Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Kavanaugh Scream

This Reuters image licensed by abc news is hereby used solely for educational purposes - please leave a comment in you have a copyright concern

Can you see the expression on these women's faces as they listen to Kavanaugh rant?

Women of my age are poised for a piercing and echoing "Kavanaugh Scream" should Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh be confirmed without adequate investigation given the credible evidence raised of a deeply flawed moral character. 

This poised scream is energized also by the men in step with women's outrage. The poised scream is a massive force.

Kavanaugh deserves due process and I applaud Jeff Flake's acknowledgement of the need to conduct an investigation of serious allegations made against Kavanaugh's character. One week does not seem sufficient.

Very few women in America want a man in the Supreme Court who has a record of fundamental disregard for, and exploitation of, women's bodies.

The men who exploit women's bodies are the the type of man who disregards other people's rights as human beings.

I've known those kind of men. Most women do. If men of this ilk become successful, they wear a socially appropriate mask that allows them to have a respectable family and community regard.

The amazing series West World explores this troubled masculine identity, linking it to the pursuit of violence and sadistic sexuality.

Of course some women are attracted to this sadistic ethos, but these types of appetites and passions are ruled by a certain kind of man.

I don't know if Kavanaugh is that kind of man. He deserves due process in a full investigation.

That said, if Kavanaugh is approved without adequate investigation of allegations the scream that will result will reverberate across the nation in its felt effects.

People are angry but they feel powerless. Women are half the population. Few things unite them as effectively as the kind of man who exploits other people's bodies, especially vulnerable female bodies. Unfortunately, this scream is coming at time wherein activism is increasingly being coded by authorities as terrorism, a coding that reflects the rise of a repressive regime:
Parrish, W. & Levin, S. Thu 20 Sep 2018) 'Treating protest as terrorism': US plans crackdown on Keystone XL activists. The Guardian,

“Treating protest as terrorism is highly problematic,” said German, noting that the US government has long labeled activism as “terrorism”, once claiming that filing public records requests was an “extremist” tactic. “It’s an effective way of suppressing protest activity and creating an enormous burden for people who want to go out and express their concerns.”

The “terrorist” and “extremist” labels can be used to justify brutality and a militarized operation, said Andrea Carter, an attorney with the Water Protector Legal Collective, a group that has represented Standing Rock defendants.

“It’s a really egregious tactic,” she said, noting that the labels also lay the groundwork for prosecutors to turn low-level misdemeanor cases into federal felony trials. “A lot of it has to do with public relations.”
The repressive apparatuses have been amassing force for years. In 2009 the American Civil Liberties Union reported that DoD terrorism training materials described public protests as “low level terrorism” (“ACLU Challenges”).  In 2008, the Pentagon planed to deploy 20,000 uniformed trained troops inside the U.S. by 2011, purportedly to help state and local officials respond to a terrorist attack or some other domestic catastrophe (Hsu and Tyson A1). The Washington Post reported resistance to this plan:
[Excerpted] Domestic emergency deployment may be "just the first example of a series of expansions in presidential and military authority," or even an increase in domestic surveillance, said Anna Christensen of the ACLU's National Security Project. And Cato Vice President Gene Healy warned of "a creeping militarization" of homeland security. (Hsu and Tyson A1)
Good luck searching if you want to know the true number of military deployments in the US, especially when supporting US policing. The Pentagon won't even release troop deployments for Afghanistan:
Pentagon Questioned Over Blackout On War Zone Troop Numbers. NPR
There is a MOBILIZATION of REPRESSIVE APPARATUSES (laws, technologies, types of protocols, symbolic codes, etc) poised at the moment of the rising Kavanaugh Scream.

Reform of this sadistic ethos is the only thing that can stop the risking Kavanaugh Scream that will echo and amplify the screams of other people who have demanded rights as human beings.

I hope the Kavanaugh Scream can move as an unobstructed great ripple leading to reform rather than break harshly against a wall, that will ultimately crumble but not without needless destruction and misplacement of the vital energy needed to confront the infrastructural challenges captured in the idea of the Anthropocene.

ACLU. “ACLU Challenges Defense Department Personnel Policy To Regard Lawful Protests As ‘Low-Level Terrorism.’”ACLU. 10 June 2009. 24 June 2009

Hsu, Spencer S., and Ann S. Tyson. “Pentagon to Detail Troops to Bolster Domestic Security.” The Washington Post 1 December 2008: A1.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Black Swans and Risk Decisions

The HIroshima Court in Japan ruled Sep 25 that Shikoku Electric Power need not suspend operations at the Ikata nuclear plant, declaring that plaintifs aiming to suspend operations there must demonstrate "credible evidence of the risk of a catastrophic volcanic eruption" in central Kyushu (the Japanese island that had hundreds of earthquakes in 2016):
Ruling puts onus on anti-nuclear plaintiffs citing volcanic risks (2018, September 26.). THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
HIROSHIMA--The Hiroshima High Court has significantly raised the bar for plaintiffs seeking suspensions of nuclear plant operations on grounds of a possible volcanic eruption. They said a pyroclastic flow from the volcano would reach the plant about 130 kilometers away in the event of an eruption on a scale similar to one that occurred about 90,000 years ago. 
But the high court dismissed their argument by referring to “socially accepted ideas.”
“The frequency of such an eruption is extremely low,” Presiding Judge Masayuki Miki said. “The government has not taken any measures to deal with it, and a large majority of the public don’t see the risks of a major eruption as a problem, either.”
He added, “Unless the court is given reasonable grounds for the possibility of a major eruption, it is a socially accepted idea that the safety of a facility will not be undermined even if measures are not in place to prepare for such a scenario.”
This argument that a high-impact event is unlikely to occur reminds me of Nassim Taleb's account of a "black swan":

Taleb describes black swans as having these 3 features:
1. Hard to predict from historical information
2. High consequence
3. Retrospective distortion (we should have seen it coming)
Volcanic eruptions and earthquakes often exhibit these features - they are hard to predict, high consequence events that we should have known were coming.

Unfortunately, in many cases we allow particular decision makers to adjudicate risk. as illustrated in the case above.

This is not an isolated example.

In 2016 a judge ruled that nuclear power constituted an acceptable level of risk in Japan:
Court rejects appeal to halt operations of Sendai reactors April 6, 2016 THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
MIYAZAKI--A high court here rejected an appeal by Kyushu residents seeking to shut down the only two nuclear reactors operating in Japan, ruling that it is impossible to secure absolute safety with nuclear energy. Presiding Judge Tomoichiro Nishikawa of the Miyazaki branch of the Fukuoka High Court said April 6 that current science and technology standards cannot reach a level of safety in which no radioactive materials are emitted regardless of the severity of the accident at a nuclear plant.

“A judgment has to be made based on the standard of what level of danger a society would be willing to live with,” Nishikawa said.
The judge's decision is not necessarily representative of majority public opinion in Japan given polling results conducted by Japan's mainstream news media.

Japan's political and legal bureaucracies may give judges the authority to make this type of decision, counter to public will.

This may be legally sound, but still morally inconsistent with democratic ideals, including human rights.

Who decides when the potential consequences of a decision are catastrophic?

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Rokkasho in the News Again

I've been following Japan's Rokkasho nuclear re-processing facility since the 3-11 nuclear disaster.

Rokkasho is being built by Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd, which is a private consortium.

The plant has been under construction for decades, with an opening date delayed since 1997.

Rokkasho was going to solve Japan's energy needs by "closing the nuclear fuel cycle," an elusive dream that has continued to escape realization as the costs are exorbitant and the risks existential.

Although Rokkasho is a faded dream, Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd moves forward with the plant's construction, even after discovering a fault under the site believed capable of producing a very large earthquake.

Reprocessing nuclear fuel is very hazardous. You can see my description here in my book on Fukushima and the Privatization of Risk here.

In addition to the catastrophic risks posed by nuclear reprocessing facilities in an earthquake zone, Japan's reprocessing bothers its neighbors because of the accumulation of plutonium that goes hand-in-hand with nuclear "recycling":

Motoko Rich (2018, September 22). Japan has enough nuclear material to build an arsenal. Its plan: Recycle. The New York Times,

Japan clearly wants its nuclear supply chain to include fissile fuel. The reasons are obvious:

Iran, Pakistan, Israel and every other aspiring Cold Warrior nation want the same. The US and Russia are leaders in this madness.

Sometimes when I think about the nuclear arms race and atmospheric testing I think we are a failed kind of being marked by our deliberate self-destruction.

How sad.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Cyber Attacks are Existential Risks

John Bolton is a hawk if there ever was one. Unfortunately, the man is now National Security Adviser for President Trump.

I hope we all survive him. 

His latest escalation of cold war politics includes a new set of classified rules for cyber-war engagement that are much more active than Obama's:
Volz, Dustin (2018, Sep 20). White House Confirms It Has Relaxed Rules on U.S. Use of Cyberweapons. The Wall Street Journal,
The White House said Thursday it had rescinded a classified Obama-era memorandum dictating when the U.S. government can deploy cyber weaponry against its adversaries, publicly acknowledging the move for the first time.
John Bolton ... confirmed during a press briefing that the old rules had been replaced by new classified guidance intended to empower the Defense Department with more flexibility to launch offensive cyber strikes without first needing to vet those decisions through an elaborate interagency process.

So, there are now LESS CHECKS and BALANCES on cyber-warfare.

What is particularly concerning is that the US is actually more vulnerable to cyber attacks than many other nation-states because its interconnected electrical networks.

Electronic war may seem too futuristic and esoteric to have significant 'real world' consequences when in fact broad-scale electrical outages caused by cyber-attacks could destroy humanity within a short time period.

Nuclear power plants are particularly vulnerable to electrical disruptions caused by cyber-attacks, as discussed in this video by nuclear engineers Mr Arnie Gunderson and David Lochbaum. Their analysis even addresses the many vulnerabilities of the "back-up" generators

Cyber-attacks aimed at disrupting electrical grids could produce nuclear plant meltdowns, including spent fuel pool fires. US nuclear power plants do not have a good track record on their back-up generators:
"4 generator failures hit US nuclear plants" (2011, October 9). The Sun,
[Excerpted] Four generators that power emergency systems at nuclear plants have failed when needed since April, an unusual cluster that has attracted the attention of federal inspectors and could prompt the industry to re-examine its maintenance plans....In the U.S., an average of roughly one diesel generator has failed when needed each year since 1997....

Moreover, nuclear weapons are susceptible to direct cyber-attacks:
Bruce G. Blairmarch. March 14, 2017. Why Our Nuclear Weapons Can Be Hacked. The New York Times,
Cyberwarfare raises a host of other fears. Could a foreign agent launch another country’s missiles against a third country? We don’t know. Could a launch be set off by false early warning data that had been corrupted by hackers? This is an especially grave concern because the president has only three to six minutes to decide how to respond to an apparent nuclear attack.

...We lack adequate control over the supply chain for nuclear components — from design to manufacture to maintenance. We get much of our hardware and software off-the-shelf from commercial sources that could be infected by malware. We nevertheless routinely use them in critical networks...

One of these deficiencies involved the Minuteman silos, whose internet connections could have allowed hackers to cause the missiles’ flight guidance systems to shut down, putting them out of commission and requiring days or weeks to repair. These were not the first cases of cybervulnerability.  In the mid-1990s, the Pentagon uncovered an astonishing firewall breach that could have allowed outside hackers to gain control over the key naval radio transmitter in Maine used to send launching orders to ballistic missile submarines patrolling the Atlantic...
The US infrastructure is particularly vulnerable to cyber-attacks:
Nakashima, E. (2013, May 9) U.S. warns industry of heightened risk of cyberattack. The Washington Post,
[Excerpted] Senior U.S. officials have warned in recent months that foreign adversaries are probing computer systems that operate chemical, electric and water plants. But they are also increasingly concerned about the threat of a potentially destructive cyberattack.[end]
Making cyber-warfare easier poses existential risks to humanity.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

More Flooding Expected but Status of Brunswick Nuclear Power Plant Still Uncertain

Flooding in the Carolinas is expected to worsen but Duke is allegedly "started to return Brunswick nuclear power plant to service" today:
Flooding is expected to worsen as Florence passes through the Carolinas. (2018, Sep 20).  CNBC. AVailable
Duke Energy Corp started to return its Brunswick nuclear power plant in North Carolina to service on Thursday. The company shut both reactors at the 1,870-megawatt facility before Florence hit the coast near the plant in Southport, about 30 miles (48 km) south of Wilmington. One megawatt can power about 1,000 U.S. homes. As floodwaters continue to rise, concerns are growing about the environmental and health dangers lurking in the water. The flooding has caused 21 hog "lagoons," which store manure from pig farms, to overflow...
The above cited article, originally from Reuters but republished by CNBC, offers NO information about the state of the Brunswick nuclear power plant beyond what is cited above yet is the ONLY recent information I could find in a search on the web.

Notice how the article moves from nuclear power plants to contaminating pig manure with a turn to "environmental and health dangers lurking in the water" as if the former (nuclear power plants) posed no risks while the latter (pig farms) are the greater implied concern.

Those "lagoons" of pig manure are indeed an environmental disaster but nowhere near the scale of hazard posed by a flooded nuclear power plant.

The notification states the plant is surrounded by flooded roads, but no indication has been given whether outside water to the plant has been re-established and whether the plant has access to outside electricity (or is operating on backup generators).

The NRC has a responsibility to provide greater TRANSPARENCY.

People in the region should COMPLAIN and DEMAND greater disclosure of plant conditions by the NRC, particularly regarding external water and electricity to operations.
Mailing Address
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington, DC 20555-0001
1-800-368-5642, 301-415-7000
TTD: 301-415-5575

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Transparency in the News - Or Not

Transparency is in the news and its also absent from the news.

First, lets look at a win for transparency in the news:
Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Robert Barnes (2018, Sep 18). Political nonprofits must now name many of their donors under federal court ruling after Supreme Court declines to intervene. The Washington Post,

Advocacy groups pouring money into independent campaigns to impact this fall’s midterm races must disclose many of their political donors beginning this week after the Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to intervene in a long-running case.

It is great to hear that advocacy groups must disclose political donors beginning almost immediately!

That is a win for the transparency so critical for a functioning democracy.

Unfortunately, there is also a huge gap in transparency also apparent by its news deficit.

NO NEWS from the NRC on North Carolina's Brunswick nuclear power plant that was reported to be surrounded by flooded roads a couple of days ago (see here).

No new updates from the NRC are available on their webpage (

The latest news story available in a google news search is here and reports that water services have been disrupted. It is not clear whether offsite electricity has been disrupted.
Emergency declaration at Brunswick Nuclear Plant means intense workload, no reinforcements for staff (2018, Sep 18).

Yesterday, Brunswick County Chairman Frank Williams said flooding and road conditions in some areas could worsen as rivers and creeks are expected to crest. Williams described the county as split between three isolated “islands,” virtually inaccessible from each other. Regardless, Sipe said yesterday that flooding isn’t an issue.

“There is no storm-related flooding on the site,” she said. “Some employees have traveled to the site in personal vehicles and others have left the site to check on their homes.”
I cannot help but wonder whether the lack of off-site water could impact efforts to continuously cool reactor fuel that was scrammed (quick shut down) and fuel stored in the spent fuel pools.

Greater transparency would help locals impacted by flooding make better informed risk decisions regarding the advisability of evacuation.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

No New Updates on the Brunswick Nuclear Power Plant

The Brunswick nuclear power plant operated by Duke in North Carolina reported an unusual event because its surroundings were flooded. here

When the unusual event was reported to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the operator had engaged in an emergency cold shutdown.

Of course, it takes years for hot fuel to cool and that is why continuous cooling is required for reactor fuel in the event of a cold shutdown.

There are no updates available today on the NRC site nor in the Google Search results for news so we have no idea whether the plant lost external electricity and is running on back up generators:

Search results from Sep 18 2018 9:38 AM Pacific Time (note all news is either 21 or 22 hours old)

In other bad flooding news, I read that coal ash and hog waste are contaminating impacted regions

Here is hoping for the best for impacted residents - may the floods spare you all....