Saturday , January 18 2020
Home / Yves Smith
Yves Smith

Yves Smith



Articles by Yves Smith

Links 1/18/2020

6 hours ago

I cannot wait for Martin Luther King Day, when liberals and conservatives all over the country unite to ignore MLK’s clear insistence that racism and economic inequality are inextricably linked and must be addressed and fought together.
— Moshik Temkin (@moshik_temkin) January 17, 2020

Park Life: New Tiger Park to open in Chalong already challenged on ‘ethical confinement’ Phuket News (furzy)
Gone Fishing? No Fish, but Plenty of Pesticides & a Public Health Crisis Counterpunch (UserFriendly). Also on soil!
Australia Burning
Tree Ghosts’ Are All that Remain in Parts of Burnt Out Australia Vice (resilc). OMG:
“We’re talking hundreds of degrees celsius, possibly over 1000,” said Professor Keith. “It takes a massive input of energy to get a living tree to burn to the core, right down to

Read More »

How Climate Change Influenced Australia’s Unprecedented Fires

9 hours ago

Yves here. This post confirms the suspicions some have voiced about similarities between Australia’s and California’s fires.
By Dana Nuccitelli. Originally published at Yale Climate Connections

Australia’s frightening bushfires, which kicked off an early fire season in September 2019, have already had cataclysmic effects, and the continent is still just in the early months of the southern hemisphere’s summer. The New South Wales Rural Fire Service has described the bushfires as unprecedented in size and scale, having burned more than 46 million acres (18.6 million hectares), killed at least 29 people, and destroyed more than 2,200 homes.*
Parts of Australia have had the worst air quality in the world. The air quality in Sydney has literally been alarming, having set off smoke alarms in

Read More »

Integrating Black and White American Economic History

9 hours ago

By Trevon Logan, Hazel C. Youngberg Trustees Distinguished Professor of Economics, Ohio State University, and Peter Temin, Elisha Gray II Professor Emeritus of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website

In this paper, we combine white and black economic histories of the United States from its formation to the present.
The Constitutional compromises between slave and free states set the stage for rapid economic growth as cotton from Southern slave states provided the raw material for the emerging cotton industry in the North. The cooperation between states also set up tensions that intensified over time as the addition of new states reiterated the Constitutional compromise over and over again with increasing

Read More »

The Impact of CEOs in the Public Sector: Evidence from the English NHS

1 day ago

Yves here. This study supports our hypothesis that CalPERS’ Marcie Frost, who has managed to greatly increase her compensation since she joined the public pension fund, is overpaid. In general, in public pension funds, CEOs engage in administrative oversight and politicking, neither of which have much impact on performance.
I wonder if these findings can also be generalized to US not-for-profit hospital systems, which have been invaded, locust-like, by MBAs who seem much better at personal rent extraction than service delivery.
By Katharina Janke, Lecturer in Health Economics Modelling, Lancaster University; Carol Propper, Professor of Economics of Public Policy, CMPO, University of Bristol; Professor of Economics, TBS, Imperial College and CEPR Research Fellow; and Raffaella Sadun Thomas

Read More »

SEC With Investment Managers: “Like the FBI Sitting Down With the Mafia”

1 day ago

It is probably hard to believe that the SEC was once a respected and feared agency. Today’s example shows severity of its capture by the firms it nominally oversees and how it shirks duties mandated by Congress. The agency is operating in such a cozy manner with private equity firms that as one investor described it:
It’s like FBI sitting down with the Mafia to tell them each year, “Don’t cross these lines because that’s what we are focusing on.”
That behavior stands in stark contrast to how the SEC operated in its heyday. And even though today’s case study makes for a tidy example of the agency’s decline, it also epitomizes the sort of cronyism we’ve been chronicling for years.
Background: How the SEC Punted on Supervising Private Equity Firms
Regular readers may recall that Dodd Frank

Read More »

Wolf Richter: Tesla, Hit by Sagging US Sales, Goes Full-China with Design Center, Loans & Factory

1 day ago

By Wolf Richter, editor of Wolf Street. Originally published at Wolf Street
Tesla doesn’t disclose deliveries in the US, unlike other automakers. It only discloses global deliveries. We have to look at other data to see how Tesla is doing in the US; and in the US, deliveries have been plunging in recent months. In California, by far Tesla’s largest market in the US, registrations of new Teslas in the fourth quarter plunged by 46.5% to just 13,584 vehicles, from 25,402 vehicles in the same period in 2018. Model 3 registrations plunged by about half to 10,694 vehicles.
This is based on DMV registration data, compiled by automotive registration-data provider Dominion Cross-Sell, cited by Reuters.
The reason commonly mentioned for the plunge in sales in the US in recent months is the phase-out

Read More »

So, You Want To Live Tiny? Here’s What To Consider When Choosing a House, Van or Caravan

1 day ago

Yves here. Only at the end of this article do we read that very few people live in tiny homes. I am at a bit of a loss to understand why they are more appealing than a small apartment, perhaps because I never had noisy neighbors despite having lived in thirteen apartments. See my general views on houses here. But having said that, one of my larger apartments would still smell for days after I had cooked scallops.
Admittedly, one attraction of living small, if you are handy, is the possibility of getting very cheap digs by turning an old bus or van into a residence. The article politely underplays the fact that one reason for considering minimalist housing is the increasingly punitive cost of real estate.
It also appears, reading between the lines, that Australia might be less restrictive

Read More »

Digital Money: Implications for Emerging Market and Developing Economies

2 days ago

Yves here. Remember Libra, Facebook’s planned entry into the cryptocurrency game? Facebook grandiosely threw a bunch of fintech gimmicks like blockchain and stablecoin and super low cost international transfers into a bag and acted like it would add up to a ginormous business. Facebook does money! What’s not to like?
We haven’t heard much about the notion of late, and there’s a reason. Aside from pretty much every large economy financial regulator going to war with it, the idea was half baked. And then virtually all of its partners who actually knew anything about payment systems, like PayPal, Mastercard and Visa, bolted from the project. As we wrote in October:
Before we go much further, one of the obvious flaws in the Libra project is that Facebook (and too many members of the press)

Read More »

Trump’s China Trade Deal Handwave

2 days ago

Yves here. No one is terribly impressed by the “Phase 1” sort of ceasefire with China. First a high level take from Barkley Rosser in The US-China Nothing Burger Trade Deal:
The US did not raise tariffs as planned, but tariff still remain on two thirds of the sectors that had them, although some were halved. But numerous US sectors see no change at all and are now viewing the situation as not likely to improve, with them suffering losses of business likely to return. Among those are chemicals, apparel retailers, and auto parts. In these and other sectors there is not much reduction of uncertainty regarding US-China trade, so not likely much increase in investment.
The main items in it besides no worsening of tariffs, China has made promises not to pressure US firms to turn over technology

Read More »

UN’s Warning that Gaza Will Not Be a “Liveable Place” by 2020 Has Been Realised

2 days ago

Yves here. While we typically discuss the Middle East in terms of geopolitics, the US press averts its eyes from the ongoing human rights disaster in Gaza and how the US is complicit. The bare facts are only getting worse.
By Stephen McCloskey, Director of the Centre for Global Education, a development non-governmental organisation based in Belfast which provides training, resources and publications on international development issues. He is editor of Policy and Practice: A Development Education Review, a bi-annual, peer reviewed, open access journal funded by Irish Aid since 2005. He is editor of Development Education in Policy and Practice (Palgrave, 2015) and co-editor of From the Local to the Global: Key Issues in Development Studies (Pluto Press, 2015). He manages education projects

Read More »

John Helmer: German Parliament Office Reports No Russian Invasion of Donbass, Rejects Media and Government Propaganda

2 days ago

Yves here. If you read Helmer’s write-up carefully, you will notice that the German Bundestag has disputed the strong-form claims made about the level and nature of Russian support for the “rebels” in the Donbass. The press has repeatedly gone over its skis in asserting that the Russian military had acted in a formal manner.
Mind you, the German report does not say that it has proof that the Russian military didn’t intervene. After all, it is hard to prove a negative. But it does say the evidence that has been offered doesn’t substantiate the claims, which is still plenty damning given the noise made about the supposed incursion.
As US meddling around the world has shown, there are all sorts of ways to help interests you’d like to promote that fall well short of sending in troop carriers.

Read More »

PolitiFact Wrongly Lets Biden Off the Hook: The Truth About Social Security Cuts

3 days ago

Yves here. It is striking how much Biden is able to misrepresent his record. Uncritical media coverage will do that.
By Alex Lawson, the executive director of Social Security Works, a non-profit advocacy group that supports expanding benefits to address America’s growing retirement security crisis. Lawson has appeared on numerous TV and radio outlets and is a frequent guest host of The Thom Hartmann Program, one of the top progressive radio shows in the country. Produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute
Recently, a newsletter from the Bernie Sanders campaign laid out Joe Biden’s long record of supporting cuts to Social Security. The website PolitiFact weighed in on one part of that record, a speech Biden gave in 2018 in which he expressed enthusiasm for

Read More »

Links 1/15/2020

3 days ago

Yves here. I am sorry to be thin with my own material. Fortunately Lambert and Jerri have lots happening on their beats and have been providing meaty posts.
We’ve had to change some of my mother’s staffing (she has part-time help). And I am quite bummed out by the need to Do Something about my joint injuries, since they are not getting better and my mobility is getting slowly worse over time. But I’ve been down this path with less severe problems, and even in New York (and other cities) spent a staggering amount of time and money on conventional and not conventional treatments which were unproductive or only produced very short term benefit. And I don’t know how to find the time or emotional energy to shop for possible solutions. My situation is made worse by the fact that it is pretty

Read More »

Like Adding ‘Five to Six Hiroshima Bombs of Heat Each Second,’ Study Shows Oceans Warming at Record Rate

3 days ago

Yves here. A short but grim bit of news on the climate change front, this on the oft-neglected topic of oceans. Recall the fact that oceans were acting as a heat sink fed complacency about climate change, since it ameliorated the impact of surface warming.
By Eoin Higgins, staff writer at Common Dreams. Originally published at Common Dreams
A new study published Monday shows that the Earth’s oceans reached the highest temperatures and warmed the fastest since records began, highlighting the urgent need for global action to address the climate crisis before it’s too late.
The study (pdf), “Record-Setting Ocean Warmth Continued in 2019,” which was published in Advances in Atmospheric Studies, found the oceans have warmed by around 0.075 degrees C above the average of 1981-2010.
That level

Read More »

Homeless Californians Adapt to Camp Sweeps and ‘The Caltrans Shuffle’

4 days ago

Yves here. It’s maddening to see how America treats its homeless. Experts and sometimes even the press points out that homelessness is almost entirely due to a lack of affordable housing. I’m old enough to remember when New York City had what would have been called flophouses in the 1930s and were more recently described as “single room occupancy hotels”. They were converted long ago to tonier housing.
But now the response is NIMBY-ism, both in terms of neighborhoods rejecting even mixed-income housing and as this article describes, trying to run the homeless off.
By Anna Maria Barry-Jester. Originally published at California Healthline, a service of the California Health Care Foundation

Every other week, Norm Ciha and his homeless neighbors temporarily relocate their camp from land

Read More »

Links 1/14/2020

4 days ago

Three Coyotes Fail to Impress Unfazed Cat Named Max in This Showdown Time (David L).
How the Ginkgo biloba achieves near-immortality Science Magazine
Top-Secret UFO Files Could ‘Gravely Damage’ US National Security if Released, Navy Says Live Science (Kevin W)
Australia Burning
Australia bushfires: Carrots dropped from helicopters feed wallabies BBC
Push to export koalas to New Zealand in effort to save iconic marsupial SBS (Kevin W)
Border Collie Leads 900 Sheep to Safety During Australian Bushfires MyModernMet (David L)
Thai elephants march in silence for Australian bushfires Reuters (furzy)

More than 23,000 people have been evacuated and clouds of ash have turned entire towns grey as Taal volcano continues to rumble. pic.twitter.com/SskK8qbCpt
— SCMP News (@SCMPNews) January 14, 2020

Read More »

Trump and the Mad Negotiator Approach

4 days ago

Trump’s numerous character flaws, such as his grandiosity, his lack of interest in the truth, his impulsiveness, his habitual lashing out at critics, have elicited boatloads of disapproving commentary. It’s disturbing to see someone so emotional and undisciplined in charge of anything, let alone the United States.
Rather than offer yet more armchair analysis, it might be productive to ask a different question: why hasn’t Trump been an abject failure? There are plenty of rich heirs who blow their inheritance or run the family business into the ground pretty quickly and have to knuckle down to a much more modest lifestyle.
Trump’s lack of discipline has arguably cost him. The noise regularly made about his business bankruptcies is wildly exaggerated. Most of Trump’s bankruptcies were of

Read More »

Conservative Win in Britain Means More Than Economic Trouble Ahead

4 days ago

Yves here. Just as with Trump, the press and public too often gets wound up in Boris Johnson’s dramas, and loses sight of the common-welfare-destroying policies that the Conservative Party has made its calling card.
Although this post covers familiar terrain for Brexit readers, the high level overview may be  helpful for contacts who don’t keep close tabs.
By Malcolm Sawyer, Emeritus Professor of Economics, Leeds University Business School. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website
The British General Election held on 12th December 2019 resulted in a large Parliamentary majority of 80 in a parliament of 650 for the Conservative Party and Prime Minister Boris Johnson. This clearly puts Johnson in a strong parliamentary position to ‘get Brexit done’ (his major

Read More »

Come In From the Cold! Please Join Our NYC Meetup Next Thursday January 23

5 days ago

If you are in the NYC environs late next week, I hope you’ll be able to find the time to stop by our meetup and to enjoy some conversation and perhaps a hot drink too! The advanced forecast says it will be a chilly but dry day, so put on a hat and gloves and make your way over.
Details:
Thursday January 23, 20205:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Playwright Irish Pub27 West 35th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues)New York, NY 10001917-924-6868http://www.playwrightirishpubnyc.com

As you can see, the venue is near Grand Central and Penn Station, and not far from Port Authority, meaning commuter-friendly.
As you can see, it’s near stations for the B, D, F, and M, as well as the 6, so it’s reasonably accessible.
The owner John has graciously set an area set aside, so tell the manager (who could be John

Read More »

Who Owns, and Who is Accountable for the New US For-Profit Medical Schools?

5 days ago

Yves here. Bad enough that there’s an infestation of for-profit medical schools. Their secretiveness raises even more red flags.
By Roy Poses, MD, Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at Brown University, and the President of FIRM – the Foundation for Integrity and Responsibility in Medicine. Originally published at Health Care Renewal
Mysteries still abound in the not so wonderful world of health care dysfunction, so once again, quick, the game’s afoot…
The current mysteries involve beneficial ownership.  Beneficial ownership questions are important to anti-corruption campaigners.  Beneficial ownership simply refers to “anyone who enjoys the benefits of ownership of a security or property, without being on the record as being the owner.” (per Wikipedia). Concealing who really owns a

Read More »

US Still at Risk of Iran Retaliation on Oil and Other Fronts

5 days ago

Overmuch has been made of US claims to energy independence and how that reduced US exposure to Iran using oil infrastructure as an avenue of retaliation. The fact that US gas prices have increased after perceived or actual threat to Middle Eastern supplies shows that the US is far from decoupled from the Gulf States.
Two new articles, one at Bloomberg, the other at OilPrice, explain how the US still depends on Middle Eastern oil. The OilPrice story also describes how Iran and its allies have many other Middle East targets for missile and cyber attack, such as water infrastructure and desalination and power plants.
The fallacy of much of the commentary on US energy is to equate being a net energy exporter with energy independence. If you instead look at gross flows, the US still depends

Read More »

Links 1/11/2020

7 days ago

Man working from home forced to hot desk with cat Daily Mash
Of ants and men: Ant behavior might mirror political polarization PhysOrg (Ian P)
Aeolus: Weather forecasts start using space laser data BBC (David L)
Australia Burning
Australia’s fires have pumped out more emissions than 100 nations combined MIT Technology Review
An ‘absolutely seminal moment’: climate change opinion shifting in face of fires Sydney Morning Herald. Kevin W: “You only needed half the country to burn down to get people to think about changing their minds.”
‘At Davos we will tell world leaders to abandon the fossil fuel economy’ World Economic Forum (David L)
Fitbit and Garmin Are Under Federal Investigation For Alleged Patent Violations Reuters
What Went Wrong With Virtual Reality? BBC
The FDA Announces Two More

Read More »

Big Pharma Won’t Let Us Import Drugs From Canada, But Insists on Sending Carcinogen-Contaminated Pills to the Public

7 days ago

Yves here. I understand the desire of Americans to be able to re-import drugs from Canada. But this is at best an interim strategy, since meaningful orders from Canada could easily cause problems with supplies for Canadians and could thus lead the Canadian government to restrict or bar shipments to the US.
The point would be to pressure the US government to do what every other advanced economy government does: negotiate drug prices. The fact that we don’t when the US provides so much R&D support to Big Pharma is, as Lambert would say, wonderfully clarifying.
By Thom Hartmann, a talk-show host and the author of The Hidden History of the War on Voting and more than 25 other books in print. His most recent project is a science podcast called The Science Revolution. He is a writing fellow at

Read More »

The 2020 Election in Three Graphs

7 days ago

By Thomas Ferguson, Director of Research, Institute for New Economic Thinking, Professor Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Boston; Paul Jorgensen, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Texas-Pan American and Jie Chen, University Statistician, University of Massachusetts. Originally published at the Institute for New Economic Thinking website
Recent events make it obvious that the threat of a larger war in the Middle East now hangs like a black cloud over the 2020 election. Not for a moment do we want to distract attention from the potentially world shattering consequences that could grow from that. But the breakdown of the post-war international system is not the only tidal force shaking the American electoral landscape as the first primaries loom. We think three rip

Read More »

Inequality and Trade: Simulation Evidence for 54 Developing Nations

8 days ago

Yves here. This analysis shows that generalizations about trade are fraught. While most of the developing countries studies showed both increases in incomes and inequality, some had the best of all possible worlds, of higher incomes and a decline in inequality, while some showed losses in income overall and/or among the poor.
One frustration is that this paper does not acknowledge that more unequal societies score worse on social indicators, such as happiness, crime rates, and health, even of the rich. Thus it would have been helpful to know more about the typical severity of the rise in inequality where that occurred.
By Erhan Artuc,Senior Economist, World Bank, Guido Porto, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of La Plata and Bob Rijkers, Senior Economist in the Trade and

Read More »

Links 1/10/2020

8 days ago

African grey parrots spontaneously ‘lend a wing’ Science Daily (Kevin W)
Scientists Give Cuttlefish 3D Glasses To Prove They Perceive Depth PopSci
Mathematicians put famous Battle of Britain ‘what if’ scenarios to the test PhysOrg (Robert M)
Mysterious radio signal is coming from a nearby galaxy, scientists announce Independent (Chuck L)
Australia bushfires: Mega blaze likely on Friday evening BBC :-(. My mothermakes sure to watch nightly news for updates on Australia.
As huge tides bear down on Oregon coast, researchers warn this is the future OregonLive (David L)
Worst Drought in 40 Years Looms Over the Struggling Thai Economy Bloomberg. Furzy; “Check out the photos of the Mekong River.”
Researchers Develop Universal Flu Vaccine With Nanoparticles That Protect Against Six Different

Read More »

Brexit: The End of the Beginning?

8 days ago

This is going to be a shorter Brexit post than I would like, but since the UK and EU are yet again in a jockeying and attempting-to-put-down-markers phase, the speculation to development ratio is high.
You might have missed it between Iran and royals furors, but the Withdrawal Bill passed its third reading in the House on party lines and is expected to sail though Lords.

•Harry and Meghan driven out by Royal British Media 👑•As you work till you die at 75 on 0hr contract Boris Johnson Tories 20 weeks holiday a year for MPs 😱You voted for it 🤡pic.twitter.com/zIl9Cbcg6V
— ARTIST TAXI DRIVER (@chunkymark) January 10, 2020

Even if you have managed to pay attention, so much of what is happening has a ritualized feel that it’s too easy to miss details, and I may be guilty of that. New

Read More »

Why US Hostility Towards Chinese Tech Groups Feels Like Déjà Vu

10 days ago

By Sebastien Canderle, an investment consultant, a lecturer at Imperial College London, and the author of Private Equity’s Public Distress
The Trump administration has shown much resistance to Huawei’s and ByteDance’s American expansion due to the risks the former’s 5G technology and the latter’s TikTok video app cast over national security and user privacy laws, respectively. Not for the first time, Washington is applying a bog-standard policy template to protect its domestic market.
Immediately after World War II, Japan received the support of America to rebuild and modernize its economy. As Richard McGregor points out in his book Asia’s Reckoning, this strategy was so successful that, by the 1980s, CIA analysts fretted over Japan’s techno-nationalism, seen as a danger to U.S. security.

Read More »

2019 in Climate Science: A Continued Warming Trend and ‘Bleak’ Research

10 days ago

Yves here. I remember in 2007 when I was invited to an open house at the Explorers’ Club in New York City, which featured a day of presentations of scientists involved in research for that year’s Polar Year, a once-a-decade program of measurements and sightings in the Arctic. By then, it was clear to all those who’d been to the Arctic area recently, explorers as well as scientists, that warming in that polar region was already dramatic and alarming by historical standards. Yet this was still during the time when agnotologists were very successful in depicting climate findings as too speculative to take seriously.
By Dana Nuccitelli. Originally published at Yale Climate Connections
The last six years have been the six hottest globally ever recorded by humans.
2014 had been the hottest year

Read More »

The Real Reason the U.S. Is Interested in Iran

10 days ago

Yves here. This is a straightforward overview piece on Iran. It’s sufficiently bloodless that it might be useful to pass along to friends and family members who might be imbibing a bit much of the “hate Iran” Kool Aid. It also explains why the US would want to dampen Iran oil exports, even with Iran possessing mainly heavy sour crude that generally isn’t economical to pump until prevailing oil prices are pretty high (the figure I’ve seen in the past is over $100 a barrel).
By Kurt Cobb, a freelance writer and communications consultant who writes frequently about energy and environment. His work has also appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, Resilience, Le Monde Diplomatique, TalkMarkets, Investing.com, Business Insider and many other places. He is the author of an oil-themed novel

Read More »