Friday, July 25, 2014

Missing Gold v. Missing Plutonium

I saw this report today about how a computer upgrade allegedly is responsible for the loss of 2.7 tons of gold from Africa's largest refinery:

Sounds like BS, right? Well ... let's for the moment not ask what really happened or where the actual gold went.

I think most people would agree that it is more important to ask what kind of computer system the US Department of Energy (DOE) uses to track its inventory of weapons grade plutonium. Hopefully it's a more robust system than the one used to track IRS email or a gold inventory, right?

I used to subscribe to the Government Accounting Office (GAO) report service, and several years ago I noticed the following report. Yeah, I know it's been almost 20 years, but this report made quite an impression:

AIMD-95-165 Poor Management of Nuclear Materials Tracking System Makes Success Unlikely

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Energy's (DOE) progress in developing a new nuclear materials tracking system, focusing on: (1) DOE actions to implement previous GAO recommendations concerning the system; and (2) whether DOE is adequately addressing key system development risks.

GAO found that: (1) DOE has not implemented any of the GAO recommendations regarding new system planning and analysis and has no plans to do so because it believes its planning is sufficient and delaying the system would lead to unnecessary costs; (2) DOE does not know if its new system will meet users' needs or be cost-effective; (3) DOE has not addressed the subcontractor's failure to document its system development process and to place its software under configuration management, or its failure to require acceptance testing before taking delivery of the system and plan for parallel operations of the new and old systems to check the new system's performance; and (4) the risk of system failure is high, since DOE does not know the status of the system development effort or whether certain system components will perform as required.

You can read the entire report here:

The bottom line of the report is this: DOE implemented a system for tracking weapons grade material that had not been under configuration control, without verifying that it tracked properly with the inventory of the existing system, and apparently without reconciling any inventory shortfall that may have existed when turning off the old system and switching to the new one.

I thought at the time that if someone in the US or its allied governments (e.g., Israel ?) wanted to divert US plutonium into an illegal weapons program, this would be the way to do it. GAO probably had similar suspicions, but note well that even they were not able to get DOE to correct the obviously insane deficiencies in DOE's push to implement the new system.

So, I have no idea whether 2.7 tons of plutonium (or any other amount) disappeared when DOE's new computer system was put in place ... but then again neither apparently does anyone else, including DOE itself.

I've also heard speculation that the reactor vessel of Israel's weapons material production plant at Dimona is burned out (from neutron embrittlement). If they are continuing to expand their inventory of nuclear weapons they must have acquired a new source of plutonium. Did the DOE provide it in 1995? I bet we'll never know for certain.

2.7 tons would be a lot of bombs, wouldn't it?

Putin v. Goldwater

Have you seen the latest "bogeyman" magazine cover?

Seeing this reminded me of the "Daisy" campaign ad run on the behalf of LBJ in 1964:

Both are based upon lies and the fear of nuclear war.

Did LBJ make the world a safer place, or did he exacerbate the Vietnam War and give us over 50,000 dead and many more wounded?

Is Putin a threat to world peace, or are NetanYahoo and Obama ad-Dajjal the greater threats?

Do magazine covers and ads like this help the public decide the best course of action, or are they intended to herd us into a corner and authorize another senseless war?

Veterans In Distress

This HOA in California wants to shut down a home-based furniture maker whose products go to needy vets and their families:

Frankly I can understand how neighbors might not want the noise and the fumes in their neighborhood.

I would like to point out that in my neighborhood, we have a home-based landscaping business that frequently constructs similar items either in the owner's garage or out in his driveway. His activities are just as noisy and smelly as furniture making ... and no one is complaining. We also have a furniture making hobbiest whose power tools can be heard at least 100 yards away ... and no one is complaining. And that is unusual, because here in Texas we have very strict HOAs who are ready, willing, and able to fight you in court if you cross them.

So ... I would suggest that the California HOA chill out and have a little compassion for the vets. You did say you wanted them to fight the terrorists "over there" instead of "over here", didn't you? Do you expect them to keep losing legs, arms, and genitals on the battlefield for you when you can't even stand a little noise and fumes on their behalf?

Jeez !!!

What Africa Can Look Forward To

Ethiopia is becoming China's newest source of cheap labor:

This trend will go on and on and on: Corporations seeking the cheapest labor possible to generate the maximum profits for the rich.

And where does it lead? To someone paying $36 million for a cup while billions of people starve:


Eventually robots will replace all humans in manufacturing companies, and then what will happen to all the human useless eaters?

You know the answer to that question, so what are you going to do about it?

Israeli Chivingtons and Baums

Some of you may have heard of John Chivington and the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864:

John Milton Chivington (January 27, 1821 – October 4, 1894) was a former Methodist pastor who served as colonel in the United States Volunteers during the Colorado War and the New Mexico Campaigns of the American Civil War. In 1862, he was in the Battle of Glorieta Pass against a Confederate supply train.

Chivington gained infamy for leading a 700-man force of Colorado Territory militia during the massacre at Sand Creek in November 1864. An estimated 70–163 peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho – about two-thirds of whom were women, children, and infants – were killed and mutilated by his troops. Chivington and his men took scalps and other body parts as battle trophies, including human fetuses and male and female genitalia.

The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War conducted an investigation of the massacre, but no charges were brought against Chivington or other participants. The closest thing to a punishment Chivington suffered was the effective end of his political aspirations.

But I'll bet few of you realize that L. Frank Baum, author of the popular children's novel The Wizard of Oz, was a fierce advocate for the extermination of Native Americans:

He was a devoted family man, apparently a sensitive and kind individual, and he wrote books that were forerunners of today's concerns with diversity. But in his newspaper he twice advocated genocide of Native Americans.

From 1888 to 1891, nine years before he published the first of his fourteen Oz books, Baum lived in Aberdeen, South Dakota. He edited a newspaper during the terrible time of anti-Indian feeling leading up to the killing of Sitting Bull and the massacre at Wounded Knee. He twice wrote editorials calling for the extermination of the entire Sioux Nation. Baum was not alone in his horrifying calls for genocide. Many historians believe that it was newspaper-induced hysteria that led to the massacre.

Baum's books are a sharp contrast to this call of genocide. Difference is valued in his stories; he describes groups of creatures with different characteristics and beliefs who work out the logistics of living together in respect and harmony. Oz is a multicultural kingdom. How could someone with such a vision have called for the mass murder of an entire group of people?

The fabric of Oz is love, the emotional connection, life-form to life-form, that creates respect, recognition and acceptance. Baum didn't practice that with the Lakota. Instead he abstracted these people, stripped away their humanness, and turned them into a concept, a "vanishing race", thereby setting up the conditions to think them out of existence.

The gift that Baum gives us is the mirroring of ourselves. Genocide happens not only because of the action of evil people, but also because of the inaction of the good-hearted. Baum knee-jerked the "right," acceptable, normal, main-stream reaction during the fabricated Indian scare of 1890, and was, thereby, one more agent of the genocide. Had he stood up to the government, had he questioned, as a good journalist should, the reports of "Indian uprisings," and had he been joined by journalists around the state and country, the massacre might never have happened.

A similar sad disaster is playing out today in Gaza. Bibi NetanYahoo, his manhood threatened by his inability to destroy the sovereign nations of Syria and Iran, is taking out his frustrations on the hapless, nearly helpless population of Gaza. In this endeavor, he and his IDF are the spitting image of John Chivington and his Bloodless 3rd Colorado Cavalry who reveled in the slaughter of unarmed men, women, and children 150 years ago.

And what about people like Dr. Mordechai Kedar, an Israeli scholar and lecturer at Bar-Ilan University? He apparently is telling his fellow Israelis in articles and on live TV and radio, that raping Palestinian mothers and sisters is more than an acceptable tactic to finish the genocide of Gaza:

He is joined by Israeli lawmaker Ayelet Shaked, who published on Facebook a call for genocide of the Palestinians which received thousands of "likes":

It is a call for genocide because it declares that “the entire Palestinian people is the enemy” and justifies its destruction, “including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.”

It is a call for genocide because it calls for the slaughter of Palestinian mothers who give birth to “little snakes.”

Back in the days of Chivington and Baum, Americans used to justify the slaughter of Indian women and children with the phrase "nits make lice". In their calls for violence and genocide of the Palestinians, Dr. Kedar and Ms. Shaked are echoing L. Frank Baum and others whose words urged the rape and slaughter of American Indians.

These Israeli Chivingtons and Baums should remind us that a holocaust does not happen merely because good people do nothing. It happens because people who represent the best their society has to offer, including clergy, politicians, and academics, demand that the slaughter take place. It happened that way in Colorado in 1864, it happened that way in Nazi Germany in the 30s and 40s, and now it's happening that way in Gaza.

And the rest of us did not stop it then, and sadly it doesn't look like we're going to stop it now.

Gaza Is The Shame Of Us All

You take my water
Burn my olive trees
Destroy my house
Take my job
Steal my land
Imprison my father
Kill my mother
Bomb my country
Starve us all
Humiliate us all
But … I am to blame: I shot a rocket back.

— Placard first seen in Gaza, 2012

The Five Fingers Of Death

Here is a somewhat lengthy but brilliant essay which ties together many of the threads which have led us to where we are today:

Humanity is the creation of the cosmos, local and universal; in particular, the interactions between geography, climate, culture and human/nonhuman generated events. History is the reporting done to explain to current and future generations what human actors, individually or as a collective, were doing at some point in time. “Everything flows,” as Vasily Grossman, the author of a book of the same name, once said. History is not unlike the Nile River or the Mississippi River with dozens of tributaries, streams, and unseen aquifers affecting the main body of the river. In short every person, place or thing is connected in some fashion to the flow of life, of history. And each person will, at some point in a lifetime, be affected by what has taken place 10, 20 or 100 years ago.

Humanity has not learned much it seems. We have learned how to kill and communicate faster. We live longer but for what purpose? World War I began 100 years ago this August, 2014. World  War II ended just 70 years ago. The Cold War and those two World Wars are with us still.