reassurance makes strength or good excuse to skip town?

While the US Congress was overjoyed with a visit meant to reassure about the  Israeli-American friendship, our own president was addressing the British Parliament with the following:

“It is wrong to conclude that the rise of countries like China, India and Brazil means the end of American and European leadership.  Even as more nations take on the responsibilities of global leadership, our alliance will remain indispensable.”

Moreover, president Obama stated that the United States and Britain remained “indispensable” nations for peace and stability and the “greatest catalysts for global action” in a time of war, terrorism and economic insecurity.

Equally reassuring, indeed. 

Except that Germany and Japan are drawn into different orbits, while the Chinese are growing more nervous, if not assertive, by the day.  Not to mention that the Brits see things differently as far as: a) tackling the economic crisis, b) military budgets, c) Libyan priorities, or d) the upcoming September vote at the UN when the Arab League intends to propose the recognition of the Palestinian state.   

What's going on here, had we been liked and respected only as long as we could pay our way, or we've departed too much from what others saw and liked about us?  

Do we even know or remember what it was?  How we got there or how we lost it?

DSK facing... American Americanism?

Vince Boston from San Mateo, California comments on NYTimes:

Bonjour, mon ami's ! It is I, ze great sophisticated and elegant Dominque Strauss-Kahn, who always selects ze perfect wine. Oui, I had a bit of fun with a mere what? What else are ze chambermaids there for? Ze problem is ze puritanical Americans...not moi ! I merely do what I and my fellow government bankers have been doing for years, and it is ME who is supposedly ze problem? I reject your puritanical American Americanism !

Me and my fellow $3,000/night international government bankers spend all day long raping poor countries on behalf of rich countries. When we tire of that, we switch to raping the working class inside each country on behalf of the ruling class who went to the right schools and have the right last names. After all, I am ze most ridiculous of all ze politicians in ze entire world, a stalwart leader of ze French “Socialist” Party.

Why, ever since I was born with my nursemaid feeding me Dom Perignon in my baby bottle, I have dedicated my life to helping the struggling working classes…like ze hotel maid last night. She was struggling…does she not realize I was helping her in her fight against ze rich exploitive well-connected ruling class ? Ungrateful wench !

What could be more natural for me and my good banking fellows than to switch to raping hotel maids at ze end of a long tiring work day ? I do whatever I want whenever I want to whoever I want ! Yes, yes, you may, how you say, succeed in locking me up in one of your puritanical puritan prisons. But it matters little. There are 50, 100, 1,000 more international government bankers waiting to take my place and continue with our sacred, important "work". It is truly a calling, not merely a “job”.

It could be that this man is sick and his known dependency was exploited by the professional handlers of the victim(?).

Indeed, growing popularity in France was construed as a risk not only for L’américain, our ever obliging friend at Élysée Palace, but also to US capitalism itself–see DSK’s murmurs about the need for an international alternative to the dollar based on the IMF's special drawing rights, or about increased state-level financial regulation.

Another interesting question that comes into focus is if DSK was indeed the best face of the (French) Left. The vanishing of the working class in the west (read, post-industrial economy myth temporarily sustained by off-shoring / delocalization) has made reaction to the anti-popular excesses of capitalism very difficult.

Fukushima, mon amour: Letter to the Readers of the Capitalism Saga

CapitalismCapitalism is itself an artifact, based on a fiction. Sooner or later, it runs out. Some of its plot elements are property, law, innovation, technology, obstinate individualism, entrepreneurship, growth, greed, corporate personhood, market as deus ex machina... We identify many of these as natural; in fact they have become second nature, but who's drawing this distinction anymore?

The social ordering role of grand narratives can be hardly overstated.  The Capitalism story has been so transformational a force that even a communitarian country like Japan could muster only 50 volunteers to risk their lives in limiting the scope of the fast spreading nuclear damage at Fukushima, not to mention how many weeks it had taken.*  Contrasting this to the Soviet response at Chernobyl, where 0ver 300 thousand people had been mobilized to contain the damage, is better left for the ethicist.** 

Besides filling the western world with stuff, capitalism has managed to achieve something even more remarkable, it puts the story from the opening paragraph between most and the real owners/handlers. In other words, capitalism has no customer support department, yet the few own and re-write it with legitimacy, if not impunity.  What has gone missing?  To name just one, the state as that entity greater than the sum of individuals in a country.  Indeed, where was the state after Katrina, BP oil spill, or at Fukushima, when corporate or natural disasters hit?  Please, don't confuse our political representatives for the state!  They use whatever is left out the state, i.e. the monopoly of violence, to legitimately hang on their side of POWER.  I also hope the reader won't think the state stood behind the big bank(er)s, for the same representatives put us, or the Irish, in that situation.  

To return to the main epic, a country like the US has been addressing the intrinsic limits of capitalism by hard work, of its own and then of the scores of immigrants, chance, or by externalizing its problems. We have had many an advantage at our disposal that a place like Japan or Germany could only dream of.

Japanese capitalism reached its limits a while back. Sitting on a big pile of money and running on inertia might have seemed as heroic. Then something like Fukushima happens in short sequence from the 2008 Crisis and the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Not to mention all the petro-wars.

What's the meaning of this? For each his own. While Germany interrupted the operations at several nuclear power plants, Japan has signaled that it would not increase its reliance on nuclear energy as once planned. Closer to home, I expect Obama will pass the immigration law, but am apprehensive it's going to be another political hack and not necessarily a solution to our problems. One of our solvable problems, by virtue of a redesigned immigration system, would be the math education: grant work visa to math teachers and fill our classrooms with people whose knowledge and IQ would otherwise qualify them for running... banks.

Japan, I anticipate, will be the first one to turn the page away from Capitalism. Or at least away from its ferociously anti-civilization aspects--read, consumerism, growth... As for the energy problem, it should be rephrased as opportunity: stargazing will be again possible even in a Tokyo neighborhood.

* With this occasion, I've come to better understand the Japanese communitarian values, which in the west are seen mostly with indulgence.  It must have been many a natural disaster that fused this people into what it is.
** Thinking that the international community, for the past 10 years, has not come up with the estimated billion dollars needed to consolidate the leaking and fast aging cover of the Chernobyl blown up reactor is even more indicative of the values ordering our world. 

Enjoy Capitalism

the view from our end

P050111PS-0210, originally uploaded by The White House.

Via Flickr:
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011. Seated, from left, are: Brigadier General Marshall B. “Brad” Webb, Assistant Commanding General, Joint Special Operations Command; Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough; Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Standing, from left, are: Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; National Security Advisor Tom Donilon; Chief of Staff Bill Daley; Tony Binken, National Security Advisor to the Vice President; Audrey Tomason Director for Counterterrorism; John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism; and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Dr Helen Caldicott: The Earth is in the Intensive Care Unit

Via Flickr:
See the "Dr Helen Caldicott: The Earth is in the Intensive Care Unit" video

This week we devote the entire episode to Dr. Helen Caldicott, one of the founders of Physicians For Social Responsibility (PSR). In this piece, edited by PepperSpray's Patricia Boiko, Dr. Caldicott talks of the nuclear issues and the health of the earth from the perspective of a healer/physician. PepperSpray collective members kept her in the viewfinder during on-air radio interviews in Seattle and accompanied her to the Washington meeting of PSR where she was the keynote speaker. Physicians for Social Responsibility an organization of 23,000 doctors committed to educating their colleagues and the public about the dangers of nuclear power, nuclear weapons and nuclear war. www.psr.orgAfter being instrumental in the formation of PSR in the US, Dr. Caldecott helped start similar medical organizations in many other countries. The international umbrella group (International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War) won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985. She also founded the Women's Action for Nuclear Disarmament, now Women's Action for New Directions (WAND) in the US in 1980.  Other professions took up the challenge of "social responsibility," and the 1980s and 90s saw an array of organizations such as Computer Professionals For Social Responsibility, each with their own focus.http://www.cpsr.orgBooks by Helen Caldicott referenced in the video:Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer New Nuclear Danger: George W. Bush's Military-Industrial Complex in Heaven: The Arms Race in Outer Space"Indymedia Presents" is a weekly public access program produced on behalf of the Seattle Independent Media Center (IMC) by PepperSpray Productions... now also a weekly podcast available at:http://indymediapresents.blip.tv Access producers, community screeners, and IMCs
are encouraged to screen or air "Indymedia Presents." To obtain the show on a regular basis, please contact us at Free Speech Websites:Independent Media Center NewsRealhttp://www.newsreal.indymedia.orgFree Speech TV:http://www.freespeech.orgDemocracy Now!http://www.democracynow.orgThis video was originally shared on by Pepperspray Productions with a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license.

Unsafe at Any Dose
Sydney, Australia

SIX weeks ago, when I first heard about the reactor damage at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan, I knew the prognosis: If any of the containment vessels or fuel pools exploded, it would mean millions of new cases of cancer in the Northern Hemisphere.

Many advocates of nuclear power would deny this. During the 25th anniversary last week of the Chernobyl disaster, some commentators asserted that few people died in the aftermath, and that there have been relatively few genetic abnormalities in survivors’ offspring. It’s an easy leap from there to arguments about the safety of nuclear energy compared to alternatives like coal, and optimistic predictions about the health of the people living near Fukushima.

But this is dangerously ill informed and short-sighted; if anyone knows better, it’s doctors like me. There’s great debate about the number of fatalities following Chernobyl; the International Atomic Energy Agency has predicted that there will be only about 4,000 deaths from cancer, but a 2009 report published by the New York Academy of Sciences says that almost one million people have already perished from cancer and other diseases. The high doses of radiation caused so many miscarriages that we will never know the number of genetically damaged fetuses that did not come to term. (And both Belarus and Ukraine have group homes full of deformed children.)

Nuclear accidents never cease. We’re decades if not generations away from seeing the full effects of the radioactive emissions from Chernobyl.

As we know from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it takes years to get cancer. Leukemia takes only 5 to 10 years to emerge, but solid cancers take 15 to 60. Furthermore, most radiation-induced mutations are recessive; it can take many generations for two recessive genes to combine to form a child with a particular disease, like my specialty, cystic fibrosis. We can’t possibly imagine how many cancers and other diseases will be caused in the far future by the radioactive isotopes emitted by Chernobyl and Fukushima.

Doctors understand these dangers. We work hard to try to save the life of a child dying of leukemia. We work hard to try to save the life of a woman dying of metastatic breast cancer. And yet the medical dictum says that for incurable diseases, the only recourse is prevention. There’s no group better prepared than doctors to stand up to the physicists of the nuclear industry.

Still, physicists talk convincingly about “permissible doses” of radiation. They consistently ignore internal emitters — radioactive elements from nuclear power plants or weapons tests that are ingested or inhaled into the body, giving very high doses to small volumes of cells. They focus instead on generally less harmful external radiation from sources outside the body, whether from isotopes emitted from nuclear power plants, medical X-rays, cosmic radiation or background radiation that is naturally present in our environment.

However, doctors know that there is no such thing as a safe dose of radiation, and that radiation is cumulative. The mutations caused in cells by this radiation are generally deleterious. We all carry several hundred genes for disease: cystic fibrosis, diabetes, phenylketonuria, muscular dystrophy. There are now more than 2,600 genetic diseases on record, any one of which may be caused by a radiation-induced mutation, and many of which we’re bound to see more of, because we are artificially increasing background levels of radiation.

For many years now, physicists employed by the nuclear industry have been outperforming doctors, at least in politics and the news media. Since the Manhattan Project in the 1940s, physicists have had easy access to Congress. They had harnessed the energy inside the center of the sun, and later physicists, whether lobbying for nuclear weapons or nuclear energy, had the same power. They walk into Congress and Congress virtually prostrates itself. Their technological advancements are there for all to see; the harm will become apparent only decades later.

Doctors, by contrast, have fewer dates with Congress, and much less access on nuclear issues. We don’t typically go around discussing the latent period of carcinogenesis and the amazing advances made in understanding radiobiology. But as a result, we do an inadequate job of explaining the long-term dangers of radiation to policymakers and the public.

When patients come to us with cancer, we deem it rude to inquire if they lived downwind of Three Mile Island in the 1980s or might have eaten Hershey’s chocolate made with milk from cows that grazed in irradiated pastures nearby. We tend to treat the disaster after the fact, instead of fighting to stop it from happening in the first place. Doctors need to confront the nuclear industry.

Nuclear power is neither clean, nor sustainable, nor an alternative to fossil fuels — in fact, it adds substantially to global warming. Solar, wind and geothermal energy, along with conservation, can meet our energy needs.

At the beginning, we had no sense that radiation induced cancer. Marie Curie and her daughter didn’t know that the radioactive materials they handled would kill them. But it didn’t take long for the early nuclear physicists in the Manhattan Project to recognize the toxicity of radioactive elements. I knew many of them quite well. They had hoped that peaceful nuclear energy would absolve their guilt over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but it has only extended it.

Physicists had the knowledge to begin the nuclear age. Physicians have the knowledge, credibility and legitimacy to end it.

Helen Caldicott, a founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility, is the author of “Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer.”

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