Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Northern Hemisphere Potentially In Great Danger As Fukushima Radiation Spikes To ‘Unimaginable’ Levels

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Radiation inside one of the damaged reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power facility has reached an “unimaginable” level according to experts. Because so much nuclear material from Fukushima escaped into the Pacific Ocean, there are many scientists that believe that it was the worst environmental disaster in human history, but most people in the general population seem to think that since the mainstream media really doesn’t talk about it anymore that everything must be under control. Unfortunately, that is not true at all. In fact, PBS reported just last year that “it is incorrect to say that Fukushima is under control when levels of radioactivity in the ocean indicate ongoing leaks“. And now we have just learned that the radiation level inside reactor 2 is so high that no human could possibly survive being exposed to it.

According to the Japan Times, the level of radiation inside the containment vessel of reactor 2 is now estimated to be “530 sieverts per hour”…
The radiation level in the containment vessel of reactor 2 at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 power plant has reached a maximum of 530 sieverts per hour, the highest since the triple core meltdown in March 2011, Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. said.
Tepco said on Thursday that the blazing radiation reading was taken near the entrance to the space just below the pressure vessel, which contains the reactor core.
The high figure indicates that some of the melted fuel that escaped the pressure vessel is nearby.
It is hard to find the words to convey how serious this is.

If you were exposed to a radiation level of just 10 sieverts per hour, that would mean almost certain death. So 530 sieverts per hour is simply off the charts. According to the Guardian, this recent measurement is being described by scientists as “unimaginable”…
The recent reading, described by some experts as “unimaginable”, is far higher than the previous record of 73 sieverts an hour in that part of the reactor.
A single dose of one sievert is enough to cause radiation sickness and nausea; 5 sieverts would kill half those exposed to it within a month, and a single dose of 10 sieverts would prove fatal within weeks.
And the really bad news is that there appears to be a 2 meter hole that was created by melted nuclear fuel “in the metal grating under the pressure vessel in the reactor’s primary containment vessel”. The following comes from Bloomberg
New photographs show what may be melted nuclear fuel sitting under one of Japan’s wrecked Fukushima reactors, a potential milestone in the search and retrieval of the fuel almost six years after it was lost in one of the worst atomic disasters in history.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc., Japan’s biggest utility, released images on Monday showing a grate under the Fukushima Dai-Ichi No. 2 reactor covered in black residue. The company, better known as Tepco, may send in a scorpion-like robot as soon as February to determine the temperature and radioactivity of the residue.
If that isn’t frightening enough, one Japanese news source is reporting that this melted nuclear fuel “has since come in contact with underground water flowing from the mountain side”…
The melted fuel has since come in contact with underground water flowing from the mountain side, generating radioactively contaminated water every day. In order to dismantle the reactor, it is necessary to take out the melted fuel, but high radiation levels inside the reactor had hampered work to locate the melted debris.
If this disaster was just limited to Japan, the entire northern hemisphere would not be at risk.
But that is not the case.

Most of the nuclear contamination from Fukushima ended up in the Pacific Ocean, and from there it was literally taken around the rest of the planet. The following was reported by PBS
More than 80 percent of the radioactivity from the damaged reactors ended up in the Pacific — far more than reached the ocean from Chernobyl or Three Mile Island. Of this, a small fraction is currently on the seafloor — the rest was swept up by the Kuroshio current, a western Pacific version of the Gulf Stream, and carried out to sea where it mixed with (and was diluted by) the vast volume of the North Pacific.
We don’t know if there is a connection, but it is extremely interesting to note that fisheries up and down the west coast of the United States are failing because of a dramatic decrease in fish populations. Just check out the following excerpt from a story that was posted on January 18th
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker today determined there are commercial fishery failures for nine salmon and crab fisheries in Alaska, California and Washington.
In recent years, each of these fisheries experienced sudden and unexpected large decreases in fish stock biomass or loss of access due to unusual ocean and climate conditions. This decision enables fishing communities to seek disaster relief assistance from Congress.
Things are particularly bad up in Alaska, and biologists are “stumped” as to why this could be happening…
In 2016, the pink salmon harvests in Kodiak, Prince William Sounds, Chignik and lower Cook Inlet came in woefully under forecast and stumped biologists as to why.
The estimated value of Kodiak’s 2016 haul was $2.21 million, compared to a five-year average of $14.64 million, and in Prince William Sound the ex-vessel value was $6.6 million, far less that the $44 million five-year average. The total state harvest was the smallest since the late 1970s.
Although state biologists weren’t ready to declare a cause for the poor pink salmon performance, the Commerce Department press release attributed the disasters to “unusual ocean and climate conditions.”
Further south, it was being reported last month that millions of dead sardines are washing up on the shores of Chile.

I could go on and on with a lot more examples like this, but hopefully you get the point.

Something really strange is happening in the Pacific, and a lot of people believe that there is a link to Fukushima.
Not too long ago, I wrote about how the elite of Silicon Valley are “feverishly prepping“, but the truth is that all of us should be. If you need some tips on how to get started, you can find my prepping book right here. Our planet is becoming increasingly unstable, and the Fukushima nuclear disaster is just one piece of the puzzle.

But it is definitely a very important piece. The nuclear material from Fukushima is continuously entering the food chain, and once that nuclear material gets into our bodies it will slowly irradiate our organs for years to come. The following is an excerpt from an absolutely outstanding opinion piece by Helen Caldicott that was published in the Guardian
Internal radiation, on the other hand, emanates from radioactive elements which enter the body by inhalation, ingestion, or skin absorption. Hazardous radionuclides such as iodine-131, caesium 137, and other isotopes currently being released in the sea and air around Fukushima bio-concentrate at each step of various food chains (for example into algae, crustaceans, small fish, bigger fish, then humans; or soil, grass, cow’s meat and milk, then humans). After they enter the body, these elements – called internal emitters – migrate to specific organs such as the thyroid, liver, bone, and brain, where they continuously irradiate small volumes of cells with high doses of alpha, beta and/or gamma radiation, and over many years, can induce uncontrolled cell replication – that is, cancer. Further, many of the nuclides remain radioactive in the environment for generations, and ultimately will cause increased incidences of cancer and genetic diseases over time.
Are you starting to understand the gravity of the situation?

Sadly, this crisis is going to be with us for a very, very long time.

According to Bloomberg, they are not even going to start removing melted nuclear fuel from these reactors until 2021, and it is being projected that the overall cleanup “may take as long as 40 years”…
Decommissioning the reactors will cost 8 trillion yen ($70.4 billion), according to an estimate in December from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Removing the fuel is one of the most important steps in a cleanup that may take as long as 40 years.
The unprecedented nature of the Fukushima disaster means that Tepco is pinning its efforts on technology not yet invented to get the melted fuel out of the reactors.
The company aims to decide on a fuel removal procedure for the first reactor during the fiscal year ending March 2019, and to begin removing fuel in 2021.
A lot of people that end up dying as a result of this crisis may never even know that it was Fukushima that caused their deaths.

Personally, I am convinced that this is the greatest environmental crisis that humanity has ever experienced, and if the latest reading from reactor 2 is any indication, things just took a very serious turn for the worse.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Trump orders military to prepare for world war

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During a visit to the Pentagon on Friday, President Donald Trump issued an executive action calling for stepped up violence in Syria and a vast expansion of the US military, including its nuclear arsenal, to prepare for war with “near-peer competitors”—a reference to nuclear-armed China and Russia—and “regional challengers,” such as Iran.
“I’m signing an executive action to begin a great rebuilding of the armed services of the United States,” Trump said during the signing of the document, entitled “Rebuilding the US Armed Forces.”
During the visit, his first to the Pentagon, Trump signed a second order, “Protecting the US from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals,” that freezes visa and immigration applications from predominantly Muslim countries. The order threatens to block refugees from finding sanctuary, workers from taking jobs, students from attending school, and the unification of families (See, “White House to issue executive order on ‘safe zones’ in Syria, ban on Muslim immigrants and refugees”)
The military order directs Defense Secretary James Mattis, who was sworn in at the ceremony, to complete a 30-day “readiness review” designed to prepare for the destruction of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, along with “other forms of Islamic terror.” Last week, Mattis was confirmed by the Senate in a 98-1 vote.
The order further instructs Mattis, in the words of the Washington Post, which obtained a copy of the order prior to its formal release, “to examine how to carry out operations against unnamed ‘near-peer’ competitors, a group which US officials typically identify as China and Russia.” And it commands the Pentagon and the Office of Management and Budget to develop a “military readiness emergency budget amendment” that would increase military spending in the current year and increase the budget for 2018 and thereafter—increases to be offset by cuts to social spending.
The Presidential Memorandum, only three pages in length, is the blueprint for world war.
The order unmistakably threatens the use of nuclear weapons. Section 3 calls for a nuclear force “to deter 21st century threats” and, menacingly, to “achieve Presidential objectives should deterrence fail.”
It further calls for a plan “to achieve readiness objectives” for the use of the nuclear arsenal “by 2022.” This would include the “modernization” of the US nuclear force, a greatly expanded missile defense system, and increased emphasis on cyber warfare, which aims to cripple the retaliatory capacity of major adversaries by targeting their digital and telecommunication command structures prior to an American strike.
These actions follow on a move by the Obama administration to implement a $1 trillion upgrade in the country’s nuclear arsenal.
The executive action did not put a price tag on new military spending, but media speculation indicates that the figure could approach an additional $100 billion per year. Trump’s military plans hew closely to a Heritage Foundation proposal that calls for the revamping of the nuclear force, the expansion of the Navy to 350 ships, the Air Force to 1,200 fighter and attack jets, the Marine Corps from 24 to 36 divisions, and the Army to more than a half a million soldiers.
The US currently spends approximately $600 billion on its military annually—excluding expenditures on the intelligence agencies and Veterans Administration— more than the next nine largest military spenders combined. American “defense” spending accounts for, by itself, over one third of all global military spending, and it consumes the great majority of the federal discretionary budget.
Increases in military spending, coupled with Trump’s promises to drastically lower taxes on corporations and the rich, must inevitably be paid for by cuts to education, health care and infrastructure, and by plundering Social Security and Medicare.
In securing the presidency, Trump capitalized on popular hostility toward Hillary Clinton’s interventionist stance on Syria and her saber-rattling against Russia. But his executive order’s demand for escalation in Syria increases the likelihood of war with both regional power Iran and nuclear-armed Russia. Russia maintains its only significant foreign military base in Syria and has so far preserved the regime of Bashar al-Assad in a war for regime change orchestrated by the Obama administration.
Trump’s order for a plan to destroy ISIS and “radical Islam,” which he declared in his Inaugural Address he would “eradicate completely from the face of the Earth,” will be drawn up by Mattis, responsible for numerous war crimes in the US occupation of Iraq, including the killing of untold thousands of civilians in the 2004 attack on Fallujah.
While the US now makes war on ISIS, it has funded and directed Al Qaeda affiliates in the regime change operations in Libya and Syria. Yet in remarks made last summer, prior to his nomination to defense secretary, Mattis claimed that, in his view, ISIS was nothing more than a stalking horse for Iran to extend its influence throughout the Middle East. It is widely rumored that Mattis left command in the Obama administration because he favored a more bellicose approach toward Iran.
Even before Trump’s order became public, figures in and around the military speculated that Mattis would propose a dramatic escalation in Syria.
Scott Murray, a retired Air Force colonel involved with previous aerial bombardment of ISIS, told NPR that this could be done by lifting rules preventing the targeting of civilians.
“Commanders could … re-examine limits on the number of civilian casualties that the military risks when it hits ISIL targets,” NPR reported. “Known as the ‘non-combatant value,’ the rule restricts the number of civilians who can be put at risk in an airstrike.”
Officers who spoke with the US government's overseas broadcaster Voice of America (VOA) complained of the Obama administration “micro-approving” actions in Syria. “Every single person had to be approved,” an unnamed Defense Department official said of a contingent of 203 Special Forces soldiers sent into Syria last year.
A high-ranking Army general, Lt. Gen. David Barno, told NPR’s Morning Edition that, in lieu of local proxies, far more US soldiers will be deployed into Syria. “I think President Trump might be looking for something with some quicker results and that could put some new options on the table,” Barno said. “He could elect to put American boots on the ground in larger numbers.”
Currently most of the 6,000 US military personnel in the region are concentrated in Iraq, where, joined by Iraqi forces, they are subjecting the city of Mosul to a massive attack. Trump’s order will likely lift the fiction that there are separate war theaters in the neighboring countries.
There was also speculation that the US could bolster the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). This would heighten tensions with NATO ally Turkey, which views the YPG as a proxy of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), against which it has waged a nearly four-decade counterinsurgency war to prevent the emergence of an independent Kurdistan.
An escalation in Syria is also prefigured by Trump’s anti-immigrant executive order, which, with the express aim of blocking refugees from fleeing the crisis, envisages the creation of “safe zones” run by the US military—in blatant violation of Syrian sovereignty and international law. Under the plan, Syria’s refugees would be placed in what would be, in all but name, US-administered camps, overseen by the US military.

Get Ready For The First Shocks Of Trump's Disaster Capitalism

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We Already Know that the Trump administration plans to deregulate markets, wage all-out war on “radical Islamic terrorism,” trash climate science and unleash a fossil-fuel frenzy. It’s a vision that can be counted on to generate a tsunami of crises and shocks: economic shocks, as market bubbles burst; security shocks, as blowback from foreign belligerence comes home; weather shocks, as our climate is further destabilized; and industrial shocks, as oil pipelines spill and rigs collapse, which they tend to do, especially when enjoying light-touch regulation.
All this is dangerous enough. What’s even worse is the way the Trump administration can be counted on to exploit these shocks politically and economically.
Speculation is unnecessary. All that’s required is a little knowledge of recent history. Ten years ago, I published “The Shock Doctrine,” a history of the ways in which crises have been systematically exploited over the last half century to further a radical pro-corporate agenda. The book begins and ends with the response to Hurricane Katrina, because it stands as such a harrowing blueprint for disaster capitalism.
That’s relevant because of the central, if little-recalled role played by the man who is now the U.S. vice president, Mike Pence. At the time Katrina hit New Orleans, Pence was chairman of the powerful and highly ideological Republican Study Committee. On September 13, 2005 — just 14 days after the levees were breached and with parts of New Orleans still underwater — the RSC convened a fateful meeting at the offices of the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.
To get a sense of how the Trump administration will respond to its first crises, it’s worth reading the list in full (and noting Pence’s name right at the bottom).
What stands out in the package of pseudo “relief” policies is the commitment to wage all-out war on labor standards and on the public sphere — which is ironic because the failure of public infrastructure is what turned Katrina into a human catastrophe. Also notable is the determination to use any opportunity to strengthen the hand of the oil and gas industry.
The first three items on the RSC list are “automatically suspend Davis-Bacon prevailing wage laws in disaster areas,” a reference to the law that required federal contractors to pay a living wage; “make the entire affected area a flat-tax free-enterprise zone”; and “make the entire region an economic competitiveness zone (comprehensive tax incentives and waiving of regulations).”
Another demand called for giving parents vouchers to use at charter schools, a move perfectly in line with the vision held by Trump’s pick for education secretary, Betsy DeVos.
All these measures were announced by President George W. Bush within the week. Under pressure, Bush was eventually forced to reinstate the labor standards, though they were largely ignored by contractors. There is every reason to believe this will be the model for the multibillion-dollar infrastructure investments Trump is using to court the labor movement. Repealing Davis-Bacon for those projects was reportedly already floated at Monday’s meeting with leaders of construction and building trade unions.
Back in 2005, the Republican Study Committee meeting produced more ideas that gained presidential support. Climate scientists have directly linked the increased intensity of hurricanes to warming ocean temperatures. This connection, however, didn’t stop Pence and the RSC from calling on Congress to repeal environmental regulations on the Gulf Coast, give permission for new oil refineries in the United States, and to greenlight “drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.”
All these measures are a surefire way to drive up greenhouse gas emissions, the major human contributor to climate change, yet they were immediately championed by the president under the guise of responding to a devastating storm.
The oil industry wasn’t the only one to profit from Hurricane Katrina, of course. So did a slew of well-connected contractors, who turned the Gulf Coast into a laboratory for privatized disaster response.
The companies that snatched up the biggest contracts were the familiar gang from the invasion of Iraq: Halliburton’s KBR unit won a $60 million gig to reconstruct military bases along the coast. Blackwater was hired to protect FEMA employees from looters. Parsons, infamous for its sloppy Iraq work, was brought in for a major bridge construction project in Mississippi. Fluor, Shaw, Bechtel, CH2M Hill — all top contractors in Iraq — were hired by the government to provide mobile homes to evacuees just 10 days after the levees broke. Their contracts ended up totaling $3.4 billion, no open bidding required.
And no opportunity for profit was left untapped. Kenyon, a division of the mega funeral conglomerate Service Corporation International (a major Bush campaign donor), was hired to retrieve the dead from homes and streets. The work was extraordinarily slow, and bodies were left in the broiling sun for days. Emergency workers and local volunteer morticians were forbidden to step in to help because handling the bodies impinged on Kenyon’s commercial territory.
And as with so many of Trump’s decisions so far, relevant experience often appeared to have nothing to do with how contracts were allocated. AshBritt, a company paid half a billion dollars to remove debris, reportedly didn’t own a single dump truck and farmed out the entire job to contractors.
Even more striking was the company that FEMA paid $5.2 million to perform the crucial role of building a base camp for emergency workers in St. Bernard Parish, a suburb of New Orleans. The camp construction fell behind schedule and was never completed. When the contractor was investigated, it emerged that the company, Lighthouse Disaster Relief, was actually a religious group. “About the closest thing I have done to this is just organize a youth camp with my church,” confessed Lighthouse’s director, Pastor Gary Heldreth.
After all the layers of subcontractors had taken their cut, there was next to nothing left for the people doing the work. For instance, the author Mike Davis tracked the way FEMA paid Shaw $175 a square foot to install blue tarps on damaged roofs, even though the tarps themselves were provided by the government. Once all the subcontractors took their share, the workers who actually hammered in the tarps were paid as little as $2 a square foot. “Every level of the contracting food chain, in other words, is grotesquely overfed except the bottom rung,” Davis wrote, “where the actual work is carried out.”
In Mississippi, a class-action lawsuit forced several companies to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in back wages to immigrant workers. Some were not paid at all. On one Halliburton/KBR job site, undocumented immigrant workers reported being wakened in the middle of the night by their employer (a sub-subcontractor), who allegedly told them that immigration agents were on their way. Most workers fled to avoid arrest.
This corruption and abuse is particularly relevant because of Trump’s stated plan to contract out much of his infrastructure spending to private players in so-called public-private partnerships.
In the Katrina aftermath, the attacks on vulnerable people, carried out in the name of reconstruction and relief, did not stop there. In order to offset the tens of billions going to private companies in contracts and tax breaks, in November 2005 the Republican-controlled Congress announced that it needed to cut $40 billion from the federal budget. Among the programs that were slashed were student loans, Medicaid, and food stamps. In other words, the poorest people in the United States subsidized the contractor bonanza twice: first, when Katrina relief morphed into unregulated corporate handouts, providing neither decent jobs nor functional public services; and, second, when the few programs that directly assist the unemployed and working poor nationwide were gutted to pay those bloated bills.
This is the disaster capitalism blueprint, and it aligns with Trump’s own track record as a businessman all too well.
Trump and Pence come to power at a time when these kinds of disasters, like the lethal tornadoes that just struck the southeastern United States, are coming fast and furious. Trump has already declared the U.S. a rolling disaster zone. And the shocks will keep getting bigger, thanks to the reckless policies that have already been promised.
What Katrina tells us is that this administration will attempt to exploit each disaster for maximum gain. We’d better get ready.

The Real Purpose of the U.S. Government’s Report on Alleged Hacking by Russia

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Some thoughts on “Russia’s Influence Campaign Targeting the 2016 US Presidential Election,” the newly released declassified reportfrom the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

1. The primary purpose of the declassified report, which offers no evidence to support its assertions that Russia hacked the U.S. presidential election campaign, is to discredit Donald Trump. I am not saying there was no Russian hack of John Podesta’s emails. I am saying we have yet to see any tangible proof to back up the accusation. This charge—Sen. John McCain has likened the alleged effort by Russia to an act of war—is the first salvo in what will be a relentless campaign by the Republican and Democratic establishment, along with its corporatist allies and the mass media, to destroy the credibility of the president-elect and prepare the way for impeachment.

The allegations in the report, amplified in breathtaking pronouncements by a compliant corporate media that operates in a non-fact-based universe every bit as pernicious as that inhabited by Trump, are designed to make Trump look like Vladimir Putin’s useful idiot. An orchestrated and sustained campaign of innuendo and character assassination will be directed against Trump. When impeachment is finally proposed, Trump will have little public support and few allies and will have become a figure of open ridicule in the corporate media.

2. The second task of the report is to bolster the McCarthyist smear campaign against independent media, including Truthdig, as witting or unwitting agents of the Russian government. The demise of the English programming of Al-Jazeera and TeleSur, along with the collapse of the nation’s public broadcasting, designed to give a voice to those not beholden to corporate or party interests, leaves RT America and Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! as the only two electronic outlets with a national reach that are willing to give a platform to critics of corporate power and imperialism such as Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Ralph Nader, Medea Benjamin, Cornel West, Kshama Sawant, myself and others.

Seven pages of the report were dedicated to RT America, on which I have a show called “On Contact.” The report vastly inflated the cable network’s reach and influence. It also included a few glaring errors, including the statement that “RT introduced two new shows—‘Breaking the Set’ on 4 September and ‘Truthseeker’ on 2 November—both overwhelmingly focused on criticism of the US and Western governments as well as the promotion of radical discontent.” “Breaking the Set,” with Abby Martin, was taken off the air two years ago. It could hardly be tarred with costing Hillary Clinton the election.

The barely contained rage of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper at the recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on foreign cyber threats was visible when he spat out that RT was “promoting a particular point of view, disparaging our system, our alleged hypocrisy about human rights, et cetera.” His anger was a glimpse into how the establishment seethes with hatred for dissidents. Clapper has lied in the past. He perjured himself in March 2013 when, three months before the revelations of wholesale state surveillance leaked by Snowden, he assured Congress that the National Security Agency was not collecting “any type of data” on the American public. After the corporate state shuts down RT, it will go after Democracy Now! and the handful of progressive sites, including this one, that give these dissidents space. The goal is censorship.

3. The third task of the report is to justify the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization beyond Germany, a violation of the promise Ronald Reagan made to the Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Expanding NATO in Eastern Europe opened up an arms market for the war industry. It made those businesses billions of dollars. New NATO members must buy Western arms that can be integrated into the NATO arsenal. These sales, which are bleeding the strained budgets of countries such as Poland, are predicated on potential hostilities with Russia. If Russia is not a threat, the arms sales plummet. War is a racket.

4. The final task of the report is to give the Democratic Party plausible cover for the catastrophic election defeat it suffered. Clinton initially blamed FBI Director James Comeyfor her loss before switching to the more easily demonized Putin. The charge of Russian interference essentially boils down to the absurd premise that perhaps hundreds of thousands of Clinton supporters suddenly decided to switch their votes to Trump when they read the leaked emails of Podesta. Either that or they tuned in to RT America and decided to vote for the Green Party.

The Democratic Party leadership cannot face, and certainly cannot publicly admit, that its callous betrayal of the working and middle class triggered a nationwide revolt that resulted in the election of Trump. It has been pounded since President Barack Obama took office, losing 68 seats in the House, 12 seats in the Senate and 10 governorships. It lost more than 1,000 elected positions between 2008 and 2012 nationwide. Since 2010, Republicans have replaced 900 Democratic state legislators. If this was a real party, the entire leadership would be sacked. But it is not a real party. It is the shell of a party propped up by corporate money and hyperventilating media.

The Democratic Party must maintain the fiction of liberalism just as the Republican Party must maintain the fiction of conservatism. These two parties, however, belong to one party—the corporate party. They will work in concert, as seen by the alliance between Republican leaders such as McCain and Democratic leaders such as Sen. Chuck Schumer, to get rid of Trump, silence all dissent, enrich the war industry and promote the farce they call democracy.

When Fear Comes

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Alexander Solzhenitsyn in “The Gulag Archipelago,” his profound meditation on the nature of oppression and resistance in the Soviet gulags, tells the story of a man who was among prisoners being moved in the spring of 1947. The former front-line soldier, whose name is lost to history, suddenly disarmed and killed the two guards. He announced to his fellow prisoners that they were free.

“But the prisoners were overwhelmed with horror; no one followed his lead, and they all sat down right there and waited for a new convoy,” Solzhenitsyn writes. The prisoner attempted in vain to shame them. “And then he took up the rifles (thirty-two cartridges, ‘thirty one for them!’) and left alone. He killed and wounded several pursuers and with his thirty-second cartridge he shot himself. The entire Archipelago might well have collapsed if all the former front-liners had behaved as he did.”

The more despotic a regime becomes, the more it creates a climate of fear that transforms into terror. At the same time, it invests tremendous energy and resources in censorship and propaganda to maintain the fiction of the just and free state.

Poor people of color know intimately how these twin mechanisms of fear and false hope function as effective forms of social control in the internal colonies of the United States. They have also grasped, as the rest of us soon will, the fiction of American democracy.

Those who steadfastly defy the state will, if history is any guide, be decapitated one by one. A forlorn hope that the state will ignore us if we comply will cripple many who have already been condemned. “Universal innocence,” Solzhenitsyn writes, “also gave rise to the universal failure to act. Maybe they won’t take you? Maybe it will all blow over.”

“The majority sit quietly and dare to hope,” he writes. “Since you aren’t guilty, then how can they arrest you? It’s a mistake!

“Does hope lend strength or does it weaken a man?” Solzhenitsyn asks. “If the condemned man in every cell had ganged up on the executioners as they came in and choked them, wouldn’t this have ended the executions sooner than appeals to the All-Russian Central Executive Committee? When one is already on the edge of the grave, why not resist?”

“But wasn’t everything foredoomed anyway, from the moment of arrest?” he asks. “Yet all the arrested crawled along the path of hope on their knees, as if their legs had been amputated.”

Resisting despotism is often a lonely act. It is carried out by those endowed with what the theologian Reinhold Niebuhrcalls “sublime madness.” Rebels will be persecuted, imprisoned or forced to become hunted outcasts, much as Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden are now. A public example will be made of anyone who defies the state. The punishment of those singled out for attack will be used to send a warning to all who are inclined to dissent.

“Before societies fall, just such a stratum of wise, thinking people emerges, people who are that and nothing more,” Solzhenitsyn writes of those who see what is coming. “And how they were laughed at! How they were mocked! As though they stuck in the craw of people whose deeds and actions were single-minded and narrow-minded. And the only nickname they were christened with was ‘rot.’ Because these people were a flower that bloomed too soon and breathed too delicate a fragrance. And so they were mowed down.”

“These people,” he goes on, “were particularly helpless in their personal lives; they could neither bend with the wind, nor pretend, nor get by; every word declared an opinion, a passion, a protest. And it was just such people the mowing machine cut down, just such people the chaff-cutter shredded.”

When I returned to the newsroom at The New York Times after being booed off a commencement stage in 2003 for denouncing the invasion of Iraq, reporters and editors lowered their heads or turned away when I was nearby. They did not want to be touched by the same career-killing contagion. They wanted to protect their status at the institution. Retreat into rabbit holes is the most common attempt at self-protection.

The right-wing cable shows were lynching me almost hourly. Soon I was given a written reprimand and public rebuke by the newspaper. I was a leper.

The machinery of the security and surveillance state, the use of special terrorism laws and the stripping of civil liberties become ubiquitous. The lofty rhetoric of liberty and the reality of the chains readied for the public creates magic realism. Reality and the language describing reality are soon antipodal. The pseudo-democracy is populated with pseudo-legislators, pseudo-courts, pseudo-journalists, pseudo-intellectuals and pseudo-citizens. Nothing is as it is presented.

Demagogues, Solzhenitsyn reminds us, are stunted and shallow people. “Unlimited power in the hands of limited people always leads to cruelty,” he writes.

“The overall life of society comes down to the fact that traitors were advanced and mediocrities triumphed, while everything that was best and most honest was trampled underfoot,” he observes. Ersatz intellectuals, surrogates “for those who had been destroyed, or dispersed,” took the place of real intellectuals. 

“After all,” Solzhenitsyn writes, “we have gotten used to regarding as valor only valor in war (or the kind that’s needed for flying in outer space), the kind which jingle-jangles with medals. We have forgotten another concept of valor—civil valor. And that’s all our society needs, just that, just that, just that!”

This kind of valor, he knew as a combat veteran, requires a moral courage that is more difficult than the physical courage encountered on the battlefield.

“This unanimous quiet defiance of a power which never forgave, this obstinate, painfully protracted insubordination, was somehow more frightening than running and yelling as the bullets fly,” he says.

The coming arrests mean that a wide range of Americans will experience the violations that poor people of color have long endured. Self-interest alone should have generated sweeping protest, should have made the nation as a whole more conscious. We should have understood: Once rights become privileges that the state can revoke, they will eventually be taken away from everyone. Now those who had been spared will get a taste of what complicity in oppression means.

“The traditional image of arrest is also what happens afterward, when the poor victim has been taken away,” Solzhenitsyn writes. “It is an alien, brutal, and crushing force totally dominating the apartment for hours on end, a breaking, ripping one, pulling from the walls, emptying things from wardrobes and desks onto the floor, shaking, dumping out, and ripping apart—piling up mountains of litter on the floor—and the crunch of things being trampled beneath jackboots. And nothing is sacred in a search! During the arrest of locomotive engineer Inoshin, a tiny coffin stood in his room containing his newly dead child. The ‘jurists’ dumped the child’s body out of the coffin and searched it. They shake sick people out of their sickbeds, and they unwind bandages to search beneath them.”

“Resistance,” he writes, “should have begun right there, at the moment of the arrest itself. But it did not begin.” And so the mass arrests were easy.

And what at that point constitutes victory?

“From the moment you go to prison you must put your cozy past firmly behind you,” he writes. “At the very threshold, you must say to yourself: ‘My life is over, a little early to be sure, but there’s nothing to be done about it. I shall never return to freedom. I am condemned to die—now or a little later. But later on, in truth, it will be even harder, and so the sooner the better. I no longer have any property whatsoever. For me those I love have died, and for them I have died. From today on, my body is useless and alien to me. Only my spirit and my conscience remain precious and important to me.”

“Confronted by such a prisoner, the interrogation will tremble,” Solzhenitsyn writes. “Only the man who has renounced everything can win that victory.”

The last volume of Solzhenitsyn’s trilogy chronicles camp uprisings and revolts. These revolts were impossible to foresee.

“So many deep historians have written so many clever books and still they have not learned how to predict those mysterious conflagrations of the human spirit, to detect the mysterious springs of a social explosion, not even to explain them in retrospect,” Solzhenitsyn writes. “Sometimes you can stuff bundle after bundle of burning tow under the logs, and they will not take. Yet up above, a solitary little spark flies out of the chimney and the whole village is reduced to ashes.”

How do we prepare? Solzhenitsyn, after eight years in the gulag, answers this too.

“Do not pursue what is illusory—property and position; all is gained at the expense of your nerves decade after decade, and is confiscated in one fell night. Live with a steady superiority over life—don’t be afraid of misfortune, and do not yearn after happiness; it is, after all, all the same: the bitter doesn’t last forever, and the sweet never fills the cup to overflowing. It is enough if you don’t freeze in the cold and if thirst and hunger don’t claw at your insides. If your back isn’t broken, if your feet can walk, if both arms can bend, if both eyes can see, and if both ears can hear, then whom should you envy? And why? Our envy of others devours us most of all. Rub your eyes and purify your heart—and prize above all else in the world those who love you and who wish you well. Do not hurt them or scold them, and never part from any of them in anger; after all, you simply do not know: it might be your last act before your arrest, and that will be how you are imprinted in their memory!”

Trump threats on South China Sea heighten risk of nuclear war

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Just days after taking office, the Trump administration has set course for a conflict with China over the South China Sea that threatens military clashes and war.
President Donald Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, on Tuesday backed up an earlier assertion by the administration’s nominee for secretary of state, former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, that Washington would bar Chinese access to islets being built up by Beijing in the South China Sea.
In his first full press briefing, Spicer bluntly declared, “The US is going to make sure that we protect our interests there.” Referring to Chinese-controlled islands in the disputed waters, he continued: “It’s a question if those islands are in fact in international waters and not part of China proper, then yeah, we are going to make sure we defend international territories from being taken over by one country.”
The reckless character of the Trump administration’s threats was underscored by the Washington Post’s headline: “Is Trump ready for war in the South China Sea, or is his team just not being clear?” While the Post suggested the problem was unclear or misspoken remarks, Spicer’s statements were fully in line with what was said less than two weeks ago by Tillerson.
At his congressional confirmation hearing, Tillerson lashed out at China, declaring that its land reclamation activities in the South China Sea were “akin to Russia’s taking Crimea.” He warned that China’s island-building would have to stop, adding that its “access to those islands also is not going to be allowed.”
These comments mark a decisive shift from Washington’s previous stance, which, nominally at least, took no position on the territorial disputes, but declared that it had a “national interest” in ensuring “freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea. Under the Obama administration, the US Navy provocatively sent guided missile destroyers on three occasions within the 12-nautical-mile territorial limit around Chinese islets.
The Trump administration is directly challenging China’s control over the islets. Asked how the US would carry out its threat to bar Chinese access, Spicer said that “we’ll have more information on that” as the situation develops.
As various analysts have pointed out, the only means of barring China would be a naval and air blockade in the South China Sea. Such action, a clear breach of international law, would constitute an act of war.
The islets in the South China Sea are not “international territories,” but are occupied by various countries and subject to longstanding disputes. Washington’s cynicism and hypocrisy are staggering. It is not proposing to take action against islets occupied by rival claimants—the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Taiwan.
The Chinese foreign ministry yesterday reaffirmed that China had “indisputable sovereignty” over the islets and warned that “we are firm in safeguarding our rights and interests.” After pointing out that US had no direct claim in the South China Sea, spokeswoman Hua Chunying urged Washington to “speak and act cautiously to avoid damaging peace and stability in the area.”
An earlier editorial in the state-owned Global Times declared that any attempt to prevent China’s access to its islands would “involve large-scale war” and suggested that Tillerson “bone up on nuclear power strategies if he wants to force a big nuclear power to withdraw from its own territories.”
The willingness of US imperialism to threaten a nuclear-armed power and risk a nuclear conflagration cannot be ascribed simply to the outlook or psyche of the right-wing demagogue Donald Trump or the militaristic and fascistic individuals in his administration. While Trump’s rise to power represents a qualitative shift in global politics, the basis for the looming confrontation with China was laid by the Obama administration’s aggressive “pivot to Asia.” If Hillary Clinton, one of the chief architects of the “pivot,” had won office, her administration, whatever the differences in style, timing and tactics, would have pursued essentially the same war-mongering course.
The aim of Obama’s “pivot to Asia” was to arrest the historic decline of US imperialism and subordinate China to the “international rules based system” dominated by Washington. Trump’s advisers do not disagree with the aim, but have been scathing in denouncing the failure of the “pivot” to achieve those ends.
During his election campaign, Trump made clear that he intended to confront China across the board over trade and monetary issues, alleged cyber-spying, and some of the world’s most dangerous flashpoints—North Korea and Taiwan as well as the South China Sea. He has promised a vast expansion of the US military, including its nuclear arsenal, to back his demands with the threat of war.
A fundamental sea change is underway in global politics and economy. The election of Trump marks the final breakdown and collapse of the post-World War II order. Trump’s decision to tear up the Trans Pacific Partnership—the economic component of Obama’s “pivot”—spells the end to the era of “free trade” and multilateralism. Trump’s “America First” policy means a turn to punitive trade measures, in the first instance against China, and the return of the “beggar-thy-neighbour” policies of the 1930s that led to World War II.
The speculation by the media and governments around the world that Trump would moderate his views once in office is rapidly turning to consternation and fear. In the major capitals, calculations are being made as to how best to defend the national interest.
Germany’s economic affairs minister Sigmar Gabriel declared that Europe had to define its own interests, suggesting that it turn to China and Asia if the US starts a trade war with Beijing. Any shift towards China, particularly by the European powers, will intensify Washington’s bellicose words and actions, as it feels its geo-political position slipping away and concludes it must act sooner rather than later.
At this month’s World Economy Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Chinese President Xi Jinping presented his regime as the defender of the “liberal” capitalist trade and economic order in opposition to Washington, in a bid to increase Chinese influence among the traditional allies of the United States.
The US-based Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) released a report last week entitled “Preserving the Balance: A US Eurasia Defense Strategy.” It declares that the US must prevent the domination of the Eurasian landmass by a rival power or powers. “If a single power came to dominate either Europe or Asia, it would possess substantially greater manpower, economic and technical capacity—and thus greater military potential—than the United States. Therefore, if possible, the emergence of such a power must be resisted,” it states.
The report rules out nothing, including the use of nuclear weapons to achieve US objectives. After declaring there is “a need to rethink the problem of limited nuclear war,” it continues: “US forces must be prepared to respond to a range of stra­tegic warfare contingencies along the Eurasian periphery. The US military’s ability to conduct operations to end such a conflict promptly and on favorable terms, as well as in a manner that discourages future nuclear use, could be crucial to America’s long-term security.”
The Trump administration’s menacing threats on the South China Sea are the sharpest of warnings that the world is heading with gathering speed towards a nuclear catastrophe. But the same crisis that impels world capitalism on the road to world war impels the international working class on the road to socialist revolution.
The issue will in the end be decided by the level of political consciousness, unity and organization of the working class, and that depends on the building of the new political leadership of the working class.