"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Government’

Our Invisible Revolution

In Uncategorized on November 4, 2013 at 6:36 pm

Oldspeak: “As long as most citizens believe in the ideas that justify global capitalism, the private and state institutions that serve our corporate masters are unassailable. When these ideas are shattered, the institutions that buttress the ruling class deflate and collapse. The battle of ideas is percolating below the surface. It is a battle the corporate state is steadily losing. An increasing number of Americans are getting it. They know that we have been stripped of political power. They recognize that we have been shorn of our most basic and cherished civil liberties, and live under the gaze of the most intrusive security and surveillance apparatus in human history. Half the country lives in poverty. Many of the rest of us, if the corporate state is not overthrown, will join them. These truths are no longer hidden… Revolution usually erupts over events that would, in normal circumstances, be considered meaningless or minor acts of injustice by the state. But once the tinder of revolt has piled up, as it has in the United States, an insignificant spark easily ignites popular rebellion. No person or movement can ignite this tinder. No one knows where or when the eruption will take place. No one knows the form it will take. But it is certain now that a popular revolt is coming. The refusal by the corporate state to address even the minimal grievances of the citizenry, along with the abject failure to remedy the mounting state repression, the chronic unemployment and underemployment, the massive debt peonage that is crippling more than half of Americans, and the loss of hope and widespread despair, means that blowback is inevitable… By the time ruling elites are openly defied, there has already been a nearly total loss of faith in the ideas—in our case free market capitalism and globalization—that sustain the structures of the ruling elites. And once enough people get it, a process that can take years, “the slow, quiet, and peaceful social evolution becomes quick, militant, and violent,” as Berkman wrote. “Evolution becomes revolution.”…. The corporate state seeks to maintain the fiction of our personal agency in the political and economic process. As long as we believe we are participants, a lie sustained through massive propaganda campaigns, endless and absurd election cycles and the pageantry of empty political theater, our corporate oligarchs rest easy in their private jets, boardrooms, penthouses and mansions. As the bankruptcy of corporate capitalism and globalization is exposed, the ruling elite are increasingly nervous. They know that if the ideas that justify their power die, they are finished. This is why voices of dissent—as well as spontaneous uprisings such as the Occupy movement—are ruthlessly crushed by the corporate state.” -Chris Hedges

“The prescient words of Elder Gil Scott-Heron rings true today “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”. Nevertheless its underway worldwide. The elites are scrambling to expand their means to watch, manipulate and control the people. Their efforts will fail, as more and more people get it and awaken from the “world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth”. The matrix is only as powerful as its energy source. People are that energy source. Their efforts make the elites possible. As more and more people disconnect their energy from toxic, obsolete, inequitable, and unsustainable systems, the Matrix will collapse. “Extend and Pretend” can only persist for so much longer.” -OSJ

By Chris Hedges @ Truthdig:

“Did you ever ask yourself how it happens that government and capitalism continue to exist in spite of all the evil and trouble they are causing in the world?” the anarchist Alexander Berkman wrote in his essay “The Idea Is the Thing.” “If you did, then your answer must have been that it is because the people support those institutions, and that they support them because they believe in them.”

Berkman was right. As long as most citizens believe in the ideas that justify global capitalism, the private and state institutions that serve our corporate masters are unassailable. When these ideas are shattered, the institutions that buttress the ruling class deflate and collapse. The battle of ideas is percolating below the surface. It is a battle the corporate state is steadily losing. An increasing number of Americans are getting it. They know that we have been stripped of political power. They recognize that we have been shorn of our most basic and cherished civil liberties, and live under the gaze of the most intrusive security and surveillance apparatus in human history. Half the country lives in poverty. Many of the rest of us, if the corporate state is not overthrown, will join them. These truths are no longer hidden.

It appears that political ferment is dormant in the United States. This is incorrect. The ideas that sustain the corporate state are swiftly losing their efficacy across the political spectrum. The ideas that are rising to take their place, however, are inchoate. The right has retreated into Christian fascism and a celebration of the gun culture. The left, knocked off balance by decades of fierce state repression in the name of anti-communism, is struggling to rebuild and define itself. Popular revulsion for the ruling elite, however, is nearly universal. It is a question of which ideas will capture the public’s imagination.

Revolution usually erupts over events that would, in normal circumstances, be considered meaningless or minor acts of injustice by the state. But once the tinder of revolt has piled up, as it has in the United States, an insignificant spark easily ignites popular rebellion. No person or movement can ignite this tinder. No one knows where or when the eruption will take place. No one knows the form it will take. But it is certain now that a popular revolt is coming. The refusal by the corporate state to address even the minimal grievances of the citizenry, along with the abject failure to remedy the mounting state repression, the chronic unemployment and underemployment, the massive debt peonage that is crippling more than half of Americans, and the loss of hope and widespread despair, means that blowback is inevitable.

“Because revolution is evolution at its boiling point you cannot ‘make’ a real revolution any more than you can hasten the boiling of a tea kettle,” Berkman wrote. “It is the fire underneath that makes it boil: how quickly it will come to the boiling point will depend on how strong the fire is.”

Revolutions, when they erupt, appear to the elites and the establishment to be sudden and unexpected. This is because the real work of revolutionary ferment and consciousness is unseen by the mainstream society, noticed only after it has largely been completed. Throughout history, those who have sought radical change have always had to first discredit the ideas used to prop up ruling elites and construct alternative ideas for society, ideas often embodied in a utopian revolutionary myth. The articulation of a viable socialism as an alternative to corporate tyranny—as attempted by the book “Imagine: Living in a Socialist USA” and the website Popular Resistance—is, for me, paramount. Once ideas shift for a large portion of a population, once the vision of a new society grips the popular imagination, the old regime is finished.

An uprising that is devoid of ideas and vision is never a threat to ruling elites. Social upheaval without clear definition and direction, without ideas behind it, descends into nihilism, random violence and chaos. It consumes itself. This, at its core, is why I disagree with some elements of the Black Bloc anarchists. I believe in strategy. And so did many anarchists, including Berkman, Emma Goldman, Pyotr Kropotkin and Mikhail Bakunin.

By the time ruling elites are openly defied, there has already been a nearly total loss of faith in the ideas—in our case free market capitalism and globalization—that sustain the structures of the ruling elites. And once enough people get it, a process that can take years, “the slow, quiet, and peaceful social evolution becomes quick, militant, and violent,” as Berkman wrote. “Evolution becomes revolution.”

This is where we are headed. I do not say this because I am a supporter of revolution. I am not. I prefer the piecemeal and incremental reforms of a functioning democracy. I prefer a system in which our social institutions permit the citizenry to nonviolently dismiss those in authority. I prefer a system in which institutions are independent and not captive to corporate power. But we do not live in such a system. Revolt is the only option left. Ruling elites, once the ideas that justify their existence are dead, resort to force. It is their final clutch at power. If a nonviolent popular movement is able to ideologically disarm the bureaucrats, civil servants and police—to get them, in essence, to defect—nonviolent revolution is possible. But if the state can organize effective and prolonged violence against dissent, it spawns reactive revolutionary violence, or what the state calls terrorism. Violent revolutions usually give rise to revolutionaries as ruthless as their adversaries. “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster,” Friedrich Nietzsche wrote. “And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”

Violent revolutions are always tragic. I, and many other activists, seek to keep our uprising nonviolent. We seek to spare the country the savagery of domestic violence by both the state and its opponents. There is no guarantee that we will succeed, especially with the corporate state controlling a vast internal security apparatus and militarized police forces. But we must try.

Corporations, freed from all laws, government regulations and internal constraints, are stealing as much as they can, as fast as they can, on the way down. The managers of corporations no longer care about the effects of their pillage. Many expect the systems they are looting to fall apart. They are blinded by personal greed and hubris. They believe their obscene wealth can buy them security and protection. They should have spent a little less time studying management in business school and a little more time studying human nature and human history. They are digging their own graves.

Our shift to corporate totalitarianism, like the shift to all forms of totalitarianism, is incremental. Totalitarian systems ebb and flow, sometimes taking one step back before taking two steps forward, as they erode democratic liberalism. This process is now complete. The “consent of the governed” is a cruel joke. Barack Obama cannot defy corporate power any more than George W. Bush or Bill Clinton could. Unlike his two immediate predecessors, Bush, who is intellectually and probably emotionally impaired, did not understand the totalitarian process abetted by the presidency. Because Clinton and Obama, and their Democratic Party, understand the destructive roles they played and are playing, they must be seen as far more cynical and far more complicit in the ruination of the country. Democratic politicians speak in the familiar “I-feel-your-pain” language of the liberal class while allowing corporations to strip us of personal wealth and power. They are effective masks for corporate power.

The corporate state seeks to maintain the fiction of our personal agency in the political and economic process. As long as we believe we are participants, a lie sustained through massive propaganda campaigns, endless and absurd election cycles and the pageantry of empty political theater, our corporate oligarchs rest easy in their private jets, boardrooms, penthouses and mansions. As the bankruptcy of corporate capitalism and globalization is exposed, the ruling elite are increasingly nervous. They know that if the ideas that justify their power die, they are finished. This is why voices of dissent—as well as spontaneous uprisings such as the Occupy movement—are ruthlessly crushed by the corporate state.

“… [M]any ideas, once held to be true, have come to be regarded as wrong and evil,” Berkman wrote in his essay. “Thus the ideas of the divine right of kings, of slavery and serfdom. There was a time when the whole world believed those institutions to be right, just, and unchangeable. In the measure that those superstitions and false beliefs were fought by advanced thinkers, they became discredited and lost their hold upon the people, and finally the institutions that incorporated those ideas were abolished. Highbrows will tell you that they had ‘outlived’ their ‘usefulness’ and therefore they ‘died.’ But how did they ‘outlive’ their ‘usefulness’? To whom were they useful, and how did they ‘die’? We know already that they were useful only to the master class, and they were done away with by popular uprisings and revolutions.”

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Fukushima – A Global Threat That Requires A Global Response

In Uncategorized on October 28, 2013 at 2:30 pm
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Workers take soil samples in Ukedo, Japan, which was evacuated after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, August 30, 2013. Two and a half years after the Fukushima Daiichi plant belched plumes of radioactive materials over northeast Japan, the almost 83,000 refugees evacuated from the worst-hit areas are still unable to go home. (Photo: Tomas Munita / The New York Times

Oldspeak: “The history of TEPCO shows we cannot trust this company and its mistreated workforce to handle the complex challenges faced at Fukushima. The crisis at Fukushima is a global one, requiring a global solution….

The problems at Fukushima are in large part about facing reality – seeing the challenges, risks and potential harms from the incident. It is about TEPCO and Japan facing the reality that they are not equipped to handle the challenges of Fukushima and need the world to join the effort. 

Facing reality is a common problem throughout the nuclear industry and those who continue to push for nuclear energy. Indeed, it is a problem with many energy issues. We must face the reality of the long-term damage being done to the planet and the people by the carbon-nuclear based energy economy.” –Kevin Zeese & Margaret Flowers

“That’s really all it boils down to isn’t it? “We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.” –Carl Jung. We have to accept reality. Our energy sources and the systems of extraction and exploitation they require are unsustainable, incalculably toxic and dangerous. This is beyond dispute. Coal is not “Clean”. Diesel Gas is not “Clean”. Fracked methane gas is not “Clean” or “Natural”. Nuclear energy is not worth the gargantuan risks it poses to, well, everything that lives. We can’t waste time covering up, blame shifting or condemning past actions at this point. This incident is an ongoing, ever-expanding and uncontrolled release of massive quantities of radioactive material that threatens the planet. it is on a scale far beyond the capabilities of any one nation or corporation to stop or contain. May very well be beyond the capabilities of all nations. But we can’t keep extending and pretending that the Japanese are handing the disaster. An urgent and globally coordinated response is needed.” -OSJ

Related Story:

Fukushima Far From Over

Radioactive Rainwater Overwhelms Fukushima Nuclear Plant

By Kevin Zeese & Margaret Flowers @ Truthout:

The story of Fukushima should be on the front pages of every newspaper. Instead, it is rarely mentioned. The problems at Fukushima are unprecedented in human experience and involve a high risk of radiation events larger than any that the global community has ever experienced. It is going to take the best engineering minds in the world to solve these problems and to diminish their global impact.

When we researched the realities of Fukushima in preparation for this article, words like apocalyptic, cataclysmic and Earth-threatening came to mind. But, when we say such things, people react as if we were the little red hen screaming “the sky is falling” and the reports are ignored. So, we’re going to present what is known in this article and you can decide whether we are facing a potentially cataclysmic event.

Either way, it is clear that the problems at Fukushima demand that the world’s best nuclear engineers and other experts advise and assist in the efforts to solve them. Nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds.org and an international team of scientists created a 15-point plan to address the crises at Fukushima.

A subcommittee of the Green Shadow Cabinet (of which we are members), which includes long-time nuclear activist Harvey Wasserman, is circulating a sign-on letter and a petition calling on the United Nations and Japanese government to put in place the Gundersen et al plan and to provide 24-hour media access to information about the crises at Fukushima. There is also a call for international days of action on the weekend of November 9 and 10. The letter and petitions will be delivered to the UN on November 11 which is both Armistice Day and the 32nd month anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that caused the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The Problems of Fukushima

There are three major problems at Fukushima: (1) Three reactor cores are missing; (2) Radiated water has been leaking from the plant in mass quantities for 2.5 years; and (3) Eleven thousand spent nuclear fuel rods, perhaps the most dangerous things ever created by humans, are stored at the plant and need to be removed, 1,533 of those are in a very precarious and dangerous position. Each of these three could result in dramatic radiation events, unlike any radiation exposure humans have ever experienced.  We’ll discuss them in order, saving the most dangerous for last.

Missing reactor cores:  Since the accident at Fukushima on March 11, 2011, three reactor cores have gone missing.  There was an unprecedented three reactor ‘melt-down.’ These melted cores, called corium lavas, are thought to have passed through the basements of reactor buildings 1, 2 and 3, and to be somewhere in the ground underneath.

Harvey Wasserman, who has been working on nuclear energy issues for over 40 years, tells us that during those four decades no one ever talked about the possibility of a multiple meltdown, but that is what occurred at Fukushima.

It is an unprecedented situation to not know where these cores are. TEPCO is pouring water where they think the cores are, but they are not sure. There are occasional steam eruptions coming from the grounds of the reactors, so the cores are thought to still be hot.

The concern is that the corium lavas will enter or may have already entered the aquifer below the plant. That would contaminate a much larger area with radioactive elements. Some suggest that it would require the area surrounding Tokyo, 40 million people, to be evacuated. Another concern is that if the corium lavas enter the aquifer, they could create a “super-heated pressurized steam reaction beneath a layer of caprock causing a major ‘hydrovolcanic’ explosion.”

A further concern is that a large reserve of groundwater which is coming in contact with the corium lavas is migrating towards the ocean at the rate of four meters per month. This could release greater amounts of radiation than were released in the early days of the disaster.

Radioactive water leaking into the Pacific Ocean:  TEPCO did not admit that leaks of radioactive water were occurring until July of this year. Shunichi Tanaka the head of Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority finally told reporters this July that radioactive water has been leaking into the Pacific Ocean since the disaster hit over two years ago. This is the largest single contribution of radionuclides to the marine environment ever observed according to a report by the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety.  The Japanese government finally admitted that the situation was urgent this September – an emergency they did not acknowledge until 2.5 years after the water problem began.

How much radioactive water is leaking into the ocean? An estimated 300 tons (71,895 gallons/272,152 liters) of contaminated water is flowing into the ocean every day.  The first radioactive ocean plume released by the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster will take three years to reach the shores of the United States.  This means, according to a new study from the University of New South Wales, the United States will experience the first radioactive water coming to its shores sometime in early 2014.

One month after Fukushima, the FDA announced it was going to stop testing fish in the Pacific Ocean for radiation.  But, independent research is showing that every bluefin tuna tested in the waters off California has been contaminated with radiation that originated in Fukushima. Daniel Madigan, the marine ecologist who led the Stanford University study from May of 2012 was quoted in the Wall Street Journal saying, “The tuna packaged it up (the radiation) and brought it across the world’s largest ocean. We were definitely surprised to see it at all and even more surprised to see it in every one we measured.” Marine biologist Nicholas Fisher of Stony Brook University in New York State, another member of the study group, said: “We found that absolutely every one of them had comparable concentrations of cesium 134 and cesium 137.”

In addition, Science reports that fish near Fukushima are being found to have high levels of the radioactive isotope, cesium-134. The levels found in these fish are not decreasing,  which indicates that radiation-polluted water continues to leak into the ocean. At least 42 fish species from the area around the plant are considered unsafe.  South Korea has banned Japanese fish as a result of the ongoing leaks.

The half-life (time it takes for half of the element to decay) of cesium 134 is 2.0652 years. For cesium 137, the half-life is 30.17 years. Cesium does not sink to the ocean floor, so fish swim through it. What are the human impacts of cesium?

When contact with radioactive cesium occurs, which is highly unlikely, a person can experience cell damage due to radiation of the cesium particles. Due to this, effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and bleeding may occur. When the exposure lasts a long time, people may even lose consciousness. Coma or even death may then follow. How serious the effects are depends upon the resistance of individual persons and the duration of exposure and the concentration a person is exposed to, experts say.

There is no end in sight from the leakage of radioactive water into the Pacific from Fukushima.  Harvey Wasserman is questioning whether fishing in the Pacific Ocean will be safe after years of leakage from Fukushima.  The World Health Organization (WHO) is claiming that this will have limited effect on human health, with concentrations predicted to be below WHO safety levels. However, experts seriously question the WHO’s claims.

The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Radiation is in the process of writing a report to assess the radiation doses and associated effects on health and environment. When finalized, it will be the most comprehensive scientific analysis of the information available to date examining how much radioactive material was released, how it was dispersed over land and water, how Fukushima compares to previous accidents, what the impact is on the environment and food, and what the impact is on human health and the environment.

Wasserman warns that “dilution is no solution.”  The fact that the Pacific Ocean is large does not change the fact that these radioactive elements have long half-lives.  Radiation in water is taken up by vegetation, then smaller fish eat the vegetation, larger fish eat the smaller fish and at the top of the food chain we will find fish like tuna, dolphin and whales with concentrated levels of radiation. Humans at the top of the food chain could be eating these contaminated fish.

As bad as the ongoing leakage of radioactive water is into the Pacific, that is not the largest part of the water problem.  The Asia-Pacific Journal reported last month that TEPCO has 330,000 tons of water stored in 1,000 above-ground tanks and an undetermined amount in underground storage tanks.  Every day, 400 tons of water comes to the site from the mountains, 300 tons of that is the source for the contaminated water leaking into the Pacific daily. It is not clear where the rest of this water goes.

Each day TEPCO injects 400 tons of water into the destroyed facilities to keep them cool; about half is recycled, and the rest goes into the above-ground tanks. They are constantly building new storage tanks for this radioactive water. The tanks being used for storage were put together rapidly and are already leaking. They expect to have 800,000 tons of radioactive water stored on the site by 2016.  Harvey Wasserman warns that these unstable tanks are at risk of rupture if there is another earthquake or storm that hits Fukushima. The Asia-Pacific Journal concludes: “So at present there is no real solution to the water problem.”

The most recent news on the water problem at Fukushima adds to the concerns. On October 11, 2013, TEPCO disclosed that the radioactivity level spiked 6,500 times at a Fukushima well.  “TEPCO said the findings show that radioactive substances like strontium have reached the groundwater. High levels of tritium, which transfers much easier in water than strontium, had already been detected.”

Spent Fuel Rods:  As bad as the problems of radioactive water and missing cores are, the biggest problem at Fukushima comes from the spent fuel rods.  The plant has been in operation for 40 years. As a result, they are storing 11 thousand spent fuel rods on the grounds of the Fukushima plant. These fuel rods are composed of highly radioactive materials such as plutonium and uranium. They are about the width of a thumb and about 15 feet long.

The biggest and most immediate challenge is the 1,533 spent fuel rods packed tightly in a pool four floors above Reactor 4.  Before the storm hit, those rods had been removed for routine maintenance of the reactor.  But, now they are stored 100 feet in the air in damaged racks.  They weigh a total of 400 tons and contain radiation equivalent to 14,000 times the amount released by the Hiroshima atomic bomb.

The building in which these rods are stored has been damaged. TEPCO reinforced it with a steel frame, but the building itself is buckling and sagging, vulnerable to collapse if another earthquake or storm hits the area. Additionally, the ground under and around the building is becoming saturated with water, which further undermines the integrity of the structure and could cause it to tilt.

How dangerous are these fuel rods?  Harvey Wasserman explains that the fuel rods are clad in zirconium which can ignite if they lose coolant. They could also ignite or explode if rods break or hit each other. Wasserman reports that some say this could result in a fission explosion like an atomic bomb, others say that is not what would happen, but agree it would be “a reaction like we have never seen before, a nuclear fire releasing incredible amounts of radiation,” says Wasserman.

These are not the only spent fuel rods at the plant, they are just the most precarious.  There are 11,000 fuel rods scattered around the plant, 6,000 in a cooling pool less than 50 meters from the sagging Reactor 4.  If a fire erupts in the spent fuel pool at Reactor 4, it could ignite the rods in the cooling pool and lead to an even greater release of radiation. It could set off a chain reaction that could not be stopped.

What would happen? Wasserman reports that the plant would have to be evacuated.  The workers who are essential to preventing damage at the plant would leave, and we will have lost a critical safeguard.  In addition, the computers will not work because of the intense radiation. As a result we would be blind – the world would have to sit and wait to see what happened. You might have to not only evacuate Fukushima but all of the population in and around Tokyo, reports Wasserman.

There is no question that the 1,533 spent fuel rods need to be removed.  But Arnie Gundersen, a veteran nuclear engineer and director of Fairewinds Energy Education, who used to build fuel assemblies, told Reuters “They are going to have difficulty in removing a significant number of the rods.” He described the problem in a radio interview:

“If you think of a nuclear fuel rack as a pack of cigarettes, if you pull a cigarette straight up it will come out — but these racks have been distorted. Now when they go to pull the cigarette straight out, it’s going to likely break and release radioactive cesium and other gases, xenon and krypton, into the air. I suspect come November, December, January we’re going to hear that the building’s been evacuated, they’ve broke a fuel rod, the fuel rod is off-gassing.”

Wasserman builds on the analogy, telling us it is “worse than pulling cigarettes out of a crumbled cigarette pack.” It is likely they used salt water as a coolant out of desperation, which would cause corrosion because the rods were never meant to be in salt water.  The condition of the rods is unknown. There is debris in the coolant, so there has been some crumbling from somewhere. Gundersen  adds, “The roof has fallen in, which further distorted the racks,” noting that if a fuel rod snaps, it will release radioactive gas which will require at a minimum evacuation of the plant. They will release those gases into the atmosphere and try again.

The Japan Times writes: “The consequences could be far more severe than any nuclear accident the world has ever seen. If a fuel rod is dropped, breaks or becomes entangled while being removed, possible worst case scenarios include a big explosion, a meltdown in the pool, or a large fire. Any of these situations could lead to massive releases of deadly radionuclides into the atmosphere, putting much of Japan — including Tokyo and Yokohama — and even neighboring countries at serious risk.”

This is not the usual moving of fuel rods.  TEPCO has been saying this is routine, but in fact it is unique – a feat of engineering never done before.  As Gundersen says:

“Tokyo Electric is portraying this as easy. In a normal nuclear reactor, all of this is done with computers. Everything gets pulled perfectly vertically. Well nothing is vertical anymore, the fuel racks are distorted, it’s all going to have to be done manually. The net effect is it’s a really difficult job. It wouldn’t surprise me if they snapped some of the fuel and they can’t remove it.”

Gregory Jaczko, Former Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission concurs with Gundersen describing the removal of the spent fuel rods as “a very significant activity, and . . . very, very unprecedented.”

Wasserman sums the challenge up: “We are doing something never done before – bent, crumbling, brittle fuel rods being removed from a pool that is compromised, in a building that is sinking, sagging and buckling, and it all must done under manual control, not with computers.”  And the potential damage from failure would affect hundreds of millions of people.

The Solutions

The three major problems at Fukushima are all unprecedented, each unique in their own way and each has the potential for major damage to humans and the environment. There are no clear solutions but there are steps that need to be taken urgently to get the Fukushima clean-up and de-commissioning on track and minimize the risks.

The first thing that is needed is to end the media blackout.  The global public needs to be informed about the issues the world faces from Fukushima.  The impacts of Fukushima could affect almost everyone on the planet, so we all have a stake in the outcome.  If the public is informed about this problem, the political will to resolve it will rapidly develop.

The nuclear industry, which wants to continue to expand, fears Fukushima being widely discussed because it undermines their already weak economic potential.  But, the profits of the nuclear industry are of minor concern compared to the risks of the triple Fukushima challenges.

The second thing that must be faced is the incompetence of TEPCO.  They are not capable of handling this triple complex crisis. TEPCO “is already Japan’s most distrusted firm” and has been exposed as “dangerously incompetent.”  A poll found that 91 percent of the Japanese public wants the government to intervene at Fukushima.

Tepco’s management of the stricken power plant has been described as a comedy of errors. The constant stream of mistakes has been made worse by constant false denials and efforts to minimize major problems. Indeed the entire Fukushima catastrophe could have been avoided:

“Tepco at first blamed the accident on ‘an unforeseen massive tsunami’ triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011. Then it admitted it had in fact foreseen just such a scenario but hadn’t done anything about it.”

The reality is Fukushima was plagued by human error from the outset.  An official Japanese government investigation concluded that the Fukushima accident was a “man-made” disaster, caused by “collusion” between government and Tepco and bad reactor design. On this point, TEPCO is not alone, this is an industry-wide problem. Many US nuclear plants have serious problems, are being operated beyond their life span, have the same design problems and are near earthquake faults. Regulatory officials in both the US and Japan are too corruptly tied to the industry.

Then, the meltdown itself was denied for months, with TEPCO claiming it had not been confirmed.  Japan Times reports that “in December 2011, the government announced that the plant had reached ‘a state of cold shutdown.’ Normally, that means radiation releases are under control and the temperature of its nuclear fuel is consistently below boiling point.”  Unfortunately, the statement was false – the reactors continue to need water to keep them cool, the fuel rods need to be kept cool – there has been no cold shutdown.

TEPCO has done a terrible job of cleaning up the plant.  Japan Times describes some of the problems:

“The plant is being run on makeshift equipment and breakdowns are endemic. Among nearly a dozen serious problems since April this year there have been successive power outages, leaks of highly radioactive water from underground water pools — and a rat that chewed enough wires to short-circuit a switchboard, causing a power outage that interrupted cooling for nearly 30 hours. Later, the cooling system for a fuel-storage pool had to be switched off for safety checks when two dead rats were found in a transformer box.”

TEPCO has been constantly cutting financial corners and not spending enough to solve the challenges of the Fukushima disaster resulting in shoddy practices that cause environmental damage. Washington’s Blog reports that the Japanese government is spreading radioactivity throughout Japan – and other countries – by burning radioactive waste in incinerators not built to handle such toxic substances. Workers have expressed concerns and even apologized for following order regarding the ‘clean-up.’

Indeed, the workers are another serious concern. The Guardian reported in October 2013 the plummeting morale of workers, problems of alcohol abuse, anxiety, loneliness, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression. TEPCO cut the pay of its workers by 20 percent in 2011 to save money even though these workers are doing very difficult work and face constant problems. Outside of work, many were traumatized by being forced to evacuate their homes after the Tsunami; and they have no idea how exposed to radiation they have been and what health consequences they will suffer. Contractors are hired based on the lowest bid, resulting in low wages for workers. According to the Guardian, Japan’s top nuclear regulator, Shunichi Tanaka, told reporters: “Mistakes are often linked to morale. People usually don’t make silly, careless mistakes when they’re motivated and working in a positive environment. The lack of it, I think, may be related to the recent problems.”

The history of TEPCO shows we cannot trust this company and its mistreated workforce to handle the complex challenges faced at Fukushima. The crisis at Fukushima is a global one, requiring a global solution.

In an open letter to the United Nations, 16 top nuclear experts urged the government of Japan to transfer responsibility for the Fukushima reactor site to a worldwide engineering group overseen by a civil society panel and an international group of nuclear experts independent from TEPCO and the International Atomic Energy Administration , IAEA. They urge that the stabilization, clean-up and de-commissioning of the plant be well-funded. They make this request with “urgency” because the situation at the Fukushima plant is “progressively deteriorating, not stabilizing.”

Beyond the clean-up, they are also critical of the estimates by the World Health Organization and IAEA of the health and environmental damage caused by the Fukushima disaster and they recommend more accurate methods of accounting, as well as the gathering of data to ensure more accurate estimates. They also want to see the people displaced by Fukushima treated in better ways; and they urge that the views of indigenous people who never wanted the uranium removed from their lands be respected in the future as their views would have prevented this disaster.

Facing Reality

The problems at Fukushima are in large part about facing reality – seeing the challenges, risks and potential harms from the incident. It is about TEPCO and Japan facing the reality that they are not equipped to handle the challenges of Fukushima and need the world to join the effort.

Facing reality is a common problem throughout the nuclear industry and those who continue to push for nuclear energy. Indeed, it is a problem with many energy issues. We must face the reality of the long-term damage being done to the planet and the people by the carbon-nuclear based energy economy.

Another reality the nuclear industry must face is that the United States is turning away from nuclear energy and the world will do the same. As Gary Jaczko, who chaired the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission at the time of the Fukushima incident says “I’ve never seen a movie that’s set 200 years in the future and the planet is being powered by fission reactors—that’s nobody’s vision of the future. This is not a future technology.” He sees US nuclear reactors as aging, many in operation beyond their original lifespan.  The economics of nuclear energy are increasingly difficult as it is a very expensive source of energy.  Further, there is no money or desire to finance new nuclear plants. “The industry is going away,” he said bluntly.

Ralph Nader describes nuclear energy as “unnecessary, uneconomic, uninsurable, unevacuable and, most importantly, unsafe.”  He argues it only continues to exist because the nuclear lobby pushes politicians to protect it. The point made by Nader about the inability to evacuate if there is a nuclear accident is worth underlining.  Wasserman points out that there are nuclear plants in the US that are near earthquake faults, among them are plants near Los Angeles, New York City and Washington, DC.  And, Fukushima was based on a design by General Electric, which was also used to build 23 reactors in the US.

If we faced reality, public officials would be organizing evacuation drills in those cities.  If we did so, Americans would quickly learn that if there is a serious nuclear accident, US cities could not be evacuated. Activists making the reasonable demand for evacuation drills may be a very good strategy to end nuclear power.

Wasserman emphasizes that as bad as Fukushima is, it is not the worst case scenario for a nuclear disaster. Fukushima was 120 kilometers (75 miles) from the center of the earthquake. If that had been 20 kilometers (12 miles), the plant would have been reduced to rubble and caused an immediate nuclear catastrophe.

Another reality we need to face is a very positive one, Wasserman points out “All of our world’s energy needs could be met by solar, wind, thermal, ocean technology.” His point is repeated by many top energy experts, in fact a carbon-free, nuclear-free energy economy is not only possible, it is inevitable.  The only question is how long it will take for us to get there, and how much damage will be done before we end the “all-of-the-above” energy strategy that emphasizes carbon and nuclear energy sources.

Naoto Kan, prime minister of Japan when the disaster began, recently told an audience that he had been a supporter of nuclear power, but after the Fukushima accident, “I changed my thinking 180-degrees, completely.” He realized that “no other accident or disaster” other than a nuclear plant disaster can “affect 50 million people . . . no other accident could cause such a tragedy.” He pointed out that all 54 nuclear plants in Japan have now been closed and expressed confidently that “without nuclear power plants we can absolutely provide the energy to meet our demands.”  In fact, since the disaster Japan has tripled its use of solar energy, to the equivalent of three nuclear plants. He believes: “If humanity really would work together . . . we could generate all our energy through renewable energy.”

To learn more, click here.

Related articles by Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese:

Carbon-Free, Nuclear-Free Energy Economy Is Inevitable

Vibrant Movement for Green Energy Economy

Gang Green or Fresh Greens?

US Climate Bomb is Ticking: What the Gas Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know

America’s Secret Fukushima Poisoning the Bread Basket of the World

The Rule of Law in Times of Ecological Collapse – Truthout

Dirty Energy’s Dirty Tactics: Boulder on the Front Lines of the Renewable Energy Future

To hear Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers interview with Harvey Wasserman of NukeFree.org Fukushima – A Global Threat That Requires a Global Response click here.

Spinning Out Of Control: Governments, International Banks & Energy Conglomorates Fuelling Climate Change

In Uncategorized on March 15, 2013 at 1:15 pm

https://i2.wp.com/us.123rf.com/400wm/400/400/jcdesign/jcdesign1108/jcdesign110800002/10200011-planet-earth-with-dollar-sign-shaped-continents-and-clouds-over-a-starry-sky-contains-clipping-path-.jpg

Oldspeak: “Here is a very basic question that no one is asking, not politicians, bankers nor economists.  Even those campaigning about environmental destruction and climate change are not asking it.  Why do we have to have growth? Nothing grows forever, even though it may live for a very long time.  Humans, having reached their maximum height, stop growing.  Either that or they collapse.  Their bones cannot support a body too tall or too fat.  It is the same for anything else that grows.  Everything has limits.  Endless growth is not sustainable.  We cannot grow beyond what this planet can supply, nor should we assume that it can, no matter how much we are persuaded to.  So why is it a given that the ‘economy’ has to grow?  Why can’t it drop back to a level where it might be more sustainable, and maintain a steady position instead? –Lesley Docksey. Why indeed. Nathan Gardels, author, editor and Media Fellow of the World Economic Forum had a pretty good answer when he said: “The big rupture came in the 1800s, with the steam engine, the fossil fuel age, the industrial revolution, This was a great rupture from earlier forms and rhythms of life, which were generally regenerative. What happened after the industrial revolution was that nature was converted to a resource and that resource was seen as, essentially, eternally abundant. This led to the idea, and the conception behind progress which is: limitless growth, limitless expansion.”  We hear “Pro-Growth” mantras repeated incessantly. Perpetual growth is incompatible with natural physical laws and objective reality, yet it’s seen as an essential part of our economic system.  It’s led to all sorts of dangerous, toxic, maladaptive behaviors, that constitute a slow motion extinction level event. We’ve been led to believe that our economic system is the preeminent system on this planet, and that all other systems serve to perpetuate it. That it’s perfectly acceptable to see the commons that give us life as “economically exploitable resources” and “private property”. The reality is the modern human economy is a mere subsystem of the largest and evermost important system on this planet. The Ecosystem. The Dow Jones Industrial average may be at record highs, but ecosystem in which it exists is in extreme peril. The “Market” which dictates much of our behavior as a civilization, cannot exist if the ecosystem collapses. It’s a basic fact we need to understand and change our behaviour as a civilization to account for it. This piece by Lesley Docksey makes very clear that this severe thinking disorder, that we are somehow separate from and have dominion over nature, is a global pandemic. A brilliant documentary produced by Leo DiCaprio provides a look at the state of the global environment including visionary and practical solutions for restoring the planet’s ecosystems. Check it out.

Related Media:
The 11th Hour

By Lesley Docksey @ Dissident Voice:

Being born ‘with a silver spoon in your mouth’ means that you start with an advantage that others don’t have: parents with money, property, influence, business connections and so on, connections that can last for generations.  A silver spoon that appeared recently was the exceedingly generous compensation paid to British slave owners when the UK abolished slavery in 1833, though not one penny went to the freed slaves.  The ancestors of many well-connected people (including David Cameron) benefited.  One way or another, the silver spoon allows you to inherit the best of old boys’ networks and a guaranteed place at all sorts of top tables. These days you also appear to be born with a revolving door.

As I pointed out in Revolving Wars, the door between retiring senior military personnel or ministerial-level politicians and a well-paid position in companies supplying the military revolves at great speed, although sadly not at a fast enough rate as to fire the users into outer space – nor would they go without a profitable contract in place.  But other such doors exist.  And just as the links between government ministers, senior armed forces personnel and the arms trade make it almost impossible to stop our forces from fighting illegal and unnecessary wars, so the links between the government, banks and fossil fuel companies make it impossible to get politicians to take action to mitigate climate change or achieve realistic funding for renewable energy.

The World Development Movement has just published a briefing, Web of Power: the UK government and the energy-finance complex fuelling climate change, and it makes for disheartening reading.  Of the 125 MPs and Lords that make up the UK government, no less than 32% have links with finance and/or fossil fuel companies, while the top 5 banks give financial backing to fossil fuel companies and politicians (the City funded David Cameron’s campaign for the leadership of the Tory Party), and the fossil fuel companies give financial backing to government while lobbying hard for their industry.  There is a merry-go-round of people serving in government and sitting on the boards of financial institutions and energy companies.  It creates a cosy closed shop resulting in a lack of funding for research into and building the infrastructure for renewable energy.

Even worse, despite the noises made by politicians, any effective action to halt climate change is blocked because that would damage business.  It would ‘harm’ the economy – meaning that they, all of them, would lose money.  But they probably think they are the economy.  And, of course their mantra – that climate change is not caused by human activity and we can therefore go on chasing and making money from every scrap of oil or gas to fuel our modern lives – is funded and publicised by some very rich people indeed, many of them with links to… you’ve guessed it… fossil fuels and high finance.  Anything that might puncture that magic bubble of oil, money and power has to be fought (or bought) off by whatever means.

The thought of losing our comfortable lifestyle is challenging, which is why we are persuaded by their spin machine to see that as more of a threat than the destruction of our climate would be.  Even while we are asked to put up with cuts forced upon us by the government, they are proposing to, despite undertaking not to, subsidise companies like EDF with our money, in the hope that they will build nuclear reactors here.  And don’t even mention fracking and the carrot they hold out about ‘cheap’ gas.  It won’t be.  We are also encouraged to allow the bankers to continue paying themselves too much; otherwise they will all go somewhere else.  And, of course, they’d all far rather we worried about the price we pay to fuel our lives than think about a warming world.  Because business as usual means profits as usual.  And also because, whatever else happens, the economy (by which I mean that we remain poor and live economically while the rich grow in riches) must be encouraged to grow.

And here is a very basic question that no one is asking, not politicians, bankers nor economists.  Even those campaigning about environmental destruction and climate change are not asking it.  Why do we have to have growth?

Nothing grows forever, even though it may live for a very long time.  Humans, having reached their maximum height, stop growing.  Either that or they collapse.  Their bones cannot support a body too tall or too fat.  It is the same for anything else that grows.  Everything has limits.  Endless growth is not sustainable.  We cannot grow beyond what this planet can supply, nor should we assume that it can, no matter how much we are persuaded to.  So why is it a given that the ‘economy’ has to grow?  Why can’t it drop back to a level where it might be more sustainable, and maintain a steady position instead?

What most of us want is stability and security, and we have let ourselves be persuaded that these only come if we have more – more money, more possessions, bigger televisions, faster cars – more, more, more.  Yet the majority of humanity has spent not centuries but millennia successfully existing by having sufficient.  We need enough, not more.  And let’s face it, the growth that is demanded by governments and corporations always has and always will go into the pockets of those who are already rich, already have far more than they need and certainly far more than their fair share.

Years ago manufacturers made things that could be serviced and repaired, things that we went on using until they fell to pieces.  Then what we bought came with ‘built-in obsolescence’.  It wasn’t a question of buying something new when the old had collapsed.  The new was designed to collapse and be replaced.  Then we were treated to ‘the latest model’ and encouraged to throw away anything that was out of date.  But students at Brighton University are now being asked to design a toaster that the buyer would want to keep!  On the Today programme Professor Jonathon Chapman explained: “It’s actually very easy to design and manufacture a toaster that will last 20 years; that can be done. What’s not so easy is to design and manufacture a toaster that someone will want to keep for 20 years, because as people, as consumers, we haven’t been trained to do that.”

No.  We’ve been trained to always think there is something better out there, and that we both want and need it.  And in the same way the people with their revolving doors are doing their best to train us into thinking that, as consumers, our behaviour has absolutely nothing to do with climate change and we can carry on as usual while the government ‘fixes’ the problem, the banks lend our money to companies we wouldn’t give the time of day to, and the energy companies dig up our back gardens while they frack for gas.

Well, you know what?  As a ‘consumer’ I have decided that governments, banks and fossil fuels also have built-in obsolescence.  They have reached the point of collapse and I want to bin the lot.  I don’t want their ‘latest model’ either because it always turns out to be more of the same with a different coat of paint.  I want to try something new – or rather, something both radical and reactionary – radical because the idea would be considered ‘impossible’, and reactionary because I want to turn back the clock.  I want to return to an old way of life that was sustainable and sufficient to our needs.  And, I suspect, far more satisfying than the constant hunger of consumerism.   Whether climate change will allow me to do that I don’t know.  My time may run out before the toaster fails.

Obama Admininstration Helps Undermine U.N. Arms Control Treaty While Touting Record-High Weapons Sales Abroad

In Uncategorized on August 6, 2012 at 12:46 pm

https://i0.wp.com/www.thanhniennews.com/2010/Picture/VW028/arms1.jpgOldspeak:As the talks collapsed at the United Nations, a top U.S. State Department official openly bragged that U.S. government efforts had helped boost foreign military sales to record levels this year. Speaking to a group of military reporters, Andrew Shapiro, the Assistant Secretary of State for Political Military Affairs, said, “We really upped our game in terms of advocating on behalf of U.S. companies. I’ve got the frequent flier miles to prove it.” According to Shapiro, U.S. arms sales have already topped $50 billion in 2012, putting the U.S. on pace to increase its total for the year by 70%.” Amy Goodman. Meanwhile, 82 people a day are killed via gun violence in America.  Mass shootings occur far too regularly. Remote controlled killings are normalized.  These actions are even more shameful in light of recent tragic events. It’s become clear that the order of the day in our current ‘civilization’ is that profit is paramount. Preserving human life is not a priority. 1st world powers make flowery speeches about preserving peace, reducing violence and conflict, while simultaneously fomenting proxy wars.  Zealously bankrolling death, destruction, and violence.  Leading with world in supplying client states with weapons of mass destruction. When will this profoundly hypocritical madness end?!” “War Is Peace”

Related Stories:

The Obama Administration Torpedoes the Arms Trade Treaty

U.N. Arms Trade Treaty Fails On U.S. Opposition After False NRA Gun Rights Threat
By Amy Goodman @ Democracy Now:

Guest:

William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy. His latest book is called, “Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex.”

AMY GOODMAN: Arms control advocates are blaming the Obama administration for last week’s failed negotiations over the first-ever global agreement regulating the $60 billion arms trade. While most United Nations member states favored a strong treaty, the United States and Russia said there was not enough time left for them before Friday’s deadline to clarify and resolve issues they had with the draft treaty. The U.S. — the world’s largest manufacturer — had demanded a number of exemptions and ultimately said it needed more time to review the proposals. White House officials had cited the need to protect Second Amendment rights in the U.S., despite U.N. assurances the treaty text would not interfere. Amnesty International USA said the U.S. had shown stunning cowardice, adding, “It’s a staggering abdication of leadership by the world’s larger exporter of conventional weapons, to pull the plug on the talks just as they were nearing an historic breakthrough.”

As the talks collapsed at the United Nations, a top State Department official openly bragged that U.S. government efforts had helped boost foreign military sales to record levels this year. Speaking to a group of military reporters, Andrew Shapiro, the Assistant Secretary of State for Political Military Affairs, said, “We really upped our game in terms of advocating on behalf of U.S. companies. I’ve got the frequent flier miles to prove it.” According to Shapiro, U.S. arms sales have already topped $50 billion in 2012, putting the U.S. on pace to increase its total for the year by 70%.

For more we’re joined by Bill Hartung, author of, “Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex.” We welcome you to Democracy Now! Bill, explain what happened, how the treaty negotiations took place and what happened at the very end last week.

BILL HARTUNG: One of the toughest things is the were trying to get consensus. So, a number of smaller countries raised procedural issues. All those had seemed to be resolved. Within a day of the end of the negotiations, activists thought the treaty was going to happen. Not perfect, but certainly would make it harder to sell to human rights abusers, throw guns into war zones. The U.S. then suddenly pulled back and said, well we don’t think the treaty is really ready, let’s sort of start from scratch. Essentially, that was the last straw. Other countries like Russia put up obstructions. But once the U.S. pulled out it was the last nail in the coffin.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain exactly what was the U.S. involvement all along and why is the U.S. so important to the ATT, the Arms Trade Treaty?

BILL HARTUNG: The U.S. is the biggest arms exporters in the world, and in other areas has been a political leader. Here the Obama administration was pulling back. They weren’t really using any political muscle to support this; they were, sort of, reluctant participants. But, I do not think it was expected that they were going to go so far as to actually torpedo the treaty. They had not supported key elements like regulating ammunition, which was central to keeping — stopping the killing.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the players who were at the United Nations, the forces lobbying against the ATT, the Arms Trade Treaty. Talk about the power of the NRA.

BILL HARTUNG: The NRA has taken an interest in the global arms trade going back about two decades. Their theory, which has been discredited, is if you regulate guns anywhere, there will be regulated everywhere. Also, they’re opposed to treaties of any form. Basically, they love guns, they hate treaties, and this was a chance for them to exert influence both within the U.N. and also against the Obama administration to keep it from taking a stronger stand.

AMY GOODMAN: Wayne LaPierre was at the United Nations, the spokesperson for the head of the National rifle Association.

BILL HARTUNG: Yes, he was there. He gave a speech where basically he said the treaty was an offense to any American who breathed free air. They were way over the top, especially given that the treaty was designed to let countries regulate arms within their own borders; really dealt only with cross border transfer. So, they really — not only were they an obstacle, but they were completely off base in their characterization of the treaty.

AMY GOODMAN: Last month, Larry Pratt, Executive Director of Gun Owners of America, spoke to Fox News about his concerns about the U.N. arms treaty.

Larry Pratt: It would complete work against what the Second Amendment is intended to do, but it doesn’t seem that the Constitution as much of an obstacle or problem for this administration. But, nevertheless, shall not be infringed, it is something that a treaty can’t trump. The very language in the Constitution dealing with treaty making says that treaties have to be made under the authority of the United States. And if we the People haven’t given authority for gun control to the United States through the federal government, then its hands are tied.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Larry Pratt, Executive Director of the Gun Owners of America. Bill Hartung, your response?

BILL HARTUNG: Well, there’s two problems with that. Once, obviously, if you agree to a treaty, it’s ratified by the Senate, the people have spoken. That’s why you elect representatives. Second of all, as I mentioned, the treaty had nothing to do with domestic gun control. It’s essentially a paranoid fantasy the NRA translated into their political force around the country.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill, the torpedoing of the arms trade treaty, the ATT, took place exactly a week after the Aurora massacre in Colorado with 12 people killed and many injured. Talk about the links between what’s happening in the United States — very quickly, President Obama came out and said, we don’t need new laws around gun-control, affirming the Second Amendment and the Republican candidate Mitt Romney also shares the same view on that — and then you have this global treaty at the United Nations, within days, torpedoed.

BILL HARTUNG: I think it sends an awful signal to the world. Not only are we not willing to keep arms from killing people overseas, but also our government is not willing to take strong action to prevent the kind of massacre that happened in Aurora within our own borders. The NRA bridges that gap, because they tried to kill the arms treaty, they’ve tried to prevent any gun regulation in the U.S., even though their own membership, in some cases, supports stronger measures than their leadership does. So, to some degree, it’s not really the kind of grass-roots movement that’s presented. There’s the leadership out ahead sort of on the right wing of it, also they’re heavily funded by the gun manufacturers. So, it’s really a special interest group masquerading as some sort of mass movement.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what you mean.

BILL HARTUNG: Well, the leadership is out in front of the membership in terms of harsh opposition to any gun-control, even things like a waiting period, registration of guns, making sure you can’t walk into a gun show as a criminal and buy a gun easily — which is what happened in the Columbine case. Controls of assault rifles like the ones that was used in Aurora. All of these things are being blocked by NRA leadership, and companies like Smith & Wesson that made gun that was used in Aurora, the military style assault weapon, have given over a million dollars to the NRA. Some gun shops say, round up your purchase and we’ll give the difference to the NRA; called the Roundup Program — that’s put millions in their coffers. So, the NRA would prefer not to have that known, but places like the Violence Policy Center have exposed it in some detail.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill Hartung, I want to ask you about how best to regulate arms. Let me ask you, for a moment, about what happened in Illinois. Very interesting news. The Illinois governor, Pat Quinn, has unveiled a proposal to ban assault weapons in Illinois. On Tuesday, he used his amendatory veto power to propose banning the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and attachments. Quinn is the first U.S. governor to formally put forward an assault weapons ban since the shooting massacre in Aurora, Colorado last month.

PAT QUINN: We should show the nation that when something really bad happens as happened in Aurora, Colorado, a horrific massacre, that we don’t stand idly by. We take action to deal with the source of that problem, and I think we have done that today.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Illinois Governor Pat Quinn. Bill Hartung, was this a surprise? How significant is this? Could this lead other governors to do the same thing?

BILL HARTUNG: Well, we haven’t seen that kind of courage by other elected officials, and I’m hoping that it gets the ball rolling and it will be emulated in other states. As I indicated, to some degree, the NRA is a paper tiger, and what I mean by that is they don’t have full support of their own membership. Eighty percent of the public support sensible gun controls. So, really, they’ve kind of puffed up their political force beyond what it really is, and they’ve sort of harped on the fact that they’re important in key states like Pennsylvania, swing states like Ohio and Virginia, North Carolina. But even there, I think if you had people explaining — governors for example — the impact of these things, I don’t think you would have the majority of people, even in the NRA, supporting easy access by criminals to military-style assault rifles.

AMY GOODMAN: On the issue of best regulating arms, I want to go first to one of the activists who set up a mock cemetery outside the U.N. Wednesday to urge negotiators to pass a strong Arms Trade Treaty. David Grimason has been active in calling for stringent arms regulations ever since his 2-year-old, Alistair, was shot and killed during a family visit to Turkey nine years ago.

DAVID GRIMASON: A treaty that doesn’t include all conventional weapons and all ammunition is, to me, would just be pointless. At the moment, you’ve got kind of unscrupulous governments that are willing to sell arms to any nation, not really caring about how they’re going to be used. If we don’t get a strong treaty, then that will continue, and the numbers we’re seeing, with 2000 people a day dying, that will continue unless we get a strong treaty.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill Hartung, your response?

BILL HARTUNG: Well, I think he is absolutely right. I mean countries like Russia arming Syria, China arming Sudan, the U.S. doesn’t have clean hands here selling to places like Bahrain that have crushed democracy movements; countries like Saudi Arabia which are not undemocratic themselves but have supported the crushing of democracy in Bahrain, sent troops there. Yet we have the biggest weapons deal in history with the Saudis. Sixty billion dollars, which there’s nothing to compare to that in history. So there’s this signal by the U.S., we’re going to still arm dictatorships, even in the midst of the Arab Spring. We’re not going to get up front about regulating some of these sales, we’re going to try to delay it. So, I think it sends an awful message to the world and doesn’t represent the views of the American public.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me turn to President Eisenhower. In fact, part of the name of your book comes from that famous address that President Eisenhower gave. President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s famous farewell speech to the nation. It was January 17, 1961.

DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER: My fellow Americans, this evening I come to you with a message of leave-taking and farewell and to share a few final thoughts with you, my countrymen. We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. The total influence, economic, political, even spiritual, is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex, the potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persists.

AMY GOODMAN: That was President Eisenhower’s farewell address, January 17, 1961. An excerpt from the documentary “Why We fight.” More than 50 years after that speech, many argue the military-industrial complex is stronger than ever. Bill Hartung?

BILL HARTUNG: Well, I think is certainly is stronger than ever. Companies like Lockheed Martin, by itself, gets $36 billion a year from the Pentagon — essentially, people are paying Lockheed Martin tax of $300 a year or more. It’s the biggest entity that’s getting money from the federal government, it’s also involved not only in arms exports, building nuclear weapons, building fighter planes, building combat ships, but it’s also one of the key players in trying to roll back regulations on arms exports and to try to keep the Obama administration from reducing Pentagon spending. So, it’s working on all fronts, you know, to change our policy in a more militarized direction, and as I said, that runs counter to what the average American thinks. Even in states that depend on military spending, recent polls show they’re willing to cut military spending to a greater degree than the so-called sequester, the automatic cuts, that would come if Congress doesn’t get in a budget deal together to reduce the deficit. So, in the same sense that Eisenhower talked about, that military-industrial complex subverts democracy, we are seeing the very same thing today.

AMY GOODMAN: Earlier this year, Bill, one of the world’s most notorious arms smugglers was sentenced to 25 years in prison by a New York federal court judge — not for smuggling, but for conspiracy and terrorism charges. Viktor Bout is known as “The Merchant of Death” for running what the United Nations and U.S. officials say was an intentional arms trafficking network. In April, during a pre-sentencing telephone interview with Voice of Russia Bout maintained his innocence saying all arms suppliers in the U.S. would be in prison, too, if the same standards were applied across the board.

VIKTOR BOUT: I am innocent. I don’t commit any crime. There is no crime to sit and talk. If you’re going to apply the same standards to me, then you’re going to, you know, jail all those arms dealers in America who are selling the arms and ending up killing Americans. They are involved even more than me.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Viktor Bout. Bill Hartung, your response, if you can respond to what Viktor Bout is saying, respond to the power of U.S. military contractors, and also talk about whether the ATT, the Arms Trade Treaty, is totally dead.

BILL HARTUNG: Well, I think starting with the treaty, there is a move by the groups that supported it to take it to the General Assembly of the United Nations. There they need a majority, not a full consensus. I think that is a hard thing to do, but certainly worth as much energy as possible. I do not think it is impossible to do that. In terms of Bout’s statement, perhaps the U.S. is not quite on the level he was; he was arming Sierra Leone, He was arming Angola, some of his arms went to the Taliban. But, the U.S. had links to Bout. His companies were being hired to ferry weapons into Iraq. Many dealers like Bout have past associations with the CIA, with intelligence agencies around the world, helping them carry out deals like Iran-Contra. So, as I said, the U.S. doesn’t that have clean hands in this, and without an arms trade treaty, somebody like Bout can go around the world, hide behind different laws in different countries, deal with the patch-work regulations we have now, which is why it took so long to get him into jail. And as you said, they didn’t even get him on arms trafficking, but rather on a lesser, different charge. So, that’s why, I think torpedoing the arms trade treaty is really unconscionable because it makes a possible for the Viktor Bouts of the world to continue to operate relatively unimpeded.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, President Obama’s relationship with weapons manufacturers; with Lockheed Martin, with Boeing, with the many other in the military-industrial complex.

BILL HARTUNG: Well, He’s not at the level of the Bush administration, which really had many, many Lockheed Martin people in the administration, but they have had people, for example lobbyists from Raytheon, top level jobs in the Pentagon, they’ve had advisers in the White House, on the board of Boeing. They’ve been really, as you mentioned, there’s people in the State Department bragging about how much they’ve helped the industry. And, not only Obama, but the Congress, which gets millions of dollars from the industry, has people working there who used to work for companies like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman at the top level of the Armed Services Committee in the two houses. So, that is exactly what Eisenhower was talking about, the revolving door from industry into government, the money flowing to government to help destroy arms export regulations, funding of Right-wing think tanks like the Heritage Foundation that helped block things like the Arms Trade Treaty and reductions in military spending, cuts in the Star Wars program. So, unfortunately, without more public pressure, which I think is necessary and possible, the military-industrial complex is going to roll over many of the things that most people in this country think our government should be doing in this area.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill Hartung, I want to thank you for being with us, Director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy. Bill Hartung is author of, “Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex.”

Bipartisan Support As U.S. Congress Rolls Back Toothless, “Financial Reforms” On Complex Financial Instruments, Derivatives

In Uncategorized on April 3, 2012 at 6:34 pm

Oldspeak: “A nation of sheep begets a government of wolves” –Edward R. Murrow.  Exhibit Z of how thoroughly the U.S. government has been captured by casino capitalists/corporatists. Voting by and overwhelming margin to roll back already feeble regulations of the very same OTC derivatives a.k.a. “Financial Weapons Of Mass Destruction”that caused the last global economic crash. Legalized gambling with other peoples money, resources, and livelihoods and having no ability to cover bets is free to continue unfettered once again. I was casually chatting with an investment banker a couple days ago, who was talking about how much more money there was in that field than in education and non-profits and that he hoped to retire by 35, and I remarked “Well you better get it while the gettins good, because it’s all going down again and the crash is gonna be alot worse this time.” he said “Yeah, you know what you’re talkin about, it’s true. It’s going to happen again. How do you know that, do you have a background in finance?” I told him I didn’t I just read and stay informed. The conditions have been created, against all logic, with the help of your corporate-controlled selected representatives to precipitate a bigger and more devastating global economic collapse that will divest many more Americans of their alleged inalienable rights to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Hold on tight kids it’s gonna be a bumpy ride. “Profit Is Paramout”

Related Story:

The Mathematical Equation That Caused The Banks To Crash

Related Video:

Credit Default Swaps

By Washington’s Blog:

Out-of-control derivatives were one of the main causes of the economic crisis … and nothing has really been done to solve the problem.

Is Washington finally about to fix the problem?

Of course not … they’re going to make it worse, and roll back even the toothless psuedo-reforms which they pretended to make.

As the Washington Post notes:

To the chagrin of consumer groups, the House gave overwhelming bipartisan approval Monday to two bills easing requirements that President Barack Obama’s overhaul of financial regulations impose on some exotic financial instruments blamed for helping trigger the 2008 financial crisis.

Lawmakers of both parties said they were relaxing rules that would otherwise inhibit the ability of companies to manage the risks of prices and investments, ultimately reducing their profitability and job creation. Consumer groups said legislators were bowing to the interests of their corporate and finance-world contributors and taking steps that might prove harmful to the public.

***

The instruments are called derivatives ….

***

“End users, you know, were not the cause of the financial crisis,” said Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J.

Democrats praised the bills as well.

“We should allow American businesses, acting in good faith, to effectively manage risk,” said Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio.

Truth is even funnier than satire. Congresswoman Fudge, indeed …

 

Why The American Empire Was Destined To Collapse

In Uncategorized on March 20, 2012 at 6:11 pm

Oldspeak:“We are at our core a nation of hustlers; not recently, not sometimes, but always. Conventional wisdom has it that America was predicated on the republican desire to break free from monarchical tyranny, and that was certainly a factor in the War of Independence; but in practical terms, it came down to a drive for “more” — for individual accumulation of wealth. The dominant thinking on the left, is some variety of a “false consciousness” argument, that the elite have pulled the wool over the eyes of the vast majority of the population, and once the latter realizes that they’ve been had, they’ll rebel, they’ll move the country in a populist or democratic socialist direction. The problem I have with this is the evident fact that most Americans want the American Dream, not a different way of life—a Mercedes-Benz, as Janis Joplin once put it. Endless material wealth based on individual striving is the American ideal, and the desire to change that paradigm is practically nonexistent. Even the poor buy into this, which is why John Steinbeck once remarked that they regard themselves as “temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” Hence I would argue that nations get the governments they deserve; that the wool is the eyes.” –Morris Berman. In a totalitarian, consumption-fueled state, “the range of acceptable opinion inevitably shrinks”-Tony Judt. This shrinkage inevitably hastens the empire’s collapse. There is no discussion of of fairly viable and sustainable alternative systems (resource based, localization,) to the obviously failing monetary, infinite growth based and globalization-driven systems in corporate approved intellectual discourse. No threats to profit generation can be tolerated. Never mind the surely fatal and entirely avoidable consequences for our planet, our people, and all the living things that share our planet with us. We’ll poison the air, we’ll destroy the soil, contaminate the water, the three essential elements to our survival; in the perpetual quest for “more”.  These are the thought processes of our most dominant and influential ‘citizens’ -transnational corporations. And we flesh and blood people have internalized their self-exterminating values. How long will it be before they drive our ‘civilization’ into the ground? Our Id fueled economic model is unsustainable. We won’t be able to ignore our demise much longer.  “Profit Is Paramount”

Related Stories:

The Decline and Fall of the American Empire: Four Scenarios for the End of the American Century by 2025

The U.S. & The Five Stages Of Collapse

By Nomi Prins @ Alter Net:

Several years after the Wall Street-ignited crisis began, the nation’s top bank CEOs (who far out-accumulated their European and other international counterparts) continue to hobnob with the president at campaign dinners where each plate costs more than one out of four US households make in a year. Financial bigwigs lead their affluent lives, unaffected, unremorseful, and unindicted for wreaking havoc on the nation. Why? Because they won. They hustled better. They are living the American Dream.

This is not the American Dream that says if you work hard you can be more comfortable than your parents; but rather, if you connive well, game the rules, and rule the game, your take from others is unlimited. In this paradigm, human empathy, caring, compassion, and connection have been devalued from the get-go. This is the flaw in the entire premise of the American Dream: if we can have it all, it must by definition be at someone else’s expense.

In Why America Failed, noted historian and cultural critic Morris Berman’s brilliant, raw and unflinchingly accurate postmortem of America, he concludes that this hustling model, literally woven into the American DNA, doomed the country from the start, and led us inevitably to this dysfunctional point. It is not just the American Dream that has failed, but America itself, because the dream was a mistake in the first place. We are at our core a nation of hustlers; not recently, not sometimes, but always. Conventional wisdom has it that America was predicated on the republican desire to break free from monarchical tyranny, and that was certainly a factor in the War of Independence; but in practical terms, it came down to a drive for “more” — for individual accumulation of wealth.

So where does that leave us as a country? I caught up with Berman to find out.

Nomi Prins: Why America Failed is the third book in a trilogy you wrote on the decline of the American Empire. How did this trilogy evolve?

Morris Berman: The first book in the series, The Twilight of American Culture (2000), is a structural analysis, or internal comparison, of the contemporary US and the late Roman Empire. In it, I identified factors that were central to the fall of Rome and showed that they were present in the US today. I said that if we didn’t address these, we were doomed. I didn’t believe for a moment we would, of course, and now the results are obvious.

After 9/11, I realized that my comparison with Rome lacked one crucial component: like Rome, we were attacked from the outside. Dark Ages America (2006), the sequel to Twilight, is an analysis of US foreign policy and its relationship to domestic policy, once again arguing that there had to be a serious reevaluation of both if we were to arrest the disintegration of the nation. Of course, no such reevaluation took place, and we are now in huge economic trouble with no hope of recovery, and stuck in two wars in the Middle East that we cannot seem to win.

By the time I sat down to write the third volume, Why America Failed, I was past the point of issuing warnings. The book is basically a postmortem for a dying nation. The argument is that we failed for reasons that go back more than 400 years. As a result, the historical momentum to not undertake a reassessment, and just continue on with business as usual, is very powerful. At this point we can no more reverse our downward trajectory than we can turn around an aircraft carrier in a bathtub.

NP: So you’ve been analyzing America’s decline for over a decade. Was there a particular, specific inspiration for Why America Failed?

MB: I was originally inspired by the historian Walter McDougall (Freedom Just Around the Corner) and his argument about America being a nation of hustlers. The original working title was Capitalism and Its Discontents, the point being that those who dissented from the dominant ideology never had a chance. The crux of the problem remains the American Dream: even “progressives” see it as the solution — including, I have the impression, the Wall Street protesters — when it’s actually the problem.

In my essay collection, A Question of Values, I talk about how we are driven by a number of unconscious assumptions, including the notions of our being the “chosen people” and the availability of an endless frontier (once geographical, now economic and technological). For a while I had The Roots of American Failure as the title, but more to the point would be The Failure of American Roots — for even our success was a failure, because it was purely material. This is really what the American Dream is about, in its essence, as Douglas Dowd argued years ago in The Twisted Dream.

There is a story, probably apocryphal, of a Native American scouting expedition that came across the starving members of the Donner Party in 1847, who were snowbound in the Sierra Nevadas and resorted to cannibalism in order to survive. The expedition, which had never seen white people before, observed the Donner Party from a distance, then returned to base camp to report what they had seen. The report consisted of four words: “They eat each other.” Frankly, if I could summarize the argument of Why America Failed in a single phrase, this would be it. Unless Occupy Wall Street (or some other sociopolitical movement) manages to turn things around in a fundamental way, “They ate each other” will be our epitaph.

I should add that Why America Failed is actually part of a lineage, following the path initially staked out by Richard Hofstadter, C. Vann Woodward and Louis Hartz. Between 1948 and 1955 they all argued something similar; I just updated the argument.

NP: What do you say to people who don’t believe America has failed; who may just see the country as going through a bad patch, so to speak? What evidence have you compiled for the argument that the United States has failed?

MB: The major evidence is, of course, economic, and there is by now a slew of books showing that this time around recovery is not really possible and that we are going to be eclipsed by China or even Europe. These are books by very respected economists, I might add; and even a US Intelligence report of two yrs ago, “Global Trends 2025,” says pretty much the same thing, although it adds cultural and political decline into the mix. The statistics here are massive, but just consider a single one: in terms of collective wealth, the top 1 percent of the nation owns more than the bottom 90 percent. If we have a future, it’s that of a banana republic. And there will be no New Deal this time around to save us; just the opposite, in fact, as we are busy shredding any social safety net we once had.

NP: How does this relate to the rise of the Tea Party, or the Occupy Wall Street movement?

MB: Americans may be very vocal in claiming we’ll eventually recover, or that the US is still number-one, but I believe that on some level they know that this is whistling in the dark. They suspect their lives will get worse as time goes on, and that the lives of their children will be even worse than that. They feel the American Dream betrayed them, and this has left them bitter and resentful. The Wall Street protests are, as during the Depression, a demand for restoring the American Dream; for letting more people into it. The Tea Party seeks a solution in returning to original American principles of hustling, i.e. of a laissez-faire economy and society, in which the government plays an extremely small role. Thus they see Obama as a socialist, which is absurd; even FDR doesn’t fit that description. There are great differences between the two movements, of course, but both are grounded in a deep malaise, a fear that someone or something has absconded with America.

NP: Most political analysts place the blame for our current situation on major institutions, whether it is Wall Street, Congress, the Bush or Obama administrations, and so on. You agree with them to a great extent, but you also seem to place a lot of emphasis on the American people themselves—on individual values and behavior. Why is that? How do you see that as a factor?

MB: The dominant thinking on the left, I suppose, is some variety of a “false consciousness” argument, that the elite have pulled the wool over the eyes of the vast majority of the population, and once the latter realizes that they’ve been had, they’ll rebel, they’ll move the country in a populist or democratic socialist direction. The problem I have with this is the evident fact that most Americans want the American Dream, not a different way of life—a Mercedes-Benz, as Janis Joplin once put it. Endless material wealth based on individual striving is the American ideal, and the desire to change that paradigm is practically nonexistent. Even the poor buy into this, which is why John Steinbeck once remarked that they regard themselves as “temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” Hence I would argue that nations get the governments they deserve; that the wool is the eyes.

In addition, all of the data over the last 20 years show that Americans are not very bright, and not even the bright ones are very bright—it’s not merely a question of IQ. A Marist poll released on July 4, 2011 showed that 42 percent of American adults are unaware that the U.S. declared its independence in 1776, and this figure increases to 69 percent for the under-30 age group. Twenty-five percent of Americans don’t know from which country the United States seceded. A poll taken in the Oklahoma public school system turned up the fact that 77 percent of the students didn’t know who George Washington was, and the Texas Board of Education recently voted to include a unit on Estee Lauder in the history curriculum, when they don’t have one on the first president. Nearly 30 percent of the American population thinks the sun revolves around the earth or is unsure of which revolves around which. Etc. etc. How can such a population grasp a structural analysis of American history or politics? They simply aren’t capable of it.

NP: So, basically it’s only a matter of time before students are taking courses in the historical significance of Kim Kardashian? What are the deeper, structural obstacles, in your opinion, to the American public accepting your general argument?

MB: It seems to me that it would involve a complete reversal of consciousness. I remember after the publication of the German edition of Dark Ages America, a major Berlin newspaper, the TAZ, or Tageszeitung, ran a review of the book called “Hopes of a Patriot.” One of the things the reviewer said was that America might be able to save itself if it decided to pay attention to its more serious critics. What would it take for most Americans to regard someone like myself as a patriot, and someone like Dick Cheney as a traitor? Or Ronald Reagan as a simpleton who did the country enormous damage, and Jimmy Carter as a visionary who was trying to rescue it? As I said, this is not a matter of intelligence as IQ, because in America even the bright are brainwashed—just check out the New York Times. It’s more of an “ontological” problem, if you will.

Let me give you a concrete example. A friend of mine who is a dean at one of the nation’s major medical schools was very taken by my discussion of Joyce Appleby’s work, in my book Dark Ages America. He went out and bought her essay, “Capitalism and a New Social Order,” in which she describes how the definition of “virtue” underwent a complete reversal in the 1790s—from putting your private interests aside for the sake of the greater good, to achieving individual material success in an opportunistic environment.

As a dean, my friend interacts with faculty a lot, at department meetings, cocktail parties, or whatever. He took these opportunities to raise the topic of the rapid redefinition of virtue in colonial America, only to discover that within 30 seconds, the eyes of whomever he was talking to glazed over and they would change the subject. Tocqueville said it in 1831, and it is even more true today: Americans simply cannot tolerate, cannot even hear, fundamental critiques of America. IQ has very little to do with it. In an ontological sense, they simply cannot bear it. And if this is true for the “best and the brightest,” then what does this say for the rest of us?

NP: What do you think can be done to reverse the situation? Is there any hope for the American Dream?

MB: At this point, absolutely nothing can reverse the situation. If every American carries these values, then change would require a different people, a different country. In dialectical fashion, it is precisely those factors that made this nation materially great that are now working against us, and that thus need to be jettisoned. What we need now is a large-scale rejection of the American Dream, and an embracing of the alternative tradition I talk about in Why American Failed. These are the “hopes of a patriot,” and they are simply not going to be realized.

NP: Can you mention briefly what some of those alternative traditions are ? You have a chapter that’s attracted some controversy regarding the Civil War – how does that relate?

MB: As I mentioned earlier, the working title of the book was Capitalism and Its Discontents. The reason I liked it (for various reasons, my publisher didn’t) is that it does reflect the thesis of the book: that although there was always an alternative tradition to hustling, with one exception America never took it, and instead it marginalized those alternative voices. The exception was the antebellum South, which raises real questions as to the origins of the Civil War, which were not about slavery as a moral issue, no matter how much we like to believe that. As Robin Blackburn writes in his recent book, The American Crucible, antislavery ideas were far more about notions of progress than about ones of racial equality. That’s a whole other discussion, however, and I have it out in the book for an entire chapter.

But the main narrative here is that from Captain John Smith and the Puritan divines through Thoreau and Emerson to Lewis Mumford and Vance Packard and John Kenneth Galbraith to Jimmy Carter, this tradition of capitalism’s discontents never really stood a chance. It never amounted to anything more than spiritual exhortation. Reaganomics, also known as “greedism,” was not born in 1981; more like 1584. The result is that for more than four centuries now, America has had one value system, and it is finally showing itself to be extremely lopsided and self-destructive. Our political and cultural system never let fresh air in; it squelched the alternatives as quaint or feeble-minded. Appearances to the contrary, this is what “democracy” always meant in America—the freedom to become rich. The alternative tradition, in the work of the figures mentioned above, sought to question the definition of “wealth.” If the dominant culture was following the template of “they eat each other,” the alternative tradition can be encapsulated in that famous line from John Ruskin: “There is no wealth but life.”

NP: Speaking of wars, having just undergone Iraq and Afghanistan, the Obama administration, and actually the Republican candidates as well, have begun to vilify China, and have amped up the volume regarding Iran. You talk about our need as a country to have an external enemy. In what way do you believe that need will manifest itself in any coming military actions?

MB: I deal with this issue in A Question of Values. America was founded within a conceptual framework of being in opposition to something—the British and the Native Americans, to begin with—and it never abandoned that framework. It doesn’t really have a clear idea of what it is in a positive sense, and that has generated a kind of national neurosis. I mean, we were in real trouble when the Soviet Union collapsed; in terms of identity, we were completely adrift until the attacks of 9/11 (just think of how frivolous and meaningless the Clinton years were, in retrospect). War is our drug of choice, and without an enemy we enter a kind of nervous breakdown mode.

Hence the saber rattling against Iran now, or the foolish decision to set up an army base in Australia to “watch” China. What bothers me is that we are doing all of this unconsciously, and we always have. Mr. Obama, like most of his predecessors, is little more than a marionette on strings (Mr. Carter being the only postwar exception to this pattern, in a number of significant ways). Once again, true intelligence is ontological, and as a nation, we are sorely lacking in that department.

NP: But haven’t we heard all this before? After all, there is a long history of the so-called “declinist” argument, that the country is in permanent decline and has no future. Such books come and go; meanwhile, the country goes on. What makes your book, or books, different from previous assertions that “it’s all over”?

MB: Decline takes time; an empire doesn’t come to an end on August 4, A.D. 476, at two in the afternoon. Similarly, declinist analysis also takes time: the books you are referring to form a continuous argument, from Andrew Hacker’s The End of the American Era in 1970 to George Modelski’s Long Cycles in World Politics in 1987 to Why America Failed in 2011. And there have been a good number of declinist works in between. These books are not wrong; rather, they are part of an ongoing recognition that the American experiment is finished. Even then, we can go back to before Professor Hacker to Richard Hofstadter (1948), who called the US a “democracy of cupidity”; or to C. Vann Woodward (1953), who wrote that we were probably doomed because we had put all of our eggs in one ideological basket, namely laissez-faire economics. During these years the country hasn’t just “gone on”; what it has done is progressively fallen apart, and these writers have made it their business to document the process.

NP: Finally, you moved to Mexico a number of years ago. Is all this why? Do you ever see yourself coming back to America?

MB: There are a lot of answers to that question, and yes, some of the reasons can be found in the above dialogue. You know, the air is really “thin” in the United States, because the value-system is one-dimensional. It’s basically about economic and technological expansion, not much else; the “else” exists at the margins, if it exists at all. I first discovered this when I traveled around Europe in my mid-20s. I saw that the citizens of those countries talked about lots of things, not just about material success. Money is of course important to the citizens of other countries, Mexico included, but it’s not necessarily the center of their lives.

Here’s what the US lacks, which I believe Mexico has: community, friendship, appreciation of beauty, craftsmanship as opposed to obsessive technology, and—despite what you read in the American newspapers—huge graciousness; a large, beating heart. I never found very much of those things in the US; certainly, I never found much heart. American cities and suburbs have to be the most soulless places in the world. In a word, America has its priorities upside down, and after decades of living there, I was simply tired of being a stranger in a strange land. In A General Theory of Love, Thomas Lewis and his colleagues conclude that happiness is achieved only by those who manage to escape the American value-system. Well, the easiest way to escape from that value-system, is to escape from America.

Nomi Prins is a journalist and senior fellow at Demos. She is the author of Other People’s Money: The Corporate Mugging of America and Jacked: How “Conservatives” are Picking Your Pocket (Whether You Voted For Them or Not).

BBC Speechless As Trader Tells The Truth: “Governments Don’t Rule The World, Goldman Sachs Rules The World.”

In Uncategorized on September 27, 2011 at 8:03 pm

Oldspeak:”The collapse is coming…The market is toast, the stock market is finishedThe savings of millions of people is going to vanish….This economic crisis is like a cancer, if you just wait and wait hoping it is going to go away, just like a cancer it is going to grow and it will be too late. –Alessio Rastani. In a moment of utter candor, we glimpse a sliver or reality than very few publicly acknowledge. While this man is in all probability a sociopath, he’s articulating an elusive truth. Making incessant changes around the edges of a fatally flawed monetary system will do nothing to change or improve it. It will just postpone its inevitable collapse. This man and many like him would like nothing better than to see a full-fledged global depression. So they can profit from it. These are the people who control governments, topple them, build them up, manipulate them with hidden in plain sight financial terrorism. These amoral, anti-humanistic, ‘happiness machines’ care very little about people. They trade ‘commodities’ like food, energy, water, and farmland, with little regard for the devastatingly real life impacts their digitized keystrokes have on the lives of billions of human beings. This is why people are camped out on Wall Street. As Mr. Rastini says, their job is to make money. The rest of us, can get on board with their nihilistic, sociopathic worldview, or get fucked. “Profit Is Paramount.”

Madison Ruppert @ Activist Post:

In a surprisingly blunt interview aired on the BBC, an independent trader admits that he “dreams of another recession” since some people can prepare and treat a market crash as an opportunity to “make a lot of money from this.”

What exactly is “this”? Well, according to Alessio Rastani, “this” is the inevitable crash in the markets that is headed our way. Rastani, an independent trader, does not treat the crash of the Euro and the stock market as a possibility. He treats it as an inevitability.

He pulls no punches in this interview and it is clear that the BBC presenter is shocked by what he has to say.  When asked what would keep investors happy and mitigate the economic crisis currently unfolding, Rastani reveals, “Personally, it doesn’t matter. See, I’m a trader. Uh, I don’t really care about that kind of stuff.”

He continues, “If I see an opportunity to make money, I go with that. So, for mosttraders, it’s not about… we don’t really care that much how they’re going to fix the economy, how they’re going to fix the, uh, the whole situation. Our job is to make money from it.”

I’ve never heard a trader come right out on mainstream media and lay it out in such a plain way.

Indeed he is correct, a traders job is to make money. Period. A trader need not worry about what will be done to fix an economic crash because as long as they are making money, they couldn’t care less.

This is something that the mainstream media likes to pretend is not the case, as though investors actually have an interest in keeping the stock market and the global economy afloat. This is simply untrue as Rastani reveals.

Traders and investors are just like corporations, they are only interested in the bottom line. If this means profiting off of an economic downturn while their neighbors are foreclosed on and their entire nation is robbed blind then so be it. As long as the cash keeps coming in, who cares?

Speaking of the current global economic meltdown unfolding around us, Rastani says, “I’ve been dreaming of this one for three years.”

He also reveals the mindset of many a trader in saying, “I go to bed every night, I dream of another recession. I dream of another moment like this.”

He then gives the example of the market crash of the 1930s which was not only a market crash, but an opportunity for some people to make a lot of money.

After his frank statements the presenter says, “If you could see the people around me, jaws have collectively dropped at what you’ve just said.” I guess she wasn’t expecting him to tell the truth.

She says, “We appreciate your candor, however it doesn’t help the rest of us, the rest of the Eurozone.”

Rastani then likens the economic crisis to a cancer, telling us that if we wait and wait, it will be too late.

He recommends that everyone prepare while also saying that this is not a time for wishful thinking, hoping for government to ride in like a white knight and save the day.

Then he drops the biggest bombshell of the entire interview.

In a statement that likely sent BBC producers into a frenzy, Rastani stated, “The governments don’t rule the world, Goldman Sachs rules the world. Goldman Sachs does not care about this rescue package, neither does the big funds.”

He gives the average person a bit of hope in saying that it isn’t just traders and investors that can make money off of an economic downturn.

Rastani says that average people need to learn how to make money from a downward market. The first thing people need to do is protect their assets, what they already have.

Rastani concludes with this grim projection, “In less than 12 months, my prediction is, the savings of millions of people is going to vanish. And this is just the beginning.”

He continues, “I would say, be prepared and act now. The biggest risk people can take right now is not acting.”

You can find Alessio Rastani on Facebook here.

Update: Some are saying this was a Yes Men hoax.

Madison Ruppert is the Editor and Owner-Operator of the alternative news and analysis database End The Lie and has no affiliation with any NGO, political party, economic school, or other organization/cause. If you have questions, comments, or corrections feel free to contact him at admin@EndtheLie.com

High Level American Officials Admit U.S. Employs False Flag Terror…And Warns Of Future Attacks

In Uncategorized on June 17, 2011 at 11:21 am

Oldspeak:” ‘If Tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.’ –James Madison There are verifiable facts out there that contradict the official story of America’s “War On Terror”.  It’s quite obvious to any one that cares to see the bombs dropping on exclusively arabic counties the America’s new “Great Enemy” is no longer Communism, but “Islamofascism”. The truly distressing thing is these methods are nothing new. ‘ Countries around the world have played this terrible game for thousands of years.’ to devastating effect.”

 

Related Video:

BBC Series – The Power Of Nightmares Part 1- Baby it’s Cold Outside

BBC Series – The Power of Nightmares Part 2 – The Phantom Victory

BBC Series – The Power of Nightmares Part 3 – The Shadows in the Cave

By Washington’s Blog:

Everyone knows that “truth is the first casualty of war“. And one of the most highly decorated American soldiers of all time said that “war is a racket”.

FBI agents and CIA intelligence officials, constitutional law expert professor Jonathan Turley, Time Magazine, Keith Olbermann and the Washington Post have all said that U.S. government officials “were trying to create an atmosphere of fear in which the American people would give them more power”. Indeed, the former Secretary of Homeland Security – Tom Ridge – admits that he was pressured to raise terror alerts to help Bush win reelection.

A former National Security Adviser told the Senate that the war on terror is “a mythical historical narrative”. In terms of a possible “why”, remember that psychologists and sociologists have demonstrated that fear of terrorism makes people stupid and easy to manipulate and control.

As I noted last year:

War is always sold to it’s people by artificially demonizing the enemy:

Countries need to lie about their enemies in order to demonize them sufficiently so that the people will support the war.

That is why intelligence “failures” – such as the following – are so common:

  • It is also now well-accepted that the Gulf of Tonkin Incident which led to the Vietnam war was a fiction (confirmed here).

Indeed, in a newly-released documentary, U.S. soldiers admit that if they accidentally killinnocent Iraqis and Afghanis, they then “drop” automatic weapons near their body so they can pretend they were militants:

As I noted last year:

On Monday, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Hugh Shelton told Jon Stewart that a Clinton cabinet member proposed letting Saddam kill an American pilot as a pretext for war in Iraq:

Exclusive – Hugh Shelton Extended Interview – The Daily Show with Jon Stewart 

(And see this; and this excerpt from General Shelton’s book).

This might seem, at first glance, like just an odd, one-off suggestion.

However, as reported by the New York Times and other newspapers, George W. Bush also suggested to Tony Blair that a U.S. plane be painted in United Nations colors so that – if Saddam shot it down – it would create a casus belli. As the Times wrote in 2006:

The memo [confirmed by two senior British officials as being authentic] also shows that the president and the prime minister acknowledged that no unconventional weapons had been found inside Iraq. Faced with the possibility of not finding any before the planned invasion, Mr. Bush talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation, including a proposal to paint a United States surveillance plane in the colors of the United Nations in hopes of drawing fire ….

Indeed, the former director of the National Security Agency said:

By any measure the US has long used terrorism. In ‘78-79 the Senate was trying to pass a law against international terrorism – in every version they produced, the lawyers said the US would be in violation.

(audio here).

Former FBI station chief Ted Gundersen also says most terror attacks are committed by our CIA and FBI:

Specific Historical Examples

The CIA admits that it hired Iranians in the 1950’s to pose as Communists and stage bombings in Iran in order to turn the country against its democratically-elected prime minister.

The former Italian Prime Minister, an Italian judge, and the former head of Italian counterintelligence admit that NATO, with the help of the Pentagon and CIA, carried out terror bombings in Italy and other European countries in the 1950s and blamed the communists, in order to rally people’s support for their governments in Europe in their fight against communism. As one participant in this formerly-secret program stated: “You had to attack civilians, people, women, children, innocent people, unknown people far removed from any political game. The reason was quite simple. They were supposed to force these people, the Italian public, to turn to the state to ask for greater security” (and see this)(Italy and other European countries subject to the terror campaign had joined NATO before the bombings occurred).

As admitted by the U.S. government, recently declassified documents show that in the 1960’s, the American Joint Chiefs of Staff signed off on a plan to blow up AMERICAN airplanes (using an elaborate plan involving the switching of airplanes), and also tocommit terrorist acts on American soil, and then to blame it on the Cubans in order to justify an invasion of Cuba. See the following ABC news reportthe official documents; and watch this interview with the former Washington Investigative Producer for ABC’s World News Tonight with Peter Jennings.

Nine months earlier, a false flag attack was discussed in order to justify an invasion of the Dominican Republic. Specifically, according to official State Department records, Under Secretary of State Chester Bowles wrote on June 3, 1961:

The Vice President [Lyndon Johnson], [Attorney General] Bob Kennedy, Secretary [of Defense Robert] McNamara, Dick Goodwin [who was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs], [head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] General Lemnitzer, Wyn Coerr, and Ted Achilles were here. Bob McNamara and Lemnitzer stated that under the terms of the contingency paper, they were required to be prepared to move into the island on short order if required to do so, and this, in their opinion, called for substantially more troops that we had in the area. After some discussion we considered two more aircraft carriers, some destroyers, and 12,000 marines should be moved into a position some one hundred miles off the Dominican Republic shore…

The tone of the meeting was deeply disturbing. Bob Kennedy was clearly looking for an excuse to move in on the island. At one point he suggested, apparently seriously, that we might have to blow up the Consulate to provide the rationale.

His general approach, vigorously supported by Dick Goodwin, was that this was a bad government, that there was a strong chance that it might team up with Castro, and that it should be destroyed–with an excuse if possible, without one if necessary.

Rather to my surprise, Bob McNamara seemed to support this view …

The entire spirit of this meeting was profoundly distressing and worrisome, and I left at 8:00 p.m. with a feeling that this spirit which I had seen demonstrated on this occasion and others at the White House by those so close to the President constitutes a further danger of half-cocked action by people with almost no foreign policy experience, who are interested in action for action’s sake, and the devil take the highmost …

[At a subsequent meeting], Bob McNamara went along with their general view that our problem was not to prepare against an overt act by the Dominican Republic but rather to find an excuse for going into the country and upsetting it.

When Congress was originally asked to pass the Patriot Act in late 2001, the anthrax attacks which occurred only weeks earlier were falsely blamed on spooky Arabs as a way to scare Congress members into approving the bill. Specifically:

Indeed, many people have questioned whether or not the anthrax was intentionally sent to scare people. For example:

  • Senator Patrick Leahy said:

And I think there are people within our government — certainly from the source of it — who know where it came from. [Taps the table to let that settle in] And these people may not have had anything to do with it, but they certainly know where it came from.

  • The American bioweapons expert who actually drafted the current bioweapons law (the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989), who holds a doctorate of law magna cum laude and a Ph.D. in political science, both from Harvard University, and teaches international law at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, served on the Board of Directors of Amnesty International (1988-92) and represented Bosnia-Herzegovina at the World Court, and who “advised the FBI in its initial investigation of the anthrax letters”, is convinced that the anthrax attacks that killed five people were perpetrated and covered up by criminal elements of the U.S. government. The motive: to foment a police state by killing off and intimidating opposition to post-9/11 legislation such as the Patriot Act and the later Military Commissions Act. He has said:

    Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy were holding it up because they realized what this would lead to. The first draft of the PATRIOT Act would have suspended the writ of habeas corpus [which protects citizens from unlawful imprisonment and guarantees due process of law]. Then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, come these anthrax attacks.

Department of Justice lawyer John Yoo suggested in 2005 that the US should go on the offensive against al-Qaeda, having “our intelligence agencies create a false terrorist organization. It could have its own websites, recruitment centers, training camps, and fundraising operations. It could launch fake terrorist operations and claim credit for real terrorist strikes, helping to sow confusion within al-Qaeda’s ranks, causing operatives to doubt others’ identities and to question the validity of communications.”

As Chris Floyd and many others have noted, this plan has gone live.

United Press International reported in June 2005:

U.S. intelligence officers are reporting that some of the insurgents in Iraq are using recent-model Beretta 92 pistols, but the pistols seem to have had their serial numbers erased. The numbers do not appear to have been physically removed; the pistols seem to have come off a production line without any serial numbers. Analysts suggest the lack of serial numbers indicates that the weapons were intended for intelligence operations or terrorist cells with substantial government backing. Analysts speculate that these guns are probably from either Mossad or the CIA. Analysts speculate that agent provocateurs may be using the untraceable weapons even as U.S. authorities use insurgent attacks against civilians as evidence of the illegitimacy of the resistance.

There is substantial additional evidence of hanky panky in Iraq.

We’re not alone. Countries around the world have played this terrible game for thousands of years.

If We Don’t Learn Our History, We’re Doomed to Repeat It

Indeed, many former high-level officials are warning that it could happen again:

“We have to be careful, if somebody does this kind of provocation, big violent explosions of some kind, we have to not take the word of the masters there in Washington that this was some terrorist event because it could well be aprovocation allowing them, or seemingly to allow them to get what they want.”

The former CIA analyst would not put it past the government to “play fast and loose” with terror alerts and warnings and even events themselves in order to rally people behind the flag.

Postscript: Most serving in our military are good and honorable people who want to protect America and her people. It is only rogue elements within civilian and military circles who carry out false flag attacks.

Apples Top Most Pesticide Contaminated List; Onions Are Least Contaminated.

In Uncategorized on June 13, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Oldspeak:“In this age of preservative/pesticide – laden industrialized food production, an apple a day could give you cancer. A recent Environmental Working Group report found that 92% of apples contained two or more pesticides. Even after washing and peeling apples are found to have a high amount of pesticide residue. ‘Pesticides are known to be toxic to the nervous system, cause cancer, disrupt hormones and cause brain damage in children. Pregnant women are advised to avoid foods containing pesticides’ –Janice Lloyd. Yet another vast uncontrolled experiment being conducted on hundreds of millions of unwitting and unconsenting subjects… Unfortunate that very few resources are being devoted to determining the long term effects of these poisons in the human body. But hey, at least Big Pharma and the HMOs will be happy with all the new their new revenue streams- err… patients… to “care” for. 😐

By Janice Lloyd @ USA Today:

Apples are at the top of the list of produce most contaminated with pesticides in a report published today by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a public health advocacy group.

Its seventh annual report analyzed government data on 53 fruits and vegetables, identifying which have the most and least pesticides after washing and peeling. For produce found to be highest in pesticides, the group recommends buying organic.

Apples moved up three spots from last year, replacing celery at the top of the most-contaminated list; 92% of apples contained two or more pesticides.

“We think what’s happening to apples is more pesticides and fungicides are being applied after the harvest so the fruit can have a longer shelf life,” says EWG analyst Sonya Lunder. “Pesticides might be in small amounts, but we don’t know what the subtle, long-term effects of many of these pesticides are yet.”

The worst offenders also include strawberries (No. 3) and imported grapes (No. 7). Onions top the “clean” list, found to be lowest in pesticides.

By choosing five servings of fruit and vegetables a day from the clean list, most people can lower the volume of pesticides they consume daily by 92%, the report says.

The Dirty Dozen

1. Apples
2. Celery
3. Strawberries
4. Peaches
5. Spinach
6. Nectarines (imported)
7. Grapes (imported)
8. Sweet bell peppers
9. Potatoes
10. Blueberries
11. Lettuce
12. Kale/collard greens

“Consumers don’t want pesticides on their foods,” says EWG president Ken Cook. “We eat plenty of apples in our house, but we buy organic when we can.”

Rankings reflect the amounts of chemicals present on food when it is eaten. Most samples were washed and peeled before testing. Washing with a “produce wash” is unlikely to help remove pesticides because they’re taken up by the entire plant and reside on more than just the skin, the report says.

For shoppers who cannot afford organic food, which often is more expensive, Cook says the lists offer alternatives. Can’t find organic apples? Buy pineapples, the top fruit on the clean list, or avocados or mangoes.

Fewer than 10% of pineapple, mango and avocado samples showed pesticides. For vegetables, asparagus, corn and onions had no detectable residue on 90% or more of samples.

The Clean 15

1. Onions
2. Corn
3. Pineapples
4. Avocado
5. Asparagus
6. Sweet peas
7. Mangoes
8. Eggplant
9. Cantaloupe (domestic)
10. Kiwi
11. Cabbage
12. Watermelon
13. Sweet potatoes
14. Grapefruit
15. Mushrooms

Pesticides are known to be toxic to the nervous system, cause cancer, disrupt hormones and cause brain damage in children. Pregnant women are advised to avoid foods containing pesticides.

A study by Harvard School of Public Health found children exposed to pesticides had a higher risk of developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Lunder says pesticides were measured in six different ways to calculate overall scores:

•percentage of samples tested with detectable pesticides.

•percentage of samples with two or more pesticides.

•Average number of pesticides found on a single sample.

•Average amount (level in parts per million) of all pesticides found.

•Maximum number of pesticides found on a single sample.

•Total number of pesticides found on the commodity.

Eating five servings of fruits and vegetables from the “dirty dozen” list would mean you’d get an average of 14 different pesticides. By choosing five from the clean list, you’d consumer fewer than two pesticides.

“With the increased emphasis on eating more fruits and vegetables, we need to be vigilant about the food we’re producing and serving,” Lunder says.

When Food Kills

In Uncategorized on June 12, 2011 at 4:45 pm

Oldspeak: “Behold! The Fruits of Corporatization of Food… Food-born illness kills more people than AIDS.  But thanks to Big Ag’s Legion of Lobbyists and the Supreme Court’s Citizens United Decision, very little is being done to ensure the safety of our food supply.” Every year in the United States, 325,000 people are hospitalized because of food-borne illnesses and 5,000 die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s right: food kills one person every two hours.Yet while the terrorist attacks of 2001 led us to transform the way we approach national security, the deaths of almost twice as many people annually have still not generated basic food-safety initiatives. We have an industrial farming system that is a marvel for producing cheap food, but its lobbyists block initiatives to make food safer.’ -Nicolas D. Kristoff

By Nicolas D. Kristoff @ The New York Times:

The deaths of 31 people in Europe from a little-known strain of E. coli have raised alarms worldwide, but we shouldn’t be surprised. Our food often betrays us.

Just a few days ago, a 2-year-old girl in Dryden, Va., died in a hospital after suffering bloody diarrhea linked to another strain of E. coli. Her brother was also hospitalized but survived.

Every year in the United States, 325,000 people are hospitalized because of food-borne illnesses and 5,000 die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s right: food kills one person every two hours.

Yet while the terrorist attacks of 2001 led us to transform the way we approach national security, the deaths of almost twice as many people annually have still not generated basic food-safety initiatives. We have an industrial farming system that is a marvel for producing cheap food, but its lobbyists block initiatives to make food safer.

Perhaps the most disgraceful aspect of our agricultural system — I say this as an Oregon farmboy who once raised sheep, cattle and hogs — is the way antibiotics are recklessly stuffed into healthy animals to make them grow faster.

The Food and Drug Administration reported recently that 80 percent of antibiotics in the United States go to livestock, not humans. And 90 percent of the livestock antibiotics are administered in their food or water, typically to healthy animals to keep them from getting sick when they are confined in squalid and crowded conditions.

The single state of North Carolina uses more antibiotics for livestock than the entire United States uses for humans.

This cavalier use of low-level antibiotics creates a perfect breeding ground for antibiotic-resistant pathogens. The upshot is that ailments can become pretty much untreatable.

The Infectious Diseases Society of America, a professional organization of doctors, cites the case of Josh Nahum, a 27-year-old skydiving instructor in Colorado. He developed a fever from bacteria that would not respond to medication. The infection spread and caused tremendous pressure in his skull.

Some of his brain was pushed into his spinal column, paralyzing him. He became a quadriplegic depending on a ventilator to breathe. Then, a couple of weeks later, he died.

There’s no reason to link Nahum’s case specifically to agricultural overuse, for antibiotic resistance has multiple causes that are difficult to unravel. Doctors overprescribe them. Patients misuse them. But looking at numbers, by far the biggest element of overuse is agriculture.

We would never think of trying to keep our children healthy by adding antibiotics to school water fountains, because we know this would breed antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It’s unconscionable that Big Ag does something similar for livestock.

Louise Slaughter, the only microbiologist in the United States House of Representatives, has been fighting a lonely battle to curb this practice — but industrial agricultural interests have always blocked her legislation.

“These statistics tell the tale of an industry that is rampantly misusing antibiotics in an attempt to cover up filthy, unsanitary living conditions among animals,” Slaughter said. “As they feed antibiotics to animals to keep them healthy, they are making our families sicker by spreading these deadly strains of bacteria.”

Vegetarians may think that they’re immune, but they’re not. E. coli originates in animals but can spill into water used to irrigate vegetables, contaminating them. The European E. coli outbreak apparently arose from bean sprouts grown on an organic farm in Germany.

One of the most common antibiotic-resistant pathogens is MRSA, which now kills more Americans annually than AIDS and adds hugely to America’s medical costs. MRSA has many variants, and one of the more benign forms now is widespread in hog barns and among people who deal with hogs. An article this year in a journal called Applied and Environmental Microbiology reported that MRSA was found in 70 percent of hogs on one farm.

Another scholarly journal reported that MRSA was found in 45 percent of employees working at hog farms. And the Centers for Disease Control reported this April that this strain of bacteria has now been found in a worker at a day care center in Iowa.

Other countries are moving to ban the feeding of antibiotics to livestock. But in the United States, the agribusiness lobby still has a hold on Congress.

The European outbreak should shake people up. “It points to the whole broken system,” notes Robert Martin of the Pew Environment Group.

We need more comprehensive inspections in the food system, more testing for additional strains of E. coli, and more public education (always wash your hands after touching raw meat, and don’t use the same cutting board for meat and vegetables). A great place to start reforms would be by banning the feeding of antibiotics to healthy livestock.

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