Links 5/3/11

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Dear readers, I have a lot of competing responsibilities through the end of the week after next. Post volume will probably be a bit light. Good candidates for guest and cross posts appreciated!

Polar Bear Cub Rescued At Alaska Oil Field Care2 (hat tip reader furzy mouse)


US Appeals Court Opens Federal Funding for Stem Cell Research ScienceDaily (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Osama a casualty of the Arab revolt Asia Times (hat tip reader minh)

No dignity at Ground Zero Guardian

Time to Sever the Saudi Ties That Bind TruthOut (hat tip reader May S)

Declare victory and end the ‘global war on terror’ Gideon Rachman, Financial Times

NightWatch 20110502 kforcegov (hat tip reader Arthur)

Leave Libya or we will bring you down, allies tell Berlusconi Independent (hat tip reader Buzz Potamkin)

U.S. Business Has High Tax Rates but Pays Less New York Times. The article has some general observations about the US tax regime that are probably valid, but then goes on to discuss the effective US corporate tax rate v. that in other countries, as well as variations by industry. How can you take any of that seriously in light of this:

(Measuring taxes paid by companies is imprecise because tax filings remain private. In many cases, the estimates reported in a company’s financial filings with regulators overstate taxes paid in a year because they include deferred taxes. Nonetheless, academics, economists and elected officials use the estimates for comparative purposes.)

This is embarrassing. Adjust the reported taxes for the change in deferred taxes. We’d do that all the time in the age of stone knives and bearskins, um, spreadsheets prepared by hand. Still approximate but a better approximation.

There Goes the Data: Major Cuts at EIA Washington (hat tip reader Crocodile Chuck)

US becomes net exporter of fuel Financial Times (hat tip Buzz Potamkin). Note only refined fuel products…

Unemployment and house prices MacroBusiness

The Economist on Innovation and Jobs econfuture

RBS escape fate of the stupid Fintag (hat tip Richard Smith)

LPS filed motion for sanctions in bad faith, foreclosure defense attorney alleges HousingWire (hat tip Richard Smith)

Mortgage demand falling, says Fed Financial Times. What about “pushing on a string” don’t you understand?

Antidote du jour:

Screen shot 2011-05-03 at 4.54.10 AM

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  1. Philip Pilkington

    On the Australian housing bubble:

    “Following on from Popping Bubble’s recent post, Australia’s low level of unemployment is often held-up as a reason why home values won’t fall. According to this argument, home values will remain supported as long as people have jobs and can continue meeting their mortgage repayment obligations.”

    Yep, I remember that one coming from the Irish government a few years back. “Strong employment figures will ensure a ‘soft landing’ in the housing sector,” they would tell us. Followed by, “And strong immigration is sure to keep demand strong in the housing sector — so pay no attention to the high-levels of household borrowing…”

    Three years on the immigrants are on their way home (apart from the Latvians — even Ireland is in better shape than Latvia…) and unemployment has gone through the roof.

    The Aussies do have one-up on us. They don’t have a class-act of a Prime Minister telling naysayers to take off the belt, hang their heads and end it all. [See:

    On another note, British manufacturing takes a hit:

    Hats off Mr. Osbourne in your infinite VAT-raising wisdom…

    1. DownSouth

      Great video!

      Another must see on this subject is Adam Curtis’ The Power of Nightmares.

      Fisk asserts that the Muslim street rejected the theocracy that Bin Laden and Al Qaeda were peddling.

      Curtis makes the case that the Muslim street also rejected the violent revolution that Al Qaeda and Bin Laden were pushing. The recent popular uprisings in the Muslim world seem to confirm Curtis’ interpretation, where violent revolution was not the preferred means, but nonviolent revolution.

      1. Philip Pilkington

        “…where violent revolution was not the preferred means, but nonviolent revolution.”

        Don’t forget to mention: “…for a non-Islamic democracy”.

        Bin Laden wanted to recreate Iran in 1978 — but there was no chance. Bin Laden himself was — truth be told — a fairly pathetic figure. Rich kid with a big ego — didn’t have the charisma of a Khomeni. Ditto for al-Zawahiri.

        Curtis made the point in The Power of Nightmares perfectly. These guys were terrorists in the worst sense of the term. Think: Real IRA and Baader-Meinhof rather than the PLO or the PKK.

        Where the PLO and the PKK have mass support among the populations, the likes of bin Laden and al-Zawahiri are degenerate losers with creepy extremist ideas — and that’s how they’re viewed. Eventually — acting mainly out of a sort of ‘nerd rage’ — they turn against everyone around them and start murdering civilians, further alienating themselves from the masses.

        Curtis had it down in those films. If only the West had listened — a lot of needless deaths in the Middle-East could have been avoided. Hell, Superman might have even kept his American citizenship (see:

          1. DownSouth

            The Superman comic reminded me of this:

            The story of the Danish Jews is sui generis, and the behavior of the Danish people and their government was unique among all the countries of Europe—-whether occupied, or a partner of the Axis, or neutral and truly independent. One is tempted to recommend the story as required reading in political science for all students who wish to learn something about the enormous power potential inherent in non-violent action and in resistance to an opponent possessing vastly superior means of violence… When the Germans approached them rather cautiously about introducing the yellow badge, they were simply told that the King would be the first to wear it, and the Danish government officials were careful to point out that anti-Jewish measures of any sort would cause their own immediate resignation… This refusal must have surprised the Germans to no end, since it appeared so “illogical”… Thus, none of the preparatory moves, so important for the bureaucracy of murder, could be carried out…


            Politically and psychologically, the most interesting aspect of this incident is perhaps the role played by the German authorities in Denmark, their obvious sabotage of orders from Berlin. It is the only case we know of in which the Nazis met with open native resistance, and the result seems to have been that those exposed to it changed their minds. They themselves apparently no longer looked upon the extermination of a whole people as a matter of course. They had met resistance based on principle, and their “toughness” had melted like butter in the sun, they had even been able to show a few timid beginnings of genuine courage. That the ideal of “toughness,” except, perhaps, for a few half-demented brutes, was nothing but a myth of self-deception, concealing a ruthless desire for conformity at any price, was clearly revealed at the Nuremberg Trials, where the defendants accused and betrayed each other and assured the world that they “had always been against it” or claimed, as Eichmann was to do, that their best qualities had been “abused” by their superiors. (In Jerusalem, he accused “those in power” of having abused his “obedience.” “The subject of a good government is lucky, the subject of a bad government is unlucky. I had no luck.”) The atmosphere had changed, and although most of them must have known that they were doomed, not a single one of them had the guts to defend the Nazi ideology.
            ▬Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil

          2. DownSouth

            It also reminds me of this:

            At this slightly tense moment, the witness happened to mention the name of Anton Schmidt, a Feldwebel, or sergeant, in the German Army… Anton Schmidt was in charge of a patrol in Poland that collected stray German soldiers who were cut off from their units. In the course of doing this, he had run into members of the Jewish underground…and he had helped the Jewish partisans by supplying them with forged papers and military trucks. Most important of all: “He did not do it for money.” This had gone on for five months, from October, 1941, to March, 1942, when Anton Schmidt was arrested and executed….

            But this mention of Schmidt was the first and the last time that any such story was told of a German…

            During the few minutes it took Kovner to tell of the help that had come from a German sergeant, a hush settled over the courtroom; it was as though the crowd had spontaneously decided to observe the usual two minutes of silence in honor of the man named Anton Schmidt. And in those two minutes, which were like a sudden burst of light in the midst of impenetrable, unfathomable darkness, a single thought stood out clearly, irrefutably, beyond question—-how utterly different everything would be today in this courtroom, in Israel, in Germany, in all of Europe, and perhaps in all countries of the world, if only more such stories could have been told.

            There are, of course, explanations of this devastating shortage, and they have been repeated many times. I shall give the gist of them in the words of one of the few subjectively sincere memoirs of the war published in Germany. Peter Bamm, a German Army physician who served on the Russian front, tells in ‘Die Unsichtbare Flagge’ of the killing of Jews in Sevastopol…: “It is certain that anyone who had dared to suffer death rather than silently tolerate the crime would have sacrificed his life in vain. This is not to say that such a sacrifice would have been morally meaningless. It would only have been practically useless. None of us had a conviction so deeply rooted that we could have taken upon ourselves a practically useless sacrifice for the sake of a higher moral meaning.” Needless to add, the writer remains unaware of the emptiness of his much emphasized “decency” in the absence of what he calls a “higher moral meaning.”

            But the hollowness of respectability—-for decency under such circumstances is no more than respectability—-was not what became apparent in the example afforded by Sergeant Anton Schmidt. Rather it was the fatal flaw in the argument itself, which at first sounds so hopelessly plausible. It is true that totalitarian domination tried to establish these holes of oblivion into which all deeds, good and evil, would disappear, but just as the Nazis’ feverish attempts, from June, 1942, on, to erase all traces of the massacres—-through cremation, through burning in open pits, through the use of explosives and flame-throwers and bone-crushing machinery—-were doomed to failure, so all efforts to let their opponents “disappear in silent anonymity” were in vain. The holes of oblivion do not exist. Nothing human is that perfect, and there are simply too many people in the world to make oblivion possible. One man will always be left alive to tell the story. Hence, nothing can ever be “practically useless,” at least, not in the long run. It would be of great practical usefulness for Germany today, not merely for her prestige abroad but for her sadly confused inner condition, if there were more such stories to be told. For the lesson of such stories is simple and within everybody’s grasp. Politically speaking, it is that under conditions of terror most people will comply but some people will not, just as the lesson of the countries to which the Final Solution was proposed is that “it could happen” in most places but it did not happen everywhere. Humanly speaking, no more is required, and no more can reasonably be asked, for this planet to remain a place fit for human habitation.
            ▬Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil

  2. Leviathan

    There’s currently a fire sale on homes in nice suburbs north of Chicago. A glut of new inventory, and old stuff is not moving.

    My hunch is that people gave the recovery a couple of years, but income is not keeping up with expenses, the need to move for jobs or to downsize (or upsize, for growing families) is now pushing people to act. A lot of people will throw their house onto the market this summer, and when it doesn’t sell there will be widespread defaults.

    There will be a crisis this fall that “no one could have predicted” (LOL) and banks will beg for more help. If I’m right I get a great deal on a nice new house. And if I’m wrong, I still get a good deal. Unless the system collapses, but I have faith in financial duct tape. The feds seem to have an endless supply of it.

  3. LeeAnne

    Declare victory and end the ‘global war on terror’ Gideon Rachman, Financial Times

    A rational piece follows this headline with rational arguments. As if TPTB in the western banking system (Eisenhower never anticipated Fleet St/Wall St. becoming the driving force behind the MIC. Need I say more.

    Current domestic policy is an extension of drug prohibition policy. It is the tool of oppression for controlling the masses while continuing the pretense of FreeDOM and DEMocracy.

    I love this, particularly when this morning’s news announces first thing that machine guns and dogs will return to the NYC transportation system; the same machine guns and dogs Bloomberg attempted but quickly withdrew when federal funding for same was in the headlines.

    Prey tell, who will be machine gunned, and under what circumstances? Spray Grand Central Station?

    1. Francois T

      Declare victory?

      When so much money is at stake? When so many leeches are gorging at the trough of taxpayer’s money, bleeding the country dry?

      We all know how that works, don’t we? Witness the sheer madness of the “War on Drugs” a.k.a. The New Jim Crow. Rationality isn’t part of that equation; just listen to the top honchos for proof of it. “Weed is a gateway drug” is their favorite mantra, although it can’t pass the laughing test.

      Also, let’s remember that it is Obama who chose the very top people at the DEA, so, it’s not as if the powers that be will become rational, meaning, looking for the common good. They will act rationally, that is, make sure their grip on power is maintained.

          1. Anonymous Jones

            Yes, seconded, watch Restrepo. I couldn’t help thinking every two minutes during that doc, “Who again thought it was a good idea to send these men to the Korangal?” It’s amazing the decisions we make about the use of our resources. What a terrible, useless action to send men halfway around the world to fight some armed idiots in a valley of no import other than to its few impoverished residents.

            Reminds me…I need to re-read Catch-22.

  4. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    I hope it’s time people wake up to the naked truth that even inanimate objects like comets, rocks and minerals, much less trees, suffer when it’s cold, and yes, even freeze to death.

    R.I.P., Hale-Bopp.

    1. Rex

      Hale Bopp isn’t dying, it is just making a natural transition through its seasons. It is easing from its short summer into autumn. The Hale Bopp year just happens to be a couple-thousand earth years (most of it winter).

  5. Jojo

    Economix – Explaining the Science of Everyday Life
    May 2, 2011
    Super Sad True Jobs Story

    What happens when the most successful no longer need the less successful? In Gary Shteyngart’s entertaining new dystopian novel, “Super Sad True Love Story,” low net-worth individuals begin to rebel. Everyone else continues shopping.

    A similar (but nonfictional) story seems to be unfolding about jobs.

    Once upon a time, economic recovery led to expanded employment of the United States population. Not anymore. The percentage of adults employed has declined sharply during the last two recessions and failed to increase much in their aftermath.

    As Alan Krueger of Princeton pointed out, the employment-to-population rate remains at about 58 percent, about the same as in December 2009 and far lower than the peak of 65 percent achieved before the 2001 recession.

    1. Philip Pilkington

      Anyone else read that Shteyngart novel?

      Man, I thought it was weak stuff… Had me reaching for the Burgess — who, barring A Clockwork Orange, isn’t much better; but Shteyngart? Ugh!?! Bordering on the unbearable!

  6. Hugh

    After the 1979 seige of the Mosque in Mecca, the Saudi royal family in a deal to squelch further challenges to their rule turned their education system over to the most religiously conservative and xenophobic elements in their society. At the same time, both private and public funds were used to build radically conservative madrassas around the world. The policy of the monarchy was essentially you can carry on jihad anywhere you want just not here.

    22 years later we had 9/11 with 15 of the 19 hijackers being Saudis, products of the Saudi educational system. Similarly, 40% of the suicide bombers in Iraq were Saudis and were by far the largest contingent in that group. Saudi funded madrassas in Africa helped train those who took part in the embassy bombings there. The Taliban was the product of Pakistan’s ISI but many of its cadres came from the Saudi system of madrassas in Pakistan.

    Osama bin Laden’s sin in the monarchy’s eyes was not his terrorism but his denunciation of them and calls for them to be overthrown.

    The contradiction in US foreign policy is that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are our two biggest “allies” in the war on terrorism but they are also its two biggest promoters and sponsors.

  7. Sock Puppet

    Hugh: “The contradiction in US foreign policy is that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are our two biggest “allies” in the war on terrorism but they are also its two biggest promoters and sponsors”.

    Could you point out the contradiction for me?

  8. Hugh

    The news that the EIA will no longer be putting out data on the international energy situation, due to budget cuts, takes away most of its reason for being and makes energy more opaque and open to speculation than they already are.

  9. Jimbo

    With respect to guest bloggers, I always find Ed Harrison’s posts insightful.

  10. EmilianoZ

    Re: Osama a casualty of the Arab revolt

    I rather see that as Osama a casualty of Donald Trump

  11. ambrit

    I seem to have “Done The Time Warp” in trying to read the article at FT. Four letter words! A Paywall! And thus we restrict more and more the “free flow of ideas.” This is how Orwells’ dystopia plays out in the “Real World.” Nominalism anyone?

  12. ambrit

    Celestial Fiendes;
    If you are a Panspermite, you have to wonder what it has left behind it in its multi millennial visit to the Zone of Life. I hope the Japaneese comet satellite has equipment that can analyize amino acids. Then perhaps the plot (full of stewing complex carbohydrates,) will thicken.

  13. kevinearick

    The Bank

    OOPS! JP Morgan is in a wee bit “O” (big) trouble again. There goes the last 5 cents in the pension accounts. All they have left is monopoly money, backed by the full faith and credit of … ethanol, wind, solar, gas, batteries, and GE. Can you smell the toast burning (rising margin call volatility)?

    The global IC chip has to borrow more than its income, irrespective of the deficit required to get that income. That’s negative quantum leverage for you. At this point, you should have sufficient income property to ride out 5 years, which will bankroll you regardless of what kind of currency they roll out. Just watch who you rent to, your rental policy, to adjust the feedback loop in time.

    If you have excess physical silver, by all means hold onto it, regardless of whether they push the price to $100 or $0, with the leverage of silver paper, and they will, because they are desperate. The reason I pushed so hard on adaptive skills is because they can’t take those away, and you don’t have to worry about burying them somewhere.

    The human flesh machines have been collecting data on systems, organizations, and individuals for the last three years, so, if you are a borderline sexist, now would be good time to step out of that circle and maintain your distance. You are better of liquidating everything you don’t absolutely need and getting a $10/hr job to practice real performance skills; the shake out at the top is going to be nasty, and increasingly irrational, as if it isn’t already. Just ride the tsunami; don’t get cute with cuts. Make your gates and rest in between. The system is going to accelerate again quite rapidly in August.

    For the guy worried about my sex life, I just happened to win the genetic lottery. Even at my advanced age, there is no time when I do not have my choice of women, of any kind, anywhere, even as a homeless person. If you want Family Law, you are welcome to it, but keep it to yourself. Do not f**k with my kids again. Is that un-cryptic enough?

    Next up, the collapsing circle enters Brazil again. The sub-humans never learn; they can only know. Once you are playing with the constants in the second integral, with an intelligent trial and error algorithm, the legacy institutions are toast. The error most technicians are making is expecting the past to repeat itself exactly, which is the trap, instead of working together to make the entire coliseum/circus the trap. Containment, containment, containment.

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