Links 12/23/11

The accidental universe: Science’s crisis of faith Harper’s (hat tip reader groo)

New Models of Implants Not Better, Study Finds New York Times

Past Haunts Tally of Japan’s Nuclear Crisis Wall Street Journal

N of 1, two contemporary arm, randomised controlled clinical trial for bilateral epicondylitis: a new study design BMJ (hat tip Richard Smith)

The Versatile Blogger Award Learning from Dogs

Euroland euphoria on Mario Draghi bank rescue Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Telegraph

Italian austerity underway MacroBusiness

Call for QE to stave off euro deflation Financial Times. I have heard there have been big fights within the ECB board. This may be a move to make that debate public.

Ties between sovereigns and banks set to deepen Gillian Tett. This piece is frustrating. She starts by characterizing the Japanese banks as “gobbling up” JGBs, implying a crowding out. As anyone who knows Japan knows, there is so much competition among banks for the limited private sector loan demand there is that margins are so thin that they can’t make enough to support overheads and reasonable loss reserves. Similarly, the argument is (basically) banks are now propping up sovereigns, when (if you are going for reductivist formulations) it is much closer to the mark to point out that the sovereigns are in a mess (and are getting in more of a mess) due to the banks (as in the direct and indirect effects of the crisis, and their need to not do anything that would expose insolvencies of big players). The causality suggested here is backwards.

Europe must change course on banks Nicolas Véron, VoxEU

Boehner Signs On to U.S. Payroll Tax Deal Bloomberg

Judge dismisses damages claim by ex-Gitmo detainee McClatchy

Retailers Are Slashing Prices Ahead of Holiday New York Times. So much for that supposedly robust Black Friday, and the fact that retailers were carrying lower inventories than normal.

How Mike Bloomberg Snatched My Eyeballs For The Department Of Homeland Security Stanley W. Rogouski (hat tip reader EmilianoZ)

Occupy Fort Lauderdales Saves Bein-Aime Family From Eviction Huffington Post

SEC Enforcement Chief Whines that Trying Cases Takes a Lot of Effort masaccio, Firedoglake

How Luther went viral Economist (hat tip Richard Kline)

Antidote du jour:

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


      1. skippy

        Ditto down under, bad weather too boot.

        Skippy…friends in the retail sector have had performance bars of over 110%, ramrodded from above, for over a year. Bonus or Die!

        1. ambrit

          The same phenomenon here in Deep South. Expected sales ‘budget’ sent to store managers where I now work is a small percentage above last years figures, in dollar terms. When I jokingly mention that we’re doing good to stay even with last years sales figures given the economic climate, I am rebuked. “We don’t talk about such things on the sales floor.” Management here at store level is nervous. Rumours of further ‘shrinkage’ of outlets floating around. One telling point, on ‘Black Friday’ loss leaders so prevailant, store doesn’t move into black for day until after lunchtime. I’m ignorant here, is this pattern normal for previous Black Friday events? A retail norm for America, or a sign of weakness? An intimation of trouble to come perhaps is that a lot of the traffic in my department consists of lower middle class families moving into signifigantly cheaper housing and bringing it up to minimal standards. Another big demographic here in DIY land is upper middle class folks buying distressed properties and bringing them up to rentable standards. Some of the more aware ‘petite rentiers’ mention planning for the necessity of charging lower rents to keep units filled, thus they are downscaling their rehab plans. I guess I’m lucky I jumped from construction to DIY Land when I did. People are going to have to make do with what’s out there for a long time to come.

    1. JTFaraday

      And here’s an interesting line from that retail article:

      “The government on Thursday said that third-quarter economic growth had not been as brisk as it previously estimated, because of a drop in consumer spending on services like health care.”

      1. Susan the other

        I’ve been wondering if health services weren’t suffering losses because around here both hospitals and clinics have been advertising on the radio – as if health care were discretionary. Well, maybe it is just discretionary enough to convince providers to lower their prices.

    2. MacCruiskeen

      This I’m doing a lot less xmas shopping, but not entirely for economic reasons; I could afford to buy more than I am. I just don’t want to. What little money I’m spending is going to local shops. No Amazon, no mall, no Gap. I just don’t want to buy a pile of useless crap to keep those guys in business. But I have definitely noticed that the stores are not exceedingly busy now. Much less crowding than you might expect just before Newtonmas.

  1. Sock Puppet

    Thank you Yves for the excellent crop of links. Particularly enjoyed Richard Smith’s BMJ link, which also persuaded me to continue the wait and see approach in my own case of epicondylitis.

    1. Richard Kline

      And that study design write up by the researcher LS was an hysterically funny geek-out of a read. And dig this: while home nursing an infant, paritally incapacitated by bad elbows, that physician-researcher not only managed to get a unique study done _and_ a paper on it published in a major journal but furthered her career simultaneously with improving her health. There’s genius in that attitude, sez I.

      1. tom allen

        Yeah, that is just a fantastic paper. Both hilarious and completely scientific. Gives me something to aspire to. :-)

      2. ambrit

        Mr. Kline;
        Oh yes, that was indeed a fun read, especially the footnotes! I particularly liked the suggestion that they devise some sort of meta study! Plus, twins, in her late thirties! The BMJ deserves kudos for publishing this.

      3. tom allen

        Example quote: “[E]xperimental units were two (right and left elbows), and the patient-researcher was at the same time self indulgent (right elbow) and self abusing (left elbow). Finally, she was in no way amused by the clinical situation.”

      4. 80on40

        Regarding randomised controlled clinical trial for bilateral epicondylitis. I’m
        reminded of the old saying “A doctor who treats himself has a fool for a patient, and an even bigger fool for a doctor.“ The article and findings are pure hubris
        and quackery, and testify to a general observation regarding many professionals
        notably lawyers, that ethical one’s are rare as chicken teeth. But then, birds of
        a feather do flock together.

    2. Foppe

      Another article in roughly the same vein, also bmj:

      In a landmark paper, Crayford et al reported that the mortality rate for characters in the television soap operas Coronation Street and EastEnders exceeded those of bomb disposal experts and racing drivers.1 Many deaths were violent, and the overall five year survival of recently introduced characters was poorer than that for many cancers. Does the dramatic imperative lead the long running BBC radio series The Archers to contain a similarly high level of mortality and medical incident? Or does radio, and the bucolic setting, give everyday country folk a better chance in life?

      The village of Ambridge, at the centre of the programme, is set in a rural area south of Birmingham in the English Midlands. Among the population of 700, employment in farming is higher than average but the age distribution is thought to be similar to the national average, with 20% aged under 16 years and 20% aged 65 and over.2

      We are directly acquainted with 60 inhabitants but have knowledge of a further 55, giving a total—for epidemiological purposes—of 115 (58 men and 57 women). In such a small sample, few events of epidemiological significance are likely to occur in any given year. In calculating birth and death rates, I have therefore pooled data for the 20 years preceding the time of writing (September 2011). I describe significant non-fatal illnesses and medical interventions for the same period.

  2. Jessica

    From “New Models of Implants Not Better, Study Finds”

    “Another review in the same issue found that the results of published studies that accompany the introduction of new implants could bear little resemblance to registry findings about a device’s success once it went into broader use.

    That problem occurs, the review by Australian researchers found, because surgeons involved in the original published reports are often involved in its development and may have a financial stake in them.”

    Some day, we will look back and marvel at how we tolerated such information pollution. Our next society will place a great value on integrity.

    1. aet

      “Information pollution”, huh?

      ‘Society’ does not “place values”; it is only individual people who hold values.

      Even if ‘society’ did “place values”, what evidence do you have that it – society – holds the values that you say it does? That society does not presently, in your words, “place a value on integrity”? Could you not also tell us please what God wants, using the same methodology?

      Everybody I care to ask always – but always – say they value integrity : are you calling those people liars? Or maybe they are not part of what you consider to be “society”?

      1. Jessica

        I think most individuals value integrity. Society is run now in a way that does not value integrity nearly as much as most individuals do. At least the individuals I know and it sounds like, the ones you know too.
        If society did value integrity, the implication that inadequate medical devices are being implanted in patients because the people who wrote the report recommending them, wrote untruths in order to make money would at least trigger an immediate and genuine investigation.
        No such thing will happen.

        1. Sock Puppet

          Agreed. See Kohlberg’s stages of moral development:'s_stages_of_moral_development

          Indeviduals may aspire to 5- Social contract orientation or 6- Universal ethical principles

          Societal groups stop at 3- Interpersonal accord and conformity (Social norms) (The good boy/good girl attitude) or 4- Authority and social-order maintaining orientation (Law and order morality)

          Corporations stop at 1- Obedience and punishment orientation (How can I avoid punishment?) or 2- Self-interest orientation (What’s in it for me?) (Paying for a benefit)

          The “invisible hand” assumes we will all behave in our own self interest, and codifying it effectively tells us that this stage 2 behavior is expected, normal, and will be rewarded.

          Problems like that with the implants of he natural result of the rules by which we are told to play.

      2. acat

        values are what you say you , well, value.

        Actions are what define your values.

        thus , one would say that the actions show a lack of the values that are proclaimed by the majority of the American society today.

        1. acat

          The invisible hand is b.s.

          That assumes we have the knowledge to know what our “best interests” are and what they will be after we are pushed to act by the invisible hand.

          It’s what you know to be true that wasn’t that gets you in trouble.

          Was it not thought that the best interest was the widest possible home ownership for many decades?

  3. Jim Haygood

    Here’s the dark underbelly of Italian austerity:

    Prime Minister Mario Monti, in office just over a month, wants landlords, plumbers, electricians and small businesses to stop conducting large transactions in cash, which critics say helps them evade taxes. The government on Dec. 4 reduced the maximum allowed cash payment to 1,000 euros from 2,500 euros.

    Italian banks, which charge businesses up to 2 percent for credit-card transactions, could end up being the main beneficiaries of the new rules, according to Rome-based consumer group Adusbef.

    Consumer advocates say the new law also discriminates against older Italians, many of whom don’t use credit cards. As many as 7.5 million Italians have never had a bank account, according to Adusbef. “The law cannot force old people to use plastic or open bank accounts” said [Rome-based consumer group Adusbef].

    There’s a real danger of crossing over into a fiscal police state,” former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said

    Italian banks charge ‘up to 2 percent’ on credit card transactions? WOW, it must be true, cuz it says so on the internet! Here in the Shoppers Paradise, a deli owner told me he gets nicked for 6% on small debit-card transactions.

    As for the Italian consumer advocate who thinks customs such as respect for the elderly will protect unbanked old folks: nothing stops TSA agents from groping 85-year-old grannies at the airport … and seizing any ‘suspicious cash’ they may find. Up against the wall, you money-laundering old fart!

    For once in his life, Berlusconi is right: the War on Cash does create a fiscal police state, in which banksters operate as enforcers and Stasi informers for the fisc — not to mention enriching themselves by raking a fat commission off of every electronic transaction in the economy. Anti-cash laws are another repugnant example of compulsory subsidization of the bankster cartel.

    Although anonymous universal payment systems such as e-gold and Bitcoin have not made it to prime time, such a system is a must if human liberty is ever to re-emerge from the broad-spectrum repression of the corpgov-bankster fiscal police state. Use cash; starve a bankster!

  4. Rex

    Financial Times

    Not too many FT links. Good sez I.

    Quite a while back I registered with FT (free version) which entitled me to read a reasonable number of posts per month (I think it was 20 or 30). That sufficed for my NC needs.

    In November I found myself blacked out from FT a good while before month end. This month I’m blacked out again even though I made some effort to only read some of the FT posts here.

    I searched around on their pages yesterday and with some effort found that I guess I get all of 8 articles a month for sharing my information and receiving few emails from them. No pay, almost no play.

    In October I had positive feelings about FT. Not so much anymore.

    1. barrisj

      Fully agree! Impossible to determine prospectively what to click on and what to ignore when one only receives 8 look-ins a month on articles, thus “guidance” to pay-to-play. Anybody find work-rounds that have avoided FT paywall, as has been done for NYT?

      1. Cahokia

        i search for article title in bing/MSN news.
        select the “related tweets”/twitter option on top left.
        find a tweet linking to article.
        click … success
        (just retried it and success)
        I would guess directly using twitter would work too.

  5. DC Native

    Does anyone else get the feeling that man’s current understanding of the cosmos is utter b/s? I can’t read through a single story on the universe (or, shall we say, multiverse) without repeatedly thinking to myself; “This is presumptuous nonsense!”

    Dark energy, multiverse, string theory, dark matter, etc.

    And Lightman’s statement that “Theoretical physics is the deepest and purest branch of science” made me laugh out loud. You have GOT to be kidding me! Theoretical physicists draw absurd, completely speculative conclusions about the cosmos based on the tiniest bits of evidence and and enormous, truly awe-inspiring amounts of assumptions and guessing.

    If the theories don’t work, add something to them. Inflation, dark energy, etc. Just so long as the theories continue to “work”, that’s the most important thing.

    Kind of like economic theory. If you disregard all the falsifying evidence and make an absurd number of assumptions…BY GOD, yes, the theories work!

      1. skippy

        Try “The Mind of God” – Paul Davies. It is just a degree with in the radius… of us.

        Certainly other people behave as if they share our own mental experiences, but we can never know that. The conclusion that other minds exist is based entirely on analog with our own behavior and experiences. – Davies.

        Other goodies:

        Skippy…now which sci-fi book was it? Our universe was the byproduct of a massive ships engine and god was the engineer of said ship… like to keep tabs once and awhile… helped with the long journeys tiredness. My kind of metaphysics LMAO…

    1. craazyman

      It Doesn’t Always Work

      This is a synchronicity. I needed something to read this morning when I took a sh-t and grabbed my paperback “Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Einstein”. I read it once and didn’t think it really explained anything, which made we wonder if I’m a real life complete idiot or whether my standards for clarity are too high.

      I also once tried to read a book by Max Born where he derived the theory of relativity from the pythagorean theorem using what the book jacket alleged to be 8th grade algebra. There was a point where the graph arrows were going in several different directions at once and the algebra was totally incomprehensible. At that point I bailed out.

      This morning was easy. I flipped open to a page that had the following quote by David Hilbert:

      “Every boy in the streets of our mathematical Gottingen (where Hilbert taught) understands more about four-dimensional geometry than Einstein. Yet despite that, Einstein did the work and not the mathematicians. Do you know why Einstein said the most original things about space and time that have been said in our generation? Because he had learned nothing about all the mathematics of space and time.”

      There was another quote, from Einstein himself, about his reaction to a mathematical textbook written to describe his special theory of relativity. “I myself can hardly understand Laue’s book”, Einstein said.

      Let’s not kid ourselves. This stuff is not easy. If they’re at a point where they need more than one universe to explain the one we live in, you know they’ve run completely off the rails and are living in a mind of their own. At some point it will all just collapse, and they’ll start over with a new formal language, describing as yet unmeasured phenomenon, created by some future Einstein — but he sure as hell won’t be me or you. :)

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Craazyman, can I interest you in a book I would like to write someday?

        It’s called ‘Complete Dummies’ Guide To Successfully Avoiding Success.’

        It will be a very useful book based on the author’s own personal experiences.

      2. ohmyheck

        Synchronicity indeed. I posted this one on a blog just Monday. It makes about as much sense as any other.

        “There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

        Douglas Adams

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          This need to know is very human and not always good.

          Sometimes, it’s better not to know.

          Take, for example, the children of the King of France, in the 18th Century. They could all the toys they could ever desire – toy soldiers, wooden horses, etc, and most of the time they were happy. But had they known kids in the 21st Century could have Playstation, I imagine they would not be too happy about that.

          It’s the same with today’s kids. They don’t know how much kids in the future will have. It’s better not to think about it. It’s better not to know.

          So, ingonrance is bliss, sometimes. How often? 90% of the time? I don’t know and I rather not know.

          1. craazyman

            I think we can’t know Beef. Just today I was at LL Bean flipping through a fly fishing book with a picture of fish wardens electroshocking trout in a stream to do a fish count for stream preservation. How could the trout even know what was going on and why? deep thoughts. LOL.

          2. Cris Kennedy

            Yeah, and I heard Thom Hartmann on the radio rejoicing about the extension of unemployment benefits for working families! and….uh….

    2. Title

      Err, I agree, I think. This line bothered me:
      “Theoretical physics is the deepest and purest branch of science. It is the outpost of science closest to philosophy, and religion.”

      Actually, I think that title goes to pure mathematics.

      It tires me to read things like that the multiverse is a ‘strange’ or odd concept. How else do you explain our seemingly ‘special’ arrangement here on earth? The obvious answer is that it is one variation out of all possible variations, and the fact that it exists implies that all the other possible variations should exist too. Note this doesn’t mean that ANYTHING imaginable exists somewhere in the multiverse. In mathematics we know that there are different kinds and sizes of infinity…there may be an infinite number of universes with varying properties (countably infinite), but this is not the same as saying that absolutely every universe you can postulate has to exist (uncountably infinite). However the fact that anything exists at all seems to point to the uncountably infinite lying at the root of our reality.

      I’m also bothered by the continual view put forward that quantum physics is ‘un-intuitive’…actually it’s not when you consider what you’re dealing with; it’s the explanation that lends itself to the circumstances. It’s like saying that cellular biology is unintuitive because we have no first hand experience with single cell organisms.

      1. Cieran

        Physics (and most of the hard sciences) has no venues with any relationship to religion, much less the relationship termed “closeness”. Physics is entirely concerned with measurable and reproducible results observed in the material physical realm, where religion is concerned with unquantifiable and irreproducible results within an immaterial spiritual realm.

        In other words, they have nothing whatsoever to do with each other, and we should treat Rick Santorum’s ill-considered rants about the role of science in the classroom (to name but one example of entirely too many) with the exact same degree of scorn that ought to accompany physicists asserting that there’s a connection between their favorite field of scholarship and “knowing the mind of God” (to borrow a particularly inapt phrase from Hawking).

        The problem is that scientists (including me — I have an earned Ph.D. in the field cultivated by Newton) are human beings, who suffer from the various limitations of the human condition. But we can strive to be better human beings, and a good place to start is to stop believing that physics has anything to do with religion. The fields are mutually exclusive by design, and to the extent that we assert otherwise, our assertions are woefully mistaken, whether they arise from ignorance or from hubris.

        1. James

          I was with you until you drug Rick Santorum into the argument. Talk about a strawman! An idiot, a Christian religious zealot, and a (piss-poor) politician all in one. Could you have possibly picked a weaker argument?

          1. Cris Kennedy

            “Physics is entirely concerned with measurable and reproducible results observed in the material physical realm, where religion is concerned with unquantifiable and irreproducible results within an immaterial spiritual realm.”

            You forgot to read Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle; in short, one cannot observe physical phenomena without influencing that phenomena.

            Pseudo-physicists ignore this reality just like they pretend there is no God.

      2. James

        ” “Theoretical physics is the deepest and purest branch of science. It is the outpost of science closest to philosophy, and religion.”

        Actually, I think that title goes to pure mathematics.”

        You must be a T-physicist. WOW is that splitting hairs to most of us “normal people.”

    3. acat

      200-300 years ago our understanding of flight or space travel was utter bull.


      Are there the plans for the space shuttle buried in the bible and I have missed them?

    4. docG

      It’s not only presumptuous nonsense, it’s incredibly naive presumptuous nonsense. And coming from a scientist it’s especially disturbing.

      The problem of why there is such a beautiful “fit” between the makeup of the universe, the existence of life on Earth, and the existence of human minds is essentially no different from very similar problems that arise when considering basic Darwinian principles of evolution. And no, “intelligent design” is not the answer in EITHER case. Not even close. In both cases, evolution is the answer.

      If some ancestral organism that lived a billion or so years ago hadn’t undergone a certain random mutation, and if the descendents of that organism had not managed to survive over that billion years, through a combination of adaptation and sheer luck, then the world would be a very different place today and “we” would not exist, at least not in anything remotely like our present form. Multiply that by many thousands if not millions of similar instances in our distant past and you have a very reasonable explanation of why the various life forms of today are the way they are. NOT intelligent design.

      Similarly, if some wayward particle that appeared some 14 billion years ago shortly after the Big Bang hadn’t happened to be at the right place at the right time and randomly interacted with some other particle, or force, then the universe would be a very different place from what it is now and in all likelihood “we” would not exist to theorize about it.

      This is by far the simplest explanation for the way things are now, certainly far simpler than the “multivers” idea, which is, among other things, an outrageous violation of Occam’s Razor.

      As for the “Anthropic Principle,” that’s just a variation of good old fashioned solipsism. There’s just one small step from the universe exists in order to explain the existence of the human mind and the universe exists in order for ME to be possible. What an embarrassment the “metaphysicians” of modern physics are turning out to be.

  6. Jim Haygood

    From the astonishing article about the Gitmo detainee’s dismissed lawsuit:

    In his decision Thursday, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon dismissed Al Janko’s complaint, with the following observation:

    “War, by its very nature, victimizes many of those caught in its wake. Innocent civilians are invariably killed, and sometimes even mistakenly imprisoned. Our legal system was never designed to provide a remedy in our Courts for these inevitable tragedies, especially in a conflict like this where terrorists cunningly morph into their surroundings.”

    When Obama slinks into the toilet of Air Force One (where he’s probably disabled the smoke detector) in the wee hours of this weekend to sign indefinite detention into law, I hope he will read this judge’s statement for the video camera. It’s the perfect rationalization.

    Then Obama, who’s already murdered a couple of U.S. citizens by executive order, could wash his hands in the tiny stainless steel sink and close his peroration with a quote from Pontius Pilate:

    I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it!’

    1. aet

      Maybe you ought to wait until all appeals are exhausted before commenting on the justice of the case, much less the system, no?

      Better yet, why not demonstrate to us where the Judge’s reasoning falls into error in this decision, either as to the facts or the law.

      1. ambrit

        Dear aet;
        A quick for instance; “..where terrorists cunningly morph into their surroundings…” would imply that the “terrorists” in question contain all of the charasteristics of the ‘surroundings’ in question, and could therefor be considered a subset of said ‘surroundings.’ Hence, following the judges’ logic, said ‘surroundings,’ herin referred to as “The People” can be classified as ‘fellow travellers’ or ‘enemy combatants’ or ‘dissident elements’ or whatever one needs to justify any and all means used.
        Remember what happened in Vietnam. Whenever an American force recieved fire from a hamlet, the whole place got wasted. Thus the infamous quote, “It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.” Now imagine someone throwing rocks at a Homeland Security Staffel as it transits some rural American town.

      2. acat

        so WAR forgives all?

        Who knew!

        Especially if you are “surrounded” by the population of a nation you invade.

        That should about be a wrap.

        Talk about circle jerks.

    2. Cynthia

      I am sure that the indefinite detention bill that Obama signed into law will be used to go after US citizens protesting *anything* that inconveniences the one-percenters. I think the purpose of this law has nothing to do with keeping us safe, but everything to do with keeping us quiet. I am waiting for the first OWS protester to be held under this law. And I am not in the slightest exaggerating for effect.

      1. Procopius

        Well, Glenn Greenwald points out that the law only makes explicit what Obama is doing anyway. The surprising thing, to me, is that they were willing to make it explicit. I’m not a really well-educated person, majored in accounting for heaven’s sake, but even I know this flies in the face of Magna Charta, much less Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Do they want an opportunity for the Roberts Court to openly display their conttempt for the Constitution again? Who knows what darkness lurks… Oh, wait.

  7. Jim

    On a ff topic, I find it amusing and sad that this blog has ads from Bank of America prominently displayed at the top of the page. Yes, I get that Yves probably doesn’t know exactly what ads will be displayed when and where… but it smacks of just a bit of hypocrisy that the big banks and all their illegal and unethical dealings that we all rail against here on the blog are advertising – and supporting the blog through links. Funnier yet, the ad is just a step away from the ‘I support Occupy Movement” right-hand corner ad/announcement.
    I’d never really paid attention to the ads, but when I did I was more than a little dismayed to see which companies are allowed to advertise here.
    Sorry for the rant. I mean no ill will…happy holidays and merry Christmas to all!
    – jim

    1. Sock Puppet

      Jim, if you’ve ever had a b of a account there’s a cookie on your machine that helped pick that ad.

      1. pws4

        If you sent an Email in Google saying “Newt Gingrich is like a vampire, and not one of these new sparkly vampires either. More like Christopher Lee in the old Hammer films. A bloodthirsty predator in a parody of the human form, a moral void in the shape of a man.” Dollars to donuts you’ll get ads saying “Newt for President” and “Click here to donate to Newt Gingrich!”

        Also you can replace Newt with Obama there if you’d rather see “Obama 2012” and “Give to the Obama Campaign” Ads.

      2. Jim

        Sorry, no – never had a BoA account. Like i said, I realize the BoA ad is part of a rotating deck of ads. Just point out the irony & hypocrisy that while so many rail against the big banks (including me!) we’ll also stoop and make money off them at the same time. If we had a better set of values, maybe (big maybe) we’d refuse to do business with the big banks as a way to demonstrate action & truth to our words. But then again, we’ve noted that this blog and many others need revenue so if the big banks can feed us a little $$ to keep the lights on, I guess that is ok. Right? Right?!

        1. acat

          firefox and adblocker , have never seen an ad here.

          As to pulling or costing any TBTF via an ad click , sure we are paying for it anyway.

          1. acat

            they don’t pay taxes , business that is, so they don’t make profits either, right right!

            It’s all funny money.

  8. pws4

    “New York Times. So much for that supposedly robust Black Friday, and the fact that retailers were carrying lower inventories than normal.”

    I’m trying to think of the last time we had this much sustained, deliberate and obvious lying by the main stream media to the general public. I think this is outpacing the run up to the Iraq war, even.

  9. PQS

    Happy Holidays to all at NC –

    Here’s Matt Taibbi taking down the whiny 1%ers like Jamie Dimon who think anyone who criticizes them and their bloated excess is “just jealous”.

    Just one of the money quotes:

    “People like Dimon, and Schwarzman, and John Paulson, and all of the rest of them who think the “imbeciles” on the streets are simply full of reasonless class anger, they don’t get it. Nobody hates them for being successful. And not that this needs repeating, but nobody even minds that they are rich.

    What makes people furious is that they have stopped being citizens.”

  10. Eureka Springs

    Why are so many saying “we” don’t mind them being rich? COnsidering how they got rich and how they keep their wealth.. I mind very much!

    Stop making excuses whatsoever for these criminals.

    1. Mel

      What Taibbi — I think it was Taibbi — spelled out in an earlier post is that Americans typically don’t hate the rich; they hate cheaters.

      What Taibbi is reporting on now is how the cheaters are trying to shift the story.

      1. James

        No, some of us actually DO hate the rich. Take a look around. How much do a few privileged first-world MFs actually need? And how much insane pretzel logic will they resort to to justify it?

        1. James

          And how many of them proclaim themselves to be “good Christians” on top of it. Laughable. ALL of it.

          1. Cris Kennedy

            Very fashionable and trendy, utterly politically correct to bash Christians just because that was the only recurring thought you’ve had the last few years. Congratulations, you go to the front of the line.

  11. Susan the other

    Betcha Luther’s woodcutter goes viral. The devil excreting monks could be a moveable feast. It could be used to depict banksters excreting politicians today. Must hope a century of bank reformation and counter-reformation does not occur, leaving us to wander like peddlars. It would be so nice to actually have a functioning democratic government.

  12. Hugh

    I wrote at the time that the MSM traditionally cheerleads holiday shopping numbers and that when January rolls around there are the inevitable reassessments. But in all honesty should we expect better reporting from them on holiday shopping than we do more generally where they serve as nothing more than propaganda arms of our corporations and elites?

    Re physics, we need to distinguish between phenomena like relativity, dark energy, and quantum mechanics which are observable and testable on the one hand and, on the other, concepts like string theory and the multiverse which are not. I don’t see anything beyond the pedestrian in the notion that physical laws define our universe and if they were different we would have a different universe. I also see the argument for the multiverse as akin to Anselm’s ontological argument for the existence of God, that is if it can be conceived, and conceived as necessary, it must necessarily exist. At the same time, universe or multiverse, neither gets to the ultimate question of why whatever is there, or might have been there, is there at all, which puts theoretical physics considerably far behind a religion say like Hinduism where this question as been a focus for thousands of years.

    1. Economista Non Grata

      Re physics: Try this simple experiment sometime…. Take two mirrors and place them facing each other, parallel, face to face, move the angles slowly until you can witness for yourself the curvature of space and time…. It is the relative concept of time, it’s motion, that confounds our primitive minds… As for Hinduism, I think that it’s safe to apply the Hirshleifer theory, it is as fragile as it is spectacular… No offence intended…


      1. James

        Re: Physics. +1

        Re: Hinduism and eastern religions in general. At least they’re for the most part asking the right questions. As in, what is the nature of “truth” and not which deity – i.e., wrathful personality – should we worship to save us from ourselves. Judaism, Christianity(!) and Islam?

        Re: Religion in general. No thank you. From exactly WHAT would I be saved and just WHO would do the saving? Myself? There ya’ go.

          1. Procopius

            1. Suffering
            2. Suffering has a cause.
            3 Remove the cause, end suffering.
            4. The way to remove the cause is to follow the eight-fold path.

            My translation of the Four Noble Truths. The thing about Buddhism, release from suffering is in your own hands, no fickle, frivolous gods to beg. On the other hand the path is hard and very long

    1. F. Beard

      Oh come on. Of course a counterfeiter can afford to be generous.

      And what about giving in secret per Matthew 6:3-4 (“But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”)

  13. Mark P.

    Yves —

    In case you didn’t know, the GSEs are now starting to sell off at firesale prices their shadow inventory of foreclosed REO properties — this after refusing principle modifications — to ‘mega-investors.’

    Who might these mega -investors be? Quel surprise — “Hedge funds and institutional investors (who) want maximum discounts for their troubles.”

    More here in a DAILY REAL ESTATE NEWS piece from October 30th —

    Bulk REO sales bypass Realtors
    Fannie, Freddie, FHA face tsunami-sized shadow inventory

    By Ken Harney
    Inman News®

    ‘Will the Obama administration’s upcoming plans to sell REOs in bulk to mega-investors at deep discounts siphon away hundreds of millions of dollars in commissions to real estate brokers who now sell — or assist buyers to acquire — foreclosed properties held by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and FHA?

    Will the new approach to REO (“real estate owned”) be bad news for small-scale investors who no longer will be able to compete because entire chunks of the agencies’ portfolios will be stamped “for bulk only”? Won’t this further the impression that Washington favors the fats cats on Wall Street over Mom and Pop on Main Street?

    And what about the community impacts on local governments and nonprofits who want to stabilize neighborhoods by putting new owners into vacant foreclosures, rather than filling them with renters brought in by distant bulk buyers?

    With the federal government now teeing up its first bulk-sale transactions — possibly within weeks — these are increasingly pressing questions. To get up to speed on what’s going on, I checked in last week with Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA and the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Here’s what I found.

    There’s no question that the three have bulging inventories of REO, and that the ongoing costs associated with them are contributing to the multibillion-dollar quarterly losses racked up by Fannie and Freddie, along with the slippage in FHA’s insurance fund reserves.

    However, it’s also true that all three are selling houses faster than ever, reducing their net holdings significantly:

    Fannie Mae had 162,489 homes in its REO stock as of January of this year. As of Nov. 1, that had been whittled down to 122,616. So far this calendar year, Fannie has acquired 152,440 houses through foreclosure, but it has sold 192,313. Sixty percent of those sales have been to owner-occupant buyers or nonprofits, and its recovery rate — the sale amount versus current market value of the property — is in the mid-90 percent range, according to officials.

    Freddie Mac has sold close to 80,000 REO houses in the first nine months of 2011, a record pace, and has reduced its inventory from 75,000 in the third quarter of 2010 to approximately 60,000 as of Sept. 30 of this year. Freddie says it sold 70 percent of those units to owner-occupant buyers, at an average discount to market value of just 6 percent — i.e., a 94 percent recovery rate. Freddie currently does no bulk sales.

    FHA set its all-time record this year in REO dispositions, selling 102,195 homes during fiscal 2011, which ended Sept. 30. It slashed its inventory in the process from 51,799 as of Oct. 1, 2010 to 40,634 on Sept. 30.

    All three of the agencies sell primarily through networks of real estate brokers and agents. FHA’s nearly 103,000 REO sales last year generated approximately $7 million in recoveries and produced commissions to brokers of around $420 million, according to a spokesman. Fannie and Freddie could not provide commission totals, but combined it’s likely in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

    Current REO disposition techniques appear to be working well — lowering inventories, yielding significant recoveries for the government, putting owners into houses and yielding significant commission dollars to the brokers, agents and ancillary service providers around the country who help make this all happen.

    Which raises the question: Why mess with success? This past Aug. 10, the Treasury Department, HUD and the Federal Housing Finance Agency — which oversees Fannie and Freddie in conservatorship — issued an unusual “request for information” on how they might sell REOs faster by offering homes in giant bulk sales of $50 million to $1 billion.

    The main targets: hedge funds, large institutional investment groups, and real estate companies that have the capital and the national or regional scope and management teams to purchase and handle mass conversions of REOs into rentals, thereby getting REOs off the agencies’ books much faster than is possible today.

    The request produced more than 4,000 responses, which the FHFA has been analyzing for the past two months. So how’s it going and what’s the timetable?

    For starters, officials speaking on background made clear that they recognize the recent efforts of Fannie, Freddie and FHA to reduce their inventories. However, said one official, the three agencies face a tsunami-sized shadow inventory that is now heading their way — a combined 1.4 million delinquent loans on their books, at least half of which, they estimate, will end up in foreclosure. Even with heroic efforts, Fannie, Freddie and FHA won’t be able to handle that level of REO volume using their current systems of individual sales, directed at owner-occupants and small investors, via realty agent networks.

    It’s that looming wave that is the real focus of the bulk-sale project, officials told me, not the relatively smaller numbers currently in portfolio. On the other hand, they also recognize that flooding local markets across the U.S. with rental conversions of REO would not be productive. In fact, officials said, their approach will be to carefully select geographic areas where there is a demonstrated demand for rental units, rather than cities and neighborhoods that need more for-sale opportunities to owner-occupants.

    The timetable for all this: sooner than the real estate industry might assume. Officials are looking at the possibility of starting with a bulk sale of 500 to 1,000 homes as early as next month or opting for larger transactions of up to 10,000 units during the first quarter of 2012.

    Will all this cut down on future commissions for some brokers who now sell government REOs? No question. But officials emphasize that along with targeted bulk sales, the current program of individual sales to owners will continue. Of course, the more that gets sold off in bulk, the less there will be for individual sales.

    Will the discounts to market value remain as high as the mid-90 percent levels when the government sells in bulk? Not a chance. Hedge funds and institutional investors want maximum discounts for their troubles. It will be up to the government officials negotiating the packages to push them hard on pricing, rental plans and management capacities.

    How well they do on net recoveries — and how well they cushion the impacts on neighborhoods stemming from bulk-sale conversions to rentals and away from owner-occupancy — will no doubt be followed with intense interest by Congress and community groups. They’ll be joined, of course, by the real estate brokers whose commissions will be on the chopping block in the process.

  14. kevinearick

    At geographic saturation, it is theoretically possible to bring the system into equilibrium “overnight,” but will be quite difficult in practice without a massive education effort. You have dc, bipolar oscillation expansion…it’s a psychology/physics problem…

    Socialism pays ponzi participants with increasing lottery returns to accept the lie of demographic borrowing, right up until the viral demographic ponzi implodes, resulting in tyranny, as some of the socialists jump off the ship, some play to become part of the next nucleus, and the rest are smothered on the way to the big bang. The ones jumping off release insider information as they jump, accelerating the implosion, requiring increasing “hard” power to keep the system afloat.

    Family Law rests at the bottom of the stack. When it is switched to consumption, women gather power and get “even,” as do men when it is switched back to investment. Locking up Family Law ensured an exponential increase in gravity, until it was released, when the dwindling herd can no longer withstand the pressure. The point of the Supreme Court case was not to win, but to prove that all participants, direct and indirect, willingly accepted their roles in generating the cognitive dissonance multiplexer.

    If men choose not to get even, and other bipolar event horizons do the same, the system will orbit back into equilibrium, as a foundation for what comes next. To the extent they do not, the kids in real marriages will be “shot” forward in time, creating the next real demand wave, pulling along others to the extent they ejected their own sunk costs associated with the socialist civil contract.

    From the perspective of the backward “thinking” (knowledge) socialists, the stack is a pyramid, with an accounting escalator/pump for the fountain/sprinkler system, pulling up knowledge separated from learners in the churn pull. From the perspective of physics, it’s an inverted pyramid employed as a timed/distilled catapult.

    The tap/drill may be timed as desired to trigger release into the new event horizon circuits, depending on what nucleus is required.

Comments are closed.