Links 10/18/11

Tears At Celebrity Crocodile’s Funeral Sky News (hat tip reader furzy mouse). We featured this croc earlier. It was a nice story and it was interesting to see that even reptiles can bond.

Study: Many college students not learning to think critically McClatchy (hat tip reader Aquifer). I assume this is a feature, not a bug.

Steinhardt Pledges Picassos for Real Estate as Art Loans Surge Bloomberg (hat tip Buzz Potamkin)

Terms of trade shock brewing? and The resources curse MacroBusiness

Euro Leaders’ Crisis Campaign Bogs Down Bloomberg

When No. 1 Financial-Strength Ranking Spells Doom Jonathan Weil, Bloomberg (hat tip Joe Costello). We were far from alone in saying that the Eurobank stress tests managed the difficult feat of making the US version look credible. The supporting evidence is coming in even faster than we expected.

Europe’s Politicians Side with the Protesters Der Spiegel (hat tip reader Peter J)

The FSA takes pre-emptive action on liquidity swaps Lisa Pollack, FT Alphaville (hat tip Richard Smith). A solid and lively explanation.

Inside the Bank That Ran Out of Money BBC (hat tip Richard Smith). Our Ian Fraser on the Beeb! But only UK viewers can watch it :-(

New Film Exposes Connection Between the Kochs and a Small Community Dying of Cancer Alternet (hat tip reader Aquifer)

Wall St. Protesters May Demand Trials: Lawyer Bloomberg. Oh, this is gonna be fun!

The New Yorker Mocks The 1% With Its Occupy Wall Street Cover Clusterstock (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Occupy Wall Street needs to occupy Congress and lobbyists Barry Ritholtz, Washington Post. This is basically a demand that OWS interact with the established political order. But if you read the post on Tom Ferguson’s work on Congressional spending, even the Tea Party Congressmen, most of whom are independently wealthy and claimed they were only there to be one termer hellions, nevertheless to a large degree fell into line with the party on the debt ceiling debate, which was a core Tea Party issue. I don’t think OWS has any intention of going there, or at least not any time soon. And I don’t see the OWS people as enraged (except when police attack them), either, as much as determined. There is all sorts of projection going on, and insufficient understanding of the operation (I’m not saying I understand it, I am just a big believer in recognizing the limits of your knowledge).

Breitbart proudly “breaks” broken news Lawyers, Guns & Money

No more, BofA! Church divests $3M YouTube (hat tip reader Aries)

Banks Start to Make More Loans New York Times. Per above, may be too little, too late.

New Mortgage Plan Floated Wall Street Journal. I’m turning in now, just saw this lead story in the WSJ. Aargh, I should post but I must turn in. Quick reaction is this is BS, it’s a refi scheme for mortgages owned by banks, and even then only people who are current but underwater, so it’s a subset of that total. It notes only 20% are owned by banks, so this is arbitrary and capricious. This looks like a face saving gimmick to give the state AGs a talking point and induce them to sign up. And this is just at the trial balloon stage, they haven’t even determined if interest rate relief will be short term or permanent.

Antidote du jour:

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  1. ex-PFC Chuck

    That first one about reptiles bonding is a hanging curve ball over the middle of the plate for the snarksters and punsters. Too bad it’s so early in the morning.

    1. Barbyrah

      Once upon a time I rescued an iguana – did I ever learn a lot. Within a short time she was snuggling (she didn’t do it for the warmth – we were living in a southern climate and also had a heat lamp nearby) and relating in incredibly intelligent ways. She took it upon herself, for example, to learn to poop and pee on newspapers – I had a mini-tree for her in the house that she’d hang in, but she’d climb down, find the newspapers, and do her business when nature called. Never missed ONCE. Yep, a snuggler, loved being held, loved climbing in your hair…and very smart.

      Which is why I try not to refer to someone being in his/her “reptile brain” if I see that old “fight or flight” stuff, or that old fear/attack junk.

      I got to become friends with a reptile. And know better now.

      1. F. Beard

        Nice story! Thanks.

        The lizard you may grasp with the hands, yet it is in kings’ palaces. Proverbs 30:28

    1. the other larry

      By the authors own admission, the test (CLA) hasn’t been validated.

      Thinking critically about the study, one can find evidence of professional and personal agendas. One of the policy recommendations is to fund more research:

      Notably absent from the study is the increase in hours worked while in college. About 1/4 of students work full-time. About 70-80% of college students work. Among those, the average hours worked is 20/week.

  2. Diego Méndez

    I think the US protesters, unlike the Spanish ones, are misfocusing on Wall Street and bankers.

    The problem is related to both the economic and the political system. The USA won’t change their present course to banana republicanism til they change their corrupt, non-representative, undemocratic political system.

    That’s something we Spaniards realized since the very first moment of our protests.

      1. Diego Méndez

        What I mean is: if you regulate banks and bankers’ pay, conditions in the US will remain the same. You will still have Big Oil, Big Pharma, the industrial-military complex, the self-serving mass media and a political class which keeps on representing themselves and nobody but themselves.

        The motto for the Spanish protests was: “We are not goods in the hands of bankers and politicians”, and a critical demand is letting people decide directly on every important economic matter, as well as having non-biased, multi-party representation (in the US, there are arguably only two opinions represented: unfettered capitalism and unfettered capitalism light).

        1. rjs

          i disagree; our system has been captured by plutocratic special interests, & solutions to our problems will not arise through our corrupt & dysfunctional politics…our generation blew it; we screwed it up, or let it be screwed up, for these kids, so we should just shut up & get out of the way; it’s time to let them decide where they want to take it from here; it’s their world now, & they have the most to lose if they get it wrong…i can only hope they can find it in themselves to reject most of the failed structures we’ve left them…

        2. Jim Haygood

          (in the US, there are arguably only two opinions represented: unfettered capitalism and unfettered capitalism light).

          Quite so. And this hidebound duopoly has exerted an iron grip for 150 years — far longer than notorious historical examples of unresponsive rule such as the PRI in Mexico, the LDP in Japan, and Spain’s reptilian old tyrant Franco.

          Nowhere are ‘two and only two’ parties stipulated in the US constitution. Comically, the US founders thought its politics would coalesce around state-based parties (they actually weren’t all that smart, as their long-running Federalist blog amply demonstrates upon critical reading).

          But through self-administered freebies such as government-financed primaries, the Depublicrats have merged party and state, forcing even the rare third-party legislators to join their ‘two and only two’ party caucuses in order to function within the committee structure.

          I don’t see the Depublicrat thugs yielding power until the US smacks the wall good and hard, and its middle class is utterly pauperized.

          America’s rotten-borough democracy of interchangeable nonentities (as the Bush-Obama administration grinds through its eleventh year) is the shambolic facade of a failed state.

        3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          I think they (the #OWC people) asked for one person, one vote and a maximum political donation of $1 per person, or something similar.

          That’s beyond just focusing on Wall Street.

    1. Lidia

      The economic and political system is all tied in to the banks.

      For instance, I was just listening to someone working with farmers on localization and direct marketing. He alluded to heftly USgov’t. farm subsidies, BUT said that (over I forget what time period) farms had paid out $600billion more in interest than they had taken in in subsidies. IOW, farming is a net loss for farmers, but a net gain for bankers. And for decades the federal goverment has been only nominally supporting farmers AS A BYPRODUCT OF SUBSIDIZING BANKS.

      Once you start looking, you won’t find a single corner of the economy not dedicated to bank subsistence at the cost of human (to say nothing of evironmental) subsistence. Banks and the monetary system are—literally—the mortal enemies of life on our planet.

      As for the political system, again, that is a subsidiary of banking, nothing more… You may think that Spain or Europe is more evolved, but if you look amongst the political leaders, banksters and GS alumni are heavily represented. I don’t know about Spain but in Italy we have had Romano Prodi, Mario Draghi… Each political party here HAS its own bank, for crying out loud, making favorable loans to party-connected individuals and financing the parties themselves. I believe, in fact, that this is the prime mechanism for political financing, since low-level individual donations are not sought (the very idea would be found laughable).

  3. Middle Seaman

    College is way too late to teach kids to thinks (which obviously involves criticism). That’s mainly the job of the parents, the environment and the elementary schools. College should make students use tools they acquired at earlier stages of life, add skills and new tools and refine the use of the intellect. College cannot and should not teach anyone to think.

    1. Moopheus

      Also, this is hardly new. I mean, that’s pretty much what it was like when I was in college almost thirty years ago. When was it ever different? Social animals are just going to be inclined to group-think.

    2. bmeisen

      Tend to agree with you. Learning how to think should happen much earlier, say from 10 – 15. College is mostly about learning how to navigate a complex organization and about practicing patience.

      These results would however be valuable to the extent that they bring attention to the broader failure of American education and higher education in particular. This is a willed outcome, needless to say, as an educated population creates problems for the enemies of democracy.

      The appalling fact is that the overwhelming majority of American college students base their decisions on where they will invest a small fortune and attend classes on thought-free criteria, i.e. on what the outdoor program building looks like, or how many of their friends will be living in the same dorm with them, or the football team’s record last year. American youth were liberated from thought long before they took the SATs.

      1. Anonymous Jones

        Imagine that! Trying to enjoy life during the only youth one will ever have.

        What a troubling lack of foresight! They should be subordinating all thoughts of carpe diem so that they can develop skills that will allow them to finance better health care when they are old and lifeless. Maybe they can even save enough money to visit Machu Picchu when they are 65 (but they’ll have a harder time scaling the mountain, I guess).

        In all seriousness, I would encourage any young person to go to a large state school in the South, have the best time possible, ignore all the professors, and read a book once in while (just don’t let the other kids seeing you enjoying the learning process; they’ll think you’re weird). There is very little you can’t learn from reading books (if you just open your mind a little) and investing your time in social activities (so that you can learn to navigate the irrationality that will surround you your entire life).

        1. bmeisen

          I see your point I hope. It’s just that if kids aren’t supposed to be learning anything formally then call it a playground or a camp, not an institution of higher learning.

          There is evidence that auto-didacticism has limits, i.e. some things must be learned from teachers, for example certain kinds of rules and their optimal interpretation. Age and experience have their uses. Also teachers can significantly improve learning efficiency, even for geniuses.

        2. craazyman

          absolutely right AJ. How true that is. I’d also encourage fairly heavy drinking but not so much that you injure yourself or cook your brain to the point it can’t think. I remember sitting in the library Sunday nite for hours unable to even read a page, after a long weekend, which would usually start on Tuesday. That was too much. Mostly it’s absolute nonsense — college life. Unless you study something serious, like chemical engineering, but then you risk narrowing yourself into a pinhead and losing your whole life. It’s not easy for anyone really, like being thrown at a wall to see if you’ll stick. It’s all like Cornell Wilde in Naked Prey, especially nowdays.

        3. Praedor

          Sure. That’s exactly what I should have done to get into a graduate program in biochemistry/molecular biology. Blow off the PhDs who know the deal and just go party.

          Perhaps your recommendation can work for business management drones, much of social studies, or artsy stuff but you wont be worth jack diddle in the hard sciences without cracking the text books, listening to the prof, and doing the work.

          One size doesn’t fit all.

      2. nihil obstet

        Despite our cherished belief that children and adolescents are simply adults with fewer birthdays, there are developmental issues involved with what people can learn when. There are critical thinking skills that an individual can develop most readily as she completes the lessons of adolescence.

        There’s no reason that these lessons have to be learned in a college setting, but that’s how we’ve set things up in our society, so doing it right is on the whole better than not doing it.

        1. Procopius

          Yeah, developmental levels. In high school I couldn’t get interested in math. After four years in the Air Force, taking a remedial Trigonometry course in college, suddenly I realized how much fun it could be substitution one expression for an equivalent. I wish now I’d done less drinking (I was one of those who pickled our brains) and worked a little more at math. Funnily enough, the higher levels are really pretty easy.

  4. jest

    I totally concur with the commentary on Ritholtz’s post.

    I agree with him 95% of the time, but here was an instance where his posting showed his ignorance. Which is an exceedingly rare occurence for that particular author.

    1. Moopheus

      That Upton Sinclair quote that gets mentioned here a lot applies. If BR really understood what OWS was about he couldn’t do his job.

      1. Lidia

        BR has been dancing on the edge of a knife for a long while. It’s been two or three years that I haven’t been able to keep watching him…

  5. Paul Walker

    Since when have institutions of “higher learning”, or any learning ever been about teaching students to think critically? Education as currently structured is all about rote memorization and regurgitation. No wonder all institutions of civil society seem populated with Gerbervores engaged in endless mutual “intellectual” pleasing of one another with the goop of the theologically pure flavor of the moment. Currently this flavor seems to be bananas.

    1. Cynthia

      Education in America, whether is public or private, has devolved to the point where it’s no longer about teaching our kids to become critical thinkers, it is now about making them into obedient workers. This is why we have less democracy, more wars, and a shrinking middle class.

      That’s what the global elites want. And that’s what they get, only because our nation’s economy has been totally eclipsed by the global economy:

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        It’s difficult to get a student to think critically about something when his grade and career depend on not thinking critically about it.

        1. Lidia

          Heh. I abandoned a scientific/technical school to take up design. I listed my tech. school credits on a resume we were supposed to present to the faculty and got lambasted. I argued that the tech. school taught me how to think critically. The art/design school didn’t like that and said that I should strike all science and technical studies from my design resume.

          Go figure.

          You can’t win with these entrenched interests. Which are pretty much all of them.

        2. Jim

          As it’s difficult to get scientists to think critically about a subject (climate change) when their salary and benefits depend on their not thinking critically about it.

          There, I said it.

  6. shekissesfrogs

    As a lover of lizards, gotta tell ya the bond is simply learned trust, there isn’t emotion there on the part of gator; it knows that the handler is going to provide dinner, and wont harm him. They can differentiate between different crocs, as well as humans, meaning they know their handlers.
    I looked up the species, it’s an American Croc – the least aggressive. It might be retarded too if it was shot through the brain.

    unlike bankers, they aren’t greedy and don’t kill for sport.

    1. Lidia

      V. similar to a recent story/link on NC about crows’ intelligence: figuring out which humans are benevolent vs. those who are dangerous, and even teaching that to other animals.

  7. Patrice

    In For the Long Haul in Philly:

    “…On the west side of the building, where there is a large plaza, several hundred brightly-colored, igloo-shaped tents have been pitched by the occupiers, who number perhaps 800 or so. The mood is festive and calm. Two cops standing at either end of the plaza would suffice to provide security, or call for back-up if anything untoward were to happen. No clean-up crews are required. These occupiers, like their compatriots in the Occupy Wall Street action, are keeping their grounds cleaner than they’ve ever been kept by city workers.

    The complaint about public costs of the occupations is as bogus as is the police ban in New York on umbrellas and tents.”

  8. dearieme

    “The FSA takes pre-emptive action on liquidity swaps”: I’m at a loss. If Banks own stuff that insurers want, and insurers own stuff that Banks want, why don;t they just sell ’em to each other?

  9. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Over the weekend, there were occupations in cities all over the world.

    Does anyone konw of any in China – OccupyTiananmen, OccupyShenzhen, OccupyWenzhou, OccupyShanghai?

    1. aet

      What’s your point?
      That there ought to be no complaining in the USA (or anyplace else) about domestic politics and policies unless and until China (or some other State) is a utopia?

      …or what, exactly? For it seems to have gone over my head….

      Surely you don’t suggest that Americans (or anybody) protest the conditions in other countries, not their own? How is that their business, when they have so much to do to clean their own houses?

      ….or are you off to China to kick-start some protests? But seeing as you don’t seem to be on the side of OWS, why do you wish similar (- and in your view, undesirable and useless?) protests, domestic unhappiness and contention unto others?

    2. aet

      Perhaps you in fact envy China for their domestic satisfaction with their Government, which after all has done more to bring greater prosperity, to a greater number of Chinese, than any Government there has ever achieved before – and wish to point to the lack of protests similar to OWS, as evidence of the Chinese people’s satisfaction with their system of governance, and/or the policies which their Government has put into place?


      1. scraping_by

        How about, are the children of the Tiananmen Square generation thinking about another Democracy Wall, letting a thousand flowers bloom, only this time without the ability to shut down and chase off the world press?

        I knew a couple fellows from the PRC back in 1989. They said that as long as it was the children of the elite, and they were the ones who started it, nothing would happen. But when the Beijing working class showed up, the ethnic Mongol units of the PLA were moved into the city and, as many thought, the inevitable crack down.

        It’s hard to say if China is ripe for an Occupy. The children are of a different elite, real estate developers and sweat shop owners, rather than Party apparatchniks. And the rich elite/poor mass sums up the history of China, rather than a violation of national beliefs.

        One thing is true: unlike the 30-year absence of the film of the Chicago Police attacking unarmed, inoffensive protesters during the 1968 Democratic Convention, this news will have quick spread, both New York and any potential Beijing. No more miswriting history.

  10. zephyrum

    There are quite a large number of writers who support #OWS: .

    And do not miss the wonderful list of observations by Lemony Snicket:
    , for example:

    1. If you work hard, and become successful, it does not necessarily mean you are successful because you worked hard, just as if you are tall with long hair it doesn’t mean you would be a midget if you were bald.

    1. zephyrum

      (Once more, with links I hope.)

      There are quite a large number of writers who support #OWS:

      And do not miss the wonderful list of observations by Lemony Snicket: for example:

      1. If you work hard, and become successful, it does not necessarily mean you are successful because you worked hard, just as if you are tall with long hair it doesn’t mean you would be a midget if you were bald.

      1. zephyrum

        (Ever have one of those mornings. One last try.)

        There are quite a large number of writers who support #OWS:

        And do not miss the wonderful list of observations by Lemony Snicket: for example:

        1. If you work hard, and become successful, it does not necessarily mean you are successful because you worked hard, just as if you are tall with long hair it doesn’t mean you would be a midget if you were bald.

        1. sdv

          It figures that Jonathan Frantzen is not on the list of writers who support #OWS. That worthless, over-hyped fraud.

  11. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    This might get some people very unhappy but I think it’s possible to be generally positive about something and still able to see some absurd aspects of it.

    For example, I think 98.99999999999 precenters are the luckiest people in the world. They can have the best of both worlds.

    1. BondsOfSteel

      Hmm. Bad bank – good bank? I wonder how this move would affect resolution if the holding company went under?

      One of the biggest lessons from Lehman was that derivatives and their collateral caused all kinds of problems for the bondholders:

      Is this fraudulent conveyance? Another issue with Lehman is that bonds were issued on several different entities… recovery looks to be less for the holding company senior notes vs some subsidiary debt.

      All kinda questions come to mind….

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      If you want me to take breaking news seriously, in the future please point to the underlying news report. This was an important news story broken by Bloomberg, and ZH still missed what was important, which is this sets up a TARP that even Tea Partiers will not be able to vote against.

  12. Jim Haygood

    Here’s the Guardian article which pumped US stocks full of hopium this afternoon:

    The main bailout fund, the European financial stability facility, will be given additional levers enabling it to offer first-loss guarantees for bondholders, be they private or public. Senior diplomats say this will deliver a fivefold increase in the fund’s firepower – giving it more than €2tn compared with the current €440bn lending capability. The EFSF will effectively become an insurer, thereby overcoming European Central Bank resistance to the idea of turning into a bank.

    Yves Smith has already made the CDO analogy. Plenty of 2006/7 vintage CDOs had AAA-rated tranches which were supposedly protected by a junkier equity tranche which would take the first losses. But correlated defaults were the unanticipated event which smashed the value of these supposedly blue-chip tranches to pennies on the dollar.

    Who could imagine that defaults on peripheral European sovereign debt could possibly be correlated? Ever heard the word ‘contagion’?

    And since corrupt provision is being made for insuring private [i.e., bank] bonds, the potential for correlated defaults among Europe’s already badly compromised financial sector is obvious (to anyone but a purblind eurocrat).

    Europe is going all in on a bankster-designed bailout, designed to subsidize more borrowing by already overindebted state and corporate actors. We’ve all heard of failed states. But this is probably the first example of a failed continent, selling its soul to the banksters. It’s gonna cost more than they think!

    1. Jim Haygood

      OOPS, just kidding:

      DJ EU Source: No EFSF Deal Til Friday, EUR2T Number ‘Simplistic’

      Risk off!

  13. Cap'n Magic

    Another day. another Reuters report on the Robosigning debacle:

    Money Quote:

    “WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Talks between U.S. states and top banks over mortgage abuses are nearing agreement on a major sticking point that has bogged down settlement negotiations for more than a year.
    A deal could be reached by the end of the month, according to three people familiar with the talks.
    Under the proposed terms of the settlement — which could total $25 billion — banks would get broad legal immunity from state lawsuits in exchange for refinancing underwater loans, those mortgages where borrowers owe more than their homes are worth, the sources said.
    The deal could provide some relief to the battered U.S. housing market and clear up some uncertainty about banks’ legal exposure that has been a drag on their shares.
    Banks have been holding out on a multi-billion-dollar settlement because they wanted broader legal immunity than state attorneys general were prepared to offer.
    Originally, the states were only considering immunity for shortcuts taken during mortgage servicing and foreclosures, including the so-called “robo-signing” of documents to evict people behind on their mortgages.
    In recent days, the state attorneys general agreed to release major banks from claims that they made legal errors when first originating the loans, such as approving loans for borrowers without verifying any income, according to two people familiar with the talks.
    In exchange, banks would agree to refinance mortgages for borrowers who are current on their payments but owe more than their homes are currently worth, the sources said.”

  14. Foppe

    I’ve been skimming the ESM treaty a bit, and I have to say that it contains a few really nice (oddly antidemocratic) zingers. For instance, this one:

    4.7 If any ESM Member fails to pay any part of the amount due in respect of its obligations in relation to paid-in shares or calls of capital under Articles 8, 9 and 10, or in relation to the reimbursement of the financial assistance under Article 14 or 15, such ESM Member shall be unable, for so long as such failure continues, to exercise any of its voting rights. The voting thresholds shall be recalculated accordingly.

    There go the South’s voting rights…
    Anyway, excerpting some of the more startling passages (note that I have no idea how to interpret this, really; I know little to nothing about the functioning of the EU.)

    8.4. ESM Members hereby irrevocably and unconditionally undertake to provide their contribution to the authorised capital stock, in accordance with their contribution key in Annex I. They shall meet all capital calls on a timely basis in accordance with the terms set out in this Treaty.

    9.1. The Board of Governors may call in authorised unpaid capital at any time and set an appropriate period of time for its payment by the ESM Members.

    9.3. The Managing Director shall call authorised unpaid capital in a timely manner if needed to avoid the ESM being in default of any scheduled or other payment obligation due to ESM creditors. When a potential shortfall in ESM funds is detected, the Managing Director shall make such capital call(s) as soon as possible with a view to ensuring that the ESM shall have sufficient funds to meet payments due to creditors in full on their due date. ESM Members hereby irrevocably and unconditionally undertake to pay on demand any capital call made on them by the Managing Director pursuant to this paragraph, such demand to be paid within seven days of receipt.

    Of course, “27.4. The property, funding and assets of the ESM shall, wherever located and by whomsoever held, be immune from search, requisition, confiscation, expropriation or any other form of seizure, taking or foreclosure by executive, judicial, administrative or legislative action.”

    I can’t really say what this treaty is worth in practice, but it seems worth looking at, as it seems to have a fairly open-ended mandate.

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