fragments of an attempted writing.

we lack seppuku.

From Aljazeera today:

"Fukushima is the biggest industrial catastrophe in the history of mankind," Arnold Gundersen, a former nuclear industry senior vice president, told Al Jazeera.

..."We have 20 nuclear cores exposed, the fuel pools have several cores each, that is 20 times the potential to be released than Chernobyl," said Gundersen. "The data I'm seeing shows that we are finding hot spots further away than we had from Chernobyl, and the amount of radiation in many of them was the amount that caused areas to be declared no-man's-land for Chernobyl. We are seeing square kilometres being found 60 to 70 kilometres away from the reactor. You can't clean all this up. We still have radioactive wild boar in Germany, 30 years after Chernobyl."

...Japan's Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters finally admitted earlier this month that reactors 1, 2, and 3 at the Fukushima plant experienced full meltdowns.

...Meanwhile, a nuclear waste advisor to the Japanese government reported that about 966 square kilometres near the power station - an area roughly 17 times the size of Manhattan - is now likely uninhabitable.
In the US, physician Janette Sherman MD and epidemiologist Joseph Mangano published an essay shedding light on a 35 per cent spike in infant mortality in northwest cities that occurred after the Fukushima meltdown, and may well be the result of fallout from the stricken nuclear plant.

The eight cities included in the report are San Jose, Berkeley, San Francisco, Sacramento, Santa Cruz, Portland, Seattle, and Boise, and the time frame of the report included the ten weeks immediately following the disaster.

Gundersen points out that far more radiation has been released than has been reported..."They recalculated the amount of radiation released, but the news is really not talking about this," he said. "The new calculations show that within the first week of the accident, they released 2.3 times as much radiation as they thought they released in the first 80 days."

According to Gundersen, the exposed reactors and fuel cores are continuing to release microns of caesium, strontium, and plutonium isotopes. These are referred to as "hot particles".

"We are discovering hot particles everywhere in Japan, even in Tokyo," he said. "Scientists are finding these everywhere. Over the last 90 days these hot particles have continued to fall and are being deposited in high concentrations. A lot of people are picking these up in car engine air filters."

Radioactive air filters from cars in Fukushima prefecture and Tokyo are now common, and Gundersen says his sources are finding radioactive air filters in the greater Seattle area of the US as well.
The hot particles on them can eventually lead to cancer.

"These get stuck in your lungs or GI tract, and they are a constant irritant," he explained, "One cigarette doesn't get you, but over time they do. These [hot particles] can cause cancer, but you can't measure them with a Geiger counter. Clearly people in Fukushima prefecture have breathed in a large amount of these particles. Clearly the upper West Coast of the US has people being affected. That area got hit pretty heavy in April."

..Why have alarms not been sounded about radiation exposure in the US?
Nuclear operator Exelon Corporation has been among Barack Obama's biggest campaign donors, and is one of the largest employers in Illinois where Obama was senator. Exelon has donated more than $269,000 to his political campaigns, thus far. Obama also appointed Exelon CEO John Rowe to his Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future.


It never ceases to amaze me that companies which do billions of dollars a year can get favors worth billions for so little in return - hundreds of grand in campaign contributions, and then under the table promises to politicians that when they leave office they will get a job as a consultant or on the board of directors, that sort of thing.

It is technology that first and foremost is the reason why I think libertarianisms which appeal to (shall we say) Jeffersonian agrarian ideals are simply impossible.  I think the same with regard to acre and an ox for every man distributivisms.  That game is up.  Nuclear technology is not going away - hell, we will need experts and sophisticated technologies simply to control clean up and waste for thousands of years to come; even were we to magically stop active energy production via nuclear technologies the demand for nuclear technology is not going away.  

I have a friend, a physicist in East Tennessee, who is a fan of the Chinese reactor which avoids all of the problems and risks associated with Fukushima.  When asking yourself why we would not go with an option that is safer and cheaper remember that investors tend to make more money on options that are more complicated and more expensive.  I've noted many times over the years of the story of the "small-pharma" start-up making rather simple new versions of old antibiotics which stood to save many lives as these drugs were useful in fighting some of the "super-bugs" that have developed and would be used by many -- big-pharma was not interested in making these drugs because overhead to create them would be small, a lot of the intellectual property was open to public use (not "owned"), and thus even though a profit was virtually guaranteed, it wasn't the level of profit those companies are after.  Remember that the companies that make the products which lead to the production of nuclear power are not in business to be safe or to provide cheap products.  They are in business to make the greatest possible profits, so if they can rig the game so as to result in increased risk to the public, increased cost to the public, but greater profit for the company, that is the end the company will pursue.

Those of libertarian bents view the "fault" of the rigged game on the government, and believe that by reducing the role of the government in the game, things will be better than they are now.  There is no doubt that multiple governments, including the Japanese and U.S. governments, are among those institutions culpable for the Fukushima disaster.  But it seems to me that an outcry for less government or no government in response to such disasters is akin to declaring that we should get rid of referees when we find out that most of the refs in NCAA DIV I college football have been bought and paid for by various teams or bookies.  It may be that the corruption is vast, but why can't we just enforce policies which make it harder to buy the refs?

Venny in this thread argues for strict liability.  I think this is definitely one aspect of what needs to happen in the shorter to medium term.  I think that one of the biggest problems is this - say I have a billion dollars.  I can invest 10 million dollars into 100 different companies that have the capacity to wreak colossal damage to human beings and human habitats (Monsanto, BP, Exelon Corp., Xe Services LLC, and so forth).  Over the course of decades of investment, it is possible that on many of those investments I may double or triple or quadruple or more the money I put into the company.  But all I stand to lose, my only liability, is the initial 10 million I put in.  There are easily many hundreds of companies in the world today who use technologies which are capable of wreaking havoc to many millions of human lives and even cause devastation across whole regions, even, if we want to think apocalyptically, most of the planet.  Monsanto is one of the best examples of this phenomenon.  Many of these companies use technologies which have not long been tested and which are being strewn throughout the world without much thought of local contingencies or long term effects on human persons or environments.  

But this is not really of much concern to our investor.  In the case of some catastrophes he can be confident that the company will pay out 20 or 30 or 40 billion dollars, even though much of this money will be poorly spent, and even though this will not result in anything like a comprehensive clean-up, but that company will still be back to making killer profits in a year or so.  The investor might actually appreciate such a disaster because a short term drop in that company's stock value allows him to purchase even more and make a profit when the stock value raises again.

Then there may be the occasional mega-disaster which actually results in a long term loss of profitability for a few of the companies our investor has invested in.  But this is part of the game, and our investor is making so much in his other investments it effects him little to have a few instances where a company goes under because of a catastrophe it can't even pretend to fix.

The end result is that very wealthy men can put a lot of money towards very risky businesses and know that while a few of them here and there in any given decade will destroy the lives of many, he'll still make his obscene profits in the end.

I believe the solution to the problem must involve some mechanism through which we effectively end liability protections for investors.  If you give 10 million dollars to a nuclear power company that causes 40 million people to develop cancer within the first 15 years after a meltdown, then let's "rig the game" so that those maligned by the company can go after not only the company's assets but also (some of? all of?) the assets of the individual investors.  That investor stood to be able to make 3 times or 5 times or 10 times his investment in the company, let's make it so that he also stands to lose 3 times or 5 times or 10 times what he put in, should it turn out his (invested in) company was playing with the lives of innocent persons by taking a gamble with technologies it could not control.  


  1. take everything the rich bastards have

  2. When asking yourself why we would not go with an option that is safer and cheaper remember that investors tend to make more money on options that are more complicated and more expensive

    My kid sister used to work for a company that was developing a much more accurate (and less annoying!) alternative to mammography. According to her, the mammogram industry (huge and influential) was fighting hard to block the development of this new technology. The company eventually relocated to Israel, in part to escape the reach of American lobbyists.

    You can race for the cure till you're blue in the face, but if medical-technology lobbyists are successfully blocking new life-saving technology that threatens their own profits, well...


  3. It is technology that first and foremost is the reason why I think libertarianisms which appeal to (shall we say) Jeffersonian agrarian ideals are simply impossible. I think the same with regard to acre and an ox for every man distributivisms.

    Truer words have never been spoken.

    I think that technology--especially as manifested in industrial economies of scale--is the biggest, and still unsolved, problem. I'm more or less a fellow traveler with you economically, and I'd pretty much agree on the evils of capitalism, but I think the underlying problem is figuring out how to deal with technology. To date neither capitalism nor socialism (in any of the various ways in which they've been tried) seems to have been able to deal with this; nor has any other system proposed, at least to the extent that it's actually been put into practice. In my more pessimistic moments I'm not sure the problem can be solved--we may be talking about something beyond the ability of human ingenuity to deal with as things now stand.

    Having said that I agree with you regarding liability, and in a related vein, I think ending corporate personhood would be a good step in the right direction, too. And if we could enforce seppuku on certain parties....

  4. You can race for the cure till you're blue in the face, but if medical-technology lobbyists are successfully blocking new life-saving technology that threatens their own profits, well...

    So true. My two oldest daughters have type 1 diabetes (not to be confused with type 2 diabetes, which is a completely separate disease)and as much as I'd love to see a cure, I'm not at all convinced there will be, as the drug companies make a fortune off the diabetic supplies. My daughters' pediatric endocrinologist agrees with my cynicism.

  5. I've told this story before, but in my biotech class which I took Spring 2010 (of all things, my silly big community college has a multi-million dollar biotech department funded by the biotech firms in town, but with a faculty that calls it like it is) we studied corporations buying the intellectual property rights to biotech (DNA - human genome) discoveries that pointed to cures to various illnesses and diseases. Those companies then sat on those cure oriented discoveries and put their R&D toward treatments. They are not interested in cures, because they make a hell of a lot more money on treatments. In their world, the ideal situation is a pill or shot which works so good you don't notice you have the disease so long as you are taking it, but which you must take for the rest of your life, and which costs a great deal of money. We even studied instances in which the science appeared to be such that a cure would actually be a much shorter route - in terms of getting to the end of the goal - than the pursuit of an effective treatment, but they still go after the treatment, and having bought the intellectual property rights to that section of the genome, now no scientist(s) can work towards the cure, or, at least, he can't do anything with what work he does.

    And don't get me started on the fact that with human genome intellectual property there are three different purchases to be made per segment - you can buy the property rights to the code of the segment itself, and property rights to the technology used based on that section of code, and property rights to the potential application of that segment of the code (which is different from the technology - in other words, you can own the tool used with that or by that code, and you can own what the tool does - crazy shit). Unless you own all three components here, or unless you are part of a group of companies who own all three parts and are contractually working together, nothing can be done with the technology. The whole game is set up for corporations with shitloads of cash. Indeed, when research institutions like public universities find potential technologies based on segments of DNA code, they often enough sell them to biotech firms because this makes money for their programs. You also find endowments and donations to research institutions made by biotech firms which stipulate that certain discoveries are the intellectual property of that biotech firm. This whole situation is very, very disturbing.

  6. Turm,

    Amen brother.


    Keep your gun in your pants, for now, actual brother. I mean, unless you have to use it to save your life at work today. Then have at it.

  7. Ain't it the truth. A disgraceful charade, laughable if it weren't destroying the planet by leaps and bounds.

    M. James

  8. Old Right Nader, the man who got my vote in '08, made the clearest conservative, anti-statist argument against nuclear energy, quoted in a four-year-old post of mine entitled Atomic Corporate Socialism as observing that "the atomic power industry does not give up... as long as Uncle Sam can be dragooned to be its subsidizing, immunizing partner;" i.e. nuclear energy would be impossible in a free economy:

    "For sheer brazenness, however, the atomic power lobbyists know few peers. They remember, as the previous Atomic Energy Commission told them decades ago, that one significant meltdown could contaminate 'an area the size of Pennsylvania.'

    "They know that no insurance companies will insure them at any price, which is why the Price-Anderson Act hugely limits nuclear plants’ liability in case of massive damages to people, property, land and water."

  9. Owen Would be interested in getting your take on the whole Fr. Kimel Issue, i know you said you don't write too much about eccesiology any longer, but i was looking on the thread on John (ad-orientem) blog and i see a couple of censored posts didn't know if they were yours or not but would be interested in whatever it is you wrote that was deleted.

  10. Hey Owen,
    Liked the post, don't know if you have ever heard of James Grant but I like his writing a lot, here is a quote from a recent article he wrote that I thought was apt for at least a part of the post:

    "You start to wonder if the world wouldn't be safer if the bankers and central bankers performed fewer calculations and read more history. In the panics of the 19th century, the Chemical National Bank of New York faithfully paid out cash when other banks couldn't or wouldn't. George G. Williams, its longtime chief executive, seemed to personify the institution's bedrock virtues. "The fear of God," Williams would say when asked the secret of his success. So the Chemical was the fortress to which many fled in 1907.
    Let us be clear: On Wall Street, there was never a capitalist Eden. There was, however, an era of capitalist clarity in which the owners of the banks and investment banks not only reaped the profits but also bore the losses. Insolvency, in the case of a nationally chartered bank, meant a capital call for the stock holders, the proceeds earmarked for the depositors and other senior creditors. It was, after all, the investors' bank, not the taxpayers."

    Also, I recently read Belloc's On Usury. I liked it a lot, but was curious if it was actually in line with most Catholic thought on the issue?

  11. Also I thought you might like this story:

  12. Parker - I'm not really keen on taking that subject up here, other than to say that I think ROCOR WR is a perfect fit for Kimel. You can email me at owenandjoy at bellsouth dot net if you want to discuss the matter offline.

  13. Western,

    Saying that certain things would be impossible in a free economy is like saying that certain things would be impossible in Never Never Land. There has never been, nor will there ever be, a free economy. So long as multi-national corporations exist, they will control states. Get rid of states, and they will control what comes to replace states. The thought that they could not conceive of ways to usuriously reduce liabilities in nuclear energy in a future setting in which states to not do this for them seems like a completely arbitrary assertion to me. They could create any number of vehicles which could be sufficient for such a task. I don't buy the line that "the modern state is the only thing large enough or powerful enough to..." Just as the state will be forcing people into business with health insurers into Obamacare - in a stateless or virtually stateless situation the masses could be forced into contracts with large energy insurers on a mass scale or contracts which reduce liabilities of energy producing companies. When the masses are faced with signing contracts which take away their right to sue energy companies or living off of the grid, all but a few will sign those contracts so long as multinationals are producing American Idol.

  14. Owen,
    So is there a way out of multi-national corporations controlling things? Your perspective seems healthy but pessimistic. Like your friend, Venny, says, perhaps the answer is strict liability. Can corporations only be defeated by the courts and changing the by-laws for zoning and otherwise? The courts are probably caught up in this mess, too.


  15. I'm a little late but I noticed that you're confusing strict liability and limited liability.

    What you described (investing $10 million in 100 companies but never standing to lose more than the original $10 million) is actually called limited liability. Limited liability is, of course, the privilege granted to corporations and LLC's.

    Strict liability, on the other hand, means that a defendant will be held liable for any injury causes resulting from certain activities. The plaintiff does not have to prove any fault on the part of the defendant. Strict liability exists in tort law, but it is restricted to products liability and ultrahazardous activities. For example, if I am blasting with dynamite (which legally is considered an ultrahazardous activity), I am responsible for any injury I cause. It does not matter that I take every thinkable precaution in order to prevent an accident--if an accident happens, I'm paying for it.

    Or, to follow your post, operating a nuclear plant would be an ultrahazardous activity, as declared by the Price-Anderson Act.

  16. Stephen,

    I have long held, and occasionally argued, for the end of limited liability being granted to corporations.


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