The Global Reality Freak Show

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Post-apocalypse

“Mother nature is a brutal bitch, red in tooth and claw, who destroys what she creates.”
~ Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death

The root of the problem

Despite modern man’s unparalleled ability to gather and synthesize mountains of data on climate change and other growing dangers, he is helpless to stop the inevitable and well-worn trajectory that all previous complex societies have followed. This time, however, is different in that the scale of environmental overshoot is planet-wide – the world’s oceans are becoming too acidic to sustain life, the soil too eroded and degraded to grow food, and the atmosphere too polluted with heat-trapping gasses. As the green mantle of the Earth is swallowed up in the geologic blink of an eye, eon-long processes of plant and animal evolution are stopped dead in their tracks. Of all the horrors modern civilization has brought forth, the most damaging and longest-lasting legacy is the wholesale loss of genetic and species diversity. Global ecocide is certain suicide. 

Faith in technology and “free market” capitalism to solve the planet’s ills has already proven to be a very dangerous and faulty belief. Politicians are always looking for easy solutions to complex problems, and they see technology as the mechanism by which to reconcile endless growth on a finite planet. Public Relations and greenwashing are all-pervasive. Science has been privatized to the highest bidder. Essentially, those who are anti-environmental and those who claim to be environmentalists are both proponents of the same omnicidal death machine. One recognizes that fossil fuels are indispensable to industrial civilization while discounting or refuting anthropogenic climate disruption(ACD). The other acknowledges the reality of ACD but falsely believes that “renewable energy technologies” can harmlessly supplant carbon-based energy sources. In both cases, neither can accept that the root of the problem is capitalist industrial civilization. Neither the anti-greens nor the faux environmentalists are willing to give up their globetrotting airline flights, sprawling suburbia and car culture, oversized McMansions, overprocessed fast food, virtual world of cyberspace and all the rest of their energy-intensive, unsustainable way of living:

…This “standard of living” is a product of an alienated society in which consumption for the sake of consumption is the new god. In a grow-or-die economy, production and consumption must keep increasing to prevent economic collapse. This need for growth leads to massive advertising campaigns to indoctrinate people with the capitalist theology that more and more must be consumed to find “happiness” (salvation), producing consumerist attitudes that feed into an already-present tendency to consume in order to compensate for doing boring, pointless work in a hierarchical workplace. Unless a transformation of values occurs that recognises the importance of living as opposed to consuming, the ecological crisis will get worse. It’s impossible to imagine such a radical transformation occurring under capitalism, whose lifeblood is consumption for the sake of consumption…

As Murray Bookchin argues, “If we live in a ‘grow-or-die’ capitalistic society in which accumulation is literally a law of economic survival and competition is the motor of ‘progress,’ anything we have to say about population causing the ecological crisis is basically meaningless. Under such a society the biosphere will eventually be destroyed whether five billion or fifty million people live on the planet” ["The Population Myth" in Which Way for the Ecology Movement?, p. 34]… – link

Civilization is not in of itself evil; the problem lies in how it is organized and functions. Capitalism encourages the unregulated growth of gigantic corporations that exploit the environment and people, create economic disparity, promote hyper-consumerism, and usurp and corrupt governments. In addition to using military might for exploiting foreign resources and pools of labor, capitalism encourage war for the sole purpose of profit, i.e the military industrial complex. It also encourages overpopulation by the gross maldistribution of wealth:

…There is an inverse relationship between per capita income and the fertility rate — as poverty decreases, so do the population rates. When people are ground into the dirt by poverty, education falls, women’s rights decrease, and contraception is less available. Having children then becomes virtually the only creative outlet, with people resting their hopes for a better future in their offspring. Therefore social conditions have a major impact on population growth. In countries with higher economic and cultural levels, population growth soon starts to fall off. Today, for example, much of Europe has seen birth rates fall beyond the national replacement rate. This is the case even in Catholic countries, which one would imagine would have religious factors encouraging large families.

To be clear, we are not saying that overpopulation is not a very serious problem. Obviously, population growth cannot be ignored or solutions put off until capitalism is eliminated. We need to immediately provide better education and access to contraceptives across the planet as well as raising cultural levels and increasing women’s rights in order to combat overpopulation, which only benefits the elite by keeping the cost of labour low in addition to fighting for land reform, union organising and so on. However, the “population explosion” is not a neutral theory, and its invention and continual use is due to its utility to vested interests. We should not be fooled by them into thinking that overpopulation is the main cause of the ecological crisis, as this is a strategy for distracting people from the root-cause of both ecological destruction and population growth: namely, the capitalist economy and hierarchical social relationships it requires. – link

We also discussed this consumption and overpopulation issue in a previous post entitled Overpopulated by Homo Colossus.

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Ferguson is only a small spark before the conflagration

Those communities that are the most discriminated against and disenfranchised will be the first to erupt in violence as the social fabric is stretched to the breaking point. The city of Ferguson, Missouri experienced ‘white flight’ since 1990 which changed its demographics, creating a majority of African-American residents but with whites still dominating the institutions governing the city. The racially charged social unrest in Ferguson has its roots in the rapacious system of capitalism. Several policies and effects of neoliberal capitalism worked to drain wealth and opportunity away from Ferguson: outsourcing of American industry, the housing bubble and credit crunch, and education reform and privatization”. In addition, the militarization of local law enforcement and targeting of African-Americans with fines to fund the police department is another tactic of rogue capitalism preying upon the poor:

    • Emerson Electric, the dominant employer in the area, offshored its production little by little over time to foreign factories with cheap labor.
    • Many African-Americans bought homes in Ferguson during the housing bubble, only to become underwater in their mortgages in the credit crash and Great Recession that followed. As of 2013, 49% of homes in the Ferguson zip code were underwater.

Mortgage lenders targeted predominantly black and Hispanic areas for the highest-risk, highest-cost types of mortgage loans, such as adjustable-rate mortgages and loans with high prepayment penalties. This led to higher-than-average default rates, according to the Housing Commission established by the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

The mayor of Ferguson and its all-white city council then collaborated to keep property values low around the historic district for reinvestment and redevelopment.

    • On the basis of its state test scores, the impoverished Normandy School District where Michael Brown attended was declared a failure and its accreditation was pulled by the state. Because of this, Normandy School District was obligated to pay for the transfer of its students to other wealthier schools. (This is one of the schemes of the privatization of education and “school shopping” that the state is using rather than funding and providing resources to these schools.) The costs of student transfer bankrupted Normandy School District, so the state then dissolved the district and created a new one which it exempted from accreditation so that students would no longer be allowed to transfer out to other better-funded schools. The pipeline from such poverty-stricken, failed educational systems to prisons–many of which are for profit–is direct.
    • The militarization of the domestic police force in the U.S. has been occurring for several decades and is in line with the ever-increasing militarism of America’s foreign policy. With the entire globe now treated as a battlefield in the ‘War on Terror’, summary executions can be carried out by remote-controlled drone aircraft. Americans have now joined the ranks of those in South America, the Middle East and the rest of the Third World who have been exploited by the neo-coloniali exploitation of U.S. corporations over the last century. As the economy fails to ‘improve’ and global unrest becomes more frequent, the brutality of a fascist corporate state will reveal itself right here at home in more overt ways. The growing police state in America is the response by those planning to protect their elite positions at the top of the capitalist hierarchy in this corrupt state of ever-widening wealth disparity, resource depletion, and environmental collapse:

…Combat in large cities is central to the military doctrine that is being developed by the US armed forces. This is spelled out in a document entitled “Megacities and the United States Army: Preparing for a complex and uncertain future,” which was released in June by the Army’s Strategic Studies Group and endorsed by its chief of staff, Gen. Raymond Odierno.

Predicting that it is “highly likely that megacities [described as metropolitan areas with populations of more than 10 million] will be the strategic key terrain in any future crisis that requires U.S. military intervention,” the report reveals that the Pentagon has conducted “case studies” and “field work” in preparation for such interventions in: Dhaka, Bangladesh; Lagos, Nigeria; Bangkok, Thailand; Mexico City, Mexico, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Brazil … and New York City.

Describing the conditions that it anticipates will require US military intervention, the report warns, “As inequality between rich and poor increases … Stagnation will coexist with unprecedented development, as slums and shanty towns rapidly expand alongside modern high-rises. This is the urban future.”

“Radical income disparity,” is further described as the foremost “driver of instability” in these far-flung urban areas.

In other words, the Pentagon brass is seeking to prepare the US military for directly counterrevolutionary interventions aimed at quelling popular revolts that it sees as the inevitable consequence of the unprecedented social inequality created by world capitalism in crisis… - link

As reported by Cyrano’s Journal Today, the Obama administration’s call to review U.S. government funding of military equipment for local/state police departments is simply a PR ploy to calm the nerves of uneasy Americans. In reality, the U.S. government will work to normalize and standardize the militarization of domestic law enforcement:

…The aim of the Obama administration’s review—beyond being a public relations exercise—will be to cut down on such unprofessional displays and make the use of domestic military police more systematic, widespread and regular. In this it will be similar to the administration’s reviews of its domestic spying programs, each of which has only resulted in the extension of illegal spying by the US intelligence agencies.

Far from acting as a restraining influence on local police departments, the federal government has been the most active facilitator of police militarization. In June, the American Civil Liberties Union released a report entitled “War comes home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing,” which concluded that “the federal government has justified and encouraged the militarization of local law enforcement.”…

    • To add insult to injury, the Ferguson police made it a practice to feed off the poor by filling its coffers with millions of dollars in fines and court fees that it collected by specifically targeting and harassing African-Americans. I seldom quote ZeroHedge here because it is pro-capitalist and attributes all social and economic problems to Federal Reserve monetary policies rather that correctly placing the blame on the inherent workings of capitalism, but I did read an informative article from them on the scale of poverty that is affecting not only Ferguson, but all major metropolitan areas in the U.S.:

The biggest concern, however, is that Ferguson is merely the canary in the coalmine. According to Brookings, within the nation’s 100 largest metro areasthe number of suburban neighborhoods where more than 20 percent of residents live below the federal poverty line more than doubled between 2000 and 2008-2012. Almost every major metro area saw suburban poverty not only grow during the 2000s but also become more concentrated in high-poverty neighborhoods. By 2008-2012, 38 percent of poor residents in the suburbs lived in neighborhoods with poverty rates of 20 percent or higher. For poor black residents in those communities, the figure was 53 percent.

A long history of colonialism, slavery, and racism underlies the economic, political, and social disenfranchisement of African-Americans today in communities like Ferguson. Their exploitation has been institutionalized, and thus deemed acceptable.

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We’re just an extra in this global reality freak show

The world certainly appears to becoming much more unstable with Russia and the Ukraine flirting with nuclear war, barbaric decapitations at an all time high in the perpetually destabilized Middle East, the failure of Japan’s ice wall to stop its radioactive clusterfuck fallout, redneck commando wannabes of America’s local police departments running roughshod over those they are sworn to “protect”, the Wall Street Casino Royale reaching all-time highs as average Americans get new lone shark PayDay loans to pay their previous lone shark PayDay loans, and our corporate overlords celebrating even higher profits while paying even less taxes. And while this circus of humanity plays out, both poles continue their meltdown with new outgassings of methane promising to wipe us out with one monstrous belch.

The techno-utopians will continue their crusade to save mankind from himself. The free market fundamentalists will seek comfort in the fantasy that Adam’s Smith’s invisible hand will fix everything. The climate change deniers will continue to rationalize the increasingly destabilized biosphere as a new normal that has happened before. The things we know that should be done to save ourselves are only philosophical narratives running in our head, never to see the light of day. All you can do is watch it all unfold because this reality freak show is global and you’re just an extra in it, whether you want to be or not. After all, I don’t think any of us are completely free from some sort of delusion. If we were, we wouldn’t be human.

Alternative Energy Fetishes and Temples to Technology

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robert-mccall-The-Prologue-and-the-Promise-1024x427 I’ve become rather jaded at the stream of ever-worsening environmental reports these days. Surely if we had some sort of techno-fix to halt the cascade of biospheric tipping points we have breached, we would have deployed them by now. Nevertheless, the carrot of a civilization-saving technological breakthrough is forever dangled before our eyes. By all accounts, we appear hellbent on doing everything humanly possible to maintain and perpetuate industrial civilization by deploying “earth-friendly” renewable energy technologies which, in the end, turn out to be nothing more than “reconstituted fossil fuels”.

The role that fossil fuels play in the creation, maintenance and support of alternative energy technologies is not discussed or analyzed at all by those peddling it to the masses who live with the hope of a “green” economy and carbon-neutral civilization. From the massive mining operations and manufacturing processes necessary to extract the rare earth metals essential in constructing wind turbines, solar panels, and electric car batteries to their daily maintenance, de-activation, and final discardment, the amount of fossil fuel energy embedded in the entire life cycle of such alternative energy technologies renders moot their benefits when compared to what is actually more effective in solving our energy and climate conundrum —reducing our consumption through energy efficiency improvements and waste reduction programs. Alternative energy technologies cannot replace our dependence on fossil fuels and are, in the final analysis, diverting us from coming to grips with a way-of-life that cannot go on for much longer. We have a consumption crisis.

Here is an excerpt from a must-see talk by engineer and energy analyst Ozzie Zehner, author of Green Illusions:

“Common knowledge presumes that we have a choice between fossil fuels and green energy, but alternative energy technologies rely on fossil fuels through every stage of their life cycle. Most importantly, alternative energy financing relies ultimately on the kind of economic growth that fossil fuels provide. Alternative energy technologies rely on fossil fuels for raw material extraction, for fabrication, for installation and maintenance, for back-up, as well as decommissioning and disposal. And at this point, there’s even a larger question: where will we get the energy to build the next generation of wind power and solar cells? Wind is renewable, but turbines are not. Alternative energy technologies rely on fossil fuels and are, in essence, a product of fossil fuels. They thrive within economic systems that are themselves reliant on fossil fuels.

Now, I’m no fan of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are finite and dirty, but we use them for five principal reasons. Fossil fuels are dense. Their energy is storable, portable, fungible (which means they can be easily traded), and they are transformable into other products like pesticides, fertilizers, and plastics.

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Now, these qualities cannot be measured in kilowatts, so what happens when we spend our precious fossil fuels on building alternative energy. Well then we get energy that is not dense, but diffuse. It’s not easily storable. It’s not portable. It’s not fungible. And it is non-tranformable.

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Now to increase the quality of the energy, we then have to spend more fossil fuels to build batteries, to build back-up power plants, and other infrastructure. And of course this is incredibly expensive. Ultimately that expense represents the hidden fossil fuels behind the scene.

There’s an impression that clean energy can supply a growing population of high consumers. There’s an impression that alternative energy can displace fossil fuel use, but the evidence doesn’t show that.

As Ozzie Zehner states, fossil fuels are finite and dirty. If you look at the headlines, the geopolitical wrangling and wars that takes place over the extraction of fossil fuels are another nasty and destabilizing side-effect of our dependency on fossil fuels. America’s global network of bases and its military industrial complex are yet another hidden cost of our fossil fuel addiction. Does President Obama tell the people of America the real underlying reason for why we are again bombing Iraq?

The US military intervention, despite its “humanitarian” propaganda, is nevertheless part of clear political objectives that are to protect American diplomatic personnel stationed in Erbil (which is also home to a CIA base) and large multinational companies in the hydrocarbon/oil sector such as Mobil, Chevron, Exxon and Total exploiting the oil production in the region and having already invested more than $10 billion there, but the primary purpose above all is to keep the Iraqi regime ally, inherited from the American invasion. The United States did not intervene when Mosul fell and other regions and more than 200 000 refugees were on the road in the direction of Iraqi Kurdistan, but only when IS was threatening to conquer the Kurdish areas of the North and the capital Baghdad in the South. – link

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Here we are once again back at war because we need that black goo lying beneath the ground that those lunatic terrorists are running around on. And it also doesn’t help that America has become a warfare state with the corporations and the über rich benefitting every time we crank up our war machine.

Among many others who have written about this subject, here are two people from The Fertile Ground Institute who have also looked into alternative energy technologies and come away with the same conclusion as Ozzie Zehner:

I agree with commenter ‘C 1 Max’ whose many thoughtful comments at Robert Scribbler’s site were summarily deleted.

Snap 2014-08-22 at 11.55.30 As long as we ignore the limitations of technology and the unsustainable nature of our economic system, the battle is lost for mankind. The grave we are digging for ourselves will only get deeper and deeper, spurred on by our alternative energy fetishes and temples to technology.

A Slow and Systematic Genocide

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Israel Bleeding“People who call themselves supporters of Israel are actually supporters of its moral degeneration and ultimate destruction.” ~ Noam Chomsky

There are a number of Israelis, such as Sahar Vardi and Uri Avnery, who strongly reject the occupation of Palestinian lands and the militarization of Israeli society. Although they recently lost their exemption status from military service, an ultra-orthodox sect of Judaism known as the Haredi whose numbers comprise 10% of the Jewish state are also opposed to war and the violent land grabs of Israeli settlers. There are others as well, but their voices are suffocated by powerful forces which have no interest in ever finding a peaceful solution to the Israeli/Palestinian crisis.

“…not only does Israel now occupy 80% of the area of historic Palestine, but it – via the water company Mekarot – also takes 80% of the water resources from the 20% of the land that is left to the Palestinians…”link

Looking back into history, one finds that the current right-wing ruling Likud party of Israel has roots in the Irgun Zvai Leumi (Hebrew for “National Military Organization”), a terrorist Jewish organization which played an integral part in the establishment of Israel: 

“…The Irgun has been viewed as a terrorist organization or organization which carried out terrorist acts. In particular the Irgun was branded a terrorist organisation by Britain, the 1946 Zionist Congress and the Jewish AgencyThe Irgun believed that any means necessary to establish the Jewish State of Israel, including terrorism, was justifiable.

The Irgun was a political predecessor to Israel’s right-wing Herut (or “Freedom”) party, which led to today’s Likud party. Likud has led or been part of most Israeli governments since 1977.”link

In fact, Menachem Begin, the sixth Prime Minister of the State of Israel, was a terrorist leader of Irgun Zvai Leumi and founder of the Likud party. As they say, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.

The disproportionate force and indiscriminate killing of this year’s Operation Protective Edge are a crafted policy of the IDF:

“This Dahiya doctrine, developed at Tel Aviv University, calls for disproportionate force against civilians and civilian infrastructure to extract the maximum pain from those civilians, to make them stop the resistance–an absolute collective punishment crime against humanity.”
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The thousands of primitive Qassam rockets fired by Hamas have killed 28 people and injured 1,900 since 2001, whereas Israeli hi-tech missiles have killed thousands and injured tens of thousands of Palestinians in the same time period as the following chart illustrates:

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The chart above does not have the complete death toll as of today, so a few thousand more Palestinians and a few dozen Israelis must be added to the body count. As the popular saying goes, war carried out by the state is simply terrorism with a bigger budget.

Just as America pursued a westward expansion of its territory with the ideology of manifest destiny and implemented the Indian Removal Act of 1830 which removed native people by force, if necessary, from desirable territories within state borders and herded them into less valuable land, so too is Israel pursuing a similar strategy. Palestinians have been isolated into two areas, the Gaza Strip (including East Jerusalem) and the West Bank. The Gaza Strip is sealed off on its land borders with Israel by concrete and steel walls, a double wire fence, watchtowers and checkpoints, and sensors and buffer zones. This Israel–Gaza barrier is equipped with state-of-the-art surveillance technology and manned by armed Israeli police. To complete the land enclosure of Gaza at its southern border, a steel wall that will extend 60 feet deep into the ground is being erected by Egypt with the help of American and French money and expertise. Last year, the Egyptian military resorted to flooding Gazan smuggling tunnels with sewage. The Israeli navy controls all ingress and egress from Gaza ports, while Israeli drones and fighter jets rule the Gazan skies. The West Bank is similarly ghettoized and in the process of being walled off. Ironically, Israel has exiled the Palestinians to the very same sort of ghettos that confined and segregated the Jews for centuries in Europe and later in the Nazi-occupied countries.

…ghettoization is itself the aim, having been implemented for the past 65 years. In other words, the aim – unfolded with the advent of time -has been to concentrate the Palestinians in reserves, after most of their land had been robbed of them. And if they desert and move abroad, it’s of their own free will. A direct planning and ideological line stretches between the enclaves in which the Palestinian citizens of Israel live and those of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

This is the real Israeli historical compromise. It is not with the Palestinians, but with the dictates of reality and among the various Zionist ideological currents. The crowded, offensive reservations – the creation of which is violence, pure and simple – are a compromise between the craving to eject the Palestinians from their land and the recognition that regional and international conditions do not permit it.
Amira Hass, Palestinian ghettos were always the plan

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While the U.S. exterminated the buffalo which was the North American Plains Indian’s primary source of food and material for clothing, shelter, tools and religious icons, Israel has a policy of precisely calculating the number of calories to be allowed into the open-air prison of Gaza in order to control dietary intake and keep the people on the brink of malnutrition. To circumvent this blockade, Hamas built tunnels and estimates are that 75% of the goods that stock Gazan shelves are smuggled through these subterranean corridors. Contrary to current mainstream media propaganda, these tunnels were built out of a necessity for survival rather than for terrorist purposes. Israeli gunboats also prevent Gaza fishermen from fishing more than two or three miles off their coast despite the fact that the Oslo Accords agreement granted access to 20 nautical miles off the Gaza coast.

The Israeli navy uses different tactics of torture to punish the fishermen for persistently fishing, including shooting with live ammunition (on numerous occasions injuring fishermen), shelling, shooting with high-powered water cannons [all of which is simultaneously designed to damage the boats and equipment], at gunpoint forcing fishermen to strip naked and (after a long wait in the cold air) to jump into freezing waters and swim over 50m to the waiting naval ship before hauling the fishermen up, blindfolding and handcuffing them, and abducting them to Israel for interrogation unrelated to issues of fishing. – link

Due primarily to the blockade and previous Israeli airstrikes on power plant infrastructure, electricity generation has in recent years been severely curtailed to less than half of normal demand in Gaza. Loss of energy to waste treatment plants has caused “up to 90 million liters of partially treated sewage to discharge into the Mediterranean Sea every day.” The current Israeli bombardments on July 29, 2014 have now left Gaza in an even more dire condition:

“If there were one attack that could be predicted to endanger the health and well-being of the greatest number of people in Gaza, hitting the territory’s sole electricity plant would be it,” said Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East and North Africa director. “Deliberately attacking the power plant would be a war crime.”link

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Most wars are started under false pretenses and Israel’s current “mowing of the lawn” is no different, as Fair.org reported, but Israel has the backing of a super power to legitimize its sadistic war crimes. Western media outlets parrot the crudest of Israeli propaganda. As America’s number one recipient of military and economic aid, Israel has proven itself an integral linchpin of the American empire:

“Israel’s demonstration of its military prowess in 1967 confirmed its status as a ‘strategic asset,’ as did its moves to prevent Syrian intervention in Jordan in 1970 in support of the PLO. Under the Nixon doctrine, Israel and Iran were to be ‘the guardians of the Gulf,’ and after the fall of the Shah, Israel’s perceived role was enhanced. Meanwhile, Israel has provided subsidiary services elsewhere, including Latin America, where direct US support for the most murderous regimes has been impeded by Congress. While there has been internal debate and some fluctuation in US policy, much exaggerated in discussion here, it has been generally true that US support for Israel’s militarization and expansion reflected the estimate of its power in the region.

The effect has been to turn Israel into a militarized state completely dependent on US aid, willing to undertake tasks that few can endure, such as participation in Guatemalan genocide. For Israel, this is a moral disaster and will eventually become a physical disaster as well. For the Palestinians and many others, it has been a catastrophe, as it may sooner or later be for the entire world, with the growing danger of superpower confrontation.” ~ Noam Chomsky

With a larger percentage of its economy devoted to the military and security industry than any other country (even the U.S.), Israel is a militarized warfare state.

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Last month, Robert Fisk wrote that the current Israeli/Palestinian conflict is about land and Nafeez Ahmed wrote that it is about Gaza’s gas reserves. I say it’s about land and resources, but it’s also about war profiteers feeding the military industrial complex with endless conflict. From the gas chambers of the Holocaust to today’s slow and systematic genocide of the Palestinian people, it’s about man’s inhumanity to man and the vicious cycle of history repeating itself.

Excerpt from the poem

The Children of Gaza
& the Profits from their Genocide

by Heathcote Williams

For over a third of Israel’s income
Comes from its exporting its weapons,
And since it’s cultivating its deadly fruit
In its Gazan hot house at a profit,
Then why would it see the need for peace?

Operation Cast Lead’ in 2009
Boosted Israeli Arms sales
To a record 6 billion dollars.
It killed 1,471 Palestinians.

Operation Pillar of Defense’
The second large scale operation in Gaza
Was launched in November 2012
And Israel’s weapons sales that year
Set a new all time record
Of 7,000, 000,000 dollars,
While 169 Palestinians lay dead.

In ‘Operation Protective Edge’
Over a thousand would die in July 2014,
And whatever its final body count
The price will have been considered worth it
By the thriving Israeli arms business.

As Israel ruthlessly destroys the besieged Gaza Strip,
Elbit Systems, its largest developer of military technology
And its drone-maker, benefits from the bloodshed.

Since 8 July, 2014, when Israel began its latest offensive,
US-traded shares of Elbit Systems,
Climbed 6.1 percent
According to Bloomberg Business Week.

Israel’s three-week long massacre
Of 1,200 Palestinians in Gaza,
Including nearly 300 children,
“Has pushed Elbit’s stock close to the highest level since 2010
While its valuation on a price-to-earnings basis
Is near the most expensive in five years.”

Israel, in other words,
Makes bloodshed its business.

Striking a Nerve: Everyone I Know is Brokenhearted

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At some point in your life you realize that you’re running out of time, that your health and energy level are slipping, and that your time here on Earth is extremely fragile and transient. You begin to question and re-evaluate what’s important to you. Most still go to their grave with the belief that life will go on for their descendants in a world of never-ending technological “advancements” and improvements in society. A few reading this blog understand the myth of human progress and that mankind is sleepwalking towards a very dark fate. How could there be any other outcome when we have never really heeded the precautionary principle of environmentalism and, in fact, flagrantly disregarded it? Occasionally a scientist will candidly speak the truth. Recently, Jason Box did just that when he tweeted “we’re f’d” if just a small fraction of floor carbon is released from the Arctic. Some of us realize what dire straits we are in and all we can really do is watch with a sort of morbid fascination as this dystopian future unfolds before our eyes. A “grim meathook future” is the inevitable result of a society that worships money, materialism, militarism, and technology.

For an articulate and heartfelt expression of the angst of the modern age, I highly recommend reading the blog post Everyone I know is brokenhearted. The author, Josh Ellis, doesn’t mention climate change at all, but he does hit on every other aspect of capitalist industrial civilization and its soul-crushing, alienating culture. Judging from the number of Facebook “likes”, now at 21K and counting, he has really struck a nerve with people. Perhaps it’s fitting and somewhat ironic that Josh has spent much time in the desert megacity of Las Vegas, the ultimate man-made mirage of capitalist decadence. 

All the genuinely smart, talented, funny people I know seem to be miserable these days. You feel it on Twitter more than Facebook, because Facebook is where you go to do your performance art where you pretend to be a hip, urbane person with the most awesomest friends and the best relationships and the very best lunches ever. Facebook is surface; Twitter is subtext, and judging by what I’ve seen, the subtext is aching sadness.

I’m not immune to this. I don’t remember ever feeling this miserable and depressed in my life, this sense of futility that makes you wish you’d simply go numb and not care anymore. I think a lot about killing myself these days. Don’t worry, I’m not going to do it and this isn’t a cry for help. But I wake up and think: fuck, more of this? Really? How much more? And is it really worth it?

In my case, much of it stems from my divorce and the collapse of the next relationship I had. But that’s not really the cause. I think that those relationships were bulwarks, charms against the dark I’ve felt growing in this world for a long time now. When I was in love, the world outside didn’t matter so much. But without it, there is nothing keeping the wolf from the door…

Read the rest: http://zenarchery.com/2014/08/everyone-i-know-is-brokenhearted/

American Empire: Reaping What It Has Sown in Latin America

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The Blood-Soaked Foreign Policy of the U.S.

Citizens of the First World live in ignorance of their country’s violent imperialistic history. As Joe Bageant said, “Americans are cultivated like mushrooms from birth to death, kept in the dark and fed horseshit.” Nonetheless, the average pleb in America should realize by now that they too will be treated no different from those in the Third World exploited by empire. As illustrated by a recent study, U.S. citizens are mere cardboard cutouts in a façade of democracy with essentially no voice in their government’s actions. The wealthy elite call the shots, determining crucial government policy and the law of the land. When all the propaganda and myths are swept aside, America is revealed to be nothing more than a heartless oligarchy; you and I are simply marketing statistics and consumers, pawns and cogs within capitalist industrial civilization.

Empires weave their own self-serving and grandiose history while the vanquished are left to struggle for survival in the wreckage. A case in point is America’s current immigration crisis and its superficial analysis by the mainstream media which serves only to stoke racial fears amongst the ignorant masses while ignoring uncomfortable and disturbing root causes. The harsh reality is that America has a long history of carrying out covert and overt operations as well as instituting economic policies designed to exploit South and Central America, not to mention much of the rest of the world. One recent example was the 2009 coup of populist left-wing Honduran president Manuel Zelaya by elite military forces trained at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, GeorgiaConsider the following timeline of American intervention in Latin America since the 1950’s:

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‘Free Trade’ for Corporations and Misery for Local Populations

Now consider the trade deals of NAFTACAFTA, and other “free trade” globalization schemes which have flooded our southern neighbors with cheap, subsidized produce from U.S. Big AG, decimating small farms and pushing millions off their land and into extreme destitution:

As part of neoliberal restructuring, Mexico would have to re-orientate its economy to the export rather than the domestic market. Mexico was already heavily dependent on trade with the US, but post-1982, Mexico’s dependency has become almost akin to that of a colony. US agricultural products – most notably corn – subsidised by American taxpayers now flooded the Mexican market, undercutting small domestic producers. For Mexican farmers the consequences have been ruinous and have devastated domestic production, a process which continues under the recent government of the National Action Party (PAN)…

From the implementation of NAFTA in 1994 to 2000, 2 million farmers abandoned their lands. Fewer Mexicans now have access to health care and education than prior to 1980 as public spending has been cut as a result of ‘reforms’. By 2005 50 percent of the population had fallen below the poverty line, pushing some 3.3 million children under the age of 14 into work. Following the government’s agreement to exchange investment rights and trade barriers for loans and financial aid, Mexicans saw huge changes in their circumstances, such that by 1988 the cost of living had risen by 90 percent, while per capita income had fallen by some 50 percent. With the abandonment of social programmes, which alleviated at least some of the worst hardships, many communities in Mexico, with little or almost no help from the state, have had to fend for themselves…

Much farming has since been replaced by agribusiness and large-scale meat farms, mostly foreign-owned. In recent years, widespread unemployment and the inability of farmers to gain an income from the land have meant that rural towns are being emptied of their inhabitants, leading to a tremendous population drain to the cities and the United States…Impoverished Mexican workers – employed primarily because they are cheaper to exploit than their US and Canadian counterparts – work to produce commodities which have no tangible benefit for their own society…

…The improved leverage of US power over Mexico’s economy is not solely an issue of having a workforce so ‘flexible’ that much of it is forced into sweatshop labour. The maquiladora belt functions effectively as an economic colony, with the local Mexican police, paid for by the Mexican taxpayer, providing the ‘security’ necessary for factories to operate unhindered by nuisance unions and human rights activists.

One of Mexico’s chief exports, then, is labour. Just as profits and goods leave the country, significant amounts of labour time are not reflected in the Mexican economy. Corporations benefit enormously from this win-win situation resulting in the continuing breakdown of society, a state of affairs reminiscent of a colonial economy, albeit without foreign control of what in any case is a pliant government. As a result, Mexican workers in the maquiladoras, notes Delgado-Wise, are little more than ‘manpower for foreign capital’.

While many of the poor seek work in factories owned by foreign companies or quit the countryside for work in the expanding metropolises, others cross into the US. If significant swathes of the arable land of northern Mexico are emptying, this is a trend connected intimately with free trade… – link

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Militarizing the ‘Drug War’ and Arming Fascist Governments

So after destroying the means of survival for so many in Latin America, the poor and destitute turn to whatever means necessary in order to stay alive — crime, gangs, and the drug trade. The U.S. has reacted to this lawlessness by militarizing the “war on drugs”, providing even more weaponry and support to fascist governments who can then brutally squash any grassroots social movements which challenge the neoliberal capitalist order. It’s a vicious feedback loop in which the U.S. is forced to combat the very social disintegration of Latin America that U.S. economic policy has created. Thus, a fourth factor in America’s immigration crisis is the neocon militarization of the drug war and support of fascist governments aligned with U.S. corporate interests:

Narcotrafficking, like neoliberal capitalism, it seems, thrives in areas of severe poverty and unemployment where the civilian population is economically and politically disempowered and where state authorities are not powerful or willing enough to prevent the violent conflicts that narcotrafficking has produced. Additionally, for those who now have few opportunities in the traditional and legal sectors of the economy, narcotrafficking proves to be the only lucrative alternative…

Civil society found itself vulnerable, impoverished and unable to rebuild the damaged and broken social services and infrastructure demolished by structural adjustment and neoliberal policy. Furthermore, the power and influence of the state have weakened in the last two and a half decades to the extent that in some areas drug traffickers operate quite freely and are immune to prosecution…

…With the authorities weakened, the line between the state and the narcotics industry is becoming increasingly blurred. A United Nations report estimated that between 50 and 60 percent of Mexican municipal government offices have been ‘captured or feudalised’ and coopted by narcotrafficking organisations. Mexican intelligence estimates that 62 percent of the Mexican police are presently under the control of the narco trade. According to rank and effectiveness, members of the police forces can receive anywhere between 5 to 70 thousand pesos monthly from cartels, a dramatic net increase on their state salaries. Of the 2.9 million arms given to the Mexican police forces, 57 percent are used in illicit activities.

Human Rights Watch reports that the military, in its purported struggle against the narcos, commits serious abuses against the civilian population, exposing its role rather as an institution of internal colonisation than one protecting society from violence. The same Mexican soldiers – potentially a force which could combat trafficking – are now deserting on a mass scale. Poor working conditions and pay led 217,000 Mexican soldiers to desert between 1993 and 2009. Among them, many leave the army to join the cartels and take their arms with them. One of the most powerful factions, the mercenary army, Los Zetas, was formed by deserters from an elite anti-drug squad of the Mexican army, taking with them their arms and training. Their sophisticated and professional tactics were developed, ironically, from training in the US by the DEA, the FBI and the US military in the war on drugs…

Historian Miguel Tinker Salas has noted that in the case of Plan Colombia, military spending was intended to crush the strength of rural insurgents and guerrillas to offset the possibility of a popular rebellion, particularly as Colombia had among the worst levels of inequality in Latin America. In Mexico, maintaining a status quo which sees unprecedented levels of inequality and widespread poverty – exacerbated since the 1980s – is likely to involve the increasing use of force in order to quash the threat to the established order posed by social movements and popular revolt, all the more real as Mexico inches closer to collapse. Increasing attacks on organisers and activists of the anti-capitalist Zapatista initiative, La otra campaña, in Chiapas and the prolonged assault on inhabitants of Oaxaca in 2006 remind us that the state will always use military might to repress challenges to its authority and to the socio-economic order. US training of the Mexican military should be viewed in this light, bearing in mind that imperialism has two arms in Latin America – one military, the other economic.

Increasing poverty levels hardly seem to be a top priority for the leaders of the NAFTA signatories. For it is a state of affairs which benefits elites who have no interest in seeing ordinary Mexicans rise from poverty. Vast gaps between rich and poor may seem inexplicably cruel to outside observers, but within is a logic of which NAFTA was a clear expression. Rendering the population more desperate, reducing services and public spending, aggravating society’s vulnerability, rewards the powerful with greater political and economic dominance… - link

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Climate Change and the Coffee Rust Fungus

A fourth factor not discussed much is how climate change is wreaking havoc on the major South American crop of coffee which many rely upon for their livelihood and is the second most traded commodity in the world after oil. Coffee rust, known as “roya” in Spanish, first appeared in the region in the 1970s when climate change began to cause higher temperatures and excess rainfall favorable to the moisture-loving fungus. It has since mutated and spread throughout the region. Resistant coffee hybrids that scientists have created can’t keep up with the fast mutating rust fungus which seems to be growing stronger as climate change accelerates. For the past two years, the rust fungus called Hemileia vastatrix has destroyed 30% or more of the coffee harvest in Central America where coffee production employes one-third or more of the population in Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua :

All the coffee-producing countries of Central America have seen drops in production of 30% or more in each of the past two years. Some, such as Guatemala, report rising cases of chronic malnutrition in coffee workers’ children. Last week Oxfam cited coffee among other crops in a report that warned climate change was putting back the global fight against hunger “by decades”.

Nicaragua’s problem is particularly acute. Along with neighbouring Honduras, and Burma, it is already one of the three countries most affected by climate change, according to the 2013 Global Climate Risk Index. Nearly a third of its working population, about 750,000 people, depend on coffee directly or indirectly for a living. Coffee provides 20% of GDP. The Nicaraguan government is deeply worried: it has predicted that, because of falling rainfall and rising temperatures, by 2050 80% of its current coffee growing areas will no longer be usable.

This will mean disaster…

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Warmer temperatures are also threatening a genetically diverse type of coffee called Arabica which is considered essential to the industry and comprises 70% of global coffee production. According to a recent study, by 2080 global warming will make two-thirds of today’s farms too hot to grow Arabica.

The three countries making up the largest percentage of child migrants that have been flooding the U.S. in recent times are Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. These three countries also happen to be closely allied with the U.S. and its neo-liberal economic model. Nicaragua is an exception to its neighbors. Despite suffering similar losses to its coffee crop from rust fingus, Nicaraguan farmers did not fare as badly because they were supported by the programs of their socialist government, an anathema to America’s ruling oligarchs and neoliberal politicians:

In sharp contrast, Nicaragua, an equally poor country that receives far less U.S. aid because of our government’s hostility toward the Sandinistas, sends far fewer children across the U.S. border. Why? Since coming back into power in 2006, the Sandinistas have enacted strong programs designed to allow the poor to become self-sufficient.

The Immigration Issue: Red Meat for the American Masses

The only way to actually fix the immigration crisis is to address the root causes I have identified above. The response to date from the U.S. government has been to request billions in detention center and deportation funds, launch a PR campaign in the media of Central American countries to dissuade illegal immigration, and increase spending in law enforcement aid through CARSI (Central America Regional Security Initiative). Meanwhile, right-wing politicians fan the flames of racism and xenophobia with calls for militarizing the border to stop the hoards of swarthy barbarians at America’s doorstep. In reality, the current deteriorating social conditions in Central and South America are a direct result of the American corporatocracy and its rapacious economic system as well as anthropogenic climate disruption. The child migrants flooding across America’s border are, to a great degree, victims of U.S. foreign policy and climate change.

Where’s the Evolution?

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“Cannot you see, cannot all you lecturers see, that it is we that are dying, and that down here the only thing that really lives is the Machine? We created the Machine, to do our will, but we cannot make it do our will now. It has robbed us of the sense of space and of the sense of touch, it has blurred every human relation and narrowed down love to a carnal act, it has paralyzed our bodies and our wills, and now it compels us to worship it. The Machine develops – but not on our lives. The Machine proceeds – but not to our goal. We only exist as the blood corpuscles that course through its arteries, and if it could work without us, it would let us die.”
~ E.M. Forster, “THE MACHINE STOPS”

Insects, birds, mammals, and fish have all been migrating to cooler zones for the past four decades in response to the cataclysmic climate disruption ignited by industrial civilization, but humans are the only organisms inhabiting this blue orb we call Earth who are not altering their behavior. They live within an energy cocoon that keeps them cool in the summer, warm in the winter, stuffed with massed produced food from mechanized factory farms, and entertained by a virtual world of digital imagery. As cracks and holes in the Earth’s biosphere grow ever larger, the natural response of capitalist carbon man ensconced within his protective energy shell is to try to put a price tag on what is being burned, i.e. fossil fuels, rather than deal with the deeper root cause of an unsustainable economic system and way of life which demands such exorbitant consumption of resources.

Our energy slaves feed us and control the climate for us while at the same time destroying the natural world that had enabled humans to create such an artificial environment. Detached from nature and enslaved by our own technological creations, we sleepwalk over the cliff of extinction. Our so-called progress will, in the end, disappear like a mirage in the scorching desert sun as nature is sacrificed to the machine of industrial civilization.

Throwing money into the maw of the ‘free market’ is the predictable modus operandi of technocapitalism’s indoctrinated disciples who believe such offerings will create a technofix, miraculously healing the planet. In the Star Trek TV series, the Ferengi were an extraterrestrial race whose culture was characterized by “a mercantile obsession with profit and trade, and their constant efforts to swindle unwary customers into unfair deals.” Just like the Ferengi species where profit is the first, last and only important factor, the high temples of private enterprise are commodifying and monetizing the atmosphere just as they have everything else in nature. The colonization of the public mind by capitalism is complete and overriding. We ignore unfolding geologic forces and instead put our faith in manmade market forces to our detriment.

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In the final days of capitalist industrial civilization, the relentless and compulsive pursuit of profit and growth has subsumed any intelligent and realistic plans for survival. In fact, with the race amongst nations for nuclear technology and sophisticated weaponry, the requisite competitive economy to support such hi-tech militaries nullifies any attempts at reducing greenhouse emissions and pushes the world towards nuclear annihilation. As Kevin Lister, author of the forthcoming book The Vortex of Violence and why we are losing the battle against climate change, points out:

…The fundamental dilemma all nuclear weapons states face is that to maintain a credible nuclear force, be it a force of one or one thousand nuclear warheads on deployment, a massive military industrial complex must be maintained. As well as building the actual nuclear weapon systems, it must also provide the conventional defence screen consisting of fighter jets, patrols planes, anti-submarine warfare technology etc. In an ultimate irony, the purpose of these becomes to defend the nuclear forces to ensure a second strike can be launched rather than to defend people, because there is no defence against a determined nuclear attack. The military industrial complex that delivers this equipment must be continually fed with new streams of contracts at increasing values otherwise the industrial complex collapses. Thus a key objective in the initial gate document which justified to parliament the early procurement of material for Trident was that, “We must retain the capability to design, build and support nuclear submarines and meet the commitment for a successor to the Vanguard Class submarines.” In other words, we build Tridents to continue building Tridents.

The enormous cost of this needs to be covered by taxes, and for this some £500 billion of additional excess economic activity is needed which requires energy from fossil fuels and is the antithesis of making the urgent cut backs we need to tackle the soaring greenhouse gas overburden. Thus once the decision is made to proceed with Trident, it becomes impossible to make the climate change agreements to save the planet. In this context Trident is more dangerous than we ever first thought and it is the ultimate Faustian bargain.

Your commissioners have also failed to acknowledge in their report that the public spending that will be needed on Trident must be made at the same times as scarce public funds must be diverted to building a low carbon economy and mitigating the effects of climate change such as flooding and storm damage. This conflict will arise as tax receipts simultaneously drop through energy price rises.

The impossibility of meeting these conflicting challenges is the reason that much of the negotiations at climate change conferences takes place around the positions of the nuclear weapons states and their need to maintain large military industrial complexes and competitive and expanding economies to fund these

to build at huge expense a nuclear force whilst the nation is effectively bankrupt that will never provide secure protection from nuclear attack and merely encourage our competitors to reciprocate. It drives a race to the bottom where rational decisions on climate change can never be taken.

This nexus between global capitalism, the lucrative military-industrial complex, and the strategy of nuclear deterrence has locked the nations of the world into a trajectory of escalating anthropogenic climate disruption, environmental degradation and an ongoing arms race since World War II. Illustrative of this are the energy consumption levels of the U.S. DoD and war profiteering motives of defense contractors:

…The US military is the largest single consumer of energy in the world. If it were a country, the Department of Defense (DoD) would rank 34th in the world in average daily oil use, coming in just behind Iraq and just ahead of Sweden…

…Electricity usage by the military, which accounts for even more greenhouse gas emissions, is also gargantuan. In FY 2006, the DoD used almost 30,000 gigawatt hours of electricity at a cost of almost $2.2 billion. The DoD’s electricity use would supply enough electricity to power more than 2.6 million average American homes.

In fiscal year 2012, the DoD consumed about a billion gigawatt hours of site delivered energy at a cost of 20.4 billion dollars. While consuming that amount of energy, DoD emitted 70 million metric tons of CO2. And yet, total DoD energy use and costs are even higher simply because the energy use and costs arising from the contractors to support military operations both domestically and abroad are not included in DoD’s data…

…The increased propensity for war and conflict brought about by global warming is being exploited by the military-industrial complex which is planning on how to profit from it. Defense contractors are looking at climate change as a growth and profit opportunity due to the potential conflicts produced by food and water shortages. They are salivating over the potential profits to be made leading to increased stock market performance and, therefore, higher CEO compensation.

Defense contractors are setting their sights on a narrow-minded militarist approach. Indeed, the very companies most responsible for climate change are set to make a killing from its intensification. – link

Only one civilization in history has voluntarily uncomplicated/decomplexitized its society in the face of resource scarcity. According to Joseph Tainter, that civilization was the Byzantine Empire:

“After the Byzantine empire lost most of its territory to the Arabs, they simplified their entire society. Cities mostly disappeared, literacy and numeracy declined, their economy became less monetised, and they switched from professional army to peasant militia.”

 As commenter James wryly puts it:

…Because the human ape is such a competitive and vicious sort, there must be a constant “progress” in technology and development to prevent being eaten by or dominated by another nation. Evolution writ large. Without a doubt it will end soon and nothing shall remain but the Ozymandian technological skeletons of times gone by…

photo-11 Yes, where is the evolution? Teeming within the capitalist industrial civilization that is M.A.D. are 7+ billion naked apes, the most dangerous creature to ever walk the face of the Earth capable of wiping itself out within mere minutes from thermonuclear war, if anthropogenic climate disruption, ocean acidification, and global nuclear reactor meltdowns don’t do the trick.

As a warming planet cooks our brains and scrambles our environment, the trigger finger of some mentally ill and agitated soul may just belong to someone sitting at the launch button of a nuke. As Albert Einstein said, ‘I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.’

Full video here: http://www.c-span.org/video/?312985-1/book-discussion-short-history-nuclear-folly

The Loneliness of Anti-Imperialist Fighters, by Andre Vltchek

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For a glimpse into the life of someone who is actually doing the dangerous and solitary work of true investigative reporting, exposing the dark underbelly of Western imperialism and global capitalism, please read the recent blog post of Andre Vltchek and support his work.

Richard Falk has said of Vltchek:

Chomsky and Vltchek help us to realize that an array of powerful forces are using their wealth and influence to prevent us from seeing. We are allowed to see only as much as the gatekeepers of the public mind want us to see, and yet we are not relieved from using our capacities for sight. Reading Chomsky and Vltchek removes the scales from our eyes, at least temporarily, as they have managed to elude these gatekeepers, but at considerable risk, with a display of moral courage, civic responsibility, and extraordinary intellectual energy. I learn a lesson in civics from their vigilance: as citizens of constitutional democracies we retain the freedom, and hence possess a heavy responsibility to see for ourselves what is being done in our name…

Originally posted on Algérie Résistance:

Andre Vltchek. D.R.

It is late at night and you cannot sleep. Ebrie Lagoon is right behind the window of your hotel, but it is hardly visible at this hour. You are in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa.

You are here because you were informed that the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, also known at ‘Chocolate King’, has been getting his cocoa from the fields of this country. You are also convinced by several of your sources, based all over the world, that his confectionary empire,Roshen, is receiving its basic product from some of the most terrible plantations in Côte d’Ivoire that are still using child labor. You decided to come here, to investigate…

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Capitalist Industrial Civilization = M.A.D.

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“This, then, is the legacy we leave to future generations so that we can turn on our lights and computers or make nuclear weapons… Have we, the human species, the ability to mature psychologically in time to avert these catastrophes, or, is it in fact, too late?” ~ Dr. Helen Caldicott

Radical, wide-scale planning should have been executed decades ago in response to the Limits to Growth study. Instead, we carried on with business-as-usual as the natural world underwent cataclysmic, mass extinction level changes. Every day, the insanity of capitalist industrial civilization(CIC) is on full display as we entertain ourselves with the illusion of token political gestures towards “sustainability”. None of it changes our death march over the cliff of extinction. Nature died long ago with man’s discovery of fossil fuels which fed his terminal overshoot. Any isolated pockets of remaining wilderness are trampled underfoot, amounting to no more than a mere novelty destination commercialized by the tourist industry.

Enslaved to his own self-destructive technology, CIC continues to toxify and irradiate the planet, plasticize the oceans, and disrupt the chemical conditions that allow for life. A society that dehumanizes everything with the fetishization of technology and money will always see disaster as a money-making opportunity. Anthropogenic climate disruption is no exception. Competition amongst nations and corporations for economic/military supremacy, wealth, and power demands that the energy resources to be exploited first are those with the highest available ERoEI, i.e. fossil fuels. The charts bear out this cutthroat strategy and so do the actions of nation states who have made it a legal duty to maximize greenhouse gases. Giving up the competitive advantage of coal, oil, and gas ensures you will be eaten alive in the global economy. Thus nation states are locked into a capitalist race to the grave. The nasty greenhouse gas-emitting side effects of these fuels are simply another negative externality quietly pushed onto future generations. However, physical reality will eventually overtake a fake mass-media culture consumed by the idolatry of materialism and greed. The Earth doesn’t bail out a species that continuously spends more than it saves. Instead, the biospheric slate is wiped clean to make way for the next bout of evolutionary events.

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Like radiation, GHG’s are seemingly invisible yet their effects are all too real. Because of the lag period involved in anthropogenic climate disruption, their devastating environmental costs will never be fully appreciated in time to avert disaster. Adding up the land, air, ice, and ocean warming data, a study from last year found that in recent decades the earth has been heating up at a rate of 250 trillion Joules per second. This is equivalent to:

    • Detonating four Hiroshima atomic bombs per second
    • Experiencing two Hurricane Sandys per second
    • Enduring four 6.0 Richter scale earthquakes per second
    • Being struck by 500,000 lightning bolts per second
    • Exploding more than eight Big Ben towers, with every inch packed full of dynamite, per second

For the Fox-news-befuddled masses, such analogies are meaningless because the threat is not in their face. In their conspiracy-addled minds, climate change is a socialist plot to ruin the American economy and undermine capitalism itself. To the genuflecting masses of capitalism, the mythical free market is seen as an all-powerful, self-regulating mechanism of the Earth, the Sun, and the Universe. Man-made constructs are inanimate and artificial, yet we cling to them as if they were immutable laws of nature.

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Keeping industrial civilization chugging along in the face of planetary ecological collapse is eerily similar to the military doctrine of nuclear deterrence called M.A.D. (Mutually Assured Destruction), as commenter James explained:

Our competitive growth is MAD and considered on a geological time scale is only slightly slower than a sudden launch of nuclear missiles which may also eventually occur. We kid ourselves when we think that we’ll be fine as long as we never have a nuclear exchange, that sustainability is a possibility if we prevent nuclear war…

…This planet has the Big C, civilization, and it will torture its denizens as they struggle to maintain normalcy while the onslaught of malnutrition, decay and chaos drive them mad.

Do you think Hillary Clinton or Mitt Romney are going to ameliorate the conditions of your decline? Ever wonder what it’s like to be a human sacrifice?

Capitalist carbon man’s unwavering faith in the powers of technology ensures that Big C’s omnicidal, energy-slurping $46 trillion-dollar infrastructure(U.S.A. only) and its array of mechanized contraptions cranks onward, squeezing out the last drop of resources from a spent Earth. Human cannon fodder will continue to be shoveled into Iraq and the Middle East to keep the fossil fuel furnaces burning. America’s corporate-industrial-military-political-financial complex will protect its financial coffers at the expense of the destitute masses and a habitable planet. When it comes to money, there is no loyalty to anyone or anything in the land of the FEE and home of the bamboozled. Just like countless Wall Street predators who have passed through the revolving corporate/government door, former NSA chief Keith Alexander is now getting in on the action to exploit his national security credentials. 

A simple lesson not learned from the two recent epic industrial disasters:

Collusion between big business, government and industry is hardly restricted to Japan. In every country, the health and safety of working people in their workplaces and their communities are routinely subordinated to the dictates of profit. Moreover, the past three decades of market restructuring have led to the systematic erosion of the limited regulations that previously existed. In many instances, regulatory bodies have been cut back or replaced by corporate “self-regulation”.

Fukushima is just one of the major disasters that have exposed the criminal character of capitalism. One year earlier, an explosion at the BP-run Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico killed 11 workers and created the worst environmental catastrophe in US history. The Bush and Obama administrations fast-tracked the project, which proceeded without an environmental impact study, despite public concern and opposition. In the wake of the oil spill, the Obama administration acted as a virtual attorney for BP, assisting the energy giant to minimise the economic and political fallout. From the outset, the White House made clear that the disaster would not impede further offshore oil projects—including by BP.

The Japanese government, first under Prime Minister Naoto Kan, and now Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, has performed a similar service for TEPCO—providing a huge bailout for the company and limiting the payouts to small businesses and individuals whose lives have been devastated…

The real lesson that should be drawn from the report’s revelations is the incompatibility between capitalism and even the most elementary needs of humanity for a healthy and secure environment….

Structuring a society to reward the most sociopathic and ruthless amongst us, create grotesque levels of inequality and political disenfranchisement, deify material wealth as the primary metric of success, privatize and profitize war, and use the planet as a garbage dump for toxic waste is a recipe for disaster.

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Humans have thrown into the geological evolutionary processes of Earth several long-lived and very disruptive monkey wrenches. There are three which are noteworthy and will outlive us all in the deep time of planetary history:

    • Anthopogenic climate disruption will essentially last forever, according to Professor David Archer of Chicago University and his associates. He says “the climatic impacts of releasing fossil fuel carbon dioxide into the atmosphere will last longer than Stonehenge, longer than time capsules, far longer than the age of human civilization so far. Ultimate recovery takes place on timescales of hundreds of thousands of years, a geologic longevity typically associated in public perceptions with nuclear waste.”

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    • Nuclear Waste from the production of nuclear power and nuclear bombs lasts essentially until the end of time. Coal-fired electric plants produce their own witch’s brew of radioactive waste as well. In the U.S. alone, roughly 2,000 metric tons of nuclear waste are produced every year with 70,000 tons now sitting at some 100 temporary sites across the country. A permanent disposal site has yet to be established to store the fatal stuff. The recent egregious, Homer Simpson-esque mishaps and incompetence at America’s only radioactive waste repository located in New Mexico don’t inspire any confidence that we can store this stuff safely even for a brief period, let alone for the thousands of years required. We’re too busy fracking around that fragile site to worry about any long-term consequences. Humans have sufficiently booby-trapped the planet that in the dying days of the Anthropocene, your chance of survival is the same as winning the Lotto.

A few of the deadly radioisotopes that can be found in nuclear waste are the following:

- uranium 238 (half-life 4.468 billion years)
– uranium 235 (half-life 700 million years)
– plutonium 244 (half-life 80 million years)
– iodine-129 (half-life 15.7 million years)
– neptunium-237 (half-life two million years)
– plutonium 242 (half-life 373,300 years)
– technetium-99 (half-life 220,000 years)
– plutonium-239 (half-life 24,000 years)

Depleted uranium is a byproduct of processing mined uranium for fuel in nuclear energy plants and as a component for nuclear bombs. Depleted uranium contains U-234, U-235, U-236, and U-238. Only two countries have acknowledged using depleted uranium in their weaponry, the US and UK, for its armor-piercing advantages. Only one country, Belgium, has banned its use. A couple of years ago, New Zealand put forth a bill to ban DU munitions, but it failed by one vote. The Dutch peace group PAX recently confirmed that the U.S. fired DU munitions into Iraqi civilian populations.

Once a DU shell impacts a target, it aerosolizes into a fine gas or mist which can then travel in the air for miles. These radioactive particles can get kicked up again and again by the wind or other disturbances after they have settled on the ground or in the sand. Once inhaled by humans, DNA is damaged and the ensuing cell mutations lead to cancer. For an example of the havoc depleted uranium has wreaked on the health of returning soldiers, watch this video. Investigative reporter Dr Nafeez Ahmed recently reported how the World Health Organization tried to cover up the horrific, lingering effects of depleted uranium contamination in Iraq. For those Middle East countries, the use of these radioactive DU munitions by Western forces constitutes an under-the-radar nuclear scourge with cancers, birth defects, and chronic ill-health affecting generations upon generations into the distant future.

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I suppose one could add plastics to the list of unimaginably long-lasting pollutants to the list. Microscopic particles of the stuff can be found at any beach and even in mountaintop lakes. And of course the scars from massive strip mining operations will remain as an indelible reminder of industrial civilization’s insatiable appetite for energy. Scientists didn’t declare this the Anthropocene Epoch for nothing; we have certainly left our mark like no other species before or since, literally terraforming the Earth into a planet inhospitable to ourselves. Perhaps aliens will pay a visit after the dust has all settled. They’ll surely shake their heads in disgust at the poisonous wreckage left behind by our fossil-fueled madness before zooming off into the night skies in search of a planet that has intelligent life.

 

Radioactive Wastelands at the End of the Anthropocene

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A History of Cover-Ups and Ineptitude Leads to Catastrophe

One of the most costly, self-inflicted wounds engineered by techno-capitalist man is the never-ending Fukushima nuclear disaster. The groundwork for epic failure at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant began in the 1960’s when TEPCO bulldozed 25 meters off of a 35-meter-high hill in order to facilitate the delivery and set up of the plant’s large equipment, which was delivered by boat, as well as to provide easier and cheaper access to seawater used as a coolant pumped through the reactors. TEPCO then dug even further downward another 14 feet to construct the basement where emergency diesel generators would be installed. Decades later a tsunami would easily flood this area, knocking out the emergency electrical back-up generator and making nuclear meltdown a certainty.

Snap 2014-06-13 at 08.48.20In the early 1970’s, several memos circulated within the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) expressing concern over design flaws of the Mark I nuclear reactors made by General Electric, the same type installed at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. Recommendations were made to stop licensing reactors with these faulty designs and the top safety official at the AEC, Jospeh Hendrie, agreed with them but rejected their implementation on the grounds that it could do irreparable damage to the nuclear industry:

“..the acceptance of pressure suppression containment concepts by all elements in the nuclear field, including Regulatory and the ACRS, is firmly embedded in the conventional wisdom. Reversal of this beloved policy, particularly at this time, could well be the end of nuclear power. It would throw into question the continued operation of licensed plants, would make unlicensable the G.E. and Westinghouse ice condensor plants now in review, and would generally create more turmoil than I can stand thinking about.”

The last line of defense in preventing the ionizing alpha, beta and gamma radiation and radioisotopes inside melting fuel rods from spewing out into the environment is the containment vessel. The poor design of the now ruptured Mark 1 containment vessel in Fukushima is most certainly contributing to the ongoing disaster there. The U.S. apparently has 23 reactors just like the ones that melted down in Fukushima as well as the risky storage of spent fuel rods next to the reactor building itself.

When the Tōhoku tsunami struck at Fukushima, reports describe chaos and incompetency as workers had to bring protective gear and manuals from distant buildings as well as borrow equipment from contractors. The failure of the Japanese government and TEPCO to imagine such a catastrophic event and guard against it is highlighted by the fact that this exact scenario was predicted in a Japanese magna comic book.

Years went by with only a few lone voices questioning the safety of the Fukushima nuclear plant such as former engineer Toshio Kimura who worked there:

I asked my boss back in the late ’90s what would happen if a tsunami hit the Fukushima reactors. I said, “Surely a meltdown will happen.” He said, “Kimura, you are right,” but it was made clear that the issue of a big tsunami was taboo. A few years later I quit the company because of its culture of cover-ups…

When officials from the nuclear safety agency or the ministry came to the plant for inspections, they were entertained with drinks the night before. Then they would inspect the plant and give it a hundred per cent pass mark. Then on the way home the inspectors were given beer and snacks and taxi vouchers.

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Run by the Utility Gangs

Entire communities have been bought off by corporate interests to become ruled by what is known as the “nuclear village” in Japan:

Tokyo has been able to essentially buy the support, or at least the silent acquiescence, of communities by showering them with generous subsidies, payouts and jobs. In 2009 alone, Tokyo gave $1.15 billion for public works projects to communities that have electric plants, according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Experts say the majority of that money goes to communities near nuclear plants.

And that is just the tip of the iceberg, experts say, as the communities also receive a host of subsidies, property and income tax revenues, compensation to individuals and even “anonymous” donations to local treasuries that are widely believed to come from plant operators.

Unquestionably, the aid has enriched rural communities that were rapidly losing jobs and people to the cities. With no substantial reserves of oil or coal, Japan relies on nuclear power for the energy needed to drive its economic machine. But critics contend that the largess has also made communities dependent on central government spending — and thus unwilling to rock the boat by pushing for robust safety measures.

In a process that critics have likened to drug addiction, the flow of easy money and higher-paying jobs quickly replaces the communities’ original economic basis, usually farming or fishing.

The Japanese news media, just as in the U.S., has also been corrupted and taken over by monied-interests:

The mainstream media has long been part of the press-club system, which funnels information from official Japan to the public. Critics say the system locks the country’s most influential journalists into a symbiotic relationship with their sources, and discourages them from investigation or independent lines of analysis…

…Japan’s power-supply industry, collectively, is Japan’s biggest advertiser, spending ¥88 billion (more than $1 billion) a year, according to the Nikkei Advertising Research Institute. Tepco’s ¥24.4 billion alone is roughly half what a global firm as large as Toyota spends in a year.

And just like in the U.S., corporations have used “donations” to capture Japan’s political system:

Members of the Liberal Democratic Party, which has ruled Japan since 1955 except for a year in the 1990s and for a three-year period ending in 2012, have been rewarded for their pro-nuclear stance with campaign donations from the ten giant electrical utilities that control around 96 percent of the nation’s power supply.

The largest of these, the Tokyo Electric Power Company or Tepco, formally ended its direct corporate donations in 1974. But it systematically encouraged “voluntary” donations by company executives and managers to a fund-raising entity created by the ruling party, according to a 2011 investigation by Asahi. At least 448 Tepco executives donated roughly $777,000 in total to the entity between 1995 and 2009, according to documents obtained by Asahi and shared with the Center.

Roughly 60 percent of Tepco’s executives participated, a rate similar to that at other utilities. Together, they funded $2.5 million of the party’s expenses, based on today’s exchange rates. A Tepco spokesman told Asahi that the donations were “based on the judgment of the individual and the company is not involved. We do not encourage such donations.”

The culture of complicity between the Japanese nuclear industry and the government is firmly entrenched with generations of high level bureaucrats having landed jobs at Japan’s large utility companies. This revolving door between corporations and the Japanese government mirrors that of the U.S.:

Tepco’s influence has also been enhanced by its enthusiastic participation in revolving door-employment practices similar to those involving bureaucrats and companies in Washington, D.C.

A METI report in 2011, prepared at the insistence of nuclear opponents in Japan’s tiny Communist Party, said for example that between 1960 and 2011, Tepco hired 68 high-level government officials. From 1980 to late 2011, the report said, four former top-level bureaucrats from METI’s own Agency for Natural Resources and Energy became vice presidents at other electric utilities. The practice is known here by the amusing term, amakudari, for appointees who “descended from heaven.”

Tepco officials also regularly move into key regulatory positions, part of a migration known as ama-agari, or “ascent to heaven” that has involved dozens of top utility officials. More than 100 such utility executives between 2001 and 2011 were able to keep drawing an industry paycheck while also working part-time for the government, a practice that is legal here, according to a former member of the Japanese Diet Lower House Economy and Industry Committee, who spoke on background. An official working in the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s research division, in an interview, said on condition of anonymity that the ama-agari system is “like having cops and thieves working in the same police station.”

Perhaps the most significant instance of ama-agari was the Liberal Democratic Party’s appointment in 1998 of Tokio Kano, a longtime Tepco executive, as chairman of the parliamentary committee that oversees METI and as the parliamentary secretary of science and technology. Both are posts crucial to the nuclear energy industry, and Kano used them to advance legislation enabling plutonium-based fuel to be burned in some standard reactors — not just breeders. He also pushed through a law requiring that all spent nuclear fuel be sent to Rokkasho or similar Japanese plants.

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Corporate Fascism in Japan

Embarrassed by the constant revelations of regulatory and governmental capture by industry, the Japanese government recently passed a state secrets law meant to intimidate and jail those who cast a prying eye into Japan’s corrupt corporatocracy. After the Japanese government restarted its idled nuclear plants last year, those antagonistic towards the nuclear industry were secretly put on a watch list. The ominous experiences of independent investigative reporter Mako Oshidori with Japan’s nuclear industrial complex are reminiscent of the movie Silkwood. She discovered that she was on the government’s watch list and has now noticed an individual closely tracking her every move:

…The list included people with power in the opposition parties, such as the former prime minister Naoto Kan and the politician Ishiro Ozawa, and I was told that my name, Mako Oshidori, was listed alongside these names. A researcher who was given the list and told not to approach anybody on it was friendly with me and told me the list included my name. Soon after that a mysterious man began to follow me. This man appeared to be a member of Public Security Intelligence Agency in the Cabinet Office, which investigates various things. One of my hobbies is taking a candid shot, and I will show you the successful candid shot of this man. 

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Just as you see here, there was a time period when someone would always be near me, trying to eavesdrop on my conversation with people. As I am a professional entertainer, whoever I am talking to would ask me if the person was my manager. I would say that the person must be one of my groupies, as I have never met the person. Sometimes I would go to Fukushima Prefecture to interview different mothers. We would have meals together and talk somewhere, and when the mothers are leaving the premise to go home, an agent from the Public Security Intelligence Agency would take a photo of each mother and make a note of the license plate number of each car. Afraid of having their photos taken or the license plate numbers recorded, some Fukushima mothers would refused to be interviewed, or they would even refuse to have their stories published. An ex-agent who is knowledgeable about the work of the Public Security Intelligence Agency said that when you are visibly followed, that was meant to intimidate you. If there was one person visible, then there would be ten more. I think that is analogous to cockroaches. So, when you do a little serious investigation about the nuclear accident, you are under various pressure and it makes it more difficult to interview people. There are actually other journalists from major newspapers and television stations, other than me, who have done a lot of investigation about the nuclear accident, but the information doesn’t readily come out. That’s because the pressure is placed on them not to release the information. What I am going to tell you now might surprise you, but the Japanese people are just as surprised when I tell them the same information as it’s something they have never heard of, read in the newspaper, or seen on TV…

Despite the great tragedies with nuclear weaponry and technology that Japan has experienced with Hiroshima and Nagasaki and now Fukushima, these instruments of mayhem and death are ironically becoming a key centerpiece in the Japanese economy with the current right-wing government banking on it as an export cash cow:

Exports of nuclear components and technology, as well as conventional arms, are potentially key elements of “Abenomics” and much is riding on the outcome. In 2013, Abe concluded Japan’s first nuclear reactor export agreement with Turkey for $22 billion and others are pending with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, while the prime minister has also lobbied governments in Central Europe, Vietnam and Indonesia. This is a remarkable turnaround from 2011 when the prospects for post-Fukushima Japan relying on nuclear energy, let alone exporting it, looked unlikely.

The seeds for Japan’s nuclear hara-kiri were planted back in the early 1950’s when the American government hatched a propaganda campaign of developing an atoms for peace” mission in Japan to foster pro-nuclear sentiment and help rebuild their economy using such technology. 

The Center for Public Integrity reports that Japan is leading the charge for a new nuclear industry of plutonium-based nuclear fuel with grave implications for spreading this technology and material all over the world. By October of this year, Japan will have finished a $22-billion plutonium factory in Rokkasho which will be able to produce enough plutonium per year to make 2,600 bombs. It appears Japan is lurching towards militarism in an age of end-stage capitalism:

The US-Japan Security Treaty of 1960 stipulates that an attack on Japan will be regarded as an attack on the United States. Prime Minister Abe is seeking to transform Japan’s constitution to permit engagement of the Japanese armed forces in aggressive wars. But it is difficult to imagine a resurgent military posture by Japan without tacit encouragement from Washington.

The highest stage of monopoly capitalism is fascism. The 2008 global economic crisis of capitalism, still unresolved, is forcing ill-advised and counterproductive “austerity measures” on decaying capitalist societies throughout Europe and in Japan, where Prime Minister Abe is restructuring the economy into the very pro-market system which is producing riots throughout Western Europe, as living standards deteriorate drastically, and the income inequality gap becomes an abyss.

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A Nuclear Bomb Explosion Versus A Nuclear Meltdown

Some ask why Hiroshima and Nagasaki were rebuilt and repopulated so soon after a nuclear bomb blast, yet Fukushima and Chernobyl remain unsafe to inhabit into the indefinite future. The answer lies in the vast difference of irradiating potential between a nuclear bomb and a nuclear reactor.

Nuclear bombs are designed to cause maximum concussive damage within the shortest amount of time by creating as much energy as possible from a runaway nuclear fission reaction. Nuclear reactors on the other hand are designed to create a low-level of energy from a very controlled and sustained nuclear fission reaction. The radioactive isotopes from the fission product mixture of a nuclear bomb are relatively short-lived (<50 years) whereas those from the meltdown of a nuclear reactor are long-lived and must be stored away safely for tens of thousands of years (essentially forever). Approximate half-lives of some of the isotopes in the spent nuclear fuel are:

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The nuclear bombs used in World War II were detonated roughly 2,000 feet above ground and their radioisotopes were carried by the wind and dispersed over a very large area. The nuclear bomb called “Little Boy” used over Hiroshima contained only 140 pounds of fissionable material (Uranium-235) and “Fat Man” used over Nagasaki contained just 14 pounds of Plutonium-239. These are minute amounts of radioisotopes when compared to the 180 tons of nuclear fuel at Chernobyl and the staggering 1,600 tons at Fukushima. Explosions and meltdowns at nuclear reactors occur at ground level, creating more radioactive isotopes due to neutron activation with the soils while spreading their radiation across the planet, year after year after year. Today the background radiation in Hiroshima and Nagasaki is said to be the same as the global average anywhere on Earth. Ground zero at Chernobyl and Fukushima won’t be habitable for 20,000 years or longer. Nuclear bombs kill hundreds of thousands of people instantly while a nuclear reactor meltdown kills people over years, decades, and generations.

Not Enough Thumbs to Plug the Nuclear Dyke

The too-big-to-fail TEPCO is now building the Great Ice Wall of Japan to stem the flow of tons of contaminated water that they have been hastily storing in hundreds of haphazardly constructed containers.

“I must say our tank assembly was slipshod work.” ~ TEPCO worker

The “experts” estimate that it will take 40 years to clean up the Fukushima mess. That would put us at the year 2054, a date that many estimate humans may well be extinct or nearly extinct. By then, ocean acidification will have doubled and the global average temperature will have risen by at least 4 to 6.5°C. The world’s oceans will have swelled 2 feet higher. I’m glad to know that the “experts” are taking into account our radically changing planet:

Nuclear plants were originally given a license to operate for 40 years, and in the late 1990s, the NRC began accepting applications to extend those licenses for an additional 20 years. While it’s not clear how many current plants will still be operating in 2100, most facilities store their nuclear waste on-site, where it can continue to emit radiation for thousands of years. There is currently no long-term national storage site for spent nuclear fuel in the U.S., as Congress cut the funding to build such a facility at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain in 2011. While there are no near-term plans to remove nuclear waste from the coastal plants threatened by rising seas, “the expectation is that [waste] won’t remain on-site,” said NRC Senior Public Affairs Officer Roger Hannah.

Despite the increased risk of flooding due to rising sea levels, some plant operators have not factored this into their long-term plans. In 2010, when Florida Power and Light Company applied for a license to build two additional reactors at the Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station in Homestead, Florida, the NRC asked the plant’s owners to explain “how potential sea-level rise due to potential future climate change is accounted for” in their plans, NRC documents show. The company declined to discuss climate change in its analysis, and used a projection that assumed a constant sea level rise of just 1 foot per century, which is 5.6 feet lower than NOAA’s worst-case projection for 2100.

 Boy, I hope that ice wall works

The risks to the ocean, in particular, are unprecedented because there is good reason to believe that melted fuel residing in, or below, the reactor basements is in direct contact with an underground river running through the site (Nagata, 2013).

A German study modelling the effects of an uncontained core meltdown suggests the Pacific Ocean is imperiled. The “German Risk Study, Phase B” found that a core meltdown accident could result in complete failures of all structural containment, causing melted fuel to exit the reactor foundation within five days (cited in Bayer, Tromm, & Al-Omari 1989). Moreover, the study found that even in the event of an intact building foundation, passing groundwater would be in direct contact with fuel, causing leaching of fission products. Strontium leaches slower than cesium. A follow-up German study, “Dispersion of Radionuclides and Radiation Exposure after Leaching by Groundwater of a Solidified Core-Concrete Melt,” predicted that strontium contamination levels would rise exponentially years after a full melt-through located adjacent to a river (Bayer, Tromm, & Al-Omari, 1989).

The study predicted concentrations of Strontium-90 in river water would spike relatively suddenly, but maintain extraordinarily high levels of contamination for years. Strontium bio-accumulates in the human body, including the brain, and is a known genotoxin. The study’s experimental conditions are roughly similar to Daiichi’s site conditions and strontium levels have been spiking there since the summer of 2013. TEPCO just reported that strontium levels in reactor basement water ranged from 40 million to 500 million becquerels per liter (“TEPCO to Improve,” 2014).

Global Corporatocracy: Privatized Profits and Socialized Losses

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David Cay Johnston is, as he states, not a socialist, but a capitalist who believes in fair and competitive markets and integrity. My blog concentrates quite a bit on environmental issues and David only passingly mentions the deregulation and rolling back of environmental laws in the interview below, but he has been writing about inequality since the 1960’s and does a great job of describing the “governmental capture” by multinational corporations. An overwhelming proportion of environmental destruction is being caused by these mammoth corporations that are literally a state within a state, so it’s important to make the connection between inequality/political disenfranchisement and the destruction of the environment driven by a “business aristocracy” which has usurped the institutions of society. There can be no social, environmental, and climate justice if there is no government to serve the people. Of particular interest is the interview with Steve Coll and the power that ExxonMobile wields. Three notable examples of government acting as an insurance agency for corporations while leaving a mess for the common people to deal with are the BP oil spill, TEPCO’s Fukushima disaster, and the mortgage crisis created by the Too-Big-To-Fail Banks.

Government rules and policies have been put in place to create the huge wealth gap in America:

- political economy, an amplifying feedback loop where wealth begets access to the rules in politics which begets changes in the rules which reinforce wealth.

- 45 years ago the media was staffed by blue-collar intellectuals. TV news media is now filled with people from wealthy households whose life experience tells them that things are just fine in the world. We’re not hearing about those exploiting the system for their benefit. Very little coverage of poverty as well. The U.S. has the highest % of children who go to bed hungry of any modern country.

- The most important period of determining your lifetime health and well-being is from conception to the first 6 months of life. Little to nonexistent programs and support for mothers and newborn babies in America. Just as the U.S. is neglecting its infrastructure by not maintaining and investing in it, we are also stealing from the future by not nurturing and providing proper care for small children. There will be a price and it will be very high.

- U.S. has been living under Reaganism since 1981 in which we worship money and our measure of the country is money. The purposes of our country were written down for us in the preamble of the Constitution: justice, the general Welfare, common defense, domestic tranquility, liberties. Nothing in the preamble talks about getting rich. That’s a byproduct of these other things, but we have gotten a distorted view of what’s happening and now have 33 years of evidence that Reaganism has made the rich richer at the expense of the 90%. We are mining the 90% to benefit the super-rich rather than creating an economy that benefits everyone.

- The number one driver of this crooked system is campaign finance. There are over 100,000 people in this country whose job it is to mine the public treasury or the rules for their benefit. This corrupt system has to be changed.

- The way we think about this country and its society needs to change. The founders actually wrote a great deal about their concerns over inequality. John Adams, the second President, wrote that his fear was that a business aristocracy would arise to destroy the country, making workers mere wage earners instead of craftsmen owning their own tools. These wage earners, not being truly independent, would be manipulated into voting for policies that would benefit the business aristocracy and we would lose both our liberties and democracy. Adam Smith, in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, talks about inequality being corrosive to the very fabric of society and says that “the greatest corruption of our moral sentiments is the tendency to almost worship the rich and to hold in bad regard people who are poor.” Our politicians reflect this even though many of them will tell you at any moment how religious they are. They obviously have not studied their religious text because if they did they would know that, in the case of the Christians for example, you were required to “give all that thou hast to the poor.”

- Reaganism has led to an enormous concentration of wealth amongst a small minority who cannot possibly consume that wealth and instead are investing it in financial instruments to extract more wealth rather than investing it in the economy. We don’t have to burn more fossil fuels to grow the economy; there are other ways to do that.

- We pay big corporations to not pay their taxes. The way this happens is that corporations are limited in the amount of money they can hold in the U.S., so the corporations get around this by offshoring their money in foreign bank accounts and then turn around and buy U.S. treasuries. The interest they earn from these treasuries will eventually exceed the value of the tax on that money, when and if these corporations decide to bring the money back into the U.S.. This scheme has literally become a profit center for the corporations.

- When this country was founded, there had been only seven corporations in the old british colonial United States at the time of the Declaration of Independence. Six of them were what today we would either call a charity or a utility. The Boston Water Works is a good example; it was the very first one and was essentially a utility. One corporation created in the colony of New Haven was set up solely to make profit. It was such a scandal they had to shut it down within a year and it took ten years to clean up the mess. The founders disliked and distrusted corporations, but they believed in collective bargaining because in 1792, Congress passed the first significant labor law and subsidy law based on a study conducted by Thomas Jefferson. It was to revive and protect the cod fishing industry ravaged by the British Navy. The class of fisherman known as “sharesmen” were able to negotiate with the wealthy ship owners in order to share in the profits. Those ships who participated in sharing their profits with the fishermen were given the subsidy and those who did not were exempt from the subsidy.

- Violent, explosive rise in executive pay which diverts CEOs from the welfare of the company. All large pools of capital that are owned collectively (charitable endowments, pension funds, etc) are systematically being predated. The assets of utility companies are being worn down and stripped.

- We now have a government that does not go after people who are engaged in criminal frauds because they are considered so powerful that if they were prosecuted it would “damage the economy”. The government has become an insurance agency for the rich and powerful and the common people pay the premiums.

- We have gotten the results that Mr. Reagan said, if you listen to him carefully in 1980, that we would get which is that those people who are wealth holders would realize the income from that wealth, and they have. The actual tax rates of the people at the very top are 60% lower than what they paid in the 1980’s, but at the same time by getting rid of unions, by having these “free trade deals” which are really deals to drive down the cost of labor, we have driven down the wages and salaries of the vast majority of Americans as well as the environmental conditions (laws to protect the environment). A whole mechanism has been put in place that favors profit over labor and when you look at the data you can see it. The returns to labor in the Fed reserve data show a marked decline and returns to capital have been rising and since 2009 it has skyrocketed. Because labor returns have gone down, there is not enough aggregate demand in the economy for people to buy goods and services. The next thought would be that capitalists would change because people have to be able to buy their goods and services. No, if you are a global capitalist it does not matter. As long as there are no riots in the streets, you can sell your goods in other countries. We have lots of corporations now that are bigger than governments. Steve Coll’s book on ExxonMobile basically describes a private foreign service and a private military:

The scope of the market has become larger than the domain of the sovereignty of nation-states.

- The ultimate solution is very simple: the 90% of Americans who are worse off, who are back to the income level of 1966, can vote in a new government and start with the state legislatures because they are the ones that set the boundaries for the congressional districts but it will take many decades to get to a better path. The fundamental question about this division between the super-rich and everyone else is, “Are we going to revise the rules?” Right now you are seeing the rise of oligarchical thinking such as Tom Perkins saying the number of votes you should have should be based on the amount of money you have. The founders explicitly rejected that kind of thinking.

- This idea that if you make a lot of money, you should pay more in taxes is the most conservative idea in western civilization if your standard is something that’s been tested through time and works which is the classic meaning of conservative. Progressive taxation was invented 2,500 years ago in Athens when they invented democracy. The people of the city-state of Athens concluded that the only way one could become wealthy is by following the rules and laws set down to protect everyone. The infrastructure of Athens, its military, and government services that were provided to benefit everyone meant that those who did become wealthy were expected to bear a greater burden for those costs of society to ensure that Athens would endure. Society made their fortunes possible. This idea has been embraced by every classic worldly philosopher. 

- The game doesn’t just comfortably and stably go on if people don’t become active and we keep driving towards deeper and deeper hollowing out and inequality. Isn’t there a dark scenario here also?  Yes, we’re giving up on democracy and our descendents will read history books that begin with these words: “The United States of America was… ” It became a failed experiment where cynicism is used to mock anyone who is idealistic, a foolish romantic…

- We have governmental capture. We literally have a federal government that responds to the political donor class, which is a narrow group of very wealthy people, in how it taxes, how it doesn’t regulate, how it doesn’t enforce laws, how it makes trade agreements with other countries, and that imbalance should worry us a great deal. What did Plutarch tell us 2,000 years ago? “An imbalance between rich and poor is the most frequent and fatal ailment of all republics.”

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