Links 3/14/11

Robotic moth offers bat-nav clue BBC

Survey: 41% of Facebook Users Total IDiots Digital Daily

TSA Slips Scanner Re-Testing into Busy Friday News Day Teddy Partridge, FireDogLake

DON’T Take Potassium Iodide Unless You Are Exposed to Radiation Washington’s Blog

Asian Stocks, Oil Drop on Japan Quake; Gold Gains, Yen Weakens Bloomberg

Survivors are weary but resolute Financial Times. Contrast this with the likely American reaction.

U.S. Nuclear Industry Faces New Uncertainty New York Times. Ya think?

China noses ahead as top goods producer Financial Times

Libya rebels ‘forced from Brega’ BBC

Spilled Milk Regulations a Myth, E.P.A. Says John Collins Rudolf, New York Times (hat tip reader Robert M)

IMF Calls for New Economic Thinking. Or does it? Perry Mehrling, INET

McKinsey partners to address case impact Financial Times

Associate in Insider Case Sought to Quit Goldman Andrew Ross Sorkin, New York Times. Wow, if these extracts are right, Rajat was even more unhinged that I could possibly imagine. I had said his conduct was nuts because even if it paid off, it would make no real difference in his lifestyle, that giving tips to Rajaratnam was not gonna get him into the billionaire’s club. Per his Sorkin account, Rajat evidently DID want to join the Kravis club. This (for a man of his age, particularly with no direct access to large amounts of capital) is a sign of derangement. There is no way for him to achieve that even by cheating on a massive scale.

Should the US balance its budget? MacroBusiness

Another Inside Job Paul Krugman, New York Times

The Pentagon’s Biggest Boondoggles New York Times

Homeowners say banks rebuffing attempts to modify mortgages Las Vegas Review-Journal. Some of the stories in here are eye-popping. And the Fed and the OCC separately continue to assert that all foreclosures are warranted.

Antidote du jour:

Screen shot 2011-03-14 at 4.22.21 AM

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Paul Repstock

    I know just how the pup feels. As adults, we know that covering our eyes on’t make all this go away..:(

    Time to grow some teeth.

  2. rjs

    re: China noses ahead as top goods producer…that we have been for these past few years is a complete fiction of currency exchange; by any rational accounting (a buick made in china = a buick made in US), china passed us in 2006…

  3. attempter

    Re milk regulation:

    Interesting how these same Republican liars who invent absurd EPA regulations turn around and support absurd and tyrannical FDA and state laws/rules criminalizing raw milk.

    That’s because this example of Big Government aggression is at the behest of their Big Dairy master.

    And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, with the bipartisan Food Control bill the government just imposed.

    As usual, Republicans just as much as Democrats are the party of Big Government, onerous regulation, and extortionate taxation, wherever it’s corporations calling the shots.

  4. Chicken Little

    re:US nuclear industry facing new uncertainty

    1. “The president believes that meeting our energy needs means relying on a diverse set of energy sources that includes renewables like wind and solar, natural gas, clean coal and nuclear power,” said Clark Stevens, a White House spokesman

    Since when were natural gas and coal renewables????

    2. “But the safety of nuclear power will certainly be high on the list of questions for the next several months.”

    After which point, it will be ignored again.

    I’m very pro-nuclear (and I become doubly so after long days of dealing with the general public…), but if the bankster saga has taught anything, it’s that public opinion is simply a non-issue in American politics

    1. Dirk77

      Groan. Ancient reactor design + 100 year earthquake, yet no appreciable radiation released, much less anyone harmed, but people are now talking about “rethinking” nuclear power. I think renewables are the best in the long run, but we have to get their first. Can someone please slash the military budget so another generation of technical talent is not wasted in the MIC?

      1. Chicken Little

        I’m not sure what to make about the “ancient” reactor design (which, I thought, was still designed with a negative void coefficient).

        It does sort of confirm a worry I have about the existing European policies of extending the existing lifespans of current nuclear plants while delaying the building of newer plants with better designs.

        BTW, is this the “big one” (earthquake) that geologists said would eventually hit Japan? Or is this merely its smaller brother?

        1. jclass

          No, this is not the big one, this quake was even bigger. Last time they had one of similar severity was over a thousand years ago (measured by the geological layer left by an ancient tsunami). The big one they’ve talked about all these years would be similar to the m8.3 that levelled Tokyo in 1923.

        2. rd

          There are two requirements for “The Big One” anywhere.

          1. You need a really big earthqauke (generally M8+); and
          2. It needs to occur very close to a major population area.

          This one definitely fits the bill for No. 1 – at 8.9, they don’t get too much bigger. Generally M 9.5 is about as big as they get. The @M9 quakes generally occur on the “Ring of Fire” around the Pacific which includes Japan, Indonesia, Philippines, New Zealand, Chile, Cascadia, and Alaska. The biggest quakes tend to be associated with subduction zones where one tectonic plate is sliding under another and volcanos are generally associated with these locations.

          The San Andreas Fault “Big Ones” are likely to be about 8.0 to 8.5. The San Andreas is part of the Ring of Fire but is not a subduction fault. Instead, its motion is lateral where two plates are sliding past each other.

          For the second part, this quake was close to being “The Big One” but occurred in one of the less densely populated areas. If Tokyo had been located where Sendai or Fukushima are, then it would have definitely been “The Big One.”

          The thing that makes the San Andreas so bad regarding earthquake risk is the proximity of it to Los Angeles and San Francisco. Its earthquakes are not particularly big compared to this one, Indonesia, Alaska etc., but they occur so close to major population centers that the damage is horrific.

      2. Yves Smith Post author

        It’s a bit premature to declare victory. Odds of a containment failure are 42%:

        While the authorities continue playing down the possibility of a breach of the primary containment at these reactors, I remain concerned. Fukushima Dai-Ichi reactor Units 1, 2, and 3 are boiling water reactors with Mark I containments. The Mark I is unusually vulnerable to containment failure in the event of a core-melt accident. A recent study by Sandia National Laboratories shows that the likelihood of containment failure in this case is nearly 42% (see Table 4-7 on page 97). The most likely failure scenario involves the molten fuel burning through the reactor vessel, spilling onto the containment floor, and spreading until it contacts and breeches the steel containment-vessel wall.

        1. Tertium Squid

          I’m sure you’re right that there is still a risk, but I am always suspicious when such an exact probability is assigned to complicated and multi-variate events, which I assume is the case here.

          I wonder if it’s a 100% chance that there is a 42% chance?

          1. Cedric Regula

            I basically don’t believe in statistics, but I can think of a few reasons the 42% may be inaccurate, up or down.

            First the linked article states that the author is considering the fact that TEPCO is flooding the containment area and this seawater is in contact with the reactor vessel. But the generic study giving 42% failure to this old type of reactor design does not seem to figure in the last ditch emergency effort of flooding the containment area.

            The author states the top 6 feet of the vessel is not flooded and exposed to air, so cooling is not available here.

            Without proper heat transfer modelling software, I’ll make some lazy predictions of the possibilities.

            Everything OK version:

            Heat transfers down thru the reactor walls and into the seawater.

            Fuel burns thru reactor walls, but gets quenched by seawater and remains contained in containment area.

            Everything Not OK version:

            Pumping cold seawater against a super hot reactor vessel hardened the steel making it brittle and it cracks from either hydrogen explosions or stresses caused by the temperature differential between submerged and unsubmerged sections.

            There are probably many more things that could happen, so I place myself firmly in “wait and see” mode, then we follow forensic analysis procedures after we know what the result is.

            Shameless plug for Gen III nukes: They aren’t supposed to do this because thermal runaway is supposed to be inherently impossible in new Gen III designs.

          2. Paul Repstock

            Case three: we cannot know anything because we are only being given selective information, plus we are inundated with speculation from talking heads of every vested interest group.

            One thing I can say with certainty; If indeed they flooded the outer shell with seawater, there would either be an enormous plume of steam resembling a volcano (water evaporated expands about 200 times, or the reaction within the nuclear containment has stopped.

            While it is right to be concerned due to our lack of knowlege, I am profoundly skeptical of all information in this issue.

        2. Dirk77

          Thanks for the link. I thought designs had improved a little since TMI but apparently not if the steel container isn’t thick enough to absorb the chemical heat of the molten core, i.e., fuel, control rods, etc. mixture. Well, maybe bathing everything in sea water will indeed keep it cold enough for a hole not to form. I’ve already groaned, so I guess here I’ll just sigh. Sigh.

          1. Dirk77

            Ignore my comment about having a container wall thick enough to absorb the heat. I am not completely sure (someone else to chime in here?), but I think a quenched reaction, while subcritical, can still generate heat for a long time (depending on how far below critical it is). I assume the design here was for a cooldown in days with water to help.

  5. Jim the Skeptic

    “The Pentagon’s Biggest Boondoggles”

    There is ample reason to slash the funding for all the listed programs except Ballistic Missile Defense.

    We need this program in the long term.

    China and Russia will not launch missiles at us because they know exactly what the payback would be. Mutual assured destruction works for them.

    It would not work with North Korea, Iran or any other country ruled by a self serving leadership. The leadership of those countries can be counted on to do anything to stay in power. Notice that in the recent mid east turmoil only Gaddafi has been willing to see his country destroyed by civil war because he will not give up power.

    Sooner or later one of these countries will get advanced missiles and nuclear warheads. And I would not want to bet that they will show ANY restraint when their leadership’s power is threatened.

    The Ford Class Super Carrier and the F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft are particularly egregious examples of spending to little real advantage. Any new military hardware should be reviewed by a set of full blown public congressional hearings!

    And the starting date for the missile defense program is pure bunk, funding for this type of program was ramped up during President Reagan’s administration. Should we count the development costs of the modern assault rifle beginning in Pennsylvania in the 1700s?

  6. walt

    That facebook losers link is 3.5 years old. Are you that desperate for links?

    Help stamp out chain-linking.

  7. charlie

    the “Extracts” are just pure hearsay, is the worst sense of the word. Two (corrupt) crooks talking about a third. Not much reliable evidence there.

    RG was under more financial stress than people might imagine. I doubt he is worth the alleged $100 million.

    A 7-12M retainer from Kravis for 10 years isn’t the billionaire club either.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      The fact that (if true) he’d sell inside information when getting that level of retainer does signal seriously warped thinking. McKinsey directors don’t have hugely lavish lifestyles (typically very nice first and second homes, kids in private schools, but no rich people toys like private jets), so I find it hard to see as need driven (which is the subtext of your comment).

      1. charlie

        Yves, I agree McK directing — even managing directors — have very comfortable lifestyles. But net assets of $100M — as alleged in the press.

        RG put a lot of money into some charitable ventures as well. IBS, AIF, etc. All I m saying is it may turn out he was more financially strapped than it appears right now. As you noted earlier with Anil Kumar, I don’t see these McK guys as very good with hiding money, and it is possible RR had more leverage over him than first glance.

        Doesn’t excuse/condone his behavior. Another factor: clowning around with Indian billionaires makes anybody feel poor. See Ambani, etc.

  8. Jim the Skeptic

    “U.S. Nuclear Industry Faces New Uncertainty”

    I am very slightly in favor of nuclear power generation, just so you know my bias.

    But I am disgusted by politicians rushing to defend the nuclear power industry.

    Summary of Events
    The accident began about 4:00 a.m. on March 28, 1979, when the plant experienced a failure in the secondary, non‑nuclear section of the plant. The main feedwater pumps stopped running, caused by either a mechanical or electrical failure, which prevented the steam generators from removing heat. First the turbine, then the reactor automatically shut down. Immediately, the pressure in the primary system (the nuclear portion of the plant) began to increase. In order to prevent that pressure from becoming excessive, the pilot-operated relief valve (a valve located at the top of the pressurizer) opened. The valve should have closed when the pressure decreased by a certain amount, but it did not. SIGNALS AVAILABLE TO THE OPERATOR FAILED TO SHOW THAT THE VALVE WAS STILL OPEN. As a result, cooling water poured out of the stuck-open valve and caused the core of the reactor to overheat.
    As coolant flowed from the core through the pressurizer, the instruments available to reactor operators provided confusing information. There was no instrument that showed the level of coolant in the core. Instead, the operators judged the level of water in the core by the level in the pressurizer, and since it was high, they assumed that the core was properly covered with coolant. In addition, there was no clear signal that the pilot-operated relief valve was open. As a result, as alarms rang and warning lights flashed, the operators did not realize that the plant was experiencing a loss-of-coolant accident. They took a series of actions that made conditions worse by simply reducing the flow of coolant through the core.
    (NOTE: Jim the Skeptic added the emphasis with caps.)

    The story making the rounds at the time was that previously the NRC had ordered a modification so that the control room would get a signal indicating the open or closed state of that valve. Apparently the modification was done on the cheap! The control room received a signal that indicated that the valve was no longer getting a signal to open. That is very different from a signal indicating that the valve had actually closed.

    Also see this from:,9171,921377-2,00.html
    Beyond Zimmer’s financial debacle lies the issue of shoddy construction at the plant. In an effort to contain costs, Cincinnati Gas tried to skimp on quality-control measures and personnel. In November 1981, the NRC fined the utility $200,000 after discovering the first of some 15,000 violations of its quality-assurance regulations. A year later, the commission halted construction because of Cincinnati Gas’ continued failure to meet its quality guidelines, the first time that the NRC had ever taken such a step when construction was so far advanced. Some of the steel used at Zimmer was scrap that was arbitrarily upgraded on the site. ABOUT 70% OF THE WELDS ON THE PLANTS STUCTURAL BEAMS DID NOT MEET INDUSTRY STANDARDS. To test the welds now, inspectors will in some cases have to cut out at random one made by each of the hundreds of welders who have worked on the project, examine it and then accept or reject the rest of that welder’s work on the basis of the sample. Given the difficulties of these and other tests, the utilities may find it easier simply to junk the plant.
    (NOTE: Jim the Skeptic added the emphasis with caps.)

    This is from a Times article about the Zimmer nuclear power plant which was being built at Moscow Ohio, near Cincinnati. Also piping welds were not adequately radiographed. Before completion and after the scandals it was converted to a coal fired plant.

    I conclude that the nuclear power generation companies are their own worst enemies.

    I would favor a nuclear power plant if the management of the plant were required to be engineers whose families must live at the site. Penalties for wrong doing at the plant should involve trials, blindfolds, rifles, and dawn.

    1. Neil Anderson


      You quote from two incidents over 30 years ago. Your comment re nuclear staff to live on site (also I guess big oil CEOs should be made to live 6 months a year in places like the Niger delta (actually that would be a GREAT idea)) is not too helpful. For someone who is slightly in favour of nuclear power you may want to check up on the last 30 years (careful when getting to the C section though, you may get a shock). Check out the links above in Yves post and my link to the Register for more info.

      1. Jim the Skeptic

        Neil Anderson said: “You quote from two incidents over 30 years ago. Your comment re nuclear staff to live on site (also I guess big oil CEOs should be made to live 6 months a year in places like the Niger delta (actually that would be a GREAT idea)) is not too helpful.”

        I cited these 2 examples exactly because they illustrate the absolute stupidity involved in poor regulation and implementation of technology. Neither of these 2 site’s problems were caused by neglect. It appears that in both cases someone was trying to save money.

        Now fast forward to today and regulation is completely out of favor. Haven’t you heard, government is the problem.

        There is no doubt in my mind that we are capable of producing a well designed and built nuclear power plant today and that it could be operated safely. It would be a safer plant which would produce less waste.

        But we have the same human weaknesses that we had 30 years ago. Those are what we need to worry over.

        I would not equate an accident in the oil industry to an accident in the nuclear power industry. Chernobyl happened 24 years ago, how many CENTURIES will it take for that locality to recover from that disaster. If this had been a oil spill, nature would have cleaned up most of the severe problems in 24 years.

        Do you doubt that a plant manager/engineer would be more careful with his own family living next door?

        During my time on this earth I have heard too many dumb asses comment about costly unnecessary safety precautions.

        1. Jim the Skeptic

          I said “During my time on this earth I have heard too many dumb asses comment about costly unnecessary safety precautions.”

          That was not directed at you.

          I meant it only as a general comment about some men’s attitude about risks which they would not have to pay for.

    2. Paul Repstock

      Accountability is at the root of most problems.
      Whether one is President of the US, CEO of a huge bank, military general, or over leveraged homebuyer; it is always the same: “Who coulda knowed?”/To the best of my knowlege/I was only doing as I was told/If I didn’t do it, somebody else would…….

      If one is not competent to do the job, and willing to accept the consequences, then an action should not be commenced!

      If nobody is competent to do the job (President of the US or CEO or Ruler of the World), then the job should be redefined/restructured to bring the parameters to a managable level.

  9. Unsympathetic

    Anyone who’s worried about radiation is a hypochondriac.

    Radiation must first get 30,000 feet to the jet stream, then travel 3280 miles (21 million feet) to Hawaii, then travel 2850 miles (14 million feet) to San Diego.

    Deal with it. There is no danger.

    1. craazyman

      I’m a hypochondriac but I’m not worried about radiation.

      What worries me is the simplicity with which everything can be destroyed, suddenly, anywhere and everywhere. If it’s not a tsunami it’s an earthquake, or a hurricane, or a terrorist strike or a blackout.

      Here in New York there’d be 2 million dead in days. And it would take about 3 days before people started eating each other. Well, that’s an exaggeration. Maybe 8 days. They’d go through the pigeons and rats first. There probably would be some lunatics who’d eat grass salad in Central Park and play musical instruments, sort of a Decameron, if you know what I mean.

      It’s not the radiation plume in my book that’s the freak but it’s is the pink and violet panic ploom you can see from about 43 miles in space, it’s like a mushroom cloud hanging low and cold like fog over Europe and N. America and it’s contaminating everythin.

      Everything about the modern world is brittle and falling apart — money, borders, technology, nations, infrastructure, everything, even pysche. Even nature hates us. It’s like the Azetc nation when everyone stares at the same dumb shitt everyday and their minds just go into that stooopid zone in a big wave.

      And then nature gives a butt kcik to the stupid zone and you realize you really are just a moth and Nature is a rolled up newspaper heading your way fast. That’s the penetrating idea that scares the shitt out of people more than the radiation.

      1. Cedric Regula

        Well said. It’s the channeling poisoning I worry about more than anything. That and trying to make grass salad in AZ. Agave cactus is our only cash crop. You can make tequila out of it. We can trade for CA produce or chickens or Texas beef. But the stuff grows slow as hell, so it won’t be much. In fact, Mexican Sonoran and Baja desert cactus farmers are worried that at current tequila consumption rates, the deserts will be cactus free in a few short years. Then you know what happens…they want to migrate here. But where? Cut the lawn in Central Park? I don’t know.

        1. Cedric Regula

          Then stock markets around the world didn’t react too badly today, but the down move is accelerating in futures markets now.

          Nikki down a whopping 1500 points

          Dow down 220

          S&P 500 down 26 and broke all tech support until it gets to 1170 (200MA)

          Europe markets down similar.

    1. Cedric Regula

      Yes. The King of Bahrain asked the King of Saud to invade Bahrain. Busy day. I’m looking for news on how that’s going next.

      Some think Iranian Shiites will be unhappy with that move.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        They can’t complain about the timing as the world experiences crisis overload, or should we say, make that, dare to say, a ‘crisis bubble.’

  10. kravitz


    “Rajat evidently DID want to join the Kravitz club”

    I think you meant KRAVIS….

  11. YY

    A couple of days ago Ishihara got a mention, and what do you know, he does not disappoint. Here he is, channeling Glenn Beck.

    I’m having bit of a difficulty with the Tepco electricity shortage, given that it wasn’t long ago (2002?) a good number of their reactors were off the grid for safety/political issues, while no accompanying power rationing took place. It almost suggests a distraction for PR reasons. It’s hard to tell when I’m a ocean away from the grid though.

  12. notexactlyhuman

    Reverse chronology:

    markmackinnon Mark MacKinnon/马凯
    RT @nytimes: NYT NEWS ALERT: Japan Faces Prospect of Nuclear Catastrophe as Employees Leave Plant
    1 minute ago Favorite Retweet Reply

    markmackinnon Mark MacKinnon/马凯
    Chief cabinet secretary Edano: hole observed in No. 2 reactor and “small amount of radioactive substance assumed to be released.”
    3 minutes ago

    markmackinnon Mark MacKinnon/马凯
    Chief cabinet secretary Edano: fire now at Fukushima No. 4 reactor.
    4 minutes ago

    markmackinnon Mark MacKinnon/马凯
    Chief cabinet secretary Edano: “we assume that radioactive substances are… being released.”
    4 minutes ago

    markmackinnon Mark MacKinnon/马凯
    Japanese PM Kan: “I would like to ask the nation that, although this is a situation of great concern, that you act very calmly.”
    8 minutes ago

    martyn_williams Martyn Williams
    by markmackinnon
    Water injection ops under way at plants, despite very dangerous situation – PM Kan
    9 minutes ago

    markmackinnon Mark MacKinnon/马凯
    Japanese PM Kan: “we are making every effort so that if there’s an explosion, no further leakage of nuclear material would happen.”
    10 minutes ago

    TimeOutTokyo TimeOutTokyo
    by markmackinnon
    ‘Most people have been evacuated from the 20km radius. Everybody in that area, around Plant number 1, MUST evacuate.’
    11 minutes ago

    markmackinnon Mark MacKinnon/马凯
    Japanes PM Kan: “There is still a very high risk of further radiation coming out of Fukushima No. 1”

Comments are closed.