April 29, 2012

After a while, an idea becomes so universally “in the air” that people forget that it isn’t obvious truth, it’s just an idea. It may be correct, it may not, but it always bears thinking about rather than accepting it as gospel. Here’s a short and somewhat quirky examination of whether the earth is really anywhere near carrying capacity. I can remember when “everybody” just knew, and said, “Bangladesh is a basket case.” Intuitively persuasive, after a while nearly automatically assumed, but as in Porgy and Bess, it ain’t necessarily so.


And if the population situation (not to beg the question by calling it a “problem” as is usually done) is not what it appears, what then of the draconian solutions some people seem  so ready to adopt?

I tend to agree with what Buckminster Fuller believed long ago, there’s plenty for everyone if we want to make it work. Our future can look more like Star Trek than like Haiti.



As usual, Michael Ventura uses commonly available information, and thinks about it, and comes up with interesting and provocative insights. This one ends up quite a distance from where it begins, and is worth reading slowly while suspending your opinions until the end.




Austin Chronicle – April 20, 2012

     Jenna Talackova, 23 years old, took it for granted that a transgender beauty like herself had a shot at Miss Universe. A commonsensical friend might have advised: “Girl, don’t try. They’ll break your heart.” But what broke was not her heart.

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If true, this is hardly a bad thing! If you cast back far enough, you may remember that America’s love affair with the idea of the open road was fueled by much more than cheap gasoline. After WW I, for the first time people were able to escape from the cities – AND escape from the isolation of rural life. After WW II, the explosion of suburbia was, again, designed to allow people to escape having to live in the city while still having urban employment. The consequences weren’t foreseen, but the immediate feeling of liberation was well understood. From the 60s on, the car was the only way to get anywhere. But now, a combination of new restrictions and new opportunities may be turning a generation of kids away from cars. I like it. A friend of mine used to say, “America is the only country in the world where a poor man has to have a car whether he wants one or not.” Maybe that won’t always be true. Maybe we’re beginning to see the change.

This from today’s SchwartzReport.

Young Americans Turn Away From Driving
This is a very interesting new trend. I think what we are looking at is a younger generation with less and less money to spend, as well as a growing sense that the way things are structured today is a recipe for disaster.
Young Americans are eschewing cars for alternative transport, leaving carmakers to wonder if this is a recession-induced trend or a permanent shift in habits.

For generations of American teenagers, the car was the paramount symbol of independence. But in the age of Facebook and iPhones, young adults are getting fewer drivers’ licences, driving less frequently and moving to cities where cars are more luxury than necessity.

Figures from the Federal Highway Administration show the share of 14 to 34-year-olds without a driver’s licence rose to 26 per cent in 2010, from 21 per cent a decade earlier, according to a study by the Frontier Group and the US PIRG Education Fund released this month. (Some US states allow 14-year-olds to get a learner’s permit to drive.) Another study from the University of Michigan showed that people under 30 accounted for 22 per cent of all licensed drivers, down from a third in 1983, with the steepest declines among teenagers.

At the same time, cycling, walking and public transport use rose among 16 to 34-year-olds from 2001 to 2009, the Frontier study said. This trend has probably been accelerated by the recession, which has seen young people lose jobs and suffer steep falls in working hours.
‘We need to give due weight to the economic realities that these folks have been growing up in,” said Jeremy Anwyl, vice-chairman at Edmunds.com, the car research website. ‘How do you react to high rates of unemployment and limited economic opportunity? People live at home a little longer, where they have access to the parental fleet.”
Tony Dutzik, senior policy analyst at the Frontier Group and co-author of the study, said: ‘The economy does have a fairly significant impact on driving. We know that young people . . . who work, tend to drive more miles per year than people who don’t.”

But he added that ‘even among young people who did have jobs, the amount of miles they were driving each year was falling”. The study also found that young people with incomes above $70,000 doubled their use of public transport and bikes between 2001 and 2009.
‘With the rise of social media, people don’t do a lot of face-to-face getting together, so they don’t need cars as much,” Mr Anwyl said.
That presents a challenge to car companies: how do you sell cars to people who may be less interested than ever before?

One answer is targeted marketing. Carmakers are increasing their online presence on social networks and emphasising the interactive technology built into many cars, such as streaming music from Pandora and Spotify.

Ford announced last week that it was joining forces with Yahoo to produce a web-only reality television series to promote the new electric version of its Focus car. Ford said it would market the car purely through online media at a fraction of the cost of a traditional advertising campaign while targeting a niche audience on the east and west coasts.

‘What we’re doing here is being very targeted and building awareness in a much more efficient way,” said John Felice, general manager of sales for the Ford and Lincoln brands.

But another shift in social attitudes among younger consumers may yet thwart carmakers’ efforts. ‘The conundrum for marketers is that this generation more than most doesn’t like being marketed to, ‘ Mr Anwyl said. ‘They really reject overtly commercial pitches.”

The following story, and the initial paragraphs in italics,  came from the morning’s SchwartzRepert. When I clicked through, I did not find any photos, yet the captions are there, so perhaps you will have better luck.

The BP oil spill seems like ancient history, doesn’t it? And i think that points us to one of the prime culprits in our current situation, the fact that we all find it harder and harder to hold an historical perspective. When we’re continually inundated with “the latest” as opposed to “the most enduringly important” our public life and even our private thought becomes increasingly trivialized, and we become more and more susceptible to demagogues and charlatans with their quick fixes and panaceas.

And that, in turn, makes it suicide for politicians to try to explain root causes, systemic problems, long-term solutions. And this means, inevitably, that the only pols who are able to speak the truth are those with safe seats who also understand what’s going on. How many can there be at any given time?

This is why, incidentally, in the bad old days of the Solid South, we had so many statesmen among the Southern Democrats. As long as they didn’t buck the status quo on race, they were free to think, speak and vote as they pleased on other matters. Thus, Richard Russell, William Fulbright, Sam Ervin, etc.

It wasn’t a good thing that the South was one-party, especially given why it was one-party, but it had the good effect of producing politicians who could take the longer view. Today, that’s nearly impossible. Not a good thing.

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One Year After Fukushima

April 10, 2012

Last year when the scope of the Fukushima metldown began to become obvious, a scientifically-minded friend of mine was speculating on what would have to be done in order to fix it. I said it couldn’t be fixed. It’s too big. It can’t even be contained.

And that is the problem with nuclear power generation, of course — that, plus the problem of waste material that remains dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years!

The radiation is in the ground water, and must be spreading.

It is in the seawater, and it is making its way across the Pacific on the Japan Current, and guess which country is at the far side of the Japan Current?

It is being emitted into the air, and exactly how does one wall off one portion of air from the rest of the world?

It is in the food, and in the soil, and since the contaminated area hasn’t been (can’t be) walled off, the contamination is continuing to spread.

And as usual government officials are explaining it all away, explaining how it is still safe. And speaking of lying bastards, there is (as usual) the United States government, you know, the one that represents us. It isn’t monitoring radiation for fear of officially finding what it knows damn well it would find. It isn’t recommending or mandating detection and decontamination measures either. It’s pretending that everything is fine, lest the facts affect the Dow Jones, or distract the electorate from whatever stupid non-issue is being waved in front of their faces at the moment.

This via Gary Sycalik’s distribution list.

From: Gary Sycalik [mailto:gs9@ibsail.com]
Sent: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 9:02 PM

One Year After Fukushima – Defining and Classifying a Disaster

The Intel Hub
By Lucas Whitefield Hixson
March 5, 2012


This is the first in a series of articles dedicated to preserve the facts revealed about the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.


A disaster is a natural or man-made (or technological) hazard that has come to fruition, resulting in an event of substantial extent causing significant physical damage or destruction, loss of life, or drastic change to the environment, as the consequence of inappropriately managed risk. These risks are the product of a combination of both hazard/s and vulnerability.

All disasters are the result of human failure to introduce appropriate disaster management measures.

This coming week will mark the first anniversary of Fukushima’s multiple meltdown nuclear disaster. There is little data on how badly contaminated the now-abandoned area of forced evacuation is in the 20-kilometer (12-mile) zone around the Fukushima plant.

The mainstream media has already begun trotting out assorted “experts” to assure anyone who might be still interested in Fukushima that all is well and no one’s been harmed by all the radiation the reactors released.

There’s no getting past the fact that the nuclear accident dumped radioactive particles into the atmosphere, soil and sea, which is a serious concern for the Japanese, who consume about 9 million tons of seafood a year, second behind China.

Those poisons “rained out,” creating hot spots over the Northern Hemisphere. Radioactive material can get into water from steam or smoke which is carried by wind, rain or other precipitation onto land, surface reservoirs or the ocean.

It could also be discharged directly into the ocean or leak onto land and eventually seep into groundwater. There are still traces of Cesium lingering from nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific in the 1950s and 1960s.

“The Japanese people no longer trust the nuclear industry and the government. People do not know whether their food and their land is safe,”

– Kim Kearfott, an expert on radiation health risks at the University of Michigan, who toured Japan in 2011.

Japan is under pressure to enhance food inspections as it has no centralized system for detecting radiation contamination. Japanese products including spinach, mushrooms, milk and beef were contaminated with radiation as far as 360 kilometers from the Fukushima Daiichi site which was destroyed by the disaster.

Adding to concerns, basic radiation checks with handheld dosimeters failed to detect the ingested cesium in the cattle.

The government argues that food fears are overblown. It says hundreds of food samples are tested daily for radiation, and few exceed government standards for radioactive cesium.

However, they are often seen as being habitual late-responders, critics point to contaminated beef that has turned up on the market. Broccoli, spinach and shiitake, too — all discovered after they were already on sale. The Japanese youth face years of uncertainty about what’s safe to put on the table.

The Fukushima disaster has been marked by such confusion, much of it due to TEPCO’s bungling response, which has been severely criticized by the government and the independent press.

Most recent reports also suggest that the Japanese government is seriously downplaying the real amount of radioactive substances that leaked from Fukushima. Experts said the Japanese government must decide what to do about contamination spread across the nation, especially since radiation releases from the plant could continue for years.

The contamination will affect Japan for decades, studies in Belarus found that in 2000, 14 years after the Chernobyl disaster, fewer than 20 percent of children were considered “practically healthy,” compared to 90 percent before Chernobyl.

Thousands of people continue to inhabit areas that are highly contaminated, particularly northwest of Fukushima. Radioactive elements have been found in tap water in Tokyo and concentrated in national products such as tea, beef, rice and other food.

Many want answers: How did radioactive cesium from the reactors at Fukushima end up here?

Tetsuo Iguchi, a specialist on radiation monitoring at Nagoya University, says experts don’t know. Iguchi is working as a consultant with a government group that is urging thousands of tons of contaminated soil to be cleared off and then sent to storage, possibly inside the Fukushima complex.

“Nothing like this has ever been seen before.” He said.

Radiation from Fukushima has been discovered on the other side of the globe in British Columbia, along the West Coast and East Coast of the United States and in Europe, and heavy contamination has been found in oceanic waters.

Radioactive cesium, xenon and iodine have been detected over a wide area of North America. Other radioactive particles have been detected in the waters near the plant, and some have made their way into fish. Trace amounts of radioactive cesium-137 have been found in anchovies as far away Tokyo.

Radiation is more dangerous for infants because their cells are dividing more rapidly and radiation-damaged RNA may be carried in more generations of cells.

Radioactive iodine has been detected in the thyroids of half of 1,000 Fukushima children, NHK reported, citing findings from a group led by Satoshi Tashiro, a professor at Hiroshima University. Prolonged exposure to radiation in the air, ground and food can cause leukemia and other cancers, according to the London- based World Nuclear Association.

“Usually the contamination happens in a nuclear facility, inside a controlled area, but this type of contamination is global environmental contamination – it’s completely different,”

-Shunichi Tanaka, the former acting head of Japan’s Atomic Energy Agency.

The contamination has also begun to seep into the sea, and tests iodine was found in nearby Fukushima seawater at levels 4,385 times the legal limit. Radioactive iodine is short-lived, with a half-life of just eight days, and in any case was expected to dissipate quickly in the vast Pacific Ocean. Radioactive contamination in groundwater underneath reactor No 2 was measured at 10,000 times the government health standard, according to media reports.

The release of radioactivity from Fukushima is the largest accidental release of radiation to the ocean in history, and it is still on-going. It will likely take decades before results are available to fully evaluate the impacts of this accident on the ocean.

Groundwater, reservoirs and sea water around Japan’s earthquake damaged nuclear plant face “significant contamination” from the high levels of radiation leaking from the plant, a worrying development that heightens potential health risks in the region.

A Kyodo News survey showed Sunday that 83 percent of local governments have anxiety about distributing iodine preparations to their residents in the event of a nuclear crisis, partly because they do not know how to instruct residents to take it. The results of the survey indicate that many local-level authorities are still having difficulty preventing internal exposure.

Most of Japan is skeptical about the Japanese governments’ objectivity because of their general mistrust of those who repeatedly have shown more loyalty to the nuclear industry than their own fellow citizens, and repeatedly delayed disclosing key data and revised evacuation zones and safety standards after the accident.

Some even wonder whether the government-organized studies are in fact really using them as human guinea pigs to examine the impact of radiation on humans. Some experts have voiced their concerns as well, stating that Japan has repeatedly only released data related to the “most popular” radioactive isotopes, and only looked at the “most widely known” effects and abnormalities that may infer internalized contamination.

They continue to call for the Japanese government to check for as many potential problems as possible.

Lucas Whitefield Hixson is a nuclear researcher based out of Chicago IL. Readers may contact the author at enfo@enformable.com and visit his website Enformable.com



Michael Ventura’s “Letters at 3 a.m.” column spells it out, in Ventura’s trademark style, merely by reciting the record. The result is a devastating indictment.


April 6, 2012

Let’s do this chronologically and begin less than two months into Barack Obama’s administration, when this president issued his first flurry of signing statements.

The New York Times, March 12, 2009, p.18: “[Mr. Obama]… raised concerns about a section that establishes whistle-blower protections for federal employees who give information to Congress. … Many of Mr. Bush’s signing statements made arguments similar to those made Wednesday by Mr. Obama.”

In an editorial response, on March 17, 2009, the Times scolded, “Mr. Obama should not use signing statements, as Mr. Bush did, to assert that his own interpretation of the Constitution trumps those of Congress and the courts.”

The Times rang the alarm louder on March 22, 2009, p.WK7: “Mr. Obama’s lawyers did not seem to rule out indefinite detentions … Worse, they seemed to adopt Mr. Bush’s position that the ‘battlefield’ against terrorism is the planet. … [T]he Justice Department … abandoned transparency just last month in a case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. … The Obama administration advanced the same expansive states-secrets argument pressed by Mr. Bush’s lawyers to get a trial court to dismiss the case without any evidence being presented. Even the judges seemed surprised, asking whether the government wanted to reconsider its position.”

The Times, July 2, 2009, p.14: “’President Obama may mouth very different rhetoric,’ said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. … ‘But in the end, there is no substantive break from the policies of the Bush administration.’ … Mr. Obama has also continued other Bush-era policies … like the C.I.A.’s ‘extraordinary rendition’ program.”

The Times, Aug. 8, 2009, p.16: “President Obama has issued signing statements claiming the authority to bypass dozens of provisions enacted into law since he took office. … In 2006, the [American Bar Association] called the practice unconstitutional.”

The Times, Oct. 26, 2009, p.22: “The Obama administration has repeated a disreputable Bush-era argument that the executive branch is entitled to have lawsuits shut down whenever it makes a blanket claim of national security. … The objective is to avoid official confirmation of wrongdoing that might be used in lawsuits against government officials and contractors.”

The Times, Jan. 21, 2010, p.39: “Though the president deserves praise for improving matters [regarding torture], the changes were not as drastic as most Americans think. … Americans can now boast that they no longer ‘torture’ detainees, but they cannot say that detainees are not abused, or even that their treatment meets the minimum standards of humane treatment mandated by the Geneva Conventions.” Former Air Force interrogator Matthew Alexander wrote that, under Obama’s guidelines, “If I were to return to the war zones today… I would still be allowed to abuse prisoners.”

The Times, May 27, 2011, p.17: “Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and a member of the Intelligence Committee, said that the executive branch had come up with a secret legal theory about what it could collect under a provision of the Patriot Act that did not seem to dovetail with a plain reading of the text. ‘I want to deliver a warning this afternoon: When the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act, they will be stunned and they will be angry.’ … Another member of the Intelligence Committee, Senator Mark Udall, Democrat of Colorado, backed Mr. Wyden’s account, saying, ‘Americans would be alarmed if they knew how this law is being carried out.’”

The Times, June 18, 2011, p.1, in a report about “the Obama administration’s unprecedented crackdown on leaks”: “The Justice Department shows no sign of rethinking its campaign to punish unauthorized disclosures to the news media, with five criminal cases so far under President Obama, compared with three under all previous presidents combined. … In particular, critics of the leaks prosecution question the appropriateness of using the Espionage Act, a World War I-era statute first applied [by Richard Nixon’s administration] to leaks in the Pentagon Papers case in 1971.”

Also on June 18, 2011, and also on page 1: “President Obama rejected the views of top lawyers at the Pentagon and the Justice Department when he decided that he had the legal authority to continue American military participation in the air war in Libya without Congressional authorization.”

The Times, June 19, 2011, p.WK7: “Instead of tightening rules for F.B.I. investigations – not just of terrorism suspects but of pretty much anyone – that were put in place in the Bush years, President Obama’s Justice Department is getting ready to push the proper bounds of privacy even further. … Under the new rules, agents will be allowed to search databases without making a record about it [and] agents will be permitted to conduct lie detector tests and search people’s trash as part of evaluating a potential informant. No factual basis for suspecting them of wrongdoing will be necessary. … The White House cares so little about providing meaningful oversight that Mr. Obama has yet to nominate a successor for Glenn Fine, the diligent Justice Department inspector general who left in January.”

The Times, June 23, 2011, p.27: “The Obama administration petitioned the Supreme Court to allow GPS tracking of vehicles without judicial permission.” (To the court’s credit, last January it unanimously rejected Obama’s petition.)

The Times, June 27, 2011, p.21: “In early 2009, members of Congress enthusiastically introduced the Whistle-Blower Protection Enhancement Act. … Although as a candidate Mr. Obama expressed support for such a law, his administration cooled to the idea and let it die in the Senate in late 2010. … In what seems to be a recurring theme, Senator Obama supported the Free Flow of Information Act, but President Obama does not.”

The Times, Oct. 6, 2011, p.34: “By a 6-to-6 vote last month, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second District cleared the way for a legal challenge against a dubious legacy of the George W. Bush administration: the wiretapping of Americans’ international communications without a warrant or adequate judicial supervision. … The tie decision, which allowed an earlier ruling to stand, was a well-deserved setback to the [Obama] Justice Department’s accountability avoidance strategy.”

The Times, Sept. 28, 2011, p.1: “The Federal Bureau of Investigation is permitted to include people on the government’s terrorist watch list even if they have been acquitted of terrorism-related offense or the charges are dropped. … The database now has about 420,000 names, including about 8,000 Americans.”

The Times, Oct. 9, 2011, a p.1 headline: “Secret U.S. Memo Made Legal Case To Kill a Citizen.” Read on: “The secret document provided the justification for acting despite an executive order banning assassinations, a federal law against murder, protections in the Bill of Rights, and various strictures of the international laws of war.”

As I’ve documented previously, on Dec. 31, 2011, Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act, permitting the military, at his order, to arrested designated enemies – including American citizens — without warrants and hold them indefinitely without trial. The night Obama signed that bill, American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Anthony Romero said, “He will forever be known as the president who signed indefinite detention without charge or trial into law. Any hope that the Obama administration would roll back the constitutional excesses of George Bush in the war on terror was extinguished today.”

The Times online, March 5: “Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. asserted on Monday that it is lawful for the government to kill American citizens if officials deem them to be operational leaders of Al Qaeda.”

The Times online, March 10: “President Obama, who came to office promising transparency and adherence to the rule of law, has become the first president to claim the legal authority to order an American citizen killed without judicial involvement, real oversight or public accountability.”

The system

April 7, 2012

This just struck me.
Most of us, from time to time, have met people who think they are always right, who can’t hear an opposing opinion, who if pressed resort to abusive language, ridicule and other forms of attempted intimidation — anything rather than admit that they may not have a lock on the truth.
In everyday like we call people like that know-it-alls.
In extreme cases, we call them psychopaths.
In politics we call them candidates.

And, what’s worse, in politics those who are too sane to think themselves inerrant are forced to pretend that they do. That’s some system we have. Can anybody be surprised it gives us what it gives us?

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