Continuing to play Obama like a fiddle, the Snowden revelations have done more to change US foreign policy in a few short months, than all laws passed since the advent of the Patriot Act. In the latest example of just this, moments ago, USA Today first and the WSJ and others subsequently, reported that according to Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and an NSA supporter, the National Security Agency has stopped gathering intelligence on allied political leaders, a practice that has drawn global criticism. “The White House has informed me that collection on our allies will not continue, which I support,” according to Feinstein. It was not immediately clear if this is an implicit admission that the White House actually did know about the NSA’s spying on foreign leaders over the past decade, and lied about being unaware. Recall that Obama denied just this last night, but at this point the pit of lies is so deep, few actually care or are keeping track.
Ironically, in an attempt to redirect once again, Feinstein “criticized President Obama over reports he only recently learned about the monitoring that included German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “It is my understanding that President Obama was not aware Chancellor Merkel’s communications were being collected since 2002,” she said. “That is a big problem.” Don’t worry Dianne, he knew everything, but an autocrat-in-waiting has to lie do what an autocrat-in-waiting has to lie do.
From USA Today:
As a growing chorus of nations protest U.S. surveillance policies, Obama’s spokesman said Monday that an ongoing review will address the concerns of allies.
The review of NSA programs is designed to insure that intelligence gathering protects “both the security of our citizens and our allies and the privacy concerns shared by Americans and citizens around the world,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney.
Administration officials refused to comment on a report indicating that Obama learned only this year about a program that monitored the communications of foreign leaders — a situation that wouldn’t be particularly unusual, said an intelligence expert.
Paul Pillar, a former senior intelligence officer, said most presidents don’t know about “the targeting decisions” made by their intelligence agencies.
“It would be a horrible drain on the president’s time and attention,” Pillar said.
So instead the president can focus all his time and energy on creating 40-ing websites and taking over the public healthcare system?
As reported earlier, Spain was the latest country to be exposed as having been the target of the NSA’s extensive espionage (at a massive cost to US taxpayers), resulting in just the latest ambassadorial summoning. Which of course was merely more theater, set in motion merely to appease the locals.
Pillar said it’s not the tactics themselves that create international friction as much as the fact that they have now been publicized.
“Not only do allies spy on each other all the time, allies know about it all the time,” Pillar said.
Normally, he said, nations that discover surveillance from other countries would tighten their security procedures and not make “a public stink” about it.
But the news coverage – inspired by the Snowden revelations and fueled by outrage from their domestic constituents – forces leaders to confront the United States.
The issue is particularly sensitive in Germany, where memories of the nation’s Cold War divisions remain fresh. That includes domestic spying by police forces in Communist-run East Germany – the native region of Chancellor Merkel, an outspoken critic of NSA tactics.
“Their history is speaking very loudly to them,” said Heather Conley, senior fellow and director of the Europe Program with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Conley and Pillar said intelligence agencies do gather information on each other, on items ranging from positions on trade negotiations to the political troubles of the targeted government.
The difference these days? “It’s a public discussion,” Conley said.
Precisely. Because the public has had enough of governments scheming behind their backs, always to the detriment of common people. And the person to thank for all of this is none other than Edward Snowden, who instead of being praised as a hero in his home country, has been forced into exile into the country that once upon a time was the “evil empire.” How the times have changed in the despotic New Normal.
As for Feinstein’s promise that the US will stop spying either on foreign leaders, or domestically, that is about as good as any other promise made by an insolvent empire in full decline.
- Sen. Feinstein: ‘Total Review’ Of NSA Activities Needed (npr.org)
- Dianne Feinstein: ‘I am totally opposed’ to NSA surveillance of US allies (theguardian.com)
- Sen. Dianne Feinstein Slams NSA Spying (huffingtonpost.com)
- White House Will Stop Spying on Allies: Feinstein (news.antiwar.com)
- Civil Libertarians to Dianne Feinstein: We Told You So (emptywheel.net)
“Five percent of the people think;
ten percent of the people think they think;
and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.”
– Thomas Edison
The kabuki theater that passes for governance in Washington D.C. reveals the profound level of ignorance shrouding this Empire of Debt in its prolonged death throes. Ignorance of facts; ignorance of math; ignorance of history; ignorance of reality; and ignorance of how ignorant we’ve become as a nation, have set us up for an epic fall. It’s almost as if we relish wallowing in our ignorance like a fat lazy sow in a mud hole. The lords of the manor are able to retain their power, control and huge ill-gotten riches because the government educated serfs are too ignorant to recognize the self-evident contradictions in the propaganda they are inundated with by state controlled media on a daily basis.
“Any formal attack on ignorance is bound to fail because the masses are always ready to defend their most precious possession – their ignorance.” – Hendrik Willem van Loon
The levels of ignorance are multi-dimensional and diverse, crossing all educational, income, and professional ranks. The stench of ignorance has settled like Chinese toxic smog over our country, as various constituents have chosen comforting ignorance over disconcerting knowledge. The highly educated members, who constitute the ruling class in this country, purposefully ignore facts and truth because the retention and enhancement of their wealth and power are dependent upon them not understanding what they clearly have the knowledge to understand. The underclass wallow in their ignorance as their life choices, absence of concern for marriage or parenting, lack of interest in educating themselves, and hiding behind the cross of victimhood and blaming others for their own failings. Everyone is born ignorant and the path to awareness and knowledge is found in reading books. Rich and poor alike are free to read and educate themselves. The government, union teachers, and a village are not necessary to attain knowledge. It requires hard work and clinging to your willful ignorance to remain stupid.
The youth of the country consume themselves in techno-narcissistic triviality, barely looking up from their iGadgets long enough to make eye contact with other human beings. The toxic combination of government delivered public education, dumbed down socially engineered curriculum, taught by uninspired intellectually average union controlled teachers, to distracted, unmotivated, latchkey kids, has produced a generation of young people ignorant about history, basic mathematical concepts, and the ability or interest to read and write. They have been taught to feel rather than think critically. They have been programmed to believe rather than question and explore. Slogans and memes have replaced knowledge and understanding. They have been lured into inescapable student loan debt serfdom by the very same government that is handing them a $200 trillion entitlement bill and an economy built upon low paying service jobs that don’t require a college education, because the most highly educated members of society realized that outsourcing the higher paying production jobs to slave labor factories in Asia was great for the bottom line, their stock options and bonus pools.
Instead of being outraged and lashing out against this injustice, the medicated, daycare reared youth passively lose themselves in the inconsequentiality and shallowness of social media, reality TV, and the internet, while living in their parents’ basement. They have chosen the ignorance inflicted upon their brains by thousands of hours spent twittering, texting, facebooking, seeking out adorable cat videos on the internet, viewing racist rap singer imbeciles rent out sports stadiums to propose to vacuous big breasted sluts on reality cable TV shows, and sitting zombie-like for days with a controller in hand blowing up cities, killing whores, and murdering policemen using their new PS4 on their 65 inch HDTV, rather than gaining a true understanding of the world by reading Steinbeck, Huxley, and Orwell. Technology has reduced our ability to think and increased our ignorance.
“During my eighty-seven years, I have witnessed a whole succession of technological revolutions. But none of them has done away with the need for character in the individual or the ability to think.” –Bernard M. Baruch
The youth have one thing going for them. They are still young and can awaken from their self-imposed stupor of ignorance. There are over 80 million millenials between the ages of 8 and 30 years old who need to start questioning the paradigm they are inheriting and critically examining the mendacious actions of their elders. The future of the country is in their hands, so I hope they put down those iGadgets and open their eyes before it is too late. We need many more patriots like Edward Snowden and far fewer twerking sluts like Miley Cyrus if we are to overcome the smog of apathy and ignorance blanketing our once sentient nation.
The ignorance of youth can be chalked up to inexperience, lack of wisdom, and immaturity. There is no excuse for the epic level of ignorance displayed by older generations over the last thirty years. Boomers and Generation X have charted the course of this ship of state for decades. Ship of fools is a more fitting description, as they have stimulated the entitlement mentality that has overwhelmed the fiscal resources of the country. Our welfare/warfare empire, built upon a Himalayan mountain of debt, enabled by a central bank owned by Wall Street, and perpetuated by swarms of corrupt bought off spineless politicians, is the ultimate testament to the seemingly limitless level of ignorance engulfing our civilization. The entitlement mindset permeates our culture from the richest to the poorest. Mega-corporations use their undue influence (bribes disguised as campaign contributions) to elect pliable candidates to office, hire lobbyists to write the laws and tax regulations governing their industries, and collude with the bankers and other titans of industry to harvest maximum profits from the increasingly barren fields of a formerly thriving land of milk and honey. By unleashing a torrent of unbridled greed, ransacking the countryside, and burning down the villages, the ruling class has planted the seeds of their own destruction.
When the underclass observes Wall Street bankers committing the crime of the century with no consequences for their actions, they learn a lesson. When billionaire banker/politicians like Jon Corzine can steal $1.2 billion directly from the accounts of farmers and ranchers and continue to live a life of luxury in one of his six mansions, they get the message. Wall Street bankers are allowed to commit fraud, reaping profits of $25 billion, and when they are caught red handed pay a $5 billion fine while admitting no guilt. No connected bankers have gone to jail for crashing the worldwide financial system, but teenage marijuana dealers are incarcerated for ten years in our corporate prison system. The message has been received loud and clear by the unwashed masses. Committing fraud and gaming the system is OK. Only suckers play by the rules anymore. A culture of lawlessness, greed, fraud, deceit, swindles and scams was fashioned by those in power. Reckless disregard for honesty, truthfulness, fair dealing, and treating others as you would like to be treated, has permeated the beliefs and behavior of our society.
The ever increasing number of people in the SNAP program along with abuses committed by retailers and recipients, the skyrocketing number of people faking their way into the SSDI program, billions of taxpayer dollars lost to Medicare fraud, billions more lost paying out earned income tax credit refunds based on non-existent children, public schools falsifying test scores, students cheating on SAT tests, credit card fraud on a grand scale, failure to report income and falsifying tax returns, and a myriad of other dodges and scams are just a reflection of a moral and cultural collapse. The dog eat dog mentality glorified by the media, with such despicable men as Dimon, Greenspan, Corzine, Clinton, Trump, Rubin, Bernanke and Bloomberg honored as pillars of society, has displaced honesty, compassion, humanity, shared sacrifice, and caring about our descendants. Self-interest, self-indulgence, and a narcissistic focus on what is in it for me today has led to an implosion of trust and an attitude of “who cares” about our fellow man, morality, right or wrong, and the fate of future generations. We ignored the warnings of our last President who displayed courageousness and truthfulness when speaking to the American people.
“As we peer into society’s future, we — you and I, and our government — must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
The Me Generation has devolved into the Me Culture. While the masses have been mesmerized by their iGadgets, zombified by the boob tube, programmed to consume by the Madison Avenue propaganda machines, enslaved in chains of debt by the Wall Street plantation owners, and convinced by their fascist government keepers that phantom terrorists are hiding behind every bush, they surrendered their freedoms, liberties and sense of self-responsibility. There will always be evil men seeking to control and manipulate the ignorant and oblivious. A citizenry armed with knowledge, critical thinking skills, and moral integrity would not passively submit to the will of a corporate fascist oligarchy. Well educated, well informed citizens, capable of critical thinking are dangerous to rich men of evil intent. Obedient, universally ignorant, distracted, fearful, morally depraved slaves are what the owners of this country want. As the light of knowledge flickers and dies, we sink into the darkness of ignorance.
“No people will tamely surrender their Liberties, nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffused and virtue is preserved. On the Contrary, when People are universally ignorant, and debauched in their Manners, they will sink under their own weight without the Aid of foreign Invaders.” – Samuel Adams
Cult of Ignorance
“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” – Isaac Asimov
“While every group has certain economic interests identical with those of all groups, every group has also, as we shall see, interests antagonistic to those of all other groups. While certain public policies would in the long run benefit everybody, other policies would benefit one group only at the expense of all other groups. The group that would benefit by such policies, having such a direct interest in them, will argue for them plausibly and persistently. It will hire the best buyable minds to devote their whole time to presenting its case. And it will finally either convince the general public that its case is sound, or so befuddle it that clear thinking on the subject becomes next to impossible.
In addition to these endless pleadings of self-interest, there is a second main factor that spawns new economic fallacies every day. This is the persistent tendency of man to see only the immediate effects of a given policy, or its effects only on a special group, and to neglect to inquire what the long-run effects of that policy will be not only on that special group but on all groups. It is the fallacy of overlooking secondary consequences.” – Henry Hazlitt
America’s cult of ignorance, combined with the selfish interests of various constituencies, the character weakness of the people elected to office, a lack of understanding or interest in basic mathematical concepts, and inability to comprehend the long term and unintended consequences of every piece of legislation, have brought the country to the brink of fiscal disaster. But still, the vast majority of Americans, including the supposed intellectuals and economic “experts”, are basking in their ignorance, as the stock market reaches a new high, the local GM dealer just gave them a 7 year $40,000 auto loan at 0% on that brand new Cadillac Escalade, Bank of America still hasn’t foreclosed on their McMansion two years after making their last mortgage payment, and they just received three pre-approved credit card notices from Capital One, American Express and Citicorp. As long as Bennie has our back printing $1 trillion new greenbacks per year, nothing can possibly go wrong. Our best and brightest economic minds are always right:
“Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.” – Irving Fisher, Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929
“Many of the new financial products that have been created, with financial derivatives being the most notable, contribute economic value by unbundling risks and shifting them in a highly calibrated manner. Although these instruments cannot reduce the risk inherent in real assets, they can redistribute it in a way that induces more investment in real assets and, hence, engenders higher productivity and standards of living.” – Alan Greenspan – March 6, 2000
“We’ve never had a decline in house prices on a nationwide basis. So, what I think what is more likely is that house prices will slow, maybe stabilize, might slow consumption spending a bit. I don’t think it’s gonna drive the economy too far from its full employment path, though.” – Ben Bernanke – July 2005
The profound level of ignorance displayed by economists, politicians, business leaders, media personalities, and the average American, regarding the mathematically unsustainable path of our fiscal ship is perplexing to me on so many levels. If the Federal government was a family, the budget ceiling debate would be put into the following terms. Our household earns $28,000 per year, but we spend $38,000 per year and add $10,000 to our credit card balance, which stands at the limit of $170,000. In addition, we owe our neighbors $2 million we don’t have because we promised to pay if they voted for us as Treasurer of our homeowners association. We celebrate our good fortune of getting approved for another credit card with a $30,000 limit by increasing our spending to $39,000 per year. Intellectuals scorn such simplistic analogies by glibly pointing out that the family has a crazy uncle with a printing press in the basement and can pay-off the debt with his freshly printed dollars. And this is where the deliberate and calculated ignorance by the highly educated Ivy Leaguers regarding long term and unintended consequences is revealed. They ignore, manipulate, cover-up and obscure the facts because their wealth, power and influence depend upon them doing so. But ignorance doesn’t change the facts.
“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” – Aldous Huxley
Nothing exposes the ignorance of various factions within our society better than a debate about budgets, spending, and unfunded liabilities. This is where every party, group, special interest, and voting bloc ignore any and all facts that are contrary to their selfish interest. They only see what they want to see. The fallacies, errors, omissions and mistruths of their positions are inconsequential to people who only care about their short-term self-seeking interests. When I question the out of control spending on entitlements and our impossible to honor level of unfunded liabilities, those of a liberal persuasion lash out with accusations of hating the poor, starving children and throwing granny under the bus. Anyone suggesting we should slow our spending is branded a terrorist by the overwhelmingly liberal legacy media.
When I accuse Wall Street bankers of criminal fraud and ongoing manipulation of the financial markets, the CNBC loving apologists for these felons bellow about the market always being right. When I rail about the military industrial complex and our un-Constitutional invasions of other countries, the neo-cons come out in force blathering about the war on terror and imminent threats. When I point out the horrific results of our government run educational system and how mediocre union teachers are bankrupting our states and municipalities with their gold plated health and pension plans, I’m met with howls of outrage about the poor children. The common thread is that facts are ignored because each of their agendas requires ignorance on the part of their team’s fans.
The following chart of truth portrays an unsustainable path. Ignoring the facts will not change them. This isn’t a Republican problem or a Democrat problem. It’s an American problem.
“There are men regarded today as brilliant economists, who deprecate saving and recommend squandering on a national scale as the way of economic salvation; and when anyone points to what the consequences of these policies will be in the long run, they reply flippantly, as might the prodigal son of a warning father: “In the long run we are all dead.” And such shallow wisecracks pass as devastating epigrams and the ripest wisdom.” – Henry Hazlitt
Henry Hazlitt may have written these words six decades ago, but they aptly describe Paul Krugman and the legions of Keynesian apostles whose bastardized interpretation of Keynes’ theory has led us to this fiscal cliff. How anyone can truly believe that borrowing to consume foreign produced goods versus saving and making job creating capital investments is a rational and sustainable economic policy is the height of ignorance. One look at this chart exposes the political party system as a sham. When it comes to the fiscal train wreck, set in motion thirty years ago, the ignorant media pundits peddle a narrative about politicians failing to compromise as the culprit in this derailment. Nothing could be further from the truth. Compromise is what has gotten us to this point. The Republicans compromised and allowed the Democrats to create a welfare state. The Democrats compromised and allowed the Republicans to create a warfare state. The Federal Reserve compromised their mandate of stable prices and preventing financial calamities by inflating away 95% of the dollar’s purchasing power in 100 years, while creating bubbles every five or so years, like clockwork. There are a myriad of facts related to the chart above that cannot be ignored:
- It took 192 years for the country to accumulate $1 trillion in debt. It has taken us 30 years to accumulate the next $16 trillion of debt. We now add $1 trillion of debt per year.
- If the Federal government was required to use GAAP accounting, the annual deficit would amount to $6.7 trillion per year.
- The fiscal gap of unfunded future liabilities for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and government pensions is $200 trillion.
- Using realistic growth assumptions adds another $6 trillion of state and local government unfunded pension benefits to the equation.
- The Federal government has increased their annual spending from $1.8 trillion during Bill Clinton’s last year in office to $3.8 trillion today, a 110% increase. The population has increased by 12% over that same time frame, and real GDP has advanced by 25% since 2000.
- Defense spending has increased from $358 billion in 2000 to $831 billion today, despite the fact that no country on earth can challenge us militarily.
- The average Baby Boomer will receive $300,000 more than they contributed to Social Security and Medicare over their lifetime. Over 10,000 Boomers per day will turn 65 for the next 17 years.
- The Social Security lockbox is filled with IOUs. The funds collected from paychecks over the last 80 years were spent by Congress on wars of choice, bridges to nowhere, and thousands of other vote buying ventures.
- A normalization of interest rates to long-term averages would double or triple the interest on the national debt and increase our annual deficits by at least 30%.
- Obamacare and the unintended consequences of Obamacare will add tens of trillions to our national debt. The initial budget projections for Medicare and Medicaid showed only a modest financial impact on the financial situation of the country. How did that work out?
- Entitlement spending in 2003 was $1.3 trillion. Entitlement spending in 2008 was $1.7 trillion. Entitlement spending in 2013 was $2.2 trillion. Entitlement spending in 2018 will be $2.8 trillion, as these programs are on automatic pilot.
When you consider the facts in a rational manner, without vitriolic denials, bitter accusations, acrimonious blame, and rejection of the entire premise, you come to the conclusion that we’ve passed the point of no return. Decades of bad choices, bad leadership, bad men in important positions, bad education, bad governance, and bad citizenship have led to bad times. But very few people, across all socio-economic classes, have any interest in understanding the facts or making the tough choices required to save future generations from a life of squalor. We willfully choose to ignore the facts.
“Most ignorance is vincible ignorance. We don’t know because we don’t want to know.” – Aldous Huxley
Our degraded and ignorant society is incapable of comprehending their dire circumstances or acting for the common good of the country. We are a nation on the take. Greed really is good. Everyone needs to play the game. From the top floor corporate CEO suite to the decaying urban wastelands, we have chosen comforting ignorance to uncomfortable knowledge. Our warped form of democracy enriches the few at the top, while dispensing enough subsistence payments to the lower classes to keep them from revolting, while enslaving the middle class in debt and convincing them it’s really wealth. Mencken understood the pathetic impulses of the American populace decades before we reached our point of no return.
“Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.” – H.L. Mencken
The only way a democracy can survive is if the population is knowledgeable, vigilant, skeptical, educated, individually responsible, self-reliant, moral, capable of critical thinking and willing to accept the consequences of their actions. A nation of takers, fakers and blamers will not last long. We’ve degenerated into a nation of knowledge hating book burners. Our culture of ignorance will lead to the destruction of our culture and the ignorant masses will wonder what happened.
“But you can’t make people listen. They have to come round in their own time, wondering what happened and why the world blew up around them. It can’t last.” – Ray Bradbury – Fahrenheit 451
In Part Two of this examination about our culture of ignorance I’ll explore the roles of technology, family breakdown, government, and propaganda in creating the ignorance that is consuming our system like a mutant parasite. If you are seeking a happy ending, I suggest looking elsewhere.
- The Fruits Of Ignorance (economicnoise.com)
- The Gravity Of Our Situation | Zero Hedge (olduvaiblog.wordpress.com)
High Frequency Terrorism | Zero Hedge. (source)
There is a real fear in the markets now and it is not being caused by Europe, LIEbor, Linda Green, London Whales, etc. The fear is focused on the structure of how prices are discovered and assets/risk are transferred to willing participants. Bad algorithms have been treacherous in the past, to put it lightly. The debate has been focused so much on the ways exchanges have destroyed their reputations by selling enhanced data feeds with your trade information in it. Every time you trade, your order is routed to a given location to be matched and whether it executes AON, filled 100 blocks in 5 minute intervals at VWAP, cancelled and readjusted stop limit, adjustments to limit order prices/sizes, etc, is recorded and given an account number.
This data is grouped and sold by exchanges and market centers to participants with computer capable of processing and utilizing the encoded “enhanced data feed”. This insight into quantifiable market participant behavior is on a material level and could be argued as being insider information.
Now imagine the smartest minds we have focused on and picture their intent not being keen on ROI but on chaos and havoc. Imagine someone has all this information regarding given perceptions of all participants within the US capital market structure, from equities to futures to commodities to currency to bonds for any given millisecond. Imagine that the Russian gov’t, Chinese gov’t, and Iran gov’t had access to this information and in a coordinated effort decided to attack and manipulate the US markets through high speed access and rapid flows of orders that could trick machines and send errant signals regarding the reality of the market at any given time.
The recent mess with Facebook and BATS have shown the vulnerabilities of our exchange centers and regulators. Most of the national focus here in the US has been portrayed as something that is contained with our boarders, however should something more sophisticated (Stuxnet and Flame?) be deployed within our market structure (perhaps through those shell brokerages tied to Al-Queada we’ve heard about) only then will the focus change. We need to recognize and consider the probability of something like this happening.
Page 2, Paragraph 3 of Economic Warfare: Risks & Responses:Perhaps its time we pressure the CFTC and SEC to reach a definition already on HFT and get their shit in line. This whole mess of a capitalist market is primed to collapse at any moment. No one is ready, not the exchanges, not the regulators, not the participators, not the governments, no one. We have no back up should assets prices drop like they did on May 6, 2010 and not rebound. Imagine more MFG’s and PFG’s vaporizing client money as commodity prices go haywire, like the Oil Complex did. As “normalcy bias” continues to grip those involved in the debate, we must focus on the shared vulnerability to damage by a rouge nation or coordinated behavior by nations fighting a battle that isn’t on a the typical battlefield. Picture World War 3 being a financial war, not a weaponry war.Think about it.
- HFT Madness: Nasdaq Spoofing, HBAN, Google Options (valuewalk.com)
- Why does Singapore Exchange Seek High-Frequency Traders? (ultrahighfrequencytrading.com)
- High Frequency Trading: Is It A Dark Force Against Ordinary Human Traders And Investors? (forbes.com)
A slick PR job has not stopped the spread of anti-BP sentiment in the wake of health problems [Reuters]
|New Orleans, United States of America – Peter Frizzell never thought his watersports off the coast of Florida would destroy his health.
“After sea kayaking after BP’s spill happened, I was sitting at my desk and started coughing up loads of blood,” Frizzell, an avid outdoorsman, told Al Jazeera. “My doctor ran a scope down to the top of my lungs and said my bronchi were full of blood.”
Frizzell’s medical records bear out that he was exposed to toxic chemicals, and he is far from alone.
Since the spill began in April 2010, Al Jazeera has interviewed hundreds of coastal residents, fishermen, and oil cleanup workers whose medical records, like Frizzell’s, document toxic chemical exposure that they blame on BP’s oil and the toxic chemical dispersants the oil giant used on the spill.
The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention lists the toxic components commonly found in chemicals in crude oil, and several of these chemicals have been found in the blood of people living in the impact zone of BP’s disaster.
Several toxicologists agree, and now one accuses both BP and the US Environmental Protection Agency of knowingly placing people in harms way since they both had prior knowledge of the harmful effects of the oil and dispersants.
“BP told the public that Corexit was ‘as harmless as Dawn dishwashing liquid’,” Dr Susan Shaw, of the State University of New York, told Al Jazeera. “But BP and the EPA clearly knew about the toxicity of the Corexit dispersants long before this spill.”
Shaw, a toxicologist in the university’s School of Public Health, has been studying the health effects of chemical exposure for 30 years. She is also the president and founder of the Marine Environmental Research Institute, and explained that BP’s Material Safety Data Sheets for Corexit warned that the dispersant posed high and immediate human health hazards.
“Five of the Corexit ingredients are linked to cancer, 33 are associated with skin irritation from rashes to burns, 33 are linked to eye irritation, 11 are or are suspected of being potential respiratory toxins or irritants, and 10 are suspected kidney toxins,” she added. “BP’s own testing found that workers were exposed to a possible human carcinogen from the dispersant.
“We predicted with certainty the widespread human health crisis we are seeing in the Gulf today,” Shaw said.
Hazardous to human health
A newly published study conducted by doctors at Houston’s University Cancer and Diagnostic Centers and reported in the American Journal of Medicine, sheds more light on the potential health repercussions for the more than 170,000 people who worked in some capacity to clean up the 2010 disaster.
Their blood tests suggest an elevated health risk for Gulf spill cleanup workers. The study shows that people hired to clean up Gulf of Mexico beaches and marshes during the 2010 oil spill have significantly altered blood profiles that, just as Shaw and other toxicologists warned, put them at increased risk of developing liver cancer, leukemia and other disorders.
“People in the Gulf were exposed to massive amounts of crude oil and Corexit dispersants, both of which contain multiple toxic chemicals, including volatile organic compounds and carcinogens that are hazardous to human health,” said Shaw, who served on the Department of Interior’s Strategic Sciences Working Group – a team of 14 scientists charged with assessing consequences of the oil spill and recommending policy actions in the Gulf.
“The combination of crude oil and Corexit is exponentially more toxic than either alone, since they contain many ingredients that target the same organs in the body.”
Dr Riki Ott, a toxicologist, marine biologist, and Exxon Valdez survivor, told Al Jazeera she sees clear indications of widespread toxic chemical exposure across the four-state impact zone of BP’s oil disaster.
“It’s pretty clear to me, after spending a year in the Gulf coastal communities during 2010 and 2011, that the suite of illnesses that developed during this time were above and beyond the background level of illnesses incurred in the Gulf,” Ott said.
“People across four states expressed concern that these headache-dizziness-nausea-respiratory problems-blood disorders-skin lesions were different than anything they’d experienced before, and far more intense.”
Ott said that people she is seeing along the roughly 900km impact zone are all consistently describing these same symptoms of exposure to chemicals in the oil and dispersants.
“Medical literature supports that these are the symptoms, and I would expect to see increased rates of early term miscarriages for women, early developmental issues for children born to women who were exposed to breathing these fumes and vapours, and also continuing chemical hypersensitivity.”
Unfortunately, what Ott describes is precisely what many Gulf residents are experiencing.
“We’re seeing spontaneous miscarriages, and cancer is rampant,” Trisha Springstead, a nurse of 36 years in Crystal River, Florida, told Al Jazeera. “These are occurring in Orange Beach, Alabama, and all over Mississippi and Alabama…women are not carrying to term.”
Dean Blanchard, owner of Dean Blanchard Seafood in Grand Isle, Louisiana, told Al Jazeera he knows many fishermen who participated in the oil clean-up operation who have since died.
“I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” Blanchard said. “I know more than half a dozen guys who were totally healthy before the spill who worked on the clean up. They found out they got cancer and within one or two months were dead.”
Dr Wilma Subra, a McArthur Fellow Genius Award-winning toxicologist in New Iberia, Louisiana, has tested the blood of BP clean-up workers and residents.
“Ethylbenzene, m,p-Xylene and hexane are volatile organic chemicals that are present in the BP crude oil,” Dr Subra recently explained to Al Jazeera. “Exposure has been prolonged enough to create long-term effects, such as liver damage, kidney damage, and damage to the nervous system. So the presence of these chemicals in the blood indicates exposure.”
According to Dr Shaw, thousands of people in the Gulf – clean-up workers, fishermen, residents – have now reported multiple severe symptoms related to chemical exposure from the spill.
“What ties them together as a group is their spill-related health problems, which are also typical of the health problems reported from previous oil spills,” she said. “Some of these include: blood in urine, heart palpitations, kidney damage, liver damage, migraines, multiple chemical sensitivity, neurological damage, memory loss, rapid weight loss, respiratory system damage, skin lesions, muscle spasms, seizures, and temporary paralysis.”
Frizzell is experiencing many of these symptoms.
“I have neuropathy, my lungs are destroyed, I can’t feel my feet and legs at times,” he explained. “I still have skin lesions come up. How crazy is that that, out of nowhere, your lungs just explode. The day after I was exposed I soaked two full-sized bath towels with coughing up blood. That’s an indication of how much blood I was losing.”
Crude oil contains hundreds of toxic and carcinogenic ingredients, including volatile benzene and polyaromatic hydrocarbons. Benzene, a principal component of oil, is a human carcinogen that causes nerve damage, leukemia and other haematological cancers.
Al Jazeera asked Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal what his state was doing to safeguard people against chemical poisoning.
In an earlier statement to Al Jazeera, Jindal’s office said: “Coastal residents and response workers will be compensated through the deal reached between the Plaintiff Steering Committee and BP. BP must follow through on making whole [properly compensating] impacted residents and workers who experienced or are still experiencing health impacts as a result of the spill.”
At time of publishing, Al Jazeera continues to await an updated response from Jindal’s office.
Testimony in the second phase of the BP trial has just come to a close, and the penalty phase against BP has now begun, which is likely to take months. Litigators expect many of the personal claims filed against the oil giant to continue to take years.
Under a settlement with BP, clean-up workers are entitled to some medical payments for certain ailments that they can prove were tied to the spill-related work and their exposure.
BP stressed that workers received safety training and personal protective equipment in coordination with government safety agencies.
“Based on extensive monitoring conducted by BP and the federal agencies, response worker and or public exposures to dispersants were well below levels that would pose a health or safety concern,” the company said.
“To deny the toxicity, BP deliberately put 170,000 workers in harm’s way,” Dr Shaw said of BP’s response. “BP told clean-up crews on the boats not to wear respirators because it made them look bad to reporters. A proper protective response would have been hazmat-style suits for anyone coming in contact with Corexit and oil.”
Joe Yerkes was a Florida fisherman who joined BP’s oil clean-up programme because he was put out of work by the spill. When he tried to return to fishing after the clean-up, he quickly became so sick he was unable to continue.
He became violently ill, began bleeding from his nose and ears, and began vomiting blood. When Yerkes couldn’t get well, he had his blood tested and found it contained high levels of chemicals which his physician attributed to BP’s oil disaster.
Following the advice of his attending physician, Yerkes was forced to move away from the Gulf.
“I have spent the last three years literally trying to survive,” Yerkes, who now must use a cane to walk and regularly gives himself intravenous treatments, told Al Jazeera. “I have chronic headaches, a fever, and suffer chronic unbearable pain in my muscles and joints, and have had chemical pneumonia twice so far.”
Dr Ott is critical of how the US federal government has reacted to the health crisis.
“It is irresponsible at best, and disingenuous at worst for the federal government to pretend that people can be exposed to these chemicals and not connect the dots between these illnesses and what made them sick,” she said.
Dr Ott is particularly troubled because she has seen all this before.
For years after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, she watched as her friends suffered from the same symptoms of chemical exposure she sees today in the Gulf of Mexico.
“I saw many of them adjust to living being chemically ill, then on the other end of the spectrum, unfortunately, I’ve lost a lot of friends through this – because some people just died,” she added.
Dr Ott explained that chemical illness is a debilitating condition, and believes that now in BP’s impact zone, chemical illness is neither being diagnosed nor treated.
She concluded: “In the Gulf, there is a blanket denial that this is happening at all.”
Follow Dahr Jamail on Twitter: @DahrJamail
Two Forces and Three Bears | KUNSTLER. (source)
In these climax years of industrial technocratic society, two opposing forces shape the destiny of government: the desperate effort to control everything versus the decline of the ability to carry out that effort. The result will be the loss of legitimacy and the collapse of government from the highest levels, moving downward until the real power to make anything work re-sets at a feasible and appropriate level — probably very local. This dynamic is seen very clearly in three spectacles du jour: the “national security” (spying) mess, government-sponsored accounting fraud in finance, and the ObamaCare rollout.
As history develops, people do things for the simple reason that it seems like a good idea at the time. Computer tech made it possible for bureaucrats and military apparatchiks to invade the privacy of everybody, but in the end it only had the effect of embarrassing the perpetrators and eroding a big chunk of the US government’s legitimacy. The attempt at maximum control will eventually lead to maximum resistance and, quite possibly, some sort of political revolution, perhaps starting with the death of the two dominant political parties. When political disruption finally occurs, it will manifest quickly, as criticality thresholds are breached. It has the potential of taking this society in very undesirable directions including civil war, theocracy, and war against other peoples.
The diminishing returns of computer technology applied to intelligence gathering are that it produces more mountains of data than any team of professionals can make sense of, and it prompts said professionals to make mischief with the information that is easiest to sort out: the financial records of ordinary citizens. Nothing will create political resistance more surely than messing with people’s money. The NSA apparatus is now a self-reinforcing monster that will strive for ever more control ineffectively, creating a debris path of ever more embarrassment and resentment. A lone true patriot like Snowden does more to oppose this monster than all the “freedom” and “liberty” spouting, flag-lapel-pin-wearing cowards in either political party.
The pervasive accounting fraud in the attempt to prop up an unsound banking system is even closer to criticality. A society that produces tradable goods needs sound money which functions as 1) a medium of exchange, 2) a store of value 3) a unit of account for establishing prices. The combined accounting frauds in Federal Reserve policy, private banking and securities markets, and government fiscal management is destroying all these functions. The more abstracted finance gets from real productive activity, the more fragile the system becomes. We are doing nothing now except adding more complexity and abstraction to it, causing the system to become more detached from reality. In effect, we’re opting to forego an economy based on goods in favor of one based on empty promises and paper swindles. The potential and probable consequent destruction of nominal wealth would be an event that advanced technocratic society likely will not recover from — in the sense that today’s standard of living could be preserved for billions of people worldwide. That destruction would herald a new dark age, this time without any prospect of recovery via the exploitation of natural resources, which will have been depleted.
The ObamaCare piece of the picture is a mere pathetic soap opera compared to the first two quandaries. The 2000-page law did nothing to address the core tragedy of medicine in America — namely, that it has evolved into a hideous hostage racket. You go to a hospital with a terrifying illness and you are susceptible to fleecing by the so-called “care-givers” for the promise that you may get to live. No prices for treatment are never discussed. They are presumed to be astronomical — but who cares if you end up dead, and if you do get to live, you’ll figure that out later. If you hold an insurance policy, these charges will be subject to a fake negotiation between grifting insurance companies and grifting hospitals, physicians, and drug companies. The price “settlements” are only slightly less a joke than the actual charges, and are obfuscated in documents designed to bewilder even well-educated policy-holders.
Even if you are insured, the charges may bankrupt you. A typical one-day charge for “room and board” in a non-specialized hospital in-patient bed runs $23,000 at my local hospital. For what? Half a dozen blood-pressure checks and three bad meals? You can be sure that ever-fewer families will be able to fork over $12,000-a-year for basic coverage. The ObamaCare legislation and its laughable rollout of a useless website is just a punctuation mark at the end of the soap opera script. The result eventually will be the complete implosion of the medical racket and a return to a very primitive clinic system, with payment in chickens or cords of stove-wood. The smaller number of surviving humans will surely enjoy better health, and greater piece of mind, when this monster racket expires of inertia, bad faith, and deceit.
These efforts to manage runaway hyper-complexity with more complexity are guaranteed to fail. Our prime task at this moment in history is managing contraction, and the means for doing that would be simplifying, not adding layers of complication larded with fraud, pretense, and mendacity.
Doing more of what failed spectacularly will not save the day a second time, as the scale required to create yet more phantom collateral and more asset bubbles will collapse the system.
The financial storm clouds are gathering, ominously darkening the horizon. Though the financial media and the organs of state propaganda continue forecasting blue skies of recovery and rising corporate profits, the factual evidence belies this rosy forecast: internal measures of financial and economic activity are weakening across the globe as the state-central bank solutions to all ills–massive increases in credit creation, leverage and deficit spending–have failed to address any of the structural causes of the 2008 Global Financial Meltdown.
This failure to address the causes of 2008 Global Financial Meltdown is disastrous in and of itself–but the status quo has magnified the coming disaster by scaling up the very causes of the 2008 Global Financial Meltdown: excessive credit expansion, misallocation of capital on a grand scale, an opaque shadow banking system constructed of excessive leverage and a dependence on phantom collateral, i.e. risks and assets that are systemically mispriced to skim stupendous profits for financiers, bankers and their political enablers.
This is what I have called doing more of what has failed spectacularly.
Extremes inevitably lead to collapse, but even the most distorted system has some feedback mechanisms that attempt to counter the momentum toward disaster. Just as the body will try to mitigate the negative consequences of a diet of greasy fast food, our grossly distorted financial and political systems still retain some modest feedback loops that attempt to mitigate rising risks.
These interactive forces make it impossible to predict the moment of collapse, even as systemic failure remains inevitable. Precisely when the heart of an obese, unfit person who eats nothing but fast food will give out cannot be predicted, but what can be predicted is the odds of systemic failure rise with every passing day.
Doing more of what has failed spectacularly–inflating new asset bubbles in housing, stocks and bonds via quantitative easing, obfuscating financial skimming operations with thousands of pages of new regulations, and so on–is the equivalent of pushing an obese, unfit person to run uphill. Rather than repair the system, doing more of what has failed further stresses the system.
But even if the financial system were cleansed of bad debt and phantom collateral, the status quo would remain only partially repaired. For it’s not just the financial system that has reached the point of negative return: the entire economic foundation of the developed world–credit-dependent consumerism–is as bankrupt and broken as the financial system that fuels it.
The state’s response to this economic endgame is depersonalized welfare, both corporate and individual. When favored sectors can’t succeed in the open market, the state enforces cartel-capitalism that enriches the corporations at the expense of the citizenry. When the cartel-state economy no longer creates paying work for the citizenry, the state issues social welfare benefits, in effect paying people to stay home and amuse themselves.
This destroys both free enterprise on the corporate level and the source of individual and social meaning, i.e. the opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way to one’s community, family and trade/skill.
The status quo is thus not just financially bankrupt–it is morally bankrupt as well.
The status quo is as intellectually bankrupt as it is financially bankrupt. Our leadership cannot conceive of any course of action other than central bank credit creation and expanding state control of the economy and social benefits, paid for with money borrowed from future generations.
Let’s take a wild guess that the obese, unfit person won’t make it up the second hill, never mind the third or fourth one. The status quo responded to the financial heart attack of 2008 by doing more of what had failed spectacularly. That injection of trillions of dollars, euros, yen, renminbi, quatloos, etc. revived the global financial system in the same way a shot of nitroglycerin resolves a life-threatening crisis: it doesn’t fix the causes of the crisis, it simply gives the system some additional time.
The next global financial storm is already gathering on the horizon. Doing more of what failed spectacularly will not save the day a second time, as the scale required to create yet more phantom collateral and more asset bubbles will collapse the system.
Intellectual, moral and financial bankruptcy all go hand in hand. There isn’t just one storm gathering on the horizon–there are three, each adding force and fury to the other two.
Pipeline safety incident rate doubled in past decade – CBC News – Latest Canada, World, Entertainment and Business News
Pipelines regulated by the federal government — which include some of the longest lines in the country — have experienced a swell in the number of safety-related incidents over the past decade, documents obtained by CBC News suggest.
In recent months, a spate of oil and gas spills both from train derailments and pipelines have raised questions about what mode of transport is the safest.
The pipeline industry has touted its record as it seeks support for numerous controversial projects across the continent, including TransCanada’s Keystone XL to the U.S. Gulf Coast and Enbridge’s Northern Gateway to the B.C. coast.
However, according to figures from a National Energy Board (NEB) data set obtained under access-to-information by CBC, the rate of overall pipeline incidents has doubled since 2000.
By 2011, safety-related incidents — covering everything from unintentional fires to spills — rose from one to two for every 1,000 kilometres of federally-regulated pipeline. That reflects an increase from 45 total incidents in 2000 to 142 in 2011.
Pipeline watchers like Pembina Institute associate Nathan Lemphers suggest the rise may be a worrisome sign of aging infrastructure.
“The pipelines that are in the ground are getting older and in some cases there’s more products flowing through them so you’re going to see increasing incidents and increasing defects in those pipelines unless they’re properly maintained,” Lemphers said.
The NEB documents give detailed information about 1,047 pipeline safety incidents from Jan. 1, 2000 until late 2012.
- Pipeline safety project: From grainy documents to interactive map
- Pipeline safety incidents: How CBC organized the data
The federal regulator oversees any pipeline that crosses provincial or international borders, which includes about 90 companies that own about 71,000 kilometres of pipelines. The data does not include smaller pipelines monitored by provinces.
The National Energy Board attributes the rise in incidents to heightened awareness among companies about what they need to report.
“We’ve been out there talking with industry associations and the companies themselves to ensure that they are fully aware of what the reporting requirements are and I think that’s why we’re seeing an increase right now,” said NEB’s business leader for operations, Patrick Smythe.
Leaks, spills triple
Each company overseen by the NEB must report safety issues including the death or serious injury of a worker, fires, explosions, liquid product spills over 1,500 litres and every gas leak.
Among the other findings based on NEB’s pipeline database is that there’s been a three-fold increase in the rate of product releases spills and leaks — ranging from small leaks and spills to large — that have been reported in the past decade.
More than four reportable releases happened for every 10,000 kilometres in 2000, or 18 incidents in total, according to NEB data. By 2011, that rate had risen to 13 per 10,000 kilometres, or 94 incidents.
Those numbers include any oil or natural gas releases companies are required by law to report.
Carl Weimer, executive director of U.S. advocacy group Pipeline Safety Trust, says each small leaks may not be significant on its own, but taken together they provide a better picture when looking at safety trends.
“It shows how really carefully they are taking care of the pipelines,” said Weimer.
British Columbia experienced the most pipeline safety incidents for a single province, with 279 recorded events from 2000 to 2012 in the data set. Alberta came in second with 244 incidents, followed by Ontario with 146.
The community with the highest number of incidents in its vicinity is the remote town of Norman Wells, Northwest Territories, which has seen 71 events.
NEB concerned about severe incidents
CBC News turned the NEB data set into a user-friendly map that allows Canadians to explore pipeline incidents using filters such as the nearest community, year, company, pipeline or substance spilled.
It provides an unprecedented bird’s eye view of safety issues plaguing pipelines over the past decade and also gives users the ability to drill down into the details of each report.
NEB’s Smythe says that the regulator has not seen an alarming increase in the “significant, serious or major incident over the last little while.”
Recent documents published by the NEB show that they have expressed some concern over rising numbers.
“Notwithstanding the safety record of NEB-regulated pipelines, the board has noticed an increased trend in the number and severity of incidents being reported by NEB-regulated companies in recent years,” one 2012 report states.
Another 2011 document citing the same concern also notes the need for NEB to “enhance data collection” in order to tackle that problem and other troubling trends in the industry.
It goes on to say that a reduction in the numbers ultimately “depends on actions taken by the industry.”
Brenda Kenny, president of the Canadian Energy Pipelines Association, which represents major companies, says there’s an industry-wide commitment to “get to zero incidents.”
“We’re driving that out very hard through our risk-based management approach at the industry level that involves a lot of best practices, integrity, management, technology and these indicators,” said Kenny.
“The Canadian pipeline industry is one of the very safest in the world second to none in terms of actual results,” said Kenny.
Pipelines have faced unparalleled attention in recent years as global demand fuels a production boom across the continent, resulting in a rise in pipeline proposals.
“Pipelines were very much out of sight out of mind until recently,” said Ian Goodman, a U.S. energy consultant who works with regulators and community groups across North America.
The pipeline debate is not generally “front-page news day after day … the way it now is. That’s a new development.”
If you have any pipeline-related stories, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Batten down the hatches. Commuters face rush-hour chaos this morning as they wake up to the impact of the worst storm in years, with winds of almost 100mph battering Britain.
As winds tear through property and causing flooding and major travel disruption, more than 7,000 homes in the Bristol and Bath area have reportedly been left without power, flights and rail services across the country have been cancelled or delayed and there is widespread flooding in southern parts of England as rain and hurricane-force winds arrived from the South West.
Trees have been brought down by high winds, damaging property, and a number of roads left impassable by floodwater.