Economy - Energy - War

SUBHEAD: The world is stable in the sense of hanging by your fingernails is stable. By Illargi on 21 March 2011 for The Automatic Earth - (http://theautomaticearth.blogspot.com/2011/03/march-21-2011-stable-in-sense-of.html) Image above: A military tank that will be used to clear rubble from the Fukushima nuclear complex leaves Camp Asaka on a trailer. From LA Times article below. Eminent US physicist Michio Kaku says that the Japanese government may call the situation at Fukushima stable, but that it would be "stable in the sense of hanging by your fingernails" (which I in turn would suggest is a perfectly apt description of our entire global economy and various societies). Kaku indicates that the only "solution" he sees for Fukushima is for the Japanese army to start dropping massive amounts of sand, boric acid and concrete on the Fukushima 1 reactors. Two of which are presently producing clouds of smoke, the origin of which is unknown to either TEPCO or Tokyo. In other words, "stable" is hardly the first term that comes to mind. And Japan may well be heeding Kaku's words; just not admitting to it yet. Video above: TV interview with Michio Kaku on Fukushima disaster. From (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obK4zISRgyo). Thomas H. Maugh II writes for the Los Angeles Times: (http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-sci-japan-reactor-damage-20110321,0,7504433.story):
Smoke seen at Fukushima reactors - The company has also brought in a large construction device normally used to pump a cement mixture. Officials initially said they were going to use it to pump the cement mixture and water into the spent fuel pool of reactor No. 4, which is thought to have boiled dry, allowing damage to have been done to the fuel rods there. Officials later said, however, that they intended to use the device only to pump water into the pool.
What Kaku proposes is known as the "sarcophagus" approach. In which the entire construction is basically buried, so no radioactivity can spread from the above ground facilities. This may sound good, but it's also an admission that meltdown cannot be halted, and will continue beneath the concrete "structure". In the meantime, radioactivity has already spread into the local food supply. Milk and spinach are being taken off the market, and persistent reports claim water dumped and sprayed on the reactors is flowing out to sea. Nick Allen writes for the Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/japan/8395985/Japan-nuclear-crisis-Fears-mount-over-radioactive-waste-in-food.html):
Japan nuclear crisis: Fears mount over radioactive waste in food - Fears are mounting among Japanese health authorities that food and milk from areas surrounding the Fukushima nuclear plant could be contaminated with radioactive waste. Yukio Edano, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary, said shipments of spinach from four provinces surrounding the plant had been halted. Milk shipments from Fukushima province have also been banned. Mr Edano, the increasingly haggard face of the Japanese government's response to the crisis, sought to quell fears by saying radiation levels in food were not harmful to human health, and that he was prepared to eat contaminated produce himself. He said: "Even if you eat and drink them several times it will not be a health hazard. So I would like you to act calmly without reacting." Asked if he would be happy to give spinach and milk to his family, he said: "Of course." His comments were reminiscent of when John Gummer, the then Agriculture Minister, was pictured with his four-year-old daughter and half-eaten hamburgers, in an attempt to calm the British public during the "mad cow disease" outbreak in 1990. [..] Andre-Claude Lacoste, head of France's Nuclear Safety Authority, said local contamination would be a problem "for decades and decades." He added: "Ground deposits of radioactive particles are significant. Given the weather, it is likely that contaminations have occurred up to 100km (60 miles) or so." The World Bank said Japan may need five years to rebuild after the catastrophic March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which caused up to £144 billion in damage and left nearly 22,000 people dead or missing.
The sarcophagus "tactic" was also applied in Chernobyl. While it did halt immediate radiation levels, it seems that radioactive water is now making its way, slowly but surely, towards the groundwater of Kiev, the Ukranian capital located some 80 km (50 miles) away. This is what almost certainly awaits the Fukushima region, and who knows which other adjacent regions. It will be interesting to see how large the exclusion zone (at Chernobyl it's called the "Zone of Alienation") will be. Radioactivity creates expansive regions that are off-limits to people. Like a sarcophagus that fits over a failed and out of control nuclear plant, seemingly solving problems, but in reality only pushing immediate issues forward into the future, where our very own children will be confronted with the dire consequences of our dramatic failures, we also distinguish a pattern of the sarcophagus of war being laid over economic crises. I see many comparisons of the 2011 western attacks on Libya with the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but when I saw the first footage a few days ago, I was thinking that we need to wonder where and how 2011 differs from, say, 1938. War has throughout history been used by "leaders" as a means to cover up their economic failures. The Great Depression never truly ended before World War II broke out for real in 1939. Then:
  • Top 1929
  • Decline until 1932/33
  • Reflation 1933 - 1937
  • Decline 1937-1942
  • And war in 1939, the US entered in 1941
Now:
  • Top 1999/2000 (peak in real terms)
  • Decline until 2002/03
  • Reflation 2003 - 2007 (peak in nominal terms)
  • Decline 2007 - 2009
  • Lesser reflation 2009 - 2011
  • Decline 2011 - ? (probably several years)
It’s obviously too early to tell where the attack on Libya fits into the potential comparison of the two crises. Still, the way I see people like Hillary Clinton and UK PM David Cameron declare on TV that the strike is "right" and legal", fills me with dismay. They look far too trigger happy, far too eager to send young people into war, from which some, if not many, will return maimed and/or dead. And we do have an ongoing financial crisis, no matter what anyone pretends. Look at unemployment numbers, home sales, home prices in America. At the height of the 1930s crisis, unemployment in the US was something in the order of 25%. In real numbers, we're not that far below that now. And all it takes to get there is a few more bad data. Or a drought, as happened in those days 70 years ago. And then of course there's this: Most of Libya's oil, some 80%, is in the east near Benghazi. It's some of the lightest, sweetest, easiest to extract crude oil left on the planet. Its marginal extraction could be as low as $1 per barrel. Libya also has about 41 billion barrels in oil reserves, the US has 21 billion barrels. Libya has an estimated 1,500 billion M^3 of natural gas as well according to the National Oil Company. This war, like any other, is first and foremost one of resources. Getting rid of Gaddafi is a mere bonus, but the main idea for now might well be to split the country in two. "We" are only interested in the eastern part. And the financial markets? Yeah, they’re moving up, aren't they? War is a profitable business still. We are always led into these adventures with the notion that it’ll be over in no time at all (think Iraq). But then it never works out that way. And here I am wondering if the purpose of it is really to make it as short as possible. You don’t beat Gaddaffi on his home turf in two seconds flat. He may not have the most advanced equipment, but he knows the turf. Same as it ever was: Iraq, Afghanistan, the US hasn't won a war since World War II. You get the idea that being in wars in more important than winning them. It could certainly be more profitable. A lot of the US soldiers fighting in Iraq were young kids who signed up just to pay for a college education. And we really need to wonder how far away we are from a draft, with a new battlefield that could easily expand greatly. The Arab League may have supported the attack on Libya at first, but there are already cracks showing in their united resolve. The Clintons and Camerons of this world may say it's all legal, but when they say "we need to help the people of Lybia", where do the people of Yemen and Bahrain come in exactly? Russian PM Putin has likened the attack to the Crusades. Iran is waiting in the wings. China is an interested bystander. And all of them have their eyes on the same prize: oil. One of Adolf Hitler's main objectives from the very beginning was construction and control of the Baku pipeline. He didn’t get it, he had to make do with Fisher-Tropsch oil from coal, a very costly and elaborate process. It may well have cost him WWII victory. These are the kinds of things I think about these days, the 1930s depression, how Hitler came to power, how it all led to mass warfare. I then look at developments in the world today and they fill me with dread. Especially when I think back to 1938. It's about seeing war against the backdrop of an unsolvable financial crisis. Which is then in turn seemingly solved by going to war. .

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