Links 6/28/11

Look customers in the eyes to lock them in the aisles Sydney Morning Herald (hat tip Buzz Potamkin)

A Release Valve for Cyclists’ Unrelenting Pressure New York Times. The resistance to this invention amazes me (but then again, I’ve had some good experiences on the bleeding edge)

Fukushima’s Cesium Spew – Deadly Catch-22s in Japan Disaster Relief TruthOut (hat tip reader May S)

Krokodil: The drug that eats junkies Independent (hat tip reader Foppe). I have a pretty strong stomach, and even so, this is grim reading.

Une taxe pour freiner la spéculation sur les marchés financiers Le Monde (hat tip reader Tim C). Wow, an open letter in favor of a Tobin tax.

The Shadow Banking Problem in China Credit Writedowns

It’s not only Greeks who’ve lost their marbles Telegraph (hat tip reader Thomas B)

On Obama, Wall St. Shows a Reluctance to Commit New York Times

What Is This “Washington”? James Kwak (hat tip reader Carol B)

Nonprofit Insurers: Reaping Profits at the Expense of the Consumer Wendell Porter, Huffington Post

Shadow spreading across international banking Gillian Tett, Financial Times. Anyone know how these players are financing themselves? It is guaranteed they aren’t really separate from the banking system.

Major banks may give away discarded residences to cut losses Dayton Daily News

How corporations award themselves legal immunity Guardian (hat tip Ed Harrison)

America’s unique hatred of finance reform David Sirota, Salon

Antidote du jour:

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  1. RebelEconomist

    Re the Telegraph on the euro

    I get tired of hearing from these eurosceptics who delight in the troubles of the euro. In my opinion, there is nothing inherently wrong with a common currency, provided that its users understand that the same stability that facilitates trade is inflexibility when it comes to economic adjustment, and take care to avoid getting into a position where that adjustment is attractive. If Britain had joined the euro, we might have ensured that it developed more conservatively, instead of being pushed as a tool of the French dream of rivalling the US. I find it hard to believe that a euro including Britain could have been worse than the pound debased by the unprincipled populists at the Bank of England we have now.

    1. Jim

      What does the UK pay to float 10-Year debt? What about Spain? Yet, both countries are economically similar.

      1. RebelEconomist

        Good question. I am not sure myself, but three reasons I can suggest are:

        (1) That sterling has already depreciated, so potential currency gains offset potential capital loss.

        (2) There are various price-insensitive domestic holders of gilts, including the BoE (for QE) and pension funds.

        (3) That capital loss in the UK is a long-term process via inflation, rather than a potentially near-term risk of a haircut.

        Actually, I have a feeling that, while the UK may be smug about its present position, markets will make us pay for it in the long run:

  2. charles 2

    Re : Krokodil
    I wholeheartedly agree with the last comment on the page by “Brajeshwara das”
    “I know heroin is a bad trip, but if there was pharma-grade cheap heroin available for addicts like there are needle exchange programs it would be a huge improvement, even a humanitarian action, get the addicts to at least be safer and more healthy, and try to get them engaged in society in a more sane way for all involved. All the extra health issues, violence and crime that comes because of prohibition, and the corruption of civil institutions that goes along with it, is by far the greater evil. “

  3. charles 2

    Re : A Release Valve for Cyclists’ Unrelenting Pressure
    The reason why elite cyclists are not that interested by these saddles is that they are
    – very light : there is less absolute weight on the saddle
    – and strong : pressing the pedals transfers the weight load from the saddle to the pedals.
    For the rest of us who are weak and overweight, these saddles are great. I own an ISM Adamo myself.

    1. Moopheus

      These saddles get debated endlessly in cycling forums. Some of them are good saddles, but for the casual rider, it still seems that proper fit and position adjustment are more important. A lot of riders don’t get their seats adjusted correctly, and that can lead to problems. Most of the pressure should be on your bones.

      1. Das Sitzbein Heine

        the pressure should be on your bones.


        Affirmative! Seat should touch only skin covering your Os ischii. It is a part of the pelvis. Next you are in Smithsonian Museum of Natural History you will notice that the dinosaur’s ischium is prominent and looks like a perfect support, a perfect place for her/him to sit down.

        I always wondered if it could have been the parasites who killed dinosaurs but not asteroid. Do we have lot of parasites in government? Will they cause extinction?

  4. anon48


    “Shadow banking in China mainly exists in the form of “Bank and Trust Cooperation”, the underground financing networks; but small loan companies and pawn shops also play a role in these shadow financing activities.

    While mortgage securitization is not an issue in China, the “Bank and Trust Cooperation” is a vehicle to provide ‘hidden’ loans to enterprises outside the scope of the bank’s reserve limit. Similar to the credit securitization problems in the US, the banks play the role as an intermediary. They charge service fees and commissions for services provided, while referring the securitized loans to banks customers, and raising funds off the bank’s balance sheet.”

    They author says the Chinese are also using the originate to distribute model only I’m not sure what assets (if any) would be available to creditors upon default. Also, there’s no credit rating that gets assigned to the securitized loans(not that credit ratings were ever worth much on this side of the ocean anyway) . “… the buyers have to blindly follow the bank’s referrals, hoping the banks, which make money from commissions and fees no matter what happens with the loan, have done due diligence and are honest.” This is really scary.

    Their crash could get even more ugly than what was experienced over here. But at least in China there’s the “off with the head” threat looming over miscreants who contemplate willful over-inflation of asset values, at least on the larger deals, providing some level of protection.

    The one serious hope for them is if the China Banking Regulatory Commission follows through on its directive and requires that banks pull these deals back onto their balance sheets by year end. Imo, the mere threat of that requirement should have already started to curtail bank securitization activities. We’ll have to wait and see.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      But at least in China there’s the “off with the head” threat looming over miscreants who contemplate willful over-inflation of asset values, at least on the larger deals, providing some level of protection


      On the other hand, these rich miscreants can always try to flee to Taiwan or preferrably America and fight extradition from there.

        1. Internationale Raumstation

          “off with the head” threat looming over miscreants

          Is it that way in China? Or do Chinese Communistas merely try to frighten people? Try to make people proud of their communism. Are people the same everywhere? Do Chinese zip-fly same as we zip-fly? Do Chinese Crooks set up their competition for police to send up the river? Set up their own boys whenever own boys stop cooperating? Was Madoff set-up by the Mob? Are only small time hoods in prison? People set up by the high rollers? When the defendant is acquitted that means that he was not framed by people higher up. Convicted means framed. Acquited means not framed. Acquitted means miscreant.

          Punishment is not handled by police. Punishment is handled by the Mob. Tell me something! Does Pope execute people? No! Sicilian Mob Boss does executions. You see, it is the same in all parts of the World.

          It’s a Wonderful World

          1. anon48

            Also agree- no offense intended.

            The statement in question was made in a careless fashion. It distracted attention from the point of the post.

  5. arby

    Yves, do you ever wonder why the situation in Greece is always framed as a bailout of the Greeks? After all, the Greeks obtain absolutely zero benefit from the funds being ascribed as going to them.

    This is a bailout of the people holding Greek debt and those people remain comfortably in the shadows. Absent the force majeure applied to the Greek people, the Greek debt would be defaulted upon and the shadow people would be SOL. The shadow people are being bailed out.

    1. DownSouth

      arby said: “This is a bailout of the people holding Greek debt…”


      Bailing out “profligate” sovereigns is one of the great fictions of neoliberalism. It’s never been about bailing out the countries. It’s always been about bailing out their derelict creditors. Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Brazil, Mexico, Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea, and now the drumbeat continues with Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Wonder if Greece will sell off one of their islands to China for them to set up a ‘subsidiary nation’ and use it to gain entrance into the EU?

    3. curlydan

      Although they may never have seen the following quote, the majority of Greeks and Irish already realize its truth: “If you owe the bank $100 that’s your problem. If you owe the bank $100 million, that’s the bank’s problem.” – J. Paul Getty

      Both countries are in a good negotiation position, but that seems to be unknown to their leaders.

  6. Tertium Squid

    Cute? It is not going to end well for the turtle.

    Relevant passage from David Sedaris’ “Repeat After Me”:

    “…Chinese box turtles with pointed noses and spooky translucent skin. The two of them lived in an outdoor pen and were relatively happy until raccoons dug beneath the wire and chewed the front legs off the female and the rear legs off her husband.”

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The cruelty here is again committed by Homo Not-So-Sapiens Not-So-Sapiens for having built a wired outdoor pen and placed the turtles there in the first place.

      I suppose it happens often enough in nature but we shouldn’t interfere.

  7. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Open an account at a major bank and get a free discarded house!

    I think I saw that sign on the way to work today. Didn’t quite catch the fineprint, something about Detroit.

  8. Philip Pilkington

    That drug thing is f-ing disgusting. Man, Russia really went to the dogs after the Chicago Boys got their hands on the levers of power.

    Gorbachev is one of my personal political heroes, but after reading that I’m thinking, “Maybe bring back Communism?”

  9. JimS

    Those corporations, and their judges, don’t seem to understand the word “inalienable”..

        1. Hugh

          Bernie Sanders is a fraud. He always has been. His shtik is to grandstand a little, make a few progressive statements here and there, and then, when vote time comes, cave.

          His last “personal filibuster” is a perfect example of this. He staged it on a Friday when the Senate had no other business and most of his colleagues had already left for the weekend. It was just an empty media event, one that he carefully planned so as not to inconvenience any of his colleagues.

          There aren’t that many times in a pol’s career where their vote is crucial, but I can not remember a single instance where Sanders withheld his vote on such an occasion.

  10. Susan

    Last I checked “titled properties” are not “abandoned properties.” Somebody is fudging the vocabulary as usual. Many streets across this nation are filled with neglected old 30s style houses. They could well be mold-infested, dry-rotted, crumbling at the foundation. But why give the banks a break? They loaned tons of money on this stuff. They cannot unload it (because the chain of title is terminal) in the market. So they are going for the write off when they have already ripped the heart from the former homeowner. What jerks the banks are, no? They now win with a city sanctioned write off. They get out of all the title destruction they caused because they screwed the homeowner in a giant fraud-ponzi, andthey deal with the impoverished city; impoverished because the banks have failed to pay recording fees for 15 years, etc. Today I didn’t have the heart to read NC. I get mentally saturated. So I went out surfing for whatever. And I found a great website I did not know existed: They had great articles on the big snafu and they credited many writers we are already familiar with from NC and this special thank you for Yves for being “the incredible Yves Smith.” I agree.

  11. jerry 101

    Yet another sign that the banks need to be destroyed. They foreclose on a property. Kick out the owners. Let it sit abandoned for a couple of years, falling apart and being stripped by vagrants. Find out (*shocker*) they can’t sell it. Of course, they may not even have clear title, and their foreclosure may have been a sham in the first place. In all likelihood, they haven’t been paying the taxes, either. Not to mention the harm that the abandoned house inflicts on the rest of the neighborhood.

    Then, they turn around and give $10k to the city to take possession of the property and tear it down.

    Of course, the bank probably would have spent more than $10k paying off deliquent taxes and having appropriate environmental remediation done before tearing the house down.

    Plus, the bank gets to hand its faulty title over to the city, and sticks the city with dealing with that problem.

    Betcha that the city loses in this deal, too.

  12. craazyman

    Vomit Bag Alert

    Major warning to peanut gallery members! Red alert! Proceed with extreme caution! If you have a sensitive stomach, don’t even think of reading the Gillian Tett story on shadow banking. Major danger zone for emetic quotations. Use prudence and extreme care when reading. Fasten vomit bag to neck and secure bag under chin. Then proceed to Step #9. Some assembly may be required. Like. Connecting the dots. ha ha ha. bowaaaaarrghgghghghgghuuuuufpppphhhhhhhh.

    Shit. It happened. Even to me.

    boom boom boom boom
    gonna nock me right down
    rightoffof my feet
    layin on the flooh
    boom boom boom boom
    dey comin back to get som moh

    1. Skippy

      Bah!…there are deals with out electrons that dwarf those numbers.

      Skippy…how do you price the future…pray tell.

  13. Externality

    For decades, Wall Street and its flacks (e.g., Thomas Friedman) have supported the mass outsourcing of American jobs. Well, what goes around, comes around:

    There will be quite a few new not-so-happy faces joining the 24 million-plus unemployed Americans soon enough when Goldman Sachs, one of the largest financial institutions in the country, will lay off a large chunk of their domestic employees.

    That doesn’t mean that the banking giant is going under, however. At the same time, Goldman Sachs will bring around 1,000 new employees onboard — at their Singapore branch, that is.

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