Links 12/21/10

Hardships of a Nation Push Horses Out to Die New York Times

The Doctor’s Dog Will See You Now Wall Street Journal

Microchips now used in everything from toilets to tombstones SiliconValley

Cold Burn George Monbiot

Why it’s natural for girls to play with dolls and boys to love guns Daily Mail (hat tip reader May S). Aieee, this sort of gender stereotyping drives me nuts (and yes this is the Daily Mail but you see more sophisticated versions of this sort of thing elsewhere). I happen to have hated dolls, and my favorite toy in my toddlerhood was a crash car (you can see where my appetite for financial train wrecks began….)

Latvia provides no magic solution for indebted economies Guardian

Rollover is all, Moody’s fears for Portugal edition FT Alphaville

Chicago Magazine Asks Why Illinois is So Corrupt NewGeography (hat tip reader May S)

Homes at Risk, and No Help From Lawyers New York Times

Six arrested at Clayton bank protest KMOV (hat tip Lisa Epstein)

One-in-Three Working Families Considered ‘Low Income’ WSJ Economics Blog

Reality Check: Why Truth Will Protect Social Security Marshall Auerback and Randall Wray, New Deal 2.0

European bank stress tests: Third time lucky? Nicolas Véron, VoxEU. The very fact that the US stress tests are called “ruthless” in comparison to the European ones give an idea what a joke those are.

“The Effect of Falling Home Prices on Small Business Borrowing” Mark Thoma

Antidote du jour:

Screen shot 2010-12-21 at 4.30.51 AM

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  1. attempter

    Re California mortgage lawyer law:

    But foreclosure specialists say there has been an unintended consequence: the honest lawyers can no longer afford to assist Ms. Bell and all the others who feel helpless before lenders that they see as elusive, unyielding and skilled at losing paperwork.

    I find it hard to believe that was an unintended consequence. The fact that the MBA supports it is the clincher.

    If they were serious about protecting vulnerable homeowners, why not use a dedicated TARP-based fund to pay the lawyer, and have the homeowner pay back the TARP?

    Oh, right, Geithner/Obama specifically nixed any such use of the TARP money…

    Why not make the banks themselves dedicate a fund to pay the lawyers? Ok, ok, I guess I’m just being silly now…

    Meanwhile, just as one would suspect, the actual swindlers receive no credible reprisal.

    The senator’s lie, that “you don’t need a lawyer”, should be true. Here as almost everywhere else there’s no reason whatsoever for the law to be so complicated that the average person can’t competently navigate it on his own.

    But here as everywhere else the lawyers and corporate interests have intentionally complicated the law to render it inscrutable to anyone but themselves, all in order to more effectively lie, steal, and extract parasitic rents.

    In this case, the complication of the law was deemed more suitable as a barrier against the banksters’ being held accountable. That was the priority over rent extractions by low-level lawyers. So this law was passed as a barrier against homeowner access to the law.

    It’s the state of nature for us, in more and more spaces. Better dust off the Hobbes and see what he has to say about what we may, should, and must do once the state unilaterally breaks the social contract.

  2. russel1200

    Re California mortgage lawyer law:

    Well sure if you can get paid for doing no credible work: that can work great for you. But lawyers have found ways to work for broke people in other venues. It just requires a certain amount of performance.

    Too many lawyers are in the loan modification racket to make this a credible story. Florida is just loaded with them.

    The lawyers they would get would do them no good.

    1. karen1p

      Any lawyer looking at this whole racket and telling a client to modify is a hack. Loan mods are being revoked right and left. The banks will not grant a PERMANENT MOD!!!

      This whole system is fraud. Fight like it is.

      1. leapfrog

        I agree, Karen! How can the bankster’s “modify” something they have no standing/capacity to do? Would the “real owner” please stand up?

  3. Jack Rip

    The BOA in Clayton report brings up an issue that hardly discussed in public. The banks and their servicers are ineffective operations that run more poorly than seems possible. You hear repeatedly of lost documents, lack of response, foreclosures on properties that keep up agreed upon payments, directions, and instruction given to borrowers that are wrong, partial or misleading.

    The banks that got the $3T from the taxpayer don’t seem to be able to provide services efficiently and timely. What value these expensive creatures produce that was worth saving?

    1. Cedric Regula

      Be glad the unwashed masses don’t get treated to auerbach & wray “truths”. Having them on your side is far worse than having Rush against you.

      Every time we have to read one of their missives, somewhere in the pile of words they slip in a sentence or two describing the “secret sauce” that makes all their BS work.

      Secret Sauce: The USG is NOT financially constrained because the USG CAN issue unlimited “IOUs”.

      The masses are then expected to believe that econ actors like the Chinese manufacturers, oil producers, American doctors and hospitals, and anyone else with pricing power supplying a scarce good, resource or service will forever happily take this unlimited supply of IOUs in return for the real stuff they provide.

      “nutter wing” s/b plural.

  4. Smooth Oxygen

    Can’t honestly believe that anybody would, with a straight face, hail Latvia as the model to follow. Losing a quarter of your GDP is considered laudable and worth emulating? Losing an eighth of your population (so far) is a small price to pay? What exactly was the Irish potato famine to these people?

    I’m just, gah, I don’t know how to express my disgust with these sociopaths.

  5. Ina Deaver

    The piece about the horses breaks my heart. Anyone who has ever dealt with mustangs can tell you how intensely brutal and unforgiving wild life is; most horses raised to be fed by hand have no chance at all of making it. Race horses are not bred to survive in the wild.

    1. leapfrog

      The horse story broke my heart too. I’m a life-long horse lover/owner. I can’t believe it costs $40 per day for food there. Are there any nonprofits who are helping & perhaps I could make a donation? I wish I could transport a few of them here – but I’m in a big bank battle right now against my “pretender-lender” & cannot afford. I agree with you about the domesticated horses not having a chance, especially the hot bloods/minis, who are much more constitutionally fragile. Even in my area, people are starving them or turning them loose/abandoning. The Grace Foundation is full and their organization is floundering too. Heart-breaking indeed.

  6. Jim the Skeptic

    From the Link: “Reality Check: Why Truth Will Protect Social Security Marshall Auerback and Randall Wray, New Deal 2.0”

    They’re backkkkk! Apparently they got singed with the last effort and so are offering another attempt.

    In their post: “9. Payroll Taxes Do Not “Pay for” Social Security.”

    From my comment on 14 December: “All of my working life I have held jobs where FICA was withheld from my wages. Now they want me to believe that the government took the money under false pretenses, gave the Social Security Trust Fund an invalid IOU, lied to the public about it, and then spent the funds.”

    The government published a narrative about Social Security from it’s inception.

    The government justified the payroll tax increase from 2% to about 6.2% with a well known narrative so I will not repeat it.

    Now these guys want to act like those narratives meant nothing!

  7. Jim Haygood

    ‘Social Security is an assurance program, maintained by a promise by Americans of working age to provide material support for seniors and other beneficiaries (widows, dependents, and people with disabilities). It is an assurance that is renewed every generation.’ — Wray/Auerback

    This is the very core of Frank Roosevelt’s monstrous lie.

    Reportedly the first person to qualify for Social Security retirement benefits in 1941 — a woman in Vermont who had paid into the system for only six years — ended up living into the 1980s and collecting a hundred times what she’d paid in.

    An extreme example, perhaps. But the system was never properly reserved. After all, if there wasn’t an apparent ‘something for nothing’ aspect in front-loaded benefits (and back-loaded costs), where would be the political appeal?

    Solemn nonsense about a ‘generational promise’ which minor children did not (and were not legally qualified to) agree to, is just a formula for Boomers to complacently exult, ‘We’re screwing future generations — and they LOVE it, the little buggers!’

    It’s a particularly easy formula for the childless to buy into. Any court in equity would agree (absent political compulsion) that minors cannot be deemed to have agreed to a deal which clearly wasn’t in their best interests. Indeed, their guardians have an affirmative obligation to protect them from such callous exploitation by Ponzi schemers.

    A society based on institutionalized frauds such as Social Security and Medicare won’t survive. And as Cedric and Jim noted above, the delusional MMT ‘free money’ claim makes this essay sound like it fell out of flying saucer piloted by crazed alien greys on an epic DMT trip.

    Mark Twain had their number: “Sometimes I wonder if the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it.”

    1. CoachJim

      SS is a pay-go system, with an enormous trust fund that finances the Federal Government. It provides disability insurance and old age benefits from payroll tax revenues. Under the most horrendously conservative fiscal assumptions, SS can pay 100% of all promised benefits until 2038, after which benefits may fall to 75% if changes are not made to the system. To compare SS to Medicare, which I agree is a nasty Ponzi created by cruel politicians, is completely ridiculous. But hey, why speak the truth when most folks are ignorant and will buy all the lies. Have a nice day!

    2. DownSouth


      What you offer up is the flip side of what Wray and Auerback offer up. Key to understand the wrangling between you, Wray and Auberback is the realization that the three of you are playing with the same coin. But there exists a totally different coin, one that you, Auerback and Wray seem to be totally ignorant of. But FDR was eminently cognizant of this other coin, and he played it masterfully.

      I do not know if FDR was a fan of Charles Dickens or not, but the two are definitely cut from the same piece of cloth. I stumbled upon this from George Orwell’s essay Charles Dickens the other day, and I thought it described FDR’s approach to life and to politics perfectly:

      No grown-up person can read Dickens without feeling his limitations, and yet there does remain his native generosity of mind, which acts as a kind of anchor and nearly always keeps him where he belongs. It is probably the central secret of his popularity. A good-tempered antinomianism rather of Dickens’s type is one of the marks of Western popular culture. One sees it in folk-stories and comic songs, in dream-figures like Mickey Mouse and Pop-eye the Sailor (both of them variants of Jack the Giant-killer), in the history of working-class Socialism, in the popular protests (always ineffective but not always a sham) against imperialism, in the impulse that makes a jury award excessive damages when a rich man’s car runs over a poor man; it is the feeling that one is always on the wrong side of the underdog, on the side of the weak against the strong. In one sense it is a feeling that is fifty years out of date. The common man is still living in the mental world of Dickens, but nearly every modern intellectual has gone over to some or other form of totalitarianism. From the Marxist or Fascist point of view, nearly all that Dickens stands for can be written off as ‘bourgeois morality’. But in moral outlook no one could be more ‘bourgeois’ than the English working classes. The ordinary people in the Western countries have never entered, mentally, into the world of ‘realism’ and power-politics. They may do so before long, in which case Dickens will be as out of date as the cab-horse. But in his own age and ours he has been popular chiefly because he was able to express in a comic, simplified and therefore memorable form the native decency of the common man. And it is important that from this point of view people of very different types can be described as ‘common’. In a country like England, in spite of its class-structure, there does exist a certain cultural unity. All through the Christian ages, and especially since the French Revolution, the Western world has been haunted by the idea of freedom and equality; it is only an idea, but it has penetrated to all ranks of society. The most atrocious injustices, cruelties, lies, snobberies exist everywhere, but there are not many people who can regard these things with the same indifference as, say, a Roman slave-owner. Even the millionaire suffers from a vague sense of guilt, like a dog eating a stolen leg of mutton. Nearly everyone, whatever his actual conduct may be, responds emotionally to the idea of human brotherhood. Dickens voiced a code which was and on the whole still is believed in, even by people who violate it. It is difficult otherwise to explain why he could be both read by working people (a thing that has happened to no other novelist of his stature) and buried in Westminster Abbey.

      You, Auerback and Wray live in this world. The majority of us, including Dickens and FDR, have lived in this world. It’s a world that you, Auerback and Wray have no comprehension of, because it doesn’t fit neatly into your theorems and your highly bowdlerized concept of “realism.”

    3. ScottS

      How is social security any different than everyone having their own 401(k), and suddenly drawing it down as boomers retire? Same thing. Just replace “Federal Government” with “Charles Schwab” and suddenly everything is hunky-dory. Stop this nonsense. We paid into it, we get something out of it.

      Who cares if some people draw more and some draw less? Do you understand what insurance is? I don’t wreck my car all the time, but I pay into my auto insurance. If I do wreck a car, it’s there to help pick up the pieces.

      I’m healthy now, so most of my health insurance premium is wasted as far as I’m concerned. When I get old, I’ll use more than I pay into it. It balances.

      Anyone who opposes Social Security is sociopathic.

    4. craazyman

      yr comment about alien grays and falling out of the saucer really hit home because that’s exactly what happened to me. No DMT in my case. It just happened.

      The MMT folks aren’t really that bad off.

      Consider the energies in a tribe first. Then think of money. And then fit money to the tribal energies, like a regression analysis (as much as I hate the Cartesian crutches that plague macroeconomics). And then consider the causation as well as the correlation.

    1. leapfrog

      Yes, there are a lot of stupid pet owners out there. But some pet owners think of their animal friends as part of their family. Were I in a situation where I could not find my elderly & blind horses a home, I would do as Countess Bessenyey did. Far more humane, than to turn them out to die a miserable death.


        I have two relatives with dogs, they found out the dogs don’t like each other, now they’re not speaking to each other. Part of the family all right.

        I see dogs in the children play area all time where there are signs explicitly saying no dogs.

        Over breeding for profiteering leading to huge numbers of pets(mostly dogs) being put down, abused etc.

        Street pooping, barking and screeching cats fighting in the middle of the night.

        Horses being ridden on dangerous sections of road, horse riders that get annoyed at you for being on the road even when you’ve stopped for them. The horses are probably as annoyed and frightened as I am when I encounter them as when they encounter me.


  8. Matthew

    Counterarguments to Moonbiot’s op-ed, as well as coverage of Australia’s current cold streak (they just got snow in the middle of winter). Also if you pop out to the main site they have coverage of the Antarctic Ice Sheet which has just hit a record size in recent history (something the alarmists always omit – and omission that denies context to people is for all intents and purposes a lie).

    ALWAYS do your own due diligence.

    Cheers all….

    1. craazyman

      Sufficient unto the day is the weather thereof. But who by cloaking himself can hide his God-less soul, and unto him be given the fire of eternal damnation, even unto the endtimes and even afterthereof, unto the final end times, and even beyond, until even clocks say forget it, or until everything starts again with the dinosaurs. I have channeled Global Warming and I say it is a psychological phenomenon, but few believe me and those who do are just being polite (I can tell). –DT Tremens, Professor of Climatographic Spirituality & Group Sykolojy, U. Magonia, Institute for Pyschic Studies

    2. ScottS

      I remember all the bellyaching about how expensive it would be to fix the ozone layer depletion.

      Yet, we got rid of the CFCs, the ozone is fine, and the only financial wounds are the recent, self-inflicted ones.

      Do you really think scientists have some agenda? Are they playing a prank on the world? Do they get fat stacks of cash from windmill owners?

      Or is it more likely that the bellyaching climate change deniers have more to gain from deregulation, and that the scientists are making their case because they truly believe it.

      Jesus, just follow the money. It’s not that hard.

      1. craazyman

        that ozone hole freaked me out. seriously. I was imagining all sorts of space wave shit piling down through that hole and toasting everything like on a barbeque. I am very glad that hole is fixed. I’d rather use a roll-on deoderant than a spray. fOR ME. iT’S a good investament, whatever regulations were imposed to close that hole. So for hair, I just use Olive Oil. Honest to God. it works. Just a little on your palms and a few rubs and I look like Brad Pitt on a good day (for Brad). loL. aND i’M A PROFESSOR and an athlete too.

    3. ScottS

      Climate change deniers are the most insuperable pricks. Do greenies spend all summer long going “Gee, sure is HOT today. Guess global warming must be TRUE!”

      No. You’d punch that guy in the face.

      Likewise, anyone who says “Wow, sure is COLD today. Guess global warming must be FALSE!” deserves what they get.

      I think driving a Prius is a silly way to show your support for sustainability. Wow, you found a way to make a slight dent in one of the lesser greenhouse gases that involves zero compromise to your lifestyle and requires a bunch of toxic rare earth elements. Good for you!

      But at least their heart is in the right place. And they’re voting with their dollars, which should warm the cockles of the denier’s cold, cold hearts. The free market can never be wrong!

      To which deniers instead respond with “Fuck it, it’s too expensive. Besides, we checked around and found someone who doesn’t think it’s even real. So stop worrying about it.”

      Real comforting.

      1. Matthew

        Scott, If the best you can do is come back with ad hominem attacks and generalizations about the people you “think” compose the skeptic side of the argument, it means you don’t actually have a rational argument to stand upon (and I’m sure you know that which is why you’re so reacting in such an emotional manner). In this respect, I invite you to go to the link provided and actually READ what it says. Read the comments sections….take everything you know and all your ability and if you have counterarguments to things like ‘1200 kms data smoothing’ or urban heat sink effects, by all means provide them. That’s the place to test the mettle of your beliefs. Best wishes….

        1. ScottS

          I don’t listen to Art Bell and Fox News and debunk them, and I won’t bother debunking your tin-foil hat web site. Life is too short.

          If a super-majority of scientists are convinced that climate change is happening, that’s good enough for me. I’m not getting a degree in geophysics to appease your notion that there must be two sides to every story.

          Fact: carbon dioxide is a green house gas.
          Fact: carbon dioxide is released in the internal combustion cycle. More carbon dioxide by weight than gasoline that goes into it.
          Fact: carbon dioxide sequestration is decreasing because of ocean acidification, clear-cutting forests, etc.
          Conclusion: we have increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, therefore more greenhouse gas, therefore more heat — absent of some mitigating factor.

          Now methane is a much worse greenhouse gas that has increased due to livestock production and landfill out-gassing. That should TRULY worry anyone, much more than carbon dioxide.

          If you can refute any of the facts above, then please submit it to the Nobel Prize committee. I’m not interested.

          1. Matthew

            First, I don’t deny that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, nor that it is produced in combustion engines. I do deny that in comparison to solar radiation (and due to solar forcing increased airborne water vapour) it has any meaningful impact on our climate.

            That being said, you know what’ll fix all that carbon dioxide Scott?

            More junkets for 1,000’s of delegates who appreciate your gullibility as they jetset into places like Cancun and Bali….places dependent upon AIR TRAVEL to exist.

            The day those guys start teleconferencing and protesting the existance of the tourism industry is the day they’ve demonstrated they believe their own story.

            Until then, you’re getting scammed by people who don’t even have the decency to pretend they care if their actions undermine their claims.

            In addition, if they actually believed their own hype then why is it that net CO2 production is actually being allowed to increase due to massive expansion of emissions of CO2 (and other GHG’s like methane) in China, India, etc. Could it be that it’s because the one of the primary architects of the Global Warming scam is Maurice Strong who is a paid consultant to the Chinese government? Great way to wage economic war isn’t it? Create a global system whereby all your competition is forced into a non-competitve price structure while China is subsidizing fossil fuels?

            Look it up….for the record, if you don’t, you’re admitting you’re a coward because you know you’ll find what you don’t want to know is true.

            By the way, “vast majority of scientists”? I can’t believe you still are trying to play that debunked myth….more than 1,000 scientists have signed the latest dissent paper which is almost 20x the number who authored the IPCC report (52).


            Keep up the good work Scott….they’re depending upon you to NOT do your own due diligence.

  9. Tertium Squid

    Re Auerback and Wray, I got as far as this:

    “Social Security is a Generational Promise. …those of working age produce the goods and services needed by Americans of all ages, secure in the knowledge that when they become aged or infirm, the next generation will work hard to support them.”

    Yeah, so long as there IS a next generation. Funny about that. The inclusion of this argument is the tacit admission that we really haven’t come so far from the Middle Ages and, after all, having children really is the best retirement plan. Social Security’s “generational promise” is only a fine-sounding device to get other people’s children to take care of you. Somebody has to have those kids.

    Guys, “generational promises” go both ways. Focusing on just one side of that equation is nothing but high-sounding nonsense.

    If you want to eat when you’re old, don’t listen to placating forecasts that tell you exactly how rich we’ll be in 75 years – forecasts further out than 10 years are fabrications. Instead, you’d better live so that decades from now there are younger people who won’t want you to starve.

        1. Tertium Squid

          É preciso amar as pessoas
          Como se não houvesse amanhã
          Por que se você parar pra pensar
          Na verdade não há

          Love as if there’s no tomorrow
          Because if you stop to think about it
          Really there isn’t one.

  10. Wade Nichols

    Aieee, this sort of gender stereotyping drives me nuts (and yes this is the Daily Mail but you see more sophisticated versions of this sort of thing elsewhere).

    Puh-leeze! “Gender stereotyping”??? Hardly!!!

    Do you know the difference between a group average and an anecdote? Did you ever take a course in statistics?

    Just because you have some anecdotes (a personal one at that), doesn’t disprove the idea that on average, girls prefer playing with dolls over guns.

    By the same token, just because a few boys may like playing with Barbie dolls, doesn’t disprove the idea that most boys like playing with guns.

    Read Stephen Pinker’s The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature, and report back to us when you’re finished. Your hysterical reaction will probably be predictable, but comedy gold nonetheless.

    1. Ina Deaver

      Actually, I have taken statistics – and population dynamics, too. And I can tell you that it is almost certain that these stereotypically gendered traits will be distributed along a bell curve for the population at large. 80 percent of the population will fall under the main part of the curve: it will still be entirely normal for 20 percent of the population to not display these stereotyped behaviors.

      And it is one of my enduring annoyances with science reporting that this is NEVER properly described in these stupid articles. Gender identity in all its facets is likely more of a continuum than a binary “on/off” trait.

      So don’t get snippy. It’s entirely accurate to describe these stupid mainstream press reports as an idiotic gloss on something that for many humans is a more nuanced topic.

  11. KFritz

    Is “Christmas Stress & Anxiety” the proximate cause of all the ad hominem ranting and meanness into today’s comments?

    1. ScottS

      Probably. : )

      I like to try and win over converts to my point of view, but when you have people with good intentions being second-guessed in favor of greedy people with something to gain being trusted, it’s hard to just let it go.

      Scientists don’t do what they do for the money (there is none) or to get laid (they don’t), and what fame they earn can always be revoked by anyone who does better research. They get the benefit of the doubt. Not that they shouldn’t be challenged, but at some point consensus is reached and it’s time to lead, follow, or get out of the way.

      When Bob Lutz of GM says climate change is fraud, I have no reason to give him the benefit of the doubt.

      1. KFritz

        I agree, but for personal & other reasons refrain fr/ ad hom rants. If you scroll up the page fr/ your comments, you’ll see worse. There’s even an “FDR as devil incarnate” comment.
        (-; (-;

  12. kravitz

    For your dining and dancing pleasure…

    “JPMorgan Chase & Co. and a U.S. unit of French bank Natixis SA are offering money-market mutual funds aimed at wooing back customers spooked by the financial crisis into moving their money to federally insured deposits.”

    JPMorgan Woos `Paranoid’ Clients to Money Funds Promising Shorter Maturity
    By Christopher Condon – Dec 21, 2010

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