Links 5/24/11

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Avatars in Love Richard Bookstaber

The scale of the effect we have on the planet is yet to sink in Sydney Morning Herald (hat tip reader Crocodile Chuck)

Italy is the elephant in the euro room, not Spain Edward Hugh

Euro contagion fears hit Spain and Italy Financial Times. Swedish Lex notes “As we discussed a couple of years ago, when the contagion reaches Italy, the future of the euro is no more.”

The killing of Osama bin Laden may only have turned us into our enemies Guardian

Sir Fred’s alleged lover ‘did not’ harm RBS Financial Times. Richard Smith calls this a “straw woman”.

The housing-retail link MacroBusiness

China Rush to U.S. Colleges Reveals Predatory Fees for Recruits Bloomberg (hat tip Buzz Potamkin)

One-Time Warren Foe Now Pressuring Obama To Give Her Recess Appointment To Head Consumer Bureau Talking Points Memo

Democrats Try to Woo Consumer Advocate to Run New York Times

Stripper Loans and Mortgage Smoking Guns

More banks targeted in New York probe Financial Times

Neo-Voodoo Economics Michael Hirsh, National Journal. A very good overview of the sorry state of economics and the grip of conventional thinking on policy.

Antidote du jour:

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  1. psychohistorian

    IMO the killing of Osama bin Laden was done to keep him from talking about how the world really works….or doesn’t.

    Speaking of Voodoo Eeekanomics. The simple solution is to do away with all inheritance. Magically we would have great social safety net components such as health, education and welfare systems. Real talent would have a chance instead of the legacy of rich kids. As I write this out of my …head I know that corporations need to stop being persons, our military industrial complex needs to be brought back to the focus of defense and such but gee, tell those head up their assholes or someone else’s to come to NC if they want some out of the box ideas on how to attack the sickness that got us here.

    Lets get on with it shall we.

    1. RDE

      Finally, some else advocating on of my favorite reforms that I plan to initiate when i become King. 100% inheritance taxes,distributed equally at age 25 to every natural born citizen. The crack dealer in the Bronx deserves exactly the same start as Bill Gates’ kid.

  2. attempter

    “The killing of Osama bin Laden may only have turned us into our enemies”

    That’s true except for the “[implicitly newly] turned us into” part.

    Actually, that headline, and the extremely confused piece that follows it, says a lot about even our more “progessive” commentators. Many years of mass murder and torture of nameless victims didn’t turn them into their enemies, apparently. But when it happens to a celebrity (Bin Laden was, after all, a fellow “elite”), now it means something.

    Meanwhile, the argument of the piece is a particularly naive-sounding example of fundamentalist faith in the ineffable innocence and pristinity of the West. Disgusting. Logically, the entire thing is one massive exercise in question-begging.

    For the sake of that author and anyone else who’s confused, here’s a good question with which to start: Why was the US in the Mideast in the first place, and how was it possible to be innocently so?

    1. Jim Haygood

      Giles Fraser’s essay in the Guardian includes this line:

      ‘Those who attack the Christian presumption against violence commonly accuse it of being unrealistic. Perhaps that means it is impossible to be a US president and a Christian.’

      Fraser confuses ‘Jesus’s presumption’ with ‘Christian presumption,’ which carries a whole raft of internally contradictory baggage, such the violent nonsense of the Old Testament which got tacked on for continuity’s sake.

      Actually the mutually co-opted church/state — in which the national flag is displayed within churches, and the Christian Bible is used to swear in politicians — presents no ethical problems for pagans such as Obama and Cameron, and their mumbo-jumbo enablers such as Rowan Williams. Christianity tolerates Israel’s harsh military occupation of its holy sites without a peep of protest.

      And so today NATO continues pounding Tripoli with blunt force (falsely described as surgical strikes), causing random death and accomplishing nothing other than sticking another knife into the dead-letter US constitution with its defunct restraints on executive warmaking.

      Say, isn’t the Christian cross actually a plan view of a bomber aircraft?

  3. toxymoron

    Re: “The scale of the effect”…
    I calculated way back that humanity uses currently more fossil fuels in a year than Nature can create in about 5 million years. So we are not consuming one planet, two planets .. five planets (depending on where you live), but rather 5 million planets.
    That also shows the magnitude of the effort needed to get back to a ‘sustainable’ track.

    1. Firean

      Since oil has been discovered and drawn up from levels of 1000 metres and more below ground surface level is not time we question the origins of these substances and the naming them as “fossil” fuels ?

        1. Dave of Maryland

          It’s not a biblical reference and you are poorly read. In biblical times oil could be found on the earth’s surface. Or, for that matter, in downtown LA, at the La Brea Tar Pits. It’s only in recent times, comparatively speaking, that surface oil has disappeared. (Centuries before we thought of drilling for it.) This is inconsistent with theories that oil was/is produced from underground rot.

          Since we do not routinely come across the oily remains of animals, it may be wondered how animals become oil. Supposedly there were periodic cataclysms, but even so the process looks dubious to me. There is probably as much human protoplasm on the planet at the moment as there ever were dinosaurs, and humans are certainly more widespread than dinos ever were.

          So by what specific process could eight billion humans be rendered into Brent crude, and exactly how many billion barrels would eight billion of us generate?

          It’s one thing to propose a theory (fossil fuels), another to demonstrate the theory actually works (anyone?), and a third to pretend the king is wearing clothes. I have come to scorn science and its rat-pack mentality. That the Creationist crowd is warped, my heavens, yes they are. But they are such a breath of fresh air!

          1. Suburban SUV driver

            I think being anti-science is good. Scientists are the devil. They want us to think logically and empirically as opposed to based on our faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Capitalism.

            Sometimes I read science blogs just to see what the enemy is saying about us. And, I happened to stumble over this article on fossil fuels proving your point


   {making fossil fuels out carbon dioxide.}

            Take that you global warming scare monger extremist alarmists!

          2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Ridicule science if you want, but don’t hate science.

            Better yet, know it’s a prison. When you get in, you will never get out (how do we feed X billion of people if we get off it?).

            Sort of like the Takalmakan Desert, which means, you get in, you don’t get out.

          3. Carl

            “It’s only in recent times, comparatively speaking, that surface oil has disappeared. (Centuries before we thought of drilling for it.) This is inconsistent with theories that oil was/is produced from underground rot.”

            In the Swiss Alps one can find the fossilized remains of shell fish. What was once the bottom of the ocean is now on the top of the mountain. Finding something on the surface doesn’t mean it was made there. Lava is a simple example.

            I recommend you pick a university near you and enroll in a geology class. Ask the professor any questions you wish and when you have finished the year long introductory class, let me know if you still scorn science or admire what it can accomplish. If you really scorn science why do you use computers?

  4. Thomas Barton, JD

    Before scanning the Hugh article on Italy I read a piece by Jeremy Wariner at the Telegraph in which he chastised Moodys or SandP for downgrading Italy. Which of these analytical stances is more compelling to you ? Also whatever happened to all the lovely financial innovations that now reside in Maiden Lane III ? What is the general state of the CDO universe three years from their Icelandic volcano arrival on our national consciousness ?

    1. hermanas

      “What is the general state of the CDO universe…”
      Indeed, is it even public information?
      In whose hands do the CDOs reside? Does that depend on whether the bet covers the points?

  5. Thomas Barton, JD

    I think that warren recess appointment is political horse-trading of the worst kind… Obama will have a big win he can wave to his liberal base if they do not yet have functional minds on his political mendacity— He will have a big win and the Republicans will make her a leader in name only by bogging down the CFB with rulemaking Gordian knots and a highly restrictive budget with a thousand hoops to jump through. I hope she will bow out rather than lead an agency that is a lion with ropes all round it and a Congressional muzzle over its roaring aspect.. Better it be a highly effective Bobcat run by someone else.

    1. Paul Tioxon

      My dear doctor, the worst political horse trading would be Poland for peace, this is hardly anything in the scale or even the category of horse trading. It is a simple political decision that a child could make, choosing up sides for your team. Liz is a fait accompli for the recess appointment. The trial balloons of noise and static in the press are of no consequence.

      1. ambrit

        Horse trading? Didn’t we roudly castigate Bush 43 for using the dreaded “recess apointment” countless times to push forward his ultra-right agenda. He and his handlers never showed remorse for it, why should Obama and his handlers? Even if, through Republican obstructionism, the office itself never accomplishes anything substantive, the mere fact of appointing Warren will send a strong message to the opposition: “Turnabout is fair play.”

        1. Francois T


          Please examine the motives behind Bush 43 recess appointments. Do also remember that those who use the filibuster as routinely as they breathe (the real tragedy that besiege this country) are the Reichpubliscums.

  6. Criticaster

    “As we discussed a couple of years ago, when the contagion reaches Italy, the future of the euro is no more.””

    The analogy of infectious diseases when describing debt crises is either lazy or manipulative. In no way does ‘contagion’ of problematic debt resemble contagion in the medical sense. It’s just another fearmongering tactic designed to coax politicians into ever more desperate – and uninformed – measures.

    Italy, with its large domestic savings, non-existent housing bubble and moderate current account deficit is hardly a likely candidate to initiate a euro collapse. Unless, of course, you want such an event so badly that even contemplating it causes verbal drooling like “the future of the euro is no more”(?).

  7. Suburban SUV driver

    Re “The scale of the effect we have on the planet is yet to sink in”

    A lot of independent geoscientists go on and on about the ecology. But I ask you my friends, why should we care about ecology when ecology doesn’t care about us? Why should we listen to independent scientists who have no political affiliation? Shouldn’t we be listening to our pastors (Republican) and energy lobbyists (joint Democratic-Republican) instead? Shouldn’t industry PR consultants be consulted before we do anything rash?

    The earth is only 6000 years old. The sun and the heavens revolve around the earth. The fossil record was planted there by the scientists with nothing better to do. Nuclear energy and its byproducts are perfectly safe. Coal is clean. Fracking is good family fun. Mankind causes no ill effects. Use as much energy as you want. God bless.

  8. Max424

    re: The housing-retail link

    20 million empty homes lead to 2 million empty malls

    Got it.

    Note: And 340 bank failures, and a 19.2% Gallup underemployment rate, and a chicken and an egg (or, an egg and a chicken) …

    1. ambrit

      Dear Max;
      Ten houses per mall? Considering the capital outlay and work generated per mall, I’d love to live in your alternate reality. Also, your fowl allusion is only partial. Shouldn’t that be; “A chicken and or egg in every pot?”

  9. Hugh

    Couldn’t make it through the Tankersley and Hirsh piece. They seem as full of conventional and discredited economic ideas as the economists they criticize.

    First, modern economics never failed. It was always about selling the con, and it did so with great success up until the 2008 crash. The profession’s problem is not about getting it right in the future. It is about how to “re-invent” itself so it can go back to selling the con again.

    Second, the authors indulge in this right did/wanted this and the left did/wanted that. Oh, and neither worked. Besides engaging in a false even handed a curse on both your houses equivalence in failure, the authors get it blindingly wrong. The policies of the corporatist (conservative) right and the corporatist (neoliberal) left worked wonderfully. Differences between them were cosmetic and marginal. Together they not only drove looting to a crescendo followed by thundering crash but used the crash itself to expand the size and intensity of looting amid the ruins.

    I mean how seriously can you take anyone who writes the following:

    “As lawmakers grapple with that question [taming the national debt], along with how best to handle growth, job creation, and rising health care costs…”

    Grapple? These guys get paid to write this stuff? What substantive effort have we seen on any of these issues by anyone in Washington? The authors would have us believe that nothing has actually happened on these because Democrats and Republicans can’t agree, but they are really, really trying, trust us. Yet somehow despite their disagreements they still managed to steer untold trillions into bailouts of the banksters, a fact that the authors overlook.

    I also disliked how the writers tied the Obama stimulus to the left. Even an Establishment liberal shill like Krugman lambasted the “stimulus” (which was 40% non-stimulative tax cuts) as being too small and badly targeted. That didn’t stop the authors for making it the paradigm for their critique of the left’s approach to the economy.

    Maybe braver souls can wade through this tripe. But for me I really question the utility of reading a couple of guys criticizing modern economics (an easy target) when their own thinking is steeped in those very same economics, with all their attendant dishonesties.

    1. armchair


      Thank you. The article had a promising start, and then the analysis proceeded exactly as you described it. It strikes me as a piece that captures the anger and confusion of the reader and then proceeds to misdirect the anger and confusion. The article does much more harm than good.

    2. craazyman

      I am not an especially brave soul, but I read through it to the last period.

      After a while, it became a form of defiance. I will finish this, dammit. I will.

      And I did. But I could not have summed it up better than you. I got a bit sidetracked imagining those cutting edge economists — that one woman out in the jungle trying to figure out how economies grow. I kind of liked that image, there with the bush jacket and the khaki hat, watching the natives through binoculars, sort of like Jane Godall

      bowaoao aha aha haahahhah ahahahahaha

      What is this Planet of the Apes? I love this. It could be a movie. How economies grow. That’s what I think about on the bus when I can focus away from checking out the hot women. I have some theories but they get hard to prove. Maybe that makes me an amateur economist. That and half a bottle of wine and the xanax and I’m almost a pro.

      I think some economies actually grow on rum and buggery, slavery, slobbery, wipping and beating, gnashing of teeth. Like the British navy. And I don’t mean that in a bad way or a good way. I wonder if she’s ready for that epiphany, there in bush. ha ha. With the binoculars and the khakis. Maybe she’s tough, who know?.

      yes, in fact it is the Planet of the Apes. ha ha hahah. Monkey man playing with the monkey brain on a computer. That’s all ecomonics will ever bee. But at least we know it: Asjf askldjf asdj asldjf lsdj alksjf ajsf shjajdfs 122284848484848j;sd falsjasj/ There it is. :)

      1. craazyman

        seriously, all peanut gallery snark and humor aside . . . . it was a thorough summing up of the current state of affairs — whatever one might think of them — and I did appreciate it for that. Good link.

  10. Jimbo

    Highly recommend Italy is the elephant in the euro room, not Spain by Edward Hugh

    Most important two paragraphs…

    “Italy’s per-capita GDP growth was 5.4% in the 1950s, 5.1% in the 1960s, 3.1% in the 1970s, 2.2% in the 1980s and 1.4% in the 1990s. A rough-and-ready extrapolation of this decade-long continued slowdown would lead to expect no more than 0.5% in the 2000s.”

    Since he wrote this in 2006, and growth over the decade was something like an average of 0.6% I would say that his expectation wasn’t a bad guess. What puzzles me at all the people who now “guess” that Italy will be able to put in enough a much higher growth rate over the next decade.

  11. h2odragon

    May I beg for further attribution of the puppy/deer picture, please? This looks almost exactly like a puppy I gave out on Mother’s day. I’d love to know more, thanks.

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