Beyond There Lies Their Lies

June 12, 2009

Still more grim news, but today’s particular sack of shit is more ethics and morals than anything else.
Three stories that reflect our times — strange/bad and getting worse — and how lopsided situations have become as if a giant screw is being tightened down.

The first item concerns a near-invisible US horror — coal ash dump-ponds, of which there are 1,300 nationwide, some up to 1,500 acres, holding tons of toxic mush full of arsenic, lead, mercury and selenium.
Last December, one such ash pond at the Kingston Fossil Plant, about 40 miles west of Knoxville,TN, busted and spilled “5.4 million cubic yards, or enough to flood more than 3,000 acres one foot deep” of toxic sludge.

So the more-interesting this found at HuffPost:

Just how bad has the coal ash situation gotten in the United States?
So bad that the Department of Homeland Security has told Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) that her committee can’t publicly disclose the location of coal ash dumps across the country.
The pollution is so toxic, so dangerous, that an enemy of the United States — or a storm or some other disrupting event — could easily cause them to spill out and lay waste to any area nearby.
There are 44 sites deemed by the Environmental Protection Agency to be high hazard, but Boxer said she isn’t allowed to talk about them other than to senators in the states affected.
“There is a huge muzzle on me and my staff,” she said.
“Homeland Security and the Army Corps [of Engineers] have decided in the interests of national security they can’t make these sites known,” she said.

Odd, huh?

And this a view on the validity/reality of those US government stats concerning the current financial/economic meltdown — a look at that set of principles known as the Pollyanna Creep.
From SmartMoney:

If the theory has a chief architect, it is John Williams, a semi-retired grandfather of five living in Oakland, Calif.
The son of a chainsaw importer, Williams sold the family business in the 1970s and began consulting for corporations, recalculating government economic data to arrive at what he says were more reliable measures, and with them, truer forecasts.
Today Williams runs 
Shadow Government Statistics from his home.
For $175 a year subscribers get economic data and analysis adjusted to back out the accumulated effects of what Williams has dubbed the Pollyanna Creep — Pollyanna being the orphan protagonist of the 1913 children’s book who learns to play the “glad game” to find cheery perspectives on life’s sorrows.
In other words, he provides figures he feels are properly miserable, to offset government ones he says are too prettied-up.
If Williams is right, unemployment is over 20%, gross domestic product is shrinking by 8% and consumer prices are jumping by nearly 7%.
His forecasts border on apocalyptic.
The government is creating so much new money, he says, that the all but inevitable result is hyperinflation, where “your highest denomination, the $100 bill, becomes worth more as toilet paper than money.”
Buy physical gold, he advises.

And finally, a bit on the double standard imposed by the US on the “rest of the world” in times of trouble.
A post from BoingBoing:

Nobel-prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz contrasts the American response to its economic crisis with the measures it shoved down the throats of poor countries during their crises, and discusses why rich-world double-standards (“Buy American/European” provisions in bailouts that only discriminate against poor countries) contribute to a global disillusionment in the values that the rich world nominally espouses: democracy, transparency, and so on.

“Among critics of American-style capitalism in the Third World, the way that America has responded to the current economic crisis has been the last straw.
During the East Asia crisis, just a decade ago, America and the I.M.F. demanded that the affected countries cut their deficits by cutting back expenditures — even if, as in Thailand, this contributed to a resurgence of the aids epidemic, or even if, as in Indonesia, this meant curtailing food subsidies for the starving.
America and the I.M.F. forced countries to raise interest rates, in some cases to more than 50 percent. They lectured Indonesia about being tough on its banks — and demanded that the government not bail them out.
What a terrible precedent this would set, they said, and what a terrible intervention in the Swiss-clock mechanisms of the free market.
The contrast between the handling of the East Asia crisis and the American crisis is stark and has not gone unnoticed.
To pull America out of the hole, we are now witnessing massive increases in spending and massive deficits, even as interest rates have been brought down to zero.
Banks are being bailed out right and left.
Some of the same officials in Washington who dealt with the East Asia crisis are now managing the response to the American crisis.
Why, people in the Third World ask, is the United States administering different medicine to itself?
Many in the developing world still smart from the hectoring they received for so many years: they should adopt American institutions, follow our policies, engage in deregulation, open up their markets to American banks so they could learn “good” banking practices, and (not coincidentally) sell their firms and banks to Americans, especially at fire-sale prices during crises.
Yes, Washington said, it will be painful, but in the end you will be better for it.
America sent its Treasury secretaries (from both parties) around the planet to spread the word.
In the eyes of many throughout the developing world, the revolving door, which allows American financial leaders to move seamlessly from Wall Street to Washington and back to Wall Street, gave them even more credibility; these men seemed to combine the power of money and the power of politics.
American financial leaders were correct in believing that what was good for America or the world was good for financial markets, but they were incorrect in thinking the converse, that what was good for Wall Street was good for America and the world.

Shit.
Toxic waste, assets and ethics.

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