1868) and modernize. This process has been completed. Japan is now ready to reconnect with its own tradition of social harmony and zero growth.

    Guy Sorman, “Dreaming of a New Edo Era”

    Meanwhile, from our neighbor to the south:

    Officially, only 4 or 5 deaths have been reported from this area, but inhabitants talk of more than a hundred by hands of organized crime. Up until that point, I was reluctant to give credit to all the stories I had just been told, the carnage described to me seemed absurd, completely implausible. I still didn’t see reality, nor did I realize the worse was yet to come.

    While driving home from work that evening I saw convoys of armed men as they took to the streets with their trucks marked with signs, their windows down exposing their automatic weapons and bulletproof vests to all who dared to look.

    The convoys were lead by Public security patrols whose agents screamed at civilians to move to the side. As fear and panic left some drivers stupefied, machines guns were shoved in their faces to force them from their catatonic states and clear them from the convoy’s path.

    Victoria de Anda, “Reynosa: The Night we Removed our Masks”

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