Family time

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Hungarian Goulash

A sludge reservoir at a metals manufacturing plant bursts its banks, sending a twelve foot high torrent of caustic red mud through near bye towns and into the Marcal River, creating an ecological disaster of potentially epic proportions.

According to the New York Times... The flood, estimated at 700,000 cubic meters, or 185 million gallons, swept cars off roads, damaged bridges and houses, and forced the evacuation of hundreds of residents.

The toxic effluent is highly alkaline, with a p.h. over 13, and acts like a highly caustic detergent. Something akin to lye. It burns through clothing, ultimately killing several people and leaving others in a critical condition. There have been over 120 reported injuries. Many people are still missing. Many are hospitalized. Over 35 million cubic feet of the aluminum manufacturing waste engulfs a 16 square mile area. People are reporting burns and eye irritation. The national disaster unit says the sludge contains heavy metals, including lead, iron oxide, aluminum, silicon dioxide, calcium oxide, and titanium dioxide. The byproduct is slightly radioactive and its dust can cause lung damage. Lethal if ingested. Hits the Danube and all bets are off. I really liked the sound of the blue danube but the red danube admittedly has a certain charm.

The plant’s owner issued a statement Tuesday afternoon saying that “the red sludge waste is not considered hazardous waste.” Okay then.

This sounds like a script for a horror movie, unfortunately the events actually took place yesterday in Hungary. We experienced a similar situation here in the United States two years ago when the Kingston Fossil Power Plant in Tennessee burst the bounds of its toxic ash pool, burying 15 homes and 400 acres under 2.6 million cubic feet of radioactive coal ash and heavy metal laden toxic waste.


Socialize the debt, privatize the profit.

My friend Jim occasionally asks me why I back causes and take positions that are inimical to my interests as a businessman. It is a fair question. He invests in many companies and corporations that he believes are honorable and that try to do "the right thing." He mentioned Caterpillar and a few other companies that he respects. Jim is probably right. Most companies are not inherently evil. They just usually choose their own self interest over the well being of the public at large. There are always a few evil exceptions I suppose, like Monsanto perhaps. 

Our problem is that we human beings are so shortsighted. We are largely limited by what we can see. And by our pocketbooks. We have a short attention span and limited cognition. If it becomes a pissing match between dollars and our environment or our health, the dollar seems to always win.

There was an article a few weeks back about the sea lions impact on the northwest fishing industry. The state of Alaska has petitioned the federal government to delist the eastern population of Steller sea lions as threatened. Sea lions in the west are listed as endangered. Since 2000, the western Aleutian population of the Steller sea lions has declined by about 45 percent.

The Governor and Attorney General of Alaska say that the federal agency has not given sufficient consideration to the economic damage fishing restrictions would do to Aleutian communities.

This type of argument is repeated all too frequently these days, in all types of ecologic environments. Whales, owls, gnat catchers, smelt, frogs. We have been decimating many of our fellow species. A 45% reduction in 10 years is a huge impact. Blue whales are even getting hit harder. Where once 200,00 of the leviathans swam the deeps, the number is now under 10,000. And what many people fail to mention is that these species are oftentimes bellwether species, whose demise impacts something like 25 other species. Bellwether species  are indicator species and are seen as early warning signs of environmental damage and ecosystem change.

There is nothing quite as stupid or myopic as the common argument "what do you care more about, jobs or (insert here - a little fish, bird, seal, etc.)" In the long run we can not live on this planet on our own. But we are doing our best to try. Of course if you believe that man is not an animal at all but a divine creation given dominion over all of the lesser life forms by his or her erstwhile creator, might as well skip to the next blog post because everythingisjustgoingonabouthowit'ssupposedto right up until end times when we won't need any fellow species anyway unless the lord allmighty decides to resurrect your favorite pet.


Researchers are reporting a forty fold increase in gulf water carcinogens according to a new study that was actually limited in its testing scope and may be altogether too cheery.

Researchers testing the waters off Louisiana in June found hugely elevated levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, some of which are known carcinogens.

The researchers from Oregon State University say that a device taking samples just off the shore of Louisiana's Grande Isle registered a 40-fold increase in PAHs between May and June.

The highly carcinogenic levels are attributed to the wide use of chemical dispersants to fight the BP spill.


The problem I have with the corporations and the governmental bureaucracy is that money does, always, seem to win. The power of the lobbyists is so strong, affecting both major parties, that the american consumer is at a marked disadvantage.

The American Chemical, Pharmaceutical, Petroleum, Energy, Plastic, Food, Nuclear, etc. lobbies and their congressional cronies will swear up and down about the relative safety and efficacy of their products if used in the properly proscribed manner. Remember the congressman who offered to drink the DDT cocktail on camera? They will defend phthalates, bpa, smog, poison, mercury, ddt, hormones, antibiotics and a host of other potentially destructive products to the hilt, relying on the best "scientific" research, of course. Pooh pooh global warming. Then these anonymous whores will slink away, hopefully to die after being hoisted on their own toxic petard, and feign ignorance when the whole edifice eventually comes tumbling down. They didn't know - it was the best available science at the time.

Because it is hard to quantify the destruction that we are doing to our bodies and environment or to explain the long term tertiary effects of using the planet as our cesspool. Of pushing the age of puberty down to eight because of our exposure to added hormones in milk and meat. That we are wreaking havoc on our livers, kidneys and bodies by exposing ourselves to pesticides so that we can have blemish free fruit and freakish factory chickens.

If a chemical or other drug agent is causing tumors in mice, I do not think it is too much of a stretch to surmise that it might not be all that great for homo sapiens either. Many of the cancer incidence rates that we are seeing today are exponentially higher than they were a hundred years ago, lung cancer for instance. I am sure that it is probably just coincidental that these cancers have grown along side our reliance on chemicals and plastic. And as a person who has battled multiple cancers for the last 25 years believed to have been initially caused by benzene exposure, causing me to lose a few internal organs, please let me invite you to kiss my ample posterior if you do not like my tone.


Stunning news this week that the United States used Guatemala as a testing center for syphilis exposure, inoculating innocent victims without their knowledge between 1946 and 1948. Courtesy of a doctor named John Cutler. Much like we did with blacks at Tuskegee where over 400 men who sought treatment for "bad blood" were left untreated in a forty year study. Or like Mengele's experiments in the camps. Supposedly there were over 40 of such experiments conducted around the globe that have not even been disclosed yet. I know that some think that I am a member of the "blame america first club" but even I am astounded by our actions. Yet in a cursory visit to right wing sites like Townhall, I see conservative commenters excoriating the Obama Administration for coming clean in regards to Guatemala. Obama blaming America again. The same conservatives who want to bury stories like Abu Graib or the recent soldier who was sport killing in Afghanistan. These incidents happened so long ago, why dredge them up now? Blah, blah, blah.


I will never forget watching a 60 Minutes show about 20 years ago where they were interviewing people at a rocket manufacturing plant somewhere in the great state of Texas. Apparently the site was extremely hazardous and people were getting leukemia in droves. And they interviewed a guy who said that he knew that he would die but he was doing it for America and Jesus and he felt honored to give his life for his country, even if it involved death by horrible disease. Now that's patriotism!


A report today that over half of the people who identify as Tea Party members also self identify as members of the christian religious right. The nonprofit Public Religion Research Institute polled 3013 people and has a margin of plus or minus 2%. 

 * The percentage of Americans who say they're part of the tea party movement is 11 percent - about half the size of the group who say they are "part of the religious right or conservative Christian movement."
* Fifty-five percent of people who say they are part of the tea party agree that "America has always been and is currently a Christian nation" - 6 points more than the percentage of self-described Christian conservatives who would say that.
* Among the differences between Christian conservatives and tea partiers is their source of news, with 39 percent of the former group saying Fox News is their most trusted source for "accurate information about politics and current events" and 57 percent of the latter group saying that.

The article in the Wapo says that the new report showed large swaths of the tea party looking for a strong government role in hot-button social issues. Nearly two-thirds say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, and 45 percent said there should be no legal recognition for same-sex couples. 

So the new "small" government party has a decidedly activist bent when it comes to social issues. And they ask if we are at war... the cultural war is in full swing, folks. Fence sitters not allowed. 


I am not sanguine about our chances for survival as a species. We are too stupid and shortsighted and there are far too many weapons of our destruction available within easy reach. We know that our actions are misguided and ultimately suicidal but it is easier to dicker, obfuscate and rationalize than to change our behavior patterns. Perhaps the cockroaches and coyotes will have better luck.


Anonymous said...

all true enough, but God, so dire; eat some pickles, you'll feel better.

Anonymous said...

Lighten up man...I know all this news is not pleasant but you make "chicken little" appear to be an optimist! Remember, your glass is half full...
Maybe you should worry about getting a taster for Saturday night...

Anonymous said...

fortuitously perhaps, i heard a quote today, attributed to Winston Churchill: "when you're walking through hell, keep walking"; in other words, bad as things may seem, we really don't know what's around the corner; as human beings, in our pride, we like to think we do; but we really don't; keep walkin'.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info