Links 8/11/11

Chimps Are Spontaneously Generous After All ScienceBlog (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

The story of how bin Laden was found is fiction GlobalPost (hat tip reader D. Mathews)

Hacker Plot to ‘Kill Facebook’ Is All a Terrible Misunderstanding Gawker (hat tip reader furzy mouse). I’m really disappointed. Taking down Facebook would be a great contribution to humanity.

Narcissists look like good leaders — but they aren’t Medical XPress. I’ve said Obama is an obvious narcissist, BTW (your humble blogger is qualified to diagnose by virtue of having them in the family).

The Phantom Menace of Sleep-Deprived Doctors New York Times (hat tip reader May S)

How Wealthy Nations Drive Food Insecurity PolicyMic (hat tip reader May S)

Book Review: Why the “Green Revolution” Was Not So Green After All Mother Jones (hat tip reader May S)

These riots reflect a society run on greed and looting Guardian

Hunting France MacroBusiness

‘Botox’ economics triggers toxic eurozone side-effects Satyait Das, Financial Times

Why are Treasury prices rising after the S&P downgrade? Yves Smith. Salon. Boy, writing for non-expert readers is tougher than I thought.

Most Americans say U.S. on wrong track: poll Reuters (hat tip reader annoyed liberal)

Michele Bachmann Was Inspired By My Dad and His Christian Reconstructionist Friends — Here’s Why That’s Terrifying AlterNet (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Editorial: We’re sensing a new kind of vote fraud Sheboyban Press (hat tip reader furzy mouse)

Will Fox News allow Fred Karger in GOP debate? Not likely, but stay tuned McClatchy (hat tip Buzz Potamkin)

Real Time With Bill Maher – Jesse Ventura YouTube (hat tip reader furzy mouse). A bit dated but still has some good ideas

A Calamitous Response to Calamity Michael Perelman

Hedge Funds Get Unfamiliar Taste of Losing New York Times

US Treasuries face bumpy ride as yields tumble Financial Times. The short answer is do you think deflation is in store? If the answer is yes, Treasury yields are not as nutty as they appear.

Financial Turmoil Evokes Comparison to 2008 Crisis New York Times. The NYT borrows a page from Calculated Risk’s famous Four Bears chart….but just plots this crisis v. the big one just past.

S&P balks at SEC proposal to reveal rating errors Reuters

BofA chief rejects calls to raise capital Financial Times. I have not had time to shred his badly mislabeled “we’ll take the tough questions” investor pep talk yesterday. He did not address the issue killing the stock, mortgage liability, save to say they had looked at putting Countrywide in Ch. 11, but recent filings, such as the AIG $10 billion suit, argue that BofA has taken actions that put it on the hook too. But I guarantee he will not be able to stick with this statement.

The coming world of smaller banks Frank Partnoy, Financial Times

Barack Obama and Harry Potter James Kwak

Does blogging help one’s professional reputation as an economist? Tyler Cowen. I can say definitively yes. I am now regularly mistaken for an economist, which I find very amusing. But they are looking in the wrong place for transmission to policy.

Recession Warning, and the Proper Policy Response John Hussman. A bit late to this, but still very much worth reading.

Antidote du jour:

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


    1. psychohistorian

      I was going to say the same thing, thanks.

      GO FURZY!

      As I scrolled past the bigger version of the antidote du jour and saw what was going on I then understood the succinct Topics label……Thanks Yves!

      I like to laugh!

    1. Susan the other

      everyone hoarding cash… so why is gold going up… the treasury explanation makes perfectly good sense, but if money is gaining value on the crazy impoverishment of people who don’t have money to hoard … gold will crash like the hindenberg

  1. Brick

    I am not convinced by the guardians analysis that the UK riots reflect a society run on greed and looting and in fact I am worried that the article might actually mask some of the real problems underlying the riots. I am also worried that the riots actually turn society away from some of the issues it does need to deal with.

    First of all let me tell you about some of the drivers for the anti establishment riots of the 1970’s and 1980’s in the UK. A main driver was the police stop and search actions which tended to target the young and even more so those of different ethnic orrigins.It was not much fun being detained for no obvious reason than the fact that you are young and missing apointments as a result as I experienced. Another driver was the way the government used the police force to break up strike actions and demonstrations. My elderly aunt being pushed over by the police at a demonstration at Greenham Common against nuclear arms did little to endear the establishment to me. A third driver was the economic situation and the fact that large parts of the labour intesive work market was disappearing rapidly with the governments help. In those days there was very little support for the young and social services would break up families at a drop of the hat. I didn’t take part in the riots, but I did live in an area with regular rioting, and although there were elements of wantom vandalism, I regularly walked through the police and rioter lines without fear on my way home.

    Eight years ago I was having a discussion with a teacher, a social worker and a police officer and each was telling me a tale of how things had changed and how they expected a social breakdown. The teacher explained how pupils had lost there respect , how verbal abuse and violence to school staff had escalated and how they were not allowed to use restraint or expell pupils for more than a short period. The social worker explained his roll in defending and protecting thugs over the real needy or society as a whole, ensuring those in trouble managed to claim all the benefits they could, giving 5 days notice before inspections, arranging paid transport or special holidays for those in trouble. The police officer explained how he was afraid to confront or tackle youths in case he accidentally bruised one and faced discipline, how even if a criminal was caught they would be out the next day threatening anybody who had the audacity to report them, how support from the communities had dwindled as a result.

    Then we come to today where I see a minority of spoilt brats (I prefer that term to looters) have no limits in what actions they are prepared to take, even attacking passers by or killing those in their way. In contrast I see relatively respectable collegueas who I know have been standing guard with baseball bats in their communities, a vast swathe of youths and those on the bottom rung of the social ladder going out and cleaning up the streets after the riots. For me this shows the inequality in rights, opportunities and chances between those who break societies rules and those that don’t. Where you are on the social scale, or whatever your ethnic origin seems to make no difference and quite possibly those at the bottom rungs of society are those fighting hardest to keep societies cohesion.

    The problem with the guardian article for me is that there is a real risk of more resources being thrown at these spoilt brats rather than those at the bottom of the ladder or those who have fallen on hard times who do try and don’t get the help and support they need. There is also a risk that there will be a backlash of government support which will mean the inequalities in income will be over looked. Perhaps the fact that seemingly middle class people have seen fit to go out an buy a baseball bat means the parasites on society days are numbered whether they be the rich taking too big a cut or the criminal ignoring the law. There is of course a real danger that social liberty will be curtailed and we get a return to the bad old days. We can of course hope that we get a pragmatic view rather than a left or right view and perhaps the warnings of the socialists will be heeded next time.

    Oh dear I do seem to have rambled on, but perhaps it gives a new dimension and perspective which those outside the UK may not be aware of. There again may be I am getting old and the lowering of youth expectations and freedom is the real culprit. Maybe I expect too much of the young generation to change the world, with a minority focused on tearing it apart.

      1. LeeAnne

        Alex Jones prospective is the most believable and easy to connect.

        The ‘tell’ is the police standing by and permitting looting and murderous mayhem to go unchecked against a disarmed public for 4 days when the first gun shot from an armed citizen would have stopped it in its tracks.

        Watch for more of this. Then the middle class demands police and military in the streets -etc. They’re all ready and happy to oblige.

    1. compass rose

      Brick, thou true punk.

      In your honor today I’m going to hand out a copy of RF Laird’s /The Boomer Bible/ somewhere in my upscale Trustafarian town today.

      It is truly scary when purported adults in the Meme Biz cannot tell the difference between vandalism and revolution.

      compass rose

    2. Ron

      the riots came at an opportune time for Scotland Yard given its role in the phone hacking scandal along with British political classes. Not implying that someone lit the match but the British public no longer seem interested in the hacking and police bribery given the sudden unrest!

  2. Jim Haygood

    Has anyone checked the gold market recently? It’s gettin’ wild.

    At Comex, they demand $6,075 opening margin to buy or sell a 100-ounce gold contract with a nominal value of $180,000. Thirty-to-one margin — KEWL! You too can leverage up like a bankster.

    But there’s a catch. Maintenance margin is $4,500. Fall below it, and you get a margin call. Each one-dollar change in the gold price adds or subtracts $100 from your equity, depending on which side you’re on.

    Normally exchanges set the gap between initial and maintenance margin so that typical daily volatility won’t trigger intraday margin calls to players who initiate a position on minimum margin. But these days, gold is moving 30, 50, even 60 dollars intraday. Brokers are having to watch gold futures like a hawk, issuing rafts of intraday margin calls on every rise and drop that exceeds a puny $15.75, which is five minutes’ trading on a volatile day.

    An article of faith within the precious metals community is that the ‘Crimex’ malevolently uses margin hikes to harass longs. They surely did so in January 1980, hiking silver margins to 100% — ‘liquidation only’ basis — to crush the Hunt brothers.

    But letting gold punters speculate on 30-to-1 margin is the other side of that coin. Da Bugs rule these days, boldly proclaiming the right to $30-a-day gains on gold as an entitlement more sacred than Social Security. Gold is the new Treasuries, they crow.

    One wonders what goes through the reptilian minds of the Crimex overlords. If I were them — I ain’t gonna lie to you — I’d triple gold margins to $18,000 in one whack, sit back, and light a fat cigar. AH HA HA HA! It’s like kicking an anthill — look at them little critters scurry!

    Would ‘they’ actually do such a dastardly thing? I don’t know; I’m just an armchair criminologist. But my instincts say that the emblematic gold market has been wound to a fever pitch. Something damned drastic, I reckon, is nigh upon us.

    1. Jim Haygood

      UPDATE: effective at the close of business today, 100-oz gold margins are hiked to $7,425 initial / $5,500 maintenance.

      That provides for a princely $19.25 movement in the gold price before a margin call is triggered.

      Feelin’ lucky, punk?

    2. Cedric Regula

      “Brokers are having to watch gold futures like a hawk, issuing rafts of intraday margin calls on every rise and drop that exceeds a puny $15.75, which is five minutes’ trading on a volatile day.”

      I’ve been wondering if you have to keep a credit card number on file at CME so they can efficiently bill the margin call.

      I’m sure Goldman has a better way to handle the margin calls with repos and such and we shouldn’t have to worry about money not being there to buy gold that’s not there, but I was just wondering how the little guy does it?

  3. financial matters

    Recession Warning, and the Proper Policy Response John Hussman. A bit late to this, but still very much worth reading.

    “””Meanwhile, it is certainly a negative for savers, but a positive on the inflation front that Treasury bill yields collapsed back to zero last week after climbing to 0.10% just before the debt ceiling deadline. As I’ve noted before, given the present size of the monetary base, even short-term interest rates of more than a few basis points would create significant inflation pressure (see Charles Plosser and the 50% Contraction in the Fed’s Balance Sheet,”””

    This is a strange statement but I think reflects the fact that we are on such a precarious edge with such a large monetary base created by the QEs. Higher short term interest rates of even tiny amounts could finally get the velocity of this money going forcing the Fed to massively sop it up to prevent inflation.

    From the Plosser referernce:
    “”To avoid the potentially untidy embarrassment of being insolvent on paper, the Fed quietly made an accounting change several weeks ago that will allow any losses to be reported as a new line item – a “negative liability” to the Treasury – rather than being deducted from its capital.””

    “”A third possibility is that the Fed intentionally reduces the monetary base, gradually moving interest rates higher as Plosser suggests. This is undoubtedly the best course, in my view, but it’s important to recognize that there are already substantial risks baked in the cake as a result of the Fed’s recklessness up to this point.””

    “”While it’s possible to continue without unpleasant events, the Fed has already placed the course of the economy, inflation, and the financial markets beyond a comfortable scope of control should surprises emerge. “”

    “”Put simply, a market decline that clears this syndrome could be a whopper.””

  4. walt

    The Salon article mentions the Rogoff-Reinhart correlation of GDP v. debt. Dean Baker:

    “Two prominent medical researchers reviewed hundreds of thousands of records on infant and childhood mortality dating back over the last eight centuries. They discovered that over the vast majority of this 800-year period, only around half of newborns survived to adulthood; they concluded that we should not expect our children to live to adulthood.
    Anyone reading this paragraph should be fuming at the absurdity of this sort of extrapolation. Almost everywhere in the world, from the 13th to the 19th centuries, people lacked the healthcare advances that we take for granted. They lacked modern sanitation advances, like sewage disposal and clean drinking water; their diets were often grossly inadequate; and they didn’t have the benefits of modern medicine, like antibiotics. The enormous differences in these and other areas make it absurd to extrapolate about health outcomes from prior centuries to the present situation.
    While the absurdity of such extrapolations on health outcomes should be immediately apparent, for some reason, those in policy circles think it is perfectly reasonable to make the same sort of extrapolations when it comes to economic outcomes. Two prominent economists, Ken Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart, did an extensive examination of financial crises over the last eight centuries. They found that the after-effects of these crises tend to be longlasting, with economies often taking a decade or more to get back to normal levels of output.
    This is an interesting and worthwhile historical exercise. But why would anyone think that this past history any more condemns economies to suffer prolonged downturns from the recent financial crisis than that past history will condemn our children to an early death. Just as we have made enormous advances in public health and medicine, we have reason to believe that we have made enormous advances in economics as well.
    The most obvious advance was the writings of Keynes in the 1930s, who explained how an economy could endure a prolonged downturn like the Great Depression. He also explained how the government could provide the boost necessary to get an economy back to normal levels of employment and output. There, of course, has been much work subsequent to Keynes that built on his basic insights. In principle, this work implies that there is no reason that economies should ever again be forced to endure long periods of high unemployment, just as there is no reason for us to expect 16th-century mortality rates for our children.”

  5. Jim Haygood

    Re Nude Capitalism’s Bank of America deathwatch — Barry Ritholtz gives Dylan Ratigan a run for the money:

    My comment on Bloomberg Tuesday that Bank of America should seek a pre-packaged, GM-like bankruptcy reorg generated a stern phone call from a Mr. Someone.

    Understand, I have been saying this exact same thing for over 3 years (only adding the GM part since their reorg).

    After being told the call was recorded — one could hear the sphincter tighten on the other end of the line — I responded in the only way I knew how: My exact phrase to this person was a less than eloquent expression involving self-love that is not possible amongst those who are not double jointed.

    Was that the same ‘Mr. Someone’ who claims to have 100% of his net worth in BAC stock?

    LET’S HOPE SO! ;-)

  6. mememe

    “I do not like the Chinese banks. My concern is that they may freeze their dividends,”Mark Matthews, head of research Asia for Swiss wealth manager Julius Baer, citing their exposure to local government debt. Keep this in the back of your head as BAC tries to shop its stake its China Construction stake.

  7. Jeff

    Re Bachmann,

    Regarding the “real” enemy… Following the
    implied advice of the Alternet story,
    Let’s all use credit cards, indeed, go further
    into debt, embrace the federal
    reserve, listen with great solemnity to Ben Shalom
    Bernanke and NEVER EVER EVER pay cash on Main Street
    or buy gold or silver to
    repudiate those horrible homophobes!

    The American Bankers Association must be a hidden sponsor of “hard hitting news stories” like this. Notice how
    Wells Fargo and other large banks are “proud sponsors of this gay thing or that…” What a wonderful distraction for the public from their financial crimes. Keep society arguing about and focusing on fake issues.

    Paraphrasing the song from Brigadoon,
    “When the Leftist Twitch, meets the Rightist Itch,
    you can never tell just who is who, or who is

    “Dr.” Gary North? The same fundamentalist clod that
    ranted on about the impending disaster of Y2K?
    “The code is broken…”

    The homosexual marriage loonies are as destructive
    to our society as are the religious wackos
    (how do you think George Bush Jr. got elected?-The
    oil billionaires’ pawn, Gavin Newsom, the mayor of
    San Francisco, staged hundreds of city hall
    ‘weddings’ to create great video shown nationwide
    at just the right moment in
    the primaries and general election. Thus Gavinizing thousands of hosanna-hooting hicks to hit the polls for the first time.

    Good Americans will be smart enough to repudiate the
    superstition of religion and extremist social
    politics from the left and the right.

    1. ambrit

      Dear Jeff;
      If “Good Americans” are smart enough, then why are we in this present “fine mess?”
      Remember, when any revolutionary takes over a country, the first things he takes control of are the Media and the Education System. These are long term strategies for success. So, just look at what’s happened to Mass Media and local School Boards in America over the last thirty years. The rest should follow logically.

      1. Jeff


        No argument is airtight. The same “my party right or wrong” got us Reagan, Tax Cuts, Bush Iraq, Clinton, NAFTA, BUSH, Patriot Act etc…

        If Americans would just wake up to what their real
        interests were, we could start to repudiate the false idols and get to work. I nominate Yves for Treasury Secretary.

    2. compass rose

      I didn’t realize that wanting to make a civil-law-recognized lifetime commitment was “extremist.”

      People on the right exploit heterosexual marriage for political gain. Gavin the Hair did it on the left. That makes politicians extremist. Not marriage, nor people’s desire for it.

      1. Anonymous Jones

        Very nicely put.

        I think it is possible to go even further. Regardless of whether or not something is “extreme” (and ’tis only my opinion), but I will continue to ignore anyone who wants to meddle in another’s private life without first articulating a very principled, real-world stake in the matter at hand.

        I refuse to acknowledge any equivalence in this debate, whether it is about the politicians taking advantage or the true believers who are being taken advantage of.

  8. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Taking down Facebook would be a great contribution to humanity.


    I don’t know much about Facebook, so I won’t comment on that. But a contribution to humanity would be to find a way for people to stop looking into their palms.

    I notice a lot of people are doing that these days.

    You’re having a normal conversation and wham, all the sudden, he or she will stare into his/her palm, for no apparent reason.

    1. ambrit

      Dear MLTPB;
      This behaviour of which you speak is simple discourtesy. The offending person has just declared for all to see that his or her personal communication is more important than everyone in their immediate vicinity. (I have an aquaintance who is so incensed by such behaviour that, when approached by someone doing the ‘Death Shuffle’, as he calls it, he will not move aside. He has already knocked two youngsters, [early twenties to us old fogeys] flat on their a—s with this tactic. He doesn’t move into their path, just refuses to yield the right of way. At the local mall, one such collision elicited loud laughter from the surrounding crowd.) He wisely has pledged not to use this tactic while driving. We were quite firm with him about this.
      Have an aware day!

  9. LeeAnne

    Michaelle BAachman. Great radical right story. My prospective is slightly different on how the lunatic fringe became mainstream and destroyed the very soul of America.

    ‘That in turn moved the whole evangelical movement to the right and then into the political arena, where it became “normal” for evangelical leaders to jump head first into politics with little-to-no regard for the separation of church and state.’

    I would correct that to read that the ‘lunatic fringe right’ was pulled into politics by the Republican Party. They were an audience pre vetted for political propaganda by their very support of exploitative mega churches.

    As opposed to ”normal’ for evangelical leaders to jump head first …’

    Churchgoers were passive sheep to be shorned. Now it looks like ‘they’ are aggressively changing things. No. The Republican machine was and is the aggressor.

    Technology played a big role with computerized mailing lists obtained from churches all over the country …
    Just sone innovative technique.

    Decriminalize drugs and this criminal house of cards will collapse; and of course, we need an end to the 2-party system.

    The evangelicals were there at the inception of the SCOTUS/TSY drug prohibition decision, and have been growing in influence concurrent with growth of the criminal justice system now morphed into a profit making gulag.

    1. compass rose

      Don’t forget however that the corporate mass media excel in giving anybody Crazy Eyes if it suits their agendas.

      Read ’em…and litmus for yourself how much the media are playing on the misogyny you were infused with from birth. Calling Bachmann a lunatic plays into old, and ugly, stereotypes about women. I should think a far more pointed insult would be that she’s a church-state-boundary-eraser. But somehow nobody ever got burned at the stake for that.

      1. LeeAnne

        I have to admit to having watched Bachman only for a few minutes so long ago I don’t remember.

        I’ve never, however, forgotten my impression, and thank God my reactions are accurate enough to save time avoiding whatever she says that’s so controversial. Scanning the news is enough.

        She’s a repulsive idiot. But not the media that knows what kinds of idiots to support for their own machiavellian purposes.

        1. LeeAnne

          And woman has nothing to do with it. She has lots of compnay, more actually, on the male side of the equation.

          I’m an equal, fair and balanced critic.

          1. compass rose

            Exactly, Lee Anne…but when was the last time you saw a male politician dismissed as “Crazy Eyes,” no matter how totally batguano over the edge and through the woods the dood was?

            I always felt that way about Ronald Reagan. His grandfatherly squint viscerally terrified me. Cheney–there was a Crazy Eyes if ever there was one, but not the Girl Type Crazy Eyes. Crazy Mouth too. And who was that presidential candidate guy who never blinked? Steve Forbes? CRAYzey.

            Somewhere around here I have notes, I think it was an item by Oliver Sacks, who observed how folks in his care incarcerated in this one mental hospital (as they used to be called) reacted to Dutch on TV. “He’s lying,” they’d say. “He’s scary.” “His eyes are hypnotic.”

            Fascinating moment in our nation’s history, I thought.

    2. psychohistorian

      Evidence of the “marriage” between the global inherited rich and the religious was there in the 50’s when the US Motto was changed from E pluribus unum to In Gawd we trust. It was the same thime that corporations were given the rights of personage to fight Gawdlwss communism.

      It was also during this time that “faith based” economics and the invisible hand were propagandized as excuses for wars and market gyrations to enhance fleecing of the rubes.

      I believe we started our nation out with a very secular Republic and would certainly like to return to the secular part.

  10. ep3

    Yves, you mention that you believe obama is a narcissist. I agree. I was calling it his ego (grand bargain, I got OBL, i passed health care, I did it all, I am great).
    But narcissism seems to be all around us today. I see people everywhere who think they are better than the next person. They think they deserve special service above and beyond.
    I think it’s an american trait. We are all little Don Corleone’s thinking we are the godfather.

    1. compass rose

      Speak for yourself ep3, not for We.

      One of the key traits of narcissists is that they never get close enough to people to see how they differ in reality from what the narcissist thinks, claims, or asserts they are. That is, all people are reduced to cardboard cutouts in the N’s view. It’s not just that the N’s ego is big; it allows for no other egos in the world.

      Wrapping that in the royal WE doesn’t change that. Though that is a trope that has become very popular in the age of polarized-politics media.

      I’m not saying you’re a narcissist…but your use of that rhetoric certainly erases others’ differences and essences just as deftly.

      Beware the Royal We. The quicker adults get back to talking about our experience, and stop speaking for others, the better.

  11. Hugh

    Articles like the one on medical errors not decreasing with the end of overnight calls I find very frustrating. I only made it through the first two pages before setting it aside.

    First, there is just the commonsense question of whether you would trust an auto mechanic’s work on your car if you knew they had been up 24 hours already. If you wouldn’t, why you would trust a doctor making decisions about your healthcare or that of someone close to you under similar conditions?

    Second, there are all the methodological loopholes. What constitutes a medical error? Are these broken down by severity? Or timing? Most medical decisions are made during the day, you know when people are awake. Overnight (on call) decisions are made, well, overnight. The article doesn’t make clear if the medical errors in question are those made just by first year residents or if they are medical errors in general. Also were the medical errors broken down by those who made them, and there it is important to factor in that in all organizations the tendency is to dump on the low person on the totempole, that is the specialist dumps on the generalist, the generalist dumps on the senior resident and the senior resident dumps on the first year?

    Third, I could not help wondering where the senior teaching physicians were in all this. If there is a problem, why aren’t they doing more to address it in terms of training on both the medical issues and the administrative ones?

    Fourth, somewhat along these lines, no mention was made of actually reducing residents’ workloads, just their hours. This might explain the one aside that residents continue to “violate” the new time restrictions. And the idea that their hours are now capped at 80 hours a week, I mean how is that any concession to commonsense? On a 6 day week, that comes out to 13 1/3 hours a day. Figure in an hour each way in travel, 6 hours of sleep, a couple of hours for eating and washing up, and that leaves about 40 minutes each day for personal time. Of course, that time disappears if the resident has to work late to finish up. Think about the wear factor working 80 hour weeks for a year.

    As I said, reading this article I could not help thinking what an idiot its author was. Among physicians I have heard discuss their residencies, there is this really goofy macho about how tough theirs was compared to this new pampered crop of young’uns. It reminded me nothing so much as a takeoff on Monty Python’s 4 Yorkshiremen. You know “when I were resident, my first year, I worked two calls a night every night for 40 years, not like these current slack offs…”

  12. Hugh

    Re bin Laden, the Administration’s story on this hit was riddled with lies from the start. I think what we are seeing now is a classic example of muddying the waters. Release multiple versions and let those interested get lost in the details.

    It’s at times like these that taking a step back is useful. We will never know the whole story but we can know some things.

    The bin Laden hit was an assassination. It was never meant to be anything else.

    Our intelligence apparatus had to know that the only way bin Laden could live in Pakistan for 9 years was if he was being sheltered by the ISI or the military. So the one thing that would not have happened is that they would have informed the Pakistanis about any operation targeting him.

    Most of the stories about figuring out whether bin Laden actually was living where he was are either false or incredibly stupid fieldwork. The one thing they would not want to do is spook either bin Laden or those sheltering him.

    The Saudis were almost certainly not involved in sheltering bin Laden, but as a vent to their own corrupt and repressive regime, they have allowed money to flow into extremist madrassas and other charities which provide recruits and networks for extremist causes.

    Both the Saudis and the Pakistanis remain chief sponsors and sources of extremism/terrorism, ranking right up there with the Bush/Obama wars and policies.

    Once bin Laden was dead, no one wanted his body, not the Saudis, not the Pakistanis, not the Afghans. This isn’t to say that this didn’t give a lot of satisfaction to Washington neocons to dump it over the side of an aircraft carrier.

  13. ambrit

    Re. the antidote; it must be a visual pun. I see it as a classic demonstration of a “tail risk.”

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Thank God for creating the evolution that freed us humans of that tail risk – we have none now.

  14. Fifi


    I’m one of the few readers on your blog who gets steam coming out of one’s ears when there are guest posts from Washington’s Blog about nuclear energy. Crap sources, gross misreadings, unwarranted extrapolations, etc.

    But now, if you want to be pissed about what happened in Japan after Fukushima, you should read this excellent article on Monday in the NY Times, on how the Japanese authorities effed up the publication of radiological data, something really bad.

    It’s important to know that Naoto Kan, the Japanese Prime Minister, is deeply hostile to his domestic nuclear industry. His mistrust played an important role to cut him off from competent information sources and worsen the mismanagement of the accident. It’s not a clean cut story of bad nuclear shills vs. good anti-nuclear activists. It’s lot more complicated.

    BTW, I found the article on an nuclear industry blog , not on an anti-nuclear site. I guess it doesn’t fit the standard narrative.

    1. psychohistorian

      Let me ask what i think are simple and straight forward questions for society.

      Does the situation at Fukushima present society with the responsibility of managing that site for hundreds of thousands of years?

      If the answer to the previous question is yes and given our paucity of recorded history do you think it was and continues to be prudent for society to make commitments for potentially thousands of future generations to be responsible for this generations short sightedness with their “use” of nuclear energy?

      If the answer to the previous question in your mind is no then please provide some credible support for that position.

      Thank you.

      1. Jim

        It was an accident. Accidents happen. Should France stop generating 80% of its electricity from nuclear plants because an accident may happen?

        1. LeeAnne

          Excellent commentary in today’s FT
          Japan’s ‘can-do’ bid for a nuclear-free era’by David Pilling

          Answers a lot of questions on alternative energy in Japan.

        2. colinc

          There is no such thing as “accidents.” EVERY so called “accident” can be directly attributable to ignorance, incompetence, an utter lack of awareness or deliberate fraud. Earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, etc. are not “accidents,” they are, in point of fact, natural phenomena that happen regardless of “human” presence. When one or more cars collide with each other or something else, or when any man-made structure “fails,” again NOT an “accident.” The vehicle/roadway/building/wall/aircraft/etc. were poorly designed/maintained/operated through ignorance, neglect (incompetence) or deliberate malfeasance. When someone “mistypes/misstates” a word/phrase/thought, again NOT an accident. See attributions above coupled with abject apathy regarding their “intended” communication (i.e., inattentiveness).

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Should the Japanese decide to go without nuclear power, I highly recommend ‘uma’ power.

      3. Mark P.

        @ psychohistorian –

        No and no.

        The popular notion that we’re unable to eliminate nuclear ‘waste,’ which will necessarily remain a danger for hundreds of thousands of years, is false.

        Most nuclear engineers and knowledgeable folks will tell you, when they’re being honest, that they believe that the idea that our reactors’ radioactive products will represent a danger or a management commitment for thousands of human generations yet unborn is likely to turn out to be a myth.

        Don’t believe them or me?

        Go check and you’ll find that every potential repository scenario in every country where such a scenario is being mooted requires that site to allow access for retrieval of those materials for the next century or three. That’s because, while safety concerns figure, everybody who’s knowledgeable expects that we’ll want the option of digging up that ‘waste’ either to use as nuclear fuel ourselves or to sell to somebody else who will.

        Either way, all that ‘waste’ will be disposable via reprocessing and re-use. Basically, the Gen-4 reactors due circa 2030 and other new nuclear technologies will represent the arrival of full reprocessing, pyroprocessing, and industrial nuclear transmutation. Even the actinides and the longest-lived fission products could be disposed of by such means.

        Furthermore, our current reactors, besides being potentially dangerous — as Fukushima has demonstrated — are grossly inefficient. They extract only about 7 percent of the energy in their fuel, whereas some next-gen reactor designs will have burn-up rates of 92 percent.

        Above all, what working the fuel cycle more extensively would mean is that problems with any future shortages of nuclear fuel can be obviated, because breeder reactors can produce more fissile materials than they take in. This is the attraction of nuclear: via reprocessing, no other energy technology offers the possibility of such large portions of energy for durations that, according to some fairly conservative estimates, extend 9,000 years out and that less conservative estimates see as possibly indefinite.

        If the good news is that nuclear waste is disposable and the nuclear energy industry can be rationalized, why all the propaganda in favor of burying the waste forever?

        Because the bad news is that all this new nuclear technology means reprocessing of nuclear fuel, which potentially places us today at the dawn of the golden age of nuclear proliferation. In other words, the real problem with doing something about our reactors’ nuclear waste is not physics-based, but political.

        Gen-4 reactor designers and proponents have labored mightily to increase those designs’ proliferation resistance. Nevertheless, five out of the six Gen-4 design types are breeders. All those designs involve uranium (and, therefore, the possibility of plutonium somewhere along the line), and IMO could be modified to produce larger amounts of weapons-grade material. Certainly, the much-vaunted “proliferation-resistant” thorium reactor could be modified to produce weapons-grade material.

        Finally, all this advance of nuclear transmutation is a broad trend, not unlike what we’re seeing with biogenetic technologies. If the anti-nuclear folks could somehow succeed in banning all nuclear reactors, that wouldn’t end it. One emerging technology is the ADS, for instance, or accelerator -driven system —

        An ADS could extract energy by bombarding thorium, with a beam of high-energy protons from a particle accelerator; the neutrons produced would cause fission in the thorium fuel, assisted by further neutrons arising from that fission. So an ADS could function as a nuclear generator that could be turned off simply by cutting off power to the accelerator and that could use non-radiactive material (thorium is fertile, not fissile) as fuel. What could be safer?

        And, nevertheless, an ADS is a nuclear transmutation device. With no uranium or plutonium to start with, it could, if suitably modified, produce uranium or plutonium out of its back end.

      4. Fifi

        “Does the situation at Fukushima present society with the responsibility of managing that site for hundreds of thousands of years?”

        No, because your core assumption is factually flawed. Cleaning up Fukushima will take time. But it won’t take anywhere close to “hundreds of thousands of years”.

        Decommissioning the Fukushima site itself, the reactors, the plant perimeter and the immediate surroundings, will take up to 30 years, which is a long time, but not “hundreds of thousands of years” by a factor of about 10,000 :-)

        Massive fuel chunks and corium recovered from the wrecks will probably end up being reprocessed. Equipments and building elements contaminated by long lived radioisotopes, (Tc-99, TRUs, etc) will most likely end up sequestered in a salt dome repository like the WIPP facility.

        Now, for overall exposure outside of the plant, the radioactive contamination outside of the plant is AFAIK mostly I-131, H-3 (tritium), Cs-134, Cs-137 and Sr-90.

        The most dangerous was I-131 because of its potential for bio-concentration in the thyroid. With a half-life of 8 days, any I-131 released during the accident has decayed by a factor 500,000 (5 months since reactor scram) – completely gone in practical terms NOW – and will have decayed by a factor 200,000,000,000 (yep, that’s 11 zeros) by the end of this year – not measurable anywhere, even inside the reactors.

        The longest lived isotope on the list is Cs-137 with a half-life of 30.17 years. That’s the the one who will stay the longest in the environment. It decays by a factor 10x every 100 years.

        To assess the risks from Cs-137, a good comparison is potassium which contains 31.7 Bq/g of naturally radioactive K-40 isotope. K-40 and Cs-137 behave very similarly for internal and external exposure. Same biochemistry. Comparable decay energy. A human body contains typically 4,000 to 5,000 Bq worth of K-40.

        Typical natural soil contains up to 2.5% of potassium, so radioactivity from K-40 is about 800 Bq/kg. In terms of areal activity, 800 Bq/kg means about 500,000 Bq/m2 if you consider the K-40 activity of the top 2 ft of soil (~0.6m). And I’m not considering radioactivity from naturally occurring uranium and thorium, typically 3 ppm and 10 ppm in soil, and generally a lot more in cropping areas because of phosphate fertilizers.

        From the IAEA surveys, I would say that there are about 350 km2 contaminated with more than 3,000,000 Bq/m2 of Cs-137, 900 km2 between 1,000,000 and 3,000,000 Bq/m2, 600 km2 between 1,000,000 and 600,000 and another 1,500 km2 between 600,000 and 300,000 Bq/m2.

        Assuming the Cs-137 stays where it is (worst case assumption for continual exposure), the Cs-137 contribution is similar to natural background radiation from K-40 in the largest, outer area (600,000 to 300,000 Bq/m2). It will be below 10% of natural background of a normal soil within a century in that outer area and also well below 10% of natural background radiation in the other two areas up to 3,000,000 Bq/m2. Another 100 years and the most contaminated areas (up to 30,000,000 Bq/m2) will also reach that point.

        In practice, Cs-137 is adsorbed on soil particles rather than contained in the mineral part of the soil like potassium. So the levels of Cs-137 will fall much more quickly through washing by rain water.

        It’s both a bad thing and a good thing.

        It’s a bad thing, because it also means that cesium can be more readily available for plant absorption depending on soil chemistry. So agriculture products from the area will have to be closely monitored for a few decades for excessive levels of Cs-137 and prevent them from entering the food chain. The regulatory limit is set at 500 Bq/kg for foodstuff. Mind you, I wouldn’t mind munching once in a while on a half-pounder of meat with 6,000 Bq/kg of Cs-137 (1,500 Bq per serving :-) because most of it is pissed right away and because I already carry 5,000 Bq of K-40. A third more or a third less wont make a difference.

        It’s also obviously a good thing because external exposure will fall faster. There again, except for true hot spots clocking at hundreds of millions of Bq/m2, current levels are not much of a problem. Humans live happily and in perfect health with much higher levels of background radiation, in Iran, in France, etc.

        In any case, the range of concern from Fukushima spans from a few decades to two or three centuries, certainly not “hundreds of thousands of years”.

        1. psychohistorian

          Only 30-300 years then? I want to believe you for society’s sake but still think my question of “poor societal risk assessment” is still valid.

          I didn’t read anything in your summary about the plutonium with the thousands of years of half life that was reportedly there. That is/was/continues to be the basis of my assertion.

          Thanks for the response, we all need to keep talking.

  15. scraping_by

    Re: Bachman

    I, too, oppose religion, especially Christianity, as a screen for right-wing ideology. Both for the damage it does to electoral and deliberative politics, and more, for the damage it does to religion.

    When I talk to young people about Christianity, most of their answers concern politicians and politics. No preachers, no famous or familiar believers, certainly no authors. Arson at abortion clinics and Rev. Huckabee letting a rapist free to rape and murder. Long shrill harangues on trivial matters of dress.

    To most young people, even the churched, Christian means a right wing ideology run by and for sanctimonious bullies, by and for materialists both small and large, scapegoating the weak and pandering to the strong. Office politics with nothing sacred.

    Dominion theology sounded weird from the beginning, and is certainly repellant to most reasonable people. I’m reading Paul Froese’s The Plot to Kill God: Findings from the Soviet Experiment in Secularization. The Soviets didn’t stamp out Christianity by atheist lecturers and hauling believers to the Gulag. But it looks like American religious leaders are going to get the job done using it for political ends.

    1. F. Beard


      Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” John 18:36

    2. colinc

      Religion of any and every “faith,” be it Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, whatever, is the most heinous concept ever foisted on the minds of men. Every one of them “evolved” out of abject superstition and was developed and codified for the sole purpose of creating obedient “flocks” for the few seeking absolute power. Roughly 200+ years B.C. (screw the BCE crap), Eratosthenes calculated the circumference of planet Earth to within a few percent of what it is known to be today. So, WHY was there more than a millennium of “darkness” in which the flock “believed” that the world was flat and this utterly insignificant rock was at the center of everything? Make no mistake, Christianity was, ~2K ya, nothing more than a “cult” just like Heaven’s Gate or the Branch Davidians, it just had better marketing. I have yet to meet anyone proclaiming to be devout to any faith that was not 1) an absolute hypocrite and 2) an abject idiot.

      1. F. Beard

        I have yet to meet anyone proclaiming to be devout to any faith that was not 1) an absolute hypocrite and 2) an abject idiot. colinc

        Well, I can’t claim to be neither but check out this guy – Dr Hugh Ross. He has a Phd in astrophysics and is a practicing Christian:

        1. Skippy

          It is part of the mainstream Protestant Church in the Netherlands (PKN), and the service is conventional enough, with hymns, readings from the Bible, and the Lord’s Prayer. But the message from Mr Hendrikse’s sermon seems bleak – “Make the most of life on earth, because it will probably be the only one you get”.

          “Personally I have no talent for believing in life after death,” Mr Hendrikse says. “No, for me our life, our task, is before death.”

          Nor does Klaas Hendrikse believe that God exists at all as a supernatural thing.
          Continue reading the main story
          “Start Quote

          God is not a being at all… it’s a word for experience, or human experience”

          Rev Klaas Hendrikse

          “When it happens, it happens down to earth, between you and me, between people, that’s where it can happen. God is not a being at all… it’s a word for experience, or human experience.”

          Mr Hendrikse describes the Bible’s account of Jesus’s life as a mythological story about a man who may never have existed, even if it is a valuable source of wisdom about how to lead a good life.

          Skippy…an individual can communicate with a piece of mold on an old slice of rye bread, minimal knock on effect, unless the individual mistakes the experience for enlightenment. So many deserts, so many caves, candle lights, arduous journeys, weeks spent motionless under a tree….trippers.

  16. Birch

    Is anybody else getting a blank page and “It Works” when they go to For the past few days, I’ve had to punch in a sub directory to get around it. Was it hacked or something? Looks like lots of people are getting around it, but I wonder if some people are being turned away.

    1. nobody

      yes that happened to me a few days ago. for a couple of hours or so. couldn’t find anything. if i googled and tried a link to an old posting, same thing. it hasn’t happened since.

  17. PQS

    Good commentary on the riots from the Independent:

    I liked her premise that “Caring costs, but so do riots.”
    She is reporting from “the ground” and is in charge of a couple of charity kids clubs for the dispossessed youth. She indicates that she wasn’t surprised at all at the riots, and she tells harrowing stories of how badly off the poor are.

    I imagine it’s the same here, just totally unreported. In fact, I’ve been quite surprised that there have been no riots here, given the high levels of youth UI and the simmering helplessness of the whole situation. Add in the general tone of “moral hazard for thee, but not for me” that seems to permeate the upper classes, and I think it’s a recipe for 1968 all over again.

    1. A reader

      “We” wouldn’t associate ourselves with those socalled American networks. They’re my enemy and i hope our enemies after they – the networks sold the 9/11 lies and war propagandas to Americans and the world at large.

      Don’t identify yourself with them. They’re public enemy nr 1.

  18. MichaelC

    You had me at “why they need to pony up”, and I was wearing my non-expert reader sweats as I read it.

    Why they haven’tis the puzzle.

    Taxing the oligarchs to recover the bailout costs , which made them rich in the first place, (and still leaves them rich) is easy for the non experts to understand. And seems like a net win for all involved. It also seems like a pretty simple campaign talking ppoint.

    We don’t need a grand savior or new deal to move on.

    They (the top 1) stole from us, we lost. We get it .Its an unjust world, just make them forfeit a pittance to fund their folly, leave our entitlements alone and we can all get along.

    We’ll reelect the fool who can pull this off. No one (including the oligarchs) want to elect those other fools who are guaranteed not to pull this off.

    The politician who can get a Buffet to pledge to pay a rate closer to his secretary’s (that cynical scamp) can turn this thing on a dime (and likely win reelection). O’s team has no imagination, and doesn’t deserve to be reelected, even if the alternative is a suicide pact.

    He (O) seems to have too much confidence in the “suicide pact alternative will save me” strategy and doesn’t appreciate we’re already in Absurdistan. Or he truly is an idiot.

Comments are closed.