Links 12/8/11

The new war on wolves LA Times (hat tip Joe Costello)

The Parching of the West William deBuys, TomGram (hat tip reader Aquifer)

Marathon training ‘may pose a heart risk’ BBC

‘Mythbusters’ cannonball hits Dublin home, minivan SFGate

Library of Congress to receive entire Twitter archive ZDNet (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Deutsche Bank CEO target of suspicious envelope: police Reuters

The absolutely final save for Europe, again MacroBusiness

If one EU bail-out fund flops, create two Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Telegraph

The terrible consequences of a eurozone collapse Willem Buiter, Financial Times

We cannot afford another half-baked solution Financial Times. The pink paper uncharacteristically put a long, grim editorial on its first page. This is its way of trying to grab the Eurozone leadership by the shoulders and shake them.

RBS – Inside The Bank That Ran Out Of Money BBC via YouTube (hat tip Richard Smith)

If China’s Property Bubble Bursts The Diplomat

China’s ghost city busts MacroBusiness

Big Picture: GOP Getting More Unpopular? FoxNews (hat tip reader Pat Caddell)

What Government Aid? James Kwak

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon: Stop Bashing the Rich CNBC. Can we just vomit? What about straw manning don’t you understand?

MF Global and the great Wall St re-hypothecation scandal Thomson Reuters. This article has gotten a lot of attention. However, it basically asserts connections and causality that it does not substantiate. And it is also poorly written and has some glaring errors. For instance, it calls repo GENERALLY off balance sheet when that is not true (and repo is comparatively easy to understand, so if the writer is over his head talking about that, I question his ability to analyze the other topics presented in the piece). The MF “repo to maturity” sounds as if it was designed to be a defeasance. But even so, that does not prove the role of rehypothecation also alleged in the transaction. And if MF Global DID rehypothecate as suggested, this means the loss of customers money was not criminal…just bad risk management. But this article is really sloppy. It may be right in part, but I can’t tell which parts.

Max Blumenthal Responds To Sleaze Campaign Waged By Atlantic Monthly’s Ex-Detention Camp Guard Jeffrey Goldberg…And Why The Atlantic Monthly’s Sleaze Reminds Us Of Putin’s Russia… eXiled

What is the value added of banks? VoxEU

Antidote du jour:

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  1. Commiemaniac

    The first letter bomb to Europe’s banking elites has been posted. Next one in under thirty days. Bets?

    1. Francois T

      And K Street asshats have the nerve to call Occupy “a criminal mischief” enterprise.

      Could they please, spare us the bullshit for Pete’s sake?

      1. Benedict@Large

        They no doubt prefer the term “criminal syndicate” as a way of differentiating themselves from Occupy’s “criminal mischief”.

    1. EmilianoZ

      Thanks for posting this!

      This first-hand account is even more poignant than Yasha Levine’s.

      A must read.

      1. Dave of Maryland

        But there’s more. Lots more.

        The LAPD (city) and Los Angeles Sheriff (county) have a long history of brutality. They have been repeatedly sued over the years. Settlements in the hundreds of thousands, millions. There are bunches of attorneys in (among other places) Century City who are salivating over the civil cases they can bring. Permanent nerve damage? In the hands?!!! Sure. Big bucks. Am wondering if they can manage a class action. Los Angeles is a litigious town.

        This is settled law. There’s a shortlist of attorneys who specialize in this, there’s a shortlist of judges who give big settlements.

        Knowing this, it is beyond stupid for the city to have cracked down like this. Police overtime will be the least of the expenses.

    2. LeonovaBalletRusse

      Was *Charles Prince* a plant? Is he related to Eric Prince of “Amway” and “Blackwater” infamy? Follow the DNA.

  2. Richard Kline

    Yet again, I find myself agreeing with Buiter. His assessments of both the risks and the likelihoods of various negative events for EMU inclusivity are very much where I would put such assessments myself.

    Given the extreme unlikelihood of the highest cost options, we’ll see more of the good old European muddling through. They’ve a millennia of practice at this, so they’ve got the method down at least . . . There will be treaty changes, is what that amounts to. But not quickly; 18 months at a guess to get anything substantive in that direction, and the mediocrity whose name is Merkel not only won’t be sitting in her present chair when those changes arrive but may well be aghast at what those changes actually become. Till then: parcel twine and plaster of Paris will be the interventionary modalities of the hour after hour after hour. Sez I.

    1. Francois T

      “we’ll see more of the good old European muddling through. They’ve a millennia of practice at this”

      Be that as it may, they also spectacularly screwed up at times. The consequences of said screw ups have been abundantly described in the history books.

      Merkel reminds me of Chamberlain…not an encouraging parallel.

      1. Richard Kline

        Well, to me Chamberlain was an ‘old boy’ of modest competence, just in way over his head. Merkel, by contrast, is a nonentity who has had a great mess thrust upon her. Do you know who the Prime Minister de facto of Russia was in 1914? No, nor does anyone else without a _detailed_ history in hand, that’s how obscure the individual was. Merkel again . . . .

        It’s telling that the push coming out of Merkel and more or less Sarkozy is so defectice. In effect, they want to place ‘the southern PIGS’ into financial receivership on their spending with Northern bureaucrats having budgetary approval of all those ‘dark unwashed peoples down there’ forever more. That’s not going to fly. And in fact, this is just a rehashing of an ongoing political economic dispute that has beeing going on for sixty years regarding who uses their public fisc for what end.

        It’s the norther HOGS vs. the southern PIGS—but it’s all history, that is the continuation of an old dispute rather than a resolution of the current, transformative crunch. Yes, there need to be new treaties, and a central funding authority, and Eurobonds. No, these shouldn’t be in the hands of appointed technocrats beholden to financial oligarchs. What we really have is a constitutional crisis on the hurry-up, so to speak, wrapped in the enigma of a banking crisis, rolled in the illusion of a sovereign debt run. Which is why it will take months rather than weeks to resolve this. Which is why those pushing all out for solutions ‘in weeks’ will be excused politically from the subsequent wrangles to really dig out from under this one. Well, the Euro Way is big on meetings and small on pacings, as we see again.

    2. Anon

      Agreed, Richard.

      I don’t think those living outside the EU appreciate how extensive EU integration really is. It is not just a matter of currency.

      I have a European passport, and can effectively cross from the Atlantic coast to Russia with it, unchallenged, although my country does not use the €.

      EU integration is also a matter of law, and I personally know at least one person who has benefited from a judgment in a very high-level European (i.e.supra-national) court.

      Europe has a parliament, and we have participated in elections to it for many years. Specific European legislation had a big impact, for example, on the introduction of GM crops from the US, and it is one arena where Green politicians have had some successes.

      As Buiter says at the end, the case for keeping the show on the road seems rather robust.

      This does not mean that we do not need an orderly process for dealing with the shadow banking system, mass unemployment, re-regulation of the financial sector. We do. But those things are not going to be achieved by drachma déjà vu.

      1. Jim

        Non-monetizatoin of debt / No Eurobonds / No Transfer union are also a matter of law in Germany.

        It is beyond clear that Italy and Spain can’t grow at a material clip with the Euro.

        The only way out is a full transfer union, with Germany and other northern states annually transferring at least 6% of GDP to the southern states each year.

        Let’s have the Germans vote on it. Germany keeps the Euro, but will have to contribute massively on a yearly basis to do so (not unlike Cisco in the late 90s, providing millions in vendor financing so that its clients could keep buying its equipment).

        What distresses me so much is that so many of you believe that you know more than the German voter, that democracy should not be an impediment to the resolution of the crisis.

        How truly regrettable.

        1. Sock Puppet

          … northern states transferring 6% of GDP to southern states… Oh, you were talking about Europe? I thought you meant the US, you know, like NJ to SC, or blue states in general to red states in general. And why do you know better than a european voter?

        2. Richard Kline

          So Jim, Deutsch law does not apply to other participants in the EU. A German vote does _not_ get to be binding on everyone else. ‘Democracy?’: for whom? The plain fact is that the political preference of some Germans (not all by any means, but we don’t hear that too much in these disputes) simply does not get to dictate outcomes and choices for all participants. Especially when that narrow parochial choice is, in most respects, a negative choice not only for other parts of the EU but for the wider interests of the Germans themselvs, in the EU and in relation to the rest of the global economy.

          It is the airiest illusion that Germany would continue to prosper in the way that it does if it were not a part of an integrated economy from which it extracts tremendous benefits. This is why New York has a great deal being part of a fifty-state union even while subsizizing many of those other regional polities. What we have in Germany (and the UK, and some others) is a conservative political coalition milking past political prejudicies which simply don’t walk the walk in the new environment of an integrated Europe, milking those for their own political advantage. It’s the worst kind of pigheaded selfish myopia. German ‘leadership’ in the present crisis isn’t even a zero, it’s a negative multiplier.

          That doesn’t mean that the Germans should ‘concede everything,’ or that any one present faction ‘is right.’ EVERYONE is on the wrong foot in Europe, and looking in the rear view mirror rather than the day after tomorrow. That is human nature, true. I really can’t get my head around, or even be bothered to handicap, ‘which politico blathers X’ week by week in the present European conundrum exactly because such blatherings simply aren’t germane to a substantive solution [I hadda say it *hor-hor-hor* : ) ]. A real discussion of solutions in Europe hasn’t even made it to a public venue yet. Wouldn’t it be grand if the public actually got involved? And not just by passive, after the fact referenda on the oligarchy’s preferred fakery but regarding what they themselves might seek to live with going forward.

          No political leadership in Europe, either from the top, the middle, or the bottom . . . Same as it ever was.

      2. Richard Kline

        So Anon, I agree completely. “I don’t think those living outside the EU appreciate how extensive EU integration really is. It is not just a matter of currency.” Nor even many who live _inside_ the EU, particularly if they speak English and write for the Anglo press. There is the illusion of sovereignty remaining but the material fact of integration. One could expel a small, battered polity like Greece or Belgium supposing that that was desired but it simply isn’t a functional option for others to leave.

        The illusion of sovereignty has been largely preserved by the absence of a central political executive and the placing of local _fiscal decisions_ off limits by and large from central mechanisms. That has been true as a sop to nationalistic parochial prejudices and to the political advantate of ‘nationally’ based political parties, who rely upon both of those capacities for patornage and personal profit. So while materially integrated, teh EU isn’t politically integrated in a functional way. That’s why the present process is so dysfunctional. Instead of this crisis going to the European Parliament to be hashed out and a plan made, as would happen in any functional polity, this process is in the personal hands of mediocre local political executives who angle in all they do for personal political advantage without any Union wide vision or connections. Rather as if the US had to assemble two dozen large city mayors every time a major political issue needed solving and let them bargain it out; madness, mor orless.

        Well, the sun will come up tomorrow. And when it sets, the EU will still be here. It’s some of the banks which won’t make it, and that is more gain than loss in my view . . . .

        1. Anon

          Agreed, Richard, and today we get Cameron’s überparochialism over the need for the City of London to continue as a tax haven for Wall St, as the City slithers away from more appropriate levels of EU scrutiny under a revised treaty.

          Always hilarious that the nationalists bay about sovereignty, while taking their orders, like the good little colonials they are from Murdoch, Blankfein, and friends.

  3. Richard Kline

    Well, the PTB in China set out to take the steam out of property asset speculation there, and they have succeeded. So much for arguments that a) bubbles can’t be spotted, b) bubbles can’t be swatted, and c) those Chinee are too potted to get it right. Whether bust follows is debatable, but less silly pricing is surely desirable.

    The article on this linked to in The Diplomat indicates the equivalent of the inception of municipal bonds this Autumn in China, a development scarcely noted before but important for local and regional governments for the reasons mentioned. But the inception of a domestic _bond_ market has significant potential for a reason _not_ mentioned. Such bonds could provide an alternative for property investment by individuals which has been the driver for bubble or quasi bubble in property prices.

    Money in China has been poured into property as a way of risk avoidance and a hedge against inflation. Equities are wildly gyrating and widely distrusted. The banks offer pitiful returns in an already inflationary environment (how not with double digit economic growth for years?), and are equally distrusted anyway. Foreign currency and assets aren’t readily available to most Chinese. Gold, antiquities, and other commodity investments aren’t remotely available in sufficient volume to soak up new money individuals want to protect. So it’s all poured into property. Not all property is necessarily wildly priced—I mean, who wouldn’t want prime real estate in Shanghai, Beijing, Zhejiang, or Nanjing?—though of course some ‘investments’ are bad poster children of like sort to the Ordos ‘money cemetaries.’

    The point being, savers in China really need an alternative investment vehicle into which to put their money. And the Chinese government really needs an alternative for where the Chinese put their money. So *tah-DAH*: domestic bonds. The issuance of the quasi-munis mentioned are far too small for demand, but they’re a trial run. Imagine China with a thirteen figure domestic bond market _exclusive_ of ‘sovereign’ bonds. I’m sure keen minds in China’s national finance are imagining this. And so might we.

    1. Dennis

      not going to happen for a while. not while banks are stuffed full of bonds that need to be re-rolled as a policy mechanism. As long as China is addicted to their investment led growth banks are just different sub-divisions of a very de-centralized Ministry of Finance that has one overriding principle: print higher GDP growth on provincial level.

      Ya it would be great if there was a genuine bond market, a liberalization of interest rates and *gasp* not a negative interest rate on savings. But lots of important people became very powerful thanks to the way things are.

      1. Richard Kline

        So Dennis, I agree with all that you say, but my focus was somewhat different. Regarding bonds of sovereign debt, I don’t think there will be a real market of those for a very long time, and I’m dubious that the Ministry of Finance (and the Party) will ever let control of that market out of their grip. I’d even be doubtful if such bonds become sold to the wider public at all in China. So yeah, no ‘bond market’ as we know it.

        However, the float of something like a muni market, both to finance local governments and to give the public an investment option more more under central control, I think that that might come to pass. In other words, a two-tier option. The top tier trades only to institutions and insiders. The lower tier trades retail, more or less. To me, that approach would fit ‘the Chinese model’ much better than a fully convertible but speculatively vulnerable bond market a la the USA.

    2. EmilianoZ

      The CCP might be popping the bubble. But how do we know if the bubble is not now in as advanced a stage as the US bubble when it finally popped? Looking at the pics of gigantic ghost towns, one might even think the Chinese bubble is worse.

      1. Richard Kline

        So EmilianoZ, as aef says, China ain’t America. The mechanics of how property prices spiked in the US are very different from the mechanics of how prices spiked in China. A few pictures may be worth a thousand words, but a billion tongues have rather more words to say on it. The differences are legion. No securitization in China. Negative real returns for savings in the bank in China. Property wasn’t even legally available for private ownership fifteen years ago: who the hell knows what much of it is really worth in a liquid domestic market? You? Me? The broker selling it??? The person buying in??? None of us. Overbuilding is going to take a loss. Than again consider: Chinese housing is so ‘below market’ in quality generally, and geographically ill-distributed in relation to where population is going over the generation coming that it might be reasonable to project a 100% replacement of domestic housing stock over that time, just as an hypothesis.

        China is simply different, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be approached, both by analysis and by comparison. But direct comparisons to the US property bubble, 1993-2007 just are very poor.

  4. Jim Haygood

    Re the Thomson Reuters article about MF Global … Yves comments:

    It calls repo GENERALLY off balance sheet when that is not true (and repo is comparatively easy to understand, so if the writer is over his head talking about that, I question his ability to analyze the other topics presented in the piece).

    But the author Christopher Elias says the opposite — that repo is generally ON balance sheet [my bolding]:

    Repos are a common way for firms to generate money but are not normally off-balance sheet and are instead treated as “financing” under accountancy rules.

    The article seems to have been pretty thoroughly researched. Perhaps the best check on its basic thesis would be to dig up the IMF reference for its assertion that:

    With collateral being re-hypothecated to a factor of four (according to IMF estimates), the actual capital backing banks re-hypothecation transactions may be as little as 25%.

    In any event, the article is quite timely, in that former MF Global president Jon Corzine is to testify (or not) before the House Agriculture Committee today.

    Corzine’s plight presents a very basic issue, on which the credibility of our financial system hinges. Until now, most investors believed that segregating customer funds is a ‘bright red line’ legal requirement, and that a broker which violated it would go straight to jail. But Corzine still roams the streets.

    Elias presents a loophole by which MF Global’s loss of an estimated $1.2 billion in customer segregated funds might have been ‘all legal’:

    MF Global’s Customer Agreement … includes the following clause:

    “7. Consent To Loan Or Pledge. You hereby grant us the right, in accordance with Applicable Law, to borrow, pledge, repledge, transfer, hypothecate, rehypothecate, loan, or invest any of the Collateral … without notice to you, and we shall have no obligation to retain a like amount of similar Collateral in our possession and control.”

    Many of us have assumed that the absence of an indictment of Corzine reflects corruption of the legal system by the omnipresent tentacles of Goldman Sachs. But if Elias is correct, perhaps prosecutors have no case.

    In one sense (equal justice), that would be a relief. But if rehypothecation is as big as Elias says (and his claims are quite specific), the financial system may be broken, even if the legal system isn’t:

    Engaging in hyper-hypothecation have been Goldman Sachs ($28.17 billion re-hypothecated in 2011), Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (re-pledged $72 billion in client assets), Royal Bank of Canada (re-pledged $53.8 billion of $126.7 billion available for re-pledging), Oppenheimer Holdings ($15.3 million), Credit Suisse (CHF 332 billion), Knight Capital Group ($1.17 billion),
    Interactive Brokers ($14.5 billion), Wells Fargo ($19.6 billion), JP Morgan ($546.2 billion) and Morgan Stanley ($410 billion).

    One doesn’t want to believe, so soon after the CDO debacle in mid-decade, that another reserve-free, infinite-leverage scam could threaten the system again so soon. But in the context of a system drowning in conflict of interest — as bank cartels manage global finance through central banks with money creation powers — the truth is often stranger than fiction.

    Like Elias, until proven otherwise, I would assume the absolute worst about this gang of evil clowns running counterfeit printing presses.

    1. Jim Haygood

      Corzine’s 21-page prepared testimony has been posted. His explanation of $16.5 billion in off-balance-sheet repo-to-maturity transactions in European sovereign debt parallels that given in the Elias article, though Corzine goes into greater detail, saying “I strongly advocated the trading strategy that I have described here.”

      Corzine spends several pages detailing his recollection of casual contacts with CFTC chairman Gary Gensler and other regulatory officials. Unavoidably, it ends up sounding like a denial of child abuse allegations: other adults were present at all times; nothing untoward happened.

      When it comes to where the missing customer segregated funds are, though, Corzine’s detailed narrative suddenly hits an impenetrable brick wall of unknowing:

      As the chief executive officer of MF Global, I ultimately had overall responsibility for the firm. I did not, however, generally involve myself in the mechanics of the clearing and settlement of trades, or in the movement of cash and collateral. Nor was I an expert on the complicated rules and regulations governing the various different operating businesses that comprised MF Global. I had little expertise or experience in those operational aspects of the business.

      Again, I want to emphasize that, since my resignation from MF Global on November 3, 2011, I have not had access to the information that I would need to understand what happened. It is extremely difficult for me to reconstruct the events that occurred during the chaotic days and the last hours leading up to the bankruptcy filing.

      I simply do not know where the money is, or why the accounts have not been reconciled to date. I do not know which accounts are unreconciled or whether the unreconciled accounts were or were not subject to the segregation rules. Moreover, there were an extraordinary number of transactions during MF Global’s last few days, and I do not know, for example, whether there were operational errors at MF Global or elsewhere, or whether banks and counterparties have held onto funds that should rightfully have been returned to MF Global.”

      Oh, my. What a contrast, between Corzine’s sure-footed narrative about MF’s history, corporate strategy, and RTM transactions … versus his desperate resort to pleading that “I had no expertise or experience in operations.”

      Make of it what you will. It will be interesting and important to find out whether MF’s demise was firm-specific, or the first outcropping of a systemic problem. Like Elias, I suspect the latter.

      1. gs_runsthiscountry

        “As the chief executive officer of MF Global, I ultimately had overall responsibility for the firm. I did not, however, generally involve myself in the mechanics of the clearing and settlement of trades, or in the movement of cash and collateral. Nor was I an expert on the complicated rules and regulations governing the various different operating businesses that comprised MF Global. I had little expertise or experience in those operational aspects of the business.”

        I can see it now; the fact he was unlicensed is going to be used as a defense. Not holding a Series 24 is at the core of this issue, no?

        Are we going to see FINRA law suits before this is all over?

        1. LeonovaBalletRusse

          You got it! The *lack of licenses* (Series 7 expired, Series 24) was strategic *insurance* — a “release from liability” just in case Corzine got caught. So clever.

          But, might this not show *intent* to defraud?

          1. gs_runsthiscountry


            I can’t tell if your being sarcastic or agree to the first part of your comment. As to the second part, no, actually, FINRA gave him a free pass….that is the problem. Arguable if it is intent.

            When are the hounds [lawyers] going to be unleashed on FINRA?

      2. LeonovaBalletRusse

        How is this *Corzine’s testimony* when he is reading from a script prepared by his lawyers? Is this a ruse designed to spare him the embarrassment of taking his *Fifth Amendment rights*?

        A testimony must be given at least from *memory*, and not read from a script written by others. This is a travesty of a *testimony* from one forced to *speak* by subpoena. It may be common, but it’s still a travesty of *justice*.

    2. BondsOfSteel

      Q: What’s a six syllable word for theft?

      A: re-hypothecation

      Seriously, aren’t there rules protecting customer money from moving from a simi-regulated country like the US to a non-regulated country? Heck, why not move them to the Caymans or just re-hypothecate with your private account…. (or did this already happen).

    3. Jim Haygood

      One of the more appalling aspects of Corzine’s statement is his assertion (on page 5) that he reduced the firm’s leverage from 37.3 to only 30-to-1.

      Silly me — I had naively assumed (when I used to have an account at MF Global) that brokers maintained capital ratios of 8 to 10 percent, similar to banks. Leverage of 37.3 times meant MF’s capital was only 2.68 percent of assets when Corzine arrived. That’s Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac territory, folks — a near-Congressional level of blind, harebrained recklessness that only politicians and drunks (often one and the same, I grant you) could sink to.

      Corzine cheerfully admits that when MF garnered revenue the old-fashioned way — from brokerage commissions — it was steadily losing money. So MF decided to make its assets work harder, in transactions such as Repos to Maturity of higher-yielding European sovereigns. In this scenario, it was the customers’ capital that MF craved — for its repo value — not the trivial income from rock-bottom brokerage commissions of 5 or 10 dollars a contract.

      Consider this — a typical futures contract has an initial margin of less than 5% of its nominal value. So MF’s customers could be leveraged 20-to-1 or more on their capital.

      But, MF itself was leveraged 37.3 to 1. Not that it’s entirely valid, but as a kind of extreme ‘stress test,’ multiply the customers’ 20-to-1 leverage by MF’s 37.3-to-1 gearing, and you get a combined leverage of nearly 750-to-1!

      Horrifying, just horrifying. I would rather pay higher commissions to a broker that profits mainly from commission income, rather than get near-costless trades from a high-stakes financial engineering venture which directly or indirectly endangers customer capital.

      If Glass-Steagall ever comes back, evidently it should apply to brokers as well as banks, since the CFTC, SIPC, SEC and FINRA have grossly failed at protecting MF customer accounts from the consequences of the firm’s failure.

      1. monday1929

        This makes Interactive Brokers look very worrisome. I am glad their CEO is willing to place his life on the line in promising that this is not occurring at his firm.

        1. Typing Monkey

          I am far from an expert (in fact, I suspect that I am barely qualified as an amateur), but I remember thinking that IB was the safest of all the brokers I could find. My worry at the time (yeas ago) was that they put their cash in JPM and C bonds (this was before 2007–not sure what they’re doing now), and I was expecting both of those banks to go to zero at the time, but I don’t think I found another broker that kept cash only in AAA bonds.

          If you know of a broker with safer policies, though, please let me know–I’m always a little leery about my brokers…

    4. LeonovaBalletRusse

      Not even a lawyer can get away with “commingling client funds with one’s own (your firm’s own)” – a felony since who can remember when?

      If this was made not-a-felony by *securities industry* racketeers and their rubber-stamping accomplices in Congress (or not), then WHAT IS THE LAW?

      Not even Presidential signing statements can be “the Law” according to the Constitution of the United States, no matter what they claim.

      The phony *undoing of the Law* by racketeers cannot *by Law* trump the Law codified by our Consitution and its Amendments.

      The injunction against *commingling* client funds with those of the *trustee* is bed-rock law in the U.S.A., which no amount of tampering can change.

      The question remains: Are we a nation of laws, not men?

    5. Yves Smith Post author


      You have been conned by use of lingo.

      First, he says repo is OBS, then corrects himself later. This is poor drafting. And he clearly doesn’t understand how defeasance transactions work (as in he is clearly repeating something someone told him).

      Second, his comment re the degree of leverage achieved by rehypotheciation is from a single IMF report. This sort of market activity is not the IMF’s beat, and in general, I am suspicious of single sourced factoids.

      Third, there is NO evidence to connect the MF Global use of rehypothecation to the loss of customer funds. Zero. Zip. Nada. This is the core of his argument and it is a totally unsubstantiated claim. If he said, “Could this be a big piece of what happened?” I’d have some respect for the piece. But it goes off totally half baked.

      Fourth, money was missing from customer accounts with no leverage. If this is confirmed, rehypothecation was not a driver of those losses.

      1. LeonovaBalletRusse

        Get thee to the Congress as expert witness. (if only). Someone needs to *explain it all for them*.

    6. Richard Kline

      What?, ” . . .another reserve-free, infinite-leverage scam could threaten the system again so soon”? Did the last one ever stop? I missed the hiatus if so.

      No, the crisis not only never stopped, all arms of officaldom explicitly connived in the ongoing ‘failure to resolve’ and even ‘failure to acknowledge’ that the dough was no good, the trusts were looted, the crooks are still in charge, and the fix is not only in but exponentiated. So we went from breaking the banking system to crashing the financial system to rotting out the political system. Smells like ‘systemic crisis’ to me . . . .

  5. russell1200

    Round cannonballs were popular for a very long time because they would bounce around on the crowded battlefields of the day. The connical shaped projectiles tended to burry themselves into the ground.

    They may not seem that deadly compared to todays weapons, but a participant in battle was far more likely to be killed or injured in the 19th century than today.

  6. Zwölfkinder

    The following excerpts of a response to Pinker’s book was found late last night, and posted under yesterday’s links around 1:30 AM, so I’m reposting.

    (Note: The author’s response to Pinker’s very first paragraph on cat-burning in 16th century Paris, linked below, is also of interest.)

    Re: Stephen Pinker’s “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined”

    “In a book (802 pages) which argues that violence is decreasing all over the world, there is no mention of Srebrenica, the Rwanda genocide, Pinochet in Chile, the Junta in Argentina (or Brazil or Greece), no entry under colonialism, no former Yugoslavia, no Haiti, no Dominican Republic, no Mugabe and only one mention of Mussolini, two of apartheid, and three of Pol Pot. This is a book about violence!

    Pinker even manages to make it sound as if the whole of the Second World War was the fault of one man, and that a delusional Hitler reluctantly dragged the German population into war and genocide:

    Pinker: “Even in Nazi Germany, where anti-Semitism had been entrenched for centuries, there is no indication that anyone but Hitler and a few fanatical henchmen thought it was a good idea for the Jews to be exterminated. When a genocide is carried out, only a fraction of the population, usually a police force, military unit, or militia actually commits the murders.”

    I am not the first to notice this bizarre passage (a fine article in The New Yorker mentions it as well). It goes contrary to everything I know about The Third Reich….. as Goldhagen has successfully argued, it took a lot of people to carry out the extermination of 6 million Jews. Many thousands or even hundreds of thousands who were directly involved, and hundreds of thousands more who were indirectly involved, and then the vast majority of the population who simply did not care. Ian Kershaw ends his magisterial two-volume biography of Hitler with these words: “The vast majority of Germans had no more than minimal interest in the fate of the Jews.” If this “bystander” effect is not a part of the indictment of our species, I don’t know what is.”

    Why, then, is [Pinker] garnering so much positive attention? Well, that is a deep question, having to do with the human propensity for denial….”

      1. aet

        There is no need for violence whatsoever.

        Lots of people have faith that people are unkind and violent by nature? Sure they are…who told them so?

        I have not personally seem one person attack another in fifty years – but the US media is full of nothing but conflict and violence.

        If there wasn’t a war, the US would start one.

        There is no need for violence whatsoever.

    1. Dave of Maryland

      A strange place to find this, but whatever.

      I did the math. To murder one million people, in the time allotted, amounts to some 1000 per day, seven days a week, an impossible schedule, even for Germans. Using the actual crematoria at Auschwitz, to dispose of 1 million bodies would take until sometime in the mid 1990’s. If the bodies were not disposed of, they would form a cube roughly 100 yards on a side. (Project that into your average sports stadium, and don’t forget the stench.) Not a ditch with a couple of hundred bodies, which was all that was actually found. The story is that the departing Germans wanted to liquidate the remaining prisoners in the camp. There is evidence for the same camps, with the same outcome, in WWI. If that is true, then the camps were not Nazi, but German, and were an artifact of Allied blockades. Or German stupidity for being a central European nation, take your pick.

      I also did some basic architecture. The gas chamber was not in any way sealed. Nor was there any way of safely purging the deadly gas inside. (We are looking for ductwork, fans and a really, really tall chimney, with a massive foundation, by the way. There used to be a Wiki site with the California gas chamber at San Quentin that can be used for comparison.) Given the leaky chamber and lack of proper venting, the first use of poison gas would have killed half the people in the camp. First among them the hospital staff, who shared the same building. Along with the crematoria itself, also in that building. Next, the commandant’s secretary, as his office was in a building directly behind the gas chamber. Go look at the map.

      The alleged method of extermination, separating the women and children from the men, and murdering one group and then the other, would have produced panic in the second group, scattering them through the camp. Never mind the technical problems in removing several hundred tangled corpses through rather narrow doors, before rigor mortis set in.

      The Germans themselves said these were work camps. Auschwitz was in fact a large camp with many thousands of people in it. (Again, see maps.) The actual number of ovens (4) was more or less sufficient for the daily deaths from natural causes, remembering that food was meager and epidemics common.

      The Germans had a horror of lice and vermin. Zyklon-B gas was a weak pesticide intended for delousing incoming prisoners. You need a lot of it to kill someone, much less 500 in one batch.

      Having disposed of the extermination hoax (for hoax it is), we can do some simple math. The number of crematoria gives an approximate daily mortality in the camp, of somewhere around 10 to 20. The size of the gas chamber gives an idea of the number of incoming prisoners. Dividing one by the other, we get a more or less monthly shipment of the unlucky. Who were starved and beaten and sometimes shot and murdered, but who were not, repeat not, exterminated, per se. On this, the evidence is clear. On the morning prisoners arrived for processing, I presume everyone in the camp smelled the Zyklon, and that the medical staff spent the day out of doors as a result. Gave the entire building a good airing.

      Such is the physical evidence of Auschwitz itself. Those of you who will not look and will not think for yourselves may slime me now. I confess that discovering the evidence resulted in one of the most personally shocking moments of my entire life.

      1. Binky the Bear

        Nobody has to slime you.
        You are standing their covered with the fecal smear of your own ignorance.

      2. Richard Kline

        Dave, you have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. Seriously. Whatever your motives in putting up this comment, whatever ‘calculations’ you’ve mesmerized yourself with, whoever’s bilious disinformation you are in fact passing on: stop. Go read some actual facts. The issue you are messing with quite incompetantly and odiously, has a huge mass of factual evidence. You do not appear to have seriously engaged with that evidence. Certainly, you aren’t familiar with, or choose not to relate to, any of the evidence that disconfirms flat out your really quite bizarre speculations.

        You are out of your mind in this, Dave, so I hope you borrow some real sense from someone else and get back to reality, bad as reality often can be.

    2. Ransome

      There is some history prior to and during the war to suggest he may be right. It doesn’t change the outcome. The Nazi elite were criminals that ran a massive asset stripping machine enabled by propaganda. Today’s machines are as effective, controlled by a few, enabled by propaganda, but are less bloody.

      1. Binky the Bear

        No, there really isn’t any evidence to support Nazi apologists. As the people who witnessed the Holocaust die off it is important to remember that delusional and sick people will seek for their own purposes to take these well documented historical events, as terrible as they are, and seek to use them for some selfish end.
        I have relatives who saw the camps during the war and did guard duty and clean-up. I have other relatives who escaped it through luck and cleverness. I had a professor who survived the Kulak repression in the Ukraine that killed millions, with peasant bodies stacked in the Kiev rail yards like cordwood; she then escaped Hitler’s army serving with anti-fascist partisans, saw several camps from the rail lines that served them, and she managed to escape to the West and America. I have been to Auschwitz. Don’t defend the lies of the reich.
        Don’t let a liar try to convince you that murder on an industrial scale was impossible because it was in fact a stunning achievement of industrial capitalism. The same logistics, communications, organization and planning went into the Holocaust as went into the war effort and allowed most of the Jews of Hungary to be liquidated in a few months in 1944, from roundup to chimney.
        America was the source of the reich-our elites provided the money, the philosophy, and the backing with the help of international oil, coal, steel, banking, shipping and technology companies.
        -IBM’s Hollerith division made the holocaust possible in an early triumph for mechanical computing using punch cards. -Standard Oil made available the technology behind tetraethyl lead to Germany and supplied oil from fields in the Middle East and Central Asia.
        GM (Opel) and especially Ford; Henry Ford accepted a medal from Hitler, who dedicated his work to Ford for pointing out the way through his struggle.
        -Charles Lindbergh supported American and German fascism and received a medal from Hitler.
        -Brown Brothers Harriman and other banks financed Hitler-Prescott Bush was convicted of trading with the enemy.

        All these things are true and knowable and explain a great deal about why this country has descended into fascism and why it is inevitable, as FDR said, that democracy cannot function when it is corrupted by money and private interests.

        1. ginnie nyc

          Binky, thank you for your pointed and succinct reply.

          If I could take up Dave of Maryland’s first point in his tissue of lies: paragraph 1 – all the killing done only in Germany? Um, Auschwitz, in POLAND, was one of six Todeslager. There well over 1600 other concentration camps where people died or were killed. Figures: Federal German Ministry of Justice

          If Dave the Nazi enthusiast doesn’t know German, just use Google translate or Babelfish.

        2. tiebie66

          What disturbs me much is that your rebuttal (“… with peasant bodies stacked in the Kiev rail yards like cordwood; “) seems rather to support the original poster’s point (“If the bodies were not disposed of, they would form a cube roughly 100 yards on a side”). Is it not possible to address the issues of technical feasibility directly?

          The whole controversy is very bothersome, of itself, and because of the issues it raises. I find the “and then the vast majority of the population who simply did not care” from a still earlier poster not helpful, but disingenuous. How much can one know/care in the middle of a war, engaged on two fronts? This blog often reveals how much can be concealed in times of ‘peace’ and how much people care in times of ‘peace’. If indeed people could have “cared”, would not the dispossession and disenfranchisement of Palestinians be an impossibility given comparatively war-free conditions? Also don’t forget that the British invented concentration camps. These were used during the Boer war with devastating effect – the death of a large proportion of the Boer population.

          I think, sadly, humans are humans. Yet we must know the truth, and, in seeking it, be allowed to question, even accepted truths.

    1. Susan the other

      Open hunting season with helicopters and even drones! really seems like a massive over-compensation to the livestock industry. They are the ones crying about lost profit when wolves help themselves to dinner on the hoof. But going from protected species to “varmint” overnight is looney. If we want to protect the wolves we shouldn’t see-saw back and forth. We should allow only a very limited kill at most. I would prefer none at all. I think the best thing to do is raise a certain amount of food for the wolves. Either let deer and antelope fill the void by canceling hunting season on those animals or give the wolves some mutton. Don’t know much about the grizzlies. I’ll read it.

      It’s hard to look at the bottom line. The wild creatures are borderline starving.

      1. LeonovaBalletRusse

        It is WE who will be the *livestock* surplus.

        See: *Georgia Guidestones* on YouTube since 2007 or before.

      2. ambrit

        Dear target;
        The question unasked here is; who or what is really being hunted from the air? In the ‘good old days,’ hunters trekked into the wilds to bag their game. Real camping, real wilderness, real hunting. No matter your philosophical view of hunting, the old ways were ‘close to nature’ in a palpable sense. These ‘modern’ air harvesters are travesties of the real thing. They are held in contempt by hunters as well as conservationists.

        1. LeonovaBalletRusse

          Now they bait fields for the big shots, for big money from these cheating, egotistic fools. Naturally, Louisiana is into this kind of *hunting* for Swells, big time. Since French Louisiana has always been colonized (indigo, sugar, cotton, BigOil&Chem), the real hunters know how to take the Swells for a ride.

  7. taunger

    China’s building binge certainly looks shortsighted to today’s blind economists, but for a country of billions, facing rising living standards in an energy constrained world, building up stores of housing and other structural items may not be a bad idea.

    1. wunsacon

      Some of the new buildings are empty while citizens — displaced from the old buildings that stood there before and unable to afford paying for the new buildings — live in their shadows.

      IOW, it’s the same there as here: we make stuff and then prevent people from using it.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        It’s their modern day Great Wall project.

        But it’s in the wrong place. Their modern Great Wall should be built along their Afganistan/Pakistan border if they want to protect their ‘nuclear heartland.’

        1. LeonovaBalletRusse

          No, that *wall* belongs to Chevron and Halliburton, per Bush-Cheney, Khalilzad, and Karzai (oil pipeline from Caspian Sea through Afghanistan to the Gulf), for the *Anglo-American” dominion: part of PNAC strategy for “Sir George H.W. Bush” and his Queen.

          “THE ANGLO-AMERICAN ESTABLISHMENT: from Rhodes to Clivedon” by Carroll Quigley, 1949 (San Pedro, CA; CSG & Associates, Publishers, n.d.) — then from Rhodes/Yale/Bush to U.S.A.!

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            I guess there is a bit of ‘you don’t “wall” me, I “wall” you’ going on.

      2. LeonovaBalletRusse

        Isn’t China preparing for the world’s *labor* units, formerly known as blue and white-collar *workers* of the West? Isn’t this the Strauss-Friedman Chicago dream come true? Kind of like Hitler’s first thought of sending *the Jews* to Madagascar, before *the final solution* came into force.

        See *The Georgia Guidestones* on YouTube for the plan here.

  8. briansays

    Re Dimon
    Let me guess talking head/shill doing the interview fed him lots of softballs?
    Advertising revenues ya know
    I stopped watching CNBC when it got to the point that as cute as the money honey might be I just wanted her to keep her mouth shut
    Sorta like the gal you meet at 2AM at closing time

    1. psychohistorian

      Obesity rates are so high because Americans are being fed too much BS by people like Santorum.

      1. ginnie nyc

        LOL. Actually, Santorum isn’t the only politician who subscribes to this notion. Our NY Oligarch Bloomberg just cut foodstamps again in October – and everyone knows how much he cares about transfats, smoking, and obesity of the unwashed classes. Too bad if $66/month is not enough (my current allotment).

    2. Ransome

      Every time he speaks, he reminds me of Monty Python, except he is serious. He caught my attention back when he wanted to privatize the weather.

      1. LeonovaBalletRusse

        Then we’ll have naked CDOs cubed on the commodities market by bookmakers on HAARP’s *products*? “Chicago, Chicago, that …”

    1. psychohistorian

      The one in the water is a banker and the one standing on top is one of global inherited rich.

    2. Rex

      Nothing really philosophical here, but I was thinking, oh, apparently duck’s backs don’t shed other ducks as well as they shed water.

      Well, typing this just caused me to think of a statue I saw in Seattle’s Pioneer Square about 15 years ago. I remembered it as being called “Dog on Cow” but it seems the dog is actually a coyote and the statue is now in Kirkland, WA.

      It was the end of a strange night out when I encountered that statue, but that’s another story, or several, actually.

  9. Susan the other

    Wm. DeBuys’ The Parching of the West. We have known this forever. Even if global warming were not coming with a vengeance, the West has always been arid. My grandfather, a cattleman whose livestock relied on forage, knew the climate well. He said drought cycles ran an 8-year course, then another 8 years of relief. But rain was never abundant. He would be rolling over in his grave if he could see how mismanaged water is. Back in his day farmers and ranchers and small towns pooled their money or bonded to build small dams to hold spring runoff which was used for irrigation to get through August. Every farmer had a share of water. It worked pretty well for small farming and small populations. But our hubris, our “Cadillac Desert”, has blown everything out of proportion and encouraged the population of the southwest to explode. It is a very serious problem that only strict conservation can resolve, if at all.

      1. Foppe

        I’ve got the grapes of wrath on my to-read list, but from what I’ve been reading about what’s coming (especially since they’re also draining the aquifers), it’s going to be worse.

        1. LeonovaBalletRusse

          Both *fracking* and *nuclear* require huge amounts of WATER to function properly.

          So the 99% will die of thirst while the 1% enjoys air-conditioned Dubai with *snow skiing* on the side.

  10. LeonovaBalletRusse

    JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon – is he and his fellow bankers who Pay 50% of their income in taxes” ready to prove this claim “showing us the money?” Let the public see their U.S. income tax returns for the last five years, and show us *how it works* in conjunction with their *offshore* holdings.

    1. propertius

      Excellent suggestion.

      Release of officers’ tax returns probably should have been a precondition for TARP. It should certainly be a precondition for further bailouts. Drug testing, too. ;-)

      This, of course, will never happen.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        I know all presidential candidates, everywhere in the world, say they run because they love their country.

        I would settle for a signed statement they are not seeking power, fame and fortune, that they only have the love of their country in mind.

        They should aim to be not just another Cincinnatus, but better than him.

  11. Anonymous Comment

    Yves, as usual, thanks for the great links and analysis. I try to read everything here everyday if I can.

    I couldn’t make it through the entire [lengthy] article regarding hypothecation. But I can tell you for a fact, from personal experience, that rehypothecation is a HUGE problem. I would say it is at least 30% of the reason that the entire system has screached to a hault. People cannot get their assets back – even before MF global was an issue.

    Starting almost a decade [or perhaps more] ago, people who placed collateral with ‘banks’ would find that at the end of their contracts they are unable to receive a return of their collateral because their weaselly bankers had their collateral locked up into other deals unbeknownst to the original collateral holder.

    When taking legal action to release their collateral it was pointed out to them that they signed rehypothecation clauses in their contracts which gave their lousy bankers the right to basically [steal from them] do whatever they want with it. See the clause in the article. No legal recourse was allowed. If and when the bankers’ deals completed, then , maybe, they might get their collateral back. In many cases, since the chaos which we all now know of, ensued… the collateral was never, ever returned, even years later. Essentially it was a gift under duress to the bank[ers].

    No one should sign a contract in the presence of their bankers. They need to take that contract home and scour every word with their lawyer to be sure they can renegotioate any part referring to rehypothication. Otherwise, they may as well just hand their valuable assets over to the bank for their own use.

    It’s a much, much bigger problem than most people are aware of.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Sounds like a case for ‘Don’t ever borrow again!’

      Many advocate default.

      You, as a member of the small people, can only default your bank once.

      If you don’t borrow, your bank suffers from not making a cent from you from now till eternity.

      Defaulting is backward looking and possibly involves some ulterior motive through ‘too many to fail’ or strength in number.

      To not borrow again, it’s about the future and it takes discipline.

      Remember, death does not release one from debt.

      Another thing that survives death, supposedly, is your ownership of your cemetary plot. My question is, when 300 years from now, they want to built a wind farm on your cemetary, and if you have not descendants or if they don’t care, who is going to stop them from violating your property rights? Are you going to sue?

      1. anon

        when 300 years from now, they want to built a wind farm on your cemetary, and if you have not descendants or if they don’t care

        I couldn’t care less if you make furniture out of my body. These atoms belong to the Universe. As to the cemetery – Nothing lasts forever. The genus Homo will go extinct. The planet will be swallowed by the Sun; the Sun will burn out; and the galaxy will go dark. Atoms will degenerate. Protons will disintegrate. The Universe will fade away. Nothing will remember or care about this moment. But compassion isn’t for any higher purpose.

    2. LeonovaBalletRusse

      AC, this is why it is a_felony_ to “commingle a client’s funds with one’s own.”

    3. Yves Smith Post author

      I’m NOT saying it is not a problem. This was a huge deal in the Lehman collapse, and I’m stunned at the idea that investors have not become more attentive re the potential for abuse.

      However, that article was hysterical and badly drafted. He did not prove his central claim, that rehypothecation abuses were THE reason MF Global customer funds went missing. There is not a shred of evidence to prove that. It may indeed have played a role. The article would have been much better if he didn’t lump a zillion unrelated things together and simply raised the question (“Was rehypothecation a big reason customer money disappeared”?) and focused on that.

    1. LeonovaBalletRusse

      Just be sure the *new law* doesn’t effectively nullify the laws on the books that would send the banksters, fundies, etc. to the slammer right now. This strategy has been used before. These guys are slippery.

  12. kravitz

    Iowa AG says mortgage settlement should be done by Christmas

    “The deal, which Miller has been trying to negotiate since March, would release the five servicers – Ally Financial, Bank of America, Citigroup, J.P. Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo – from legal claims on past home loan servicing and foreclosures. The deal would not prohibit individuals from suing the banks, or government prosecutors from suing banks over issues related to the packaging of home loans into mortgage-backed securities.”

  13. Jesse

    My original take was that the Thomson-Reuters piece was based on the rationales of lawyers made by JPM to avoid clawback, and Corzine’s defense to avoid a jail sentence.

    I thought Jill Sommers made the law crystal clear.

    1. LeonovaBalletRusse

      “to avoid clawback” — this is why they *cannot* be held liable for *CRIMINAL fraud*, which William K. Black says can lead to “clawback” in every form of their wealth.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      That was a cynical thought I had too….but they pushed this through a guy who didn’t really understand what he was writing about

Comments are closed.