Links 4/29/11

100,000 Toothpicks and 37 Years Later, Man Completes Incredible Model Of San Francisco SingularityHub (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Boom and bust flags eco-collapse BBC

Two deficits, two austerities, and quantities matter Steve Waldman

How to Arm a Dictator Nick Turse, TomGram

Easing house prices ‘may prelude big falls’ *Australia version* ABC (hat tip reader Skippy)

Housing falls accelerate MacroBusiness

Japan’s ‘stunning’ stats: Yosano’s new nightmare FT Alphaville (hat tip Richard Smith). I’ve been hearing that Japan has gone into near freefall anecdotally; it’s now becoming official.

Yuan Breaks Through 6.5 Per Dollar for First Time Since 1993 Bloomberg. I bet the Fed and Treasury are quietly very happy with this result, and don’t care re the collateral damage.

The high cost of fracking – and the movement against it Pruning Shears

We had to tell a patient today that she is probably going to die Democratic Underground

Ayn Rand Movie Fails in Free Market (Despite Tea Party Hype) AlterNet (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

It’s all about the rents, part one million and twenty-nine Lambert Strether

Supreme Court rules against consumers. Again. Daily Kos

Protium’s acid reflux FTAlphaville (hat tip Richard Smith). This is exactly the sort of thing we mentioned in ECONNED: the producer class in a big capital markets firm holding management hostage.

Growth data cast doubt over US recovery Financial Times. Yours truly (admittedly in comments rather than a post proper) has been sayin’ this feels like a rerun of early 2008, with a liquidity stoked commodities bubble leading to overdone inflation worries when the deflationary undertow was more powerful. We’ll see soon enough if that view has some merit.

Another Round of Greater Fool Remorse? Michael Panzner

A Frightening Satellite Tour Of America’s Foreclosure Wastelands Clusterstock (hat tip reader furzy mouse

AIG Sues ICP And Moore Capital, Says It Was The Victim Of Fraud Reuters

Dead economist throwdown, yo FT Alphavlle. Good fun.

Life Insurers Skimp on Payouts: States Wall Street Journal (hat tip reader John M)

Michigan Court of Appeals Rules Against MERS ScribD. This is from last week, limited coverage in the blogosphere. Other non-judicial foreclosure states may have similar statutory issues.

The R word Charles Wyplosz, VoxEU

Step away from the CCP Deus Ex Macchiato

The FDIC’s Resolution Problem Simon Johnson. Johnson comes out where we did on the FDIC Lehman counterfactual, and on special resolution authority for big banks in general.

A Foreclosure Problem Congress Couldn’t Ignore Dave Dayen, American Prospect

How Much Longer for the “Royals”? Dylan Ratigan, Huffington Post

Antidote du jour:

Screen shot 2011-04-29 at 6.26.49 AM

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. DownSouth

    Re: “It’s all about the rents, part one million and twenty-nine” Lambert Strether

    Ding ding ding!

    In other words, if the rent is small enough, and spread across enough customers, the rentiers have complete operational freedom to extract it. Two words: Business model. Big Money, Big Pharma, Big Media, Big Energy, all the Mr. Bigs. Parasites rejoice!

    And citizens weep. But there’s a bright side:

    The Supreme Court is lost. After all, they’ve effectively legalized rentier theft.* So that means that the last, the very last, the last and the only quasi-legitimate reason to vote D — “But what about the Supreme Court?!?!?” — has just popped like the airy bubble it always was. Freedom’s just another word….

    I wonder what the end result of all this will be. The appearance certainly is that the oligarchs have won yet another great battle. The world is their oyster. The little people have once again been routed. Oligarchs rule with immunity and impunity. But as Strether alludes to, this may not be the end of the story.

    It brings to mind something Bill Black said in his post from yesterday:

    Only big business had the power to destroy “free enterprise” in America – and [Supreme Court Justice] Powell’s strategic plan was the best way to destroy free enterprise. As the left had long argued, it was the purported capitalists who would destroy capitalism.

    So things are not always as they appear. In complex systems conventional wisdom—-that is what is rational, reasonable or logical—-often gets turned on its head. As a French captain who accompanied Napoleon in Russia, where his army, in addition to facing the Russian winter, was harassed by guerilla bands, said, “Every victory is a loss to us”—-a saying that the historian of guerilla war Robert B. Asprey has called “a book of wisdom in a single sentence.”

    Or as Tolstoy later put it in War and Peace:

    But suddenly, in 1812, the French win a victory near Moscow, Moscow is taken, and after that, with no further battles, it is not Russia that ceases to exist, but the French army of six hundred thousand, and then Napoleonic France itself.


    The victory did not bring the usual results because the peasants Karp and Vlas…and the whole vast multitude of others like them, did not bring their hay to Moscow for the high prices offered them, but burnt it instead.

    1. avid Толсто́й fan

      Moscow is taken, and after that, with no further battles, it is not Russia that ceases to exist, but the French army

      Good Juan

    2. lambert strether

      Downsouth: To be clear, I’m not despairing about events in the great scheme of things; our weeping will turn to rejoicing soon enough if we’re persistent and not too stupid. For example, I regard writing off the Democrats as a happy thing. I love your metaphor of the peasants burning their hay (see the link on “rent party” above). The Democrats are the sort of petty local official who would be wringing their hands and imploring Karp and Vlas to “Be reasonable!”

  2. Umberto T

    At first I thought those forclosure maps were Starbucks location maps. Then I had a brilliant idea: turn forclosed homes into new homey-style Starbucks.

  3. Mr. Scamerica

    Supreme court ruling is +1 for scamming Americans.

    New business model for Scamerican business

    1.) Have a contract of adhesion with your customers mandating binding arbitration.

    2.) Then rip them off for sums under $50-$100. Smaller sums more widely applied

    3.) No one sues for less than $100. Even if someone did, you’ve rigged the arbitration panel.

    4.) ???

    5.) Profit

    1. Anonymous II

      I read the Dissent, written by Justice Breyer.
      The Dissent and the Court Ruling written by
      Justice Scalia are very much at odds. So
      in a sense, the good news is that the Dissent
      pretty much agrees with the Circuit Court ruling.

      According to Justice Breyer, in this case,
      the FAA Act (Federal Law on arbitration) can’t pre-empt
      California State Law, under Federalism
      (Dissent, last page).

      California has a rule (by court precedent, I think)
      referred to throughout as the Discover Bank rule.
      (Vaden v. Discover Bank) . It seems that the
      diagreement has a lot to do with: “Does the
      Federal Arbitration Act pre-empt “established”
      California law, as interpreted in the
      “Discover Bank” (California court) ruling?”

      Justice Scalia argues for FAA pre-empting the
      “Discover Bank” rule, and Justice Breyer against.

  4. Keating Willcox

    Your post on the cancer patient was very sad but utterly misleading. Cancer screening in the US is better and survival is better, much better.

    Based upon period survival data for 2000-02 from 47 European cancer registries, 5-year survival rates were found to be higher in the U.S. than in a European composite for cancer at all major sites (see table above, click to enlarge). For men (all sites combined), 47.3% of Europeans survived 5 years, compared to 66.3% of Americans. For women, the contrast was 55.8% vs. 62.9%. The male survival difference was much greater than the female primarily because of the very large difference in survival rates from prostate cancer.

    Thus, the US appears to screen more vigorously for cancer than Europe and people in the US who are diagnosed with cancer have higher 5-year survival probabilities.

    From a new NBER working paper “Low Life Expectancy in the United States: Is the Health Care System at Fault?” (abstract here and full paper here), by Univ. of Pennsylvania professors Samuel Preston and Jessica Ho.

    Thanks to Lee Coppock who pointed me to Marginal Revolution.

    1. harry

      I wonder if you missed the point Mr. Willcox. It is possible that despite overall cancer care being better, that cancer care and screening for a substantial minority is actually worse. Clearly, for those not screened at all, it would be wrong to say that cancer screening is better in the US.

      For what little it is worth.

      1. American Lukashenko

        overall cancer care being better, that cancer care and screening for a substantial minority is actually worse


        What they hope we will fail to understand is the simple truth that increasing government subsidized clinics for the wealthy burns up vital resources thus bids up the price of the co-payment, a price the impoverished have not. Co-payment today is higher than full payment of yesteryear before .gov got their noses into our business.

        Vote for gridlock

    2. Francois T

      There are no links that I can see in your post.
      Can you provide the URls please?
      I’m very curious to analyze these stats.

    3. liberal

      “…5-year survival rates were found to be higher in the U.S. than in a European composite for cancer at all major sites…”

      Those numbers might indeed show that the US detects cancer earlier. But that’s not all that important. What’s important is how much longer people live. And 5-year survival rates tell us nothing about that, since they’re relative to date of detection. (Google “lead time bias.”)

    4. Sock Puppet

      Cancer screening. The increased screening in the US gives the illusion of a better survival rate. All it does in increase the denominator. This is very clear in the case of prostate cancer. The death rate from prostate cancer is roughly the same in the UK and US. But the incidence rate is three times higher here. Why? Simply because of increased screening. When the same death rate is divided by a three times larger incidence rate, the survival rate appears to be three times better. Most of those who “survived” here would never have been diagnosed elsewhere. So we get a billion dollar prostate biopsy industry that does nothing to reduce the death rate. This is why we pay twice as much for health care with lower life expectancy despite all the statistics like this one that show a higher survival rate.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        I suspect similar to issues in breast cancer. Mammograms are very good at detecting benign lumps and growths so slow moving that women will die with them rather than of them, and very bad at detecting fast moving cancers (by the time a mammogram “sees” them, they can also be identified by a manual breast exam, indeed, exams by experienced examiners detect them earlier than mammograms).

        So we have high cost tests that use radiation (itself a risk factor) at the expense of lower cost ones, and do unnecessary procedures.

      2. lambert strether

        Sockpuppet, you sound like you think this is a bad thing:

        So we get a billion dollar prostate biopsy industry that does nothing to reduce the death rate. This is why we pay twice as much for health care with lower life expectancy despite all the statistics like this one that show a higher survival rate.

        Those are features. Where are the bugs?

        1. Sock Puppet

          There are actually more features. The “better survival rate” of increased screening and testing is used to justify defensive medicine and associated increased rent. The higher costs are then blamed on “frivolous lawsuits” and used as ammunition to push for tort reform. Meanwhile the insurance premiums are raised by double digit amounts to cover the cost. However as the list price of a given procedure doesn’t change, it’s increased frequency of use doesn’t get counted in the inflation index.

          Everyone wins! I’m still looking for a bug…

  5. dearieme

    “the US appears to screen more vigorously for cancer than Europe and people in the US who are diagnosed with cancer have higher 5-year survival probabilities”: note thatthese data do not, in themselves, mean that a single life must have been extended. Obviously the earlier you diagnose cancer, the greater the period the patient is likely to live afterwards even if you did nothing about it. Moreover, the more screening you do, the likelier you are to find cancers which would not have been the cause of death of the patient anyway – very slow-growing cancers, for instance.

    I’m mildly curious to know whether there are any cancer stats that correct for these two effects. If there are, they must be rather well hidden, because it always seems to be the rather feeble set that’s trotted out in discussion.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      This is a pet issue of mine….particularly when many of the cancer screening methods involve Xrays, and radiation to soft tissue is an (admittedly very weak) carcinogen.

  6. Jim Haygood

    How much longer for the “royals”? None of my business, really, not being one of HM’s subjects.

    But take a look at a photo from this morning, of the two princes riding to the wedding in a big black car. It looks like a scene from the 1940s: black military caps; rigid collars; epaulets; military uniforms; campaign medals.–

    The Windsor family (an adopted surname) is of Teutonic origin. Today their lingering crypto-nazism is on full display, as their clapped-out, moth-eaten shell of an empire continues its habitual, feckless military interventions in Afghanistan, Libya, and other domains of imperial interest.

    Like all of the famous US presidents, they fancy themselves as wartime leaders. And the band played on …

    1. DownSouth

      So let me see, that video was produced by emergent order in association with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. The university also hosts the extremist right-wing Law and Economics Center.

      According to Wikipedia:

      The Mercatus Center was founded by Rich Fink, former president of the Koch Family Foundations, which funds a network of market-oriented think tanks and advocacy groups. Originally called the Center for Market Processes, it moved from Rutgers University to George Mason in the early 1980s before assuming its current name in 1999. The Mercatus Center is entirely funded through donations, including from energy company Koch Industries[2], individual donors and foundations.

      The phrase “emergent order” seems to have something to do with the theology of the Austrian School:

  7. derek

    “Companies” were originally groups of people with money to invest, who got together in groups to invest it in big money making schemes. But oh no! they all had individual liability for the debts of the company! So the law was changed so they had no liability beyond the company stock they had bought, so they can continue to act collectively for their profit.

    Then came unions, which were groups of people with labor to offer, who got together in groups to offer or withhold it collectively. But oh no! that would disadvantage people with money, so the law was changed so that workers have to offer their labor individually (in the name of “right to work”).

    Now the consumers have lost the ability to act together, but must seek individual redress. Only the rich minority are allowed to act collectively; everyone else must act alone.

  8. Francois T

    This “foreclosure problem Congress couldn’t ignore” is positively frightening if one stops to think about it.

    I mean military people are glorified above and beyond the rest of the American people.

    Supremacy of the Military
    Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

    The above is one of the 14 characteristics of a fascist-police state.

    Not that it is the only one we harbor, mind you.

  9. Philip Pilkington

    On the Japan story:

    “Only a day after S&P signalled fresh concerns about Japan’s economy, official data on Thursday showed a far sharper plunge in March industrial production than the consensus 10.6 per cent – a whopping 15.3 per cent fall from February – while March household spending slid an annual 8.5 per cent.”

    Of course, this is a terrible tragedy — but I wonder if there might be a bright side to all this. I mean, Japan has been having terrible trouble with deflation over the last few years (decades) — maybe this loss of production will help the country to pull itself out of that conundrum…

  10. Hugh

    We have a whole host of slow motion train wrecks going on: the US, Europe, the Middle East, China, and Japan. It is a testament to the efficacy of the propaganda machine that is the media that just how perilous the state of the world economy is continues to be the biggest non-story on the planet. Of course, they did not do it by themselves. The kleptocratic elites that run the governments in these places and set economic policy for them have continually understated the magnitude of the crisis that they themselves caused. Everywhere we see elites engaged in extend and pretend. On the one hand, they continue to loot at an ever accelerating clip. On the other, without actually fixing anything, they try to tack enough of the economy together to keep the looting going just that much longer.

    At some point all of this is going to crash in on itself. For the last 2 years, I have said that I thought it would happen this year. But the more important point is that it will happen. We and our kleptocratic elites can dodge reality only for so long before it reasserts itself. In the end, reality will win out.

  11. kevinearick

    The Bottom Line / Unvarnished

    No household formation; no sustainable durable goods orders; no economy; boomers reach the top of the artificial asset inflation escalator, and go over the cliff. They paid for consumption by liquidating generational investments, replacing middle-class wage earnings with inflated assets. The private sector cannot take the handoff from government because there is no private sector on the global IC chip.

    In the latest Family Law half-cycle, the chauvinists eliminated their perceived competition by systematically replacing real jobs with computer simulations, delegating males to dependence on feminists with make-work jobs, processing the now “redundant” males and guiding the most ignorant females into teaching and single parenthood, to ensure system perpetuation.

    If I had a dime for every feminist, man-hating, church wh**e that told me how much she loved her guys, as she stole the remnants of their manhood, forcing them to beg for their food, clothing, and shelter … Of course, the males got themselves into this bind by abusing females in their half of the Family Law half-cycle, when authoritative power was on their side. Power corrupts. Always suspect authority. Nothing is free.

    So, all the software and hardware enabling this system is junk, a sunk cost, but the participants cannot admit their own participation, let alone the need to replace all the resulting infrastructure or to begin altering the structural process behind the misallocation.

    It’s not rocket science holding this system together; it’s guilt. Stop beating yourself up and start doing the right thing by others, and the economy will turn itself around, as the human economy naturally re-aligns with the planetary economy. (This has been going on for a few thousand years now).

    It’s time for the human race to grow up and get off the rock. The universe is about to test our wings. Always pay close attention to marginal utility of labor and equipment. There’s a reason why the old timers running small businesses always reported 50% labor and 50% equipment for accounting purposes.

    The nexus always corners itself into checkmate, because the sexists are co-dependent, resulting in short-term, impulsive behavior. Just measure impulse response frequency.

  12. Max424

    Does anyone care that human civilization is facing an existential crisis not seen since the Middle Stone Age, when the number of living humans on this planet may have been reduced, by disease and famine, and other sundries, to as little as a few thousand?

    I don’t! Certainly not today!

    Lovely former Kate Middleton, now, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge; also, Countess of Strathearn AND Lady of Carrickfergus, has become, officially, the Future Queen of England! (!!!)

    Did you see her dress? It was pretty slinky, if you ask me.

    1. scraping_by

      Rupert Murdoch, puppet master of Faux News, is one of the biggest supporters of the Royal Family. Apparently, he’s gushy enough about them he humiliates himself by grovelling whenever in the Presence. Or at least, that’s what a now-lost magazine article said.

      Which brings me to why I can’t find a good book-length biography of Rupert or examination of News Corp. You’d think News Corp would rate some pretty through reportage. All I find are just quick takes that disappear as quickly. No answers to questions like, who’s financing this guy? Is it really the Saudis? Has there ever been a successful libel action against them? Things like that.

      Maybe it’s because I’m looking on the remainder table.
      Except for our hostess’s book, that I special ordered.

  13. Jimbo

    April 29, 2011, 10:36 am Legal/Regulatory | Bankruptcy
    The F.D.I.C.’s Lehman Fantasy

    I was in Paris at an international insolvency conference when the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation came out with a paper on how it would have resolved Lehman Brothers under the new resolution authority in the Dodd-Frank Act.

    The response was uniform disbelief: “Ninety-seven percent to the unsecureds? Give me a break.”

    And I was equally skeptical, for a return to unsecured creditors that high would be rare even in a nonfinancial Chapter 11 case. And for a failed investment bank, with large holdings of subprime mortgage backed securities, going into an insolvency process during a financial crisis, it seemed to strain credulity.


  14. alex

    Yves: Yuan Breaks Through 6.5 Per Dollar for First Time Since 1993 Bloomberg. I bet the Fed and Treasury are quietly very happy with this result, and don’t care re the collateral damage.

    I hope the Fed and Treasury are quietly happy with this result and do more to promote it (not that I think QE3.1415926 is a terribly good way to do it).

    As for the collateral damage, how can you possibly have exchange rate adjustment without some collateral damage? It is bitter medicine, but a case where the cure is better than the disease. The only alternatives to adjustment is to pretend that it’s avoidable and that the cure is worse than the disease.

    1. Jimbo

      I blame China. Perhaps if it revalued the yuan by 30%, Bernanke would have had no need for QE2. Let’s see who blinks first, Bernanke (by raising rates) or China (by materially revaluing the Yuan).

    2. Cedric Regula

      We’ve been brainwashed that currency adjustment is the only way. Import duties can be better targeted, but we are supposed to be deathly afraid this lets the Smoot-Hawley Genie out of the bottle and our wish to “re-balance” gets turned into GD2. Like when we did it in GD1 and happened to BE the world’s biggest EXPORTER and shot ourselves in foot when we got retaliatory tariffs from our trade partners.

      Course this time around China might stop buying our wheat and stop getting technology x-fers from US corporations in return for allowing US firms to set up in China and access a slave workforce.

      Scary stuff, indeed.

      We should thank economists from saving us from this dire future, and nailing all imports equally. Our trading partners and corporations will work out where things are made.

      P.S. Buffet proposed a “trade voucher” system which means trade has to be balanced. You sell something, you buy something. But it looks like he’s not on Obama’s good list anymore. Also, look for Volker to get arrested for something.

Comments are closed.