Links 8/29/11

Sorry for the thin links, am way behind.

The Ministry of Fear reports on the weather CorrenteWire on the hurricane media fest. The real disaster seems to be public transport, in fact.

…or floods, but not in NYC Business Insider.

Bank Of America Buys Time Via Buffett Effect Forbes. Francine McKenna on Bank of America and Buffett, h/t Scott F.

Complexity is a Cash Cow, but not for you
Expected Loss. I don’t think ‘buyer beware’ quite deals with the problem.

The Jackson Hole Papers
FT Alphaville with some Hole-related reading matter for you.

Sino-Forest CEO resigns. FT Alphaville: another one of John Hempton’s shorts is maturing nicely.

Even a joint bond might not save the euro FT, Munchau. Paywalled, but worth using up one of your free views on if you’ve got any left.

Effects of corruption on the market Crisp points from that sight for sore eyes, Barry Ritholtz.

The Democratic Deficit in Europe and the Periphery Macroresilience with another angle on the Eurozone’s problems (non-European readers are invited to read across to their local conditions if they think it’s appropriate).

An opportunity for an Antiantidote: let’s hear it for carnivorous plants! More back story here.

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  1. Birch

    Yay, a plant antidonte! Animals are nice, but there is so much more to life. Maybe we’ll see a lichen antidote some day, as a reminder of the power of inter-kingdom symbiotic cooperation.

      1. Jim A

        um…I believe this photo is an illustration for an article about the capacity of pitcher plants to eat vertibrates as well as insects…so that bird isn’t nappin’.

        1. The lives of others

          Correct. A carnivorous plant is eating a small bird.
          Yves, please remove this picture and provide true antidote.
          This is not the-victims-rising-against-their-oppressors type of metaphor.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            One day, un-assuming plants will take over the planet from those loud mouthed aniamls.

          2. Jim A

            Because plants are supposed to meekly acccept the depradations of the animal kingdom? RISE UP! Throw off your chains! Pass the broccoli, will you?

  2. Jim Haygood

    Re Bank of America — Dr. John Hussman goes after kindly Uncle Warren with a sharp stick:

    A major restructuring of debt is the clearest path to long-term economic recovery, and the accompanying losses to those who recklessly made bad loans would be the highest realization of Schumpeter’s idea of “creative destruction.”

    From that perspective, Warren Buffett’s $5 billion investment in Bank of America preferred stock last week was essentially a defense of the old guard. Buffett observed, “It’s a vote of confidence, not only in Bank of America, but also in the country.”

    Yes – to be specific, it’s a vote of confidence that the country will bail out Bank of America in any future crisis. We should all hope that Buffett’s investment is successful — provided there is no future crisis — and we should equally hope that Buffett loses the entire investment otherwise.

    Exactly — Buffett is confident that the PTB aren’t going to zero out his $5 billion of cumulative preferred in a restructuring. They didn’t do it in 2008, so why start now? RHIP — Rank Has Its Privileges.

      1. F. Beard

        Grazing actually stimulates plant growth. Furthermore, until animals can photosynthesize themselves they must eat plants or animals that eat plants.

        Moreover, you are a hypocrite since you have obviously not starved to death and you’ve had plenty of time to do so!

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          I could have survived on fungi and water.

          But no, I actually kill and eat mostly vegetables these days.

          The difference is I don’t try to make meat eaters feel guilty though.

  3. CB

    Barry Ritholtz’ comments section opens thusly:


    Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data, ability to repeat discredited memes, and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Also, be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor even implied. Any irrelevancies you can mention will also be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.”


    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I am not sure if he is familiar wth the empirical data showing the existence of Homo Not-So-Sapiens Very-Irrationalus.

      Ignorance and uncivility – they are what we humans are famous for.

      Irrelevanies – they are uncles of creativity…outside of the box, if you will.

    2. bmeisen

      The guy deserves to be sitting on a bar stool. Crisp points on the effects of corruption on the market? “These guys are criminals!” Exactly how much of the market is affected and how can the affected part be cleaned up. Probably through prosecution and regulation but Barry doesn’t go that far. “Keep your money and politics separated.” Tell that to GSax and BoA, just to mention a couple. “Have an exit strategy.” Probably triggered by something like PRICES. Problem is that corruption distorts prices. Would Barry recommend getting in on Facebook should it go public? What are the chances that it’s IPO will be as manipulated

  4. Diego Méndez

    Re: “The Democratic Deficit in Europe and the Periphery” and “Even a joint bond might not save the euro”

    I totally agree with Ashwin and Münchau. Both articles basically sum up the situation in Europe.

    EU institutions (and global institutions like the WTO) are not really democratic and they are forcing national parliaments to agree to policies which go against their electorates and their national interests.

    At this juncture, as Munchau says, even a eurobond might have no effect, since many EU nations would claim independence from ultra-austerian EU (or from the eurobonds themselves), sooner or later.

    A eurobond would only be legitimate if the EU parliament were really democratic and it had a say over it. As of today, most Europeans think the EU has received a lot of power and the EU nations’ have nothing to show for it.

    What did the EU do in order to reform capitalism? Or in order to defend Europe from China’s mercantilism? Or in order to spread democracy? Or in order to protect Europeans from bankers’ short-termism?

    If our own national parliaments could do nothing in these regards because the power to do it laid in Brussels, can we really argue it was a good idea to give them those powers in the first place?

    Not anymore.

    1. justanobserver

      Tremendously. And really he was going after all of the anti-science fundamentalists too.

    2. F. Beard

      I am coming to detest Rick Perry but that does not mean Richard Dawkins is right either.

      For a high powered defense of the Creator hypothesis, I know of none better than this site:

      1. Susan the other

        But you know F. “God” can be something as basic and astounding as quantum intelligence, for lack of a better definition. Something forward moving principle intrinsic to every living cell and even to every material molecule in the universe. If so, we are god.

        1. F. Beard

          If so, we are god. Susan the Other

          Let’s hope not! I would not trust me nor any other human to be God. But we can safely bet that based on probability theory, logic and historical evidence that the position of Creator was filled long ago.

          Isaiah 43:10

          1. Susan the other

            we only speak a different language… there isn’t a soul alive who does not enjoy the great mystery… the thing I react against is dogmatism

          2. F. Beard

            … the thing I react against is dogmatism Susan the Other

            I keep an open mind but eventually one must reach SOME conclusions.

            But the dogmatism is on all sides. Dawkins is an example of that too.

            As for Rick Perry, he is too revolting for me to even consider. GW has put me off Texas politicians forever. Actually, LBJ should have been adequate :)

          3. aet

            “…keep an open mind but eventually one must reach SOME conclusions”.

            Why must one do so?

            Some may enjoy the suspense – while for others it may be unavoidable, so to speak.

    3. craazyman

      I dunno about this one. Somebody should tell Mr. Dawkins that loads of total ignoramuses are in charge at his beloved universities and, especially, at the big corporations he lionizes. He calls that evaluation process something to emulate? I mean really. It seems to me like it’s devolution not evolution. And as for evolution, it’s an interesting and valuable theory, but it doesn’t explain half as much as Professor D. Tremens’ hypothesis that radio-like broadcasts from n-dimensional space acting through dna radios control most aspects of formal organization on our plane of existence. Profess. Tremens acknowledged he conconcted this theory while drunk and on drugs and under the influence of Platonic theory of forms, but so what. The Lord works in mysterious wayze. I think Mr. Dawkins is a bit of a bonehead, but I’d rather have a free press than censorship. So if he wants to make a bonehead out of himself with these kinds of Q&A’s, well, go for it. And as for Mr. Perry. I’d give him a half-life of 5 more months before he gets the big Gong from the powers that be. Not sure who’ll replace him, and I am sure I couldn’t care less. I’m just bracing myself for 4 more years of the Big Zero. Hope to spend it in some debauched way after scoring a 5 bagger, Otherwise I’ll have to keep working.

      1. l880auh8a09e8uha

        that’s a cool theory, especially part about being generated whilst drunk and so on.

        seems that circa 80’s era orthodoxy in evolutionary theory has been under some review and adjustment. Ie it used to be a given that all genetic mutation was ‘random’ (ie ultraviolet scrambled or something) and any hint at Lamarkianesque mechanisms interpreted as heretical nonsense worthy only of capital scoff. Now it’s more and more open to inquiry about the interactions between consciousness & behaviours, (hence things like culture, hence creative ‘will’ &c) and the genetics, plus that genetics are oh so complex, especially in the plasticity of forms of possible protein expression over a set of given DNA.
        On Intelligent-Design:
        I like (love) Dawkins and love athiests, but don’t necessarily take them seriously at their most dogmatic. Like the idiosyncratic math genius, often correct in particulars but missing something. I guess that makes me kinda pantheist, or open-minded or occult or something.
        I absolutely love the idea of Intelligent Design, just not as a theory of the origin of species or the development of the planet. (Maybe if it was rendered in some non-ludicrous panthiestic garb, teleologic Kant in advanced age, glowering over a candle in the dark, drunk on absinthe, seeing the Design!the Purpose! )
        I like Intelligent Design as a political-economy IDEOLOGY. Like: We Should, Design, Intelligently, the Society, and World, we Live, in.
        Yesh. Can someone ask Dawkins to make this point part of his routine.

    4. scraping_by

      Radio jamming depends on transmitting random noise on the opponents’ frequency with signals powerful enough to interfere with the target signal. Let’s see, Ron Paul is gaining popularity, so we get a Texas politician who talks mean about the Fed and for various anti-gubmint slogans. He’s granted large hunks of MSM space and lots of cheerleading “analysis.” However, unlike Ron Paul, Gov. Rick proudly grovels to the moneyed elite. Rick Perry is the Paul Jammer.

      As far as politics, as an establishment politician using Christanity to get citizens wound up, it’s all the same. Perry is Bachman except not so pretty. Bachman is Palin except not so booblicious. Palin is Bush II, only not so smirky and snarly.

      Dawkins’s great moment in the sun, when he was filmed being waterboarded and changed his tune from denying to admitting it was torture, smacked of a publicity stunt. It was a dramatic demonstration he was rational educated conservative liar as opposed to the faith-based American conservative liars. I mean, how much narcissism and/or naivety does someone need to be not to understand it was torture just from the description? For the most part, Rand declaimed with a good accent is still Rand.

      Religion should be part of your politics, both voting and deliberative, if religion’s important in your life. However, the religious smokescreen of Perry et. al. is just a useful tool, not a profound truth. A net for rubes rather than a crusade on a creed.

  5. Hugh

    Serious question. Are participants at the Jackson Hole conference issued waders so they can make it through all the BS?

    Re Buffett, I sort of figured that his investment in BoA was not altruistic and that he assumes that the government will never call BoA out on its insolvency. I don’t see how a future government bailout of BoA would help Buffett because as Yves pointed out to me a couple of days ago Buffett’s investment is not senior debt so he should get wiped out in any bailout. Of course, we live in a kleptocracy, so I can’t say with 100% certainty he would.

    The European democratic deficit looks like the first vague grapplings toward an awareness of kleptocracy as practised in Europe. Technocracy and scientificality are just scams elites use to justify their power and privilege. If they actually worked, we should be able to see and measure their success. But they don’t. They are essentially Ponzis. The elites use them to blow giant bubbles. When these blow up, the elites use the subsequent disaster as a shock doctrine event to wring even more power and wealth from ordinary people. It is privatization of gains and socialization of losses with the catch that even the socialization of the losses is turned into opportunities for further private gain by the elites.

    1. aet

      “If they actually worked, we should be able to see and measure their success. But they don’t.”

      Don’t they now?

      Science, particularly medical science, ( NOT “technocracy and scientificality” – whatever those terms are meant to refer to) have done much better by and for our welfare than what you’re proposing to do, or would have done.

      No? You disagree?

      Then quoting science, I say to you:
      Prove it.

      1. Hugh

        I’m afraid you are erecting and knocking down a strawman. Scientificality is the appropriation of the aura of science, of its objectivity, for purely political ends. Similarly, technocracy is supposedly government by expert, but what it actually is a way for our elites to legitimize their power and position. You can wrap yourself in the flag, but that doesn’t make you a patriot. You can wrap yourself in science, but that doesn’t make you a scientist. You can say you’re an expert because you teach at Princeton, but that doesn’t mean you know what you are talking about. You can develop a Human Development Index but it doesn’t mean that it is an objective measure of anything.

        We in the rubiat have been scammed, conned, and rolled for decades by elites who tell us what a great job they are doing and how well off we rubes are (in fact they can prove it to us “scientifically”, while all that time they have been robbing us blind and driving our economy over a cliff. Take your Human Development Index to the 29 million disemployed, the 40 million on food stamps, and the 50 million without healthcare insurance. Take it to America’s students whose underfunded schools are failing them or to all of us who witness on a daily basis its decaying infrastructure. Tell us how advanced we are supposed to feel now that we and our political process are owned by the looters. The proof that you seek is all around you. All you have to do is open your eyes.

        1. Lidia

          Hugh, your grievances are valid, but everything you are talking about has to do with politics and ideology, not science per se.

          Science is just knowing ‘what is’ and the processes leading up to to our current level of understanding and beyond.

          Do germs cause disease, or is it Satan and his demons?
          Why… I believe the answer is germs! Now, why humans have chosen to use that knowledge both to develop penicillin and to develop germ warfare is a separate issue.

          Understanding that illness is not caused by demons is a great improvement for humankind; the fact that people in some cultures (including my own “born-again” sister) still prefer the demon explanation is abhorrent.

          The solution to poor understanding of the human condition, our environment and our environmental predicament(s) is to enhance that understanding, not eliminate it in favor of absurd superstitions.

          What I fear, almost more than Christianists undermining science education, is that future energy scarcity will take us back to the Dark Ages… that coming generations will only have dim legends of people who traveled in space, or looked through electron microscopes, and that what we know for certain today risks being regarded as supernatural tomorrow.

  6. kravitz

    Okay Y&R, here’s a few q’s…

    How many of the flooded regions have foreclosures?
    How many of those are hidden inventory?
    How does anyone expect them to sell after people find they’re in flood zones?
    And wouldn’t houses outside those zones actually increase in value?

    Bloomie caught my eye.
    Pending Sales of Previously Owned U.S. Homes Decline More Than Estimated

    And it’s hit me no one is talking about – since the affected area is so vast – how many affected homeowners are expected to remain where they were. Then, what happens to the property left behind.

    For that strange matter, what happens to the mortgage in an affected area? Wouldn’t all that activity actually help the housing economy?

  7. MichaelC

    Recommendation for tomorrows links (with some commentary and silliness).

    Buffet, Bettencourt, … ‘tax me too’ billionaires . What’s going on here?

    Buffet’s been saying this for years, but his boy’s gearing up for round two. Repeating it now makes sense. But whyTF is Bettencourt et, al piling on now?

    Today’s WSJ explains it all.

    France Gets Buffetted

    After introducing Bettencourt as a “the billionaire who made headlines last year over alleged tax evasion” , they concede that her pals :

    “are aware of having fully benefited from a French model and a European environment to which we are committed and which we want to help preserve.” Well. they’re French and know something about pitchforks, so they would say that but..

    per the WSJ editors, if France takes them up on their offer they’ll have created a Trojan horse that will harm every man woman and child in France

    With no apparent tongue in cheek they note : “The plan (to respond to Bettencourt’s suggestion) would also raise consumption taxes on tobacco, hard liquor and soft drinks. To round out this windfall for government, Mr. Fillon called for applying France’s 19.6% value-added tax rate to amusement-park admission fees.”

    Although he doesn’t recommend taxes on (soft liquor) wine, raising taxes on Bettencourt;s fortune would have the bizarre effect of killing the Ferris Wheel industry!!! Say it ain’t so ! Will the London Eye have to be dismantled if Charles offers to up his rate a notch. Will Luna Park finally wash out to sea at Coney Island? Will DisneyWorld sink back into the swamp?

    WSJ editors fear ” the new proposals would further discourage work by capping some of the tax exemptions on overtime pay that Nicolas Sarkozy introduced in 2007.”
    Which sounds a lot like the “can’t tax the job creators” meme in the US.
    WSJ concludes with
    “If she wants to give her money to the French state, she’s welcome to do so. But a better public service would be calling for reforms that make it easier for today’s entrepreneurs to earn, and create, the wealth that once helped make France great.”

    Which is the same lame Rep code regarding WB’s offer.

    Debunking all this nonsense should be child’s play by now.
    The reforms needed are simple.

    Tax the zilllionaires who made their fortunes stealing from Granny. As a society, we don’t like that.

    That will leave the rare billionaires left who made their fortunes inventing useful products or innovative technology who disdain politics (Gates is excluded from this group since his innovation was Rockerfeller’s, monopolize. Buffet too, since he became the worlds most successful investor from the comfort of his insurance co . He’s the personification of regulatory arb, one of the least charming folks on the planet in my view.).

    They (the genuine innovators) would not object to a marginal kickback to the gov’t that sponsored them. Time for our Facebook and Google winners to throw their vulture capitalists under the bus.

    ( Even Buffet concedes he’s never met an investor who said taxes were a dealbreaker. Why should they object after the fact then?)

    The double taxation of capital argument has merit for innovators and job creators. But that argument went out the window long before 40% of corporate profits came from financial services, which should be a zero sum “industry”. The carried interest crowd who benefitted most in the last generation should embrace an oligarch tax, if only to avoid the pitchfork, as WB is broadcasting.

    My gut tells me O will be reusurped re 2012, by the Schneiderman’s, a few good judges in NY , (Del?) and (yay) the FDIC, in time to keep the real loons (Rep) out of the WH.

    Here’s the silliness (not really though, read it thrrough)

    And for some fun (and context, this was a top 10) -Travis McCoy:

    “I want to be a billionare” I wanna be a billionaire so fricking bad
    Buy all of the things I never had
    Uh, I wanna be on the cover of Forbes magazine
    Smiling next to Oprah and the Queen

    I’ll be playing basketball with the President
    Dunking on his delegates
    Then I’ll compliment him on his political etiquette
    Toss a couple milli in the air just for the heck of it
    But keep the fives, twentys (?) completely separate
    And yeah I’ll be in a whole new tax bracket
    We in recession but let me take a crack at it
    I’ll probably take whatevers left and just split it up
    So everybody that I love can have a couple bucks
    And not a single tummy around me would know what hungry was
    Eating good sleeping soundly
    I know we all have a similar dream
    Go in your pocket pull out your wallet
    And put it in the air and sing

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