Tag Archives: 99%

Challenging and critiquing Snowden

27 Sep
How Juice Rap News perceives Snowden (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7aiZjD0_mTA)

How Juice Rap News perceives Snowden

I recently read a post criticizing, mainly, the reformist ideas of NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden, by the always provocative wordpress blog, The Rancid Honeytrap. You might say off the bat, well that’s some guy sitting in his basement typing away on some computer and he doesn’t need to be listened to. I disagree. The post brought up a number of valid critiques of Snowden’s belief in surveillance reform. While I am glad that Snowden has showed, thanks to journalists who have written about the top secret or secret documents that he obtained, the extent of the massive surveillance state run by elements of the U.S. government, there is definitely an area for critique and criticism This article/post is an attempt to continue that critique, but in my own words.

At the beginning of blogpost, The Rancid Honeytrap quotes Snowden in a recent interview saying some surveillance is ok, especially if the “people say they want it”, claiming that

“…we can have people in every country make that decision because that’s what democracy is about. That’s what self-government is about…[not] making these decisions behind closed doors, without public debate, without public consent. That decision, belongs exclusively to the people of that country…I think it’s wrong of any politician, to take away the people’s seat at the table of government”

I agree with The Rancid Honeytrap that this isn’t what democracy is about, and even if all of Snowden’s premises are true, it “does not rightfully empower an acquiescent majority to vote away freedom from constant and pervasive government surveillance any more than people can.” At the same time, I think Snowden’s idea that people have such a voice in government is frankly not only absurd, but not true at all. As an April 2014 study by Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin L. Page of Northwestern University  concluded,

“economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence…Our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts”

Noam Chomsky noted something very similar to this back in August of last year, saying that:

“… In the work that’s essentially the gold standard in the field, it’s concluded that for roughly 70% of the population – the lower 70% on the wealth/income scale – they have no influence on policy whatsoever. They’re effectively disenfranchised. As you move up the wealth/income ladder, you get a little bit more influence on policy. When you get to the top, which is maybe a tenth of one percent, people essentially get what they want, i.e. they determine the policy. So the proper term for that is not democracy; it’s plutocracy.”

After this, Chomsky goes on to define the US as a “Really Existing Capitalist Democracy” where  the public is supposed to” lend their weight every few years, to a choice among the responsible men” but they are meant to be spectators and not participants.Hey, why not add good ‘ole Chris Hedges into the mix, who has his problems as The Rancid Honeytrap and others like OLAASM know well. In his book, Empire of Illusion, Hedges writes that the idea of consent of the governed is an empty one (142-3):

“The words consent of the governed have become an empty phrase…Our nation has been hijacked by oligarchs, corporations, and a narrow, selfish, political, and economic elite, a small moneyed group that governs, and often steals, on behalf of moneyed interests…The government…provides little more than technical expertise for elites and corporations…It has become the greatest illusion in a culture of illusions. It perpetuates a power and democratic ethic it does not possess. It seeks to perpetuate prosperity by borrowing trillions of dollars it can never repay…corporate power…holds the government hostage.”

Add to this the controversial but well-sourced study titled ‘Human and Nature Dynamics (HANDY): Modeling Inequality and Use of Resources in the Collapse or Sustainability of Societies’ which not only talked about how collapse of human civilization, in their view can be avoided if “the rate of depletion of nature is reduced to a sustainable level and if resources are distributed equitably” (1) but that “the scenarios most closely reflecting the reality of our world today” (20) are what they consider, elite-commoner societies:

“the economic stratication of society into Elites and Masses (or “Commoners”)…accumulated surplus [or wealth] is not evenly distributed throughout society, but rather has been controlled by an elite. The mass of the population, while producing the wealth, is only allocated a small portion of it by elites, usually at or just above subsistence levels…Elites “prey” on the production of wealth by Commoners.” [2, 5]

Keeping what Martin Gilens and Benjamin L. Page’s study, Noam Chomsky, Chris Hedges and the HANDY study said, it is incorrect to say that people have a “seat at the table of government” or can even make decisions in a supposed democracy. They can’t, especially in the U.S. The same can apply to countries like Australia, which like Canada and the UK, in the words of a leaked 2005 Citigroup memo, is a plutonomy (while also being a plutocracy or a government controlled directly or indirectly by the rich) which refers to the habits of rich consumers, rather than “the rest, the “non-rich”, the multitudinous many” which is driven by a number of factors:

“Disruptive technology-driven productivity gains, creative financial innovation, capitalist-friendly cooperative governments, an international dimension of immigrants and overseas conquests invigorating wealth creation, the rule of law, and patenting inventions…six drivers of the current plutonomy: 1) an ongoing technology/biotechnology revolution, 2) capitalist-friendly governments and tax regimes, 3) globalization that re-arranges global supply chains with mobile well-capitalized elites and immigrants, 4) greater financial complexity and innovation, 5) the rule of law, and 6) patent protection”

This memo also notes that “at the heart of plutonomy, is income inequality. Societies that are willing to tolerate/endorse income inequality, are willing to tolerate/endorse plutonomy.” Such societies, like Australia and the U.S., are what I once called states in crisis, or those states that “elites have more power in forming public policy than the general populace or at minimum put in place elite-friendly policies.”

Such ideas also invalidate Snowden’s philosophy, if you could call it that, as expressed en in the New York Times that as “long as there’s broad support amongst a people, it can be argued there’s a level of legitimacy even to the most invasive and morally wrong program, as it was an informed and willing decision” and in The Guardian interview that “the public needs to decide whether these policies are right or wrong.” The people don’t have an ability to decide if policies are right or wrong because they aren’t part of the policy-making apparatus, and their views are easily brushed aside by elites in the U.S., and likely in other countries as well. Additionally, Snowden’s trust in the thoughts of the public also forgets the fact that public opinion polls can be manipulated as the GCHQ did, deceptive, or limit “people’s sense of wider possibilities,” which limits the scope of public debate.

To some extent, The Rancid Honeytrap says that Snowden’s idea that we can “register our consent” is absurd:

“…Let’s allow for argument’s sake that it’s entirely fine for people to waive their own rights and those of their dissenting neighbors. By what means does Snowden propose we register our consent? Do we get to vote on this? Or is our consent inferred from not toppling the government when it predictably makes things worse instead of better?”

The Rancid Honeytrap writes toward the end of their piece that whistleblowers themselves  are the “kind of people who get into the sort of deep, dark places from which whistles customarily get blown. Places that are uniquely attractive to patriots, ultra-conformists, imperialists and sociopaths” and that while he appreciates “their service to the truth, but with all due respect, these are not my kind of people.” It is definitely true that whistleblowers, whether Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, or Daniel Ellsberg, hold very reformist thoughts.

At one point, in the words of The Rancid Honeytrap, he rightly points out that Snowden still “insists he’s still working for it [the NSA]…[and] his only beef with the country’s gigantic security apparatus is bulk data collection conducted by that single agency.”  These reformist beliefs of Snowden are deeply problematic, as the system itself could afford getting ride of “bulk data collection” by the NSA, since the surveillance apparatus at-large would NOT be dismantled. Still, those who benefit from such collection don’t want it to go away.

One Juice Rap News segment back from September 2012, almost ten months before Snowden revealed himself to the world, encapsulates the wholistic nature of the mass surveillance of the surveillance state, which has a 1984-ish vibe when the host, Robert Foster talks to General Baxter, who represents the state/military establishment/intelligence establishment all in one:


Robert Foster: “Explain why the state is spying on us?”

"My fellow Oceanians, we've always been at war with Eurasia, or is it East Asia? Either way its war and we need a vision to wage it. But now the proles are connecting online passing these illusionary divisions of race, religion, and nationality."

General Baxter: “My fellow Oceanians, we’ve always been at war with Eurasia, or is it East Asia? Either way its war and we need division to wage it! But now the proles are connecting online passing these illusionary divisions of race, religion, and nationality!”

"Sounds grand to me."

Robert Foster: “Sounds grand to me.”

"Its a catastrophe. Centuries of hard work being undone, profits are vanishing, and its due to the internet. Its empowering humanity. We need to get this snafu under control rapidly."

General Baxter: “Its a catastrophe! Centuries of hard work being undone, profits are vanishing, and its due to the internet! Its empowering humanity! We need to get this snafu under control rapidly.”

Robert Foster: "How?"

Robert Foster: “How?”

General Baxter: "Behold the latest weapon in the war of terror. Our greatest invention since 9/11. Guaranteed to keep us free and safe forever. I give you the surveillance state ladies and generals."

General Baxter: “Behold the latest weapon in the war of terror. Our greatest invention since 9/11. Guaranteed to keep us free and safe forever…I give you the surveillance state ladies and generals!”

General Baxter: "Our secret wires log your case dial. Monitor every single number on your speed dial. Rewind to your position with facial recognition and pinpoint you within 0.3 of a mile!"

General Baxter: “Our secret wires log your case dial. Monitor every single number on your speed dial. Rewind to your position with facial recognition and pinpoint you within 0.3 of a mile!”

General Baxter: "We've put eyes everywhere without consulting you, keeping you safe whether or not you want us to. Soon, they'll be no freedoms left for threatening. Then we'll have won the war! Take that terrorism!"

General Baxter: “We’ve put eyes everywhere without consulting you, keeping you safe whether or not you want us to. Soon, they’ll be no freedoms left for threatening. Then we’ll have won the war! Take that terrorism!”

While there is good criticism in the rest of The Rancid Honeytrap‘s post, my take on it will have to wait for another article, another time, another day. Sorry to say.

Questioning the US Institute of Peace: does it really care about peace?

26 Sep

At the end of July, Little Sis, a project of the Government Accountability Project (GAP), published a short article criticizing Stephen Hadley. They write that Hadley has “made a career of promoting, overseeing, and profiting from war,” as he was already responsible as a White House official during the Bush Administration “for inserting faulty intelligence about Iraq’s nuclear capabilities…in Bush’s State of the Union in 2003.” They also noted that Hadley has, since he left public office, “co-founded an international consulting firm and joined the board of weapons manufacturer Raytheon” and more importantly, he serves as the chair of the US Institute of Peace (USIP)’s board of directors, while also authoring Washington Post op-eds about the crisis’s in Syria, Gaza, and Ukraine when he could personally profit from them. GAP then writes that the agenda of the USIP can then “be described as Orwellian” since he chairs the organization which was interestingly enough established during the Reagan era in 1984. Still, I’d argue that one can’t negatively portray an institution like the USIP just by looking at one person. So, this article will continue the analysis of GAP to question the federally-funded institution itself: does it really serve the interests of peace?

It is important to look further into the USIP, starting with those that run it. There were a number of specifics not noted in the article by GAP was that Hadley was formerly the director of the Bessmer Group up to 2009, which “operates as a bank holding company for Bessemer Trust.” The trust says that it has one goal and one goal only: “preserving and enhancing our clients’ wealth” through a use of credit investments, currencies, hedge funds and more. The international consulting firm mentioned in passing in GAP’s article, at which Hadley is a principal, is called the RiceHadleyGates Team. This firm also includes former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and a former “Special Assistant to Under Secretary for Political Affairs” at the State Department named Anja Manuel. This firm is assisting a Silicon Valley-based company where British war criminal and former Prime Minister Tony Blair is a “special adviser” and advises, according to The New York , “companies about doing business in emerging markets like the Middle East, China, Brazil, India and Turkey.” Hadley also sits on the international advisory council member of APCO worldwide, another consulting firm. Finally, he is a member of the Atlantic Council which is, in the words of Allen Ruff, an “elite foreign policy NGO” that is dedicated to moving forward the “national interest” of the US and continuing “Cold War supremacy within the ‘Atlantic community’ and beyond.” Then, he is a member of Aspen Institute Homeland Security Group as well, which includes has people such as NYPD Commissioner Bill “broken windows” Bratton and Michael Chertoff, among others.

Some of the other board members make one question the institution as well. John Kerry, a corporatist Senator and now Secretary of State, and Chuck Hagel, who formerly served on Chevron’s board of directors and is now Secretary of Defense, serve as board members. One board member, J. Robinson West, was even the chairman and founder of PFC Energy which advised big oil companies, helped lease off the outer continental shelf for oil drilling during the Reagan years and is currently a member of the National Petroleum Council which focuses on advising, informing and recommending measures to the Energy Secretary on “any matter relating to oil and natural gas, or to the oil and gas industries” which is “submitted to it or approved by the Secretary.” Other board members make one lift their eyebrow, including: a member of the board of directors of the right-wing legal organization called the Center for Individual Rights; the director of the Atlantic Council; the president of the National Defense University; a senior fellow at the libertarian Hoover Institution; and the president of Quality Care Consultants. Some board members seem to not be corporate or tied to the foreign policy and military establishments like one who heads a civil and human rights group and another that is the former executive director of the National Council on Independent Living. In the past, Harriet Zimmermann, who was a member of AIPAC and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, was even a member of the USIP’s board. If this isn’t enough, USIP has eight-six experts working at places ranging from the centrist Brookings institution to the World Bank and the Rockefeller Foundation.

The Institution has an interesting history. It was spurred by grassroots pressure initially and then it came to engage in projects that some may be disturbed by and goes against the ideas those who pushed for it, peace activists, in the first place. After all, David Petraeus called them “a great asset in developing stronger unity of effort between civilian and military elements of government” in Afghanistan. They helped convene the Iraq Study Group in 2006, which came out with a final report that urged an immediate pull-out from Iraq and a surge in Afghanistan. So much for peace as this suggestion means that war would decline in one country and increased in another. To echoe what Howard Beale said in Network about the “truth” from television, “this is mass madness you maniacs!” Then, there was the Genocide Prevention Task Force, convened by USIP and other groups, which was co-chaired by former Secretary of State Madeline “the price was worth it” Albright and former Secretary of Defense William Cohen who has played a big role in US military actions in Kosovo and Iraq in the 1990s. The 174-page report from this task force, which had thirty-five recommendations for lawmakers and other public officials, echoed the ideas of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), stating in part that: “states have a basic responsibility to protect their citizens from genocide and mass atrocities…As an element of this expression of resolve, the United States should also reaffirm its support for the principle of the “responsibil­ity to protect.” What this report did not note is that R2P has been used to justify the interventions in the Ivory Coast and Libya in 2011 along with one in the Central African Republic in 2013. Binoy Kampmark wrote in 2008 that this report, which was from a task force chaired “by key players in the Clinton administration,” pairs well with “interventionist rhetoric Obama has, at times, articulated” and through his foreign policy advisers, while the “priorities given to genocide prevention may yet again be minimized.”

USIP had other initiatives such as one that purportedly was aimed at preventing electoral violence in the two Sudans, where the US has an oil interest and is competing with China, but had no similar program in another other region of the world. Then there is the publication of something called “The Iran Primer” which claims to offer a “comprehensive but concise overview of Iran’s politics, economy, military, foreign policy, and nuclear program” which is edited by Robin B. Wright who is a scholar who works at The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a group where the Vice Chairman of Morgan Stanley is the chair of its board of Trustees, which is filled with a number of business-friendly folks. A number of others write for the publication, including a director of a part of the Brookings Institution and a Carnegie Endowment’s policy analyst.

Sara Diamond in the July/August 1990 issue of Z Magazine brought another critique to the USIP: that is it close with the intelligence establishment. Diamond writes that the Institute has become “a stomping ground for professional war-makers” and has become “a funding conduit and clearinghouse for research on problems inherent to U.S. strategies of ‘low intensity conflict.’ She later writes that the USIP’s board in 1984 looked like a bunch of “right-wing ideologues from academia and the Pentagon” since, as she concludes, by law, “the USIP is an arm of the U.S. intelligence apparatus…[and] intersects heavily with the intelligence establishment.” That isn’t all. Diamond writes that the Institute has a congressionally approved board of directors, its first president worked with the State Department to disseminate anti-Contra propaganda and at the time, of the article’s writing, three of the board members presided over the seemingly defunct “U.S. Global Strategy Council which was a “shadowy clique of military intelligence strategists headed by former CIA deputy director Ray Cline.” Furthermore, Diamond noted that most of the USIP’s grant projects “through early 1990 reveals undeniable favoritism toward researchers committed to Cold War paradigms.” And the article continues on.

The problems with USIP don’t stop here. According to an archived page on USIP’s website, former fellows of the institution include Leon Aron of the American Enterprise Institute, Ray Jennings and Albert Cevallos of USAID, Richard Joseph of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), Dana Priest of the Washington Post, and the failed Vice Presidential candidate Bill Richardson. Lest us forget that the US government’s official position on Syria was “sponsored by the U.S. Institute of Peace to negotiate disputes among selected elements of the Syrian Opposition,” according to Professor Richard Rubenstein in CounterPunch. On the problems with USIP, Associate Professor Thomas N. Nagy added that “Dr. Waromonger” Daniel Pipes who is a premier warmonger, an obvious Islamaphobe, a supporter of the Vietnam War, a strong supporter of Israel who opposes a Palestinian state, and advocate of U.S. military attack on Iran to stop its nuclear program, was nominated to the board of USIP by President George W. Bush. This nomination was blocked by rightly angry Democratic senators, but Bush used his authority to appoint Pipes through a recess appointment (he served for two years) while Pipes was endorsed by the Anti-Defamation League, the Zionist Organization of America, a number of senators and other small groups.

While one cannot deny that USIP engages in good work from time to time, it is clear that this federal institution is mired by connections the foreign policy and military establishments, the intelligence community and the corporate sector. These connections make clear that USIP is not promoting peace. After all, that isn’t their mission; rather it is, according to their website, a push to “increase the nation’s capacity to manage international conflict without violence.” This weak statement doesn’t even say, or even allude, that wars should be ended or scaling down of violence worldwide. If USIP doesn’t start demanding real peace, which would require a push to cut war spending worldwide, especially in the US, and rethinking war economies, then it may be time to question if it is really needed anymore.

A recovery for the one percent

14 Jun

g20 protests 2009

Coming into the 2014 elections, and so on, Democrats will be touting this magical ‘recovery’ brought on by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (also called the ‘Recovery act’ or ‘the stimulus’) and other measures. It is important to challenge this idea head on and tell the truth about the ‘recovery’ itself. This article is not a full analysis of every single article out there, but it hopes to explain to some degree how the recovery has benefited the one percent

In April 2012, liberal Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein wrote about the ‘recovery.’ He said that while early in the “recession, there was some talk that the economic crisis would, among other things, slow or even reverse the run-up in inequality,” it in fact did the opposite: “the recovery, such as it is, has made inequality worse.” Klein went on to write that “financial markets and corporate profits…have recovered far faster than the labor market or the housing sector” but that the “middle-class American family that owns your home” has not really felt a recovery. Over one year later, another article about the recovery was published in the Washington Post, using data from inequality researchers showed that [1]:

while only 49 percent of the decline in incomes during the recession was born by the top 1 percent (whose income share fell to 18.1 percent due to the recession), 95 percent of income gains since the recovery started have gone to them. This is a big change from past recessions and recoveries.

As Paul Taylor and Richard Fry of the Pew Research Center told the Washington Post, “It has been a very good recovery for those at the upper end of the wealth distribution. But there has been no recovery for the lower 93, which is nearly everybody.”Now this should be no surprise since Obama admitted himself in his horrid liberal rhetoric here , here and here:

we’ve seen a two-decade to three-decade-long trend where increases in profitability, expansions of markets, increases in corporate profits, rises in the stock market don’t translate into higher incomes and higher wages for the ordinary person — at the same time that their costs for sending their kids to college have skyrocketed.

Corporate profits have skyrocketed to all-time highs—but for more than a decade, wages and incomes have barely budged.

We know that despite economic growth and close to record corporate profits, despite the fact that folks at the very top are doing better than ever, that there are too many families all across the country who are still struggling to get by, who work hard every day but have trouble making ends meet at the end of the month.

Yet Obama says this but he has never pushed any policies that try to seriously tackle what he calls a ‘trend’ or to stop the hurt  and suffering of the working and middle classes.

Beyond this, some may still have their substantive claims about the ‘recovery’ that has too place. I looked into some articles in alternative publications to see if I could find something substantive and as it turned out, there was a good body of criticism. Zoltan Zigedy in the publication Against the Current wrote that the Jack Rasmus’s book, Obama’s Economy: Recovery for the Few demonstrates that:

“Obama — the candidate — drew his financial support from Wall Street, surrounded himself with corporate-friendly, free-market-oriented advisers, and preferred caution and compromise to any bold, new vision…once Obama had all but sewn up the nomination, he began an even further rightward shift…Beyond Rasmus’ account and well before the presidential candidacy, Obama’s career was marked by sycophancy to power and wealth and by opportunism…As Rasmus demonstrates, Obama’s economic course was largely predictable from his campaign promises…Rasmus sifts through the seeming chaos and improvisations of the last four years to find three distinct Obama recovery programs implemented in 2009, 2010, and 2011. In addition, he identifies “two and a half” Federal Reserve actions (Quantitative Easings) meant to revive the slumping economy. It is his considered opinion that all these efforts failed to restore the economy to anything like a sustainable vitality…After reading Rasmus’ new book, one will find little to justify praise for the Obama administration. While the three trillion dollars of recovery programs (as tabulated by Rasmus) from March of 2008 until September of 2011 — more than two-thirds of these federal dollars allocated on Obama’s watch — may have staved off an even deeper downturn, they have done little to revive the economy. Certainly from the perspective of capital and a wealthy and powerful tiny minority of our citizens, the recovery has been satisfactory, if not a rousing success…But for the vast majority wages are stagnant or dropping, benefits shaved or eliminated, living costs rising, home ownership in jeopardy, and employment tenuous; most of us are still looking for the recovery. And the economic data promise little improvement.”

In another review of the same book in CounterFire, Henry Parkyn-Smith writes that the book is “framed [in] terms of who the downturn is damaging and what the recovery is supporting” and it: “focuses on the lack of recovery, how deep the crisis is, as well as how and why there seem to be few signs of the crisis abating…[how the] recovery there has been is unequal, and how Obama’s regime has acted to support the rich at the expense of the majority of working Americans.” In Smith’s opinion, Obama, “Within the Democratic Party…in fact one of the most conservative figures: not only were his pre-election promises neo-liberal and pro-business, the policies he actually implemented during his first term could be seen as being even more so.”

Without going through book reviews all day, there are a number of articles written during and after the ‘recovery’ was beginning to be implemented. Writer Alan Farago said in January 2009 that if the fiscal stimulus, as he called it, is

“not applied to rebuilding our nation’s productive capacity, it is money down a black hole. For certain, it is important to provide some floor under this free-fall. But government spending on infrastructure serves a temporary purpose. a limited purpose. Fiscal stimulus that fails to provide for new productive capacity—jobs making products that people need—will bleed out the economy like a slow suicide.”

Farago in this article said that “the Obama administration should consider preemptive measures to nationalize sectors of the economy.” What Farago said did not exactly happen, instead there was what Forbes, The New York Times, Pew Research Center, the Washington Post, and many others called a “jobless recovery” since 2009, when jobs have not really grown but there has been an economic ‘recovery.’ The International Labor Organization even had a report released in January of this year about “the risk of jobless recovery” on a global scale. After all, the Recovery Act itself was not as effective as it seems, in the view of Doug Henwood:

“What we got was a bill that did some good things – extending unemployment benefits, picking up health insurance costs for the laid-off, etc. – but one that also was too loaded with tax breaks and other indirect mechanisms that are supposed to create jobs. If you divide the amount of cash spent, according to Recovery.gov, by the administration’s estimate of jobs “created or saved” – whatever that means exactly – by the StimPak [Stimulus package], you find that the cost per job is something around $250,000…Yes, and if you allow for multiplier effects – someone whose job is saved spends more money than someone on the dole, which saves other jobs that would have otherwise evaporate – then it’s maybe $150,000-175,000 per job. That’s still preposterously inefficient, however…The Obama people like The Market, and want to nudge it into creating more private sector jobs…And there’s a bias among neoliberals, like Obama & Co., that sees public sector jobs as phony and private sector jobs as real…they’re going to emphasize tax breaks and other minimalist strategies. They won’t do much to create jobs.”

An article I almost forget to include was published this May in the New York Times about the “Obama-Bernanke financial rescue.” In the article, Binyamin Appelbaum writes that

Atif Mian and Amir Sufi [in a new book titled House of Debt] are convinced that the Great Recession could have been just another ordinary, lowercase recession if the federal government had acted more aggressively to help homeowners by reducing mortgage debts…Mr. Geithner wrote in his book that the administration had tried to help homeowners — and that doing more wouldn’t have changed the trajectory of the recession…The Obama administration considered several ways to reduce mortgage debts during the heart of the crisis. It promised to pursue a few, too, including empowering bankruptcy courts to forgive debts, paying lenders and buying up loans. But ultimately, the administration adopted a limited aid program and gambled that an economic recovery would take care of the problem. Mr. Mian and Mr. Sufi are not particular about which method of reducing debt would have been best; their point is simply that the government, by failing to do more, inhibited the recovery.

In a blog on their website, the writers of the book clarified what their book was talking about, and their objections to what they called the ‘Geithner view of the world':

“In some of the early reviews of our book, our argument is caricatured as saying we should have let the banks fail and we should have saved homeowners. We do not make such an extreme claim. In fact, we commend both Ben Bernanke and Tim Geithner for some of their policies that were directed at stopping dangerous runs in the banking system. We agree that bank runs threaten the payment system and the entire economy, and policies should be undertaken to prevent such runs. The problem we have with the Geithner view of the world is that it is far too extreme — it is a “save the banks, save the economy” view which has been thoroughly discredited in both the United States and Europe. The fact that Geithner still adheres to this view despite all the evidence to the contrary is truly remarkable. The problem with the economy in 2008 and 2009 is not that banks are not lending enough. It’s absurd to argue that we need more bank lending when demand is collapsing throughout the economy.”

Rather than going through every article on the subject, its better to shift the focus to who the recovery has benefited. As quoted in an opinion piece published on Reuters by Chrystia Freeland, Emanuel Saez said,

“The evidence suggests that top income earners today are not ‘rentiers’ deriving their incomes from past wealth, but rather are ‘working rich,’ highly paid employees or new entrepreneurs who have not yet accumulated fortunes comparable to those accumulated during the Gilded Age.”

There is more. In an article in CounterPunch criticizing the Federal Reserve’s ‘stimulus,’ Mark Vorpahl writes that

“the Federal Reserve is keeping interest rates ultra-low in order to encourage businesses to borrow money and expand their operations. The Fed’s alleged desired outcome is to encourage banks to make more loans to the private sector, thereby encouraging economic growth and job creation. To reach this goal, however, these policies have to be set out on the right path. Currently, they are not. On the contrary, today’s policies are guided by supply side, trickle down theories which essentially claim that the problem with the economy is that the rich aren’t rich enough…There has been a weak upturn in job creation, falling far short of what is needed to return to the employment rate prior to the crash of 2008. In addition, the stimulus has been too weak to counter the accumulating impacts, including layoffs, of sequestration as it starts to gather steam. What’s more, it is a very dubious proposition that this slight and temporary job upturn has anything to do with Bernanke’s extraordinary measures at all.”

The New Statesman noted the same is happening in the UK, with the top one percent having their income rise and the bottom 90 percent having their income decline. Even the housing recovery itself seems to be a joke. As Forbes contributor Richard Green notes,”the housing market at the top is doing much better than the housing market at the bottom (it is doing better than the middle, too).” None of this should be of any surprise since the real size of the bailout was not the reported $700 billion given to the big banks, but was tabulated to over $14 trillion as noted by Naomi Prins (Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department) and $29 trillion from the Fed alone as explained by L. Randall Wray in the Huffington Post. Lest us not forget that Ben Bernanke defended the bailout of the banks. Such measures explain even more why Americans doubt the benefits a stimulus from the Fed.

As noted in an article in that liberal rag, The New Republic, Timothy Noah writes that “the U.S. economy’s current ability to expandno matter who is presidentwithout benefiting the 99 percent is something new. Perhaps we should do something to change that.” While he is right about making sure the 99 percent benefit, the best way to do so is to not choose solutions coming out the two establishment parties, but rather to look for robust alternatives.

[1] Later, even Joe Scarborough reflected this sentiment on MSNBC, the channel which cheers Democrats all day long, saying that “since Barack Obama became president of the United States, 95 percent of economic gains have been made by the richest 1 percent.”

Resisting digital personalization

8 Jun

Reposted from Z Blogs.

There is always talk about how the internet is a magically decentralized system. Eli Pariser, the former head of the liberal, pro-Democratic Party group, MoveOn, challenges this notion in his 2011 book, The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding From You, in which he sounds off on the dangers of digital personalization. This article will review the book and also attempt to offer some methods of resisting digital personalization.

Pariser focuses much of his book around the ‘filter bubble.’[1] Basically, the filter bubble is a set of algorithms used on sites such as Twitter, Google, Facebook, and Yahoo! to name a few.[2] Filtering is, as Pariser describes it, is personalized tailoring of information to your liking. Such personalization, he says, could narrow our thoughts because we are inundated with those perspectives that agree with our views, not those that challenge us. In addition, the storage of our personal information by private companies and corporations is used to blast personalized advertising at us and filter our content through ‘click signals.’ Pariser worries that such filtering concentrates the control of the internet in the hands of a few American multinational corporations.

Digital personalization itself is the subject of a recent Warner Brothers film, Her. On the surface, the movie is about a relationship between the lonely and rarely social protagonist Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), who works for a company that writes letters for those in intimate relationships, and an operating system (OS) with artificial intelligence named Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johanson). Theodore, who is still married to a wife he has been separated with for years, tells Samantha his deepest thoughts as he falls deeply in love with her, and gets his life back together. Samantha is one of the many OS’s, commercial products that purport to make people understand their lives better, which evolve to meet the needs of the user, and personalize the content, so that they feel like a trusted friend. However, they are deceptive since the OS’s are not really human and their artificial intelligence creates a ‘lock in’ to their technology.[3] They also suggest what you may like based on your activities, thoughts, a bit like the function on sites such as Facebook or Amazon saying ‘if you like this, then you’ll like this!’ Theodore finds out the true nature of Samantha when she tells him that she is talking to more than 8,000 at the same time as him and is in love with about 1/10 of them. He is shocked as he thought Samantha was only his and possibly commits suicide (its open to interpretation) as the film closes. In essence, this movie warns of the dangers of digital personalization and how it can control human life.

After reading through this book I was a bit depressed about the future predicament of netizens.[4] US netizens, as they are called, are likely concerned about personalized ads being directed toward them. However, there is little action to counter such digital personalization. Interestingly, there has been more concern about the NSA engaging in mass surveillance on Americans and the rest of the world through the massive public-private national security complex, than the collection of personal data by companies such as Google and Yahoo!. This is not to say that NSA mass surveillance is not important, but rather that it is connected to what can rightly be called corporate surveillance. In the second part of the recent FRONTLINE documentary, United States of Secrets, it notes how the personal information which the

NSA collected to spy on Americans and people across the world was first exploited and stored by American multinational tech companies to benefit their bottom line.

Still, there is one major difference between collection of personal information which is digitally personalized by American multinationals and the ‘collect it all’ doctrine of the NSA & its partners. Digital personalization, as noted by Pariser, has the potential to seep into every part of our lives, as noted in the movie Her (talked about two paragraphs ago). NSA surveillance on the other hand is not all-encompassing, as it would be impossible for the NSA to collect all the personal information of Americans. Rather it is based on the idea of social control, where the NSA collects enough information for everyone to feel like they are under surveillance. Despite these differences, NSA surveillance and digital personalization are deeply connected, which is, strangely enough, not pointed out by Pariser, who only mentions the NSA once in passing in the book. But the book does allude to the possibility that government would exploit personal information used by American multinationals for their own uses (which they have done).

In the last chapter of the book, Pariser outlines what he believes are effective strategies for resisting digital personalization. They are pretty moderate in general. They include breaking your digital habits (looking at different things every day) and using technology where you have more control of the filter bubble imposed on you by the certain service. Pariser, for example, says that Twitter is better than Facebook because you get to control ‘your’ filter bubble. He also advocates for implementing and enforcing the Nixon-era Fair Information Practices as well.[5] Also, he writes that “to rescue our digital environment from itself, we’ll ultimately need a new constituency of digital environmentalists—citizens of this new space we’re all building who band together to protect what’s great about it.”[6] In a hopeful tone, Pariser says that “if the great mass of us decide that an open, public-spirited Internet matters and speak up about it…the lobbyists won’t stand a chance” (which was the case with the defeats of SOPA, PIPA and CISPA)[6]. But he worries that a “small group of American companies may unilaterally dictate how billions of people work, play, communicate, and understand the world.”[7] He concludes with the though that for “all of us,” protecting the “early vision of radical connectedness [on the internet] and user control should be an urgent priority.”[7]

I think that Pariser’s call to action to protect “radical connectedness” on the internet and resist digital personalization should be applauded. However, I feel that he does not go far enough. Companies like Google, Facebook, Yahoo! and others who are exploiting user information and selling it to advertisers and, at times, giving it to the government, are simply “digital imperialists…[who] violate the basic right to privacy…[and constitute] part of the globalization of the surveillance state.”[8] Pariser’s book is a reminder of the increasing control of the internet by corporate power, but he does not mention, sadly, the “corporate concentration of the [online] blogosphere” or the growing power of a small number of internet service providers (mostly American multinationals) in the US. [8] To be fair, Pariser is focusing on digital personalization and highlighting its dangers in his book, not the issues I just talked about. On the other hand, I agree with Pariser’s view that as users, we should choose services which give us more power over our information flow: Twitter instead of Facebook, a digital dictatorship. Additionally, efforts to fight government or corporate censorship, through the law or otherwise, should be fought off.

Still, it is not enough to just leave Tumblr (before Yahoo! took it over), Blogspot (after Google introduced an intrusive new privacy policy), or permanently delete your Facebook account as I have done. Rather, it is better to support privacy-centered and open-source technology that gives people power. On top of this, there should be a push for a more democratic internet, with communities building “next-generation networks that are directly accountable to residents and local businesses,” and owned municipally, by cooperatives, nonprofits, or otherwise, as advocated by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR). This may not be perfect, but its a better alternative than the status quo. Such a challenge to what is exists is the reason why “publicly owned high-speed internet” in Wilson, North Carolina, and Thomasville, Georgia have been attacked by the corporate bill-mill called ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council). In the end, while it is clear that the internet is a free marketeer’s dream, there must a concerted effort for the people to exert control of the internet, hopefully without government structures, to fight off further efforts to privatize the net.


[1] Other than Pariser’s book, most of the results are interviews with Pariser or reviews of his book. But there are also other articles like ‘Algorithms and the Filter Bubble Ruining Your Online Experience?‘ on Huffington Post, and ‘Tim Berners-Lee: Facebook could fragment web‘ in The Guardian.

[2] Much of the internet is tied into digital personalization, even constituting sites like the main feed on academia.edu (you can somewhat control it), Myspace (yes its still around), and others.

[3] Pariser, E. (2011). The filter bubble: what the Internet is hiding from you (p. 40). New York: Penguin Press. Pariser defines this as “the point at which users are so invested in their technology that even if competitors might offer better services, it’s not even worth making the switch” (40).

[4] Michael Hauben defines this term, also called Net Citizen, as someone who exists “as a citizen of the world thanks to the global connectivity that the Net makes possible [since]…you physically live in one country but you are in contact with much of the world via the global computer network.” TechTarget adds that a netizen is a “a citizen who uses the Internet as a way of participating in political society” or an “internet user who is trying to contribute to the Internet’s use and growth.”

[5] Pariser, 239-40 and more directly defined the summary of the report of the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Automated Personal Data Systems in July 1973 as the following: “[1]There must be no personal data record keeping systems whose very existence is secret. [2] There must be a way for an individual to find out what information about him is in a record and how it is used. [3] There must be a way for an individual to prevent information about him that was obtained for one purpose from being used or made available for other purposes without his consent. [4] There must be a way for an individual to correct or amend a record of identifiable information about him. [5] Any organization creating, maintaining, using, or disseminating records of identifiable personal data must assure the reliability of the data for their intended use and must take precautions to prevent misuse of the data.”

[6] Pariser, 242.

[7] Ibid, 243.

[8] My article on Nation of Change titled ‘The Digital Imperialists Strike Back.’

Expanding on the term ‘state in crisis’

7 May

Screenshot from 2014-05-06 20:56:16

Recently, I wrote a paper for my comparative politics class titled ‘Mexico: A state in crisis’ in which I proposed a new concept: a ‘state in crisis’ and countered what I believed to be a neoliberal strand among the students in the class. In order for everyone to read about this, I posted it on academia.edu. This article aims to expand the definition of a ‘state in crisis.’

While there are a number of different results when one searches for a ‘state in crisis,’ a term which many have used, my definition of the term has seemingly not been used before. In the PowerPoint for my presentation on paper, I defined this term as the following:

“A state which has not systematically broken down, but it has encountered some sort of domestic crisis which threatens the legitimacy and integrity of the state. Such a state has certain social conditions which threaten the well-being of the general population.”

For Mexico, the ‘domestic crisis’ was the drug war which is ravaging the country from top to bottom. The same could be said for the large amount of poor in Mexico.

In a section titled ‘Questions about the paper and presentation‘ I expanded on this term, writing:

“…Most importantly, I don’t want to use the term failed state because as a person in the First-World, in an imperialist nation in fact, I don’t want to impose a term onto Mexico, a Third -World country, but not be able to apply it to my home country, the United States. The term ‘state of crisis’ gets around this, and allows one to apply it to ALL countries in the world, whether rich, poor or middle-class countries.”

I added that even the US could a ‘state in crisis':

“The United States, like Mexico has not had a systematic breakdown of the state. Also, there are a number of situations that could be classified as a “domestic crisis” in Mexico that threatens the legitimacy and integrity of the US state. These include rising poverty, massive student loan debt, the rise of mass incarceration and so on. As a result, there are social conditions present in the United States which “threaten the well-being of the general population”

Still, there needs to be some expansion of this definition. Some states which could be considered a ‘state in crisis’ are plutonomies. A controversial Citigroup memo in 2005 defined plutonomies as “economies powered by the wealthy” and classified the U.S., Canada and the UK as pluonomies (and later Australia).  The memo further noted:

What are the common drivers of Plutonomy? Disruptive technology-driven productivity gains, creative financial innovation, capitalist-friendly cooperative governments, an international dimension of immigrants and overseas conquests invigorating wealth creation, the rule of law, and patenting inventions…There are rich consumers, few in number, but disproportionate in the gigantic slice of income and consumption they take. There are the rest, the “non-rich”, the multitudinous many, but only accounting for surprisingly small bites of the national pie…The six drivers of the current plutonomy: 1) an ongoing technology/biotechnology revolution, 2) capitalist-friendly governments and tax regimes, 3) globalization that re-arranges global supply chains with mobile well-capitalized elites and immigrants, 4) greater financial complexity and innovation, 5) the rule of law, and 6) patent protection are all well ensconced in the U.S., the UK, and Canada…At the heart of plutonomy, is income inequality. Societies that are willing to tolerate/endorse income inequality, are willing to tolerate/endorse plutonomy.

As Noam Chomsky noted that basically, “Plutonomy refers to the rich, those who buy luxury goods and so on, and that’s where the action is…They claimed that their plutonomy index was way outperforming the stock market. As for the rest, we set them adrift…. These days they’re sometimes called the “precariat”[1] — people who live a precarious existence at the periphery of society.” In a following memo, Citigroup analysts noted:

Asset booms, a rising profit share and favorable treatment by market-friendly governments have allowed the rich to prosper and become a greater share of the economy in the plutonomy countries…in the plutonomy countries, the rich are such a massive part of the economy, that their relative insensitivity to rising oil prices makes US$60 oil something of an irrelevance. For the poorest in society, high gas and petrol prices are a problem. But while they are many in number, they are few in spending power, and their economic influence is just not important enough to offset the economic confidence, well-being and spending of the rich.

Still, not all ‘states in crisis’ are plutonomies. The same goes for plutocracies, which Investopedia defines as:

“A government controlled exclusively by the wealthy either directly or indirectly. A plutocracy allows, either openly or by circumstance, only the wealthy to rule. This can then result in policies exclusively designed to assist the wealthy, which is reflected in its name”

However, there is a higher likelihood that those states that can be considered ‘in crisis’ are “unequal societies” with ‘Elites’ and ‘Commoners’ rather than egalitarian societies (no elites) or equitable society (with workers and non-workers). Such terms come from the classifications used by Safa Motesharrei and Eugenia Kalnay at University of Maryland, and Jorge Rivas at the University of Minnesota in the controversial but well-sourced study titled ‘Human and Nature Dynamics (HANDY): Modeling Inequality and Use of Resources in the Collapse or Sustainability of Societies’ released in March of this year which concludes that ” Collapse can be avoided, and population can reach a steady state at maximum carrying capacity if the rate of depletion of nature is reduced to a sustainable level and if resources are distributed equitably.”

There is something more. Usually in states ‘in crisis’ elites have more power in forming public policy than the general populace or at minimum put in place elite-friendly policies. Recently, scholars have concluded that this applies to the US, writing:

“economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence…Our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts”

Also, it is possible that a state ‘in crisis’ have “extractive institutions.” Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson define this as corresponding to “extractive societies, where an elite controls the economic and political system and uses its power to extract wealth from the society at everyone else’s expense” in contrast to “inclusive societies, where political power and economic benefits are shared broadly among the population.”

It is important to note that states which can be classified as a ‘state in crisis’ are usually capitalist governments but can have a number of different regimes: ‘liberal democracy’ [2], authoritarianism, psuedodemocracy/competitive authoritarianism/hybrid regime/illiberal democracy, or anything in between.

To review, a ‘state in crisis’ is:

  1. A state which is experiencing a domestic crisis(es) which threatens state legitimacy and integrity but has not systematically broken down
  2. State has social conditions which threaten the population’s well-being
  3. State usually has a capitalist government
  4. State is likely an ‘unequal society’ with elites and commoners rather than an equitable society or an egalitarian society
  5. State might be considered a plutonomy, or an economy powered by wealthy consumers with a group of members in society that are in a precarious position, a
  6. State might be a plutocracy or a government by and for the rich and powerful
  7. Elites in the said state may have more power in forming public policy than the average citizen and at minimum elite-friendly policies, often called ‘neoliberal’ like investor-rights agreements, privatization of public services, tax cuts for the rich, etc…
  8. State can have a plethora of different regimes, ranging from ‘democracy’ to ‘authoritarianism’
  9. The state might have an “extractive society” leading to extractive institutions which is more likely than an “inclusive society”



[1] Guy Standing wrote on Policy Network in 2011 about the precariat:

“Every progressive political movement has been built on the anger, needs and aspirations of the emerging major class. Today that class is the precariat…The precariat has emerged from the liberalisation that underpinned globalisation. Politicians should beware. It is a new dangerous class, not yet what Karl Marx would have described as a class-for-itself, but a class-in-the-making, internally divided into angry and bitter factions. It consists of a multitude of insecure people, living bits-and-pieces lives, in and out of short-term jobs, without a narrative of occupational development, including millions of frustrated educated youth who do not like what they see before them, millions of women abused in oppressive labour, growing numbers of criminalised tagged for life, millions being categorised as ‘disabled’ and migrants in their hundreds of millions around the world. They are denizens; they have a more restricted range of social, cultural, political and economic rights than citizens around them…Growth of the precariat has been accelerated by the financial shock, with more temporary and agency labour, outsourcing and abandonment of non-wage benefits by firms…The precariat has no control over its time, and no economic security. Many in it suffer from what I have called in the book, a precarity trap. This is on top of the familiar poverty trap created by the folly of ‘targeting’ on the poor via means-tested social assistance. The precariaty trap arises because it takes time for those on the margins of poverty to obtain access to benefits, which means their hardships are underestimated, while they have no incentive to take low-income temporary jobs once they are receiving benefits…The worst fear of all is that a large part of the precariat, and those fearing a life in it, could be drawn to neo-fascism…The precariat observes with growing anger. The politicians had better respond or we will reap a harvest of discord. We can do better.”

A comment below an article on Karmas Project continues this:

“Many folks consider precariat to just be a new way of saying proletariat–specifically referencing the phenomenon of “proletarianization” going on for former members of the “middle class” in 1st world countries. It can be argued that the proletariat as such is always precarious, and that the experience of precarity by 1st world workers is simply what most workers everywhere would experience anyways. Such precarity was also perfectly common in early capitalism within the US and Europe as well… However this does not exhaust the use of the term precariat. The precariat is the name for a specific SEGMENT of the broader working class — and it is the name for something that IS novel, something that is new in today’s form of capitalism, something which never rightly existed for the historical proletariat. The precariat is the name for entire national economies that are disproportionately reliant on service industries and fictitious capital. All of that is more or less true — there still exists a proletariat as such and within that proletariat exists what we call the precariat.”

There are a number of good other articles on this subject: ‘A Precariat Charter: From Denizens to Citizens – review, ‘Why the precariat is not a “bogus concept””, ‘Youthful members of the full-time precariat, ‘The “Precariat,” the New Working Class”, ‘Is there a precariat?, ‘Paying Attention to the Precariat, ‘The rise of the precariat promises a renewal of the left‘, ‘Is There A Precariat? An Interview with Charlie Post‘, ‘The Precariat’ on rise in America‘, ‘Word of the Week: Precariat, ‘The American Precariat‘, ‘Preventing an American precariat, ‘Professors Join the Precariat‘, ‘Welcome To The Precariat, ‘The rise of the “precariat”?‘, ‘Zen Over Zinn: Avoiding Unpleasant Truths With David Brooks, ‘A Specter Is Haunting Precarity‘, ‘Towards a Charter for the Precariat‘, ‘The Precariat by Chris Dunkley‘, ‘Standing replies on the ‘precariat’, ‘The ‘precariat': fighting for real jobs, ‘The new ‘precariats’‘, ‘Book Review: The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class by Guy Standing‘, ‘The Precariat and Climate Justice in the Great Recession‘, ‘Working on the Margins: Japan’s Precariat and Working Poor‘, and so on. There is however, debate if it is separate from the working class or if it is part of the working class. In my view, it seems that it would be a bit of both, because it could include unemployed people, along with those who have low-wage jobs, and those tied to ‘wage slavery. This relates to the Marxian concept of the lumpenproletariat which Karl Marx defined in 1852 as “vagabonds, discharged soldiers, discharged jailbirds, escaped galley slaves, swindlers…pickpockets, tricksters, gamblers…pimps…brothel keepers, porters, literati, organ grinders, ragpickers, knife grinders, tinkers, beggars — in short, the whole indefinite, disintegrated mass, thrown hither and thither, which the French call la bohème”

[2] Marxists define this not as a liberal democracy, but as a ‘bourgeois democracy’ as noted in the Encyclopedia of Marxism:

A government that serves in the interests of the bourgeois class. The word Democratic is attached to such a government, because in it all people in such a society have certain freedoms: those who own the means of production , the bourgeoisie, are free to buy and sell labor-power and what is produced by it solely for their own benefit. Those who own only their own ability to labor , the proletariat, are free to sell themselves to any bourgeois who will buy their labor power, for the benefit of maintaining their own survival, and giving greater strength and power to the bourgeoisie. The state fundamentally represents the interests of one class over others.

Maps of LGBTQ+ discrimination and support worldwide

15 Feb

I tend to not focus on the LGBTQ+ community as much as I should.[1] I have written about the LGBTQ+ community in the US for White Rose Reader and expanded it to an international focus when I argued that one would be against equality if they supported a war in Syria. This article shows those maps for public consumption and compares them to maps of presence of industrialized powers across the world (France, UK, US). [2] I recently made some additions using maps from Wikipedia.

The first set of maps instead comes from the website of the NGO, ILGA (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans Association) which focuses on rights for Lesbian, Gay, Trans* and Bisexual peoples worldwide, at least in their view, which I took using screenshots on my computer:

Many of these countries are located in Africa but also a sizeable amount in the Middle East.


Less countries than before with Iran as the worst offender (death), likely because of the religious law imposed on the country after the 1979 revolution. Not all the people of Iran agree with this law, I would imagine.


Once again, the majority of the countries are in the ‘Eastern Hemisphere’ but interestingly, the US still keeps troops in Afghanistan and has not pressured the government (should they?) to change its laws over gay relationships.


Very few countries prohibit Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual people from entering their countries. Only two countries in the world, according to this map, have this prohibition: Lesotho and Belize.


This a very shocking one and it is surprising that countries in the world still do this, but in Algeria and Chile, being transgender is considered an illness.


This one is even more surprising in that Russia, China, and US have something in common: expelling foreigners who have HIV! Other countries that do this include Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Mongolia, Malaysia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Oman, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, Armenia, South Korea, Moldova, Equatorial Guinea, and Bahrain.


This one is even worse and scarier. Sudan, Yemen, Qatar, Bahrain, Russia, Turkmenistan, China, South Korea, Indonesia, and Equatorial Guinea all don’t allow foreigners with HIV to enter their countries. That’s not right.

Now onto the maps that I made using the ILGA report focusing on what they term ‘State-Sponsored Homophobia.’ There seems to be a lack of explanation about restrictions on trans* people others in the soup of gender, sexual and random diversity. This is NOT to say that those in the countries listed here agree with the laws in place, but rather these maps show that these laws exist. And here are the maps:


83 countries where homosexuality has been declared illegal, many in Africa and a number of countries in Asia,


Only a small amount of countries extend this right, but it is still important to note them


Very few countries extend just some rights to marriage


Big countries like Brazil and South Africa extend most rights to marriage along with a number of others mostly in Europe.


Gay marriage is instituted in few countries, but those that didn’t extend it aren’t necessarily lesser countries.


Few countries extend this prohibition, but those that do are spread across the world. Similar countries to those in the map before this one have in place these types of hate crime laws.


Interestingly enough, the US has laws against these types of hate crimes, but not others as noted in the above two maps


Very few countries have these constitutional prohibitions, but for those that do, it is important to point out.


Almost all of Europe prohibits discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation. In the US, a similar measure has been debated in the US congress, but it has major problems as I noted in my article, ENDA and the Capitalistic Marketplace.

homosexual 3

A good amount of countries have an unequal age of consent for homosexual and heterosexual acts, which is important to note

homosexual 2

Many, many countries have an equal age of consent, including many in the Americas and a large swath across Eurasia. Very few countries in the Mideast and Africa extend this.

homosexual acts death penalty

This map is very important because it shows the most extreme measures against homosexual acts. A chart combining the one below with this one is above, for a wider picture

homosexual acts illegal

When making this chart, along with the one above this one and the one earlier with the red highlights, I was horrified. Its crazy to see that one’s relationship should be declared illegal just because the said country says so. That just isn’t right.

homosexual acts legal

Most of the world takes this position, but those that aren’t part of this are as important.

While I couldn’t find much information on this front, I thought it would be worth one’s while to share.
This map is as important as the one above and is likely more expansive than this.

This map is one of the most important, as it shows clearly which countries favor ‘LGBT rights’ (as the map key defines it) and which do not.

Decriminalization of homosexuality by country, using ILGA and other data

blood donations

This map is still important as well even if it doesn’t seem that way

This map specifically looks at gay marriage across Europe.

This map specifically looks at gay marriage across Europe.

This map looks at laws affecting homosexuals in Asia

This map looks at laws affecting homosexuals in Asia

Laws that concern homosexuality in Oceania

Laws that concern homosexuality in Oceania

Other information on these issues can be found on this comprehensive wikipedia page, the data compiled by the IGLHRC, the maps on the website of ILGA, and the still-debated Yogyakarta Principles (also see here).

Now for the maps of deployments of UK, French and US troops. See any similarities between those countries with harsh laws against LGBT people (as the ILGA defines it) and the deployments of UK, French and US troops

Map of current French military deployments

Map of current UK Military deployments


Map of current US military deployments

Countries in which the U.S. has a military presence in 2013 This map shows the current deployments of the US military. Most of the deployments on this map that are less than 100 troops are usually less than fifty military personnel, just for public knowledge. The lightest blue means less than a hundred US troops; the aqua teal mix, which is a little brighter, means more than a hundred troops; and the darkest blue on map means more than 1,000 troops. This map has those listed as part of Overseas Contingency Operation Deployments integrated in, while military dependents and civilian personnel are omitted.

That’s all. Decide for yourself what this all means.


[1] In the past I have used Gender, Sexual and Romantic Minorities (GSRM) or Gender, Sexuality and Romantic Diversity (GSRD) but now I realize  no one will know what I’m talking about, so I’m using LGBTQ+ instead to promote more understanding.

[2] Also see the basic guide to where the US has intervened since 1798 and The Worldwide Network of US Military Bases

Blood of empire: US military occupations

7 Dec

In order to provide a resource for everyone, here’s a list of the military occupations (not wars or invasions unless specified) that the US government had engaged in, in its history.

To start off, here’s a chart I made about the said occupations:

occupation length

Data specifics on occupations

(note that this is the ‘official government document’ and this is another source used) which are listed by the amount of years it lasted, from the longest to the shortest:

Ryukyu Islands (1950-1972). This twenty-two year military occupation was a result in the aftermath of WWII. Only the US flag was flown except by protesters who flew the flag of Japan, who resisted US rule at the time as noted by Wikipedia.

Nicaragua (1912-1933) The government’s official document says that between 1912 to 1925, US forces “protected American interests during an attempted revolution” and says a small force remained until 1925, and says that between 1926 to 1933, “United States forces came and went intermittently.” However, these documents never characterize it as a twenty-one year long occupation, the longest in US history, since the US “kept a contingent force in Nicaragua almost continually from 1912 until 1933….[which] served as a reminder of the willingness of the United States to use force and its desire to keep conservative governments in power…[and] the terms of the Chamorro-Bryan Treaty…transformed Nicaragua into a near United States protectorate [until 1933]” as noted on Country Studies and a well-sourced Wikipedia article on the subject.

Haiti (1915-1934). The government’s official document defines this the maintenance of “order during a period of chronic political instability” over a nineteen year period. As Wikipedia notes, this occupation began in “July 28, 1915, when 330 US Marines landed at Port-au-Prince on the authority of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson to safeguard the interests of U.S. corporations [and] it ended on August 1, 1934 after Franklin D. Roosevelt reaffirmed an August 1933 disengagement agreement.

Afghanistan (2001-2013). Numerous sources consider the War in Afghanistan, which has gone on for twelve years, to be a military occupation including right-leaning CNS news, hard left WSWS, Asia Times, seemingly right-leaning Catholic Online, RAWA News, liberal/progressive site named Common Dreams, Washington’s Blog, Socialist Worker, and many more.

Germany (1945-1955). The US military occupation of Germany lasted for ten years, supposedly was brutal, and in 1955, West Germany was created, so the US Zone ended, but US troops remained.

Dominican Republic (1916-1924). An official government document defines this as an eight year period in which “American naval forces maintained order during a period of chronic and threatened insurrection.” Wikipedia notes more about the intervention, that even after it ended in 1924, the US government took control of the country’s custom revenues until 1941, which caused great resentment against the US.

Japan (1945-1952) This six year occupation, and as noted by Wikipedia, it “transformed Japan into a democracy modeled somewhat after the American New Deal” with labor reforms, but also disarmament of Japan and some pro-business reforms as well.

Cuba (1917-1922) The official government document defines this as a five year period where “U.S. forces protected American interests during an insurrection and subsequent unsettled conditions.” It seems to be done to benefit the big sugar interests as noted by a wikipedia page on the subject.

Cuba (1906-1909). The government’s official document defines this as a nearly four year period in which “U.S. forces sought to restore order, protect foreigners, and establish a stable government after serious revolutionary activity.” This occupation gained the name ‘Cuban Pacification’ and it had a purpose: “to prevent fighting between the Cubans, to protect North American economic interests, and to hold free elections” as noted by Wikipedia

Iceland (1941-1945) While this occupation was not brought on by force on the side of the United States, a smaller US force of more than 4,000 marines occupied the Island for a four year period, replacing a British force which consisted of 25,000 troops. All of this is noted on the wikipedia page on the subject.

Korea (1945-8). After WWII ended, a US military occupation began with a military governing structure. At the same there was a corresponding transitional government which was led by a dictatorial leader and anti-communist stalwart,Syngman Rhee, who repressed left-wing dissidents and sent troops to suppress rebellion that lasted in until 1953. This occupation lasted three years. There are two Wikipedia articles on this subject noted here and here. Rhee would end up being South Africa’s first Prime Minister and he would stay in place until 1960.

Cuba (1899-1902). This is isn’t mentioned in the government’s official document. But there is a short Wikipedia article on the subject, speaking about the United States Protectorate over Cuba which “was a provisional American protectorate over Cuba that was established in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War in 1899 when Spain ceded Cuba to the United States” in an occupation that lasted three years.

Iraq (2003-2004). While the war in Iraq lasted from 2003 to 2011 if you don’t include the bombing that occurred from 1990 to 2003 by ‘allied’ forces like the US, the military occupation itself only lasted one year, from March 2003 to April 2003, as part of the Coalition Provisional Authority led by Paul Boemer, comprising a little more than a year. Some like the American Anthropological Association, say it lasted longer than this, but that is highly disputed. 

Dominican Republic (1965-1966). As noted by Wikipedia, “the second United States occupation of the Dominican Republic began when the United States Marine Corps entered Santo Domingo on April 28, 1965 in the Dominican Civil War” and it was part a plan to prevent a “second Cuba” which lasted more than a year.

United States occupation of Fallujah(2003-2004). This short occupation of Fallujah lasted for over a year and by the time US troops left, much of the city had been destroyed and a good chunk of the original population had left or had been killed. Those that returned had to get biometric ID Cards and come back in the city. This is all told about in the Wikipedia article on the subject.

Veracruz (1914). This intervention got short shift in the government’s official document. This occupation lasted six months, and it began with the Battle of Veracruz…and was a response to the Tampico Affair of April 9, 1914.” On top of this, Howard Zinn writes that “American warships were attacking Vera Cruz…because Mexico had arrested American sailors and refused to apologize to the United States with a twenty-one-gun salute” and additionally “the affair in Mexico was an instinctual response of the system for its own survival, to create a unity of fighting purpose among a people torn by internal conflict.”

Possible other occupations?

1. 1903-1914–> Panama. U.S. forces sought to protect American interests and lives during and following the revolution for independence from Colombia over construction of the Isthmian Canal. With brief intermissions, United States Marines were stationed on the Isthmus from November 4,

1903, to January 21, 1914, to guard American interests. [more than 10 years]

2. Haiti occupation: “Occupation of Haiti by the United States, following Operation Uphold Democracy 1994-1995.” as noted on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_military_occupations

P.S. This information is likely to appear in a future article I’m writing as well. Who knows.

Debating a Tea Party and Occupy coalition

22 Aug

For years now, consumer advocate Ralph Nader has been calling for a left-right coalition on issues including corporate welfare, the military budget, foreign wars, the Patriot Act, and much more. Washington’s Blog in October 2011, Robert Cargill’s blog titled KV8R, a blog called ‘The Moderate Voice,’ the Examiner, a post on an Occupy Wall Street forum, former MSNBC anchor Dylan Ratigan, activist Irving Wesley Hall, and many others have called for something that would achieve these goals: push the Tea Party movement and Occupy to unite together. The mainstay of the “progressive” movement like Mother Jones, The Nation, AlterNet, Common Dreams, any of their allies in Congress and their supporters would scoff at this idea. They’d say that the movement has been corrupted from the start, but as Ben Ketchum, a community activist, said in October 2011, “for either movement to really be successful we will have to join forces…This is not left versus right. This is all of us against the influence of a very powerful few.” Additionally, one former tea partier noted that the media “turned our movement into a bunch of pro-corporate Republican Party rebranding astroturf…I wish your movement [occupy] better luck than we had with the tea party movement before it got hijacked by the theocrats and corporatists.” Let us ask ourselves: is it practical that the Tea Party and Occupy movements should unite, or is this just crazy talk?

In order to answer this question, there has to be a recognition of the reality: the two movements are already working together. This may be a shocker since the Tea Party has harshly criticized Occupy in the past, but let me explain. Locales of the Tea Party have united with locales of the Occupy movement on certain issues. One of the first instances of the two movements coming together was in November 2011, if not sooner. Joseph Mornin wrote that, “a meeting between Occupy Memphis protesters and local Tea Party members had an unexpectedly civil result…While the sides represent different ends of the political spectrum, they both agreed on one important issue [crony capitalism]…While there were still substantial disagreements, a representative of the Occupy movement felt it was helpful.” The original AP article noted that “Occupy Memphis member Mallory Pope…and fellow Occupy Memphis protester Tristan Tran had a lively, sometimes strained and confrontational, but mostly civil discussion with members of the Mid-South Tea Party…The factions saw eye-to-eye on some issues and clashed on others…By the end, the Occupy Memphis members and their audience…reached common ground on some issues, such as their perception that the government and politicians no longer listen to and serve the people they represent.” The next month, Salon Magazine reported on the possible teaming up of the two movements with hopes by Tom Robinson, founder of the Peninsula Patriots Tea Party chapter that this could spread wide. They wrote that “members of the Occupy Richmond and local Tea Party movements found acres of common ground…Robinson orchestrated this unlikely summit after having a number of one-on-one discussions with Occupy members…This was not the first time Occupy Wall Street and Tea Party members have met…But once in the same room, any discomfort members of the two groups might have felt seemed to melt away…Still, differences occasionally show through. Both sides speak in broad strokes about patriotism and devotion to country…Despite their differences and the cover story that the Tea Party and Occupy Richmond never met, members of the two groups seemed eager to plan a follow-up meting to talk some more.”

The next year, the working together of both of the movements only increased. In February 2012, in Oregon, Tea Partiers and Occupiers marched against the NDAA, or the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, which authorizes the military to indefinitely detain any American citizen. Even a publication called the Telegram noted this protest as well. Months later in June 2012, occupiers and tea partiers protested side-by-side against Mitt Romney, an article noting that “both groups…have stood on common ground regarding certain issues: opposition to bank bailouts, heavy-handed drug enforcement, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)…both groups seem to determined to oppose the two-party system in November…about an hour into the protest…several of the Occupiers…ventured over to the Tea Party crowd in an effort to spark a dialogue that might bridge the gap between the two movements.” That same month, according to Ryan Devereaux of The Guardian, “clear skies and pleasant temperatures made for a picnic-like atmosphere as a mix of Ron Paul supporters, members of the 9/11 truth movement and a smattering of Occupy protesters gathered outside the Westfield Marriott hotel in Chantilly, Virginia where members of the Bilderberg group are meeting…the protest marked the gathering of a diverse cross-section of contemporary US activist movements.” I highlight this despite my desdain for protesting the Bilderberg Group, feeling it is a distraction and that other groups should be protested. Anyway, later that summer, PANDA (People Against the NDAA) said that the two movements should unify since “we cannot stand idle while our constitution and bill of rights are trampled on.” That same month, August, as noted in an interview by Luke Rudkowski of WeAreChange, the Occupy Wall Street and The Tea Party were united in Dubuque, Iowa against red light cameras.

This is isn’t all. With climate change, or what some like Noam Chomsky call the coming environmental catastrophe, the two movements are uniting again. Waging NonViolence wrote that a common thread that runs through all of these movements is that “government is run for the benefit of powerful elites with vested interests at the expense of the average citizen.” This comes through in opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline. Brian Merchant on TreeHugger noted that opposing the pipeline is an “interesting case, one that invites you to wonder how many more realistic opportunities there might be for genuine collaboration between the two movements on a grassroots level…[that] would provide more firepower to a social protest…[of] Occupy and the Tea Party joining forces.” Talking Points Memo adds to this this narrative. Their Brian Beutler writes: “though the project exists in a state of suspended animation, TransCanada…is preparing to build anyhow…on the portion of the pipeline that would link Nebraska to Texas, TransCanada has threatened to use disputed eminent domain powers to condemn privately held land, over the owners’ objections. And that’s creating unusual allies — Occupiers, Tea Partiers, environmentalists, individualists — united to stop TransCanada from threatening water supplies, ancient artifacts, and people’s basic property rights…Farmers on the proposed route likely wouldn’t face these threats were it not for the 2005 case Kelo v. City of New London in which the Supreme Court, divided 5-4, ruled that eminent domain powers extend to the transfer of land from one private owner to another, if that action increases economic development…The effect of it today is to place people like Randy Thompson on an unfamiliar side of the divide between conservatives and environmentalists; and business and liberal political activists.”

Now, there is something that threatens to expand the cooperation between the Tea Party and the Occupy movement even more. It is an organization called the Green Tea Coalition, what encouraged me to write this article in the first place, and which the big energy companies are calling an “unholy alliance.” Ashton Pishton writes on Occupy.com, that “in 2012, the Atlanta Tea Patriot Patriots joined the NAACP and the Sierra Club to successfully defeat a $7.2 billion transit tax referendum. That same year, Tea joined forces with Occupy Atlanta and the AFL-CIO to stop an anti-union bill that would have banned protests at private residences…The threat of a grassroots movement united across ideological lines manifested itself again last month when the Tea Party Patriots…triumphed in a win for solar energy…That win didn’t come without fierce opposition from deeply entrenched interests, including the Koch Brothers-funded organization Americans for Prosperity…the Kochs may have foreseen not only the benefits of jumping on the Tea Party train, but also the dangers of allowing such a movement to grow without a little corporate “direction.” The danger was that conservatives…would take some of the ideas brewing in the teapot too far. Conservative Americans had begun to wholly embrace the idea that there was such a thing as “crony capitalism,”…those ideas, taken to their logical conclusions, might have led to a conservative revolution that would have severely crippled the power of industries like Koch and Southern Company…The Green Tea Coalition, set to launch in Georgia on Tuesday, includes activists from the Sierra Club, Georgia Watch, Occupy Atlanta, Tea Party Patriots and the NAACP…To Koch, Southern Company and other energy titans who thought they had the Tea Party in their pockets, it’s an unholy alliance indeed. Beyond that, it’s a wedge that could grow bigger — and not only in Georgia.” There is some possibility that this could grow bigger.

Let us as activists for social justice not ask ourselves if an alliance between seemingly disparate groups can happen, but rather go out there and form such bonds ourselves. In the end, if we are challenge the corporate, military and financial elite, it must be a united effort even if that includes people from across the political spectrum.

Liberty and Justice?: US support for Israeli apartheid

31 Jul

The American pledge of allegiance professes that the United States will uphold liberty and justice for all. As the imperial actions of the United States show, this is clearly not the case. Noam Chomsky has been covering this perspective for years, but the late veteran journalist Helen Thomas, part Lebanese, is also fierce in her criticism. She infamously said Israel should get out of Palestine. In an interview with Democracy Now! she told Amy Goodman that President Bush was “arming Israel against the Palestinians in every way in Gaza” and that she can’t understand “how the US can provide F-16s, gunships, Apache gunships, phosphorus, possibly phosphorus, and cluster bombs and so forth to kill helpless people, children who are starving to death. They control the checkpoints. They control the arrivals and departures, supplies and people. And the Americans…remained silent to that suffering. He [President Bush] has blocked by a veto at the UN any stoppage of the warfare, and he continues to supply Israel.” In a later interview with The Real News Network, she noted that this horrid policy had continued, noting that “the Palestinians are dubbed as terrorists and all the Muslims are terrorists. I mean, this is so unfair.” From here it is important to understand how US taxpayer money is funding the occupation of Palestine, and what can be done to stop it.

There is a shocking level of US support for the brutal occupation. American organizations, as noted by Adri Nieuwhof of The Electronic Intifada, “transferred about $274 million to Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza between 2002 and 2009.” End The Occupation has an even more direct figure: $30 billion dollars. This is the amount of military aid the United States government gives to Israel, which it uses to maintain its illegal “military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip [while also] misus[ing]…U.S. weapons in violation of U.S. law to kill and injure Palestinian civilians, destroy Palestinian civilian infrastructure, blockade the Gaza Strip, and build illegal settlements in West Bank and East Jerusalem.” Between 2000-2009, according to their number crunching, the US “licensed, paid for, and delivered more than 670,903,390 weapons and related equipment to Israel” which were used to kill over 2,000 Palestinians.

Freelance journalist Ben White uses a word that Israeli apologists, Zionists, would hate to hear: apartheid. White writes in The National, that “in South Africa, there is the memory of Israel’s historic relationship with the apartheid regime…Israel’s “collaboration with the racist regime of South Africa” was condemned in the UN’s General Assembly…what has really struck many in South Africa, and elsewhere, are the similarities between the historical apartheid system, and Israel’s current policies towards the Palestinians. The common element of both systems is the consolidation and enforcement of dispossession, securing control of and access to land and natural resources for one group at the expense of another. Yet there are also important differences…Though there are numerous examples of de facto segregation and institutionalised discrimination within pre-1967 Israel, the apartheid comparison really began to take hold as Israel expanded its colonisation and control of the Occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip…Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, which in 2017 will have lasted for half a century, has evolved into a complex system of control and exclusion, with Jewish settlers living among non-citizen Palestinians whose freedom to live in their own land is managed by a bureaucratic apartheid system of “permits” and physical obstacles and barriers.” Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, UN Human Rights Rapporteur John Dugard, and many others also declare the situation an apartheid.

There must be a recognition of what has to be done next. For one, there must be a push to divest “from companies that profit from violent, oppressive, and discriminatory practices,” as End to Occupation puts it. This would be a push for investors to “withdrawal their stocks and funds from corporations complicit in Israel’s violations of international law and Palestinian rights [while] individual consumers are called on to show their opposition to Israel’s violations by participating in a consumer boycott of Israeli companies, goods and services or of international companies involved in Israeli policies.” This is part of the broader Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Campaign. We must work in our communities, online and offline, to support the BDS campaign to help end Israeli apartheid, while also pushing electorally to stop Zionists, like capitalist reformer Elizabeth Warren, from getting into power.

This article was also published on Truthout and has been reposted here.

Nuclear power is a failure in regulation and reliability

29 Jul

Much of scientific community and general population believe climate change, caused in part by humans, is occurring, and there have been calls to use nuclear power. Renowned climate scientist James Hansen has time and time again has endorsed nuclear power as a worthy alternative. Green Left Weekly, while agreeing with his opposition to coal and petroleum, says his view is supported by “pseudo-science” that has “gone down a treat with the nuclear lobby.” This is dangerous because there has been seventeen big nuclear power accidents in a forty-seven year time span (1952-1999) and high public opposition to nuclear power in Japan (70% oppose it) with only 43% of Americans opposing the power overall. In the us, the high majorities of people that still support nuclear power may not know the risks. This could be because six corporations control the mainstay of the mainstream media along with General Electric, the world’s third largest company which creates nuclear power plants. As William Blum wrote in his book, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, NBC canceled “an appearance by a nuclear activist because she criticized General Electric which owns the network [and] another nuclear activist…is unwelcome at CBS because it belongs to Westinghouse,” the same case with ABC which is owned by the Walt Disney Company, or CNN which is owned by Time Warner. Basically, nuclear power interests are behind the media, so the polls are almost rigged from the start. In this article I plan to tell why nuclear power is not a reliable source of energy starting with the regulators, then into the specifics.

There are also two major groups that deal with nuclear power. The first one is the Nuclear Regulatory Commission or NRC. This independent commission was supposed to overcome the industry coziness that resulted in the abolishment of its predecessor, the Atomic Energy Commission. However, as time went on, it turned out that the NRC was still in bed with the nuclear industry. In 1987, a congressional report noted that the NRC had “not maintained an arms length regulatory posture with the commercial nuclear power industry…[and] has, in some critical areas, abdicated its role as a regulator altogether.” When running for President, before he appointed a pro-nuclear power people to power, Barack Obama said the NRC had become “captive of the industries that it regulates.” In April 2011, an explosive article by Reuters adds to this mix using data from the Wikileaks cables :

“the Nuclear Regulatory Commission…is sometimes used as a sales tool to help push American technology to foreign governments…U.S. embassies have pulled in the NRC when lobbying for the purchase of equipment made by Westinghouse and other domestic manufacturers…the cables — from 2006 to early 2010 — show that the NRC’s role in promoting its regulatory model around the world can easily turn it into an advocate for U.S. nuclear technology, whether its officials realize it or not…The fear for diplomats is that U.S. equipment companies need government help, lest they be elbowed aside by foreign state-owned competitors…That beat-the-French theme comes up over and over again in cables from around the world — embassies noting with a sense of urgency that foreign competitor X is already on the ground meeting with government officials, and U.S. interests need to act fast at the highest levels to counteract the threat…In some cases, NRC officials, while not lobbying for American companies, may have smoothed their way…[The] push for American counter-action sometimes resulted in overt lobbying, but sometimes the response was more subtle.”

When one looks at the five commissioners you find that that NRC is captured by industry. For example, commissioner George Apostolakis received an award from the American Nuclear Society, a group that not only represents government agencies but also hundreds of corporations which are involved in the nuclear power industry! An anti-nuclear scientific group with reformist solutions, Physicians for Social Responsibility, wrote in a post last July, that the group has supported the current chairman of NRC because “Dr. Allison MacFarlane…[has a] record of support for on-site dry cask storage of nuclear waste and her critical analysis of the Yucca Mountain project” but that Commissioner Kristine Svinicki’s reappointment is disappointing because of here “dogged placement of nuclear industry desires over public safety needs.”At the same time, let us not forget that Commissioner William Magwood in the past “managed electric utility research and nuclear policy programs at the Edison Electric Institute in Washington, D.C [and]…was a scientist at Westinghouse Electric Corporation,” a clear conflict-of-interest. The last commissioner, William C. Ostendorff, was part of the military establishment and a former commander of a nuclear sub. As a result, according to a still relevant LA Times article, the votes of the NRC “typically reflect their attitudes toward regulating the nuclear power industry…[and] the majority [is currently] favoring less stringent safety and security initiatives.”

On the international level is the International Atomic Energy Agency or IAEA which is part of the UN system. President Eisenhower proposed the creation of the body in 1953 when he called for ‘peaceful’ nuclear power, and the next year it was created to keep a hold of nuclear weapons. Today, it is seen, similar to the NRC, as helping the nuclear power industry. An article in Nature by Geoff Brumfiel notes that the IAEA “is a promoter of nuclear power, but at the same time guards against the spread of technology that could be used for nuclear weapons [while setting]…voluntary international standards for safety in civilian nuclear plants, and offers assistance in times of crisis.” A similar article in the Christian Science Monitor notes that the IAEA offers non-compulsory safety standards while promoting “nuclear energy, but it also monitors nuclear use [and]…is the sole global organization overseeing the nuclear energy industry, yet…[must be compliant]…with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.” Additionally, let us not forget that the IAEA’s role in the debate over nuclear weapons in Iran. They basically put out a report “bolstering hardliners by taking [old] information…that could very well relate to a program that existed that has been canceled, and feeding it as raw meat to people who want to move forward.” This is consistent with their reports about Iran’s nuclear program which assert falsely that the country is getting nuclear weapons.

There have been many accidents with nuclear power plants. As a well-sourced page on Wikipedia notes, “at least 57 accidents [involving nuclear power] have occurred since the Chernobyl disaster, and over 56 nuclear accidents have occurred in the USA [however] relatively few accidents have involved fatalities.” As of 2010, 99 accidents have occurred between 1952 and 2011. An article in The Guardian adds to this, noting that there have been “33 serious incidents and accidents at nuclear power stations since the first recorded one in 1952 at Chalk River in Ontario, Canada…[using] information…partially from the International Atomic Energy Authority…[showing] how they’re spread around the globe.”

Recently, there has been some startling news. The New York Times wrote that “the stricken nuclear power plant at Fukushima has probably been leaking contaminated water into the ocean for two years, ever since an earthquake and tsunami badly damaged the plant” based on what Japan’s chief nuclear regulator said. As confidence in nuclear power has waned in Japan, this will send more ripples worldwide saying the power source is not safe. After the disaster in 2011 in Fukushima, radiation from the power plants likely caused: butterfly deaths and abnormalities was radiation, 25 times as many people to get thyroid cancer, especially US servicemembers, and freaky vegetables and fruits, and the death of the former head of the TEPCO power plant. Yves Smith of Naked Capitalism wrote recently:

“the Fukushima nuclear plant crisis continues unresolved in a bad way…there are two separate problems that Tepco has been forced to confess to in the last week…Tepco admitted some time ago that radioactive water was getting into the Pacific, but has been at a loss to explain how that was happening…radioactivity is apparently getting into the ocean via groundwater…the concentration of radioactivity in the trench water has not fallen much in two years despite the leakage…Third is that Tepco “hopes” to fix the problem…by “building a wall out of liquid glass between the reactors and the sea” to isolate the radioactive water and then removing it…Since the incident TEPCO has been pouring water over the damaged complex reactors to cool them for more than two years, but contaminated water has been building up at the rate of an Olympic-size swimming pool each week since then.”

This month a power plant closed because of a mysterious cause, and in Kyoto a worker pulled a drainwater valve which rose the water in the power plant, causing it to close down. There were also reports that 60 miles from the power plants in the city, radiation is 400 times normal in 2011!

Nuclear power in and of itself is dangerous. In the view of anti-nuclear writer for The Nation, Johnathan Schell, by expanding the amount of nuclear power plants, “the US is “playing with fire”…not only risking an international incident but also opening the spigot for nuclear proliferation.” In another piece, Schell says that “if the nuclear powers wish to be safe from nuclear weapons, they must surrender their own. Then we will all work together to assure that everyone abides by the commitment.” There is also an interesting article by Greg Mitchell in The Nation, noting that “a new government obsession with secrecy…spread from the nuclear program to all military and foreign affairs in the Cold War era,” with resident kept in the dark about the first nuclear bomb test and the fallout spread across the country. This was pretty similar to what happened in Fukushma. Lets remember these tips written by Matt Biven in The Nation in 2001 about you having to evacuate because of the explosion of a nuclear power plant: “your homeowner’s insurance will not reimburse you….[and] You will, however, as a taxpayer be indirectly picking up the tab for the accident” all thanks to a 1950s-era law called the Price Anderson Act. Biven also wrote that ‘Al Qaeda terrorists active in America have been thinking about nuclear terrorism for eight years now…one needs minimal inspiration from the NRC website to brainstorm half-a-dozen ways a handful of motivated individuals could turn a nuclear power plant into an American Chernobyl…A clear-eyed discussion of how to defend these plants just might conclude that they are indefensible.”

An article earlier this month, The Nation also addressed nuclear power. The article was a discussion between the magazine’s environmental correspondent Mark Hertsgaard and a longtime anti-nuclear activist Terry Tempest Williams who has considered some value in nuclear power only after watching what sounded to be a movie, Pandora’s Promise, that is propaganda for the nuclear industry. The movie seems to trash all alternative energies except nuclear power while playing loose and fast with the facts about the energy which is not surprising as it was basically funded by the nuclear power industry. Here’s some of the highlights of what Williams said:

“In declassified materials from the Atomic Energy Commission, Mormons and Indians living downwind of the blasts were considered “a low-use segment of the population.” In the eyes of our government, my people were expendable…Given that our species numbers 7 billion and rising, there are those who believe the only practical way we can sustain an energy-rich future is to commit to more development, more technology—nuclear energy included—as we continue on the trajectory of progress to fuel more consumption…What energy sources can we employ that do the least harm to life on earth and at the same time can meet the expanding needs of the human family?…I do not feel antinuclear activists have any kinship whatsoever with climate deniers, as the film repeatedly asserts. I resent this comparison…I remain uncertain about what the right course of action is regarding energy.”

On the other hand, Hertsgaard said:

“[the IAEA] concluded in a 2005 study that the radioactivity released at Chernobyl would cause 4,000 cancer deaths. A study by the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation concluded in 2008 that Chernobyl had caused 6,000 thyroid cancers among children, and “many more” such cancers are projected in the years ahead. But the UNSCEAR study didn’t take into account the long-term impacts of radioactivity, as the European Environment Agency pointed out earlier this year…[which] said that Chernobyl will cause between 17,000 and 68,000 cancer deaths over the fifty years following the 1986 accident…My own reporting on the [climate] movement suggests that nothing so grandiose is under way. A small number of individual environmentalists have advocated nuclear…the overwhelming majority of green groups and leaders continue to oppose it…it is absolutely valid to reconsider nuclear power..The weapons risk is especially high in…a breeder reactor. This is because breeders don’t just produce plutonium; they also use it as fuel…The problem is that this same miracle fuel is a key ingredient in nuclear weapons…nearly all of the world’s sodium-cooled reactors have suffered fires [[Integral Fast Reactors]…Today…there is not a single commercially operating breeder reactor on earth…As a result, there are now an estimated 250 tons of plutonium at these plants, enough to make approximately 30,000 nuclear weapons…wind power is by far the fastest-growing source of electricity [and]…solar is growing nearly as fast…[while] improving energy efficiency is…the quickest, safest and most cost-effective route to reducing consumption of fossil fuels…Nuclear power is fantastically expensive—so expensive that private investors…stopped financing large nuclear plants.”

There are many rational arguments against nuclear power. Parts of the discussion above show this. As parts of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States show, people have been against it for some time, starting in the 1950s. Over two years ago, a redditor, made a sound argument against nuclear power, stating that “nuclear power isn’t inherently safe….I’m very skeptical about claims that it never can go wrong…There is no solution for nuclear waste. This is actually my main argument against nuclear power. Right now, nuclear waste just sits in barrels in Russia, in the ocean or in salt mines…In many cases it’s just in large buildings, waiting for a solution. This is crazy, we’re creating a problem that will exist for thousands and thousands of years. What’s the alternative? 100% renewable energy.” In the end, everyone must ask themselves if an energy that is a failure in regulation and reliability is worth the risk to the planet and humanity to push it forward as a ‘solution’ to climate change.

Editor’s Note: After trying to get this post rejected by numerous publications (Dissent, Dissident Voice and New Left Project), I am tired of sending it around, so I am publishing it here, on this blog, as it needs to put out there. This has also been published on White Rose Reader with an altered title: Nuclear Power: Unreliable and Unregulated. I don’t think its unregulated, but I guess that’s ok.


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