Link 3/18/11

Rats Approved As Serivce Animals Amid Protest from Tea Party and Feds Care2 (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Act Now! Pirates Offer Discounts on Select Ransoms Wired (hat tip reader rd). Funny, the bankers haven’t tried that one yet.

Large Hadron Collider Could Be World’s First Time Machine, Researchers’ Theory Suggests Science Daily (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

White House wants new copyright law crackdown CNET. The critical bit is it would permit more wiretaps.

When Nurse Staffing Drops, Mortality Rates Rise: Study Business Week. In New York, conventional wisdom among the moneyed classes is that to go to the hospital without your own private duty nurse is to put yourself at serious risk.

Supermoon to make closest pass by Earth on Saturday Christian Science Monitor. So does this make people crazier than normal full moons?

Revealed: US spy operation that manipulates social media Guardian (hat tip Buzz Potamkin) Note RawStory broke this story last month.

Tsunamis: A Primer Jeremy Bernstein, New York Review of Books

Japan Nuclear Disaster Caps Decades of Faked Reports, Accidents Bloomberg. Just as Greg Palast suspected.

G7 in rare intervention to weaken yen Financial Times. Yours truly said it would take coordinated intervention to bring down the yen…but this looks like a short-term measure to keep it from going to the moon.

Japan’s Meltdown and the Global Economy’s Floyd Norris, New York Times. I disagree with one statement: “Bank failures do not kill people.” How many people in the Depression and recently had to forego essential medical services as a result of financial losses? I recently saw a suicide letter posted on the Web that looked legit, by a diabetic who was about to lose his home. He pointed out that for a diabetic to live on the street (which was where he was about to wind up) was a death sentence via a series of amputations.

Lacking Parts, G.M. Will Close Plant New York Times

Some readers grumbled about my featuring an article that pointed to various sites for donating to not-for-profits that rescued animals in disaster areas, and one that trains search and rescue dogs. If you are in New York City, you can call 311 to make a donation through the Mayor’s Advance New York Fund. USA Today has a good list of charities and how to contribute to them.

US and its allies are too late to help Libya Max Hastings, Financial Times

Europe’s Austerity: a Grimm’s Fairy Tale CounterPunch

The Difference Between Us and Them Stuart Zechman. This is classic New Dem thinking (the Third Way piece, that is)

Three eminent domain cases show corporatism in action Edward Harrison

Executive Bonuses Bounce Back Wall Street Journal

Title-company error drains homeowner’s escrow account MarketWatch

Five on Why Second Liens are Important to the Mortgage Settlement Mike Konczal

Ex-Goldman Banker Behind WSJ ‘Smear Campaign’ Against Elizabeth Warren Zach Carter, Huffington Post (hat tip reader LeeAnne)

Who’s Afraid Of Elizabeth Warren? Simon Johnson. Geithner so has the knives out for Warren it isn’t even funny, but he is a master of stealth undermining.

Antidote du jour:

Screen shot 2011-03-18 at 5.04.23 AM

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    1. Doug Terpstra

      It takes one joker to ruin a perfectly posed group portrait. Meerkats are unbearably cute.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        He looks to me to be yawning while on guard duty, probably didn’t sleep well last night.

        First he couldn’t fall asleep for an hour. Then when he’s feeling nice and cozy, he has to get up an hour early.

        That stupid daylight savings time…

    1. Mark P.

      Below is a link and abstract for a paper by some significant figures, contested (submitted 2000, published 2003) that predicts the burning of zirconium cladding and then release of cesium & strontium, then fire spreading to older fuel and, finally, that “the long-term land-contamination consequences of such an event could be significantly worse than those from Chernobyl.”

      Reducing the Hazards from Stored Spent Power-Reactor Fuel in the United States
      (submitted 2000; accepted for publication 2003)
      by Robert Alvarez, Jan Beyea, Klaus Janberg, Jungmin Kang, Ed Lyman, Allison Macfarlane, Gordon Thompson, Frank N. von Hippel

      “Because of the unavailability of off-site storage for spent power-reactor fuel, the NRC has allowed high-density storage of spent fuel in pools …virtually all U.S. spent-fuel pools have been re-racked to hold spent-fuel assemblies at densities that approach those in reactor cores. In order to prevent the spent fuel from going critical, the fuel assemblies are partitioned off from each other in metal boxes whose walls contain neutron-absorbing boron. It has been known for more than two decades that, in case of a loss of water in the pool, convective air cooling would be relatively ineffective in such a “dense-packed” pool. Spent fuel recently discharged from a reactor could heat up relatively rapidly to temperatures at which the zircaloy fuel cladding could catch fire and the fuel’s volatile fission products including 30-year half-life 137Cs, would be released. The fire could well spread to older spent fuel. The long-term land-contamination consequences of such an event could be significantly worse than those from Chernobyl.

      “No such event has occurred thus far. However, the consequences would affect such a large area that alternatives to dense-pack storage must be examined —”

      More here –

      So far, most of the MSM and the standard ‘experts’ are still repeating by rote that it couldn’t be as bad as Chernobyl. They don’t know what they’re talking about and their song will change by next week.

      Yes, at Chernobyl a reactor core explosion blew a radioactive plume directly into the atmosphere, up as high as the jet stream. However, at Fukushima there’s simply many times more radioactive material in those storage pools than there is in a reactor, so the total amount released could be more. The big question mark is distribution— factors at Chernobyl allowed redioactive contaminant, including cesium and strontium, to be very widely distributed. The mechanisms that did that at Chernobyl are not present in Japan, but there may be others, and this is occurring in one of the most crowded countries on the planet where the fate of millions of lives could depend on how the wind happens to be blowing.

  1. financial matters

    Great stuff, it would be so refreshing to have a Treasury Secretary who was on the side of homeowners… it would seem to be embarrassing at this point to be so obviously pro-bank..

    Who’s Afraid Of Elizabeth Warren? Simon Johnson

    “”” As Senator Sherrod Brown (D, OH), also a member of the Senate Banking Committee, pointedly framed the issues for the foreclosure debacle, (

    “No person or company is above the law. And that’s good for capitalism, it’s not anti-business, and it’s not a minor inconvenience that can be ignored in pursuit of bigger profits.” “””

  2. bob

    House Financial Services Committee chair Spencer Bachus:

    “in Washington, the view is that the banks are to be regulated, and my view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks.”

    Finally some honesty.

  3. Michael H

    re: Europe’s Austerity: A Grimm’s Fairy Tale

    A pretty good summary of where things are now, in Europe as well as the US: first steal the public’s money in the form of bailouts and backdoor bailouts; next force people who did not steal money to pay it back through austerity measures. Meanwhile tell them austerity measures are for their own good. Finally the coup de grâce: use stolen money to buy politicians and the media, instruct them to divert anger away from theft/bailout and onto greedy pensioners, teachers, homeless beggars looking for a handout, etc

    Get everyone fighting amongst themselves, and while their attention is diverted, keep looting.

    “Kleptocratic rulers typically treat their country’s treasury as though it were their own personal bank account…

    …a kleptocratically structured political system tends to degrade nearly everyone’s quality of life.” – wikipedia

  4. rjs

    something from my days with the anti-nuke movement of the 80s that recent events have reminded me of:

    Radioactive Waste Piling Up at Savannah River Site:

    The 310 square mile Savannah River Site is located close to several major cities, including Augusta and Savannah, Georgia; as well as Columbia, Greenville, and Charleston, South Carolina. The site is owned by the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Operations Office and managed by Westinghouse Savannah River Company. The facility was built in the early 1950s to produce plutonium and tritium for the U.S. nuclear arsenal. More than a third of U.S. weapons plutonium and almost all of its tritium was produced there. The federal government has stored the high level radioactive waste produced at the plant on site in 51 massive underground tanks with the aim of retrieving it and moving it elsewhere for safe storage. Although the liquid wastes can be drawn out and removed, the Energy Department’s method for removing the most radioactive sludge out of the tanks has proven unsafe and alternatives are being explored.

    they say it wont get into the water supply…

    (btw, that savannah river nuclear site where they have those 51 montrous casks of too hot to handle nuclear waste stored underground is near the site of 1886 charleston earthquake, second only to the new madrid quakes of 1811-12 among the largest quakes east of the rockies)

  5. wunsacon

    >> In New York, conventional wisdom among the moneyed classes is that to go to the hospital without your own private duty nurse is to put yourself at serious risk.

    >> Japan’s Meltdown and the Global Economy’s Floyd Norris, New York Times. I disagree with one statement: “Bank failures do not kill people.”

    Yes, the claim that “white collar fraud does not kill anyone” kills me, too. As frauds increase in size, the economic turbulence left in the wake of the crimes indeed kill people.

    Stealing $1 million and spending it on a new yacht implies (a) a company hired workers to build a boat instead of (b) a hospital hired nurses to take care of patients.

  6. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    The TEPCO workers who are still at the plant, they are like the Kamikaze fighters…only this time, we hope they win.

    I wonder if in another country, there will be suits filed to stop them on the grounds of unsafe working conditions?

  7. financial matters

    Interesting article on home equity loans/second mortgages..

    If I have this right when a home is foreclosed on any proceeds will go to the primary mortgage. However the home equity loan doesn’t go away (is recourse) and it becomes another part of the person’s debt such as car loans or credit cards that has a right to be paid back.

    Prinicpal modifications and short sales which are similar are trickier. In short sales the person selling the house agrees to sell it for less than he owes on it but the first and second lenders have to agree on how much of their respective loans they want to forego…

    And on top of this is the securitization process which makes the above seem simple…. Here we don’t even know who owns the loan or if it is owned by more than one party.. So who has the right to agree to a write-down on the first loan and in addition to do the negotiation with the second loan owner…

    That’s why I think putting the whole process into a receivorship where the securitizations are unwound to see who has a claim to what is the way to get started…

    Five on Why Second Liens are Important to the Mortgage Settlement Mike Konczal

  8. John Emerson

    Is that discount hostage story for real? It sounds 100% Onionish, but it’s bot April 1 yet and there’s no indication.

  9. PQS

    “Bank failures do not kill people.”

    Maybe not instantly, but from the slow pain of stress: from lost retirement money, lost employment, lowered income, etc. etc.

    In my case, as a long-time member of the commercial construction class, Wall Street’s failures account for at least 80-90% of the deficits in construction employment. As one of my co-workers said, “It’s amazing how far and how fast the industry has fallen.”

  10. mcgee

    From the Wired article:”The report was prepared by Victoria Espinel, the first Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator”.

    This is a major development, the honorific czar has now been changed to coordinator.

    The White House wants this to be a felony. The article isn’t clear if they are only going after the websites that stream pirated material or if the end user will also be guilty of a felony and subject to the new wiretap rules. I’m sure the youtube music videos I watch frequently are posted illegally. Would a wiretap be easily acquired for this infraction if the DOJ needed a reason to monitor anyone, like say a blogger critical of financial policy?

    Score one for the Corporate States of America.

    1. attempter

      This will only continue to get worse as a general vehicle for state and corporate domination as long as people continue to believe in “intellectual property” at all.

      The entire concept is a fraud and an abomination which needs to be rejected completely.

      Anyone who cares to look at Article 1, Section 8, will see that today’s IP regime has nothing whatsoever in common with either the power the Constitution delegates nor the rationale for this power.

      IP is unconstitutional.

      1. ScottS

        The founding fathers did a great job defining IP and its protections. Their explicitly stated goal was to encourage content creation and invention.

        The Copyright Act of 1976 was reasonable, especially in the case of Fair Use.

        The Digital Millennium Copyright Act DMCA is an abomination that stripped Fair Use of any practical meaning. If you can devise a technical method for depriving people of their Fair Use rights, it’s legally permissible. That is, corporations can decide what rights you have to their copyrighted works (i.e., none).

        The right to first sale is gone. You don’t own your ebooks. Amazon can delete them any time they feel like it, and have (Amazon Erases Orwell Books From Kindle — Also, you can’t sell your copy, loan it to a friend, can’t stock it in a library, can’t modify it, etc. Teachers can’t make copies for educational purposes like they once could, and you can’t incorporate insignificant portions of copyrighted work into largely new works.
        Building or selling (and, I assume, owning or using) devices to circumvent rights restriction technologies is illegal. So even if the protection technology is utterly inept, you can’t break it legally.
        Copyright lengths have been, for all intents and purposes, lengthened to the difference between now and the year Disney’s Steamboat Willy was released, plus some buffer (

        The patent application process is a joke. It was intended to help small inventors protect themselves from large companies stealing their idea and developing it before the small inventor could. But being a novel or useful invention isn’t a requirement, just a large legal team. This means small guys get their ideas stolen, and any upstart rival gets crushed by IBMs who patent anything and everything.

        The whole IP world has been turned upside-down so that anything new or creative faces huge legal encumbrances, and the people who were intended to enjoy it cannot do so on their own terms.

        This is contra to the goal of the founding fathers. Financial compensation protection for copyrighted work exists as a practical matter, so that someone who contributes to our culture doesn’t have to work a day job too. Large media empires are distinctly Unamerican.

        1. ScottS

          The point about Disney isn’t just a pot-shot. Disney is particularly egregious about taking work from the public domain (Snow White, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, etc). But they lobby specifically to keep their copyrights from expiring and allowing anything of theirs to enter public domain.

          1. ScottS

            Thanks, McGhee. Interesting stuff.

            What’s especially grating is that big studios who have the resources to find, develop, and distribute original work choose not to. Instead, they re-hash tired stories (A-Team? Starsky & Hutch? Ye gods).

          2. Nate P.

            Eben Moglen (law professor and legal historian at Columbia) has talked extensively about how making culture proprietary destroys culture and allows the public domain to be appropriated by bad stewards. He mostly talks about software, but his observations also apply to things like pop music, movies and other cultural artifacts.


        2. Francois T

          The DMCA is a creature of the corporations, for the corporations, enacted by those who were, as Barry Ritholz so eloquently wrote, “interested in dropping to [their] knees to raise money from corporations, wrapping [their] lips around that purple phallus spurting campaign contributions, whoring out the electorate so [as to] reap the benefits of [their] elected positions“.

          Zbang Vegamarnou!

          As for the patent process, it is utterly broken, and Congress hasn’t shown any (meaningful) interest whatsoever in straightening it. This cannot come as a surprise, with the most anti-science Congress we’ve ever had in our lifetime.

  11. Rabid Cranky Troll

    re: Elizabeth Warren, and Democratic/Liberal calls to regulate Wall Street.

    Folks, don’t be fooled by the spectacle and recognize this for what it is: it’s fixing the barn door after the horses have all escaped.

    What we really need here is to take all the money the Banksters stole from the rest of society over the past 40 years back. Then you think about how to fix the barn door so this doesn’t happen again.

    We must learn to recognize subtle misdirections like this from our putative “friends” the Democrats.

  12. Francois T

    RE: “Bank failures do not kill people”

    Reminds me of this surgeon who kept joking that he could endure any amount of pain that wasn’t his.

    Re:Japan Nuclear Disaster Caps Decades of Faked Reports, Accidents.

    Just listen to an interview (WHYY 90.9 FM) with the governor of PA when Three Miles Island happened. He stated that the major difficulty he experienced during the first week was to get the operator of the plant to be forthcoming: “They mislead us several times”. Makes me wonder why they didn’t seize the plant and resell it to a more responsible party. I’ll bet my universe there are laws on the book, somewhere, that could allow that. If not, the State could’ve dragged the corporation trough judicial and regulatory hell until they would’ve cry uncle. Of course, when you have criminals in Senator’s clothes like Pete Dominecci who, in the 1990’s, threatened to cripple the NRC if they weren’t “more sensitive to industry’s concerns”, it is very difficult to do the right thing.

    I’m at the point where I think that only a true nuclear catastrophe will make people do the right things. It seems to be the only way to focus the mind of human beings. Guess it’s one of those quirks of our evolutionary survival; we are good at against acute dangers but we suck infinitely at resolving long-term problems.

  13. Francois T

    Mary Kissel on Liz Warren:

    Can anyone explain to me why no one on the left won’t go Malkin on this execrable piece of human being that is Mary Kissel? You know, like publishing address, phone number, place of work, picture of her house etc. etc.

    Why should those on the right never suffer the consequences of their actions? Talking and talking and talking them away has worked sooooooo well thus far, hasn’t it?

    There is nothing to talk about anymore: The US is the ONLY country in the developed world without a consumer protection agency and we’re still having to suffer the demented talking points of the reichpubliscums and their donors as if the Oracle of Delphi was about to utter a deep prophecy.


  14. financial matters

    Asia Expert: Despite the G-7 Intervention, Japanese Banking Crisis is Inevitable (Money Morning, 3/18/11)


    In other words, I’m predicting a Japanese banking crisis – something the central bankers aren’t even contemplating right now.

    I also believe the very fact that the G-7 had to step in (presumably because the Japanese government, with debt already at 225% of gross domestic product (GDP) before the earthquake, couldn’t pull it off alone) means things are much worse (in terms of the world’s financial system) than we are being led to believe.

    Needless to say, that kind of scenario has major implications for global markets, including our own – the most likely of which is a dawning realization that central bankers cannot manipulate currencies and economies the way you turn a thermostat up or down to control the temperature in your home.

    The only effective discipline will be defaults, as lenders are held accountable for the speculative madness they have engendered. And the only question is when.

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