Links 8/30/11

Yours truly still has no Internet, save at Starbucks. Richard Smith helped with today’s Links.

Damage at Nuclear Plant in Virginia David Swanson

Why the Fukushima disaster is worse than Chernobyl The Independent, h/t May. We ran posts from George Washington asking whether Fukushima would be worse than Chernobyl (the headlines were sensationalistic, but the posts proper had caveats), to the fury of some readers. Well, just give it time…

Monsanto Corn Plant Losing Bug Resistance Wall Street Journal. From the weekend but still important.

CIA’s Bay of Pigs foreign policy laid bare Miami Herald (h/t Buzz Potamkin). 50 years ago now, but still of great interest. The CIA’s own internal account pulls no punches.

IASB criticises Greek debt writedowns Financial Times

The Eurozone is Headed for a Crash CounterPunch (hat tip reader Carol B)

A sceptic’s solution – a breakaway currency Hans-Olaf Henkel, Financial Times. The beginning of an endgame?

Protests urged in Spain over deficit amendment AP/Google. Let’s see how a ‘low deficit’ constitutional amendment works out in Spain. H/t Lambert Strether.

The Sword of Spitzer Legal Affairs (via HuffPo, hat tip reader Deontos)

Give Karl Marx a Chance to Save the World Economy: George Magnus Bloomberg (hat tip reader Arthur)

Pimco’s Gross rues US debt ‘mistake’ Financial Times

Ride the Real Estate Roller Coaster Hullabaloo (h/t Carol B).

Oregon Foreclosures Appear Likely to Shift to the Courts Loan Safe

Bank Of America Buys Time Via Buffett Effect Francine McKenna, Forbes

BofA’s woes making life difficult for Merrill advisers Investment News

Bank of America Sells Stake in China Construction Bank Dealbook. Raising more capital it doesn’t need, how odd.

Market turmoil lands hedge funds with big losses Financial Times

How an SWF works Macrobusiness. Aussies mull the advantages of an SWF.

Why Michael Lewis Annoys the Bejeepers out of Me Scott Locklin (h/t Larry).

Antidote du jour:

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  1. LeeAnne

    Why the Fukushima disaster is worse than Chernobyl

    With the genius of data gathering researchers we should be getting some reliable trends on the health of the people of Japan by region: the condition of newborns, infant mortality, mothers milk are just a few that come to mind.

    We should be demanding it.

    Particularly since the nuclear cabal is calling the shots in the US as well, Obama being the primary implementer of their policy.

    We can demand that he demand that information -now.

  2. financial matters

    Pimco’s Gross rues US debt ‘mistake’ Financial Times

    If ‘insider’ Bill Gross can get burned so can ‘insider’ Warren Buffett. The Bernanck has his limits.

  3. LeeAnne

    A sceptic’s solution – a breakaway currency Hans-Olaf Henkel Financial Times.

    A good read that sounds reasonable, fair, peaceful and doable. But, how would I know? Seriously.

    Looking forward to seeing comments and maybe a discussion or two.

    1. Kathleen4

      I am about to read a book on the need for a Debt Jubilee by Graeber, so I cannot fully weigh in. I would also like to see a discussion as well though, because I think this sounds reasonable. Something along the lines of MMT?

  4. justanobserver

    yep, the latest from those who love nukes runs something like this :
    yes, yes, yes, thousands of square km of Japan are uninhabitable for a few centuries, but look at how few deaths there has been !

    Somehow they manage to ignore the coming deaths due to cancer.

    and, too, ocean contamination.

    nukes are great in theory. wonder what the next disaster wille be ? when 1/2 the eastern US is radioactive, will the nuke lovers be ready to admit that it’s not that great an idea ?

    1. Typing Monkey

      Well, my rant is more along these lines:

      The anti-nuclear movement is not providing any credible alternative to nuclear power. Most of the anti-nuclear people (outside of Australia) are also anti-coal, anti-oil, and anti-hydro. So what’s the alternative?

      Yes, nuclear is dangerous. Yes, coal is bad for the environment. Yes, flooding is required for hydro. But we’ve already chopped down a hell of a lot of trees and wood is no longer a realistic alternative. Wind creates absolute hell on the power grid (and, incidentally, requires a whole lot of rare earth minerals, which we don’t have at the moment). Solar is unreliable, inefficient, and not usable as base load. NG is very reliable and efficient (actually, it’s a waste to use it for electricity instead of just heat), but can’t be used as base load–and anyway, there isn’t enough of it. It’s also hard to transport unless you liquify it first (and an eruption at an LNG plant would be a n immense catastrophe, btw)

      So the alternatives are …?

      1. ambrit

        Dear Typing Monkey;
        The alternative is a Manhattan Project style alternative energy program. When Von Braun and the other VfR boffins suggested an Apollo Program to the Feds in the late Fifties, the thinking was that it would take twenty years or so to achieve. Then Kennedy projected it as an American issue of National Pride. (Those pesky Commies kept making us look like fools in the rocketry department you know.) Suddenly, the timetable shrank to ten years or so. The actual time lapse from inception to consumation was on the order of eight years. So, don’t be all so doom and gloom Sunshine! We can do it! Yes we can! (We just have to give the government types a few kicks in the b–s to get their attention.)

        1. Typing Monkey

          The alternative is a Manhattan Project style alternative energy program.

          Well, I’m all for this, and if it comes about, I will be participating in it whole-heartedly from a career perspective. But what do we do in the meantime? Moreover, what do we do as backup? Where does the money come from to do this?

          Incidentally, alternative energy, if done in small scale, would be an amazing boon for reasons of both redundancy (“security”) and cost (large costs to a supplier would shift to become small costs to customers). I’m just not so optimistic that it will get done anytime soon. Von Braun lived in a very different world. Right now, technical competence isn’t valued quite as highly, and the competence that exists is spread out among many different industries. The intelligence existing in the power sector right now would *never* have been able to actually create the grid.

        1. Typing Monkey

          How? And it’s hard to simultaneouly argue for creating industrial jobs while reducing power consumption.

          BTW, right now there’s a power glut–spot prices are very low. It’s the longer term that’s a problem.

  5. Anonymous Jones

    So Lewis makes a fact-checking mistake (about toilet museums!!!) and also makes a disagreeable choice about discussing fecal matter, and this diatribe is what results?

    I mean, seriously. That was awful writing (but I get the green-eyed thing from less successful writers). It does amaze me that this guy can even recognize Lewis’s “great writing.” He should try to emulate it next time.

    Yes, Lewis does not have a 100% record in making predictions. You all do? Please then, throw some stones. Throw many stones. I will sit in the weeds with my stones to throw at you as soon as one of your predictions goes awry. Yes, Lewis should never be thought of as a financial journalist. He’s an entertainer first and foremost. He’s very good at it. Lots of people are wrong about lots of things. The more charismatic have the platform to spread their misinformation far and wide. This will not stop. Deal with it. Wisdom, yadda yadda yadda…

    Yves had many well argued points about why she thought the focus of the Big Short was misleading. Wow. Great. You are talking about a book and a response that couldn’t even be understood at any level by more than 10% of the world’s population. Maybe this disagreement about one’s *opinion’s* on heroes and villains is not as important as one thinks it is.

    Pathetic article. Terrible writing. How I even lasted that long reading someone else’s whining about being annoyed is a great mystery to me. But we all know why it was put in the “must read” last position of the Links.

    1. Kathleen4

      Could not agree with the noxious “must read” more. What this entertaining article convenienty left out about present-day Germans:
      1) In the last year German civilian protesters banded against a Neo-Nazi rally.
      2) Right after Fukushima Merkel lost elections to German “Greens” over Germany’s handling of their nuclear power and waste.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      It would be great to have, once in a while, a book that’s all human villains and no human heroes.

      Maybe then, we realize, hey, perhaps vegetables are our solutions, or fungi or whatever.

    3. Paul Tioxon

      Why does Germany not have catastrophic consequences that come with financial crisis? Well, duh, they don’t attack the working class like run away slaves. Precisely because of the social welfare state politics not the let’s see how stupidly rich we can turn run of the mill millionaires into billionaires neo-policies guiding the US. Oh, and they have no military budget to speak of. We have more military bases there feeding their economy. We even buy their real estate and build exclusive US Army vacation resorts with skiing and rock climbing and fun for the whole family. I guess vouchers on US Airways to Disneyworld in Florida would be too ridiculous.

      Take one example of the free money we are dropping into the German economy: RAMSTEIN AIR BASE From Wikepedia

      “From 2004 to 2006, Ramstein Air Base underwent an extensive expansion with a major construction project – including an all-new airport terminal, among other new facilities, through the so-called Rhein-Main Transition Program which was initiated in support of the total closure of Rhein-Main Air Base on 30 December 2005 and transferring all its former capacities to Ramstein Air Base (70%) and Spangdahlem Air Base (30%).
      While the KMC remains the largest U.S. community overseas at 53,000 people, the defense drawdown continues to shape its future. Due to the departure of other main operating installations, more than 100 geographically separated units receive support from Ramstein.
      Ramstein Air Base also served as temporary housing for the United States men’s national soccer team during the 2006 World Cup.
      There is often a Summer Camp to Ramstein from British CCF (RAF) and ATC cadets.”

      The base employs 6,200 German workers and US families stationed with military is over 11,000. There are over 81 DOD schools in Europe with over 30,000 students. Gee, I wonder if those school teachers are lazy good for nothing public union members leaving children behind at every chance they get. We spend over 1 $TRILLION a year on the military and less than half is spent in the USA. Remember the BRAC, the super committee that closed military bases across the US like every single Navy Yard on the East Coast north of the Mason Dixon line.

  6. frobn

    “You are talking about a book and a response that couldn’t even be understood at any level by more than 10% of the world’s population.”

    Looks like you are at the very bottom of the 90% that are unable to understand the book and response at any level.

  7. Jim Haygood

    Lyndon Barack O’Bummer’s latest triumph:

    KABUL, Afghanistan — August has become the deadliest month for U.S. troops in the nearly 10-year-old war in Afghanistan, where international forces have started to go home and let Afghan forces take charge of securing their country.

    A record 66 U.S. troops have died so far this month, eclipsing the 65 killed in July 2010, according to a tally by The Associated Press.

    Oh well, let’s blow up a few peasants with drones and then head for the links!

  8. Susan the other

    The Miami Herald on recently released CIA docs on the Bay of Pigs fiasco. The references to Allen Dulles and the $10 million to Somoza, which was never accounted for makes me wonder all over again: In 1959 we helped Castsro launch the Grandma from Mexico and “invade” Batista’s Cuba. We didn’t like Batista anymore because he was flirting with the French socialists and not doing our bidding. After Castro overthrew Batista he came to the US and had a big romantic-revolutionary press conference with none other than Nixon! Castro believed himself to be a big deal and he thought the US loved him because he was a freedom fighter. But everyone standing behind him was smirking. My opinion of the whole Cuban thing is that Cubans on both sides and inbetween were dupes. Why, is the big question. What have we gained by this 50 years of beligerence? We have probably kept the Caribbean from becoming “communnist,” but what sort of victory was it? Well, we did establish a lot of sleazy off-shore “banks.” Things are still a mess.

    1. Susan the other

      …and the tidbit that always rekindles my suspicions of our double dealing everybody and everything is that Allen Dulles advised Eisenhower in 1960 (as he was fomenting the revolution from Guatemala and Nicaragua) that it “would be better if Castro were a communist.” So from 1960 on the propaganda churned out the defamation that Castro was a communist. He didn’t start out that way. I think he only traveled to Russia in 1961 where, in the photos, he looked uncomfortable when Khruschev embraced him effusively. And gave him money and missiles.

  9. dictateursanguinaire

    That Locklin post made a few good points and Lewis is annoying. BUT, being entertained by that post, I clicked thru a few back pages and found a truly dumb article about economics. It went something like “Never studied it, I don’t think even the concept of economics is valid.” Mainstream econ has a lot of problems, we all recognize here. But to a priori totally discount the most abstract, basic concept of economics (and with a host of very poor arguments, clearly made from ignorance – he doesn’t even identify what actually IS wrong with econ but instead opts for arguments that reek of ressentiment) is dumb.

  10. Foppe

    Asking the right and wrong questions

    From a behavioral economics point of view, the field of financial advice is quite strange and not very useful. For the most part, professional financial services rely on clients’ answers to two questions:

    How much of your current salary will you need in retirement?
    What is your risk attitude on a seven-point scale?
    From my perspective, these are remarkably useless questions — but we’ll get to that in a minute. First, let’s think about the financial advisor’s business model. An advisor will optimize your portfolio based on the answers to these two questions. For this service, the advisor typically will take one percent of assets under management – and he will get this every year!

    Not to be offensive, but I think that a simple algorithm can do this, and probably with fewer errors. Moving money around from stocks to bonds or vice versa is just not something for which we should pay one percent of assets under management.

    Actually, strike that. It’s not something we should do anyway, because making any decisions based on answers to those two questions don’t yield the right answers in the first place.

    To this point, we’ve run a number of experiments. In one study, we asked people the same question that financial advisors ask: How much of your final salary will you need in retirement? The common answer was 75 percent. But when we asked how they came up with this figure, the most common refrain turned out to be that that’s what they thought they should answer. And when we probed further and asked where they got this advice, we found that most people heard this from the financial industry. Sort of like two months salary for an engagement ring and one-third of your income for housing, 75 percent was the rule of thumb that they had heard from financial advisors. You see the circularity and the inanity: Financial advisors are asking a question that their customers rely on them for the answer. So what’s the point of the question?!

    1. PQS

      Thanks for that. Amidst all the Sober Interviews with the Former VP due to his “book” coming out, I had difficulty keeping down my bile. What a vile person this man is. And his odious daughter, too, who is always on the tube parrotting exactly what Dad told her about how “torture worked”. Truly, they are the modern-day Borgias.

      1. Rex

        I agree.

        I’ve been pretty revolted by Obummer lately. The only good part of seeing Cheney on the TV again is that it reminds me how much more openly evil BO could be if he tried.

        I find it odd that the editor didn’t catch the major typo in the book title. I’m sure it should have been “In My Slime.”

  11. Anonymous Comment

    I am so glad to read someone take the time to properly ream Michael Lewis. He is a novelist, not an economist. Therefore everything he writes should be considered fiction.

  12. Hugh

    As the article notes, Henkel is the former head of the Federation of German Industries and he has a typically German perspective. There is no mention of German trade policies and how German industry benefited from the situation he now decries. There is no mention of the role of northern banks in the bubbles he laments. No, it is all mistakes that southern countries made. Significantly, Henkel is all for cutting France out of his new Nordic currency. I can’t help but think of the inherent racism in his views. If you want to know where the real danger to Europe is, it’s in that.

    Nor does Henkel consider the consequences to the German export sector of the new currency he is proposing. Such a currency would be significantly more expensive than the euro it was leaving behind, shrinking and destroying large parts of the German export sector, but why should the dumped countries go further. After all, if the north wants to create monetary barriers, why can’t the south create trade barriers in turn? Why should the South privilege even more expensive German exports? Why not erect trade barriers to the North and encourage domestic production?

    If you haven’t guessed by now, I think Henkel is a shortsighted idiot. And yes, a kleptocrat as well. What he wants is what benefits him and his, but the Germans and the North are far from the only players in this. Once you initiate a process like this you can stake out the endpoints you want but these may not mean much to the other players and their agendas. Henkel wants his second currency but then he wants to keep everything else pretty much the same. But there is no reason for southern countries to accept Henkel’s limits just because it suits Henkel that they do so.

    1. Typing Monkey

      Funny, I thought Henkel was an idiot for completely different reasons. First, Austria is F!@#ed. This doesn’t take a whole lot of genius to grasp.

      Secondly, the “lower valued euro” would come with much higher interest rates. I doubt this will stimulate much growth in a country of huge debtors.

      In any case, onto your objections:

      There is no mention of German trade policies and how German industry benefited from the situation he now decries.

      Well, the point was that everybody was supposed to benefit. The rest of Europe got very cheap credit, which is a huge boon to the debtor nations (ie, all of them). They misused that money.

      There is no mention of the role of northern banks in the bubbles he laments. No, it is all mistakes that southern countries made.

      Well, the northern banks should get punished by going bankrupt. Having said that, it’s hard to argue that the southern countries weren’t at fault–they got cheap credit and spent it on non-productive uses. They also lied about their deficits to get access to that cheap credit. Why should Germany, which lived beneath its means, be punished for this, and why should the southern states be rewarded for it? Why should Germany be obligated to continue to sustain the south’s dysfunctional systems?

      Significantly, Henkel is all for cutting France out of his new Nordic currency.

      Why the hell would the Germans want to include France? Why would France want to join, anyway???

      Nor does Henkel consider the consequences to the German export sector of the new currency he is proposing.

      Germany isn’t going to be able to export much to the deadbeat countries under any circumstances (well, it can export, it just can’t get paid).

      Why not erect trade barriers to the North and encourage domestic production?

      Perhaps because most countries don’t like hyperinflationary depressions?


      One of the truly bizarre assumptions in both Henkel’s article and your response, btw, is the idea that Germany is an ultra-strong country economically. It isn’t (actually, if you care to respond, I’m really curious to know where you got this assumption from??). Germany is facing a lot of head wind right now and over the next few years, and it is unlikely to come out of it unscathed.

  13. Susan the other

    Do chickens all come home at once? So it’s not a black swan, it’s a flock of chickens. The Virginia nuclear plants took a big hit in the 6. earthquake. It has gone under-reported. Questions still arise about the design specs being inadequate, etc. And many have asked if fracking for natural gas has had anything to do with it. If the answer is yes, we will hear nothing but denials. So that demands the question: did fracking or off-shore drilling have anything to do with Fukushima? Was it attributable only to the well known danger of the fault line in the Pacific? I doubt it. But what do I know. I only know for certain that they will not tell us the truth.

    1. LucyLulu

      I read the article and watched the video and see no evidence that N. Anna 1 and 2 took a significant hit. The worst was the failure of 1 of the 4 generators however most, if not all, nuclear plants have more generators than required to run the facility to allow for generator failures (generator failures seem to be common events). In addition, the venting of the steam from the stacks is a normal part of operation during hot shutdown. A nuclear reactor continues to generate considerable heat after shutdown which is no longer being sent to the steam turbine powered generators for electricity production. Part of the heat is released to the atmosphere through steam releases. There is no significant, if any, radioactive content in the steam releases. N. Anna is remaining in shutdown mode until a full inspection can be made to insure that there was no significant damage, which is the prudent move. Furthermore, N. Anna has the advantage of being one of our newer plants and a strong safety record.

      Don’t get me wrong. I am the first to argue our aged nuclear plants need more regulatory oversight than they traditionally have received. I also agree that in the event of a serious incident the public would not be kept informed, any more than at Fukushima. Historically in the US this has proven to be the case. I am only saying that in this instance I see no reason to be alarmed.

  14. Sundog

    Jaron Lanier on our problems with computer networks. Lots of meat & potatoes here from a guy who’s had considerable experience over a long period of time. (There’s a transcript, and audio, but oddly for me I found it enjoyable to watch him talk.)

    Those interested strictly in finance might want to search the text for “Walmart” and check how he ties that firm’s pioneering work in data management to recent developments in the securities and insurance industries.

    Douglas Ruskoff offers a pertinent comment on Lanier’s chat:

    In many ways, this is the program running according to plan. We are living in the world as envisioned by propagandist Ed Bernays – perhaps the most influential figure of the 20th Century – who argued that the masses are simply too stupid to be in charge of anything, and need to be convinced of their autonomy while a benevolent elite actually runs things. Our predicament differs in one crucial way, however: in our case, not even the elite are aware of the biases of the media and technologies they are using to control everyone. That’s why they’re getting such unpredictable results. In a world where people don’t know how to program, the programs run the world.

    1. attempter

      the masses are simply too stupid to be in charge of anything, and need to be convinced of their autonomy while a benevolent elite actually runs things.

      Which remains the predominant assumption, evidently never even questioned, even at a place like NC.

      As stated above, this is a Starve-the-Beast strategy for self-fulfilling prophecy. Obviously “masses” can’t do anything except in anthill fashion. But it’s centralizers like Bernays who sought to liquidate all human institutions, community, civil society, and democracy, and replace them with atomized masses amid the fraudulent simulations of those things. They then turn around and proclaim, “Masses can’t run things. Only technocrats [meaning, power/wealth elites] can.”

      The point is to abolish masses and restore communities, restore human institutions. Humans cooperating as communities can not only run things themselves, they would clearly do a vastly better job of it than the “elites”, proven failures and criminals all, have ever done.

      1. ambrit

        Dear attempter;
        Been ploughing through some of that relocalization material, interesting in the extreme, especially the slant on local political organization it implies. That’s the point here too I assume. “All politics is local.” My problem with the concept is that political power trends towards centralization whenever left to its own devices. So, we need a dynamic anti-centralizing process in the political sphere. Would that be the internet itself? (I don’t pretend to know, just thinking outloud. To see if someone salutes it when it passes by.) A good dividing line might be at the level where problems become too far reaching or complex for truly local solutions. I feel a new federal versus regional political struggle is waiting to be born. Keep the torch carried high attempter!

        1. attempter

          The key in that case is true federalism, meaning that only delegates with strict mandates, little discretion, mostly consultative functions, and subject to instant recall, are elected upward to federal assemblies.

          It’s up to the citizenry to be vigilant, that their delegates remain within these bounds.

          Historically, for example in Anglo-Saxon history, this was the normal status of delegates sent to court by village assemblies. The Witan Moot among the Saxons is one example. It was only later, during the time of parliamentary concentration of power during the 17th century, that theory and practice changed to representatives who were accountable only on election day, but were otherwise autocrats. (That’s, of course, the “representative government” concept which prevails and is broadly called “democracy” today. Except today the elections themselves are even more fraudulent, with less choice, than existed back then.)

          Meanwhile, town hall government in New England largely restored, at least in practice, something closer to the original council government from which true federalism ramified. The growing alarm at parliament’s evident plan to impose its centralization practice on the colonies was one of the wellsprings of the American Revolution.

          Therefore, council democracy and true federalism were among the principles for which the first stage of the American Revolution was carried out, while the Constitution of 1787-88 was a betrayal of these principles and this revolution. (And the self-called “Federalists” merely pulled off one of the great Orwellian terminological inversions.)

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