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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Go Me!

posted by on April 23 at 16:42 PM

PMID #18425849

I also have a new column up in this week’s paper, explaining the financial crisis through junk food.

Many modern financial investments—whose number and amount of money invested within increased dramatically after the depression-era financial controls were dismantled in the 1990s—are more like processed foods than produce. Investors just figured this out. And they’ve started to get nervous about where their cash has gone.

Take the mortgage-backed securities at the center of this crisis—in which thousands of mortgages were blended together, sliced into pieces, and then sold to millions of investors. Compared to the traditional mortgage lent out by a single bank to a single investor, these are the pizza-flavored low-fat Pringles to a baked potato.

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Congrats Science!!!

Once again, Science Saves the Day.

"The Oct4 locus is euchromatic when expressed in undifferentiated ESCs and heterochromatic after differentiation."

what the fuck does that mean?
i really wanna know.

Posted by Philly | April 23, 2008 5:04 PM

Why, just the other day I was sayin' to Mrs. Fnarf, "you know, I think undifferentiated hESCs bivalently modify the brachyury locus, whaddya think?" and she was all "but do they activate it to euchromatin during mesoderm induction? cuz that would be SWEET" and I was all "hells yeah they do, and they subsequently repress that shit to heterochromatin too". I've never been so turned on.


Posted by Fnarf | April 23, 2008 5:05 PM

Congratulations. Perhaps you can talk my ear off about your work at a Slog Happy someday, as I'm just getting into the proteomics business myself.

Posted by tsm | April 23, 2008 5:14 PM

I don't know, I always buy my pizza at either Mad Pizza (delivery) or at the Ballroom (takeout).

You can never have enough siRNA or miRNA, tsm.

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 23, 2008 5:23 PM

Excellent junk food analogy, Science; that’s very clever.

A couple of important issues to keep in mind regarding the current crisis:

1) No one understands the math. Not even the people who created these kinds of investments, obviously.

2) Wall Street firms are not in the investment management business—which you may have noticed they’re not especially good at—they’re actually in sales which is vastly different. They’ll sell anything so long as someone will pay their mark-up.

3) Hedge funds are going to be the next big implosion. The typical hedge fund charges 2% of assets invested and 20% of the profits.

When you read about hedge fund managers building $50 million dollar mansions in the Hamptons and members of Congress proudly proclaiming that they’ll never regulate hedge funds or require them to, you know, explain how they make money, then you know the end is near.

4) After the hedge fund implosion, there’s going to be a massive guvmit bailout and—wait for it—repeated claims that no one could have foreseen this happening.

Posted by Original Andrew | April 23, 2008 5:32 PM

@3 - will they really be able to sell a hedge fund bailout, though? Seriously, hedge funds are so far removed from the lives of middle class Americans (let alone the poor) that it'll be even harder than normal to make the case that they're actually helping anyone other than the very rich. Which doesn't mean they won't try, but ...

Posted by tsm | April 23, 2008 5:38 PM

Mad props, Science.

Posted by kid icarus | April 23, 2008 5:51 PM

Thanks a lot guys, I just clicked on the PMID link to see what you were talking about and my brain exploded.

Posted by PopTart | April 23, 2008 6:13 PM


Posted by elenchos | April 23, 2008 6:20 PM

tsm @ 6,

They won't sell us, they'll tell us. And really, the hedge funds directly affect far more people than the subprime mess and in more ways than is generally known.

Unless you belong to a small credit union, it's likely that your bank and/or brokerage has turned over a huge part of their liquid assets--including your money that you put in a savings account or CD--to a hedge fund to go bonkers with. See, on the deposit side, the banks make money on the difference between what they pay you (next to nothing in interest) vs. what they earn on an investment or loan out. Same with insurance companies investing premiums they collect. Everyone wants the highest possible return, and they're willing to not ask any questions to get it.

Much like the Bear Stearns situation, we'll be told that the failure of these funds will cause a cascade effect which will bankrupt many companies and throw millions of people out of work; that part may in fact be true. Even if they don't just write a humongous guvmit check, FDIC insurance will kick in and we'll have a bail-out anyway. Profits will be privatized, losses will be socialized. QED.

I generally roll my eyes at Chicken Little style alarmists, but you have to wonder how long things can go on (positive hedge fund earnings, for example) when the economy is so far out of whack and they charge such massive fees. Eventually, even the short sellers are gonna go tits up.

Posted by Original Andrew | April 23, 2008 6:30 PM

Hmm, I do understand the math, and it's really simple. Ignore Golob, he's just trying to fuck with your brain. Here's the deal: the Fed sez to banks "you have to make this many loans to minorities or we won't loan to you at prime." The banks say "oh, noes, we can't do that without lowering our standards across the boards about who we lend to." And the big bad wolf sez "make it so." Nojoke, that's what happened, and that's why the Fed bailed them out.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | April 23, 2008 6:47 PM

@11 Nice try, but actually no:

" In the mid-1990s, new CRA regulations and a wave of mergers led to a flurry of CRA activity, but, as noted by the New America Foundation's Ellen Seidman (and by Harvard's Joint Center), that activity "largely came to an end by 2001." In late 2004, the Bush administration announced plans to sharply weaken CRA regulations, pulling small and mid-sized banks out from under the law's toughest standards. Yet sub-prime lending continued, and even intensified -- at the very time when activity under CRA had slowed and the law had weakened..."

So the subprime mess peaked long after the CRA stopped having much if any effect.

I highly recommend the above blog btw...

Posted by bakfiets | April 23, 2008 6:54 PM

Jonathan, you're wonderful. Now when are you having my baby?! I owe you a hug -- congrats.

Posted by Jen Graves | April 23, 2008 8:00 PM

So you're basically saying Wall Street is the Velveeta factory?

Posted by yucca flower | April 23, 2008 8:02 PM


yep, sounds like science.

Posted by umvue | April 23, 2008 8:35 PM

Congrats Mr. Golob.

Posted by Sam | April 23, 2008 9:40 PM

Cool. It would be cooler if I had any idea what it was about. Unfortunately, the only bacteria I know much detail about are the ones that process sewage.

Posted by Greg | April 24, 2008 7:50 AM

Congrats Jonathan! Wooooooot!

Posted by Original Monique | April 24, 2008 9:11 AM

amongst my conservative co-workers i've heard the argument @11 a few times. is this the official conservative spin position? what in it is true, and what is a stretch? it really caught me off-guard the first time i heard it.

okay, i read the link @12, and that offers some insight into this issue. i'll have to read up some more, though.

Posted by infrequent | April 24, 2008 9:31 AM

What is it with Pringles analogies this week?

Posted by K | April 24, 2008 2:01 PM

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