Links 4/21/11

10 Charts About Sex OK Trends (hat tip Richard Smith). No idea whether this is for real, but it is very funny.

Primordial Weirdness: Did the Early Universe Have One Dimension? Scientists Outline Test for Theory Science Daily (hat tip reader John M)

Chimpanzees give birth ‘like humans’ BBC

Robot Throws First Pitch At Phillies Game International Business Times

Hand Sanitizers Will Not Save You From the Coming Plague Gawker. My former attorney, a biomedical engineer who had worked for Big Pharma before becoming an FDA lawyer, said the same thing for years. The hand sanitizers would have to have passed clinical trials for them to do what they say they do.

The day I met Abdul Sattar Edhi, a living saint Telegraph (hat tip reader May S)

Early disorder added to Japan’s nuclear crisis Washington Post (hat tip Richard Smith)

Tepco Must End ‘Whack-a-Mole,’ Protect Reactors From Storms Bloomberg (hat tip Richard Smith)

Beyond the Oil Spill, the Tragedy of an Ailing Gulf New York Times

Talking turkey with the Taliban Financial Times (hat tip reader Lee S)

“Massive” Fracking Blowout spill in PA Daily Kos

Fearmongering over the US Budget Deficit Linda Beale. A lot of people who are not inclined towards conspiracy theories are wondering re where that S&P rating came from.

US Treasury to press on with $20bn AIG sale Financial Times (hat tip reader Hubert). Ahem, notice that the first call is to Middle Eastern sovereign wealth funds, the usual target for disposal of garbage barges? And one has to wonder whether these particular SWFs are in countries benefitting from our tacit support of creaky authoritarian regimes.

Labor Board Tells Boeing New Factory Breaks Law New York Times

S&P Warns Treasury About Debt Burden: Fun With Debt Downgrades Dean Baker

Beyond ForeclosureGate – It Gets Uglier Michael Collins, The Economic Populist

Fiscal Conservatives Dodge $10 Trillion Debt Simon Johnson, Bloomberg

Antidote du jour:

Screen shot 2011-04-20 at 11.05.32 PM

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Jon H

    “The hand sanitizers would have to have passed clinical trials for them to do what they say they do.”

    I think it’s more “To *say* they do what they say they do, they would have had to have passed clinical trials.”

    The FDA isn’t saying they don’t actually do what they claim, as far as I can tell. It’s saying it hasn’t been *proven* thus it can’t be promised in the label and advertising, just like with anything else.

    Doesn’t matter if Harvard Medical School has sanitizer dispensers all over the place, or if nurses around the country use alcohol wipes before giving injections. Products based on the same substances can’t make specific claims of effectiveness unless the product has been through the relevant trials.

    Seems like this is vaguely related to the recent story about the age-old long-used drugs which haven’t really been clinically tested until recently, and suddenly got way more expensive because the company that did the testing was given an exclusive right to produce the drug. Or something to that effect.

    Alcohol is just another thing that has been used so long everyone relies on it, and assumes it’s effective on most everything, but it hasn’t really been clinically tested, just empirically tested every day in use.

    1. John Emerson

      A lab MD I talked to said that tests had shown that alcohol wipes are no more effective than soap and water. Alcohol doesn’t kill germs instantly, for one thing. (The context was wiping the patient’s arm before drawing blood.)

      1. Jon H

        It’s my understanding that soap and water don’t really kill germs either, they just loosen them from the skin so the water can flush them away.

        In any case, alcohol wipes are vastly more convenient than scrubbing with soap and water, especially when you consider what is considered proper soap and water washing technique.

  2. Jon H

    “Robot Throws First Pitch At Phillies Game”

    Phew. I’d heard the robot did a poor job, so naturally I assumed it was from my alma mater, Drexel. They never seem to turn up in the news except for something bad. Students getting arrested for something unusual (hacking the horse racing betting computers to win big; rampant identity theft, etc), or a professor showing up in commercials vouching for the health benefits of a line of hot tubs, that sort of thing.)

    But it was PENN! WOOT!

  3. Foppe

    WRT OK Trends blog: The people behind OKCupid are a bunch of mathematicians. So while you may wonder about their grasp of the methodology (It is not valid to conclude that the trends presented in the age slider graphs represent development of preferences over time, because they only have a single set of data points from different people taken at the same time. That is, they presume that there will be no systemic drift between generations.), they do their utmost to find fun stuff in the data they have at their disposal.

    1. Jon H

      Well, they *have* been. I think it was started by Harvard types.

      But now that they’ve been acquired by, I wouldn’t be surprised if, at some point, they lose those sorts of people.

  4. Externality

    From “Beyond ForeclosureGate – It Gets Uglier Michael Collins, The Economic Populist”

    The ForeclosureGate scandal poses a threat to Wall Street, the big banks, and the political establishment. If the public ever gets a complete picture of the personal, financial, and legal assault on citizens at their most vulnerable, the outrage will be endless.

    The government seems increasingly concerned about this possibility. Homeland Security recently caused an uproar when, during unannounced night exercises, their SWAT teams began practicing rescuing people from the top of the Bank of America building in Miami.,0,3747926.story

    Watching the footage reminded me of scenes from when the US evacuated its embassy in (then South) Vietnam. Americans were airlifted from the roof of the US embassy and related buildings, closely pursued by crowds of Vietnamese citizens.

    It is entirely possible that the government was preparing for the uproar that would follow a bank holiday, currency devaluation, massive bailout and austerity program, and/or Americans learning what the banks have done.

    The website Zero Hedge has posted IMF documents showing that the IMF recommends adding all Fed, Fannie and Freddie debt and losses to the government’s balance sheet, immediately cutting all federal benefits by 35%, having the government absorb all losses associated with banks’ mortgage problems, raise taxes and impose a VAT to cover that, etc.

    Under most scenarios, the fiscal adjustment needed to eliminate the fiscal and generational gaps would entail significant adjustments in taxes and/or transfers. Under the baseline scenario, for example, the federal government can restore fiscal balance by raising all taxes and cutting all transfer payments immediately and for the indefinite future by 35 percent. (IMF document, numbered page 24) Implementing a package such as this would make it impossible for for the bankers’ to conceal the harm that they did to the American people and their nation-state.

    Events of this type are often accompanied by what economist Joseph Stiglitz calls “the IMF riot.” Average citizens suddenly learn that their savings are frozen in closed banks and in a rapidly devaluing currency, that their pensions suddenly disappeared, that prices are skyrocketing, and that their ‘leaders’ are smugly helping the bankers to the detriment of the people.

    This leads, predictably, to Step-Three-and-a-Half: what Stiglitz calls, “The IMF riot.”

    The IMF riot is painfully predictable. When a nation is, “down and out, [the IMF] takes advantage and squeezes the last pound of blood out of them. They turn up the heat until, finally, the whole cauldron blows up,” as when the IMF eliminated food and fuel subsidies for the poor in Indonesia in 1998. Indonesia exploded into riots, but there are other examples – the Bolivian riots over water prices last year and this February, the riots in Ecuador over the rise in cooking gas prices imposed by the World Bank. You’d almost get the impression that the riot is written into the plan.

    And it is. What Stiglitz did not know is that, while in the States, BBC and The Observer obtained several documents from inside the World Bank, stamped over with those pesky warnings, “confidential,” “restricted,” “not to be disclosed.” Let’s get back to one: the “Interim Country Assistance Strategy” for Ecuador, in it the Bank several times states – with cold accuracy – that they expected their plans to spark, “social unrest,” to use their bureaucratic term for a nation in flames.

    That’s not surprising. The secret report notes that the plan to make the US dollar Ecuador’s currency has pushed 51% of the population below the poverty line. The World Bank “Assistance” plan simply calls for facing down civil strife and suffering with, “political resolve” – and still higher prices.

    The IMF riots (and by riots I mean peaceful demonstrations dispersed by bullets, tanks and teargas) cause new panicked flights of capital and government bankruptcies. This economic arson has it’s bright side – for foreign corporations, who can then pick off remaining assets, such as the odd mining concession or port, at fire sale prices.
    (emphasis added)

  5. Philip Pilkington

    Retail sales bounced back (VERY slightly) in the UK:

    Anyone else think that this has almost no hope of lasting? I mean the fact that they’ve managed to savage government borrowing to that extent looks like a bit of a time-bomb.

    As for the S&P debacle, I’m almost certain that it was the lizard people, it’s the only rational explanation for the downgrade — David Icke was right… they’re coming for our precious bodily fluids, WAKE UP PEOPLE!

    1. Philip Pilkington

      Oh yeah, here’s an interesting one. The Irish government are selling state assets to fund a jobs plan:

      Ugh! They’ve almost finished privatising the electricity grid over here — and with our levels of corruption, well… shades of Enron anybody?

      Their privatisation of the roads has been a disaster. Haulers have been avoiding the tolls by taking country roads. The trucks tear the country roads apart — and they have to be repaired by the tax-payer. Nice. So now some are suggesting that the state subsidise the (private) haulers’ tolls. The cost falls, once more, on the taxpayer. Nice.

      This country hasn’t merely gone broke. It’s gone crazy. It seems like the more bizarre and outlandish your idiotic policy platform is, the more the voters lap it up.

      I think I might run on a platform of stimulating economic growth by having everyone slap each other with wet fish every Tuesday. How will that work? Who cares? It sounds ridiculous — so it’ll definitely fly…

  6. John Hall

    OKCupid does legit statistical analysis on their blog. However, their charts on old people in that post may have some selection bias since only specific types of old people would be on the site.

  7. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    What if the early universe had +1.325 or -0.25 dimensions?

    How would they test that?

    I would love to live in a negative 3 dimensional world.

  8. Steve Devos

    Bernanke Strikes Again!

    from an article at Counterpunch by Mike Whitney:

    “Now that the self sustaining recovery has taken hold, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke can end his bond buying program and allow the markets to return to normal.

    Not exactly.

    As it happens, Bernanke is now signaling that he’ll keep the QE2 feeding-tubes in place so that any unnexpected unpleasantness in the market–like another full-blown crash–can be averted….

    …What a surprise. Shall we call this QE3 as Bernanke’s critics have suggested?

    It’s revealing that economists at the big banks, like JPM’s Kelly, are now comparing the so-called free market to a drug addict who can’t cope without his liquidity “fix” from the central bank. That seems like a fitting metaphor, but it also illustrates the shortcomings of QE2. For example, the program was never intended to lower unemployment, stimulate demand or trigger a rebound in the real economy. It was merely another multi-billion dollar subsidy to the investor class so they could make the payments on the Jaguar or add another Chagall to their art collection…”

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The rumor is that QE2 will be followed by TITANIC (Too Incompetent To Adequately Navigate Imploding Crises).

    2. Cynthia

      Steve or anyone else here,

      It is true that because commodities have a long proven track record for being highly volatile and thus very risky, most state pension funds are forbidden from investing in gold and other commodities?

      This may explain why the TBTF Banks remain silent about their recent actions to dump equities in favor commodities. This is their way of returning a favor to the Obama Administration for continuing to bail them out, via quantitative easing and near zero-interest loans. If the word got out that the TBTF banks are no longer confident enough in the stock market to remain invested there, then the public would know without a doubt that the Obama Administration is lying about how the jobs market is improving and the overall economy is well on its way to recovery, thus reducing Obama’s chances of being reelected in 2012.

      1. Steve Devos


        You may be right, however I wasn’t aware that state pension funds are forbidden to invest in commodities nor have I seen anything about TBTF banks dumping equities in favor of commodities.

        According to the article linked above, “big banks and hedge funds have been increasing their debt-load to buy equities, confident that QE2 will continue to suppress volatility…
        and.. “When the Fed suppresses volatility, it sends the big players an “All’s Clear” sign, so they up the ante on their investments.”

        So it’s my impression that, encouraged by the Fed’s “all clear” signal, banks and hedge funds are are still loading up on both equities *and* commodities, and the speculative rally could keep going for as long as they believe the Fed is covering their back.

        However, as the article above pointed out: “The situation could deteriorate very fast. A sudden decline in stock prices could quickly turn into a full-blown rout as margin calls send investors racing for cover and debt deflation dynamics pull the economy back into another slump.”

  9. Jim Haygood

    Re S&P’s negative outlook on Usgov debt:

    ‘Deficit projections are notoriously slow to catch up with the business cycle. When the economy is doing poorly and deficits are large, forecasters also tend to project doom and gloom going forward.’ — Linda Beale

    True enough. But what if the business cycle turns down again before deficits cyclically decline? Spiking crude oil prices are an early warning that it might. Plus, a big chunk of the deficit is now structural. It won’t go away, even if GDP booms.

    ‘[S&P is] certainly disregarding the fact that the US –unlike Greece, Ireland and Portugal — is it’s [sic] own monetary boss with its own monetary policy (and its own money printing machine).’

    HA HA HA HA … God, what a freaking space cadet. Yeah, using Ben’s printing press means never having to ‘hard default.’ But it’s no guarantee that your currency won’t collapse. In fact, it increases the likelihood that it will.

    Checked the USD chart lately, Astronaut Beale? Or the prices of gold, silver and crude oil?

    Oh well, I guess it don’t matter out there in the asteroid belt, where our planet is just a ridiculous little blue ball in your starship’s windscreen.

    Keep on space truckin’, girl!

    1. Philip Pilkington

      That’s completely hysterical…

      “Checked the USD chart lately…”

      Just because the dollar has decreased in value relative to other currencies doesn’t mean that it’s on the way to becoming worthless. In fact, it might even prop up exports and get the economy off the finance life-glug.

      “Or the prices of gold, silver…”

      There’s clearly a bubble in the gold and silver markets at the moment. Marx once said that in times of crisis people run for hard cash — since cash is no longer ‘hard’ people run for those assets that they think are; i.e. gold and silver.

      This reflects the turmoil in the Eurozone as much as the fear around the dollar. People are taking their money out of banks right now — as Marx said they would in times of crisis — and throwing it at assets they see as ‘safe’; gold and silver being two. The irony is that now a bubble seems to be forming in these markets and investors are now looking to make money out of them:

      “Jollie believes the silver price is unsustainable in the longer term, but says it’s possible the price could first exceed $50 if the speculation continues.”

      “…and crude oil…”

      This is almost certainly a supply-side issue — due to the tensions in the Middle-East — exacerbated by speculation.

      So, chill out, dude. The Four Horsemen have yet to ride. You might want to stop distracting yourself with ‘end of the world’ fantasies and focus on the real economy. On the effects speculation is having (oil prices and input costs etc.); on the fact that the financial markets are on the tear again; on the fact that deficit reduction is going to sap aggregate demand and increase unemployment — possibly leading to a stagnation spiral that it will take years to recover from.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Why don’t we use the printing press to good use – print money and give it to victims of taxation?

  10. 1whoknu

    Didn’t know if anyone had seen this yet. Latest Matt Taibbi ~

    “A hilarious report has come out courtesy of the National Institute of Money in State Politics, showing that Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller – who is coordinating the investigation into the banks’ improper mortgage dealings – increased his campaign contributions from the finance sector this year by a factor of 88! He has raised $261,445 from finance, insurance and real estate contributors since he announced that he was going to be coordinating the investigation into improper foreclosure practices.”

    1. NOTaREALmerican

      The “contributions” probably came with some helpful lists of potential investigators too.

      Lobbyists, just doing their part to make “democracy” work “for da people”.

  11. Max424

    From the Michael Collins piece: “Law professor and law school dean Christopher L. Peterson describes the contractual language for the sixty million contracts between borrowers and lenders as fictional…”

    That’s a lot, especially considering the US only has around 75 million owned homes, and of those, approximately 25 million homes are already owned, free and clear.

    That means, if the 60 million figure is correct, that all US mortgage contracts are fictional; and then some!

    Note: I’m not sure how this fits in, but I think it has some relevance: There are 20 million American homes that are either empty, or are presently being occupied by non-paying squatters, derelicts, drug addicts, gangs, kids who use them as forts (too smart!), lovers, haters, bees, wolves (well, maybe not wolves, but coyotes!), birds, rats, bats — bong smokers! — rabbits, ants and mice.

    Did I mention vegetation?

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Thank you for mentioning vegetaion.

      Keep up the struggle against animal-chauvinists!!!

      1. Max424

        Gotta love the vegetation!

        But you wouldn’t just know it; the banks hate it. Apparently, it’s hard to rent seek on homes that are now owned by moss, vines, and shrubbery.

  12. Rex

    Re the WaPo “Early disorder added to Japan’s nuclear crisis”

    I don’t know about the quality of the article itself, but the picture at the beginning is staged nonsense.

    The guy in the white jumpsuit with the useless cloth gloves is holding a 1960’s radiation detector which appears to be a CDV-715. That particular type of meter is pretty much useless for normal measurements because it can only see very high levels of radiation, like ground-zero after a nuclear blast.

    One feature of the meter is that it has a knob for zeroing the reading before use. By turning that knob you can make the meter needle go anywhere on the scale. This is a handy feature for making a BS scary-looking picture like the one at the head of the article.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      There have been reports elsewhere of a shortage of meters at Fukushima (I forget the term of art). No joke, executives took them home, so there weren’t enough at the site. So it isn’t impossible that old meters were hauled out of mothballs.

      1. Rex

        They definitely could use more Geiger counters and similar devices (scintillation detectors, etc.) in Japan. I have followed other places on the net that have sent all of their accumulated inventory out.

        But that photo was a staged fake. Can’t say why; maybe an anti-nuke group. That kind of meter is of no practical use. The meter pointer that high on the scale could only happen by deliberately mis-adjusting it. That’s what I did in my lemon tree fake.

  13. Name (required)

    I’m not religious, but I can respect someone who is but who’s take on it echoes that of the ‘living saint’ Abdul Sattar Edhi.

    Mr Edhi told them their objections contradicted the supreme idea of religion, declaring: “Beware of those who attribute petty instructions to God.”

  14. Name (required)

    Re “Beyond Forclosuregate – it gets uglier.”

    “A 2007 study found that medical expenses or income losses related to medical crises among bankruptcy filers or family members triggered 62% of bankruptcies.”

    What’s missing is that this study was restricted to the US.

    Last Wednesday my wife visited our optician in our small rural town because her sight in one eye had suddenly blurred and there were specks floating across it. Within an hour she was in our local hospital and later that day she was flown to a major hospital 100km away as the local hospital did not have the facilities to deal with it. A few hours later she had major emergency surgery by laser under the registrar to save her sight in that eye, the loss of which would have been inevitable had the condition – a detatched retina – been left untreated for any length of time.

    After a night in hospital she was checked and lasered again to ‘tidy up the loose ends’, and was discharged. Our local health board arranged a flight for her back to our small rural town and thirty-six hours after taking her to the optician for a ‘look-see’ she was back home with a major condition repaired and her sight rapidly returning to normal. And it didn’t cost us a cent.

    This of course was in New Zealand, but here and throughout the civilised world outside the USA such stories would be quite common.

    1. Name (required)

      Of course it’s not true to say the wife’s consultations, surgery (twice), stay in hospital, flights and taxis from airport to hospital didn’t cost us a cent. It will have come from the Health Vote met ultimately from taxation which we do pay.

      But as our taxation goes towards this and free education, pensions and supporting the poor rather than subsidising big banks, bombing civilians in foreign countries and building ever more expensive and useless fighter aircraft, we look upon taxation as an investment rather than an impost.

      1. shane

        Yup, I hear that. I’m a Kiwi, living in Japan. One thing I have never had, ever, or even heard in fact, is conversation at some party about “who got turned down by their medical insurance company” or “who went bankrupt because they broke their leg” etc. You can’t put a price on that kind of peace of mind. I feel damm sorry for Americans sometimes.If you get a few weeks paid holiday, don’t have to worry about being bankrupted by a tumor, have no fear of being shot while going to buy beers, haven’t had your pension looted by J.P Morgan/G.Sachs and don’t believe Fox is news, give me a “hell yeah!”

  15. kevinearick

    Transfer Payments & Prisoner’s Dilemma

    Divide & Conquer is the game. Sexism, chauvinism and feminism, is the primary internal driver in every country. To adjust, limit the exchange of goods and services with those entities. Man-haters and woman-haters are not difficult to identify; they rock their opponents back and forth with bipolar behavior along many axes and dimensions, and employ anxiety as the excuse. The jailer is in jail with those jailed. The jailed can jump out at will simply by putting up a mirror. The jailor cannot get out under any conditions. Marriage and childbirth are not reaching all-time lows by accident.

  16. scraping_by

    @Fearmongering —

    If the amount of US Treasuries issued is a problem, as in beyond the US taxpayer’s ability to pay, it’s obvious the government has to default on someone. Rather than on the elderly, how about the people who really hold the debt?

    The Fed holds nearly $2.6T. The people who pumped up a series of bubbles, which suckered millions of households into the stock market meat grinder and the housing shell game. They could lose and no one would feel guilty.

    China has $1.1T, in its own name. Possibly more in through accounts in the UK. Default on the country whose mercantile policy stripped ours of productive assets? That has merits from several directions.

    It might seem mean to point out Japan holds close to $900B. But as the pioneers of deindustrializing the US, they have some long-term karma to work off.

    Out native plutocrats don’t have to take a huge hit, unless we want to take down dirty money hidden in the Carribean banking centers. And the oil exporters do little good for the rest of us.

    In general, if you want to get rid of the debt, go where the debt is found. Default on the Fed, not on granny. Default on foreign governments, not on your next door neighbors.

  17. Herman Sniffles

    The sex chart article forgot to mention the one food which makes women immediately stop giving oral sex…

    wedding cake

Comments are closed.