Musings while Lookin’ out my back door
my mind is
a big hunk of irrevocable nothing which touch and taste and smell
and hearing and sight keep hitting and chipping with sharp fatal
in an agony of sensual chisels i perform squirms of Chrome and execute strides of cobalt
feel that i cleverly am being altered that i slightly am becoming
something a little different, in fact
Herupon helpless i utter lilac shreiks of scarlet bellowings.
e e cummings ~Portraits XXV
Saturday, February 23, 2013 9:36
The constant daily news stream for me centers around one subject: What is Democracy? Further to that, we would need to ask, what is representative, constitutionally mandated Democracy? Article four of the U. S. Constitution has this cryptic phrase which has yet to be fully defined: ‘The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government.’ The term Republic is an ancient one and had a very special meaning to James Madison, our venerable Father of the Constitution. His study of the Italian Renaissance republics went very deep; Venice, Milan and Florence had unique republican forms of government and it was their historical development that Madison used in forming much his theory.
These cities were each ruled by a small independent group of merchants who held exclusive rights of full citizens and ruled autonomously within their sphere of influence. This independence came at a price of waging war against agressive neighbors, something Mr. Madison must have overlooked-maybe?
But before I travel into the land or republican theory and the various manifestations that has taken over the last four centuries let me place the following news items on the table. They refer to the Hanford Nuclear reservation in Washington along the Columbia River. The site was the location of the nation’s first plutonium producing factory, plutonium being that dreadfully evil substance needed for nuclear bombs.
Cleanup is expected to last decades and cost billions of dollars. The federal government already spends $2 billion each year on Hanford cleanup — one-third of its entire budget for nuclear cleanup nationally. The Energy Department has said it expects funding levels to remain the same for the foreseeable future, but a new Energy Department report released this week includes annual budgets of as much as $3.5 billion during some years of the cleanup effort.
Much of that money goes toward construction of a plant to convert the underground waste into glasslike logs for safe, secure storage. The plant, last estimated at more than $12.3 billion, is billions of dollars over budget and behind schedule. It isn't expected to being operating until at least 2019
Hanford was built in the 1940s for the Manhattan Project, then continued on for decades through the cold war as a manufacturing site for the nuclear arsenal.
The weapons production reactors were decommissioned at the end of the Cold War, but the decades of manufacturing left behind 53 million US gallons (200,000 m3) of high-level radioactive waste, an additional 25 million cubic feet (710,000 m3) of solid radioactive waste, 200 square miles (520 km2) of contaminated groundwater beneath the site and occasional discoveries of undocumented contaminations that slow the pace and raise the cost of cleanup
The point that I intend to show revolves around the history of our personal freedoms and how those were lost in the move to a National Security Constitution linked with an Imperial Presidency; the Presidency is however tied to a monied national plebiscite that is only run to reflect the needs and wishes of more powerful interest groups residing along the Potomac and Wall Street. Our representative form of government addresses the needs the top 0.3% of the population; many of that elite group hold top positions of decision making status in corporations who in turn dictate public policy on pharmaceuticals, electric power, petroleum, electronic and print broadcasting, manufacturing (mainly for the military complex) and the financial sector. The latter almost totally dominates the time of Congress as the power flow into the military complex is so routine that it is untouched by any conversations except in the most rhetorical manner that elicits profusions of promises for more of the same. The needs of the average person for a workable transportation system, a way to find treatment for medical conditions and sources of clean and safe housing, food and water go undiscussed. We may rant and rave a bit on the various web sites of favor but all of that results in nothing being changed; for the elite have no need of a mass transit system, they who have chauffers or pilots, those annointed residents of the stratosphere have no broken health care system to deal with, they who are assured preferential medical treatment, or purchase that with ease. All discussion of public policy has been swept under the huge tent of National Security and many a freak show (think giant squid banks) now resides under the Big Top instead of the dirty midway. A hands off policy has been forged for the successful giants of American Enterprise. A recent writer describes the strengthening and solidifying of the National Security Constitution which has emerged without any public discussion, the context here is one of a discussion about the changing perception Americans have of the Constitution:
There is substantial agreement as to what was troublesome in the constitutional record of the Bush presidency. The three most salient departures
from the status quo were: (1) indefinite detention without due process inside the United States and its possessions; (2) authorization of torture and other
harsh interrogation techniques; and (3) authorization of National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance outside of the framework set by the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).40 In turn, these initiatives shared a common characteristic: they could not have happened unless it was assumed
that the President had the unilateral power under the Constitution to authorize the violation of federal law and judicial doctrine, even in the absence of a prior
finding that the law in question was unconstitutional. . .
[In evaluating the constitutional change the writer finds two things of great concern] The first problem is the lack of a movement with respect to national security. It would be difficult to show that a social movement existed prior to 9/11 in favor of increased presidential power to confront the terrorist threat rather than, at most, a belief along those lines held by certain elites. Even at the level of elites, the link to terrorism was missing, given that terrorism was not a focus of the Bush presidency before 9/11.
Another problem is that these theories depend upon extensive public deliberation to ensure that the constitutional changes that they describe are accepted as authoritative. But this is precisely what was missing from post-9/11 America. President Bush thoroughly short-circuited the public sphere by immediately describing the conflict as a “war,” and, indeed, a new world war; a meaningful public debate over the nature of 9/11 and whether it should be handled as a war or as a colossal crime against the United States thus never occurred. Groups of bewildered citizens wondering why it was not treated as a crime were left well behind as the Administration moved ahead. Even if these difficulties were overcome, theories built on deliberation and movements would face the problem of secrecy. Many of the most important initiatives of the Bush Administration did not come to light until early 2004. Even after those controversies, what the Bush Administration did remained so blacked out of the historical record that its opponents were calling for a full accounting as Bush left office.
All public discussion, all public meetings that aim to criticized the status quo will be treated as National Security issues and the local and state police will be brought in; to wit the head banging that took place whenever Occupiers showed up whether it be New York City or Oakland California. The secrecy that once surrounded the poisonous production of plutonium has now been set aside in part, however, millions have paid for that secrecy in the form of untimely deaths due to various kinds of cancers. The deadly nature of nuclear power was hidden from us because of the link to things nuclear and National Security. Protestors are still harrassed and jailed.
In Japan a new kind of fallout emerges from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant meltdown; sociatal pressures mount as survivors deal with finding clean sources of food that are not produced within the Fukushima district. Also, prejudice within Japanese society exists towards those who were living near the plant at the time of the disaster. Many residents of nearby cities find themselves shunned, or worse, when others discover during that course of daily living that the person on the other side of the table is from what is viewed as a “tainted” area. In other instances family relations deteriorate and families break apart under th stress of dealing with survival as victims.
Details emerge on the Japanese government’s attempts at cleanup after the Fukushima disaster-they are going through the motions just to keep up appearances.
Also worrying, industry experts say, are cleanup methods used by the construction companies that create loose contamination that can become airborne or enter the water.
At many sites, contaminated runoff from cleanup projects is not fully recovered and is being released into the environment, multiple people involved in the decontamination work said.
In addition, there are no concrete plans about storing the vast amounts of contaminated soil and foliage the cleanup is generating, which the environment ministry estimates will amount to at least 29 million cubic meters, or more than a billion cubic feet.
The contaminated dirt lies in bags on roadsides, in abandoned fields and on the coastline, where experts say they are at risk from high waves or another tsunami.
“This isn’t decontamination — it’s sweeping up dirt and leaves and absolutely irresponsible,” said Tomoya Yamauchi, an expert in radiation measurement at Kobe University who has been helping Fukushima communities test the effectiveness of various decontamination methods. “Japan has started up its big public works machine, and the cleanup has become an end in itself. It’s a way for the government to appear to be doing something for Fukushima.”
Wednesday, February 20, 2013 18:35
Find of the day -Chanticleer singing ‘Straight Street’
Now comes one Ben Bernanke before the royal court now in attendance on Wall Street, to announce that $85 billion will be shipped to the giant squid vampire zombie banks to pick up their toxic leavings. For the rest of us regular folks? Austerity.
Since the financial crisis, Bernanke has presided over a massive financial aid initiative with three rounds of quantitative easing (QE) aimed at stimulating lending and jobs growth. The latest round will reach $1.14tn before the first quarter of 2014, according to a Bloomberg survey of economists.
Monday, February 18, 2013 10:40 PM
The lead story today at nakedcapitalism.com Disposable Workers: Why Throwaway Employees are Bad Policy elicited comments from several readers about lazy, ensconced workers who have safely padded positions in posh cubicles. My response was censored by the robot there, which is on cushy, don’t be too raucous, overkill. I guess sometimes, Yves Smith, the blogger over there feels my comments would overshadow her sometimes insipid writing and commentary. The comment follows, included is a quote from Wikipedia.
“lazy permanent worker”-and everyone is lazy perhaps-who are you to judge? Have you done a work study on some hypothetical work force you mention? How do you draw this conclusion and on what basis? Since you obviously have no basis I will conclude you can't be sincere in what you say. Mention of the Japanese brings to mind a recent dramumentary entitled Happy-released in 2011 the movie explains the concept of karoshi
here is the Wikipedia article on it and a brief quote
Karōshi, which can be translated literally from Japanese as "death from overwork", is occupational sudden death. Although this category has a significant count, Japan is one of the few countries that reports it in the statistics as a separate category. The major medical causes of karōshi deaths are heart attack and stroke due to stress. . .
Japan's rise from the devastation of World War II to economic prominence in the post-war decades has been regarded as the trigger for what has been called a new epidemic. It was recognized that employees cannot work for twelve or more hours a day, six or seven days a week, year after year, without suffering physically as well as mentally. A recent measurement found that a Japanese worker has approximately two hours overtime a day on average. It is common for the overtime to go unpaid.
I believe there is another long playing theme, a series of dreadful rambling notes from the basement of our work force and now reaching up into the middle management and even trickling up into some top levels. Worker unease promotes complacency and then complacency is replaced by more cognitive dissonance which eventually results in total loss of integrity and moral cowardice. Not saying I'm exempt from this but if I may go on: when one is constantly driven from one corner to another like a rat being shocked by the random placement of 'hot wires' in the cage, eventually the animal response is to curl up in the corner and wait for doomsday. There is a reason why jobs are constantly being shipped overseas. There is a reason why students are tested to be told their standardized test results show them 'not proficient.' There is a reason why a local paper focused on student loan scams run by college attendees but the same paper failed to blazen the headlines about bank thuggery. There is a reason why the CIA is known as the American Equivalent of the Praetorian Guard. We have been assimilated.
Further insights on the phenomena of Karoshi are found from an Economist article back in 2007 that shows a Japanese court rewarding damages to a widow who claimed her husband’s untimely death was due Toyota literally working her husband to death. It does appear he voluntarily gave of his time although that word volunteer is relative to the overall social phenomena which finds widespread support as was pointed out above.
Now a recent court ruling has put companies under pressure to change their ways. On November 30th the Nagoya District Court accepted Hiroko Uchino's claim that her husband, Kenichi, a third-generation Toyota employee, was a victim of karoshi when he died in 2002 at the age of 30. He collapsed at 4am at work, having put in more than 80 hours of overtime each month for six months before his death. “The moment when I am happiest is when I can sleep,” Mr Uchino told his wife the week of his death. He left two children, aged one and three.
As a manager of quality control, Mr Uchino was constantly training workers, attending meetings and writing reports when not on the production line. Toyota treated almost all that time as voluntary and unpaid. So did the Toyota Labour Standards Inspection Office, part of the labour ministry. But the court ruled that the long hours were an integral part of his job. On December 14th the government decided not to appeal against the verdict.
Saturday, February 16, 2013 15:58
Rapid, unchecked industrialization does not equate to all things bright and beautiful. The financing of huge factory-building, commercial enterprises, large tracts of residential real estate and mining development (commonly known as GDP growth) has caused the landscape in Beijing to be blurred with a yellow haze that is now almost perpetual-and dangerous.
The smog's most threatening aspect is its high concentration of PM 2.5 – particulate matter that is small enough to lodge deep into the lungs and enter the bloodstream, causing respiratory infections, asthma, lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, and possibly damaging children's development. The WHO has estimated that outdoor air pollution accounts for two million deaths per year, 65% of them in Asia. Yet the smog has become more than a health hazard in China – it has become a symbol of widespread dissatisfaction with the government's growth-first development strategy. Feelings of resigned helplessness have given way to fear, anger, and society-wide pressure to change the status quo.
|The sea star pictured here is a Keystone Species, Pisaster ochraceus, or Ochere sea star. A keystone species is so designated because, like a keystone in an arch, when the species is removed the ecological order collapses and chaos ensues. There is much inside the subject of ecological relationships that we as a fellow resident species on the planet are finding out about the likes of Ocher Sea Stars. In short, we are as children out in the school yard on this one. On my way to reading about red-eyed tree frogs, I found this from a monograph on evolution by Mary Jane West Eberhard, Developmental Plasticity and Evolution;|
I found this interesting because it shows that the environment does affect developmental biology in a very profound way; this something that I have, since my encounter with formal study of the subject first semester college course in biology, felt to be very important. The sense of gratification that my original intuitive suggestion was correct is very profound.
Interesting commentary on the evil of political discourse disengaging from the popular base-post democracy it is being dubbed. Post as in Post Toasties. We are likely to see a violent outcome to the current militarization of our society as we have now become a police state. The longer we wait to restore a true representative, constitutionally ordained government the more likely the outcome is to be violent when the restoration does finally happen.
The problem, then, is clear. Professional politicians have (mostly) become disconnected from the popular will. This doesn’t matter for their electoral chances due to corporate funding, and because there is usually little alternative. The result is increasing distrust of the political process; but we only have ourselves to blame if we do not engage. This state of affairs cannot get worse forever so either some charismatic popular politician will capture the popular imagination and the other party(s) will have to follow them; or we will see some more damaging failure mode. I hope that it will be the former, but as Charlie and Jonathan say, there is a risk that it will be the latter.