Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

Two Americas

Bill Maher recently did a bit on the Eco-friendly packaging of Sun Chips. In its desire to get down with the Go Green marketing trend, Frito-Lay developed a biodegradable bag. It was hoped the new package would alleviate some of the toxic burden traditional polyethylene packaging places on landfills. It was a great idea and a small sign of forward progress in developing environmentally friendly waste management solutions for our conspicuously consumer centric throw away society. Seemed like a good idea until Frito-Lay started to get negative feedback from its customers on its packaging.  The crescendo of noise the crackling bags made was too much for the sensitive ears of Sun Chips consumers. In deference to their clients wishes Frito-Lay scrapped the Eco-friendly packaging and returned to the old polyethylene bags.

Its amazing how a small inconvenience compels us to to cede the pursuit of the better path.  The paths that affirms our better nature and sustains life is abandoned because it is burdensome or makes too much noise.  It pesters our ears, it hectors our comforts.  We prefer to down our cholesterol in the silence of compliant bags rather then suffer the annoyance of a deafening crinkle to protect the environment and save the planet. We take the easier path that confirms the adage “have it your way”.  In America the personal “my way” is the only way.  After all this is America and that is what freedom is all about.  My way or the highway.  Can I get an Amen?

During the holiday season the big stink was about the Transportation Security Authority (TSA).  The news was flush with reports of travelers outraged by how TSA personal were overly intrusive and overstepped the bounds of decency and deportment as they screened exasperated airline passengers trying to board planes. Travelers became angry and ornery complaining about the violation of their person and screamed violent threats at TSA personnel if they “touched their junk”.

I find it a bit curious that the response to this egregious violation of personal liberty fails to call for the repeal of laws that codify the erosion of  our freedoms.  In its stead we learn states are busy passing privilege and immunity laws that confer special rights to certain classes of citizens. The Arizona Immigration law that was enacted earlier in the year burdens Latinos with proving they belong  to be living amongst us.  Its a pathway to a softer kinder Apartheid that codifies a bifurcation of citizenship and the value and validity of a persons humanness.  In its wake the value of liberty and our humanity both plummet.

The notion of Two Americas is not new.  Its just that the glaring injustice  threatening our society is becoming too stark to ignore.  This pernicious sedition is the gravest threat undermining our democracy.  It is a greater threat then any attack Al Qaeda could ever mount on America. In 1962 Michael Harrington wrote “The Other America”.  It was instrumental in publicizing the pervasive poverty that existed in America.  In response to the growing  threat poverty and the cultural and economic fissure it created between the of “haves and have nots,”  the Johnson Administration initiated a war on poverty.  The Great Society legislation was enacted to insure that all citizens are enfranchised with the vote and that a social safety net would catch any citizen from being swallowed by the great divide.  Today such notions are condemned as socialistic and unAmerican.

While the richest 1% of American’s continue to amass great fortunes for themselves gobbling up a disproportionate amount of income the much greater proportion of our countrymen sees its standard of living erode as the Two Americas  drift further apart.  The well off cash their fat dividend checks from a roaring stock market that has less to do with the economic development of America then the self enrichment of capitalist speculators.  The greatest irony is that as they sit atop their piles of cash they remain convinced that their riches confirm the greatness of America and that their wealth is why America remains great.

When President Obama took office the country was in a terrible state.  Two wars were raging, unemployment was spiraling upward, foreclosures were throwing millions of Americans out of their homes and an epidemic of small business bankruptcies was a plague ravishing Main Street USA.   During times like these you would think patriotic minded citizens would come together to aid the country in its dire hour of need; but the GOP led a virulent opposition whose single goal was Obama’s failure.  Their obstructionism added distance to the divide and America suffers for it.  The ugliness of the debates concerning Health Care Reform spurred the creation of a political dialog that delegitimatized governing institutions.  It  made the ability to reach consensus impossible and prompted threats that Second Amendment solutions would be considered to remedy ill considered legislation.

In the aftermath of the Tucson Massacre, we dusted off the old debate about gun control and wheeled it on to center stage again.  Many believe that the mentally ill murderer should have not been allowed to purchase a semi-automatic Glock and the 30 round clip that served to enlarge the scope of Jared Loughner’s terrible carnage.

All are thankful for Gabrielle Gifford’s miraculous recovery from her head wound.  All hope for a speedy and full recovery of the thirteen wounded and offer condolences to the six citizens whose lives were senselessly ended.  But all don’t believe the availability of guns should be restricted.  In fact many believe that had more citizens been armed the death toll of innocents would not have been as great because it would have included Jared Loughner before he could finish his grim work.  I’m not so sure.  I believe it more likely that a widely armed citizenry encourages wanton barbarity then the well considered promotion of dispassionate civic discourse.

Differences of opinion are critical to a healthy society.  The ability to have dialog and assimilate differences in a shared consensus in service to country is what makes democracies the best form of government.

If we are a people who prize freedom we cannot be complicit accomplishes in ceding our liberties.   We must be vigilant missionaries seeking to enlarge the pallet of liberty for all  people.  Martin Luther King Jr. said it best, “All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality” Affirming a respect for our shared humanity, equal rights of citizenship and sense of duty to one another in service to our country and democratic way of life is how we breech the walls that divide us and bridge the fissures that separate.  These are the characteristics of  a great nation and protecting them serves to maintain the greatness of its people.  It is how out of many becomes one.  It may require that you put up with the annoying noise of a loud obnoxious windbag but the savory delight of the bread of freedom is well worth it.

You Tube Music Video:  Max Roach, Abby Lincoln, Freedom Now Suite, We Insist

Risk: democracy, civil liberties, culture, consensus

Advertisements

January 17, 2011 Posted by | Civil Rights, community, democracy, homelessness, MLK, Obama, poverty, recession, social justice | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leaky Reactors, Cyber Terror and Police States

This is how the world ends
This is how the world ends
This is how the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper
The Hallow Men TS Elliot

A few interesting  news items recently passed without much notice.  Two nuclear reactors located in the Northeast had to be  brought offline due to operational failures.  The Vermont Yankee reactor sprang a leak and had to be shut down.  The other incident occurred at the thirty six year old Indian Point reactor located about twenty miles north of New York City.  The cause of the problem at Indian Point was a transformer fire.  Both reactors  are owned and operated by Entergy and mirror similar problems at the Excelon operated Oyster Creek reactor located in south central New Jersey.

These incidents are endemic to aging nuclear power facilities.  These plants came on line during the the 1970’s and are now approaching the half century mark of service.  When these plants were commissioned it was believed they would have a shelf life of 40 years.   As the expected useful life span of these facilities approach regulators routinely grant extensions to the operators.  Operating these facilities past that point heighten potential risk factors.  As nuclear reactors age, the stress on these complex systems and containment facilities raise risk factors heightening the potential of system failure that lead to catastrophic events.

Leaky plumbing at the Oyster Creek nuclear plant is the culprit in poisoning the Cohansey Aquifer with 180,000 gallons of tritium contaminated water.  Regulators and environmental officials assert that the level of radio active isotopes in the water supply that serves South Jersey and parts of Philadelphia is well within acceptable levels for human consumption.  I guess that all depends on your definition of human; but I and many others remain skeptical on the subject of drinking radioactive laced water.

The aging nuclear infrastructure of the United States is a growing cause for concern.  The nuclear power industry was halted in its tracks in the 1980’s by a strong No Nukes environmental movement.  At the time it was generally understood that the cost of catastrophic risk and the industries inability to solve the long term problem of disposal and management of nuclear waste turned the public against the industry.

The Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania and the disastrous meltdown at Chernobyl in the Russian Caucuses led to a moratorium on new plant construction in the United States leading to the actual abandonment of plant construction in the Washington and New York.  It created a capital market crisis as the fear of defaults on WPPSS  revenue bonds spread to cast long shadows on the entire Muni Bond market.  The state of  New York stepped in to purchase the facilities of Long Island Power in order to make bondholders of the closed facility whole with tax payer money.  It was kind of like socialism for investors.

While most of the world has continued to build nuclear plants to address growing energy needs; the United States has not built a nuclear plant since the 1980’s and has lagged the world in using nuclear power to address energy needs. Sentiment on the desirability of nuclear power is beginning to change.  The Pickens Plan, former VP Dick Cheney’s secret meetings to develop a national energy strategy, the Gulf Oil Spill, the need to reduce dependence on foreign oil and the growing acceptance that the burning of fossil fuels is slowly cooking the planet has placed nuclear power back on the table as a viable component of America’s energy portfolio.

China is committed to building 100 nuclear power plants to wean itself from its crippling dependence on coal.  The United States is charging hard to keep up with its fast growing Asian competitor in a 21st Century nuclear power race.  The aggressive pursuit of nuclear plant development will increase the power and control of corporate entities charged with their construction, management and on going administration.  To accomplish a dramatic build-out in nuclear infrastructure large areas of  land situated near a plentiful water supply will need to be secured.   Environmental impacts, regulatory oversight and public transparency will be sacrificed at the alter of cost efficiency, expedience in implementation and security to protect the vulnerable facilities against the pervasive armies of terrorists that lurk in the shadows near every nuclear plant.

The controversy surrounding the collusion of government and business to exploit the Marcellus Shale natural gas vein is an instructive model of what we can expect from the stakeholders pursuing an aggressive campaign to develop Americas nuclear power infrastructure.  The dismissal of regulatory controls, the eminent domain of corporate interests, the opaque wall that shrouds risks factors and hides the environmental degradation resulting from the practice of fracking and the sacrifice of watersheds and aquifers to the expeditious extraction of natural gas are some of the documented behaviors of  a wanton corporate will imposed on the body politic.  Tragically this near sighted perspective willfully sacrifices the sustainable ecology of communities to the sole purpose of the profitable extraction of resources to serve shareholders of private corporations.   The nature of the nuclear beast will require that its interests be enforced by courts of law guided by extreme prejudice and protected by police battalions, state  guard units and private security groups in the name of national security interests.

The recently discovered Stuxnet computer virus is an indication of how the stakes are being raised in the nuclear power shell game.  The launch of a successful cyber attack on a nuclear facility anywhere in the world is a real game changer.  Self deluded uber patriots act more  like real pinheads if they believe that the destruction of Iran’s nuclear power capability is a harbinger for Middle East peace or enhances the   security of either Israel or the United States.  A nuclear event in Iran or North Korea are real game changers for the course of human history and the well being of  humanity. A clandestine service that can take out Iranian nuclear reactors can also be deployed to take out a reactor that is twenty miles north of New York City.  Or consider the consequences of a summer heat wave ravaging the citizens Philadelphia dying of thirst because the water supply is contaminated with radiation.  The extent of civil unrest would be extreme overwhelming the local law enforcement and judicial capabilities.  If these bleak scenarios come to pass,  Americans will be pining away for the good old days when a quick feel up at the airport by a TSA gendarme is fondly recalled like a high school make out session.  The pernicious yoke of marshal law under the nuclear challenged corporate security state will be incessant in practice and swift, sure and dire in its execution.

You Tube music video: No Nukes Concert 1979: Doobie Brothers Taking it to The Streets

Risk: democracy, energy policy, nuclear power, civil liberties

 

November 22, 2010 Posted by | community, culture, democracy, disaster planning, ecological, energy, environment, government, military, nuclear, regulatory, risk management | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment