Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Underclass Won't Wait to Join Obama's "Everybody"

The Underclass Won't Wait to Join Obama's "Everybody"

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I call him Class Warrior. He stands in front of me at a Circle K station. He is an outsider, excluded from the winnings market free play has placed in the coffers of wealthy insiders. He doesn't look like he's thriving in our capitalist environment.

Everyone in Tucson who looks Mexican, as this young man does, is now suspected of being illegal and must show proof to the contrary. It may be that now the greatest transgressive spirit hangs on the identity of Mexicans, of Chicanos, who are all under suspicion in Arizona's capitalist environment.

I expect anger and here it is, standing right in front of me. Something in the capitalist environment has engineered the bloody politics of revolt that is summed up on the back of the black T-shirt he wears:

"Class war: we have found new homes for the rich," it spells out in all caps.

The image is of a graveyard, of row upon row of white crosses on a black background. "Look at this," he says, showing me a swatch of cloth on the other side of his shirt. The message again screams out through capital letters.

"Warning! Rich scum beware! Class war coming soon to a street near you."

Class Warrior wears his grassroots protest on his T-shirt, while the Tea Party has sent the representatives of their own, very different kind of protest to Congress. The gold earrings he wears in the middle of his earlobes, his T-shirt warning to the rich and suggestions that the capitalists are going to get bloodied are clearly not the winning social engineering strategy here.

For the Tea Partiers, a capitalist environment does not "engineer," but "liberates" through competition, a zero-sum competition in which one individual does better only at the expense of another. The winners thrive, achieve and produce, while the losers fall back and find solace in non-capitalist traditions, or turn their marginalized status into a platform of dissent and revolt. The losers hang around gas stations and don't wear patriotic costumes.

I tell Class Warrior we're in a tug of war in this country and only the rich are pulling. He likes that. "We should have it," he says. "We don't have it. But we will." He's clearly enrolled in a school that's growing. Call it, "The Only Way to Break Free of the Hold the Rich Have on Us Is to Bury Them," school. This attitude is what the millennial generation might refer to on Facebook as "harsh." I fear Class Warrior might be unfriended and targeted as a hater. One of the tenets of the "Bury Them" school is that no one with wealth and power wants to alter that state of affairs, nor will they allow others to do so. Class Warrior doesn't wear a T-shirt that reads, "Vote Wealth and Power Out NOW!" or "Vote for Wealth Redistribution NOW!" I guess it's because Class Warrior doesn't have faith in voting in a plutocracy.

Class Warrior believes in a revolt against the rich, but he does not believe that what President Obama recently expressed has a chance of success:

This idea of bringing everyone together and making sure that everybody is contributing, everybody is responsible, but everybody also looks out for one another - that's the idea at the heart of our last campaign. That's the idea at the heart of this campaign. That's the idea at the heart of America.

This American heart, however, clearly has three chambers. The main chamber - and by far the smallest - pumps "tough love" and "creative destruction." It contains the very few people who win at the expense of the great many who lose. There's the middle chamber, consisting of the 40 percent of the population that votes - 20 percent of whom, at least, are "Independents," and thus considered crucial to Obama's re-election. These Independents, however, are, in general, Independent, not because they know too much about what's going on, but because they know too little. These folks will line up with whatever clown and circus act from Grizzly Mama to The Donald comes to town. The underclass chamber of the heart, some 70 million Americans, does not join Obama's "everybody" category until the dominating American culture of, "I've got mine; you get yours," becomes, "Everybody looks out for one another." That stands as good a chance of happening as the introduction of a viable Democratic Socialist or Social Democratic Party candidate in the 2012 election.

I'm struck by the undeniably socialist color of this, "Everybody looks out for one another," culture, by how far it is from "Show ME the money!" and by how desperately liberals have been running from their ideological home base. If liberals run from any mention of socialism, the socialist critique of the Wild West capitalist environment we presently enjoy, which could take liberals from defense and provide them with an offense, will be lost. This critique has the potential to move them from "useful idiot" status to real challengers of plutocracy's politics, which are moving us further and further to the right. Liberals have long been like Ciceros in the Roman Senate: providing cover for ruthlessness by haranguing a litany of noble and compassionate considerations which assuage the conscience of a society that must always think itself exceptionable regardless of its ruthlessness. These small, meaningless gestures have not deceived or detoured Class Warrior. His T-shirt is over the top because of the liberal failure to walk the Obama talk. Liberals have helped brew Class Warrior's hatred.

The magical change Obama suggests would abort Class Warrior's mission, which might be like an Arab Spring revolutionary's mission, were it not for a distracted, seduced and baffled middle class in the US which can be mobilized in a wrongheaded direction in a way that Class Warrior cannot be. I am also struck by the fact that Class Warrior's message is an offline message, viewable in the public space of this gas station and anywhere else he wears his T-shirt, because public spaces are where the poor and disenfranchised are. There seems to be room for that space in Tunisia, but not here. I wonder whether any revolutionary, offline efforts here in the US are recognizable, or if, instead, they are already extinct. I wonder whether those who deal with life online can prepare themselves to deal with offline life - call it the "world" - and a human nature that needs real, not virtual, social networking.

While it is clear that the millennials' cyberspace domain has been increasingly colonized by market ideology, it is not clear how deeply social networking, rather than long-embedded political unrest (engineered by long-lasting oppression of the poor by the wealthy) and historical memory affected the Arab Spring revolutions. An accelerant in the way of a more effective means of communication is not itself the fuel, which I take to be the aggregate forces of injustice, oppression, tyranny and impoverishment. These are forces that have not, as yet, made deep inroads into the consciousness of the US population, although, where they have - as with Class Warrior - temperatures are rising.

"We bailed out the rich, man," Class Warrior tells me. "Bail out. Bail out. Bail out. And the rest of us, all of us, were left hanging. Now the rich want all of us to be all about the debt. Same thing. The debt. The debt. Rich man talks for all of us. But us? We see the poor is all of us and the rich just a few and that's our thing. That's our thing, man."

Greenpeace warns of radioactive sea life off Japan

Greenpeace warns of radioactive sea life off Japan

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TOKYO (AFP) – Environmental group Greenpeace warned Thursday that marine life it tested more than 20 kilometres (12 miles) off Japan's stricken Fukushima nuclear plant showed radiation far above legal limits.

The anti-nuclear group, which conducted the coastal and offshore tests this month, criticised Japanese authorities for their "continued inadequate response to the Fukushima nuclear crisis" sparked by the March 11 quake and tsunami.

Greenpeace said it detected radiation levels in seaweed 50 times higher than official limits, which it charged raised "serious concerns about continued long-term risks to people and the environment from contaminated seawater".

It also said that tests, which it said were independently verified by French and Belgian laboratories, showed above-legal levels of radioactive iodine-131 and caesium-137 in several species of fish and shellfish.

"Our data show that significant amounts of contamination continue to spread over great distances from the Fukushima nuclear plant," said Jan Vande Putte, a Greenpeace radiation expert, at a Tokyo news conference.

Japan's seafood safety limit for caesium-137 is 500 Becquerels per kilogram (227 per pound).

Greenpeace said it found levels of 740 Becquerels per kilogram in oysters, 857 in a fish species, 1,285 in sea cucumber and 1,640 in seaweed.

The maximum iodine-131 limit is 2,000 Becquerels per kilogram for seaweed, but Greenpeace said it found a level of 127,000 Becquerels per kilogram in the seaweed species Sargassum Horneri.

The group said that "eating one kilo of highly contaminated seaweed sampled by Greenpeace could increase the radiation dose by 2.8 millisievert -- almost three times the internationally recommended annual maximum".

"Despite what the authorities are claiming, radioactive hazards are not decreasing through dilution or dispersion of materials, but the radioactivity is instead accumulating in marine life," Vande Putte added.

"The concentration of radioactive iodine we found in seaweed is particularly concerning as it tells us how far contamination is spreading along the coast, and because several species of seaweed are widely eaten in Japan."

Vande Putte accused Japan of doing to little to measure and share data on marine life contamination and said "Japan's government is mistaken in assuming that an absence of data means there is no problem.

"This complacency must end now, and (the government must) instead mount a comprehensive and continuous monitoring programme of the marine environment along the Fukushima coast, along with full disclosure of all information about both past and ongoing releases of contaminated water."

The tests were conducted by Greenpeace monitoring teams on shore and from its Rainbow Warrior flagship, which was only allowed to test outside Japan?s 20-kilometre (12-mile) territorial waters.

Japan has said ocean currents and tides are rapidly diluting contaminants from the tsunami-hit atomic plant, and Fukushima prefecture told AFP on Thursday that no fishing is going on at the moment in its waters.

"We have exercised self-restraint as (prefectural) safety tests have not been conducted yet," said a Fukushima official. "We will make a decision after confirming the results of the tests, which will take place shortly."

The official added: "People do not bother fishing now. If you caught fish or other marine products in waters near the plant, they wouldn't sell."

Japan's fisheries agency, and neighbouring prefectures, have been checking marine products at different spots, and the government has prohibited fishermen from catching some species found to have elevated radiation levels.

The Severity of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster: Comparing Chernobyl and Fukushima

The Severity of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster: Comparing Chernobyl and Fukushima

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On April 12, 2011 the Japanese government officially announced that the severity of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster had reached level 7, the highest on the International Nuclear Event Scale. Before Fukushima, the only level 7 case was the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, whose 25th anniversary was marked on April 26. Two and a half months after the 3.11 catastrophe, the first to affect multiple reactors, TEPCO and the Japanese government continue to struggle to bring the reactors at Fukushima Daiichi under control. TEPCO estimates that the problems could be solved in six to nine months now appearing extraordinarily optimistic and plans have been announced to close nuclear power plants deemed of particularly high risk such as the Hamaoka facility.

Fukushima explosion

Following the upgrade to level 7, Japan’s Prime Minister’s Office released a statement comparing Fukushima and Chernobyl. (Source)

The Japanese government argues that apart from children who contracted thyroid cancer from drinking contaminated milk, there have been no health effects among ordinary citizens as a result of Chernobyl radiation. Is this really the case? Given the Japanese government’s precautions against thyroid cancer in children, is there reason to believe that the Fukushima accident will take no lives except those exposed to the highest dangers in the plant clean-up? (Source)

On April 15, Kyodo, Japan’s major news service, ran an English language piece by Russian scientist Alexey V. Yablokov (source). Yablokov’s stern warnings about the threat of even low levels of radiation had been ignored by the major media but was reported in Japanese in the Nishi Nippon Shimbun. (Source)

The English only Kyodo piece, however, ties Yablokov’s extensive Chernobyl research with the unfolding Fukushima crisis. Under the headline “How to minimize consequences of the Fukushima catastrophe,” Yablokov observed that

The analysis of the health impact of radioactive land contamination by the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, made by Professor Chris Busby (the European Committee of Radiation Risk) based on official Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology data, has shown that over the next 50 years it would be possible to have around 400,000 additional cancer patients within a 200-kilometer radius of the plant.

This number can be lower and can be even higher, depending on strategies to minimize the consequences. Underestimation is more dangerous for the people and for the country than overestimation.

Based on the Chernobyl experience, he made the following recommendations:

1. Enlarge the exclusion zone [from 20 kilometers] to at least about a 50-km radius of the plant;

2. Distribute detailed instructions on effective ways to protect the health of individuals while avoiding the additional contamination of food. Organize regular measurements of all people by individual dose counters (for overall radionuclides) at least once a week. Distribute radioprotectors and decontaminants (substances which provide the body protection against harmful effects of radiation) of radionuclides. . .

3. Develop recommendations for safe agriculture on the contaminated territories: reprocessing of milk, decontamination of meat, turning agriculture into production of technical cultures (e.g. biofuels etc.). Such ''radionuclide-resistant'' agriculture will be costly (it may be up to 30-40 percent compared with conventional agriculture) and needs to be subsidized;

4. It is necessary to urgently improve existing medical centers -- and possibly create new ones -- to deal with the immediate and long-term consequences of the irradiated peoples (including medical-genetic consultations on the basis of chromosome analysis etc.);

5. The most effective way to help organize post-Fukushima life in the contaminated territories (from Chernobyl lessons) is to create a special powerful interagency state body (ministry or committee) to handle the problems of contaminated territories during the first most complicated years.

Yablokov is one of the primary architects of the 2006 Greenpeace report “The Chernobyl Catastrophe: Consequences on Human Health” and an extensive 2010 follow-up study Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment published by the New York Academy of Sciences, which makes the startling claim that 985,000 deaths can be attributed to the 1986 disaster.

This claim is startling because it differs so dramatically from a 600 page 2005 study by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the WHO, and the UN Development Programme, which claimed that fewer than 50 deaths can be attributed directly to Chernobyl and fewer than 4000 likely from Chernobyl-related cancers in the future. Indeed, the two works continue to frame much of the public controversy, with little progress toward resolution. Attempts to assess the consequences of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster remain the subject of fierce debate over widely different estimates in both the scientific and policy communities. In the months since the Fukushima disaster, scores of reports have uncritically passed on the results of the IAEA/WHO or the Yablokov study published by the New York Academy of Sciences without seriously engaging the conflicting conclusions or moving the debate forward. Here we present the major findings of major studies across the divide that may help to clarify the likely outcomes of the Fukushima disaster. (1, 2)

Yablokov and colleagues assessed thousands of studies of the localities and people affected by the Chernobyl disaster in Russian and other Eastern European languages. They argue that these studies have been ignored by the Anglophone scientific community.

Critics, such as the British science journalist George Monbiot, have criticized Yablokov and his colleagues for attributing any increase in cancer occurrence in regions affected by Chernobyl to the radiation released in the disaster. Emphasizing the multiplicity of factors that may affect cancer rates, Monbiot states, for example, that none of the hardest hit areas subjected to Chernobyl radiation,show as dramatic a cancer increase in the 1986-2000 period as does Japan. The impact of Chernobyl radiation in Japan was negligible, yet the cancer rate there has nearly doubled since the disaster. In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, at a time when many have moved to reject the nuclear power option, Monbiot announced that he had abandoned his former criticism to embrace nuclear power as a responsible component of a green energy policy.

Japanese government statistics in fact show large increases in screening rates for cancer during this period and this is one possible explanation for the increase in the number of cases reported. (1, 2, 3, 4)

Monty Charles of the School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Birmingham, reviewed Yablokov’s work in the journal Radiation Protection Dosimetry (Volume 141, Issue 1, 2010, pp. 101-104) and found the statistical conclusions far from clear and even contradictory:

Numerous facts and figures are given with a range of references but with little explanation and little critical evaluation. Apparently related tables, figures and statements, which refer to particular publications often disagree with one another. The section on oncological diseases (cancer) was of most interest to me. A section abstract indicated that on the basis of doses from 131I and137Cs; a comparison of cancer mortality in the heavily and less contaminated territories; and pre- and post-Chernobyl cancer levels, the predicted radiation-related cancer deaths in Europe would be 212 000–245 000 and 19 000 in the remainder of the world. I could not however find any specific discussion within the section to support these numbers. The section ends with an endorsement of the work of Malko who has estimated 10 000–40 000 additional deaths from thyroid cancer, 40 000–120 000 deaths from the other malignant tumours and 5000–14 000 deaths from leukaemia—a total of 55 000–174 000 deaths from 1986 to 2056 in the whole of Europe, including Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. These numbers confusingly, do not agree with a table (6.21) from the same author. The final section on overall mortality contains a table (7.11), which includes an estimate of 212 000 additional deaths in highly contaminated regions of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. This figure is for the period of 1990–2004, and is based on an assumption that 3.8–4.0% of all deaths in the contaminated territories being due to the Chernobyl accident. One is left unsure about the meaning of many of these numbers and which is preferred.

If his work has been subject to trenchant critiques, Yablokov has offered a few of his own concerning the WHO/IAEA study discussed above. Yablokov’s work forms a major part of a document, “Health Effects of Chernobyl: 25 Years after the Reactor Catastrophe”, released by the German Affiliate of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War on the occasion of an international conference on Chernobyl held in Berlin between April 8 - 10, 2011. (Source)

The report contains a devastating critique of the low WHO and IAEA Chernobyl death toll estimates:

Note on the unreliability of official data published by WHO and IAEA

At the “Chernobyl Forum of the United Nations” organised in September 2005 by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the World Health Organisation, the presentation of the results of work on the effects of Chernobyl showed serious inconsistencies. For example: the press release of the WHO and IAEA stated that in the future, at most, 4000 surplus fatalities due to cancer and leukaemia amongst the most severely affected groups of people might be expected. In the WHO report on which this was based however, the actual number of deaths is given as 8,930. These deaths were not mentioned in any newspaper articles. When one examines the source quoted in the WHO report, one arrives at a number betwen 10,000 and 25,000 additional fatalities due to cancer and leukaemia.

Given this it can be rationally concluded that the official statements of the IAEA and the WHO have manipulated their own data. Their representation of the effects of Chernobyl has little to do with reality.

The report continues:

S. Pflugbeil pointed out already in 2005 that there were discrepancies between press releases, the WHO report and the source quoted in it (Cardis et al.). Up until now neither the Chernobyl Forum, IAEA nor the WHO have deemed it necessary to let the public know that, on the basis of their own analysis, a two to five-fold higher number of deaths due to cancer and leukaemia are to be expected as the figures they have published.

Even in 2011 – some 5 years on - no official UN organisation has as yet corrected these figures. The latest UNSCEAR publication on the health effects of Chernobyl does not take into account any of the numerous results of research into the effects of Chernobyl from the three countries affected. Only one figure – that of 6,000 cases of thyroid cancer among children and juveniles, and leukaemia and cataracts in liquidators – was included in their recent information to the media. Thus, in 2011 the UNSCEAR committee declared: On the basis of studies carried out during the last 20 years, as well as of previous UNSCEAR reports, UNSCEAR has come to the conclusion that the large majority of the population has no reason to fear that serious health risks will arise from the Chernobyl accident. The only exception applies to those exposed to radioiodine during childhood or youth and to liquidators who were exposed to a high dose of radiation and therefore had to reckon with a higher radiation induced risk.

Even if Yablokov’s estimates for Chernobyl deaths are high, the WHO and IAEA numbers are almost certainly too low.

One area of continuing debate is the fate of the “liquidators” at Chernobyl. A major difference between Fukushima and Chernobyl is government handling of the aftermath. While the Japanese government can be criticized for the speed of evacuation and the limited evacuation radius, the seriousness of the issues was immediately recognized and efforts made to send people away from the stricken plant. In the case of Chernobyl, even as the state suppressed information about the catastrophe, between 600,000 and 1,000,000 people termed “liquidators” were sent to the most heavily irradiated zone to work to contain the effects of the meltdown, many with limited protection and unaware of the risks.

Some research, such as the article “Thyroid Cancer among ‘Liquidators’ of the Chernobyl Accident” published in the British Journal of Radiology (70, 1997, pp. 937-941), suggests relatively limited health effects (fewer than 50 cases of thyroid cancer in a group of over 150,000 liquidators followed in the study). (Source)

The article “Chernobyl Liquidators – The People and the Doses”, published by the International Radiation Protection Association, likewise concludes that across the majority of the liquidator group, “The health consequences from these radiation doses are too small to be identifiable in any epidemiological study, which does not target specific sub-groups with potentially higher exposure.” (Source)

Support groups for liquidators, however, claim that 25,000 have died and over 70,000 are disabled. (Source)

The issue cannot be limited to fatalities. The German Affiliate of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War “Health Effects of Chernobyl” report presents extensive evidence of widespread crippling disability among liquidators. As in the case of the Chernobyl death toll, the plight of liquidators is a hotly contested topic with radically different figures emerging from different quarters.

Some commentators have presented data that suggests a way out of the deadlock over the health and death consequences of Chernobyl. Peter Karamoskos, a Nuclear Radiologist and public representative on the Radiation Health Committee of the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency argues in “Do we know the Chernobyl death toll?” that despite uncertainties about the numbers, “The weight of scientific opinion holds that there is no threshold below which ionising radiation poses no risk and that the risk is proportional to the dose: the "linear no-threshold" (LNT) model.”

Drawing on the 2006 report of the Committee on the Biological Effects of Ionising Radiation (BEIR) of the US National Academy of Sciences. Karamoskos points out: “The … view that low-level radiation is harmless, is restricted to a small number of scientists whose voice is greatly amplified by the nuclear industry (in much the same way as corporate greenhouse polluters amplify the voices of climate science sceptics).”

He continues:

There is general agreement that about 50 people died in the immediate aftermath of the Chernobyl accident. Beyond that, studies generally don't indicate a significant increase in cancer incidence in populations exposed to Chernobyl fallout. Nor would anyone expect them to because of the data gaps and methodological problems mentioned above, and because the main part of the problem concerns the exposure of millions of people to very low doses of radiation from Chernobyl fallout.
For a few marginal scientists and nuclear industry spruikers, that's the end of the matter - the statistical evidence is lacking and thus the death toll from Chernobyl was just 50. Full stop. But for those of us who prefer mainstream science, we can still arrive at a scientifically defensible estimate of the Chernobyl death toll by using estimates of the total radiation exposure, and multiplying by a standard risk estimate.
The International Atomic Energy Agency estimates a total collective dose of 600,000 Sieverts over 50 years from Chernobyl fallout. A standard risk estimate from the International Commission on Radiological Protection is 0.05 fatal cancers per Sievert. Multiply those figures and we get an estimated 30,000 fatal cancers.
A number of studies apply that basic method - based on collective radiation doses and risk estimates - and come up with estimates of the death toll varying from 9000 (in the most contaminated parts of the former Soviet Union) to 93,000 deaths (across Europe).
Those are the credible estimates of the likely eventual death toll from Chernobyl. Claims that the death toll was just 50 should be rejected as dishonest spin from the nuclear industry and some of its most strident and scientifically-illiterate supporters.

Karamaskos then turns to Fukushima, observing that

Nuclear industry spruikers will insist that no-one is at risk from low-level radiation exposure from Fukushima. The rest of us will need to wait some months or years before we have a plausible estimate of total human radiation exposure upon which to base an estimate of the death toll. To date, radiation releases from Fukushima are estimated by the Japanese government to be 10 per cent of the total Chernobyl release.
Needless to say, the view that low-level radiation is harmless is completely at odds with the current situation in Japan - the 20 km evacuation zone around the Fukushima nuclear plant, restrictions on food and water consumption in Japan and restrictions on the importation of food from Japan. (Source)

A joint survey conducted by the Japanese and U.S. governments has produced a detailed map of ground surface radioactive contamination within an 80-kilometer radius of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Yablokov’s Chernobyl research and the dire prediction of as many as 400,000 radiation-related cancers in the Fukushima region if wider evacuation is not considered, deserves consideration, scrutiny, and debate as the Japanese government deals with radiation releases from Fukushima Daiichi. The same is true of alternative methodologies, particularly as the “linear no-threshold model” described by Peter Karamoskos. Despite recent efforts to evacuate people from high radiation areas outside of the 20 km evacuation zone, however, Japanese newspapers reported on April 20 that at the same time, the Japanese government had increased the permissible hourly radiation dose at schools in Fukushima Prefecture to 3.8 microsieverts. The Mainichi describes this as “a level that would see students absorb the internationally recognized maximum of 20 millisieverts per year.” See “Save the Children: Radiation Exposure of Fukushima Students,” link.

What are the risks of such doses? Thomas L. Slovis of the Society for Pediatric Radiology writes in Pediatr Radiol (2002:32:225-227)

… the risk of cancer from radiation is 5% per sievert… That’s an average number; but an average is almost meaningless. If you are a mature, late middle-aged individual, it is maybe 1% per sievert. But if you are a child, it is maybe 15% per sievert, with a clear gender difference too at these early ages. So children are very, very sensitive compared to adults." For an adult the acceptable risk for any activity for emergency workers is 50 mSv. For a child the equivalent risk is (50 mSv /250 mSv)*66 mSv=13 mSv. The standard suggested by Japan for children is twice this value. The change in standard to 20 mSv corresponds to a change to 0.3% risk in cancer later on in life.

Uncertainty about the long-term health effects of even low levels of radiation was further highlighted by David J. Brenner in the April 5 issue of Nature. (Source)

In recent weeks, the issue of radiation and the 300,000 children of Fukushima has moved to the center of debate in assessing Japanese government handling of the Fukushima meltdown, even as the seriousness of radiation issues has grown with the belated disclosure by TEPCO of the multiple disasters experienced at the outset, and still far from under control, in Fukushima Daiichi.

On April 28, Kosako Toshiso, a radiation specialist at Tokyo University, resigned his position as Special Advisor to the Cabinet. Kosako had earlier gained notoriety for his role in helping to deny the extension of benefits to some radiation victims of the atomic bombs in a 2003 court case. After Fukushima, however, Kosako made an impassioned and courageous stand against what he saw as a government taking the potential health effects of long-term radiation exposure too lightly. In a press conference, Kosako castigated the Kan cabinet for its decision to increase permissible radiation exposure for Fukushima children:

At times of emergency, we cannot do without exceptions to standard rules and we are indeed capable of setting them up, but in any case, international common sense ought to be respected. It is wrong to forcibly push through conclusions that happen to be convenient only for the administrative authorities but which are utterly unacceptable by international standards. Such conclusions are bound to draw criticism from the international community.

This time, upon discussing the acceptable level of radiation exposure for playgrounds in primary schools in Fukushima, they have calculated, guided and determined a level of "3.8╬╝Sv per hour" on the basis of "20mSv per year". It is completely wrong to use such a standard for schools that are going to run a normal school curriculum, in which case a standard similar to usual radiation protection measurement (1mSv per year, or even in exceptional cases, 5mSv) ought to be applied, and not the one used in cases of exceptional or urgent circumstances (for two to three days, or at the most, one to two weeks). It is not impossible to use a standard, perhaps for a few months, of 10mSv per year at the maximum, if the public is rightly notified of the necessity of taking caution, and also if special measures are to be taken. But normally it is better to avoid such a thing. We have to note that it is very rare even among occupationally exposed persons (84,000 in total) to be exposed to radiation of 20mSv per year. I cannot possibly accept such a level to be applied to babies, infants and primary school students, not only from my scholarly viewpoint but also from my humanistic beliefs.

You rarely come across a level of 10mSv per year on the covering soil if you measure the leftover soil at a disposal site in any uranium mine (it would be about a few mSv per year at the most), so one needs to have utmost caution when using such a level. Therefore, I strongly protest the decision to use the standard of 20mSv per year for school playgrounds, and ask for revision.

(Translation by Tanaka Izumi) Complete translation available here.

On April 29, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War appealed to the Japanese government to recognize the risk that students of Fukushima would be exposed to, citing widely accepted scientific principles for radiation effects:

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences BEIR VII report estimates that each 1 mSv of radiation is associated with an increased risk of solid cancer (cancers other than leukemia) of about 1 in 10,000; an increased risk of leukemia of about 1 in 100,000; and a 1 in 17,500 increased risk of dying from cancer. But a critical factor is that not everyone faces the same level of risk. For infants (under 1 year of age) the radiation-related cancer risk is 3 to 4 times higher than for adults; and female infants are twice as susceptible as male infants.

Text available online.

On May 12, the Japan Medical Association, in the wake of the Kosako resignation, criticized government indifference to the exposure of Fukushima children to radiation. (Source)

The Mainichi also reports protests from various corners.

Indeed, coverage has spread to corners of the mass media hardly known for political critique. Journalist Hirokawa Ryuichi, known for his coverage of the plight of Palestinian children, Unit 731, and Chernobyl, takes on the 20mSv issue in the May 26 issue of Josei Seven (Women’s Seven), a weekly known mostly for paparazzi-style star stalking, but now including more political criticism as mothers nationwide consider the implications of the government’s 20mSv for children decision. (Source)

Hirokawa argues that while the Soviet government may have been irresponsible in its initial approach to the Chernobyl radiation release, it undertook a massive effort to evacuate children from Kiev, 120 kilometers away from the crisis zone, between May and September 1986. Fukushima City is just over 50 kilometers away from Fukushima Daiichi. At the currently approved 20mSv, Hirokawa points out, Japanese children could be exposed to four times the radiation of children in Ukraine in 1986. He writes, “… an hourly rate of 3.8 microsieverts is a number not all that different from readings at the dead ruins of Pripyat. I don’t want to imagine Japanese children running and playing in this ruined shell of a city.” Pripyat, built originally to house Chernobyl workers, is the abandoned city at the heart of Ukraine’s “Zone of Alienation”.

While comparisons between Chernobyl and Fukushima abound, there are many who point to the contrasts. In the latest issue of the Journal of Radiological Protection, radiation, Professor Richard Wakeford of the University of Manchester’s Dalton Nuclear Institute points out flaws in the International Nuclear Event Scale, "Since Level 7 is the highest rating on INES there can be no distinction between the Fukushima and Chernobyl accidents, leading many to proclaim the Fukushima accident as 'another Chernobyl', which it is not….” He asserts that as of early April, Fukushima had released but one tenth of the amount of radiation expelled in the Chernobyl disaster and praises Japan’s official response,

“Given the difficult background circumstances pertaining in Fukushima Prefecture as problems mounted at the Fukushima Dai-ichi NPS, the organisational abilities of the Japanese authorities in dealing with the evacuation, monitoring and protection of the public has to be admired. In particular, the heroic efforts of the emergency workers, battling under conditions that were often atrocious, should not pass without respect and praise. I for one bow to their courage.” (Source)

We have, likewise, noted important differences in the handling of the disasters at Chernobyl and Fukushima. Yet it is important to note that Wakeford’s praise ignores the most important revelations of TEPCO’s and the Japanese governments cover-ups and recklessness, as in its decisions to expose Fukushima children to 20 mSv of radiation on a long-term basis.

As the nature of the Fukushima crisis relative to Chernobyl continues to be contested, the important issue of radiation exposure of Fukushima school children remains at the center of public debate. To date, the Japanese government has failed to respond effectively to critics of policies that pose long-term risks to the nation’s children.

Paul Ryan Still Doesn't Get It

Paul Ryan Still Doesn’t Get It

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Republican House Budget chief Paul Ryan still doesn’t get it. He blames Tuesday’s upset victory of Democrat Kathy Hochul over Republican Jane Corwin to represent New York’s 26th congressional district on Democratic scare tactics.

Hochul had focused like a laser on the Republican plan to turn Medicare into vouchers that would funnel the money to private health insurers. Republicans didn’t exactly take it lying down. The National Republican Congressional Committee poured over $400,000 into the race, and Karl Rove’s American Crossroads provided Corwin an additional $700,000 of support. But the money didn’t work. Even in this traditionally Republican district – represented in the past by such GOP notables as Jack Kemp and William Miller, both of whom would become vice presidential candidates – Hochul’s message hit home.

Ryan calls it “demagoguery,” accusing Hochul and her fellow Democrats of trying to “scare seniors into thinking that their current benefits are being affected.”

Scare tactics? Seniors have every right to be scared. His plan would eviscerate Medicare by privatizing it with vouchers that would fall further and further behind the rising cost of health insurance. And Ryan and the Republicans offer no means of slowing rising health-care costs. To the contrary, they want to repeal every cost-containment measure enacted in last year’s health-reform legislation. The inevitable result: More and more seniors would be priced out of the market for health care.

The Ryan plan has put Republicans in a corner.

Some GOP stalwarts say the Party must clarify its message – a sure sign of panic. Former Republican congressman Rick Lazio says the GOP “must do [a] better job explaining entitlements.”

It’s just possible the public knows exactly what entitlements are – and is getting a clear message about what Republicans are up to.

All this should give the White House and Democratic budget negotiators more confidence – and more bargaining leverage – to put tax cuts on the rich squarely on the table.

And, while they’re at it, turn Medicare into a “Medicare-for-all” system that forces doctors and hospitals to shift from costly tests, drugs, and procedures having little effect, to healthy outcomes.

Spain's Protests Are Rooted in Restoring Democracy and Decent Life in an Era of Turbocapitalism

Spain's Enormous, Inspiring Protests Are Rooted in Restoring Democracy and Decent Life in an Era of Turbocapitalism

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"No one expects the #spanishrevolution." That's one of the signs in Madrid's iconic - and occupied - Puerta del Sol Square; Monty Python revised for the age of Twitter.

"I was in Paris in May '68 and I'm very emotional. I'm 72 years old." That's one of the signs in Barcelona's iconic - and occupied - Plaza Catalunya. The barricades revised as a Gandhian sit-in.

The exhilarating northern African winds of the great 2011 Arab revolt/spring have crossed the Mediterranean and hit Iberia with a vengeance. In an unprecedented social rebellion, the Generation Y in Spain is forcefully protesting - among other things - the stinging economic crisis; mass unemployment at a staggering 45% among less than 30-year-olds and th e ossified Spanish political system that treats the citizen as a mere consumer.

This citizens' movement is issuing petitions that get five signatures per second; it can be followed on Twitter (#spanishrevolution); streaming live from Puerta del Sol at Soltv.tv; to see its reach, click here. Reverberations are being felt all across Spain and word-wide - from Los Angeles to Sydney. A mini-French revolution started at the Bastille in Paris. Italians are planning their revolutions from Rome and Milan to Florence and Bari.

Outraged of the world, unite

They call themselves los indignados - "the outraged". Puerta del Sol is their Tahrir Square, a self-sufficient village complete with working groups, mobile first-aid clinic, and volunteers taking care of everything from cleaning to keeping an Internet signal. The May 15 movement - or 15-M, as it's known in Spain - was born as a demonstration by university students which spontaneously morphed into an open-ended sit-in meant to "contaminate" Spain via Facebook and Twitter and thus turn it into a crucial social bridge between Northern Africa and Europe.

They were only 40 people at the beginning. Now there are tens of thousands in over 50 Spanish cities - and counting. Soon there could be millions. Crucially, this is without the support of any political party or institution, trade union or mass media (in Spain, totally exposed to ridicule by political power). That's extraordinary in a country not exactly known by its tradition of dissent or the power of citizen organization.

The outraged are pacifists, apolitical and altruists. This is not only about the unemployed, "no future" youth - but an inter-generational phenomenon, with a middle-class crossover. This full stop to Spanish inertia - as in the sign "the French and the Greek fight while the Spanish win on soccer" - implies a profound rejection of the enormous abyss between the political class and the population, just like in the rest of Europe (Greek and Icelandic flags are seen side-by-side with the Egyptian flag.)

The outraged want citizens to regain their voices - as in a participative democracy embodied by neighborhood associations, and in favor of the right to vote for immigrants. Practically, they want a reform of the Spanish electoral law; more popular say on public budgets; political and fiscal reform; increased taxes for higher incomes; a higher minimum wage; and more control over big banking and financial capitalism.

Early this year, students in London protested en-masse against the rise in university tuition costs. The potential for protest is huge all across Europe. In Mediterranean Europe, the lack of prospects is absolutely bleak - from Generation Y to unemployed thirty-somethings stacked with diplomas. Even though the context is markedly different - in Northern Africa the fight is against dictatorships - the Arab Spring has shown young Europeans that mobilized citizens are able to fight for more social justice.

The Spanish left has tried to co-opt the movement. Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodroriguez Zapatero - badly bruised by these past Sunday elections, obviously boycotted by 15-M - said they must be listened to. The right, predictably, privileges a Hosni Mubarak approach, even asking the Ministry of Interior to go Medieval, as the former Egyptian president did. Right-wing media accuse the outraged of being communists, anti-system, urban guerrillas and having relations with the Basque separatists from ETA. The only thing missing was an al-Qaeda connection.

The outraged respond they are not anti-system; "it's the system that it's against us." Their original manifesto condemned the Spanish political class as a whole, plus corporate media, as allies to financial capital; those that have caused and are benefiting from the economic crisis. The outraged J'accuse includes the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the European Union, financial risk agencies and the World Bank.

The Spanish economy is in fact being controlled by the IMF. Whether or not he was a reformer, the IMF under disgraced Dominique Strauss-Kahn's unleashed major social devastation over Spain, Greece and Portugal. It's not only the unemployment rate of 45% for under-30-year-olds in Spain; it's pensions and wages reduced by 15%. The IMF is leading the way for the economies of southern Europe to, in a nutshell, regress.

It's as if the 15-M movement had been electrified by that famous dictum by Polish Marxist theorist Rosa Luxemburg - according to which capitalism is unredeemable in its antagonism to true democracy. The record shows that's exactly what's happening in the industrialized North as well as in the global South.

The new 1968

So this goes way beyond a student revolt. It's a revolt that lays bare a profound ethical crisis convulsing a whole society. And it goes way beyond the economy; this is a movement seriously inquiring over the place of human beings in turbo-capitalist society.

No wonder baby boomers - the parents of Generation Y - cannot but be reminded of the late, great German philosopher Herbert Marcuse. Compared with this breath of fresh air amid the asphyxiating social and economic landscape in Spain and great swathes of Europe, how not be reminded of Marcuse in a conference in Vancouver in 1969, talking about a worldwide student rebellion.

Marcuse then evoked how French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre was asked the same question - why these rebellions everywhere? Sartre said the answer was very simple - no sophisticated reasoning necessary. Young people were rebelling because they were asphyxiated. Marcuse always maintained this was the best explanation for this rebel yell denouncing a structural crisis of capitalism.

Marcuse was an ultra-sharp analyst of the degrading of culture as a form of repression, and the necessity of a critical elite capable of smashing the totalitarian opium of consumer culture (the outraged are also performing this role).

Marcuse identified the French and the American 1968 as a total protest against specific ills, but at the same time a protest against a total system of values, a total system of objectives. Young people didn't want to keep enduring the culture of established society; they refuted not only economic conditions and political institutions but also a rotten, global system of values. In 1968, they were realists; they were demanding the impossible. Today, one of their signs read, "If you don't let us dream, we won't let you sleep."

Bob Dylan turns 70 this Tuesday. In Bob We Trust; he won't tell us, but deep in his heart and mind he knows where los indignados are coming from. If, as he wrote in Absolutely Sweet Marie, to live outside the law you must be honest, los indignados couldn't be more honest themselves, because they refuse to live under this law that is in fact killing them as well as most of us.

That's why it feels so great to be stuck inside of Madrid with the Cairo blues again.

In ruthless act of economic warfare, TSA threatens to make Texas a no-fly zone

In ruthless act of economic warfare, TSA threatens to make Texas a no-fly zone

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(NaturalNews) In what can only be called a ruthless threat of total economic warfare, the TSA has threatened to enforce an economic blockade of Texas if the state legislature passes its bill criminalizing the TSA's lewd pat-downs that have agents reaching down the pants of innocent travelers (http://www.naturalnews.com/032401_T...).

Texas state Sen. Dan Patrick had sponsored the bill which initially earned widespread support throughout both houses of the Texas legislature, but as the bill neared final passage, the TSA sent a threatening letter to Texas explaining that if the law were passed, the TSA would block all flights to and from Texas cities.

The TSA threatens economic warfare against Texas

The gloves are off, folks. The TSA is now engaged in what can only be called an act of economic warfare against the state of Texas. This rogue agency, which is staffed with power-hungry pedophiles, perverts and porn distributors (http://www.naturalnews.com/030787_c...), is already asserting its false power and threatening one of the largest economies in the world -- the state of Texas -- with severe economic harm if its lawmakers don't cave in to the TSA's tyrannical demands.

Just to be perfectly clear what you're witnessing here, the TSA is saying that if your state stands up for the Fourth Amendment rights of its own citizens, then the federal government will shut down all your airports and refuse to allow airplanes to take off or land in your state. This is a form of economic tyranny being conducted by rogue federal agents who are threatening to turn Texas into a no-fly zone.

This is an act of war against Texas.

And this war began with two rogue TSA agents paying a little visit to Sen. Patrick at the Texas state Capitol in Austin. There, they laid out the terms of their threat, saying they would "close down all the airports in Texas."

Don't mess with Texas

But the feds have bullied the wrong state. Some lawmakers in Texas still remember what freedom actually means. "There was a time in this state, there was a time in our history, where we stood up to the federal government and we did not cower to rules and policies that invaded the privacy of Texans," said Sen. Dan Patrick. (http://www.texastribune.org/texas-l...)

Today, Alex Jones is part of a growing protest taking place on the front steps of the Austin State Capitol building: http://www.prisonplanet.com/feds-th...

Remarkably, the TSA claims it has the right under the U.S. Constitution to do anything it wants -- including reaching down your pants and feeling your genitals -- without regard to the protections of the Fourth and Tenth Amendments. The TSA, of course, has zero understanding of U.S. law or the Constitution itself. It is, by any reckoning, a power-hungry, out-of-control, lawless and utterly tyrannical group of government perverts and thugs who are now engaged in the threat of economic warfare against the state of Texas.

We must not let the TSA rule over us any longer, or we will all be threatened with yet more tyranny from this anti-American group of tyrants whose actions closely resemble the schemes of terrorists.

Watch for more coverage of this issue here at NaturalNews.com and also at www.InfoWars.com where Alex Jones is on the front lines in Austin, Texas, on the steps of the Capitol building joining the protests.

More details to come

Talkin' 'Bout a Revolution

Talkin' 'Bout a Revolution

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Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC. President Abraham Lincoln observed in his first inaugural address, "This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it." (Photo: nolageek)

Our country is in tatters. While more and more of us plunge into official poverty status, our elected leaders, who are in service to the wealthy elite, argue about how much to cut from programs that "promote the general welfare." They squander our exhaustible resources on illegal wars. The rich have stolen so much from us that they comprise the wealthiest 1 percent in well over 100 years, and they are supported in all this by their pet pundits, who dominate the corporate media. And none of our elected leaders from either of the two parties question the morality of shredding the most basic programs "to promote the general welfare."

To imagine that the Democratic Party would provide any leadership to end the "long train of abuses and usurpations" brought upon us is akin to reaffirming our belief in Santa Claus. The time has come to break the chains that bind us and to establish a new government based on true, not humbug, democratic principles.

Therefore, we are very fortunate in the USA to have not only the right, but also the duty to throw off the current form of government. According to the Declaration of Independence, our nation's most revered document, our responsibility to overthrow, or not, is contingent on government protections of the "... unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these Rights governments are instituted among men deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." In other words, it is up to us, the governed, to determine the mechanisms necessary to secure these rights. It goes on to state "that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it ..."

The authors also predicted "... that mankind are more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed." The question each of us has to answer is: Have I (and/or my children) suffered enough? Do I really want to suffer more?

President Abraham Lincoln observed in his first inaugural address, "This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it."

It is important for each of us to personally acknowledge and exercise these rights "to overthrow" or "to abolish" our government rather than "alter" or "amend" because we will only hurt ourselves and future generations if we continue to buy into the presently conceived "alter or amend" strategy. By now, we should understand the propaganda-driven, mind-control apparatus controlled by the wealthiest individuals and corporations. Nielson Holdings NV, on April 7, 2011, announced advertising across the world rose 10.6 percent to $503 billion for 2010. This might be low considering all forms of advertising. The same highly developed mind-control techniques that are used to sell us cars, underarm deodorant, toothpaste and shoes are also used to sell politicians to us - and it works. The more than one-half trillion dollars is a safe investment since it has convinced us to act against our own interests again and again. This money spent by the advertising and propaganda industry and their corporate or special interest clients also guarantees corporate media stays on message. We are only allowed to hear a discussion from points A-B. Points C-Z do not exist in what passes for a fair and free press and the election campaigns it reports.

Therefore, it falls upon us to fill in points C-Z. How we do that not only starts an authentic local-to-national dialogue, but also helps to build a personal commitment to a more open and inclusive society that relies on empathy, cooperation and, most importantly, respect for each other regardless of our perceived differences.

Many say that campaign financing reform is all important. It is important, but, I believe, secondary because it is impossible with our present corporate-owned government to make any changes that would loosen the death grip corporations have on us. More important is to put to rest the notion that corporations are people with all the rights - and more - of flesh and blood people. Corporations hijacked (usurped) the Constitution by declaring themselves "persons" under the 14th Amendment, which guarantees the right of due process. This amendment was drafted and passed to provide full rights to all natural persons - especially the recently emancipated slaves and their descendents. To date, very few Supreme Court decisions have dealt with race discrimination under the 14th Amendment. Over 80 percent of all 14th Amendment cases involve corporations asserting their "natural" rights. You will not find a definitive Supreme Court Decision stating corporations are unquestionably persons. You will not find a constitutional amendment granting corporations rights as natural persons. This gift of "natural" life just appeared in the mid 1880s as a footnote added by a clerk to the Supreme Court decision Southern Pacific v. San Mateo County. This mind-boggling claim that legally-created "bodies" are persons is a driving force behind our present corrupt campaign financing and, therefore, the existence of the corporate state.

We have experienced a corporate takeover of government. The corporate takeover was cemented over the period beginning 40 years ago and solidified with the taxpayer-funded bailout of Wall Street. Besides the more than 14-trillion-dollar bailout of Wall Street, our government has been quietly contracting out essential government services. This began under Reagan when he appointed the Grace Commission, chaired by J. Peter Grace Jr. - chairman of W.R. Grace Corporation - one of the largest chemical-manufacturing conglomerates. The commission recommended shrinking government by offering a large share of "public expenditures to the private sector."[1]

Neither Reagan nor George H.W. Bush aggressively pursued the privatization agenda. However, Bill Clinton went at it like a starving dog. At the end of Clinton's first term, more than 100,000 Pentagon jobs had been contracted out. By the end of his second term, he had cut more than 360,000 jobs from the federal payroll. Over his presidency, he increased federal spending for contracting out from the beginning of his term (1993) by 44 percent. The right-wing Heritage Foundation labeled Clinton's 1996 budget the "boldest privatization agenda put forth by any president to date."[2]

So, one finds Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton) providing all food services, laundry services, and other personal services previously provided by enlisted personnel. KBR, Halliburton, and many other contractors and subcontractors are notorious for overcharging the taxpayer for services. It is amazing to think that today's military is incapable of feeding itself or washing its own clothes. KBR can and has threatened to withhold its services in Afghanistan during a pay dispute with the paymasters at the Pentagon.[3]

The corporate media has been unable to completely avoid mentioning military contractors - or, more accurately, mercenaries. We know the total number of enlisted personnel in Iraq is more than doubled when our taxpayer-funded mercenaries are counted. It may not be an exaggeration to say that one of the largest and best-armed militaries on the planet is the collection of motley mercenaries employed by us, the US taxpayers. The wealthy mercenary corporations are not accountable to anyone - least of all to us. In fact, we have seen the extent to which our government will go to protect the mercenaries in Pakistan. Obama went on television to claim Randy Davis was a diplomat - when he more accurately is a subcontractor of a subcontractor. Davis killed two Pakistani citizens, was jailed and eventually released following a blood payment of 2.3 million dollars to the families of the dead Pakistanis. Not only did Obama lie to the people on national television, The New York Times and The Washington Post reported Obama's lie even though they knew he was lying.[4] They had agreed with the White House to cover up the fact that Davis was neither a diplomat nor an employee of the CIA: he was a private contractor, who probably will not have to reimburse taxpayers for the 2.3 million dollars.

Even worse than military functions being subcontracted out, are government intelligence-gathering functions being delegated to corporate interests. The 2006 cost of spying and surveillance activities contracted out amounted to 70 percent of the estimated 60 billion dollars spent on all 16 US intelligence agencies. The number of contract employees now exceeds the CIA's full-time work force of 17,500. Mercenaries count for more than one-half of the CIA Directorate of Operations now known as the CIA National Clandestine Service.[5] We have, at the present time, 16 US government intelligence agencies plus intelligence services provided by corporate intelligence services. The current director of the National Intelligence Agency was, until 2007, an employee of Booz Allen Hamilton, one of the largest private providers of intelligence services. He is the first director to come from private intelligence services. Booz Allen Hamilton's government services section is now owned by the Carlyle Group. Carlyle Group is a major shareholder in the security sector, which includes defense corporations.

A large portion of our intelligence and strategic military services are conducted by corporations. Corporations exist to make profits only - without regard to any externalities. If dumping toxins into a river is the cheapest way of disposing of the toxins, then that is exactly what they will do. If using the propaganda mind-control apparatus is necessary to convince us there is no such thing as global warming, they will do so. Never mind extreme weather and the deaths caused by something that could have been avoided. If denying insurance coverage for a life-saving procedure is more cost effective, it will be done. Our lives and all life on the planet exist only to serve the corporate greed machine. How much faith do we want to put into either intelligence gathering or mercenaries fighting wars created by the corporate-military-intelligence apparatus? There are huge profits in war, as we have seen over the years, and now we can clearly see that the war profiteers and the policy makers are one and the same.

Sheldon Wolin wrote in "Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Spectre of Inverted Totalitarianism": "The privatization of public services and functions manifests the steady evolution of corporate power into a political form, into an integral, even dominant partner of the state. It marks the transformation of American politics and its political culture, from a system in which democratic practices and values were, if not, defining, at least major contributory elements, to one where the remaining democratic elements of the state and its populist programs are being systematically dismantled."[6]

We see the same pattern among those entrusted to guide our economy. Our economy is controlled by a revolving door involving the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve and Wall Street giants. Timothy Geithner, Obama's choice for secretary of the Treasury, was part of the Robert Rubin/Larry Summers team, which Clinton relied upon to destroy the protections provided by the Glass-Steagall Act (forbidding banks that accept deposits from engaging in financial speculation on their own account). Geithner was rewarded for his part in the Clinton deregulation by being named to head the New York Federal Reserve District. The New York Fed is responsible for oversight of Wall Street. Geithner failed to see the mortgage-based, fraud-induced financial meltdown before and after he helped engineer a more than 14-trillion-dollar bailout of the richest banks and brokerage outfits on Wall Street. Then Obama appointed him to the Treasury. Even more recently, Obama has hired William Daley, the son of Chicago political boss Richard Daley, as his chief of staff. Daley came to the White House from JPMorgan Chase, one of the winners in the bailout sweepstakes. It doesn't matter what cabinet position we examine: corporate control of government is as pervasive as cancer and metastasizes at a faster rate.

The leading Italian philosopher of fascism, the neo-Hegelian Giovanni Gentile, once argued that fascism should more appropriately be called "corporatism" because it was a merger of corporate and state power.[4] Former President James Madison warned, "The accumulation of all powers legislative, executive and judiciary in the same hands ... is the definition of tyranny." Can there be any doubt that our entire legislative, executive and judiciary are in the death grip of corporate control? All this is possible due to the bogus claim of corporate personhood. At one time in our history, shortly after corporations were invented, the laws governing corporations were left to each state and the commonality was control of the corporation by the people. Now, the people are controlled by the corporation and we regularly give them our money to help keep them in power. The tea baggers wail about too much government, when it is corporations that are actually the government. This farce is a good example of top-down mind-control propaganda perpetrated by billionaires, right-wing think tanks and a compliant corporate media dominated by hysterical demagogues.

Revolution is our only option. We have to cut out the cancerous corporate growth - and that leaves no chance for a little reform here and a little reform there.

In the 1890s, that revolution almost happened through the ballot box, but was derailed by our own stupidity of succumbing to racism. The 1880s was characterized by a vibrant and courageous labor movement, which was able to make tremendous gains. Following a bloody war brought against the working people by the wealthy elite, the average wage in 1890 for non-farm workers was 12.3 percent higher than 1880. For union workers, the average wage was 20.9 percent higher than 1880.[7]

By 1890, it was the farmers' turn to fight back against the wealthy elite. Farmers were losing their land to banks; prices to farmers were kept low by speculators and freight charges were kept high by the railroads - owned by the aptly named "robber barons." According to Boyer and Morais, in "Labor's Untold Story": "A mortgage of $1450,which in 1867 could have been paid off with 1,000 bushels of wheat, in 1894 took over 2,959 bushels to retire. For example, in Kansas from 1889-1893, over 11,000 farm mortgages were foreclosed, in some counties as much as 90 percent passed into the hands of bankers. In Kansas and North Dakota there was one mortgage for every two inhabitants; in Minnesota, South Dakota and Nebraska one mortgage for every three persons."[8]

Farmers began organizing locally in farmer alliances, which became regional Farmers Alliances, finally forming a national Farmers Alliance, which changed its name to the Peoples Party or Populist Party. It was a good example of a widespread problem recognized and organized locally which grew regionally and nationally because of the commonality of the problems. By the time the regional alliances formed, the farmers were joined by workers, both organized and unorganized, small business and other victims of out-of-control capitalism. Unfortunately, racism prevented whites from joining with blacks, even though on an economic basis all were oppressed - only skin color stood in the way. Racism has been used effectively to prevent us from uniting to struggle against the wealthy elite. Racism is but one of the "triple evils that are interrelated," as Martin Luther King Jr. asserted on April 4, 1967, at Riverside Church in New York City. The triple evils are: racism, economic inequality and militarism. He was murdered exactly one year later. We will never be able to effectively challenge or change this form of government unless each of us casts aside - now and forever - all racist thought, words and deeds.

Despite its white supremacist aspect, the Populist Party ran candidates for local and federal offices in 1892. Their presidential candidate lost. Yet, the Populist Party elected governors in four states, two US senators, 11 US Congressmen and 354 state representatives in 19 states. Imagine what energy went missing due to the racist underpinnings of the movement.

The 2012 elections will be the most expensive in the history of the planet. Already, Obama plans to raise over one billion dollars and the Republican candidate will raise the same amount. Today, the wealth elite have the most wealth ever concentrated in our history. Our bailouts of Wall Street and continued corporate welfare policies ensure the wealthy elite can raise the ante to scare all potential spoilers away. Most of the billions are spent on television ads: deodorant and politicians created by the same people. If we don't watch the ads, they will have wasted their money.

The billions the wealth elite can spend comes from us - sometimes directly, as when we consume their products, and sometimes indirectly - from our taxes. The multi-trillion dollar theft over the past few years has enabled the wealthy elite to literally double down its bets from 2008. Since 70 percent of the GDP is consumer related, we shoulder the responsibility for giving them their weapons.

For example, according to the FDIC, four banks (see below), out of a national total of 8,242 banks, control 45 percent of all insured deposits in the USA. In addition, the same four banks control 46 percent of all bank assets. The four, plus Goldman-Sachs, are noted along with their market capitalization as of August 2010:

JPMorgan Chase - $149.2 billion

Wells Fargo - $142.3 billion

Citigroup - $121.1 billion

Bank of America - $113.8 billion

Goldman Sachs - $868.0 billion[9]

How many of us do our banking and credit with one or more of the four banks? Closing our accounts and transferring our money to community banks or credit unions would be just one way of voicing our disapproval of government ownership by Wall Street. If all of us in the bottom 90 percent of the economy did this, it would be the start of a movement that could elect over one-third of the House in 2012. While Obama goes to the wealthy elite or their designees for his billion plus and the potential Republican candidates do likewise, we could be casting our own votes in the exclusive hidden primary. The hidden primary refers to what is happening right now between the wealth elite and/or their designees and ambitious politicians. Candidates are vetted during the rounds and the successful politicians are given seed money to start the primary season. The wealthy elite make the first choice and we get to decide from among the "already chosen." Again, everything between A and B and nothing more since the two corporate parties wrote the rules that prevent any other candidates from participating in the debates. Thus, are we deprived the chance to actually hear points C to Z. Ultimately, democracy is not about personalities, it is about policy.

Our political system is centered at the precinct. The precinct is where we vote; the precinct used to be the source of candidate selection (as opposed to the hidden primary) as well as policy direction to the political parties. The average size of a precinct is about 1,100 voters. A precinct might encompass several neighborhoods. It is at this level we can begin to organize to take the steps necessary to abolish our corporate state rule. It will be possible to begin in our own homes with the goal of organizing neighborhood by neighborhood until we organize the whole precinct. By then, many leaders will come forth. In point of fact, everyone should be a leader because each of us has at least one special knowledge or skill we can teach to others. Following this methodology, we can use our experience in the precinct to organize city districts, the city, the county, the Congressional district and possibly the state. The only requirements will be to develop empathy, cooperation and a respect for ALL life. As we move along this path, candidates will emerge to represent the policies developed along the way. One of the beauties of this plan is that it bypasses the money primaries and allows us to focus on the 2012 election. Our candidates may run under a single party or a coalition of parties rather than a national political party. We are in the mess we are because we gave up our voice, ceding it to the massive propaganda machine and the corporate political appendages, the Democrats and the Republicans.

In addition, through our neighborhoods and precincts, we can develop an alternative economic vision, which promotes the general welfare and not the generals' welfare. If we begin our organizing to meet our needs and the needs of our neighbors during this time of economic nightmares, it is a short leap to connect our mutual needs with the current political situation. We can begin to develop a new political consciousness independent of the corporate propaganda mind-control machine. Activities organized and maintained at the neighborhood level could bring about health care, food banks, gardens, transportation cooperatives, job banks, clothes making and repair etc. All we need is our imagination, cooperation, empathy and respect for life and each other. We need more prophets and less profits.

We live under corporate state rule. The corporate state is called America, Incorporated. Its CEO is the president. Its divisions are run by corporate cabinet appointees. Basically, representatives of the financial and security industries (defense, intelligence, Homeland Security etc.) serve as the board of directors, representing the wealthy elite who wish to remain anonymous and largely succeed in so doing, due to laws passed to protect their privacy. What will kill us is supporting the corporate-selected Democrats and Republicans, once again. What we need are candidates who will agree to follow the bottom-up character of true democracy - which is not the corrupt form to which we have become accustomed.

Wolin offers a succinct study of democracy as well a brilliant analysis of where we are today. He wrote, "Democracy is first and foremost about equality; equality of power and equality of sharing in the benefits and values made possible by social cooperation."[10]

Poll after poll shows the people are far to the left of politicians on almost every issue. Up to now, the institutions of the Democratic Party, the churches and the unions have not attempted to organize this base - choosing instead to serve America, Incorporated and catch what little crumbs fall from the table. Paul Street recently presented support for the fact that opinions of American citizens are, "quite progressive in terms of majority support for social democracy and the left hand of the liberal state." Among the results were: 64 percent would pay higher taxes to guarantee health care for all US citizens (CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll, May 20, 2009); 71 percent and 66 percent think taxes on corporations and upper-income people, respectively, are too low (Gallup Poll, 2007); 64 percent of the population think that injustice and inequality are the nation's leading moral issues (Zogby, 2004); only 29 percent of Americans support more spending on defense (CNN/Gallup/USA Today, 1999).[11] We spend too much money silencing dissent, killing people and destroying the environment. People care about now and the future. America, Incorporated does not allow any discussion about viable alternatives. Remember the first step toward Obama's health care reform was to forbid any discussion of a single-payer system. That changed the complete game. We will only hear about A to B. We need to create locally the discussion of A to Z.

It is, therefore, incumbent upon us, no one else, to make the necessary changes happen in order that we may build a democracy inside the USA. It should be crystal clear that a vote for a Democrat or a Republican is a vote to endorse empire and America, Incorporated.

Beginning to live along with our neighbors, we have the ability to elect a majority of the peoples' candidates to the House and to establish a majority in the state governments. What we have lacked in the past is the will to start. The wealthy are "doubling down" their campaign bribes because they are very close to delivering the knockout punch to democracy. We do not need to help them again.

Turn off the television: it is the messenger for the wealthy elite propaganda system. Do our own research into issues and candidates. We have many web sites that publish information and analysis that do not appear to be self-serving. Make demands, as Frederick Douglass told us. Use our money wisely: think of every purchase we make as a vote in favor of the corporation behind the product. Look for alternatives like second-hand or locally-crafted materials. Think about the distance those things we are told we need travel to get to the shelf. Take our money out of the four too-big banks. Don't support corporations that have invaded our body politic like an aggressive cancer.

WE do have the right and the duty to abolish or overthrow our corporate-controlled state. Don't let anybody tell us differently. If we develop the will to change, we will create the change.

Footnotes:

[1] Tim Shorrock, "Spies For Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing," (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008).

[2] Chalmers Johnson, "The Military-Industrial Complex," 7-28-2008, URL.

[3] Dave Lindorff, "US Caught in Big Lie About Raymond Davis," 02-22-2011, URL.

[4] Johnson," The Military-Industrial Complex," 7-28-2008

[5] Sheldon Wolin, "Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Spectre of Inverted Totalitarianism," (Princeton University Press, 2008) p. 284

[6] Johnson, "The Military Industrial Complex," 7-28-2008

[7] Richard Boyer and Herbert Morais, "Labor's Untold Story," (Pittsburgh, PA., United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE), 3rd edition, 20th printing, 1998) p. 111.

[8] Boyer and Morais, "Labor's Untold Story," p. 117.

[9] Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Data as of June 30, 2008.

[10] Wolin, "Democracy," p. 61.

[11] Paul Street, "America's Unelected Dictatorship of Money," 04-14-2011.

The Crisis Enters Year Five

The Crisis Enters Year Five

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The current capitalist global crisis began with the severe contraction in the housing markets in mid-2007. Therefore welcome to Year Five. This inventory of where things stand may begin with the good news: the major banks, the stock market, and corporate profits have largely or completely “recovered” from the lows they reached early in 2009. The US dollar has fallen sharply against many currencies of countries with which the US trades and that has enabled US exports to rebound from their crisis lows.
However, the bad news is what prevails notwithstanding the political and media hypes about “recovery.” The most widely cited unemployment rate remains at 9 % for workers without jobs but looking. If instead we use the more indicative U-6 unemployment statistic of the US Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, then the rate is 15%. The latter rate counts also those who want full-time but can only find part-time work and those who want work but have given up looking. One in six members of the US labor force brings home little or no money, burdening family and friends, using up savings, cutting back on spending, etc. At the same time, the housing market remains deeply depressed as 1.5 to 2 million home foreclosures are scheduled for 2011, separating more millions from their homes. After a short upturn, housing prices nationally have resumed their fall: one of those feared “double dips” downward is thus already under way in the economically vital housing market.
The combination of high unemployment and high home foreclosures assures a deeply depressed economy. The mass of US citizens cannot work more hours – the US already is number 1 in the world in the average number of hours of paid labor done per year per worker. The mass of US citizens cannot borrow much more because of debt levels already teetering on the edge of unsustainability for most consumers. Real wages are going nowhere because of high unemployment enabling employers everywhere to refuse significant wage increases. Job-related benefits (pensions, medical insurance, holidays, etc.) are being pared back. There is thus no discernible basis for a substantial recovery for the mass of Americans. The US economy, like so many others, is caught in a serious stagnation situation flowing partly from the economic crisis that began in 2007 and partly from the way in which most governments responded to that crisis.
Thus US businesses and investors increasingly look elsewhere to make money.
Rapidly rising consumption is not foreseeable in the US, but it is already happening where production is booming: China, India, Brazil, Russia, parts of Europe (especially Germany). Growth-oriented activity is leaving the US economy, where it used to be so concentrated. The US was already becoming less important as a production center as profit-driven major US corporations shifted manufacturing jobs to cheaper workers overseas, especially in China. In recent decades, those corporations’ export of jobs expanded to include more and more white-collar and skilled work outsourced to India and elsewhere. Now, US corporations are also spending their money on office, advertising, legal, lobbying, and other budgets increasingly where the expanding markets are and not inside the US.
Republicans are now celebrating “American exceptionalism,” the unique greatness of living conditions in the US. Yet again their politics stress vanishing social conditions whose disappearance frightens Americans who counted on them. In reality, the US is fast becoming more and more like so many countries where a rich, cosmopolitan elite occupies major cities with a vast hinterland of people struggling to make ends meet. The vaunted US “middle class” - so celebrated after World War Two even as it slowly shrank - is now fast evaporating as the economic crisis and the government’s “austerity” response both favor the top 10 % of the population at the expense of everyone else.
The US budget for Fiscal Year 2011 is scheduled to spend $ 3.5 trillion while taking in $2.0 in taxes. It is borrowing the other $ 1.5 trillion – the deficit - and thereby adding to the US national Debt (already over $ 14 trillion, roughly the same as the annual output – GDP –of the US). Such massive borrowing is what got Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy, and other countries into their current massive crises. The “great debate” between Republicans and Democrats over the first few months of 2011 haggled over $60 billion in cuts versus $30 billion with the final compromise of $38 billion. That $ 38 billion cannot and will not make any significant difference to a 2011 deficit of $ 1,500 billion (the equivalent of $ 1.5trillion). Obviously both Republicans and Democrats are agreed to do nothing more that quibble over insignificant margins of so huge a deficit. Meanwhile they perform live political theater about their “deep concern about deficits and debts” for a bemused, bored, and ever-more alienated public.
Neither party can shake off its utter dependence now on corporate and rich citizens’ monies for all their financial sustenance. Therefore neither party imagines, let alone explores, alternatives to massive deficits and debts. After all, government deficits and debts mean (a) the government is not taxing corporations and the rich, and (b) the government is instead borrowing from them and paying them interest. So the two parties quibble over how much to cut which government jobs and public services.
Yet the tax burdens of US corporations and the richest citizens (what they actually pay) are significantly lower than in most other advanced industrial economies. Indeed, they are far lower than they wereinside the US a few years ago. In the mid-1940s, the corporate income tax brought Washington 50% more than the individual income tax. Today, the corporate income tax brings the federal government 25% of what is taken from individuals. In the 1950s and 1960s, the top individual income tax rate in the United States (the rate paid by the richest citizens on all their income over about $100,000) was 91%. Today that rate is 35%, a staggering cut in the taxes on the richest Americans, far larger than the cuts in anyone else’s tax rates. Half or more of today’s federal deficits would be gone if we simply taxed the richest US citizens at the rates in effect in the 1050s and 1960s. If we also taxed corporations in relation to individuals as we did in the 1940s, the entire deficit would vanish.
In summary, shifting the burden of federal taxation from corporations to individuals and from the richest individuals to the rest of us contributed to massive deficits and debts. Instead of correcting and reversing that unjust shift, Republicans and Democrats plan instead to deal with deficits and debts by cutting Medicaid and Medicare and threatening Social Security.
A revealing historical incident can introduce our conclusion about the capitalist crisis as it enters Year Five. In May, 2011, as gasoline prices rose to between $4 and $5 per gallon, a US Senate Committee run by Democrats summoned the heads of major oil companies to testify. The senators asked why the federal government should continue to provide them with special tax loopholes and direct subsidies of $4 billion per year when their companies were earning record high profits. The Democrats had offered a meek plan to merely cut those loopholes and subsidies from $4 to $2 billion per year. After the hearings, the US Senate voted not to cut the loopholes and subsidies at al.
The largest corporations and richest citizens long ago learned that if you want to sustain an extremely unequal distribution of wealth and income, you need an equally unequal distribution of political power. Those corporations use their profits to pay huge salaries and bonuses to their executives, to pay big dividends to their major shareholders, and to “contribute” to politics. The corporations, their top executives, and the major shareholders whom they enrich all regularly finance the political campaigns and politicians who perform that sustaining function. An increasingly unequal capitalist economy pays for the increasingly undemocratic politics it needs.
Any serious effort to change the basic situation, functions and direction of government policy must change the answer our society now gives to this basic question: who gets and disposes of the profits of producing goods and services in the US economy? So long as the answer remains corporations’ boards of directors and major shareholders (the status quo), current trends will continue until bigger economic collapses bring the system to self-destruction. Then we will have graduated from a crisis with banks “too big to fail” to a crisis that is itself “too big to overcome.”
A changed system – perhaps called “economic democracy” - in which the workers themselves collectively operate their enterprises would immediately redirect enterprise profits in different ways with very different social consequences. For example, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics, during 2010, the pay for average workers rose 2% while the pay for CEOs rose 23% (Time magazine, May 16, 2011). Workers who collectively directed their own enterprises would distribute pay increases very differently and far less unequally. Likewise, to take another example, self-directing workers would allocate their enterprises’ profits to the government (i.e. pay taxes) but demand in return the sorts of mass-focused social programs that the current CEOs and Boards of Directors want government to cut. Democratic enterprises would have to work out collaborations and agreements with democratically run residential units (cities, states, etc.) where their decisions impact one another.
This short article is hardly the place to work out the details of so changed an economic system. That is, after all, the task of democratic economic and political institutions to do together once the change has been discussed, adopted and set in motion.
Throughout the Cold War decades and even after the USSR dissolved in 1989, we remained, as a nation, afraid openly to discuss and debate a basic economic issue. Does our economic system, capitalism, serve our needs sufficiently; does it need basic changes; or might a change to another economic system be best? Instead of a debate over alternative answers to such questions, we permitted little beyond self-congratulatory cheerleading for capitalism. Seriously questioning capitalism (let alone challenging it) remained taboo, an activity to keep repressed. That repression encouraged an unquestioned and unchecked US capitalism to become ever more unequal, delivering more “bads” than “goods” to ever larger majorities of people. This unsustainable situation is being strained toward the breaking point by the crisis that now enters Year Five.
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