Friday, April 20, 2018

The Death of Liberal Biopolitics and the Rise of the Masters of the Universe

I've been making an academic argument that liberal rights (conceived in the classical sense of self-ownership) and social-welfare policies are giving way to a new social paradigm that is more properly understood in relation to totalitarianism at home and state mercantilism abroad. For example, see

Trump's latest policy inversion lends additional support to my thesis that liberalism, including liberal wars fought in the name of human rights, is ceding to this new form of governance.

State mercantilism clearly trumps human rights in this latest Trump policy innovation:
Mike Stone (2018, April 19) Trump Launches effort to boost us weapons sales abroad. Reuters.
Human rights will now carry equal weight alongside other considerations in planned arms sales including the needs of allied nations and the economic loss if the U.S. contractor does not win the sale when decisions are made on whether to approve an arms deal.... 

The article states that the  new policy abbreviates the risk assessment used to evaluate the likelihood that a particular arms sale would result in human rights abuses:
“the policy did away with the more comprehensive assessment of risks when contemplating a weapons deal. A transaction can still occur to a human rights abuser so long as the U.S. has no specific knowledge that system will be used to commit atrocity crimes,”

Human rights is no longer a principle value. It is one of a set of values that include economic benefits and other considerations, which were not identified in their particularities.

It is clear that Trump is concerned with economic benefits, although his concern is exclusively limited to the economic benefits of the most powerful corporations, especially in the arms and financial industries.

Let guns and electronic capital circulate wherever they may expropriate value!

Buried on page B8 in The Wall Street Journal's print edition yesterday (4/18/2018), was the following article describing the Federal Reserve's new anti-regulatory policies headed by its "new regulatory czar" Fed Vice Chairman for Supervision Randal Quarles, appointed by President Trump.

Quarles "promised to consider changes to big-bank capital rules, annual 'stress tests,' the Volcker rule ban on speculative trading and rules on lending to the poor in a three-hour hearing before the Financial Services Committee."

Quarles comes out of the world of private equity and previously worked at the Cynosure and Carlyle Groups, according to Wikipedia

Those people want regulations only when it contributes to their capital accumulation. Regulations that require capital requirements aren't acceptable to these people. After all, as I noted last week hedge funds aren't held to the same regulatory standards as everyone else.

Hedge funds and their types are owned and operated by the Masters of the Universe. See discussion here:

Their tolerance for beneficence for the little people is over.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Japan Discovers Rare Earth Trove but Cannot Contain Fukushima

Japan recently announced discovery of a trove of rare earths deep under the water. News coverage of the discovery promised new technology that would extract the coveted elements from the mud under deep waters:
Takahiro Takenouchi (April 17, 2018). Centuries worth of rare earth elements found in Japan's EEZ. The Asahi Shimbun

Massive deposits of rare earth minerals that could meet global demand for centuries have been found in Japan's exclusive economic zone off the Ogasawara island chain 2,000 kilometers southwest of Tokyo, researchers said. The deposits, estimated at 16 million tons, lie at a depth of 5,700 meters about 250 km south of Minami-Torishima island in the Pacific Ocean.
This is a strategic find because China currently controls the end product distribution of rare earths.

That is a problem for the US, as noted in a Dec 16, 2013 report produced by the US Congressional Research Service addressing the global rare earth supply chain

The report's lead author, Marc Humphries explains in the preface:
The concentration of production of rare earth elements (REEs) outside the United States raises the important issue of supply vulnerability. REEs are used for new energy technologies and national security applications. Two key questions of interest to Congress are: (1) Is the United States vulnerable to supply disruptions of REEs? (2) Are these elements essential to U.S. national security and economic well-being?

China controls end-distribution because processing there is cheaper. That is because rare-earth mining and refining are very dirty and hazardous processes, and China doesn't meet the highest standards for reducing hazards. The adverse impacts of rare earth mining in China were examined by the Guardian here:

One of the main problems with mining and refining rare earths is that they are often found with thorium, which is radioactive and decays into unstable elements ( 

Rare earth mining and refining worsen problems of radioactive waste. I wonder how Japan will handle the radioactive waste problem with rare earth mining?

Meanwhile Fukushima Daiichi really is puffing today. I noticed the uptick in emissions yesterday but wanted to establish whether there was a trend toward more visible emissions. I would say yes and note that the weather conditions are 73 degrees Fahrenheit, 40% precipitation, 70% humidity, and no wind.