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A guest post by investigative reporter & Three-Mile Island gadfly Bill Keisling on "The Fukushima Experiment"

April 7th, 2011 No comments

I’ve run across a very interesting post on problems with nuclear power and the “crony capitalist” nuclear power industry and government interface, by a veteran freelance Pennsylvania journalist/gadfly who started writing about ConEd’s Three-Mile Island facility well before it experienced its famous melt-down.

Bill Keisling is a dogged hunter of local corruption, a prolific author, blogger (at his website and videomaker (see, for example, his expose on how Pennsyvania college students were housed on a former Department if Defense nuclear watse sie).

Bill kindly gave me permission to cross-post his piece below, which I copy in its entirety.from his website, which I encourage readers to visit. I think his views provide very useful context.


 big wave at fukushima by mr. ok cola

The Fukushima Experiment

A nuclear meltdown survival guide

Japan’s Tepco utility executives and government officials are alternately accused of covering-up, withholding information, or downplaying the severity of their nuclear accident.

Truth is, as many of us nuclear meltdown veterans know, those utility executives and officials are as much in the dark as the rest of us.

If you live within two hundred miles of a nuclear power plant, consider this: If the plant suffers a meltdown, no one on earth will be able to tell you what to expect.

Welcome, then, to the Fukushima Experiment …


by Bill Keisling


Posted March 28, 2011 — The nuclear meltdowns at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi atomic power plant reignited deeply personal memories for many of us in central Pennsylvania who lived through 1979’s Three Mile Island incident.

Some argue that the technological or natural causes of these two nuclear accidents differ greatly. Yet aspects of both are stunningly similar: both events caused world-wide hysteria and panic, followed by general condemnation of utility executives and government officials for their supposed mishandling or misunderstanding of the crisis.


The nuclear accident on Three Mile Island was a life-changing experience for me, and many others. In 1979 I was a young editor of a community magazine. I was actually the first writer/journalist to arrive at the gates of Three Mile Island the morning of the accident, on March 28, 1979. That morning I had both personal and professional reasons for being there.

The community newspaper I edited, Harrisburg Magazine, had, in the months leading up to the Three Mile Island accident, uncovered myriad problems at the nuclear power plant. We’d documented the willingness of state and federal regulators to look the other way so that the substandard and unsafe power plant could operate.

In August 1978 we even published a cover story detailing a possible disaster scenario involving these unresolved problems at the power plant titled, “Meltdown: Tomorrow’s Disaster at Three Mile Island.”

The owner of the power plant, Metropolitan Edison, was not amused. The electric utility responded by seeking a congressional investigation of our small magazine. Met-Ed almost ran us out of business.

Several months later, early on the morning of the accident, I got a call from a friend telling me that there was some sort of leak at the power plant and that a nuclear site emergency had been declared. I threw my camera and tape recorder into the car and drove the dozen or so miles to the gates of Three Mile Island.

There wasn’t much to see. To the naked eye, the two reactors and the four cooling towers sat placidly as ever on the island. From the gate nothing seemed particularly wrong, or out of place. A small amount of stream rose from two of the massive cooling towers.

The guards at the gate did their best to ignore me. I asked a guard what was going on but he brusquely refused to answer any questions. I pointed to a radiation monitor he wore on his jacket — a dosimeter — and asked what the instrument read.

“It doesn’t matter now,” he told me with a nervous break in his voice.

Shortly thereafter I was standing at the gate when scared nuclear workers began evacuating the plant. The guards hurriedly passed hand-held Geiger counters over each employee’s car, checking for radiation.

This, it turns out, wouldn’t be that much different from events at the gates of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in March 2011. An American software engineer working at Fukushima witnessed terrified Japanese nuclear workers trying to escape by climbing over the nuclear plant’s fence following the earthquake.

As for myself, back in 1979, at the gates of Three Mile Island, my first impulse was to run. I later wrote about the moment in my novel, The Meltdown:

It made you think this wasn’t such a good place to hang out.

The main gate opened, the cars streamed out. They came one after another to the highway and turned right, wasting no time, tires spinning in the gravel. I heard one of the drivers say to another, ‘We’re all supposed to go to the substation down the road to be tested for contamination.’

Forty or fifty cars streamed from the plant, stopped momentarily to be swept by Geiger counters at the gate, then barreled up the road out of sight. All the while the cooling towers hung in the background.

Some sort of wild frightening premonition swept over me.

The idea came to me to put five hundred miles between me and this place. I turned and started back to my car. I only took two or three steps, then I stopped. Maybe I should call some friends, I thought. Let them know the reactor’s about to melt. It would be a kind, a thoughtful thing to do, a kindness I’d appreciate from a friend. But I wouldn’t be able to reach most of the people I knew.

At that moment I made a fateful decision that, for me, was life changing. I’d realized there was no place in the world to run from a nuclear accident. I couldn’t possibly warn all my friends and family. My life would be destroyed with the people and the town that I knew.

So sorry: American and Japanese utility executives employ different approaches to breaking bad nuclear news. Met-Ed’s Jack Herbein wagged his finger and told us to Talk to the Hand in 1979; Tepco execs offered deep bows (bottom). Herbein photo by Bill Keisling.

I turned to face the power plant, and planted my foot firmly in its path. I decided at that moment to understand what was happening, and to try to understand why it happened.

In the ensuing minutes, hours, and days, I saw it all, much of it first hand.

I followed the procession of cars evacuating the power plant gates to a nearby observation center. There I listened, watched, and interviewed scared workers. Things I saw that morning forever burn my memory.

One middle-aged nuclear worker sat nervously inside the touristy observation center waiting to be screened for radiation contamination. His hands shook violently and uncontrollably. He held his hands out in front of himself and watched them shake. He stared at his own shaking hands as if they were someone else’s hands, and not his own.

It was bedlam all around us at the observation center. Rad-suited crews swept the grounds for radiation leaks. One hyper worker knocked through the pandemonium gasping, “There’s been a mix up somewhere here!”

Helicopters carrying out-of-town newsmen and cameramen spun down from the sky. By the minute, before my eyes, it grew into an international incident.

Before long a helicopter carrying a utility executive landed on the lawn of the observation center. Jack Herbein, Met-Ed’s vice president for generation, convened an impromptu news conference on the back lawn.

Jack Herbein was normally a polished and controlled utility executive. That day he memorably told the television cameras that everything was “under control.”

“There’s nothing to worry about,” Herbein told us. “Just a little water spilt on the floor.”

We followed Herbein inside the observation center. I yelled over the din at him, inquiring whether this was a nuclear core meltdown.

Herbein looked straight at me, but didn’t answer. His eyes betrayed shock, and fright. He turned and hurried back to his helicopter and choppered away.

Within days, Met-Ed’s Jack Herbein would find himself at ground zero of an international uproar.

The accident just wouldn’t go away. Utility executives and government officials tried their best to play things down. Then, a few hours later, more wrenching bad news would leak from the power plant.

The reactor’s 150-plus tons of nuclear fuel might be melting. The governor ordered an evacuation of children and pregnant women. A potentially explosive hydrogen bubble was detected in the reactor. Things clearly weren’t “under control.”

TMI Jack Herbein by Bill Keisling

Met-Ed’s Jack Herbein stands on milk box to scold world press: ‘I don’t know why we need to tell you every little thing that we do!’ Tepco execs in 2011 offer still more apologetic deep bows to evacuees. Jack Herbein photo by Bill Keisling. Click photo or here to enlarge.

Four days after the initial accident on Three Mile Island, on Saturday, March 31, 1979, at a press conference in nearby Middletown, wearing the same rumpled suit he’d been in for days, an exhausted Jack Herbein of Med-Ed stood on a milk carton to boost himself above a mountain of microphones to bray at the immense polyglot mob of the world’s news media, “I don’t know why we need to tell you each and every little thing that we do!”

That one moment of frustrated pique cost Met-Ed, and Jack Herbein, all public sympathy.

But was Jack Herbein covering up, or was he simply as much in the dark as the rest of us?


More than three decades later it’s deja vu all over again, but this time fighting the dark are executives with the Tokyo Electric Power Co., operators of Japan’s runaway nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Tepco utility executives are alternately accused of covering-up, withholding information, or downplaying the severity of their nuclear accident.

Truth is, as many of us nuclear accident veterans know, those utility executives are as much in the dark as the rest of us.

Lessons from Three Mile Island in 1979 go a long way to explain what’s happening in 2011 in Japan.

In the years following the Three Mile Island accident much was learned about what the utility did, and did not know at the time of the 1979 reactor meltdown in Pennsylvania.

It became painfully obvious that the control room operators, the utility executives, and the government overseers of Three Mile Island simply did not know at the time what was happening inside their damaged nuclear reactor core.

Why they did not know is really the heart of the matter, and the thing we should consider.

In the event of a runaway nuclear reactor (politely called a “power excursion” by the industry), Tepco executives in Japan, like their counterparts in Pennsylvania, don’t have the foggiest idea what may happen when their reactors melt.

If you live within two hundred miles of a nuclear power plant, consider this: If the plant suffers a meltdown, no one on earth will be able to tell you what to expect.

Having spent decades looking into all this, I thought I might save those interested in researching the Fukushima nuclear disaster valuable time and trouble by providing a short list of the most important points I’ve learned about nuclear power accidents.

Decades of research can be boiled down to a few key observations or rules that until now I’ve kept in the back of my head.

I here offer my list as a time-saving primer to others:

Rule 1:

Commercial atomic energy technology is a pseudo-science and is not based on proper scientific experimentation.

As we recently witnessed during the multiple nuclear accidents at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, a damaged reactor (or reactors) often has broken controls, computers systems, and gauges that make monitoring a runaway nuclear reaction difficult, if not impossible.

Confusion and fright in the control room(s) at the time of emergency create what can almost be called A Fog of War. Indeed, war it is. They’re at war with a runaway nuclear reactor.

At Fukushima, as on Three Mile Island, operators wished they could simply peer into the containment building with their own eyes and dispense with the broken alarms, computers and gauges that tell them nothing, and often mislead them.

‘The nuclear power industry naturally doesn’t think very much of troublesome nitwits like Galileo, Francis Bacon, René Descartes, Isaac Newton, and their ridiculous, old-fashioned ideas about experimentation, reproducible results, and scientific method.’

But that’s only a small part of the problem. Truth is, no one really understands the behavior of tons of melted nuclear fuel in a reactor.

For a variety of reasons, the commercial nuclear power industry and its government regulators never conducted a single experimental meltdown of a full-size nuclear reactor.

So, until one melts, no one knows how a runaway reactor will behave.

As most of us remember from high school, scientific knowledge has advanced over the centuries because of what’s called the Scientific Method.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the Scientific Method as “a method of procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.”

In simple words, real-world experiments must be designed to test a hypothesis, and results must be reproducible.

As we know, cars and planes are rigorously tested and crashed all the time, in all manner of ways, in all sorts of conditions. That’s how designers and regulators learn how these complicated machines behave in real-world accidents, and whether they’re safe.

Not so nuclear reactors. For a variety of reasons, including half a century of financial and political considerations, regulators in the United States side-stepped or outright ignored the issue of full-scale reactor safety testing, and continue to ignore it to this day.

This inescapable and troubling fact is entwined with the history of atomic power regulation in the United States. In brief, here’s the story, with footnotes and references for those who want to follow along at home:

After the war with Japan ended in 1945 with the dropping of atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the US found itself the world’s sole possessor of the secrets of atomic energy.

To take these secrets from the hands of the military and deliver them to the civilian population, the United States Congress passed the Atomic Energy Act of 1946. This legislation forbade any entity but the US Government from creating atomic energy, and disallowed international cooperation involving any atomic secrets. To oversee the peacetime atom, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was created, and Harry Truman appointed five commissioners. A statute of Congress created the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy on August 2, 1946. This joint committee would police the AEC, and authorize all appropriations to the commission. 1

The EBR-I experimental reactor in Idaho was the scene of both the first atomic generation of electric power and an early reactor meltdown.

History was made almost five years later. Four, 200-watt light bulbs began to glow when 12 control rods were lifted away at the Experimental Breeder Reactor Number One (EBR-I) in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Sixteen technicians signed their names on a wall there, beneath this notation: “Electricity Was First Generated Here From Atomic Energy on December 20, 1951.” EBR-I seemed all the more remarkable because it was a breeder reactor and, it was said, could safely produce more fuel than it burned. 2

Mamie Eisenhower christened the Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear powered submarine, on January 21, 1954. The public loved it. Still, many Americans were anxious to give private industry an opportunity to split atoms. The Atomic Energy Commission was seen as an island of socialism in the sea of free enterprise.

Dwight Eisenhower signed the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 on August 30 of that year. The “Atoms for Peace” program was launched. Private enterprise could now exploit nuclear power, the AEC would begin to award contracts to businesses, and the poor nations of the world were promised atomic power. 3

The bubble burst in November of 1955. The tiny EBR-I reactor had been experiencing power fluctuations and, while trying to discover the cause of the problem, technicians attempted to bring the core to within a few degrees of melting temperature. At half power, fuel rods holding the Uranium-235 fuel began to bow inward, increasing the core’s reactivity. A “power excursion” occurred, and the reactor began to run away, its gauges climbing off scale. With a split second to spare, a technician commanded a “blanket” of U-238 bricks surrounding the fuel rods to drop away, stopping the power excursion.

An explosion was barely avoided, but the core, capable of producing 1.4 megawatts of heat output, had melted. 4

‘Lloyds of London would not write a policy protecting a nuclear power plant’

Insurance companies, which had been trying to assess the feasibility of insuring commercial reactors, were more squeamish than ever. Utilities considering building nuclear power stations discovered their investments could not be insured. Lloyds of London, known for taking risks on just about anything, would not write a policy protecting a nuclear power plant. Insurance companies throughout America began writing nuclear exclusion clauses into homeowners’ policies, preventing insurance payments for any nuclear related loss. The entire insurance industry pooled together would provide no more than $65 million worth of coverage for a nuclear power plant. 5

Hoping to win the insurance industry’s confidence, the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy authorized the AEC and the Brookhaven National Laboratory to prepare a study on the effects of a major accident at a 100- to 200-megawatt electrical output reactor.

In March 1957, the study, entitled “Theoretical Possibilities and Consequences of Major Accidents in Large Nuclear Power Plants,” Or WASH-740, was released. WASH-740 did not make the insurers rest easier. The Brookhaven laboratory estimated that in the event of a worst possible accident, 3,400 people would die, 43,000 would be injured and seven billion dollars worth of damage would be done. Commercial nuclear power production was now at a standstill. 6

Because the private insurance wasn’t enough, the utilities now settled for a bit of socialism. Senator Clinton Anderson and Congressman Melvin Price introduced legislation that provided for $495 million worth of government coverage — an arbitrarily arrived at amount — in addition to the $65 million private insurance pool. The Price-Anderson Amendment to the 1954 Atomic Energy Act became law in September 1957. The last hurdle apparently out of the way, private industry was, again, off and running to create fission energy. 7

In Pennsylvania, Metropolitan Edison and its fellow utilities of the General Public Utilities Corporation, along with the Pennsylvania State University and Rutgers University, created the Saxton Nuclear Experimental Corporation. The AEC approved a construction permit for a 20-megawatt thermally rated reactor in Saxton, Pennsylvania, in 1959. 8

The SL-1 experimental reactor being lifted from its containment building following its deadly 1961 accident.

But tragedy visited another experimental reactor on January 3, 1961. At about nine in the evening, three technicians were performing a maintenance operation on the SL-1 reactor in Idaho Falls, Idaho. The SL-1 was one of 17 test reactors scattered across 892 square miles of Idaho desert at the AEC’s National Reactor Testing Station. The tiny SL-1 was meant to produce electricity for about a dozen homes in arctic military bases. For some time the reactor’s nine control rods had been acting up, as had other reactor functions.

The SL-1 had been shutdown for about a week in expectation of major repair work, its control rods pushed firmly down and disconnected from the mechanical control rod drive. The number nine control rod was the most important. It was the only rod that could start the chain reaction when lifted away. To ensure that the cadmium control rods would not stick or jam, technicians had been “exercising” them, lifting them a few inches, then returning them. That night three technicians were standing on top of the reactor, reconnecting the control rods to the mechanical drive. The number nine control rod had to be lifted four inches by hand to be connected to the machinery.

During this operation the rod was lifted too far. In a fraction of a second the reactor became critical, a power excursion followed, and an estimated 1,500,000,000,000,000,000 atoms split.

By the time help arrived, one man was found dead. A second technician was rushed outside, but was so radiated that he had to be examined by a doctor wearing protective clothing. The second man quickly died. The third technician was found dead on the ceiling of the reactor building. A piece of control rod was jammed through his groin, pinning his corpse to the ceiling at the shoulder.

For twenty days, the bodies were packed in water, alcohol and ice, while scientists tried to cleanse the dead tissues of uranium. Finally the men were buried, but their heads and hands had to be removed and buried with other nuclear wastes. 9

‘A third technician was found on the ceiling of the reactor building. A piece of control rod was jammed through his groin, pinning his corpse to the ceiling at the shoulder.’

The Atomic Energy Commission reached another crossroad in 1964, when construction permits for the first big, pressurized and boiling water reactors were granted. A utility could make an appreciable profit on its investment when smaller reactor designs were made larger, taking advantage of economies of scale. Pressurized water reactors rated at thousands of megawatts of heat output would soon be operating.

To estimate the damage of a serious accident at a large commercial reactor, the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy authorized the AEC and the Brookhaven laboratory to update the 1957 WASH-740. The results were shocking.

Instead of 3,400 deaths, there would be 27,000; instead of 43,000 injuries, there would be 73,000; instead of $7 billion worth of damage, a “worst possible accident” at a new pressurized or boiling water reactor would cause $17 billion in damages. To make matters much worse, Brookhaven statisticians determined that an evacuation would make no appreciable difference in the number of people killed.

The study indicated that a landmass the size of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania could be rendered uninhabitable; that is, if the reactor were to be built, say, in central Pennsylvania.

Fearing this updated WASH-740 report would create an outcry at a very sensitive time, the AEC withheld this report from the public. 10

A draft of the updated WASH-740 report would not be released until June 1973, after both the Three Mile Island and Fukushima nuclear power plants were designed, considered for licensing, or built.

About the same time the WASH-740 update was being prepared, an “internal report” of the National Reactor Testing Station was also being drafted. This report called for a six-year minimum, intensive testing program to be conducted with the large reactors.

The NRTS report recommended that full-scale destructive testing be included in these reactor tests. The 1964-65 report was not released to the public until 1974; its findings too were ignored by the AEC.

The BORAX-1 experimental reactor seen undergoing a power excursion. When it finally blew up, scientists pointed out ‘uncertainties of extrapolation.’

Power excursion testing previously had been conducted inside tiny reactors. The BORAX-1 test reactor was only 1/500th the size of the larger, commercial reactors approved after 1964. By pulling the control rods of the BORAX-1, power excursions were created, and water was vigorously expelled from the coolant system, causing the reactor to shut down. But when an excursion test designed to melt the core was conducted in 1954, a “somewhat unexpected” steam explosion occurred, destroying the reactor and tossing a one-ton piece of equipment 30 feet into the air. 11

The Argonne National Laboratory reports that BORAX-1 “was deliberately destroyed in July 1954. Fuel plate fragments were scattered for a distance of 200-300 feet… The final test revealed that the predictions of total energy and fuel plate temperatures had been considerably too low. Instead of the melting of a few fuel plates, the test melted a major fraction of the entire core. The discrepancy was attributed to the uncertainties of extrapolation. The results of this energy liberation in the way of peak pressures and explosive violence lie in a region where there had been no previous experimental data.”

In other words, you can’t predict how a big reactor may behave from experiments conducted with much less fuel in a smaller reactor.

‘The National Reactor Testing Station report recommended that full-scale destructive testing be included in reactor tests.

The 1964-65 report was not released to the public until 1974; its findings were ignored by the AEC.’

Additional power excursion tests were conducted in the early 1960s on the Special Power Excursion Reactor Test, or SPERT-1 test reactor. In his book Nuclear Power: Both Sides, physicist Michio Kaku writes, “In some of the experiments we ran on the SPERT reactor we deliberately withdrew the control rods rapidly from the core. Without the control rods to absorb and regulate the neutrons from the fission process, the chain reaction would spin quickly out of control, and power levels would rise from zero to 30,000 megawatts (30 billion watts) in less than one-hundreth of a second. The cooling water would boil furiously, causing a steam explosion. On one occasion in 1962 I had the dubious distinction of deliberately blowing up the SPERT-1 reactor.” 12

The AEC officially reported that the SPERT-1’s core failed to explode during the “severest test that could be performed,” but the AEC did not mention that the SPERT-1 had faulty fuel rods, which terminated the power excursion by expelling fuel powder and coolant. No SPERT-1 power excursion test was then conducted with corrected fuel rods.

Both the BORAX-1 and the SPERT-1 test reactors, moreover, had several design differences from the larger, commercial reactors. When test reactors were built with a similar design to the larger reactors, power excursion experiments that could damage the fuel were deliberately avoided.

Instead, the AEC relied on calculations. “Design basis accidents,” and “worse possible accidents” were computed, but never verified by proper, scientific experimentation.

The AEC assumed sophisticated, though unverified, reactor theory to be fact. One reason for relying on these unproven calculations was that it was much less expensive over the short-run to do so than destroying a commercial size reactor, which could cost hundreds of million dollars, if not more.

Another reason for this unorthodox “un-scientific method” was that power excursion testing with reactors containing 100 tons or more of uranium could have serious environmental consequences.

So the nuclear industry continued to bank on the unproven hypothesis that a large, commercial reactor could be operated with little or no danger of explosion. 13

This deliberate blunder was one of the great scientific errors of twentieth century technology.

In contrast, Albert Einstein’s theories of relativity, the foundation of modern atomic science, continue to be subjected to painstaking experimentation. 14

Still, a good bit of the scientific laziness, lack of curiosity, and outright intellectual dishonesty of the nuclear regulators simply was a ruse to protect the finances of the nuclear industry.

As we see, the illusion of reactor safety and nuclear finances go hand-in-hand. Real-world experimental data which undermines the perceived safety of nuclear power plants is a threat to the insurability, and thus the financial viability, of the power plants. So over the decades real-world experiments that would impeach the safety of nuclear plants simply were never performed, were suppressed, or were played down by nuclear regulators.

Some blamed the problem on the mission and culture of the Atomic Energy Commission to both regulate and promote atomic energy.

Supposedly addressing this problem, Congress passed the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974, which abolished the Atomic Energy Commission. The AEC was replaced by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA). The NRC now would supposedly only regulate, while ERDA would promote nuclear energy, especially reactor development.

Yet, in the decades ahead, the NRC would continue to avoid full-scale experimental reactor meltdown tests in favor of costly computer models, fantasy reports, and ivory tower academic studies. There would be Bull Shit, More bull Shit, and bullshit Piled Higher and Deeper (in scientific and academic parlance, BS, MS, and PhD).

Nuclear reactor safety study became a colossal thought experiment. Reactor safely would exist only in the minds of their creators, and not in the real world, supported by reliable, controlled and reproducible scientific data.

Heaven and earth: Inside Fukushima’s Unit 2 control room in late March 2011, where events dismissed by the nuclear industry as ‘highly unlikely’ are an every day real-world nightmare for struggling operators and citizens.

Over the decades (and to this day) the NRC and the nuclear industry continued to cook up their own imaginary projections, involving narrowly defined “likely scenarios” and “analyses” devised by industry cheerleaders wearing tin-foil hats. These fairy tales are then supposedly bolstered with equally imaginary computer models.

In the 1970s, the NRC commissioned, for example, the infamous Rasmussen Report, or WASH-1400, as a follow-up to the discredited and suppressed WASH-740 reports.

The Rasmussen Report, also called “The Reactor Safety Study,” was soon also widely discredited within the scientific community. A subsequent review by the NRC conducted by Professor Harold Lewis of the University of California concluded that, “the uncertainties in WASH-1400’s estimates of the probabilities of severe accidents were in general, greatly understated.”

This led to other imaginary and sugar-coated Candyland reactor safety “studies,” including 1982’s CRAC-II, and 1991’s NUREG-1150.

“CRAC-II is both a computer code (titled Calculation of Reactor Accident Consequences) and the 1982 report of the simulation results performed by Sandia National Laboratories for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The report is sometimes referred to as the CRAC-II report because it is the computer program used in the calculations,” Wikipedia relates.

“The CRAC-II simulations calculated the possible consequences of a worst-case accident under worst-case conditions (a so-called “class-9 accident”) for a number of different U.S. nuclear power plants. In the Sandia Siting Study, the Indian Point (NY) Energy Center was calculated to have the largest possible consequences for an SST1 (spectrum of source terms) release, with estimated maximum possible casualty numbers of around 50,000 deaths, 150,000 injuries, and property damage of $274 Billion to $314 Billion (based on figures at the time of the report in 1982)…. CRAC-II has been declared to be obsolete and will be replaced by the State-of-the-Art Reactor Consequence Analyses study.”

The NRC itself would later discredit and issue a disclaimer of both the CRAC and NUREG “studies.” The NRC disclaimer of CRAC-II and NUREG-1150 reads as follows:

‘The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has devoted considerable research resources, both in the past and currently, to evaluating accidents and the possible public consequences of severe reactor accidents. The NRC’s most recent studies have confirmed that early research into the topic led to extremely conservative consequence analyses that generate invalid results for attempting to quantify the possible effects of very unlikely severe accidents. In particular, these previous studies did not reflect current plant design, operation, accident management strategies or security enhancements. They often used unnecessarily conservative estimates or assumptions concerning possible damage to the reactor core, the possible radioactive contamination that could be released, and possible failures of the reactor vessel and containment buildings. These previous studies also failed to realistically model the effect of emergency preparedness. The NRC staff is currently pursuing a new, state-of-the-art assessment of possible severe accidents and their consequences.”

In other words, after spending tens of millions of dollars in wasted resources to produce sham results, the NRC bureaucracy naturally resolved to spend tens of millions of more dollars to produce even more imaginary and far-fetched sham results. How reliable are these computer models?

In a timely article in the March 28, 2011 New York Times, John H. Broder, Matthew Walk and Tom Zeller point out, “American nuclear safety regulators, using a complex mathematical technique, determined that the simultaneous failure of both emergency shutdown systems to prevent a core meltdown was so unlikely that it would happen once every 17,000 years. It happened twice in four days at a pair of nuclear reactors in southern New Jersey.”

One imagines such a computer model in 2005 also setting the odds as “slim to none” of a black politician with a middle name of “Hussein” being elected president of the United States. The point is, the history of the world is filled with long shots with slim chances of overturning established norms. That in fact is what history is all about.

The NRC’s ‘State-Of-The-Art Reactor Consequence Analyses,’ or SOARCA, doesn’t even consider the consequences of accidents involving spent nuclear fuel pools, like those presumed to be now burning in Fukushima.

As mentioned, the NRC’s current search for a “state-of-the-art” study is called, appropriately enough, “State-Of-The-Art Reactor Consequence Analyses,” or SOARCA. (Not to be confused, gentle reader, with SCROTUM, which, in nuclear parlance, refers to the biological equipment by which operators are held by runaway reactors.)

NRC’s SOARCA website proclaims, “The project uses computer models and simulation tools to conduct in-depth analysis of two operating nuclear power plants, a boiling-water reactor and a pressurized-water reactor,” the types found in Fukushima and on Three Mile Island, respectively.

The SOARCA study further claims to consider “the highly unlikely event of a severe reactor accident.”

But, as Hamlet tells Horatio, “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

SOARCA, it should go without saying, does not contemplate actual severe, real-world environmental catastrophes like the 9.0 earthquake and tsunami which unexpectedly destroyed multiple reactors and spent fuel pools at Fukushima, or myriad other events which the NRC considers “highly unlikely.”

The NRC’s SOARCA website further explains that the study does not take into account such events as “terrorist acts.” Nor, it goes without saying, does SOARCA consider what happens in the event of war, when one or more of the world’s 400-plus atomic reactors is damaged by combatants, leaving undisciplined Third World operators struggling to control a runaway reactor(s) and spent fuel pools.

Moreover, the SOARCA “study” doesn’t even consider the consequences of accidents involving spent nuclear fuel rod pools, like those now burning in Fukushima.

The NRC’s SOARCA FAQ page states:

Are accidents at spent fuel pools considered in this study?

No. The project focuses on evaluating the very unlikely severe accident scenarios that may occur at operating power reactors and, as such, it does not consider spent fuel pools.

Of course, on the real planet earth, and not the fantasy Game Boy simulations of the nuclear industry, if you are unlucky enough to work as a nuclear control room operator when a fire breaks out in one or more spent fuel pools, as it did in Fukushima, spewing highly radioactive smoke and throwing explosive debris several hundred feet into the air, thus preventing you from controlling your already damaged nuclear reactor(s), you’ve got a problem on your hands not considered by SOARCA. Then again, in the “highly unlikely” event that your reactor(s) blow up, spewing highly radioactive steam and throwing explosive debris several hundred feet into the air, thus preventing you from putting out a fire in your spent fuel pool(s), you’ve got an altogether different “highly unlikely” event(s) on your hands, Pilgrim.

What, me worry? NRC inspectors reported that ‘At times during various shifts, in particular the 11:00 pm to 7:00 am shift, one or more of the Peach Bottom (Pennsylvania) operations control room staff (including licensed operators, senior licensed operators and shift supervision) have for at least the past few months periodically slept or have been otherwise inattentive to licensed duties.’

That’s when, as we see in Fukushima, your SCROTUM is in serious danger, and, like those eminently professional and enlightened nuclear workers seen scaling the fence to escape Fukushima, you better, in nuclear terminology, SCRAM the reactor(s).

If, however, you cannot SCRAM fast enough, you should then consider the time-honored emergency inventory and communications procedure known in nuclear circles as KYSAG, or Kiss Your Sweet Ass Goodbye.

(I realize these terms are complicated and technical to the lay reader, but obtuse technical jargon is important to the nuclear industry.)

Or, if you’d prefer, like the supremely calm, collected, and laid-back control room operators at various American nuclear power plants, you can avoid much of the unnecessary stress of these “highly unlikely” events by simply going to sleep in the control room every night.

One man’s nuclear nightmare, after all, is just another man’s sweet dream, baby.

Which brings us to the next rule.

Rule 2:

Commercial atomic energy is based on voodoo economics.

With the vexing realities of nuclear industry finances, insurance, and what to do with thousands of tons of highly radioactive spent fuel rods, atomic reactor pseudo-science merrily intersects with the voodoo economics of the nuclear industry.

Because spent nuclear fuel must be safety stored for tens of thousands of years, no one can agree where to put it, or how to pay for the storage, and so the spent reactor fuel piles up at nuclear power plants in the U.S. and around the world.

The NRC and the nuclear industry wisely choose to simply ignore this nettlesome problem. Hey, if you can’t solve it, why talk about it?


Call it “highly unlikely,” and move on.

Also in the category of nuclear voodoo economics are the shrewd nuclear industry investors who wisely refuse to themselves finance or insure new nuke plants, and instead insist that taxpayers pick up the tab. President Barack Obama, in fact, has promised the nuclear industry $36 billion for this very purpose in 2011.

These nuclear industry subsidies have been harshly criticized for decades. The bottom line is this: if it came down to risking their own money, nuclear investors would have nothing to do with nuclear reactor technology.

At Three Mile Island Unit One’s licensing hearing way back in November 7, 1973, for instance, Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Herbert Denenberg testified about the $560 million ceiling on insurance payments as mandated by the Price-Anderson Act.

“The plant owners will undoubtedly deny that this capping of benefits and liability represents any real material value to them, or conversely, any real cost to the public,” he said.

“They will point proudly to the fact that no member of the public — as opposed to workers in or associated with the activity of the industry — has been killed, and no catastrophic accidents have occurred, in 17 years of experience with nuclear reactors.

“And they will assert that on the basis of this safety record and their continuing zeal to make reactors uncommonly safe, the public would be foolish to worry about the financial consequences of an accident costing more than $560 million or, for that matter, any major accident at all.

‘If pressed, they will admit that a catastrophic accident is both conceivable and possible.

It will be the general public who must bear the cost.’

“All these arguments by the utilities are irrelevant, of course. The utilities do not take their own assurances about safety seriously enough to place their corporate necks on the line by renouncing their exemption from liability for a catastrophic accident, and in fact, they insist on the continuance of this exemption as a condition of their operating nuclear plants.

“If pressed, they will admit that a catastrophic accident is both conceivable and possible. And if such an accident occurs, the fact is that it will be the general public — and not the utilities and the reactor manufacturers — who must bear the cost.”

So let’s all learn a valuable lesson from the shrewd nuclear investor, and let’s be realistic here: endangering millions of lives; permanently polluting hundreds of square miles with uranium fission by-products; squandering billions of dollars of good money after bad: honestly, what else is government for?

These shrewd investors know that the true life-cycle costs of nuclear plants make them economically unviable.

Which brings us to Rule 3.

Rule 3:         

Be thankful the nuclear power industry is doing its level best to destroy the nuclear power industry. These guys are pros at it.

If nuclear industry executives are not scientists, and if they are not economists, what exactly are they?

Would I lie to you, sugar?

They are public relations and lobbying professionals, bullshit artists and bologna merchants, and, thankfully, highly incompetent ones at that.

Rest assured, the nuclear power industry is doing its level best to destroy the commercial nuclear power industry, and nobody does this better than they do.

Over the decades, the nuclear power industry has built a proven track record for ceaselessly working to destroy itself, without the help of a single anti-nuclear activist.

Rule 4:        

You are the experiment: In the event of a nuclear meltdown, use the opportunity to point out that this catastrophe once again proves the inherent safety of atomic energy.

As I’ve previously noted, the nuclear power industry naturally doesn’t think very much of troublesome nitwits like Galileo, Francis Bacon, René Descartes, Isaac Newton, and their ridiculous, old-fashioned ideas about experimentation, reproducible results, and scientific method.

Which is not to say that scientific data from real-world, full-scale nuclear meltdowns are not being collected.

Mountains of data — some useful, much of it not — have been, and will continue to be, amassed from the nuclear accidents at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and, now, Fukushima.

The Three Mile Island Experiment: graphic of Unit 2 reactor core damage.

Some five years after the meltdown on Three Mile Island, the damaged Unit 2 reactor was finally cool and clean enough to be popped open, like a festive foie gras in a dead Christmas goose.

Giddy industry representatives got to peer inside, like kids who can’t wait for Christmas, and who wonder what Santa brought.

Much to the surprise and delight of the nuclear industry, half the 150-ton core at Three Mile Island was found to have melted before solidifying into radioactive rubble at the bottom the reactor vessel.

And you probably thought that 150 tons of 5,000 degree F. molten uranium might melt through the stainless steel reactor vessel, burn through the concrete floor of the containment building, and give someone a hot foot on the other side of the planet, didn’t you? (This does however beg the question of whether, in China, the uninformed talk about The Pittsburgh Syndrome.)

The well-paid nuclear industry spin doctors wasted no time, of course, pointing out that this embarrassing melted pile of rubble inside TMI’s Unit 2 reactor was “proof” that nuclear plants are safe.

The scientific problem with using data from these real-world accidents — aside from the ethical problem of using uninformed humans in their homes as guinea pigs — is that these “results” are irreproducible, and therefore unscientific.

We’ll never know, for example, precisely how much coolant water was dumped on the damaged Fukushima reactors and spent fuel pools, and in what controlled circumstances, before and after the terrified reactor operators ran for their lives, and tried to jump over the fence, and so on.

In other words, more bad science.

Perhaps we can one day prove conclusively that large, commercial nuclear reactors will not melt down, but merely fizzle and pop for an extended period of time, as did Unit Two on Three Mile Island. Nevertheless, this is not the sort of knowledge we should acquire from experiments conducted with innocent victims in their backyards.

Speaking of ignorant fools, we now come to Rule 5.

Rule 5:

They’re building a better model fool every year.

The ancient Greeks had a single word for all this. It’s a word for what they believed was the greatest of all human follies: hubris.

Hubris, as we use the word today, implies mere arrogance or pride. But to ancient Greeks, hubris was a legal term and, some say, the greatest single crime one could commit in the ancient Greek world, not unlike our own treason or, in religious societies, blasphemy.

In Greek tragedy, a protagonist who acted with hubris foolishly ignored human limitations and challenged the gods and their rules, inviting ruin and retribution at the hands of vengeful gods like Nemesis.

Agamemnon, for one example, was tempted by ruin with the suggestion that he walk on a divine tapestry.

In other words, as the ancients and Charlie Murphy warn us, keep your dirty feet off God’s white leather sofa, unless you want to get your ass kicked.

That it’s sinkable is unthinkable: Like the White Star Line’s Titanic, the Zeppelin company’s promotions prominently boasted that no passenger had ever been injured on one of their airships.

The oceans and junk yards of the world are littered with Titanics, Hindenburgs, Unit 2 reactors, and the scrap of other infallible machines that their creators boasted could not sink, melt, fall from the sky, or otherwise fail.

To get around this historical fact, nuclear engineers are fond of saying that their machines, in fact, are perfect: it’s the human element, the foolish human operator, they’ll tell you, that’s at fault.

The nuclear industry today boasts that it can, in fact, without any proper scientific experimentation at all, produce a fool-proof machine!

Trouble is, those fools are so damned crafty.

And, as one nuclear regulator worrisomely intimated to me recently, “They’re building a better model fool every year.”

Whether the nuclear industry can successfully build a better fool-proof machine to keep up with this year’s better model fool is any fool’s guess.

Fools have been around a long time, and I’m betting on the fool. Hell, in the United States of America fools control not just one, but two political parties, both houses of Congress, and the judiciary.

So let’s be brutally realistic here. You can’t underestimate the fool.

Even the smart money’s betting on the fool. Why do you think nuclear investors don’t want to risk their own damn money? They’re not fools.

I defer to that celebrated nuclear combat veteran, philosopher, action figure, and low-fat hamburger grill marketer, Mr. T:

I pity the fool.

But it would be foolish of us to blame everything on the fool in the nuclear control room.

Contrary to nuclear industry spin, foolish control room operators were not at fault for the Three Mile Island meltdown. Foolish regulators cooperated with foolish utility executives to operate a foolishly complex, leaking nuclear reactor with faulty components and miscalibrated controls that badly confused the already foolish control room operators.

Which brings us to Rule 6.

Rule 6:

People don’t like or understand atomic energy:
E=MC2 is not a recipe for comfort food

More than 30 years later, my thoughts keep returning to the nuclear worker from Three Mile Island whose hands I watched shake uncontrollably on the morning of the meltdown.

Make no mistake, those control operators were scared. But the nuclear worker I watched that day wasn’t scared for the future of the atomic power industry, his job, or even for his life, as far as I could see.

He trembled with the instinctive fear of having encountered an unknown monster, in an unknown country. His was the fear of the Lilliputian running for his life when Gulliver finally wakes up.

D’oh! Fear of over-sized unknown monsters is the oldest story of the western world. It’s Homer, not just Homer Simpson.

It’s Ray Harryhausen’s 7th Voyage of Sinbad meeting the Cyclops. It’s the oldest story of the western world: The Iliad and The Odyssey. It’s Homer, not just Homer Simpson.

These operators were scared, as people always are, by the unknown, and the unpredictability of the unknown they don’t control.

E=mc2, contrary to popular belief, is not a free lunch. It’s a conversion formula, describing the equivalence of energy to mass, and the resulting enormous energies released from the interaction of very small, invisible particles. Enormous also, in commensurate scale, are the consequences, and our responsibilities.

It’s hard for human beings to grasp Einstein’s dreadful formula on any human scale.

Some nuclear industry proponents foolishly compare atomic energy to garden variety chemical reactions, like fire.

But we humans evolved with fire. The taming and handling of fire, it’s believed, helped to make us human. The use of fire, we’re told, began long ago with our evolutionary ancestors, before we humans even emerged as a species.

Writing in Science magazine in 2009, Professor David Bowman and his collaborators tell us, “The spread of highly flammable savannas, where hominids originated, likely contributed to their eventual mastery of fire. The hominid fossil record suggests that cooked food may have appeared as early as 1.9 (million years ago), although reliable evidence for controlled fire use does not appear in the archaeological record until after 400,000 years ago.”

Think about it. Our use and understanding of fire sets us apart from every other animal on the planet. Every other species on earth naturally fears fire. In a forest fire, animals instinctively run or burrow for their lives. We, on the other hand, jump into forest fires from airplanes.

Imagine the horrible cries of our hairy ape ancestors swinging in the trees when the first one of us picked up a burning stick, and felt its warmth, and watched it burn, and brought it home.

Of course, some of our ancestors burned themselves to a crisp playing with fire, as we still do. As the authors of the above paper caution, “the evolution of adaptations to fire remains a difficult topic to explore because traits that increase the rate of occurrence of fire, or of recovery following burning, are not unambiguously the result of natural selection.”

In other words, I suppose, burning yourself and your home to a crisp may decrease your chance of finding a soul mate.

Still, even to this day, what more could one want for one’s man cave than fire, flame-broiled meat, fire-brewed beer, and a fiery, large-screen tv?

Can the same ever be comfortably said for nuclear fission? Will splitting atoms ever match the gentlemanly art of grilling meat or shooting defenseless animals with a fire stick? I sincerely doubt it.

That’s not to say that some of us haven’t tried to jump the evolutionary gulf by constructing our very own backyard nuclear reactor.

Columbus of the Atom: Dave Hahn, The Radioactive Boy Scout, in police mugshot.

Lest we forget that modern day Columbus of the Atom, Dave Hahn, of suburban Detroit, Michigan, better known as the Radioactive Boy Scout. In the late 1980s Mr. Hahn famously sought an Eagle Scout Badge by building an atomic breeder reactor from tin foil and salvaged radium paint in his mom’s backyard garden shed.

Mr. Hahn’s misadventure reads like the American nuclear industry’s answer to Chairman Mao’s Great Leap Forward.

Mr. Hahn, posing as a high school science teacher, phoned up the nuclear industry and the NRC, who were only to glad and happy to offer him invaluable advice on achieving an atomic chain reaction in his own backyard. (Refer again to Rule 5: A better model fool, and Rule 3: The nuclear industry needs no help taking care of its own fools.)

Mr. Hahn’s homemade backyard nuclear reactor indeed started to heat up, and soon badly radiated his neighborhood. His face was left permanently pocked with radiation burns.

In the end, Dave Hahn was forced to tear down his backyard nuclear reactor before it went critical, lest he create His Own Private Fukushima. Unfortunately for the evolutionary progress of mankind, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was neither very amused nor supportive, and designated Mr. Hahn’s mom’s backyard a Superfund Cleanup Site.

The point is, and Mr. Hahn’s experiments notwithstanding, we’ve had millennia and more to understand and adjust to fire. Our natural affinity for quotidian chemical reactions like fire has been hard-wired into us by hundreds of thousands of years of evolution.

Not so nuclear energy. Nuclear reactions are largely immune from standard human observations and inhabit a counter-intuitive realm outside our understanding of time and our other natural senses.

Splitting atoms will always be the work of a stranger in a strange land. Our best nuclear physicists understand this, and even use the language of explorers and mystics to announce their mysterious doings.

Enrico Fermi sustained the first atomic chain reaction in 1942. To announce his successful criticality experiment (conducted with Fermi’s trademark meticulous scientific procedure, by the way) one of Fermi’s lieutenants sent a coded message to the chairman of the U.S. National Defense Research Committee:

“The Italian navigator has landed in the New World.”

“How were the natives?” Fermi’s man was asked.

“Very friendly,” came the reply.

We now know that “the natives” simply were pretending to be friendly. In reality, the unstable uranium atoms and their by-products were killing Enrico Fermi.

Fermi died at age 53 of stomach cancer. He developed cancer from radiation poisoning while constructing his large “pile” reactor built from heavy graphite bricks and uranium beneath Stagg Field, the football stadium at the University of Chicago. Several of his assistants would also die of cancer.

Which brings us to Rules 7 and 8:


Rule 7:

There are no ‘safe’ levels of radiation.

The best current thinking about the risks of radiation exposure are expressed by what’s called the linear no-threshold model, first expressed decades ago by the late Dr. John Gofman, and later endorsed by groups as varied as the National Academy of Sciences and the United Nations Committee of the Effects of Atomic Radiation, the latter of which reports:

“the Committee believes that an increase in the risk of tumour induction proportionate to the radiation dose is consistent with developing knowledge and that it remains, accordingly, the most scientifically defensible approximation of low-dose response.”

In simple words, no amount of radiation is good for you. This includes natural background radiation.

This makes lots of intuitive sense. We now realize, for example, that tumors and melanomas can be produced from too much exposure to sunshine, and that a breakdown in the earth’s ozone layer can increase this risk.

So the idea that additional man-made radiation is safe is scientifically unsupportable.

So forget about that favorite ploy of the nuclear industry, comparing doses from nuclear meltdowns to dental or chest x-rays, or MRIs. None of it’s good for you.

Take, for another example, the lessons learned from Rule 8:


Rule 8:

Theoretical physicists live to a ripe old age, experimental physicists die of radiation poisoning. Ergo, stay away from nuclear accidents.

Albert Einstein checks for coated tongue: Hysteria = e = mc2

Students of history and nuclear physics know that theoretical physicists like Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking, who work with mathematical calculations and who seldom venture near radioactive isotopes, live to ripe old ages.

Experimental physicists, like Marie Curie and Enrico Fermi, on the other hand, who work with the isotopes, have a tendency to die of radiation poisoning and cancer.

The same applies for journalists and landscape oil painters.

Therefore, Sanjay and Anderson, resist the urge to visit the vicinity of a nuclear power plant meltdown. Take it from me: you may get a by-line and a nice story exposing the apparent lies and confusion of the nuclear industry, but you’ll spend years worrying that you may have caused your body real harm.

Is a by-line, a story, or a book worth the risk? No.


The bottom line:
What can we predict from the Fukushima Experiment?

Less than three years after Enrico Fermi succeeded in building a nuclear reactor, physicists working on the first atomic bomb detonation in Alamogordo, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945, placed wagers among themselves about whether the first nuclear explosion, aptly code-named Trinity, might ignite the earth’s atmosphere or otherwise destroy our planet.

Gambling for their clothes and risking a lethal dose: Alamogordo A-bomb test.

J. Robert Oppenheimer, witnessing the awesome horror we mortals brought in the desert that night, famously quoted the ancient Bhagavad-Gita: “Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

And so we humans dare play with the fire of stars, and attempt to calculate inscrutable quantum probabilities, while the great mass of us can’t comprehend the simple 2 + 2 addition of balancing a household, or a national budget.

For me, the nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan, permitted me to revisit and re-examine the wild, rollercoaster ride of emotions and perceptions I experienced during my own hometown’s nuclear disaster in 1979. I was able to see that my own response and impressions to a nuclear meltdown are universal and natural, and not held by myself alone, or other immediate victims.

Some of the similarities of both nuclear accidents are obvious: the utility executives who seem clueless about what’s going on inside the reactor and who seem unable to provide reliable information to the public or to speak truthfully about it; the government officials who seem equally clueless about what’s going on in the reactor and who send equally mixed signals; and the spectrum of equally posturing talking heads in the media who alternatively predict Armageddon, and then offer the incident as proof that nuclear energy is safe and friendly.

As we see with the ongoing Fukushima incident, a nuclear accident causes the whole planet to go wild with hysteria, not unlike our ancestors must’ve screeched from the trees when one of us first stepped up to a burning stick to curiously stare and wonder at the warmth of its blaze.

It seems to me that all humanity is in the same uneasy predicament I found myself contemplating on the morning of the Three Mile Island accident, when I had to decide in a split second whether to run, or to turn back to face an unknown monster. In so turning, I suppose, we not only confront our feeble humanity, we’re charting our destiny by the stars.

We have no choice but to turn and plant our foot firmly in the path of the horrible thing, and resolve to carefully try to understand it, and truthfully try to explain it to others.

That’s what made us, and makes us, human beings.

A simple uneasy truth remains: when a nuclear reactor melts, we find ourselves in the same unknown country of Fermi, Oppenheimer, and their associates, and the horrified control room operators at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants.

There is one haunting fact that is as accurate today as it was on July 16, 1945, when scientists lay in the sand of Alamogordo, New Mexico, protecting their eyes, awaiting the results of the first nuclear bomb test.

No one knows what will happen.








Bill Keisling is the author of two books on the Three Mile Island accident, and one book on solar energy. He covered the Three Mile Island accident for Rolling Stone, The Progressive, and Harrisburg magazines.



Additional notes and references:

1. The Atomic Energy Commission, by Corbin Allardice and Edward Trapnell, Praeger Publishers, 1974, page 32 and pages 163-168.

2. We Almost Lost Detroit, by John Fuller, Reader’s Digest Press, 1975, page 9.

3. The Atomic Energy Commission, by Corbin Allardice and Edward Trapnell, Praeger Publishers, 1974, page 32 and pages 44-77.

4. The Accident Hazards of Nuclear Power Plants, by Richard Webb, The University of Massachusetts Press, 1976, pages 187-189.

5. Nuclear Power: The Bargain We Can’t Afford, by Richard Morgan, Environmental Action Foundation, 1977, Chapter 5, Hidden Costs.

6. We Almost Lost Detroit, by John Fuller, Reader’s Digest Press, 1975, pages 57-61.

7. Nuclear Power: The Bargain We Can’t Afford, by Richard Morgan, Environmental Action Foundation, 1977, page 38.

8. The Blair Press, Blair, Pennsylvania, April 25, 1979, page 13.

9. We Almost Lost Detroit, by John Fuller, Reader’s Digest Press, 1975, pages 104-115.

10. We Almost Lost Detroit, by John Fuller, Reader’s Digest Press, 1975, pages 159-164.

11. The Accident Hazards of Nuclear Power Plants, by Richard Webb, The University of Massachusetts Press, 1976, pages 66-73.

12. Nuclear Power: Both Sides, the best arguments for and against the most controversial technology, by Michio Kaku and Jennifer Trainer, W.W. Norton & Co., 1982, page 21.

13. The Accident Hazards of Nuclear Power Plants, by Richard Webb, The University of Massachusetts Press, 1976, pages 66-73.

14. Einstein: Profile of the Man, by Peter Michelmore, Dodd, Mead and Company, 1962, pages 8-11; see also, Einstein, by Hilaire Cuny, Paul S. Eriksson, Inc., 1962, pages 81-84.

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Post-tsunami radio clip of Jerry Taylor/Cato discussing the past and future of US nuclear power

April 7th, 2011 No comments

In the wake of the troubles at TEPCO’s Fukushima nuclear power plants, on March 18, 2011, Jerry Taylor of the Cato Institute discussed the past and future of U.S. nuclear power on WOR’s The John Gambling Show.

I note that Taylor has really only scratched the surface of the problems relating to nuclear power. For example, far from governments simply shifting the risks of nuclear power cost over-runs to ratepayers and taxpayers, this incentive structure actually compounds financial risks, as the contractors do not have to bear the amount of cost over-runs, and the utilities can put their hands into the pockets of others.

Further, Taylor has not addressed the further subsidies provided in the form of Federal liability caps and by “limited liability” state corporation laws that leave shareholders without ANY liability for damages that nuclear accidents may cause others – as has now materialized in Japan. Just as we have seen in our financial sector, the result is a loss of personal “skin in the game”, a concomitant reduction in critical oversight, unleashed moral hazard, poor decision-making and then hand-wringing and blame-shifting when the “black swans” come home to roost.

Here is the link to 10-minute clip (which Cato has so thoughtfully made easy to share, but unfortunately seems too big to upload here)


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Jerry Taylor/Cato at Forbes: "Nuclear power quite simply doesn’t make economic sense."

April 7th, 2011 No comments

I’m a fan of Jerry Taylor, an even-handed, level-headed guy working out of the Cato Institute who sometimes almost (but not quite) comes across as a radical envirofascist. (My earlier posts referencing him are here.)

Jerry’s Cato bio says he “is among the most widely cited and influential critics of federal energy and environmental policy in the nation … a frequent contributor to the Wall Street Journal and National Review and appears regularly on CNBC, NPR, Bloomberg Radio, the BBC, and Fox News. His op-eds on public policy have appeared in the pages of The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and most other major dailies.’

Jerry and his collegaue Peter Van Doren have a new piece out at and Cato Institute on nuclear power; Jerry has kindly given me permission to cross-post it in its entirety here.

[Just added: Allow me to I note that Taylor has really only scratched the surface of the problems relating to nuclear power. For example, far from governments simply shifting the risks of nuclear power cost over-runs to ratepayers and taxpayers, this incentive structure actually compounds financial risks, as the contractors do not have to bear the amount of cost over-runs, and the utilities can put their hands into the pockets of others.

[Taylor also does not address the further subsidies provided in the form of Federal liability caps and by “limited liability” state corporation laws that leave shareholders without ANY liability for damages that nuclear accidents may cause others – as has now materialized in Japan. Just as we have seen in our financial sector, the result of these government interventions is a loss of personal “skin in the game”, a concomitant reduction in critical oversight, unleashed moral hazard, poor decision-making and then hand-wringing and blame-shifting when the “black swans” come home to roost. 

[Nuclear crony capitalism is just the tip of the iceberg of the vast, rotten and still metastasizing crony-capitalist mess that limited liability corporation laws have engendered: Beyond ‘Nuclear Crony Capitalism’: Does state-created corporations mean we are stuck with a wonderfully confused ‘capitalist’ mess of socialized risk?]

This is how the Taylor and Van Doren piece appears at Cato (emphasis added)

Nuclear Power in the Dock

by Jerry Taylor and Peter Van Doren

This article appeared on on April 5, 2011.  [TT: Here’s the Forbes link.]

The unfolding nuclear emergency in Japan has prompted a reconsideration of nuclear power here in the United States. Surprisingly, the political faith in nuclear power appears to be relatively unshaken at the moment, with opinion leaders on both the left and right cautioning against overreaction and politicians in both parties swearing continued fealty to the federal campaign to jump-start new construction orders.

This is unfortunate — not necessarily because nuclear power plants are a catastrophic meltdown waiting to happen — but because nuclear power makes no sense from an economic perspective and the political campaign to ram these plants down the market’s throat threatens catastrophic harm to both taxpayers and ratepayers.

The fact that nuclear power can’t come within light-years of passing a market test is painfully obvious to all who wish to see. Consider the feds are presently telling banks that if they loan money to a utility company to build a nuclear power plant and the loan subsequently goes bad, the U.S. Treasury (that is, you) will compensate the bank for up to 90% of its losses. And yet the banks still refuse to loan. For principled supporters of a free market, that should be information enough about the merits of this commercial enterprise.

There are all sorts of reasons why banks are saying “no” to nuclear. Two in particular, however, stand out.

First, nuclear energy is not even remotely competitive in power markets with gas-fired or coal-fired electricity now or in the foreseeable future. Even the more optimistic projections of new nuclear power plant costs — such as those forwarded by MIT — find that nuclear’s production costs over the lifetime of a new facility are about 30% above those for coal or natural gas-fired generators. So while we can only speculate about new plant construction costs (we haven’t tried building one for more than 30 years) and estimates vary a great deal, all parties agree on one thing: Nuclear is substantially more expensive than conventional alternatives at present.

That’s particularly the case when one figures in the revolution in natural gas extraction, which has significantly lowered the cost of gas-fired power. Exelon CEO John Rowe recently told the press that natural gas would have to cost more than $9 per million BTUs before nuclear power plants could compete — about double its current price and far north of the $5.3 per million BTU price over the next 5 to 10 years that forecasters predict for the future. MIT’s nuclear energy study, by comparison, projects a $7 per million BTU natural gas price (which makes nuclear energy seem more competitive than it actually is), but of course, the MIT study was based on 2007 data that failed to fully reflect the revolutionary advances in hydraulic fracking.

It’s worth noting, moreover, that nuclear’s hefty price tag would be even heftier if government subsidies were to fall by the wayside. One economist calculates that existing nuclear subsidies are equal to one-third or more of the value of the power produced. Tufts economist Gilbert Metcalf estimates that nuclear power plant operators face a negative 49% tax rate. Hence, banks betting on nuclear power are also betting on the longevity of such breathtaking taxpayer largesse — a risky bet indeed.

Second, the risk of cost overruns and, thus, defaulted loans are higher than the politicians would have us believe. Most of the nuclear power plants built in this country have cost three times as much to build as utilities initially advertised at the onset of construction.

While the industry swears that this is a thing of the past, new power plants being built in Finland and France by Teollisuuden Voima and Electricite de France, respectively — the only nuclear power plants being built right now in free-market energy economies — are already coming far above their advertised cost. The Finnish plant — which was supposed to cost only 3 billion euros — is already 2.7 billion euros above cost and is four years behind schedule. The French plant fairing a bit better, only 1 billion euros over budget and two years behind schedule.

The fact that both of these projects deploy state-of-the-art reactors built by French nuclear giant Areva — arguably the most experienced nuclear power company in the world — speaks volumes. Accordingly, both the Congressional Budget Office and the Government Accountability Office expect about 50% of any future U.S. loans to default.

So why are utilities trying to build these things in the first place? Well, most aren’t. Those few utilities that are interested in going ahead do business in states where construction costs are automatically plugged into the rate base. So in theory at least, risks would be transferred from the utility to the ratepayer with utilities at least guaranteed to break even. Even so, the increasing cost gap between nuclear and gas-fired power makes it unclear whether any of these generators will actually get built.

As Peter Bradford, a former member of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and former chair of the New York and Maine utility regulatory commissions, puts it, “In truth, the nuclear renaissance has always consisted of the number of plants that government was willing to build.” Regardless, federal attempts to jump-start the industry — as Herculean as they have been — haven’t come even close to closing the competitive gap with gas-fired generation. Events unfolding in Japan are unlikely to change that. And for that, at least, we can all be thankful.

Jerry Taylor and Peter Van Doren are senior fellows at the Cato Institute.

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Shikha Dalmia of Reason Foundation doesn't feel sorry for TEPCO

March 30th, 2011 No comments

Shikha Dalmia, senior policy analyst at Reason Foundation, had a perceptive essay out last week that draws attention to the perverse role of government-provided incentives in Japan’s nuclear power industry. (Dalmia is columnist at Forbes, writes regularly for Reason magazine, and was co-winner of the first 2009 Bastiat Prize for Online Journalism.)

The article appeard in The Daily on March 24, and at Reason Online on March 29. I excerpt beloe parts of the article as it first appeared: Glowing endorsement Japan has pushed nuclear energy hard — at the expense of safety. (e,phasis added):

Nuclear advocates are dismayed that radiation fears over Japan’s Fukushima plant might kill an industry that has a better safety record than virtually any other. But the public in Japan and elsewhere has every right to question the safety of nuclear power that everywhere receives government support. The Japanese government, in particular, has aggressively pushed nuclear in its quest for energy independence, perverting with political considerations the market’s natural ability to take safety issues into account.

And judged purely by deaths per terawatt hours, nuclear is 10 times safer than solar and a thousand times safer than coal or oil. 

But that doesn’t mean there is nothing to worry about with nuclear. Its potential for catastrophe is orders of magnitude greater than any other technology. Hence, only when investors are willing to foot the entire bill for its construction and liability can we believe that nuclear is truly safe.

That, however, is not the case anywhere — least of all in Japan.

Nuclear meets about a third of Japan’s energy needs (compared to 20 percent in America) not because it is more competitive than the alternatives; it is not. Nuclear’s exorbitant upfront capital costs and long — and uncertain — lead times make it every bit as unattractive to investors in Japan as elsewhere, especially compared to other fuels.

But nuclear appeals to Japan’s mercantilist rulers, who, since the mid-’60s, have regarded the country’s lack of indigenous energy resources as a major strategic vulnerability that must be corrected at all cost. They have committed themselves to increasing Japan’s energy independence ratio from the current 35 percent to 70 percent by 2030. …

Such thinking has prompted Japanese lawmakers to push nuclear more aggressively than street vendors hawking broken Mao watches in Tiananmen Square. From 1990 to 2000, nuclear’s share of Japan’s energy mix has gone from 9 percent to 32 percent.

To get there, Japan has poured lavish subsidies into nuclear, starting with research. Around 65 percent of Japan’s energy research budget goes toward nuclear — the highest of any country — with the industry spending $250 million, well below 10 percent of what the government spends. Even France, which gets 80 percent of its energy from nuclear, spends three-and-half times less than Japan.

Beyond research, the government offers the nuclear energy industry loans that are a full percentage point below commercial levels. And for four decades, Japan has taxed the utility bills of electricity consumers, distributing the proceeds to communities willing to house nuclear plants. In essence, nuclear’s competitors are being forced to act against their own interest to bribe local communities to accept a risk against the communities’ interest. 

But the mother of all subsidies is the liability cap that nuclear enjoys. In the event of an accident, the industry is on the hook for only $1.2 billion in damages, with the government covering everything beyond that. Japan’s cap is generous even by American standards, which require the industry to cover $12.6 billion before Uncle Sam kicks in. ,,,

The liability cap effectively privatizes the profits of nuclear and socializes the risk. It uses taxpayer money to diminish the industry’s concern with safety — which government regulations can’t restore. In 2008, Tokyo actually started offering bigger subsidies to communities that agreed to fewer inspections. The problem of regulatory capture is particularly endemic in Japan given that regulators seek industry jobs upon retirement, and hence often cozy up to companies they are supposed to oversee.

Nuclear’s advocates argue that, if anything, Fukushima testifies to just how safe nuclear is given that the reactor reportedly shut down as designed in the face of a 9-magnitude earthquake even though it was built for only 7.5-magnitude. Had a freak tsunami not knocked out the backup generator needed to cool down the fuel rods, none of this would have happened.

Perhaps. But had the industry been underwritten by private companies that risk getting wiped out by lax procedures instead of a government that risks nothing, might they not have refused to insure a reactor in an earthquake-prone zone or demanded better seismological studies than those available or ensured that backup generators were built to withstand a tsunami?

Only when the nuclear industry fully internalizes safety costs will we know that it is actually safe. Until then, we can only regard Fukushima as an avoidable tragedy.

I believe that Dalmia has left out the rate guarantees that utilities typically receive. In addition, she has ignored the “limited liablity” corporation structure that eliminates any risk of personal liability for all shareholders. These aspect of course also affect the degree to which shaeholders pay attention to the risks that nuclear power plants pose to others or otherwise to diligently oversee management, and rate guarantees are a hidden tax on consumers and a subsidy to nuclear power.

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Sorry, but I can't resist asking: Feel Sorry for Tokyo Electric Power Co?

March 27th, 2011 2 comments

(Note; tongue firmly in cheek: see my straight post earlier.)

Well, maybe they weren’t WISE to build a row of nuclear power plants on a coastline known for earthquakes and a history of prior massive tsunamis, but surely the earthquake and tsunami are not TEPCO’s fault, right?

And it’s not THEIR fault that

  • their founding shareholders took advantage of Japanese limited liability incorporation laws that free shareholders from any concern about personal liability (and, as TEPCO’s shares are “fully paid-up”, from any future cash calls by management) that would otherwise exist for private enterprises;
  • the Japanese government allowed them to qualify as a ‘public company’ and thus widely raise capital from the public, under regulations that isolate managers from shareholders and create barriers to entry);
  • the Japanese government licensed TEPCO as a public utility, effectively granting it a monopoly in the greater Tokyo area,
  • the Japanese government ensured that TEPCO could raise the long-term capital necessary to fund the nuclear power plants,
    • by authorizing to set rates guaranteeing TEPCO’s returns on its investments by government,
    • by licensing the power plants themselves and approving their location, suppliers and safety, and
    • by giving TEPCO express liability caps for damages that radiation releases may cause others if an “act of nature” occurs?

And surely none of the concatenation of these acts of government, the construction of the plants and the earthquake or tsunami is the PERSONAL responsibility of any of TEPCO’s emploees, managers or executives, right? (Much less of the poor shareholders!) After all, having a corporation means that we get to embark on mega-projects that pose mega-risks, all without any real people being  personally responsible! How else, without these layers of protection for personal responsibility provided by government, would progress ever be made?

Thus, we can see clearly that this was all nothing more than a simple ACCIDENT, in which “TEPCO” – whoever the heck we consider that to mean – is the BIGGEST VICTIM – both of the earthquake/tsunamis and of Japanese silly government and citizens and customers who now clamor for TEPCO to pour more BILLIONS down a money hole! Outrageous – all of these snivelling people should just go away, and lump it, so that TEPCO can more easily figure out what it should do next. Cleanups are for governments and the smaller victims.

Such a wonderful system, allowing such marvelous works! Though unfortunate calculations might be made, the system allows us to quickly move ahead, as if nothing had happened. Naturally, TEPCO might require further assistance from government and government-protected banks, so that TEPCO can build more engineering marvels.

Boy, aren’t Austrian insights wonderful?

[Those of you who missed or who wish to refresh your recollection regarding my posts last year on a very related case, might enjoy the following link:]

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Institutionalized moral hazard: Fun with Nuclear Power in Japan, or, prepare for a glowing twilight, with scattered fallout in the morning

March 26th, 2011 4 comments

Thanks for indulging the rambling title, dear readers. My thoughts wander even as try to gather them.

I thought I would share with you some of the observations I’ve been making – tweeting, largely – on the troubled nuclear reactors that TEPCO so thoughtfully lined up on the Fukushima coast to meet the massive tsunamis on March 11.

A environmental journalist who posted the Atomic Boy’s Upset Stomach YouTube video called it little more than government-industry propaganda that glosses over the colossal abrogation of responsibility that led to the Fukushima crisis.”  While I don’t think the video was government- or industry-sponsored, I share his further sentiment (emphasis added):

there’s a gaping omission right at the beginning. Nuclear Boy has a stomach ache. No kidding. Why? …. Could it be because the government of Japan let the Toyko Electric Power Company build a series of nuclear reactors next to a seismically active fault line?

Sticking with the bowel-malfunction metaphor, perhaps the video’s creators could have produced a few frames testifying to the reality that Nuclear Boy’s parents fed him some poison because they forgot to read the label carefully. Something along those lines.

Is that too much for Japanese kids to swallow (so to speak?) I don’t think so. Responsibility is something we all try to teach our children as early as possible. It’s important that Japanese leaders acknowledge the real reasons why they (and their children) are going to have to spend tens of billions of dollars to replace the Fukushima reactors years earlier than expected. Reactors that require an independent source of electricity to maintain coolant levels are, of course, a bad idea, and one that today’s generation of reactor designers have abandoned. But building them in an earthquake zone is tantamount to lunacy.

This prompted me to leave a comment with some of my thoughts (emphasis added):

 James, your criticisms are almost spot-on.

The risk-shifting start with ‘limited liability’ corporations that frees shareholders from responsibility, escalates with ‘public companies’ (regulations isolate managers from shareholders and create barriers to entry), and is ramped up even more for utilities, which are effectively granted monopolies and guaranteed returns on investment by government. Operators of nuclear plants are then given express liability caps for damages that radiation releases may cause others.

None of the utility managers/executives will have PERSONAL liability, of course.

Given all of these government policies that truncate responsibility, can there be any surprise that risk analysis and decision-making produces obviously flawed results — and ongoing efforts to cover up and hide blame?

Here are some recent tweets on this:

Nagao versus TEPCO:Case of now dead nuclear worker reveals how Japan protects corps that exist to fulfill state policy

Japan megabanks to extend TEPCO $25 billion lifeline,as Govt is sure to limit TEPCO’s liability for damages #eqjp #p2

These days,it’s ‘capitalists’ who r the biggest socialists:’Japanese Gov prepares to protect TEPCO frm liability’ #jpeq

Moody’s on the obvious:”business risk of operating nuclear pwr plants in Japan is higher thn previously contemplated”

Cato’s Jerry Taylor: Nuclear power is “solar power for conservatives”+needs “a policy of tough love” TT’s Lost in Tokyo

Posted by: TokyoTom | March 25, 2011 9:12 AM

More in posts to come.



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More curious blindness to corporate statism, or, fun with Bob Murphy's paid energy/enviro policy posts

February 11th, 2011 No comments

 I like Bob Murphy, and think he’s doing very important work in fighting nonsense from the Fed and from Keynesians.

But I am deeply disappointed with his ongoing shallow, partisan and decidedly non-libertarian work that he does for pay for the fossil fuel lobby. It’s not quite Dr. Jekyll versus Mr. Hyde, but it’s very clearly Bob Murphy/libertarian morphing into Bob Murphy/hired-gun-for-rent-seekers. I’ve got to admit that, as a hired gun, Bob still comes off well, even if not convincing to libertarians; the fossil fuel interests are getting their money’s worth!

Bob has a post up on his Free Advice blog  – EPA Will Destroy Jobs, Not Make Them – that excerpts a post of the same name that is now the lead item at the “free market” fossil-fuel lobbying outfit “Institute for Energy Research“(no comments allowed there, of course).

IER was started by fellow rent-seeking “libertarian” Rob Bradley (IER is now in DC; Bradley is CEO but has turned over operations to lobbyists; Bradley now focusses on the “Master Resource” “free market” for-pay fossil fuel think tank that features Bob and a host of other paid apologists for rent-seekers (Rob blocks dissenting libertarians like me).

I couldn’t resist making a few comments at Bob’s (emphasis added) 

TokyoTom says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Bob, WHY must you “press on” with your thin and one-sided analysis on environmental issues? Because you’re being paid by polluters to do so?

It pains me to see that the nuanced, libertarian Bob whom we see explaining what’s wrong with the Keynesians and the Fed always takes a leave of absence, and sends in his poor substitute, the utilitarian It-Grows-Jobs-And-Makes-Us-Wealthy-To-Destroy-Commons Bob.

Yes, CERES’/PERI’s argument that regulations create jobs ignores jobs likely to be lost by mandating investments in pollution controls, their overall argument is not as simple or as obviously stupid as you make it out to be. From the executive summary:

“Clean air safeguards have benefitted the United States tremendously. Enacted in
1970, and amended in 1990, the Clean Air Act (“CA”) has delivered cleaner air,
better public health, new jobs and an impressive return on investment—providing $4
to $8 in benefits for every $1 spent on compliance

“History has proven that clean air and strong economic growth are mutually reinforcing. Since
1990, the CAA has reduced emissions of the most common air pollutants
41 percent while Gross Domestic Product increased 64 percent.2″

“Focusing on 36 states3 in the eastern half of the United States, this report evaluates
the employment impacts of the electric sector’s transformation to a cleaner, modern
fleet through investment in pollution controls and new generation capacity and
through retirement of older, less efficient generating facilities. In particular, we assess
the impacts from two CAA regulations expected to be issued in 2011: the Clean Air
Transport Rule (“Transport Rule”) governing sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide
(NOx) emissions from targeted states in the eastern half of the U.S.; and the National
Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Utility Boilers (“Utility MACT”)
rule which will, for the first time, set federal limits for hazardous air pollutants such as
mercury, lead, dioxin, and arsenic. Although our analysis considers only employment-related
impacts under the new air regulations, the reality is these new standards will
yield numerous other concrete economic benefits, including better public health from
cleaner air, increased competitiveness from developing innovative technologies and
mitigation of climate change

Given the externalities involved, you are wrong to assume that the new jobs are all costs and do not represent wealth-creating activity. If we junked the EPA and environmental laws and regulations altogether and replaced them with a strict enforcement of property rights (Block points out that we lost this because corporations bought off judges), THEN would the jobs created as people scrambled to sue and businesses scrambled to reduce pollution be wealth-creating? Surely such policies also would “stimulate productive investment and job creation”, right?

Why, then, do you consistently drop your libertarian principles when it comes to energy and environmental matters and adopt a shallow assumption than only corporations producing “desired goods” is a “productive purpose”? Why instead of a recognition of external effects/catallaxy problems, we get suggestions that government should help “the economy” via policies such as – surprise! – “lift[ing] arbitrary restrictions on domestic energy production” that would “stimulate productive investment and job creation.” (Um, remember BP, the Gulf of Mexico and all of the “wealth creation” and great new jobs that just got “created” down there?).

Why, indeed, if you’re still an honorable man? You’re better than this, Bob.

I’m sorry to be pushing meta-issues, but one of the reasons why the Left doesn’t listen to libertarians and ‘free market’ criticisms is that these criticisms seldom are acknowledge, much less directed at, the major impersonal corporate rent-seekers who REALLY are behind government and whom the Left rightly distrust.



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More by Nader and Napolitano on pushing a libertarian-progressive alliance

January 25th, 2011 1 comment


:550:0]From The Raw Story on January 12 (‘Nader: Progressive-libertarian alliance ‘the most exciting new political dynamic’ in US’)(emphasis added):

Prepare for the rise of libertarian progressives.

That was the message earlier in the week from trends analyst Gerald Celente, who predicted that the rapid acceleration of wealth into the coffers of the ultra-rich would drive a global youth resistance movement in 2011 and reformat long-held political boundaries. …

Longtime American politics gadfly Ralph Nader, a man of many ideas almost diametrically opposed by most libertarian conservatives, said Wednesday that he sees a coming convergence of liberals, progressives and libertarian conservatives in the wake of a worsening financial crisis and dogged partisanship that’s put the government into gridlock.

Speaking to Fox Business’s libertarian host Judge Napolitano, Nader called these shifting alliances “the most exciting new political dynamic” in the US today.

Nader has long been an advocate of overturning “corporate personhood“: an oft’ criticized legal principle that treats massive organizations with vast stores of wealth as individuals under the law.

So how will this left-right alliance begin?

Nader suggested that it already has, thanks to the unity of Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the most conservative and most liberal members of their respective chambers. They’ve teamed up to propose cuts to the US defense budget, which has long been by far the largest sector of America’s annual budget, and to push a more thorough audit of the Federal Reserve, the private central bank which controls America’s currency. …

Republicans in Congress have instead championed their success in extending President George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. The Congressional Research Service reported (PDF) that extending debased tax rates to the wealthy will add an additional $5.08 trillion to the US deficit over the next 10 years.

Nader added that the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, which recently failed due to a secret hold by a Republican Senator even in the face of support by libertarian conservatives and progressive liberals, could be the linchpin that brings the two groups together.

“The authentic tea partiers hail from the conservative libertarian wing of the Republican party that has been so disrespected and corporatized by the likes of Bush and Cheney,” Nader said. “So here they come into town and they’re going to go after a lot of things the Republican establishment is opposed to.”

He added that a coming “liberal-conservative connection” will ultimately “draw that distinction between the corporatist and the genuine libertarian conservatives.”

Even Napolitano agreed that there’s a “certain philosophical agreement” underlying “the role of government in our lives” that’s become shared by libertarians and progressives.

“The key thing is when they go after all the bloated corporate welfare subsidies, handouts, give-aways, bailouts — they’re going to alienate all these corporate Republicans, but they don’t care,” he said. “The one’s I’m talking about, in the House and Senate, they operate on principle. They don’t care if they’re overruled, if they don’t get the monuments or the freebies. They operate on principle and they’re going to make an alliance with the liberal progressives.”

Here is the video:



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How should libertarians react to the similarities between statist IP and the statist "climate agenda"?

November 7th, 2010 No comments

I wish to make note of a brief comment thread in the blog comments to  Stephan Kinsella‘s October 22 Mises Daily post, Rethinking Intellectual Property: History, Theory, and Economics:

TokyoTom October 26, 2010 at 1:47 am/span>

“Basically, IP protection schemes favour the large and well resourced over the man of modest means.”

Well said, Sione, and welcome back.

Large industrial firms now use patent IP as a way to erect barriers to entry; while media enterprises use copyright to loot. Meanwhile, the state is happy for help in controlling informal markets.


Sione October 26, 2010 at 5:00 pm


Yes indeed. Now extend your line of enquiry some.

Basically, global-warming schemes favour the large and well resourced over the man of modest means. Large well-connected firms now use environmental regulations as a way to erect barriers to entry; while academia uses the politics of “scientific consensus” to loot. Meanwhile, the state is happy for the helpful justifications in controlling all.

Not a great difference from the IP situation really.

Did you realise?

TokyoTom November 7, 2010 at 1:55 am

Sione, thanks for your comments; sorry to be so late in responding.

Did I realize?

– that “Large well-connected firms now use environmental regulations as a way to erect barriers to entry”? Sure, it’s been one of my continuing refrains. If we removed environmental barriers to entry+permits, public utility monopolies, limited liability of corporate shareholders, and the role of governments as owners of resources, no doubt we’d see dramatic changes in fossil fuel consumption+technology.

– that “the state is happy for the helpful justifications in controlling all”? Sure, it’s a concern that I have always shared

– that “academia uses the politics of “scientific consensus” to loot”? Academia doesn’t loot so much as it takes advantage of opportunities. Moreover, most researchers believe sincerely that we face a real serious problem; this belief is widely shared in the insurance industries and even in the oil+gas cos. No doubt they and others like Bill Gates would step in to provide funding were governments to stop doing so.


By the way, did you realize that there are principled, libertarian approaches that would address climate change risks and concerns?

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A public service announcement from Oath Keepers: Is "Constitution Day" a Celebration, Or a Memorial?

September 18th, 2010 No comments

I received the attached in my email inbox from; I have modified the format, but not altered any of the text.

I consider it thoughtful and well worth reading – though Stewart Rhodes fails to mention the how statist corporations have led the drive to strengthen the federal government and gut the Constitution:

 IS Constitution Day a Celebration, Or a Memorial?

By Stewart Rhodes, Founder of Oath Keepers]

Sept. 18, 2010

Yesterday, September 17, was the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution in 1787, at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. According to the notes of Dr. James Machinery, one of Maryland’s delegates to the Convention, it was on the last day of deliberation that a lady asked Benjamin Franklin “well Doctor what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” to which Franklin replied, “a republic, if you can keep it.”

Can we keep it? That has always been a central question. But another very good question is whether we still have a Republic to attempt to keep, or have we already lost it? Or more exactly, has it already been stolen right from beneath our noses?

Do We Still Have a Republic To Keep?

Thomas Jefferson, in his Autobiography of 1821, described the federal judiciary as:

[T]he corps of sappers and miners, steadily working to undermine the independent rights of the States and to consolidate all power in the hands of that government in which they have so important a freehold estate.

Truer words were never spoken, and that description also fits perfectly the political, academic, corporate, and banking elites of both major parties who have joined the judiciary in the . steady, relentless undermining, consolidation of power, and theft of the very sweat of our brows that began before the ink was barely dry

As for the banking elites, Jefferson had this to say:

If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issuance of their currency, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all their property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.

We are now very near that point, with our currency on the verge of being completely devalued and what is left of our wealth sucked out of us, and our children already born into monstrous debt as indentured servants of the government supremacist elites – both Democrats and Republicans – who lord over us with increasingly brazen disdain and treat us like so many heads of cattle, as Angelo Codevilla so clearly spelled out in his recent essay, America’s Ruling Class – and the Perils of Revolution (  Code villa’s essay is highly recommended reading, by the way.

What is left of our Republic? What is left of our Constitution? Not much.

A National Government of Unlimited, UN-enumerated, Undivided Powers

The Founders gave us a dual sovereignty republic.  That means states as much sovereign within their sphere as the national government is within its sphere, and a national government of limited, enumerated, and divided powers, where “[t]he powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

In Federalist 45, James Madison (widely considered the ‘father of the Constitution”) promised the American people that:

The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.

Does that sound like what we are living under today?  Hardly.  The design of the Founders’ has been turned on its head.  With the aid of complicit judges – that “corps of sappers and miners” – who willfully misinterpret the Commerce Clause to grant Congress the power to regulate literally anything, we now have ruling elites who will admit of no restraints on national power.   In Justice Thomas’ dissent in Gonzales vs. Raich (, he stated the obvious:  

Respondents Diane Monsoon and Angel Raich use marijuana that has never been bought or sold, that has never crossed state lines, and that has had no demonstrable effect on the national market for marijuana. If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything-and the Federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers … By holding that Congress may regulate activity that is neither interstate nor commerce under the Interstate Commerce Clause, the Court abandons any attempt to enforce the Constitution’s limits on federal power. (emphasis added).

Because the Raich case involved medical marijuana, conservatives, including Justice Scalia, joined the liberals on the Court in championing a gross expansion of Congress’ power to regulate commerce, which is now practically unlimited.  Much like the Parliament the founding generation rebelled against, Congress now claims a power to legislate over us in all cases whatsoever, down to the minutest details of our daily lives.  Just ask Speaker Pelosi or any other Congress-critter where in the Constitution Congress is delegated the power to regulate all that it does.  The answer will be “are you serious?” because, based on the Supreme Court’s rewriting of the Commerce Clause, they presume that all power not expressly and specifically prohibited by the Constitution is granted to the national government.  In other words, the exact opposite of what our Tenth Amendment actually says and the exact opposite of what Madison promised would be the balance of power between the national government and the states. 

The claimed power of the federal government now obviously extends “to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.”   And the Tenth Amendment may as well be re-written to read “all powers not expressly prohibited to the United States by the Constitution, nor expressly reserved to the states or to the people, are delegated by it to the United States.”

Destruction of State Sovereignty, State Military Power, and Circumvention of the State Legislatures and Governors During Emergencies

Following up on the absurdly gross expansion of Congress’ claimed power to legislate anything and everything, the federal government then uses the Supremacy Clause to supersede state laws.  If Congress can regulate anything, that means that any regulation it passes, or any edict by unelected bureaucrats in some federal agency, is now the supreme law of the land, and trumps state law.  And the states are powerless to stop it (or so the story goes).   Witness the recent claim by the federal government that the Supremacy Clause prevents Arizona from doing anything meaningful about the illegal aliens crossing its borders despite federal failure to handle that problem.

But the elites who control all three branches of the federal government are not content to simply gut state legislative power.  They have also gutted the military power of the states, the power of states to deal with emergencies, and the lines of sovereignty clearly spelled out in the Constitution when it comes to use of federal power within a state.

The Gutting of the State Militias

The Founders’ answer to that ancient question of “who shall guard the guardians?” was that we, the people, would be our own guardians, in our state militias.   Students of history, they clearly saw the dangers of standing armies, and that is why the Second Amendment to the Constitution declares:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

As Dr. Edwin Vieira has pointed out numerous times, the use of that term “necessary” is only used once in the entire Constitution, and it is used in reference to the militia because that is the one institution that is necessary to the security of a free state.   This is so because when the military power is held in the hands of the people, in militias constituted by the body of the people trained and armed, they cannot be tyrannized.  And frankly, no people can long remain free unless so armed, trained, and formed into militias.  It is necessary.    See Dr. Vieira’s excellent article Going to the Root of the Problem, available at

And the militia was intended to comprise the great body of the citizenry, trained and equipped with arms, not a select militia.  Yes, both by statutes and by clauses within the state constitutions the militia is still defined as the body of the people.  For just one example, the Constitution of Montana, Article VI, Section 13, Militia, still declares:

(1) The governor is commander-in-chief of the militia forces of the state, except when they are in the actual service of the United States. He may call out any part or all of the forces to aid in the execution of the laws, suppress insurrection, repel invasion, or protect life and property in natural disasters.
(2) The militia forces shall consist of all able-bodied citizens of the state except those exempted by law.

But what has happened?  Where are the actual militia forces of Montana, made up of all able-bodied citizens except those exempted by law?  Certainly you can say that the people of Montana still constitute those militia forces, but they are not organized, trained, equipped, nor do they muster to train or to deploy.  When were they last called up by either the Governor of Montana or by the United States?   As with nearly all of the states, those militias have been allowed to whither away till they are but a distant memory.  As actual military forces worthy of that name, they exist on paper only.  What is left is a potential pool of unorganized militia, which may or may not be equipped, armed, and trained, depending entirely on the actions of the individual citizen.  That pool of the population is not formed up into units (except for the occasional private militia associations that have formed in an attempt to revitalize an actual militia), and those units have not been called up by anyone in living memory.

By means of slow and artful manipulation, and by means of the plain, simple laziness of the American people, we no longer have an actual, physical citizens’ militia in each state, made up of the able bodied citizenry actually trained, equipped, and organized with citizens coming together in a public militia.  Instead, the militia was allowed to atrophy and die with few exceptions.  And even with the exceptions, such as the Ohio Naval Militia, ( or the few State Defense Forces, they are usually unarmed, which makes no sense.  Just how are they supposed to “repel invasions” or “suppress insurrections” without arms? 

Instead of militia made up of the body of the people trained and armed, we have only the National Guard.  But what is the National Guard?  Or more to the point, where is the National Guard?   By and large, the National Guard is merely an auxiliary or reserve for the standing Army, and our Guard units are deployed overseas with increasing frequency.   They are most often unavailable to help here at home. The Founders never intended for the militia to be used abroad as an auxiliary for the standing Army.  Article 1, Section 8 contemplates the militia of the several states being called forth “to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions.”  The militia was meant to be used domestically, to keep the peace here at home, while the Navy and Army were to be used abroad, against external foes.

FEMA, NORTHCOM, and the Council of Governors Fill the Void

As Dr. Vieira points out, with the states having no real state militias, and with the National Guard sent abroad as an auxiliary to the standing Army, the states are left defenseless and weak, unable to provide for their own security, and unable to care for their own citizens during emergencies.   And into that vacuum, predictably, steps the federal government in the form of FEMA, DHS, and NORTHCOM, with standing Army troops now deployed here in the United States to do the job that is supposed to be done by we the people in our state militias. Once again, the Founders’ design has been stood on its head. 

What did the founders intend to be the relationship of the states to the federal government when it came to use of military force within the states in times of emergency?  Article IV, Section IV of our Constitution states:

The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.

Notice that even when it comes to aiding a state that is facing domestic violence – i.e. an insurrection aimed at overthrowing the free, elected government of that state – the national government cannot enter a state with military force unless invited in by the state legislature or by the governor of the state if the state legislature cannot be convened.  The “Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive,” is a necessary prerequisite.  That requirement is a reflection of our dual sovereignty system, where we are supposed to have sovereign states that are every bit as sovereign within their sphere as the national government is within its sphere.  And it is a reflection of what it means to have a “Republican form of Government” which means a government by consent of the governed, consisting of a representative legislature, executive, and a judiciary established pursuant to the constitution of that sovereign state, and a preservation of the balance of sovereignty maintained by our national constitution. 

And what military institution was to be called forth to defend states against domestic violence (such as riots and insurrections) upon the application of that state?  The militia of the several states.  That meant that even if a state requested federal intervention in its internal affairs, the military force sent in was to be the militia of the several other states, not the standing Army.  As we saw during Hurricane Katrina, where units of the Utah National Guard (and reportedly a few other states as well) refused to participate in gun confiscation, the closer we stick to the ideal of a citizens militia, the less beholden to the federal government and the less susceptible to pressure to go along to get along will those troops be.  It is far easier to pressure a career military man to obey unconstitutional orders than it is to pressure a National Guardsman who already has a day job back home, and won’t care much if he is dismissed.  The same would go for an actual state militia member.

But Article IV, Section IV is all but ignored today.  Instead, the federal government has divided the United States into ten regions with both FEMA (which is now part of DHS) and NORTHCOM sharing those regions for both emergency and domestic military deployment.  See

Add to this the new Council of Governors, required by the Fiscal Year 2008 National Defense Authorization Act which stated, “The President shall establish a bipartisan Council of Governors to advise the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the White House Homeland Security Council on matters related to the National Guard and civil support missions.”  The selection of the governors to sit on that council almost exactly matches that FEMA/NORTHCOM ten regions map.   Those hand picked governors are to “advise” the federal Homeland Security/homeland military/FEMA/White House leviathan on actions it will decide to take within the states.  Even if those ten appointed governors could consent on behalf of each state – which they cannot (that being a violation of Article IV, Section IV) – their consent is not even sought – only their advice.  And that advice can be taken or simply ignored.  

In keeping with the nationalization of everything, FEMA and NORTHCOM increasingly act as though the states don’t even exist (except as possibly convenient sub-divisions), conducting regional training operations involving standing Army, Reserves, Guard troops, FEMA, DHS, and private contractors within the ten regions with nary a call to the governors, let alone seeking permission from the legislature of any state, and assuming perpetual command of the state National Guard units.  See NORTHCOM, NORAD, Guard, Inextricably Linked    (

As that National Guard article states:

NORTHCOM has a unique degree of the jointness sought throughout the Defense Department. A mix of National Guard, Reserve, Coast Guard, active duty component, senior civilians and contractors fill the command’s ranks.

The command partners with Canada and Mexico and with Defense Department, civilian and private agencies – more than 60 organizations.
Nary a mention of any requirement to seek the permission or even participation of the various state legislatures or state governors.   The major players are federal or federalized assets and foreign governments.   And, foreign troops are increasingly invited to participate:

A feature of recent exercises has been foreign military involvement.  The Iowa Vigilant Guard exercise involved troops from Mexico, Japan, Australia, South Korea, Bahamas, and Senegal.  The Montana Vigilant Guard exercise will include the participation of Kyrgzstan.
The foreign troops were invited in “to learn about how the U.S. military communicates and works with civilian emergency responders.”
This is all being done as part of the National Guard State Partnership Program.  According to the National Guard 2010 Posture Statement: 

The National Guard State Partnership Program (SPP)
establishes enduring and mutually beneficial partnerships
between foreign countries and American states through the
National Guard. This program is an important component
of the Department of Defense’s security cooperation
strategy, the regional Combatant Commanders’ theater
engagement program, and the U.S. ambassadors’ Mission
Strategic Plans.

Thus, Montana is partnered with Kyrgyzstan, Alabama is partnered with Romania, Alaska with Mongolia, Arizona with Kazakhstan, Arkansas with Guatemala, California with Nigeria and Ukraine, and so on.  For the full list, go here:
Do you suppose the state legislatures or governors had any say about which country their state was “partnered’ with?   To borrow Pelosi’s favorite saying, “are you serious?”  So, what, exactly, are the state governors really in command of, as the supposed commanders in chief of their state militia forces?  Not much.  And how sovereign are the supposedly sovereign states?  Again, not much.  Not anymore.

We now have a national government of nearly unlimited de facto powers, grown like a metastasizing cancer far beyond the bounds of anything foreseen by even the most skeptical of Anti-Federalists from the Founding era.  All actual, physical and structural powers of any real meaning – legislative, military, legal, law enforcement, and economic – are consolidated in the hands of the federal government.   And we are not even talking about the hydra-like overlay of international law and international unelected agencies and untouchable international “officials” that are also being imposed up us by means of treaties, executive partnerships (such as the supposedly now defunct Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America and other constitutionally dubious mechanisms.
The states retain only what paltry “powers” the federal government deems it convenient to leave with the state, with those powers and assets always subject to nationalization or preemption at the pleasure of the national elites.  Just look at how easily and completely the peace officers of Arizona are being outgunned and outmanned by the Mexican drug cartels now boldly occupying whole sections of that sovereign state to the degree that those areas are now “no go” zones for Arizona citizens who wish to stay alive. 

And to what degree do the states have any form of independent, real money (i.e. backed by gold or silver)?  Again, not by much.  In fact, zero.   As Vieira’s Going to the Root of the Problem article points out, this is the second great weakness of the states, right along with having no militia, and thus no security.  The states are financially and militarily impotent, and thus their populations are ripe for federal intervention during emergencies or during an economic collapse.  With no preparation and no ability to keep the peace, the people of the states (except perhaps the more hardy rural states) will be desperate for aid during emergencies and will likely welcome even “martial law” with open arms during a severe enough emergency. 

To borrow from the canned speech phrase used by every President’s state of the Union address, the state of the federal government is super-strong, the state of the states is pathetically weak.

With the concept of dual sovereignty, limited government power, and even national sovereignty nearly wiped away, and with the states weakened to the point of failure during even modest crisis, all we have left as a check on government abuse is our Bill of Rights.  But those last restraints are also under relentless assault.

The Gutting of the Bill of Rights

How is the Bill of Rights being gutted?  Here are just a few examples:

The absurdity of “free speech zones.”   All too often, citizen protesters are now confined “at a safe distance” in ‘free speech zones” during public political events.  This whole nation is supposed to be a free speech zone!  And any public sidewalk is your public forum so long as you don’t block pedestrian traffic.  But that principle is now under attack, along with the rest of the First Amendment, and you are now likely to be threatened with sound wave or microwave weapons, as occurred during the G20 meeting, for merely exercising your right to peaceably assemble, petition your government for a redress of grievances, and speak out freely.  You can only do so safely in a government approved, cordoned off “free speech zone” far away from the anointed beautiful people who cannot be bothered with ugly, dirty protesters.  And in addition to the blatant violations of free speech being carried out, we have attempts to further chill and limit speech with proposed legislation such as the Disclose Act, which would have mandated disclosure of donors to small non-profit advocacy groups but would have exempted existing large organizations, and by means of targeting people and organizations with being placed on a “list” of “extremists” by the DHS or by the Southern Poverty Law Center (essentially now part of DHS).

The watering down of the Second Amendment.  The Second Amendment was plainly meant to preserve the military power of the people.  It was meant to protect and preserve the right of the people to keep and bear arms of military utility, so that they may form the militias “necessary for the security of a free state,” with sufficient power to “execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions” – as Article 1, Section 8 contemplates.   While the Supreme Court in the Heller decision finally, at last, recognized the obvious fact that the Second Amendment protected an individual right to bear arms, and that the people were expected to provide their own arms for militia duty, it failed to recognize the obvious related necessity that they thus be able to keep and bear arms of military utility (which the Miller case at least contemplated).  Instead, the Heller Court told us that we have a right to keep and bear only those weapons that are “commonly kept for lawful purposes,” whatever that means.  Such a standard leaves intact nearly any and all restrictions, registration, prohibitions on types of firearms, and even leaves intact prohibitions on the actual bearing of arms outside our homes (imagine a similar prohibition on free speech, free press, or assembly outside of your home being found “constitutional”).  The Court carved out protections for nearly any regulation or prohibition on types of weapons, and any restrictions on the keeping and bearing of arms short of a total ban.

The gutting of the Fourth Amendment.  The Fourth Amendment, born out of the Founding Generation’s experiences under the egregious writs of assistance, has now been carved with so many exceptions that it is a laughable farce which can be circumvented at will by crafty government lawyers, with nearly any kind of warrantless search deemed “constitutional” under one exception or another, resulting in the FBI issuing itself “national security letters” to search without a showing of probable cause to an independent judge, sneak and peek searches of our homes, random vehicular “your papers please” check points for all manner of excuses now common, routine upholding of warrantless searches by police under a plethora of exceptions (most based on ever expanding zones of “officer safety”), and with the most extreme claim being that the Fourth Amendment doesn’t even apply at all to warrantless surveillance of Americans when it is done in the name of national security, as in the case of the NSA domestic spying, with the rationale that such is surveillance of the battlefield in the war on terror.

The gutting of the Fifth and Sixth Amendments.   The federal government now makes the Orwellian claim that we still have a right to “due process” despite the executive branch claiming the power to detain American citizens in military brigs and deprive them of their liberty without Grand Jury indictment, without jury trial (and without even a suspension of habeas corpus by Congress), and to even try American civilians before military tribunal (and note that Obama has not renounced any of those claimed powers advanced by the Bush Administration).  This is essentially a claim that American citizens can be treated exactly the same as a foreign enemy in wartime – exactly like citizens of occupied Iraq or Afghanistan, in direct violation of the Article III Treason Clause, which makes very clear what must be done with a citizen accused of making war against the United States or aiding and abetting its enemies – such a citizen must be tried for treason, in a civilian court before a civilian jury.   See Justice Scalia’s dissent in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld ( 

This claimed power now includes the asserted power  that the government can assassinate its own citizens if the President determines that they are a threat to national security – no “due process” of any kind, no trial for treason as Article III mandates, no right to face your accusers, not even a military tribunal, just straight to execution on sight.  And don’t think any of the above will be used only against Americans who have become Islamacists and embarked on jihad.  Government lawyers and judges have been very careful to ensure that there is no legal distinction whatsoever made on those grounds – the above illustrated claimed powers apply to ALL OF US;

Claims that government may impose “Martial law.”     The above noted claimed power to designate American citizens as “enemy combatants” is itself a form of martial law, being the claim that the international laws of war may be applied to the American people by their own government.  However, even aside from that extraordinary claim of power, government officials at every level are increasingly asserting that during a national emergency of any kind, the Constitution and Bill of Rights can be suspended and martial law imposed on us, though that term is nowhere even mentioned in our Constitution.  Go ahead, look for it in the text.  It is not there – and for damn good reason.

Martial law is no law at all except for the will of the commander on the battlefield.  Martial law is what we imposed on defeated and occupied Germany, Japan, and Iraq.  Nowhere in our Constitution is any branch of government, at any level, whether state or federal, given the power to set aside the Constitution of the United States and the constitutions of the several states and treat the American people like conquered enemies in wartime.  Not only is “martial law” absent from the Constitution, and in direct violation of Article IV, Section IV (the guarantee of Republican government), it is a power foreign to our system of government, which is supposed to be a government of laws, not men, with the government having only those powers granted by the consent of the people.  Remember, one of the grievances listed in our Declaration of Independence, against the King, was that “He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.”  The Crown had imposed martial law on a rebellious Boston, and it was during that occupation that the expedition to seize arms at Lexington and Concord finally led to open conflict.  Martial law is in fact a complete lack of law.  It is anti-law and is anti-constitutional.  See Dr. Edwin Vieira, A Primer on Martial Law,  And the principle of civilian command of the military is expressed both by Article II, which makes the President, an elected civilian, Commander in Chief of the armed forces, even above life-long professional military Generals. This principle is also reflected in the Third Amendment, which prohibits the quartering of soldiers in any home, even in time of war, “but in a manner to be prescribed by law” and that means by law written by Congress and signed by the President.  Add to that all of the Article 1, Section 8 powers of Congress to regulate the armed forces, to make rules for capture, and to define and punish violations of the laws of nations, and to declare war, etc. and it becomes clear how illegitimate and wildly unconstitutional any claimed power to impose “martial law” really is.  And yet, government supremacist elites increasingly insist that they have an inherit or implied power to invoke “martial law” and impose rule by fiat, by simple decree upon us.  History has a name for such rule by decree, by the dictates of The Leader – dictatorship.

The Ninth Amendment has been ignored.  The Ninth Amendment states that “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” (emphasis added).  The Ninth Amendment uses the command language “shall not” and is as much a command as “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” It also speaks of the enumeration (the listing) in the Constitution of certain rights, not the “creation by the Constitution of certain rights.”  This is no accident.  The Bill of Rights does not create rights, but merely provides protection for rights that already exist.  As our Declaration of Independence made clear, our rights predate any government and come from our creator, not from government.  Our rights come first, and are ours by virtue of nature and nature’s God.  Governments come later, being instituted among men to protect those natural rights.  And yet, we now have over us legal, political, and academic elites that assert the exact opposite – that we have only those “rights” granted by government.  And that is a common perspective of elites from both sides of the aisle. 

The Tenth Amendment has been ignored.  As already discussed above, the Tenth Amendment has been so ignored that it may as well read exactly the opposite.  We now have a national government that claims all powers not clearly and expressly prohibited to it by the Constitution, and we have states that only have whatever scraps of power the federal government deems to give them, until such time as it decides to take those powers away by simply passing federal legislation and then evoking the Supremacy Clause.

The Bizzaro Anti-Republic

The above only barely scratches the surface.  There are a great many other examples of violations of the Constitution and usurpations of powers never granted.  Suffice it to say that the elites of both parties in power in this country have almost completely cut themselves loose from the chains of the Constitution while at the same time having almost totally expanded their power, while also eviscerating the power of the states.
Right down the line, the Founders’ design of a dual sovereignty, balanced Constitutional Republic made up of sovereign states and a national government of limited powers, with those boundaries enforced both by the state legislatures, governors, by a Bill of Rights with teeth, and, as a last resort, by an armed populace in their state militias (which were to be strong enough to repel invasions), has been turned upside down and inside out till it is the exact mirror opposite of what it was supposed to be. We are now living in the “Bizzaro” Republic, or the Anti-Republic. Rather than a massive sea of the rights and powers of the people and tiny islands of government power, we now live on tiny, shrinking islands of “rights” and state powers in a great sea of federal and even international government powers. And the tide is rising.

And so, is the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution cause for celebration, or for mourning?  Should we still bother to celebrate Constitution Day? Should we bother to read that old, dusty document from so long ago?

Yes we should. By all means.  But why, you may ask, given all that I have said above, should we do so?  

In a follow-up article I will give you several very good, and very powerful reasons to celebrate, honor, read, and to DEFEND the Constitution, and to work hard for the Restoration of this Republic.  

And by the way, with all due respect to Dr. Franklin, the birth-date of this Republic was not, in fact, September 17, 1787.  I hold that our Republic was actually officially born on July 4, 1776.  That was when the American people separated themselves from their former country, Great Britain, dissolving the political bands which had connected them with another people, and assumed “among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them.”  Yes, each state was its own republic, but they together formed the united States of America, and on that day we became a separate people. 

In fact, one could argue that our Republic was unofficially born on April 19, 1775, at Concord and Lexington, or perhaps even farther back, in the hearts and minds of the men and women of America in the early years of American resistance.  But in any case, the spirit of the American Revolution, the spirit of liberty, what came to be known as the Spirit of 76, was alive and well in the hearts and minds of the American people long before the Constitution of 1787 was written, and good men and women shed their blood for liberty, for the “fate of unborn millions” long, long before anyone even heard of the Constitution.  And that makes perfect sense.  As Judge Learned Hand once remarked:

I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon law and upon courts. These are false hopes, believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it. While it lies there it needs no constitution, no law, no courts to save it.

Before we can know whether we can keep our Republic, the central question is whether liberty still lies in our hearts, as it did in the hearts of the Founding Generation and in the hearts of all who stood in its defense since.  The answer to that question makes all the difference to if and how we shall keep and restore our Republic.

For the Republic (born in the American Revolution!), and in defense of the Constitution still, as always,
Stewart Rhodes
Founder of Oath Keepers
Kalispell, Montana, Sept. 18, 2010

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