Is this the market working or the market failing?

A Twitter battle over the size of each “nuclear button” possessed by President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un has spiked sales of a drug that protects against radiation poisoning.

Troy Jones, who runs the website, said demand for potassium iodide soared last week, after Trump tweeted that he had a “much bigger & more powerful” button than Kim — a statement that raised new fears about an escalating threat of nuclear war.

“On Jan. 2, I basically got in a month’s supply of potassium iodide and I sold out in 48 hours,” said Jones, 53, who is a top distributor of the drug in the United States. His Mooresville, N.C., firm sells all three types of the product approved by the Food and Drug Administration. No prescription is required.

Here is the full piece, via the excellent Mark Thorson.


That people are willing to buy something over the internet says....really nothing:

There are a lot of retards out there. Even if a nuclear war occurred between the U.S. and North Korea there is very little chance that they could successfully deliver a nuclear-armed ICBM to the U.S. It took a long time for both America and the Soviet Union to perfect this, there's no way North Korea could have done so in so little time, they only recently developed an ICBM, and even that's in dispute. It's South Korea and Japan who should be scared.

NK doesn't have inertial guidance systems accurate enough to hit a particular US State, let alone a City, from 1/3 of the world away. Let alone tested. Speaking of which, has it even satisfactorily performed one atmospheric test of a warhead? You know, why I have all this Sr90 in my skeleton, from the hundreds of atmospheric tests by the USA & USSR in the 1950's. & I haven't even mentioned all the trial & error of miniaturising its warheads & hardening these to withstand the heat and acceleration arising from its descent on board its 'ICBM's' [which aren't even IRBM's].

But hey, be sure and ingest that potassium iodide exactly 48 hours before Armageddon!

+ 100

Simply check the Bloomberg Politics site if curious.

These arguments don't hold water for me. A nuclear weapon, unlike a conventional one, does not have to be precisely targeted to be massively destructive and lethal. If NK were to land a nuclear weapon anywhere on the mainland West Coast it would have a major impact on some population center and be hugely economically disruptive to the rest of the country. Sure, a direct hit on Silicon Valley would probably have a greater impact than landing somewhere on the Oregon-Washington border, but both would be devastating to large numbers of people.

And NK is not developing its missles and nuclear weapons from scratch, the way the US and USSR had to. The information needed to build advanced systems may not be publicly available on the internet, but it is out there, and can probably be purchased from knowledgeable people in other countries. Indeed, it is my understanding that their nuclear technology was largely obtained from a Pakistani nuclear scientist. Who says they can't get the technology for advanced guidance systems from an external source, too.

Our intelligence on NK's actual capabilities is very limited. And just because NK hasn't demonstrated some particular capability doesn't mean they don't have it. It may well be in their interests to reveal only some of their cards. After all, if we knew with certainty that NK can successfully launch a nuclear attack on the US mainland, the probability that we would attack them first would go up dramatically. It may well be to their advantage to keep us guessing, as that would somewhat restrain our responses to various provocations.

I frankly don't know what they can or can't really do. But I don't find it credible that anybody else outside the NK elite does other.

All of that said, only people close enough to the blast area to have an intensive radiation exposure but not so close as to be killed by the blast itself can benefit from potassium iodide. That's probably a relatively small number of people. Then again, if we do not know where the nuclear weapon would actually strike, a large number of people could reasonably assess their probability of benefiting from it as high enough to warrant the relatively small expense involved.

I think you are exaggerating the effects of nuclear weapons in your mind. The weapons at the scale that North Korea most likely has are pretty limited. You can try it out yourself with this interactive map:

A 10 kiloton nuke at optimal altitude has a blast radius of about 1.5 kilometers. And thats at 5PSI overpressure, enough to knock down residential structures but not too much more than that.

Shitty for the people that get his, but hugely disruptive? Not really.

Good to see that someone remembers the Cold War and how to measure blast radius. It really seems as if a lot of people have forgotten about nuclear weapons, and just how cheesy what the North Koreans currently possess compared to what the U.S. and Soviets were prepared to use in the 1950s.

Maybe this is another yellow cake situation, but this was pretty unnerving:

"North Korea is a half-century away from developing a nuclear weapon!"

"North Korea's nuclear weapons are all unreliable! There's no way we'll ever detect a second blast!"

"There's no way Kim Jung Un will develop a hydrogen bomb!"

"There's no way North Korea will develop intercontinental missiles!"

--- You are here ---

"There's no way North Korea will miniaturize those bombs to fit on an ICBM!!"

"There's no reason why North Korea will attack America!"

Actually, we are still pretty much at the “There’s no way Kim Jung Un will develop a hydrogen bomb!” by most reasonable definitions. The North Koreans may be on the threshhold of hydrogen boosted fission technology that was developed in the late 1940s - we will know they have gone beyond that whenever they test a 100kt or so device.

And this - “There’s no way North Korea will develop intercontinental missiles!” - lacks the word 'effective.' Which the North Koreans are working on, of course.

Combining the two is quite hard, as noted here - 'Efforts in the United States soon shifted towards developing miniaturized Teller–Ulam weapons that could fit into intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles. By 1960, with the W47 warhead deployed on Polaris ballistic missile submarines, megaton-class warheads were as small as 18 inches (0.5 m) in diameter and 720 pounds (320 kg) in weight. It was later found in live testing that the Polaris warhead did not work reliably and had to be redesigned.[citation needed] Further innovation in miniaturizing warheads was accomplished by the mid-1970s, when versions of the Teller–Ulam design were created that could fit ten or more warheads on the end of a small MIRVed missile (see the section on the W88 below)' Of course, the North Koreans are copying technology that exists, not precisely developing it.


I’m just not as reassured as I’d like to be by the notion that when Kim launches nukes at us, even he will only have a vague idea where they’ll land....

Well, maybe. But maybe nest month or next year they will. NK is extremely unstable and it is more likely than not that they will use nukes. Not good news for Tokyo, Honolulu, Anchorage, Seattle, San Francisco, LA, maybe more. So do we wait and see or act to prevent NK from getting that capability?

So that is what we have become. The noble and wise word of Washingnton's Farewell Address (see for yourselves) would not fit in a twitter, but now we have a Tweeter-in-Chief tweeting about how big his button really is. It is a narional shame.

It’s funny in a way. In the 1990s Clinton cut a deal with NK that he said was an “end to the threat of nuclear proliferation on the Korean Peninsula.” Carter won the Nobel peace prize for being a go-between. And in 2006 the Norks detonated a nuke while admitting they were working on it the entire time.

Despite all the blather from the great and good, NK keeps improving their nuclear capabilities, extending the reach of their missiles and keeps seriously screwing with the rightly alarmed Japanese.

But we would never say Carter, Clinton, Bush and Obama were national disgraces for allowing all this to happen. Their rhetoric was satisfying and that seems to be good enough for most people these days.

I’m not saying Trump has the right style to deal with this but I do know the Norks have reopened talks with the South for the first time in years, and both the South and Japan appear to be happy with Trump’s approach. Who knows, maybe it’s a good idea for bad actors in the world to see a superpower as unpredictably powerful rather than predictably weak.

"NK keeps improving their nuclear capabilities"

How the fuck would you know?

From reading the NYT?

Well there's a substantial wiki article on all the nuclear testing they've done over the last 20 years.

But hey, keep sticking your head in the sand.


That's the best you've got?

Try this- WARNING: be sure you're wearing your Depends TM adult diaper before reading:


If you have something substantive to add the the conversation, maybe now would be the time to start.

The substantive point is never trust the NYT when it writes about WMDs or the need for the U.S. to go to war to prevent a mushroom cloud appearing over an American city. Because the NYT has a proven track record of publishing lies in this regard.

Let me get this straight.

You are cynical about the old Clinton/Carter cycle, where NK talked nice and kept building - but take it as unambiguous good news that NK is talking nice again now?

Maybe you are finding some rhetoric satisfying.

(Personally, I think less Madman Theory on all sides would be a good thing.)

By the way, to help with the distinction between "madman strategies" and pure madman:

"Confused Trump tricked by Fox News into opposing his own surveillance bill" - @jonathanchait

More on the new Korea dynamic:

Who needs potassium iodide when your mental bunkers are secure? Donald and Un probably have a very good relationship!

When I start sentences with phrases like “Who knows” that’s a pretty strong indication that I’m not viewing things “unambiguously.”

That would be you, and your apparent need to paint issues into neat black and white paradigms so you can declare war online.

You wrote a story, the arc of which was that Democrats got nothing but nice talk from North Korea, but now look at Trump, who with his madman "style" is getting .. some nice talk from North Korea.

What we've had is a great deal more bluster and brinkmanship (and yes danger) with no more concrete results.

In fact until yesterday the strategy of a "bloody nose" attack is reported to be still on the table.

A sudden change?

We do get the standard Trump he-said he-said in readouts of the conversation:

"Trump told South Korean President Moon Jae-in that news reports that his Administration is assessing such action are “completely wrong,” according to a statement from Moon’s office, quoted by Reuters.

A White House summary of the conversation made no mention of any such assurances."

Well, I remember at least one proeminent Conservative saying Bush II was to defeat Kim Jong-il because Bush plays poker, not chess (apparently, North Koreans are great chess players). I also remember Republicans calling Clinton an appeaser and, under Bush, allowing North Korea complete the Bomb. And vice versa. The problem is the two-party system and the tribalism it fosters. We have a crisis of leadership a moral crisis.
But it is not with virtual Sturm and Drung that one will solve that crisis. We must demand a patriotic, wise leadership. We had it before under Republicans and Democrats. We don't need twitter for that.

Maybe you are full retard and sad. I am myself, not another person using my name.

I bought potassium iodide pills for a trip to New York on Sept. 11, 2002. My co-worker still gives me grief about it.

It reminds me of when I was a child and during air raid drills (yes, our little town had air raid drills in the 1950s) we were told by our teachers to hide under our desks to prevent "fallout" from falling on us. I suppose there's no market lesson there, but I can also report that bomb shelters were very popular, some very basic but others with elaborate air ventilation systems and provisions intended to last for many months, the latter presumably until after all the "fallout" had fallen and fresh crops were safe to eat. Were all those bomb shelters evidence of a market working or a market failure?

Of course, nuke pills, bomb shelters, and cryptocurrencies are all born of the same human capacity to believe that bad things can be avoided with the proper planning.

More pointed would be the chaos created by today's anarchists: do they really believe they can board their private aircraft and fly to New Zealand until the trouble passes? Today's anarchists remind me of those who told us we could hide under our desks to prevent "fallout" from falling on us.

What price won't you pay for peace of mind? Did your family have a bomb shelter rayward?Why/why not?

Peace of mind? When all Hell breaks loose, do you really believe those who built bomb shelters would quietly descend into them while the rest looked on with quiet admiration.

There does exist something called a gun.

It is a misnomer that bomb shelters were popular. There were very few. Most likely because they survival would encompass a meaningless existence. Those that built them or enjoyed their proclivity were regarded as Infamis.

"survival would encompass a meaningless existence"

Even if it sent people back to the stone age, people found the will to live in the stone age.

When she said taciturn, she had always inflected a suspicion a blind man might have for a mannequin

From 2013 to 2015, markets in .22 cal. ammunition were "insane." One just could not get any. I spoke to sellers in LA, NY and TN. It was the same everywhere. Normal shipments would arrive and sell out in 24 hours.

You get under your desk to protect yourself from flying glass. Fallout is dust, you protect yourself from that with... a ventilation system.

And also, fallout decays rapidly, being in a bomb shelter for a week or two would vastly increase your chance of survival.

Every single post rayward makes is moronic. I'd think he was a troll, but he doesn't have a point, he's just rambling in ignorance

This is hilarious! Back in my lab days when we used to do radioactive iodination experiments we simply took some potassium chloride out of the reagent bottle and made a very small amount of super saturated solution. One drop on the tongue was all it took to block the thyroid and allow one to conduct the experiment without any worries. If one is sufficiently distant from the blast zone, one really doesn't have to worry about thyroid exposure. If one is in the blast zone, potassium iodide is irrelevant. But we must remember that we are merely a nation of lemmings and this is why people will pay money for something they will never need.

Thanks for making this point. All potassium iodide does is protect the thyroid when there is radioactive iodine around. It has no effect anywhere else and against any other radioactive isotope.

Interesting you mention lemmings, since the common wisdom about lemming behavior is also an urban legend.

?? no evidence for the claimed market surge at referenced link

Biggest buyers for NukePills seem to be U.S. Government and some foreign governments -- that ain't a normal "market"

which nation has the largest nuclear arsenal, has used them in warfare, and poses the largest nominal threat to humanity

Er, if the US nukes you, you don't need to worry about radiation damage that pills can help. You need to worry about the radiation that turns you into vapor

Seems a somewhat rational, if extreme, response to a very erratic and irrational (and extreme) president.
The problem isn't North Korea, never has been. It acts how it always acts, but the problem is Trump, who doesn't have the
capability if putting things in perspective. And Trump allows himself to be trolled and punked.

NK isn't the problem? Talk about defining deviancy down. As for the president, his remarks do have the advantage of affirming the US threat of nuclear retaliation (which is necessary for meaningful deterrence).

Instead of Nuke pills

Is it cheaper to get

Donald J. Trump

Some medicine instead

To deal with his psychotic episodes.

Or, perhaps disable his Twitter account.

Or, perhaps arrange a sumo wresting match for Donald and Kim, where instead of fighting, they can insult each other.

I'm loving it. But for you It will be a difficult seven-plus years.


I think you must share many of the traits you admire in Donald J. Trump.

I'd love to know who's really the more senile: Trump, the mulp, Bill, or rayward

Careless, Maybe you have a judgment problem. I think it is covered under Obamacare.

It's Trump. You're welcome.

It is the markets working.

The media market sells a story that people want to hear because they like to worry. The vitamin vendor sells a placebo to help the same people stop worrying when they want. Others of us sell a funny anecdote about the paranoid people, bought by readers who derive satisfaction from their greater wisdom.

Everyone is better off, because life consists in these free choices and actions.

The only reason there hasn't been a nuclear detonation in anger since 1945 is because of the clear assurance that if you launch, we are all dead. Not a comfortable situation, but oddly it has produced a period of peace and prosperity.

The North Koreans seemed to believe that they could do anything they wanted without repercussions. Like shooting a missile over Japan.

The North Koreans seemed to believe that they could do anything they wanted without repercussions. Like shooting a missile over Japan.

And they're right, as long as Japan doesn't say "fuck the South Koreans"

That's still in effect. If NK actually detonates anything anywhere populated, we turn the entire country to glass (metaphorically).

Preppers are having fun or whatever they feel while preparing for the apocalypse. Considering all the joy these guys feel while saying "i've been right all along", the market is working fine.

Serious question, why is the North Korean regime permitted to exist? Related question--how does it exist? Who are its enablers? I can take a stab at the answers, but they are questions that seem to be missing from what should be sober, comprehensive discussion by people who purport to be knowledgeable.

Most of your questions have a one word answer: China

Its more than 'just' China.

No country in North Asia wants the status quo to change:

China doesn't want a unified Korea, with [ostensible US ally South Korea] on its doorstep

Russia, ditto

Japan doesn't want a unified Korea [with the risk of a diminished USA 'tripwire' on the peninsula], requiring IT to actually have to defend itself

South Koreans don't want a unified Korea [looking down the barrel of three decades of infrastructure build to bring the North up to code; they've seen the movie of East GER]

Last, the USA isn't going anywhere. & a unified Korea runs the risk of becoming more autonomous, less dependent on US forces domiciled beneath the 38th Parallel.

UPSHOT: Expect no change in the near to medium term.

Hey! Fatso Rocket Man! Bet you don't dare use your puny nuclear weapons on our large and weakly defended Blue States and Dem-voting population centres! Wuss!

The Old Man of Decadent America will be in for a rude awakening if he arouses our anger.

Comments for this post are closed