FM newswire for 27 November, hot articles for your morning reading

Today’s broadsheet from the FM website pressroom.  There are 3 sections, all with hot news.  Also — you can now subscribe, receiving posts by email — see the box on the upper right.

  1. Links to interesting news and analysis
  2. Doomster nonsense of the day: China May Demand Physical Gold
  3. Feature article of the day, proof that science report is improving
  4. Plus, an Afterword

(1)  Today’s links

  1. Teabagging Michelle Malkin“, Matt Taibbi, True/Slant, 15 April 2009 — Typical Taibbi.  Funny, coarse, insightful.
  2. Freedom of information, my okole…“, Willis Eschenbach, Climate Change, 24 November 2009 — Another excellent narrative of the climate change debate, using the hacked CRU emails to filling in the missing pieces of the puzzle. It’s a must-read for anyone interested in the debate.  True believers will avoid this like vampires do garlic.
  3. “Negative Equity Report”, First American Corelogic, 23 November 2009 — reported at Calculated Risk.   Negative equity and near negative equity mortgages account for nearly 28% of all residential properties with a mortgage nationwide, 13 million housing units.
  4. Today’s hidden history lesson:  “Roosevelt’s Last Days – Did cancer kill FDR?“, Barron H. Lerner, Slate, 24 November 2009

(2)  Doomster nonsense of the day:  China May Demand Physical Gold

The Internet allows fringe “news” sources to flourish for every delusion.  Today’s reading is from The Public Intelligence Blog:  “China May Demand Physical Gold – Special from our sources in Asia“, 26 November 2009 — Excerpt:

Gold could be about to get disorderly also as it approaches the key $1200 call option strike. The strong rumour is the large $1200oz Dec call owner is the Peoples Bank of China. Gold traders increasingly believe that China will force physical delivery of 2.8moz of gold instead of the usual cash settlement. My contacts suggest short-term mayhem may be about to break out in gold for a few days as those who have sold the call and get exercised scramble to buy physical for delivery. To put this in context 2.8moz is around 80 tonnes of gold. Yes, it’s that big and you can see why there is short-covering everywhere in gold.

Phi Beta Iota: If Mack becomes Secretary of the Treasury, we anticipate China running the US Treasury as a condition for selective cover-ups, and China managing the situation so it gets compensation for all the gold stolen by Japen and confiscated by the US to create the Treasury Black Eagle Trust and Golden Lily slush funds. China did NOT sign the San Francisco Treaty and is on solid ground. For background see …

Such rumors are ubiquitous — and almost always wrong — among the fringes of the Internet, among the doomsters.  For thirty years I’ve read confident reports about rumors that the current social-finanical-political regime was about to end.

This particular rumor is almost certainly wrong, as it displays a misunderstanding of central banks and China.

Central banks exist to maintain the orderly workings of the global financial machinery.  Central bankers typically act …

  • incrementally — not taking large steps
  • reactively — responding to change, not leading it
  • conservatively — to maintain the status quo
  • slowly.

As for China, it has more to lose than the US from disruption of the global financial system — with is the likely result of the massive shock forecast by this rumor.   Among the world’s large nations, China has the fastest growth, and the great dependence upon global trade.   Most experts say that China needs growth of 7%+ to maintain social stability.  That’s unlikely if the global financial machinery goes “boink.”

The US has conditions almost opposite of China.   Exports are a small fraction of our economy.  Much of our trade — imports and exports — are commodities, necessities who will move under any circumstances short of war.  Also, we’re a debtor — again unlike China.  Collapse of the global financial system might allow us to reneg on our foreign debts. 

For these reasons (among others), we have the least to lose from disruption of the global system — which is why we are widely considered the weakest link.

To see how these things play out in the real world, watch the IMF gold sales.  India bought half (Bloomberg story here).  China is a likely candidate to buy the remaining half of the IMF gold sale, if they can get a good price.  That’s how the central banks work, moving the pieces around in a minimally disruptive manner.

For reliable information about the current gold market see the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times.  Such as this article:  “A Mad Rush as Gold Bugs Get the Boot“, WSJ, 24 November 2009.

(3)  Feature article of the day, proof that science reporting is improving

World’s last bastion of stable ice now thawing“, New Scientist, 24 November 2009 — A year ago this article would have had the same opening, but omitted the last few paragraphs about error bars and sources of error.  This is a major change, largely due to the tireless work of skeptics like Steve McIntyre.

We thought it was one of the Earth’s last remaining regions of stable ice. Now it seems the East Antarctic ice sheet has been losing mass since 2006 and could become a significant source of sea level rise, according to data from gravity-measuring satellites.

Previous studies have suggested that the ice sheet was either stable or even gaining ice mass. Now satellite measurements analysed by Jianli Chen of the Center for Space Research at the University of Texas at Austin and his colleagues suggest that the East Antarctic ice sheet is losing at least 5 billion tonnes of mass each year.

… Some researchers are not convinced that the continent is losing mass, since the margins for error in the team’s analysis range between 5 and 109 billion tonnes of ice loss per year.

“I don’t think we can confidently make a statement yet on whether East Antarctica is growing or shrinking,” says Philippe Huybrechts at the Free University of Brussels, Belgium. “Seven years is too short to make meaningful statements on the evolution of the Antarctic ice sheet,” he says.

Part of the problem with accurately estimating ice loss is a phenomenon known as post-glacial rebound: the rock underneath Antarctica is rising up because the ice of the last ice age is no longer weighing it down, and this is naturally changing the continent’s gravity field.

“One of the limitations of GRACE is that it can’t distinguish between changes in mass underlying the continent caused by the post-glacial rebound effect from changes in ice mass at the surface,” says Wilson.


Please share your comments by posting below. Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 word max), civil and relevant to this post. Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

Reference pages about other topics appear on the right side menu bar, including About the FM website page.

22 thoughts on “FM newswire for 27 November, hot articles for your morning reading”

  1. Was this the face that launch’d a thousand teabags?
    And burnt the topless towers of Washington?
    Sweet Michelle, make me conservative, with a kiss.

  2. Can’t you hear the violins? Suzie-Q’s Truth and Justice Blog, Sarah Palin: “Don’t cry for me, oh Wasilla!”, 2 September 2008 by Bruce


    It won’t be easy, you’ll think it strange
    When I try to explain how I feel
    That I still need your love after only five days

    Oh please believe me
    I still am the babe that you always knew
    Who drank at the Mug-shot Saloon
    And hunted for wild Caribou

    I had to let it happen, I had to change
    If I wanted to be the best VP
    Despite “Troopergate” and my daughter’s baby

    Yes I choose limelight
    Helping McCain secure up his base
    Even though I lack credentials
    I still have a beautiful face

    Don’t cry for me, oh Wasilla
    The truth is I never left you
    I’m still your Governor
    Until November
    And maybe after
    If voters render

    As for ambition, and as for fame
    I never invited them in
    Though it seems to the world they are all I desire

    They are illusions
    They are not the solutions they promised to be
    Even though I am a woman
    I know that I’m not Hillary

    Don’t cry for me, oh Wasilla
    I’ll save my own self, you will see
    I’ve got a lawyer
    I’m off the edge
    I’m claiming Exec-

    Have I said too much?
    There’s nothing more I can think of to say to you.
    But all you have to do is look at me to know
    That every word… is true!

  3. Why is the back of my neck all pink and itchy? “Area Man Passionate Defender Of What He Imagines Constitution To Be“, the Onion, 14 November 2009

    “Our very way of life is under siege,” said Mortensen, whose understanding of the Constitution derives not from a close reading of the document but from talk-show pundits, books by television personalities, and the limitless expanse of his own colorful imagination. “It’s time for true Americans to stand up and protect the values that make us who we are.”

    FM reply: I know of no better indication of our situation than the Onion’s accuracy as a source of news and insight.

  4. It’s all according to plan :)

    “Financial collapse, as we are are currently observing it, consists of two parts. One is that a part of the general population is forced to move, no longer able to afford the house they bought based on inflated assessments, forged income numbers, and foolish expectations of endless asset inflation.”
    — “The Five Stages of Collapse“, Club Orlov, 22 February 2008

  5. Re Taibbi on Malkin: Taibbi’s thesis is as empty as his crass sexual imagery.

    In other words, it wasn’t until taxes turned into construction jobs and mortgage relief that working and middle-class Americans decided to protest. I didn’t see anyone on the street when we forked over billions of dollars to help JP Morgan Chase buy Bear Stearns.

    Well, did it ever occur to Taibbi that it takes a little time for people, especially day-job conservatives, to finally get worked up enough to actually take to the streets? Seems to me a lot of these same folks were urging their Congressmen to vote against the Wall Street bailouts.<a title="Media haven’t deigned to cover bailout dissent“, Chicago Tribune, Oct 3, 2008.

    It’s not the recipients, it’s the fact that they’ve finally had it up to here with outrageously huge government spending on whatever. The Federal Government was not designed by the founders to be the giant SugarDaddy dispensing largese to this group or that. The tea party protesters emotionally react on seeing their savings and their futures draining away into a morass of ever-spiraling spending on this pet group or that, regardless of whether they’re fat cats or po folk.

    Matt’s thesis is, well, these people are stupid. Brilliant.
    FM reply: That’s one explanation, but does not explain why “conservatives” and “libertarians” usually blame on Obama for the deficits. Doing so drains away their credibility, leaving only empty partisanism.

    We see this warping of the facts to suit one’s political narrative nakedly displayed on the Instapundit website (to cite one of many examples). For the first year of the recession, Reynolds’ mostly mocked those warning of the recession — and urging a strong response by the government (for example see here and here). Now it’s Obama’s recession, and every bit of negative economic data gets featured with “heh” and similar comments.

    “these people are stupid.”

    Yes, that’s a sad but probably accurate conclusion. The national liability is almost $70 trillion, 40% of the federal debt is due in the next 12 months, and social security/medicare have made their long-term switch from contributing cash to the government to draining cash. It’s taken fifty years to dig ourselves into this hole — during much of which experts were warning us — now they stage protests. How can future historicans not say that they — and us — were and are stupid.

  6. BTW, Malkin has performed a public service by documenting the pervasive corruption in the Obama Administration in her latest book. But Taibbi won’t touch that; rather he attempts a diversion with a cheap shot. Nice.

  7. More corruption here, and at


    how good is Her book?

  8. The theory that FDR had cancer has been around for a while. I first heard it expressed by an American history prof during my college in ’79 or ’80. I thought then that there might be somethign to the theory. Interesting article, thanks for passing it along.

  9. Sorry boys, don’t let the door slam ya. “Lobbyists pushed off advisory panels – White House initiative to limit influence could affect thousands“, By Dan Eggen, Washington Post, 27 November 2009:

    Hundreds, if not thousands, of lobbyists are likely to be ejected from federal advisory panels as part of a little-noticed initiative by the Obama administration to curb K Street’s influence in Washington, according to White House officials and lobbying experts.

    FM reply: I’m impressed! The Obama Administration might accomplish some reforms after all. I had given up on them.

  10. “armsmerchant”??? Offered: “Well, did it ever occur to Taibbi that it takes a little time for people, especially day-job conservatives, to finally get worked up enough to actually take to the streets?”

    HUH? The long slumber of a Life is surely indicative of at least drugged up non-chalance if not sheer wanton Stupidity? Did this MOVIE just start rolling off the projector or did you and those you defend arrive a bit late to the Balcony?

    Sorry. Matt is spot one and you dear sir are crying foul with no reason.

  11. Here: “Yes, Sarah, There is a Media Conspiracy” {True/Slant, 23 November 2009}is a better effort by M Taibbi IMO. I think the one you cite is him doing penance for the one I’m citing here. My favorite part:

    What the people who are flipping out about the treatment of Palin should be asking themselves is what it means when it’s not just jerks like us but everybody piling on against Palin. For those of you who can’t connect the dots, I’ll tell you what it means. It means she’s been cut loose. It means that all five of the families have given the okay to this hit job, including even the mainstream Republican leaders. You teabaggers are in the process of being marginalized by your own ostensible party leaders in exactly the same way the anti-war crowd was abandoned by the Democratic party elders in the earlier part of this decade. Like the antiwar left, you have been deemed a threat to your own party’s “winnability.”

    Now this is analysis. This is insight. For this he had to make amends with his frothy and vulgar Malkin piece.
    FM reply: I don’t really get this, which is a problem with the Hunter Thompson “stream of consciousness” report stype Taibbi uses.

    “Like the antiwar left, you have been deemed a threat to your own party’s ‘winnability.’”

    What does he believe to be the purpose of a political party? Performance art? Display the beauty of its members’ souls? No, it’s part of the social machinery (like making sausages and sewage treatment) — specifically to assemble a coalition that can win elections.

  12. Re:12 — From the same cite, Taibbi wraps up with this:

    “What’s different now is who else is saying it. You had these people eating out of the palms of your hands (remember what it was like in the Dixie Chicks days?). Now they’re all drawing horns and Groucho mustaches on your heroes, and rapidly transitioning you from your previous political kingmaking role in the real world to a new role as a giant captive entertainment demographic that exists solely to be manipulated for ratings and ad revenue. What you should be asking yourself is why this is happening to you. Even I don’t know the answer to that question, but honestly, I don’t really care. All I know is that I find it extremely funny.”

    Taibbi comes so close, but then he punts.

    There’s a truly great Star Trek episode where an alien/human hybrid probe (which, belied by its small size, possesses dangerously immense power), visits Kirk and crew. As Kirk and Spock slowly perceive the monstrous threat the probe poses, the probe realizes it has made an equivalent error in crediting Kirk with its own genesis. In a classic “Star Trek” moment, Kirk asks the probe what it intends to do with this new information. The probe tersely and forebodingly responds, “Must analyze.”.

    The answer to Taibbi’s question may be that the Tea Party movement is like that probe: Childish in its nascent innocence, and frightening (to our elites) in its potential power. The “Teabaggers”, will no doubt analyze the disconnect framed by Taibbi. With luck, they may realize the whole Left/Right “big tent” filling paradigm is hokey crap, and what we need is to fill a new tent with an anti-war/small government coalition.
    FM reply: You refer to the original Star Trek episode “The Changeling“. It’s a poor fit for our situation. We’re experincing breakdown of the political spectrum, and nobody has yet found a way to reassemble the pieces into a working political coalition. Our foreign wars illustrate this, with their strong support –and opposition — on both ends of the spectrum.

    To see the “tea party” participants as an unitiary entity is deeply mistaken, IMO. They’re expressing inchoate thoughts, to a large degree mutually inconsistent. Politically they’re just raw material. Which makes them a powerful wild card, to be played for good or ill in future rounds.

  13. FM: “To see the “tea party” participants as an unitiary entity is deeply mistaken, IMO. They’re expressing inchoate thoughts, to a large degree mutually inconsistent. Politically they’re just raw material. Which makes them a powerful wild card, to be played for good or ill in future rounds.

    Well said. It is fascinating to watch these people, this segment of society. One wonders if we would even have heard of them or witnessed these polite expressions w/out the sideshow Clowns on talk radio and TV giving any semblance of structure to basic confusion about the current state of things in the USA.

    Comment #15: “the Tea Party movement is like that probe: Childish in its nascent innocence, and frightening (to our elites) in its potential power. The “Teabaggers”, will no doubt analyze the disconnect framed by Taibbi. With luck, they may realize the whole Left/Right “big tent” filling paradigm is hokey crap, and what we need is to fill a new tent with an anti-war/small government coalition.”

    Well I doubt we will see much analysis by the Baggers. But no doubt if “someone” comes along and offers a creedo that combines anti-war(?)/small government analysis FOR them, you might have something there. Probably not good but still with potential

    FM reply: All interesting observations. I suggest that a more accurate re-phrasing of your first paragraph is that we’d never have heard these people’s voices without the political machinery which has organized them. It does not in any way look to me like a spontaneous movement, based on 30 years of political campaigning.

    “anti-war(?)/small government analysis”

    I totally disagree, with respect to the “tea party” movement. I see no evidence that they are “anti-war” or favor small government. They strongly believe their government benefits are proper — a large fraction seem to be beneficiaries of our bankrupt social security and medicare systems — and that spending on other people should be cut. More broadly, they have near-zero concept of how the government actually spends its money, and no realistic ideas of how to cut spending.

    They are (like Palin) the right-wind equivalent of Obama, blank slates on which people project their dreams.

  14. FM: “To see the “tea party” participants as an unitiary entity is deeply mistaken, IMO.

    Absolutely, but the common factor is the frustration not with just “politics as usual” but Politics as Usual With a Vengence (not only will I spend your money but I’ll borrow and print vast sums in your name and spend so much that you, your children, and your grandchildren can never grow your way out and thus usher in the brave new social contract between Americans and their masters–er, I mean their public servants).

    The Teapartyers are a conglomerate of several factions but mainly these two: Americans who understand the theory and practice of Liberty and are fed up with the slow, steady boiling of the frog by Republicrats and Demicans; and the tin-foil hat types who feel screwed, smell conspiracy, know that government is not their friend, but don’t know quite how to express their frustration (and of course the lamestream media love to interview them as representative of the crowd).

    FM: “[The purpose of a political party is] specifically to assemble a coalition that can win elections.

    That’s exactly the problem. The people that I know are tired of electing winning coalitions that take office for the sole purpose of winning coalitions. The game used to be billions for votes. Now it’s trillions for votes, and anyone who can count is truly alarmed. And away goes freedom down the drain.
    FM reply: Too bad that the people you know don’t understand the operation of a Republic. As I said, that makes them only raw material for people who do — and who will eventually craft a new set of coalitions. American history shows that this process takes time, but works irresistably.

  15. FM: “I totally disagree, with respect to the “tea party” movement. I see no evidence that they are “anti-war” or favor small government. They strongly believe their government benefits are proper — a large fraction seem to be beneficiaries of our bankrupt social security and medicare systems — and that spending on other people should be cut…

    Very accurate, sadly. Read somewhere today(maybe Taibi(?)) “America is a country of every Pilgrim for himself; go get your own Turkey!” Thx for that—and such is why I read FM daily.

    Have a few Teabagger acquaintances; are all beneficiaries of various Social Nets—Farm Subs, CRP payments, Vet Benies with old almost non-existent injuries(full Disablity with a damaged ear from the Shooting Range stateside). They ALL love to speak of their self-sufficiency and the TRUE nature of America being the Same.

    Of course, the corrolary is the rest of the scrubs who are at the Public Trough, ruining this Country! Cogent, consistent analysis is not a high point of these motherland folks.

    Imagine what they would say if AIG/LEHMAN et. al. have been treated like GM and Chrysler …… HUH??? Just way beyond the grasp of these people. They will find a place to project their angst.


  16. Re CRU , UEA.
    Seriously .
    I was gobsmacked to find what these outfits were ,that the prestigious sounding UAE was part of a college – elevated -to-university in a nearby town ,with a limited curriculum , the CRU ranking given by ThompsonReuters agency based on volume of citations .
    The link given by FM , reveals two of the most annoying aspects of modern life : computing , and simple stats made hard .
    It would be nice to get all the ‘ raw data ‘ from the climate stations . And to know what the stations were . One assumes shiny little buildings with automated equipment . But maybe a drunken peasant drives his car , windows shut , heater on ,to a designated place and measures a piece of seaweed he takes from the glovebox .
    The measurements – presumably of ? co2 , Temp and atmos pressure ,If before say 40 years ago , were proabbly recorded in notebooks . Post -computerisation they could be printed on paper . Paper records of billions of measurements can be made assessable but representative by physical , repeated decimation . Can then be reduced to graphs on simple axes on transparent paper , by a hundred math students .
    Then we could have something any simple person could understand .
    FM reply: I don’t understand what you are trying to say.

    * All these records have been digitalized.

    * Even “accredited scientists” have been refused access to the unadjusted data, making verification impossible.

    * The official record of temperatures in the continental USA comes from a network
    of 1,221 climate-monitoring stations overseen by the National Weather Service, a
    department of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The May 2009 survey of the US surface stations network — using NOAA’s own site guidelines, with 80% of stations reviewed, shows that 11% are class 5 (the lowest), 58% are class 4, 20% are class 3, 8% are class 2, and 3% are class 1. The violations of the guidelines are often gross, creating material distortions of the data. Usually a warming tilt. Most experts say the US has one of the finest temperature collection networks, which raises concerns about quality of the rest of the world’s data.

  17. What I read was that not only was there inaccessible data of who knows what quality , but the data were fed into a computor progran that was itself , pants .
    On data error , any dork capable of shopping can understand a 5 minute explanation of ” experimental error expressed as a percentage , and how to apply it . ”
    Understanding ” P = or > 0.1 , and how to apply it ” is more difficult .
    Any dork can understand a 2 axis graph on a piece of paper , after a 5 minute explanation .Using actual measurements from ( say )every tenth weather station on the tenth day of every other month m of every fifth year , over 50 years you have a simple picture . No need for computing , with all the possibilities for error and fraud . Use the unmatched processor located between human ears .

  18. Forget the processor between human ears, no longer fit for purpose .
    Putting air conditioning vents near weather thermometers ( weather station link ) just takes the biscuit .

  19. i haven’t viewed your site for several weeks and see nothing much has changed here. boring..insular..i guess you got what you wanted now that you closed off and controlled comments.
    FM reply: Nonsense.
    * Registration of comments is a commonplace on the web, and in no way “closes off or controls” comments.
    * “boring” — Thank you for sharing, but why should we care about your litcrit?
    * “insular” — No specifics given, as usual for these kind of comments. A glance at the reference pages (top right menu bar) shows this it’s false about the scope of this website; a look at the actual posts shows it’s false about the content (a wide range of views is represented).

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