Links 4/26/11

Nepal sees significant rise in rhino population as poaching decreases, births increase Washington Post (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

‘Hidden CO2 emissions’ revealed BBC

Large Galaxies Stopped Growing Seven Billion Years Ago Science Daily (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Branson and O’Leary ‘were wrong’ to deny ash-cloud risk Independent (hat tip reader Buzz Potamkin). So I was not a volcano refugee in vain.

A Generation’s Vanity, Heard Through Lyrics New York Times (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Justice Department Pushes Warrantless GPS Surveillance PCWorld (hat tip reader Max)

State Dept adding intrusive, semi-impossible questionnaire for US passport applications BoingBoing

Egypt’s liberals are losing the battle Gideon Rachman, Financial Times

US policy shift builds pressure on Syria Financial Times

Syria’s military shows signs of division amid crackdown Christian Science Monitor (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Japan’s Terrifying Day Saw Unprecedented Exposed Fuel Rods Bloomberg

How schooling investments facilitated the Middle East uprisings VoxEU. No wonder the US is the only advanced economy to show a fall in educational attainment.

Law Firm Won’t Defend Marriage Act New York Times

Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) Traders Circle

What’s The Point Of Austerity Again? Clusterstock. Wow, a sea change?

Affordable rental housing scarce in U.S., study finds Washington Post

Antidote du jour:

Screen shot 2011-04-26 at 7.17.12 AM

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  1. DownSouth

    Re: “State Dept adding intrusive, semi-impossible questionnaire for US passport applications BoingBoing

    It seems likely that only some, not all, applicants will be required to fill out the new questionnaire, but no criteria have been made public for determining who will be subjected to these additional new written interrogatories. So if the passport examiner wants to deny your application, all they will have to do is give you the impossible new form to complete.

    Isn’t this what the slide into fascism is all about, giving the police the power to operate arbitrarily and capriciously?

    Hannah Arendt in Eichmann in Jerusalem recounts the story of how the Jews were beguiled into passively being led off to the slaughter:

    Among the reasons the German Jews believed in the fiction was the program of the N.S.D.A.P., formulated in 1920, which shared with the Weimar Constitution the curious fate of never being officially abolished; its Twenty-Five Points had even been declared “unalterable” by Hitler… The Party program was never taken seriously by Nazi officials; they prided themselves on belonging to a movement, as distinguished from a party, and a movement could not be bound by a program… [W]hen he [Eichmann] told the Jerusalem court that he had not known Hitler’s program he very likely spoke the truth: “The Party program did not matter, you knew what you were joining.” The Jews, on the other hand, were old-fashioned enough to know the Twenty-Five Points by heart and to believe in them; whatever contradicted the legal implementation of the Party program they tended to ascribe to temporary, “revolutionary excesses” of undisciplined members or groups.

    Using the language of Arendt, it would be a grave mistake to view those implementing the security state as being members of a program. The unrelenting drive to the security state has all the hallmarks of a movement, and not of a program.

  2. Thomas Williams

    RE: affordable rental

    Nice piece but completely misleading.

    He omits the huge demand driven by immigrants, especially illegals. These folks are at the bottom of the economic ladder and therefore renters.

    They comprise @11% of US population. Thats right folks, @33 million illegals with a NET infow of @ 1,800 per day.

    As long as that information is omitted, any attempt to get a grip on wages, unemployment, poverty, social services, rentals, etc is doomed.

    Thanks for your attention.

    thomas Williams

    1. Anonymous Jones

      Context alert. Is that more or less (per capita) than 10 years ago, or 20, or 100? Throwing around numbers like that say far less about this issue than you think they do.

      Second, you don’t even note how you think that “omission” skews things. Their status as legal or illegal is not relevant to the issue at hand, which I think (correct me if I’m wrong) is housing. Does their race matter too? Their nose size?

      In any event, taking a larger view (including the “illegals” issue, which I completely agree is part of the plan to increase the labor force and depress wages), we can generally see that there is a growing underclass that works hard for very little. As we continue to debt-finance real estate up to higher and higher levels and continue to build this underclass, slums and shanty towns are the inevitable result. These people will not be able to afford, nor will developers be able to provide to them, code-compliant housing for the amount they are able to spend on housing and still feed themselves.

      Structures will go far below replacement value, and they will become the dens of squatters, vagrants, and the desperate. Density will increase, crime will grow and become endemic in the populations of these slums and we as a society will reap what we have sown, finally assuming our place as a third world country with a small elite (only differentiated by our vast military superiority).

    2. Anonymous Jones

      Sorry. One more thing. There actually is a big omission in the article. They omit to discuss “filtering.” Building high-end, dense residential structures does increase the amount of affordable housing as long as the newly available units exceed the units taken out of circulation (whether by direct replacement (i.e., the new building just went where the old building was) or because other units elsewhere were shut down). Any increase in supply works to decrease prices if demand stays the same. The wealthy move up to the new place, someone takes their old place, and so forth, until a new equilibrium price is reached for the worst available housing stock.

      As I said above, the problem is that (we have a belief in this country) housing should be safe and we have codes so that these places don’t have electrical fires and kill babies in deadly smoke and flames. Sadly, as also noted above, we have set up the system so that the lowest tiers of the working poor do not earn enough to be able to afford housing that is code compliant with fire alarms and sprinklers, etc.

      Enjoy what you’ve voted for.

      You have no one to blame but yourselves.

  3. LillithMc

    Yves Smith is the best on the economy, but I admit the animal photos tug my heart. Thanks for what you do.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Let’s not forget plants and vegetables.

      I dedicate this not-so-prime haiku to the little tree behind the bears:

      My denuded tree
      who will hug you and warm you
      in this bitter cold?

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        I’m sorry. Minerals, water, ice and snow are part of our world too.

        Snow, ignored by men,
        Who will hug you and melt you
        in the freezing cold?

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Not I.

          The sun, like the taxpayer, he does all the work.

          He will take care of you, my little pretty snow.

  4. charles 2

    Hidden CO2 => border adjustment tax = trade nitroglycerine due to “selective analysis” of the imported product carbon intensity (Expect more scutiny for gizmos from China than from oil for Middle-East or Gas from Russia).
    Big can of worms…

    1. sal

      “Hidden emissions” is just another reason emissions is bunk. If we want to stop carbon being “emitted” to the atmosphere, there’s no substitute for leaving it in the ground. Counting the barrels of oil, tons of coal, and cubic feet of gas taken out of the ground means there are far fewer actors to monitor, than if you have to watch who is “emitting” the product.

      1. Economics 4dummies

        no substitute for leaving it in the ground. Counting the barrels of oil, tons of coal, and cubic feet of gas taken out of the ground

        There is no good substitute for efficiency. Clearly more efficient to levy a wholesale tax on pumping petroleum out of the rock then allow the wholesaler to price the tax into his product thus pass the tax on to the retail market. This kind of efficiency could easily add to our National Competitiveness which could in turn add to our National Security and our Homeland Security. Turf wars that block our march toward a more streamlined system will someday be our enemy’s greatest weapons. Time is running short. We got to get our economic-butts into shape. Additionally, we don’t got that much of oil left in the ground. We got to burn their oil first but tax our own oil back into the ground — slow oil production with a domestic-only-tax on petroleum.

        We have been warned

  5. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    My guess on why austerity hasn’t quite worked, so far, is that we haven’t monkeyed around with the definitions of budget deficit and GDP yet.

    Once our crack economists get to work on those, we will instantly have improved budget deficit situation and booming GDP, without having to wait for austerity to work eventually…sorry, in the long run – that’s the correct technical economic term.

    I smell a Nobel for some really smart guy.

  6. Mat Albert5416

    “Failure to Appreciate the Impossibility of Sustained Compound Growth” from Jeremy Grantham’s 1Q newsletter:

    “I briefly referred to our lack of numeracy as a species, and I would like to look at one aspect of this in greater detail: our inability to understand and internalize the effects of compound growth. This incapacity has played a large role in our willingness to ignore the effects of our compounding growth in demand on limited resources. Four years ago I was talking to a group of super quants, mostly PhDs in mathematics, about finance and the environment. I used the growth rate of the global economy back then – 4.5% for two years, back to back – and I argued that it was the growth rate to which we now aspired. To point to the ludicrous unsustainability of this compound growth I suggested that we imagine the Ancient Egyptians (an example I had offered in my July 2008 Letter) whose gods, pharaohs, language, and general culture lasted for well over 3,000 years. Starting with only a cubic meter of physical possessions (to make calculations easy), I asked how much physical wealth they would have had 3,000 years later at 4.5% compounded growth. Now, these were trained mathematicians, so I teased them: “Come on, make a guess. Internalize the general idea. You know it’s a very big number.” And the answers came back: “Miles deep around the planet,” “No, it’s much bigger than that, from here to the moon.” Big quantities to be sure, but no one came close. In fact, not one of these potential experts came within one billionth of 1% of the actual number, which is approximately 10 to the 57th power, a number so vast that it could not be squeezed into a billion of our Solar Systems. Go on, check it. If trained mathematicians get it so wrong, how can an ordinary specimen of Homo Sapiens have a clue? Well, he doesn’t.

    So, I then went on. “Let’s try 1% compound growth in either their wealth or their population,” (for comparison, 1% since Malthus’ time is less than the population growth in England). In 3,000 years the original population of Egypt – let’s say 3 million – would have been multiplied 9 trill ion times! There would be nowhere to park the people, let alone the wealth. Even at a lowly 0.1% compound growth, their population or wealth would have multiplied by 20 times, or about 10 times more than actually happened. And this 0.1% rate is probably the highest compound growth that could be maintained for a few thousand years, and even that rate would sometimes break the system. The bottom line really, though, is that no compound growth can be sustainable. Yet, how far this reality is from the way we live today, with our unrealistic levels of expectations and, above all, the optimistic outcomes that are simply assumed by our leaders.”

    excerpted from Jeremy Grantham’s 1Q newsletter to investors, entitled “Time to Wake Up: Days of Abundant Resources and Falling Prices Are Over Forever”

    1. Francois T

      I did enjoy this letter. Grantham has a knack to engage in deep, yet ultimately practical thinking. And he sure isn’t afraid to stir the pot. His letters on climate change didn’t endear him to the denialists.

      In essence, JG is on the same wavelength than Chris Martenson with his Crash Course. We will need to change the way we live in more ways than one. The question is not if, but when and how. We can do it painfully by refusing the evidence and waiting for the crisis…or plan in advance and be ready.

  7. Max424

    “What’s The Point of Austerity Again?”

    It’s pretty simple, really. Austerity allows banks to rip open nation-states like cans of sardines; then they swallow them whole.

    “Ah,” said the banker. “Another salty/fishy nation-state sliding down my gullet. Yum, yum.”

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I always say that a good sardine nation should have a taxpayers musuem, which, I think, is less controversial than a ‘victims of taxation musuem.’

      And like a birthday party paid for by the birthday boy/girl is sad, a taxpayers museum paid for by the taxpayers will be sad as well. Luckily, we have MMT and the government can step in by going into debt to pay for that.

  8. Jim Haygood

    In the NYT article ‘A Generation’s Vanity Heard Through Lyrics,’ a thousand words to decorate a single-sentence thesis: music lyrics are getting more narcissistic, and so is the generation which is singing them.

    Latching on to this painfully thin story idea, the Times stenographer chews the cud in standard mush-mouthed fashion: maybe it is; maybe is isn’t; experts don’t agree; we’ll just have to wait and see.

    Bob Prechter, who used to be drummer in a rock ‘n roll band, has penned a far more nuanced analysis of how pop music reflects popular mood, and tends to do in cyclical fashion. Today’s more narcissistic, violent music rhymes with the ‘Depressed and angry rock’ of the 1970s shown in Prechter’s chart:

    After all, other aspects of the background (then and now) rhyme too: rising inflation, a collapsing dollar, low confidence in government, and feckless leadership (Peace Laureate O’Bomber = Jimmy Carter, etc.).

    Once again, free commentary from the blogosphere blows away the MSM’s thin gruel, which the NYT actually imagines they are going to charge victims for. Don’t feed the MSM trolls!

    1. Mighty Booosh

      My recollection is that the punk rock of the Carter era was cutesy, not very violent, and focused on looking either retro or futuristic. Reagan’s inauguration brought us Hardcore, with skinheads, different varieties of chemical entertainment enhancers, and a new industry based around hating on Reagan and Thatcher, who were the vanguards of fascism at the time for those with eyes to see. Luckily the underground did speak and though it is kitsch now those same themes will rise again as more of the middle class succumbs.
      A shallow comparison of band names:
      70s: Sex Pistols, Ramones, Devo, Germs, Catholic Discipline, Slits, sham69
      80s: Black Flag, Suicidal Tendencies, Accused, Minor Threat, Reagan Youth, Millions of Dead Cops, Henrietta Collins and the wifebeating childhaters (personal favorite).

  9. kevinearick

    Alternative Energy

    The cost of oil delivered for use exceeds the value of energy in the oil when externalities, which are bred into population behavior (the American Way), are factored in, AT ANY PRICE, because oil is a primary input cost that becomes a positive feedback signal, once the fulcrum is tipped. If your heating, transportation, and production fuel costs go up and your income does not, you are screwed, and so is the economy if the activity is broad-based. Most people are screwed.

    Normally, in a recession, the banks swap underwater real estate as a small percentage of their portfolios, with offsets, and wait for re-inflation to complete the book accounting, maintaining control of all the real estate. This economic round is different because all sectors in their portfolio are crashing (absent continuous Fed intervention) … and for who is real estate now a small percentage of the portfolio? You, if you followed instruction. Trade your silver for income property. You and your friends become The Bank.

    Now print money/credit, and you become The Government. Issue bonds/stocks, and you become the Corporation. Grant Corporation the rights of individuals and you become Caesar. It all starts with being The Bank. All these ponzi schemes require ignorant participants, so you must also bring education under Government control, which is why K-12 is the last cut they want to make when the ponzi scheme is collapsing.

    Most people willingly participate in the master-slave relationship because it eliminates thinking and associated risk, with many of the slaves hoping to win the lottery to become token masters. When the real work needs to be done, however, all these people need to get the hell out of the way, and pay the f***ing bill, as presented.

    If you get into a bind, add hydrogen to your gas. Run water across a polarized medium (pos & neg leads across stainless for example) and send the hydrogen to the air intake. The existing computer feedback system will take care of the mix.

      1. skippy

        Just a reflection of the world around us…eh.

        Incidentally do you not find it quite absurd that a species is killing its self over market priced electrons. That no solution can be found if its not profitable[???price???value???timelines], any acts that could alleviate the burden we create (for all living things), are off the table.

        Skippy…its the Economy stupid, a fine turn of phrase methinks.

  10. bmeisen

    Don’t let them get down the aisle and out of the church without a swipe Yves!

    Please note that in addition to all the marketing opportunities Friday’s event also allows the Monarchists to disarm critical commentary about the City and bankster bonuses that might be produced in association with May 1. Working stiffs get a holiday and it feels giddy and goofy like in Disneyland until the Prince shows up for your virgin bride.

  11. Three Wickets

    Does MMT have a view on Forex trading. Would be interesting to see a resource or reference if it does.

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