Day: November 9, 2011

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

07:18 – So, how do I know when I’ve been writing too long? Here’s an example. By late afternoon yesterday, I was getting pretty tired, after more than eight hours of heads-down writing with only a few short breaks to walk Colin. I was writing a lab session about succession in pond-water microcosms, giving a detailed procedure for observing and documenting the microorganisms present in various parts of the microcosms. I mentioned adding a drop of methylcellulose, which is added to water to reduce the motility of some organisms. I actually found myself writing this sentence: “Some of these little fuckers are FAST.” (I actually intended to write “suckers” but I apparently experienced a Freudian slap.)

Now, it’s true that we’re often complimented on our informal writing style, but I thought that was a bit too informal even for us. After thinking about it, I left the sentence as is for then and decided to knock off for the day. I’ll fix it this morning.

08:34 – Ruh-roh. When I checked Italian bond yields this morning, I found they’d already touched 7.4% and seem likely to continue climbing. That’s very, very bad for a country that has about $3 trillion in outstanding sovereign debt, with about a sixth of that coming due in the next twelve months. About the only good thing that can be said is that, at six or seven years, Italy’s average maturity is longer than average for the eurozone. Still, there’s no way it’s sustainable to have to finance half a trillion dollars a year at the current rates Italy has to pay.

The fear all along, of course, has been that Italy is “too big to bail” and that fear is about to come home to roost. The ECB is legally prohibited from helping. In fact, their purchases of Italian and Spanish bonds are illegal, and the ECB is getting very nervous about that. Nor can the EFSF “bailout fund” help. Although it’s usually reported as having a €440 billion war chest, the fact is that it doesn’t really have any money to speak of. In terms of actual cash in the bank, it might have €4 billion. The remainder is in the form of promises from EU governments to commit funds to the EFSF. And one of the major guarantors of the EFSF is–you guessed it–Italy. Other EFSF guarantors include such already-bankrupt nations as Spain, Portugal, Ireland, and … Greece. The only currently-solvent nations backing the EFSF to any significant extent are France–which itself is likely to a bailout candidate–and Germany. In effect, the EU nations are cosigning loans to themselves.

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