Links 2/1/11

Why You Can Now Kiss Organic Beef, Dairy and Many Vegetables Goodbye AlterNet (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Geek Culture Will Never Die…or Be Popular PCMagazine

Web Running Out of Addresses Wall Street Journal. One of my buddies had a block of Class B addresses that he sold a few years ago for $50,000 (of course, you are not supposed to sell them, but that’s how it works). I wonder what they would fetch now.

Gun dealers sell pistols ‘without background check’ BBC. Admittedly I did not look hard for this story, but it’s front page at the BBC and does not appear to be getting anywhere near such prominent billing in the US.

Estonia’s recovery holds little hope for eurozone John Dizard, Financial Times

Business confidence collapsed in Dec: NAB Sydney Morning Herald (hat tip reader Skippy)

China’s Housing Nears U.S., Japan Bubble Levels: Chart of Day Bloomberg

Mid-East contagion fears for Saudi oil fields Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Telegraph

Egypt and Obama Nemo. Nicely put.

Live from Cairo (5) Lambert Strether. His comments on the live stream are great.

Letter from Kabul: The Great Afghan Bank Heist New Yorker (hat tip reader Tertium Squid)

Gas Drilling Technique Is Labeled Violation New York Times

Nearly half of Palin backers may flee GOP if she isn’t nominated RawStory. Since her popularity has plunged, I’m not sure this is as big a deal as it sounds (and the figures in the story provide some confirmation).

Glenn Beck Limps into 2011 with Sinking Ratings AlterNet (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Hundreds in California Protest Corporate Influence in Elections People for the American Way (hat tip reader furzy mouse). The turnout strikes me as large, given the location.

In Vallejo, A Municipal Bankruptcy Means Big Sacrifices For Ordinary Workers Huffington Post

Debts Should Be Honored, Except When the Money Is Owed to Working People Dean Baker, TruthOut

The great disleveraging MacroBusiness. I don’t agree with the thesis, in that long plateaus seldom occur in markets, but it’s an interesting one.

Mortgage lenders penalising couples with children Telegraph. I hate to sound heartless, but this sounds completely logical.

My Most Libertarian Post Ever James Kwak

CRE “extend and pretend” reaching breaking point Housing Wire

Competition pushes US banks to ease credit Financial Times. If you read the article closely, the increase in loan demand may be for M&A, which would be consistent with overly cheap money going more into the financial economy than the real economy.

A pay-up and shut-up deal for the banks Philip Stephens, Financial Times. Note the absence of this sort of piece in the MSM in the US.

Why Were FNM/FRE Banned From Lobbying But Not C/BAC/JPM/MER/GS/MS ? Barry Ritholtz

Frum reads the FCIC, or: The Ownership Society as the Bridge to a Permanent Republican Majority Mike Konczal

New High in U.S. GDP Does NOT Indicate Recovery is Complete John Lounsbury, Credit Writedowns

When will the Recession End? Part 139 Russia admits it’s dead and falling apart Smart Economy

Antidote du jour (hat tip reader Peter G, who reports the source is unknown, it has been “doing the rounds on e-mail here”):


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  1. russel1200

    On the gun show sales: it isn’t being made much of because there is not much to be made of.

    The loophole is for individuals selling a small number of weapons. The idea that this is where the guns south of the border are coming from is ridiculous. Only the licensed dealers (or out right gun runners) have access to that amount of firearms.

    Various states have variously difficult registration requirements. But even there all is not as it meets the eye. North Carolina has stricter laws then you would expect. But it has those laws because they are part of the legacy of Jim Crow. Guess whose hands they were trying to keep the guns out of?

    Many, but not all, of the mass shooting episodes are by crazy people. Keeping guns of crazy peoples hands would not be a bad idea. But doing that without violating the rights of the crazy people (as they are currently understood) is difficult.

    If we had an effective border with Mexico, we could possibly make a stab at reducing mass arms shipments. Since we don’t, we cannot.

  2. dearieme

    “Debts Should Be Honored, Except When the Money Is Owed to Working People”: the attitude is all wrong. How about “Debts that cannot be honoured will not be honoured. This should apply not only to the crooks and thugs of the trade unions but also the crooks and thugs of Wall Street. Unfortunately it will apply to good people too if they invested unwisely.”

    1. DownSouth

      Your conceptualization is that this is a war with two fronts, kind of like the Germans fighting on the Eastern Front and the Western Front during WWII.

      Furthermore, there’s the implicit assumption that the threat posed by the enemy on the Eastern Front is of equal magnitude to the threat posed by the enemy on the Western Front. So the wars on both fronts should be fought with equal intensity.

      Your thinking is faulty in at least two regards, one factual and one strategic.

      Factually, the threats posed by the enemy on the Eastern Front are not of the same gravity as those posed by the enemy on the Western Front. The public unions do not wield near the political firepower that the banking and finance industry does, far from it.

      Strategically, it makes little sense to wage a battle on two fronts. Doing so puts one in the same position that Hitler put Germany in during WWII. At the very minimum, it’s better to keep the peace on one front and devote one’s full resources to fighting on the other front. Another option is to go beyond simply keeping the peace on one front, but to ally oneself with one front, combining forces with it to defeat the other front. The strategy you advocate is a guaranteed recipe for failure.

  3. dearieme

    In case I’ve not made myself clear – corrupt protection by government of the banksters should not be repeated for the union gangsters. Instead, corrupt protection by government of the banksters should be reversed.

    1. Jim the Skeptic

      dearieme said “…”

      You have made yourself very clear now.


      What began as a humane alternative to debtors prison will be used by the state.

      Very well, let’s get on with it. I assume that pensioners will be given the title to state office buildings, and state parks. BANKRUPT STATES SHOULD BE REDUCED TO THE SAME CIRCUMSTANCES AS BANKRUPT PEOPLE.

      Why should the state honor a contract to pay a company to build roads or an office building? Let’s lease all the state roads to private contractors and demand a large up front fee, we can always abrogate that contract later.

      So far, the states have avoided some of the most disgusting habits of private industry, but that does not have to be the case.

      Traffic enforcement could be a real revenue enhancer if you adopt corporation ethics.

      How much would you pay to have a felony indictment quashed? Do you believe that only the guilty are indicted?

      Let’s get on with it!

  4. Ben

    Re Estonia’s recovery holds little hope for eurozone

    Only a few months ago, Anglosaxon commentary consensus had it that Estonia would ruin its economy with austerity measures and the adoption of a euro ‘devastated’ by peripheral ‘debt crises’.

    I guess when Greece or Portugal recover faster than expected (for instance, because austerity in countries with bloated public sectors may actually encourage growth), they will hold little hope as well for the eurozone?

    In fact, we can safely assume nothing can hold any hope for the eurozone- except, of course, breakup, restructuring, massive CDS payouts and more decades of mismanaged dollar hegemony…

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Looks like you did not read the article. Latvia is a basket case.

      Estonia was always different because it had a very low debt to GDP ratio. No risk of deflation dynamics. Not even remotely comparable to Greece and Portugal. And on top of that, it did an internal devaluation, again not an option for a deber burdened country

  5. rjs

    the map in “Russia admits it’s dead and falling apart” reminds me of an old article by a retired KGB official which surmised that the US would collapse into 4 separate countries…

    1. Ignim Brites

      Four? There will be four metro states on the West Coast alone. King County, WA; Multnomah County, OR; the Bay Area, CA; and LA County. In the East, New York City Metro Area and New England. Maine will join Canada. Miami Dade. Cook County, IL. Michigan will slowly revert to wilderness.

    2. Tertium Squid

      RJS: If it’s what I am thinking of, I don’t believe the report is all that old. In fact, this CIA prediction seems rather curiously symmetrical with the Russian’s. Almost as if it’s a retaliatory answer?

      I guess this is how analysts smack each other?

    1. walt

      Thanks for the Vallejo link. The article doesn’t mention that those “ordinary workers” include $200k firemen, who have gone to court (and lost) instead of rewriting their contract.

  6. Francois T

    Re:Mortgage lenders penalising couples with children

    Sounds logical? Really?

    How about this?

    A shark has teeth
    Human has teeth
    Therefore, a shark is human.

    Nothing further, Your Honor.

  7. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    RE: FNM/FRE banned from lobbying.

    Can the few tax-paying corporations claim ‘no taxation without representation?’

    Should they be allowed to vote?

  8. farthing


    Have really, really missed your antidotes du jour! Looking forward to more (I’m burned out on everything else, I must lament.)

  9. Ron

    Organic? Good idea to know your food source which means asking questions at the local market or taking time to develop sources outside the supermarket chains.The USDA is hopelessly comprised by corporate ideology and should never be the final word on what is healthy or organic.

    1. CingRed

      The image from Fox is about 5 years old and shows evidence of being PhotoShopped. Good for a laugh. Fools drool.

      1. Tim Goswell

        You can’t prove that, but even if you’re right, so what?

        All Fox News is ever good for is a laugh.

      2. Tim Goswell

        And to show that I’m not picking on Fox News, but hold all US media in equal contempt, here are my favorite names for the loathsome corporate shills at NPR:

        National Puppet Radio.
        National Process-maven Radio
        Nugatory “Professional” Recruitment
        Nothing Petroleum Retires
        Nattering Puerile Repugnance
        Nice Profiteering, Really

        (Thanks to a previous post on NC by Larry Elasmo, which I noted for my files.)

          1. Lidia

            I was relying to CingRed, not to you. If he/she’s a prankster, I didn’t get that vibe. Else, why would you respond to CR, too?

  10. Tertium Squid

    Re: Mortgage lenders penalising couples with children

    Well and fine. Children are still the best retirement plan out there, but they’re definitely a long-term investment.

    But how much should someone in their 50’s, 60’s, 70’s etc. be “penalized” for taking out a mortgage?

    True story: My boss’s in-laws are in their 60’s. To a mortgage lender they are flawless – decades and decades of prompt payment on some very significant debts. So last year they got green-lighted on yet another mortgage, bigger than ever before. The mortgage amount is for much more than the appraised value of the asset. But they are just a few years from retirement. They have no assets and a zero percent chance of paying back their debts. There is no way the bank will be paid in full, and no way they will get any significant interest income.

    What gives?

    1. Lidia

      How are “children the best retirement plan” in a world of shrinking per capita resources? Knowing what I know now, I am grateful to not have had children, though that was not my precise intent.

      1. Tertium Squid

        Unless you plan on dying the day you are unable to generate sufficient food, health care and shelter for yourself, someone’s children will be taking care of you.

        1. Lidia

          a.) I have enough nominal resources to see me through, barring disaster.
          b.) Given a disaster, how does more mouths to feed equal resiliance?
          c.) I’ll be happy, in my waning years, distribute what I’ve accumulated to anyone who is truly helpful; I’ve no need to “save” an inheritance for possibly spendthrift and ungrateful offspring, as I have witnessed.

          There’s nothing worse than hearing your own spawn divvy up the spoils while you are still alive (which has happened to people I know).

          Nothing like having them kick you out of the home you own, so they can occupy it (which has happened to people I know).

          Nothing like having your own children SUE YOU for a greater portion of the deceased mother’s/father’s estate (which has happened to people I know).

          We are not in Hallmark card territory, usually.

          1. Tertium Squid

            However many pieces of currency you have, someone’s children will still be cooking and caring for you. If you prefer a professional relationship to a family one, well, at least you have the resources to do so.

            I know it sounds facile – people have kids all the time so there will be SOMEBODY around by then that can do the job.

            But Russia and China have already dismantled their social safety nets, and us western nations are in the middle of doing the same. I worry greatly that many who right now feel so secure in a system that doesn’t care about them will come to share the Psalmist’s desire:

            “Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth.”

            This isn’t a reason to have children per se, but it IS a reason to love and serve others who need it. We’re all in this together, and the stronger our relationships with others, the better off we’ll be in any “disaster”.

            As for having children who turn into ingrates, well, when I hold my three-week-old baby boy I can’t even imagine what sort of person he’ll turn into. What will he make of the gift of life and the love I give him? That’s what makes life a gift, though – no preconditions. He’ll do what he does and be who he is, and however much I teach and love I can’t change his decisions.

            If he became a bad person that would hurt terribly. But the only way to guarantee never being hurt is to never love.

  11. bob

    Boat full o’roos…

    I wonder if any jumped ship?

    My friends dog can’t seem to stay inside the boat, how in hell do you get kangaroos to stay onboard?

  12. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    I have no idea what happened to my earlier post, but I asked, regarding lobbying, for the few taxpaying corporations, can they claim ‘no taxation without representation?’

    Should they be allowed to vote?

  13. ScottS

    “Ownership Society” seems more like Lottery Society. One side keeps throwing dumb money down a well hoping for some big payoff, while the other side gets to keep the rake. And you get a genuine grassroots movement screaming for looser regulation that would allow the stock market to bubble up to whatever number financial wizards can invent (DOW 36,000!!!).

    A quite brilliant, if depraved, way of preying on people’s falling wages.

  14. walt

    I think Yves should have drawn more attention to CRE link.

    “For 2011, 10 of the 11 banks that have closed so far showed bad commercial real estate loans taking the lion’s share of the distressed loan book.”

    “According to Trepp Analytics, CRE loans comprised $600 million, or 82% of the $732 million in nonperforming loans.”

    1. Glenn Condell

      Roos can swim so they must feel pretty safe with the rescue worker. It’s not far from where I was born (Wagga) and 99.9% of the time the place is dry as buggery.

      In other news Cyclone Yasi has ben upgraded to category 5, bigger than both Larry and Tracy. Due in ten or eleven hours. Queensland can’t take a break at the moment – from drought to flood to hurricane in fairly short order.

    1. Patricia

      Nah, this isn’t an issue to blame on the banksters. It might even be considered a small positive unintended consequence. Because it’s not as if there are too few people in the world. And it’s easy enough to increase the immigrant quota of young folks to fill that gap, should it be needed. If there are jobs…

  15. Debra Steidel

    Ignorant and paternalist, Haaretz (Wed, Feb. 2) quotes the former Israeli ambassador to Cairo, Eli Shaked:

    ” . . . it’s in Israel’s interest for Mubarak’s regime to survive since the alternatives, ranging from an Islamic government to the secular opposition, would be far less friendly to the Jewish state”

    1. Paul Repstock

      Well, at least Europe seems to understand the threat of ‘agent provocateurs’..and UN comment as well..:)

      “I once again urge restraint to all sides,” Ban said. “Any attack against peaceful demonstrators is unacceptable and I very strongly condemn it.”

      Let us see if there is more than window dressing rhetoric available. Probably not.

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