Daily News May 27-28 , 2012

Memorial Day Digest


We, the 99% Morn The Dead

The 1% Sing Praises To The Spoils Of War



Every Year I Honor The Casualties Of The Wars For Profit

Not Just The Americans Who Have/Will Died,

But The People World Wide Who Have/Will Die,

From The Exploits of US Capitalism:

  1. I honor The Tiny Victims of Desert Storm:

  2. I honor the victims of The War at the Point of Production:The ‘Killing Fields’ of the United States (According to Lisa Cullen, the author of A Job To Die For, “Every day, 165 Americans die from occupational diseases and 18 more die from a work related injury. On the same day, more than 36,400 non-fatal injuries and 3,200 illnesses will occur in America’s workplaces.” Every year 60,225 Americans die from occupational diseases while 6,570 more die from work-related injuries. In that same year, more than 13,286,000 non-fatal injuries and 1,168,000 illnesses occur in America’s workplaces. Again: “Each year, this unknown workplace epidemic extends into nearby communities to claim the lives of 218 innocent bystanders and injure another 68,000.”)

  3. I honor the millions of victims of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, ‘The War on Drugs’ and Its Racist Drug Laws Which Incarcerates Millions, and The Prison Industrial Complex: Does It Create A New Form Of Slavery? How Much Labor Is Done By Prisoners In The System?

  4. I honor current and the future victims of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster.


Who Remembers The Casualties of The Profit Wars?

I am regularly struck by the discontinuity between a nation which brags about its ongoing quest for peace and our worship of the acts of war. Based on which gets more public attention, I would have to conclude that what notice peace gets is trivial in comparison to war. We play war, we are entertained and amused by war, and we love war - as long as we don’t have to be the ones fighting it. We try to leave that role for others to play. We as a nation are always actively promoting war over talking about peace. This weekend, Memorial Day, is a notable example of the discontinuity.

Memorial Day began as a Southern remembrance of those who died defending the right to generate immense wealth through involuntary non-wage labor. As the defeated party, the South couldn’t be allowed to bestow honor upon the vanquished while the victors were treated to scorn and disdain! In response, the North adopted the practice of honoring the fallen, in part to attenuate the anger of impoverished no-wage Northern veterans over the lack of a service bonus. “Look how much we care about you - now go away empty-handed!”

It isn’t much different today. Despite the bold assertion of Gen. John J. Pershing, while serving as first chairman of the American Battle Monuments Commission, that “Time will not dim the glory of their deeds”, one has to wonder just how much glory the public is willing to bestow upon the casualties of war when the cemeteries are full. At a time of economic collapse, are you willing to reduce the support of the living to purchase more space the bury the bodies? Why should you be? You aren’t too keen on supporting the wounded veterans who can’t live without assistance! Neither do you care, in the comfort of your living room while watching Dancing With the Stars, that 1 in 4 homeless people are military veterans. Who cares about the dead?

Considering how much public money has been spent honoring the over 1.3 million American war casualties with battlefield parks and marble monuments, one would think that most Americans would be reaching for their wallets every time someone waves a flag in their faces and then passes the service hat. But maybe there is a reason why this isn’t happening. Despite the ongoing news that our active-duty personnel in the field have yet to be adequately supplied and trained to conduct operations, billions of dollars are continually wasted on pugilistic pork intended only to keep the already wealthy corporations richer than Croesus. It’s good for the national defense!

(I guess that statement is intended to assuage the guilt about not supporting our past veterans as we strive mightily to make more of them in the future.)

Take the F-22 fighter - PLEASE! The Bush administration had decided that the F-22 was “superfluous” because it would “be of little use” in the irregular wars the U.S. is now fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and may soon be fighting in Pakistan, Iran, Syria, and Somalia. But Democrats in the Congress are worried that such job cuts will affect their constituents, and are pressuring President Obama to maintain the purchase of these $200 million boondoggles. It doesn’t stop there. They also support building several ships that the Navy deemed too vulnerable to missile attack and wants to cancel. Anyone remember HMS Sheffield (built at a cost to British taxpayers of millions of pounds sterling) being sunk by a relatively cheap Exocet missile during the Falklands War? The US Navy certainly does! They are still smarting over the Chinese sub which infiltrated undetected into a US naval task force conducting an anti-submarine exercise! Maybe these warmonger Congressional Democrats should ask their GM retirees if their pensions should be sacrificed for the profitable benefit of Lockheed-Martin and United Technologies? I doubt the answer would be in the affirmative.

But let’s look at the logistics of fighting wars of the irregular kind. That takes boots on the ground, and bullets to afflict their attackers. Let’s assume that American kids can be pried away from the orgasmic pleasure of virtual war presented by Halo 3 and Grand Theft Auto IV and be sent to actually fight in real-time. Are you aware that the US military arsenals are supplied by only one American firm? In 2005, US ammunition stocks got so low that purchases were made from manufacturers in South Korea, Canada and Israel.

Why not be supplied by US firms? An excellent question! “It’s good for the national defense!” - isn’t it? This raises a touchy point which US military planners might want to think about: If Al Qaeda had sufficient submarines, they could do to us what the US Navy did to the Empire of Japan during WWII: make it almost impossible to supply their fighting forces. How does a nation conduct a Terror War Against Terrorism if it can’t pass the ammunition? So why are we using foreign sources for the most basic element of modern war - the bullet?

But even if a military supplier is still in business in the US, can we be sure that its dealings are on the level? One US punk who should be dragging an M-16 around Afghanistan instead of illegally profiteering by selling the Pentagon out-of-date Albanian ammunition and was recently convicted for that offense. But continue to mindlessly render unto Caesar’s Armies! They come, they seize, they conquer!

Are you aware that the US military arsenals are supplied by only one American firm? In 2005, US ammunition stocks got so low that purchases were made from manufacturers in South Korea, Canada and Israel.

Why not be supplied by US firms? An excellent question! “It’s good for the national defense!” - isn’t it? This raises a touchy point which US military planners might want to think about: If Al Qaeda had sufficient submarines, they could do to us what the US Navy did to the Empire of Japan during WWII: make it almost impossible to supply their fighting forces. How does a nation conduct a Terror War Against Terrorism if it can’t pass the ammunition? So why are we using foreign sources for the most basic element of modern war - the bullet?

But even if a military supplier is still in business in the US, can we be sure that its dealings are on the level? One US punk who should be dragging an M-16 around Afghanistan instead of illegally profiteering by selling the Pentagon out-of-date Albanian ammunition and was recently convicted for that offense. But continue to mindlessly render unto Caesar’s Armies! They come, they seize, they conquer!

Are we not a nation of “Christian soldiers” who favor torture? Yes! We are a nation which is willing to ignore violation of anti-torture laws because it was done against non-Christians in the name of national defense. Don’t all laws have flaws, and are only intended to be rules for fools? Yes! They only apply to the little people! So why should we be persecuting a small business man for profiting off the Pentagon even through he was violating weapons procurement regulations? His “illegal” act was also performed in the name of national defense, after all! Christ, you KNOW it ain’t easy! You know how hard it can be to convince Christians to leave their churches praying for victory and go to war to actually fight! Oh, the morality!

But this slimedog Miami millionaire making beaucoup warbucks off of endangering our soldiers in the field maybe wouldn’t even have stood trial if he were, for example, Boeing. Boeing has a long history of using bribery as a sales tactic. In addition, Boeing has been investigated for shady business dealings in regard to military contracts as far back as 1918, yet they remain a very profitable business. About all that usually happened to Boeing is that they have paid huge fines for retribution. But since they operate under cost-plus contracts, they always find ways to recoup that temporary loss. Where’s the punishment? Oh, yeah! They have to torture the procurement rules in order to recoup the fine! What an enormous effort that torture entails! What a lot of money must be lavished upon our elected representatives to protect their corporate interests! Oh, the humanity!

Boeing currently insists that fixed-price contracts aren’t going to bring weapons prices down. What this means in “real American talk” is that they aren’t willing to slash profits or become more efficient, not even to support our troops in the field. Boeing “earned” $61 billion in 2008, of which about 52 percent came from military programs. Boeing’s 2008 net income (from information provided in the company’s own Form 10K) was almost $2.7 billion, yet Boeing is included in BusinessWeek’s list of American corporations which paid the least in taxes. And WHO benefits the most from US soldiers in the field? I don’t have any property in a region threatened by “insurgents”. Do you?

And so it goes. Boeing’s Q1 profit for 2009 was $610 million and they see their economic future as being “solid”. That isn’t stopping them from throwing their workers out the hatch, as Boeing is “only” halfway through a planned 10,000 reduction in employment. Only about 20 of these layoffs will involve white-collar engineers as these engineers will be needed to to take the blame should Boeing repeat qualifying for a place in The Top Supply Chain Disasters of All Time. By showing such a poor performance, shouldn’t Boeing execs have to go first? Don’t be ridiculous! How many generals have become casualties since the Civil War demonstrated that it isn’t wise for them to lead the charge? Not very many. Why should it be any different in the Theater of the Corporate Equivalent to War?

I’ve about given up on Americans realizing that our national heritage and international reputation have been shredded. Who really cares if Obama is following the same path of the Bush/Cheney administration took to the dumping ground of History? The Constitution is only a “quaint” piece of paper, after all! That 1.3 million Americans only died to defend it against all enemies foreign - and domestic is their lookout! So let’s limit the freedoms and violates the principles these warriors died to protect! It’s for the national defense!

Maybe if the war against the world is won in favor of multinational corporofascism, they might see fit to erect a giant obelisk to represent that used in the screwing of the little people to enhance and advance the economic prospects for the wealthy in the world. It could be made of gold-plated imaginary benefits and filled with the empty promises of a better life. It’s about the least they could do - or would - but only if there is a profit for themselves in it. It’s the American Way!


Videos of the Day:


Before Their Time


John Pilger — Obama and Empire and America’s Last Taboo


Opium Wonderland Afghan Style

Created by Robert Allison of PIGMINE


Images Of The Day:



Open Up Your Pearly Gates



Strike At The Root!



Work crews in Grand Isle, Louisiana, still stand out. In a region where nine out of ten residents are white, the cleanup workers are almost exclusively African-American men. The racialized nature of the cleanup is so conspicuous that Ben Jealous, the president of the NAACP, sent a public letter to BP CEO Tony Hayward on July 9, demanding to know why black people were over-represented in “the most physically difficult, lowest paying jobs, with the most significant exposure to toxins.”

Hiring prison labor is more than a way for BP to save money while cleaning up the biggest oil spill in history. By tapping into the inmate workforce, the company and its subcontractors get workers who are not only cheap but easily silenced—and they get lucrative tax write-offs in the process.

BP Hires Prison Labor to Clean Up Spill

While Coastal Residents Struggle


Quotes of the Day:


“Can any of you seriously say the Bill of Rights could get through Congress today? It wouldn’t even get out of committee.” — F. Lee Bailey


Paraphrase of John McCrae’s Poem,  In Flanders Fields:

In Afghan Fields The Opium Grows:

In Afghanistan’s fields the opium blows

Between the soldiers, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The Drones, still bombing on the sly

Terrorizing  those who live below


The headlines are “Drugs, warlords and insecurity overshadow Afghanistan’s path to democracy”. In chorus, the US media is accusing the defunct “hard-line Islamic regime”, without even acknowledging that the Taliban  --in collaboration with the United Nations-- had imposed a successful ban on poppy cultivation in 2000. Opium production declined by more than 90 per cent in 2001. In fact the surge in opium cultivation production coincided with the onslaught of the US-led military operation and the downfall of the Taliban regime. From October through December 2001, farmers started to replant poppy on an extensive basis.

The success of Afghanistan’s 2000 drug eradication program under the Taliban had been acknowledged at the October 2001 session of the UN General Assembly (which took place barely a few days after the beginning of the 2001 bombing raids). No other UNODC member country was able to implement a comparable program:

“Turning first to drug control, I had expected to concentrate my remarks on the implications of the Taliban’s ban on opium poppy cultivation in areas under their control... We now have the results of our annual ground survey of poppy cultivation in Afghanistan. This year’s production [2001] is around 185 tons. This is down from the 3300 tons last year [2000], a decrease of over 94 per cent. Compared to the record harvest of 4700 tons two years ago, the decrease is well over 97 per cent. — Michel Chossudovsky, The Spoils of War:Afghanistan’s Multibillion Dollar Heroin Trade


End Wall Street’s Wars!

Occupy Wall Street!

Occupy Wall Street is the Only Organization

That Identifies The Enemy —

The 1% That Own and Control The Wealth!

(Unlike The Trade Union Misleaders Nor The Misleaders Of The Oppressed Who Strive

To Be In ‘Partnership’ With The 1%)


Occupy Wall Street — ‘We Are The 99%’

The resistance continues at

Liberty Square


US:


Obama’s Defends Military Detention Law:

U.S. asks judge to undo ruling against military detention law

May 25, 2012|Basil Katz | Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Federal prosecutors on Friday urged a judge to lift her order barring enforcement of part of a new law that permits indefinite military detention, a measure critics including a prize-winning journalist say is too vague and threatens free speech.

Manhattan federal court Judge Katherine Forrest this month ruled in favor of activists and reporters who said they feared being detained under a section of the law, signed by President Barack Obama in December.


DRUG-FINANCED SALAFI JIHADISM: The Afghan Drug Trade, A Threat to Russia and U.S.-Russian Relations

By Prof. Peter Dale Scott

Preface for a North American Audience

I delivered the following remarks at an anti-NATO conference held in Moscow on May 15, 2012. Unlike other speakers, my paper urged Russians -- despite the expansionist and aggressive activities in Central Asia of the CIA, SOCOM, and NATO -- to cooperate under neutral auspices with like-minded Americans, towards dealing with the related crises of Afghan drug production and drug-financed Salafi jihadism.

Since the conference I have continued to reflect intensely on the battered state of U.S.-Russian relations, and my own slightly utopian response to it. Although the speakers at the conference represented many different viewpoints, they tended all to share a deep anxiety about US intentions towards Russia and the other former states of the USSR. Their anxiety was based on shared knowledge of past American actions and broken promises, of which they (unlike most Americans) are only too aware.

A key example of such broken promises was the assurance that NATO would not take advantage of détente to expand into Eastern Europe. Today of course Poland is a member of NATO, and there are still proposals on the table to expand NATO also into the Ukraine – i.e. the very heart of the former Soviet Union. This push was matched by U.S. joint activities and operations – some of them under NATO auspices – with the army and security forces of Uzbekistan. (These began in 1997 – i.e. in the Clinton administration.)

Some of the conferees I spoke to see Russia has having been threatened for two decades after World War Two by active US and UK plans for a nuclear first strike against Russia, before it could gain nuclear parity. While obviously these plans were never implemented, those I spoke to were sure that the ultras who desired them have never abandoned their desire to humiliate Russia and reduce it to a third-rate power. I cannot refute this concern: my recent book American War Machine also sees a relentless push since World War Two to establish and sustain global American dominance in the world.

Thus the conference speakers were bitterly opposed to Putin’s endorsement, as recently as April 11 of this year, of NATO’s military efforts in Afghanistan. They are particularly incensed by Putin’s agreement this year to the establishment of a NATO base in Ulianovsk, two hundred kilometers east of Moscow in Russia itself. Although the base has been sold to the Russian public as a way to facilitate US withdrawal from Afghanistan, one speaker assured the conference that the Ulianovsk outpost is described in NATO documents as a military base. And they resent Russia’s support of the US-inspired UN sanctions against Iran; they see Iran instead as a natural ally of Russia against American efforts to achieve global domination.

Apart from the remarks below, I was mostly silent at the conference. But my mind, almost my conscience, is heavy when I think of the recent revelations that Rumsfeld and Cheney, immediately after 9/11, responded with an agenda to remove several governments friendly to Russia, including Iraq, Libya, Syria and Iran.(1) (Ten years earlier the neocon Richard Perle told Gen. Wesley Clark in the Pentagon that America had a window of opportunity to remove exactly these Russian clients, in the period of Russian restructuring after the breakup of the USSR.)

What we have seen, even under Obama, looks very much like a progressive implementation of this agenda, even if we acknowledge that in Libya and now Syria Obama has shown much greater reluctance to put large numbers of US boots on the ground. (Small numbers of US Special Forces were reportedly active in both countries, stirring up resistance to first Qaddafi and now Assad.)

What particularly concerns me is the relative absence of public response in America to a long-term Pentagon-CIA agenda of aggressive military expansion – of dominationism, if you will. No doubt many Americans may think that a global pax Americana will secure a period of peace, much like the pax Romana of two millennia ago. I myself am confident that it will not: rather, like the imperfect pax Britannica of a century ago, it will lead inevitably to a major conflict, possibly another nuclear war. For the secret of the pax Romana was that Rome, under Hadrian, withdrew from Mesopotamia and accepted strict limits to its area of dominance. Britain never achieved that wisdom until too late; America, to date, has never achieved it at all.

And so very few in America seem to care about Washington’s global domination project. We have seen much critical examination of why America fought in Vietnam, and even the American involvement in atrocities like the Indonesian massacre of 1965. Authors like Noam Chomsky and Bill Blum have chronicled America’s criminal acts since World War Two. But only a few, like Chalmers Johnson and Andrew Bacevich, have written about the progressive consolidation of a war machine that now dominates America’s political processes.

The nascent Occupy movement has little to say about America’s unprovoked wars; I am not sure they have even targeted the militarization of surveillance, law enforcement, and detention camps – the so-called “continuity of government” (COG) measures by which America’s military planners have prepared never again to have to deal with a successful American anti-war movement.

If I were to return to Russia I would again, as a former diplomat and as a Canadian, call for US-Russian collaboration to deal with the world’s pressing problems. But for a week I have been wondering whether I have not perhaps been blinding myself to the realities of America’s intransigent strive towards dominance.(2) Here in London I have just met with an old friend from my diplomatic days, a senior UK diplomat and Russian expert. I was hoping that he would dissuade me from my negative assessment of US and NATO intentions, but if anything he increased them.

So I am now publishing my talk with this preface for a North American audience – to see who if anyone shares my concerns, and to learn what steps if any are being taken to remedy them. I believe that the most urgent task today to preserve the peace of the world is to curb America’s drive towards dominationism, and to re-energize the UN”s prohibition of unilateral and preemptive wars, for the sake of coexistence in a peaceful and multilateral world.

 Notes

  1. (1)Rumsfeld initially wanted to respond to 9/11 with an attack against Iraq rather than Afghanistan, on the grounds that there were “no good targets in Afghanistan.”

  2. (2)Two nights ago I had a vivid and unnerving dream, in which at the end I saw the opening of a conference where I would again speak as I did in Moscow. Immediately after my talk the conference agenda called for a discussion of the possibility that “Peter Dale Scott” was a fiction serving some nefarious covert end, and that no real “Peter Dale Scott” in fact existed.


Environment:


   

Jonathan Kaplan’s Blog

Food becomes an official NRDC interest area

Jonathan Kaplan – Senior Policy Specialist

Posted May 25, 2012 in Health and the Environment

Tags: agriculture, awards, food, green, growing, NRDC, sustainable, systems

In the latest indicator of NRDC’s growing commitment to sustainable food systems, our communications team posted the first ever NRDC food page last week.  My favorite addition:  “Food and Agriculture” now appears on our drop-down menu of key NRDC “Interest Areas,”   making this an official NRDC capacity.

Our supporters will know of course that NRDC has been working on food and agriculture issues for decades.  We sounded the alarm on Alar in 1989.  We helped pass the Food Quality Protection Act in 1996.  We have improved farm bills, safeguarded the Clean Water Act, promoted agricultural water efficiency, protected farmland loss from sprawl, challenged unsafe food contaminants, and partnered with growers and food companies to promote sustainable farming.  

But the new web page is a telling indicator of the institution’s increasing interest in food.  An unprecedented number of NRDC staff now work on food and agriculture related projects.  Twenty of us RSVP’ed for an NRDC staff retreat on food work later this fall.  And a growing number of us are appreciating how our work on agricultural water use, toxics, habitat, energy, land conversion are all inter-related aspects of a dysfunctional food system.

The new page came just in time for this year’s 2012 Growing Green Awards, as we celebrated five exceptional sustainable food leaders and entrepreneurs.  

If you need a little inspiration, follow the link in the preceding sentence and read about:

  1. Gabe Brown who converted his chemical-dependent corn-soy farm into an ecologically integrated crop-livestock preserve;

  2. Greg Asbed and Lucas Benitas who persuaded 10 of the world’s largest food companies to reach down into their supply chains to provide justice in the fields;

  3. Andrea Northup who won model policies and legislation for farm to school programs before turning 25; and

  4. George Siemon, one of the great leaders of the organic food movement who build the nation’s largest cooperative of organic farmers. 

Kristin Eberhard’s Blog

Nation’s Largest Publicly—Owned Utility

Approves Energy Efficiency Budget

Kristin Eberhard – Legal Director, Western Energy and Climate Projects

Tags: budget, energy, energyefficiency, ladwp, losangeles, utility

The Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP), the nation’s largest public utility, this week adopted an annual budget directing an unprecedented $128 million toward energy efficiency and setting a soft target of 15% cumulative savings by 2020.

These are significant increases and sets LADWP on the path to be a leader in energy efficiency, allowing its customers to take advantage of this clean and cheap source of power. A robust energy efficiency budget can help create jobs and displace dirty coal in LADWP’s portfolio.

The expanded energy efficiency provisions approved in the utility’s $4.5 billion budget hopefully indicate a positive new trend for LADWP, which has been aiming far too low even though the utility’s1.4 million customers have been clamoring for cleaner sources of energy.

Less than a year ago, an NRDC report evaluating the energy efficiency achievements and targets of all of California’s publicly owned utilities found LADWP was falling far short of the others – and national best practices – despite state law requiring utilities to first invest in reducing demand before paying more for generating energy (see my colleague Noah Long’s blog on this here).

Last December the LADWP Board approved an energy efficiency goal of 8.5% by 2020. At that time, the Board noted that the goal did not comply with the state’s mandate that all publicly-owned utilities achieve at least 10% by 2020, and the board asked staff to re-evaluate what it would take to meet and exceed the state mandate.  

The Board Letter accompanying the vote this week explained that staff recommended setting a goal of a minimum of 10% savings by 2020, with a target of 15%, pending a revised potential energy savings study in 2013. LADWP General Manager Ron Nichols explained to the Board that the previous potential study did not evaluate all the programs LADWP wishes to adopt and that the utility did not want to make promises about future performance, thus choosing instead to adopt a conservative minimum target to be revisited next year.

“While this FY2012-13 final budget sets the direction to exceed the 10% energy efficiency savings by 2020 that is required by law, we will continue to strive for a higher goal,” the utility said in a separate memo (item 14 in document) explaining differences between its March preliminary budget proposal and the version approved this week.

At the Board meeting, NRDC, Sierra Club, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, and Communities for a Better Environment all urged the Board to aim for the higher goal, and to require regular reports from staff on the performance and progress of energy efficiency programs. The reason for these two asks is that all these groups believe it is critical that LADWP maintain a long-term, sustained commitment to energy efficiency programs. Sustaining the programs over time not only allows more customers to take advantage of the services, but it actually helps the programs become cheaper as they overcome start-up costs and hit their stride. This energy efficiency plan presented for the next two years is a fantastic kick-off to a long-term commitment to energy efficiency, but if the budget is slashed in year three (as has happened in the past to LADWP), then many of the benefits those programs are building will be lost.

LADWP says increased energy efficiency investment combined with expanded and new programs for residential, commercial and industrial customers – as well as new building codes and appliance standards – will lead to energy use reductions.

NRDC has long believed that setting aggressive targets and achieving cost-effective energy efficiency are essential to ensure utility bills remain affordable, good local jobs are created, air quality is improved, and the state’s emissions reduction targets are met.

The utility says its proposed Energy Efficiency Program Portfolio reflects recent feedback. For the programs to be successful, NRDC believes the utility must implement a transparent and consistent approach to evaluating and measuring their efficiency.

LADWP’s planned energy efficiency programs for FY 2012-2013 include:

  1. Increasing program offerings for small, hard-to-reach commercial customers such as the Small Business Lighting Installation Program and the new Small Business Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning Tune-up Program;

  2. Expanding the Retro-Commissioning Program for existing LA buildings;

  3. Expanding its Custom Program serving medium and large commercial customers that “develop effective, measurable and reliable conservation solutions”;

  4. Creating a Custom Plus program for industrial customers that invest in major system replacements resulting in more efficient processes;

  5. Creating a multi-year energy conservation program for LA’s Unified School District;

  6. Expanding residential programs serving the income-qualified community through a whole house weatherization approach and adding a program for middle- and upper-income residents to reduce peak hours cooling load and invest in home system improvements; and

  7. Launching behavioral programs to change energy use habits.

In addition to energy efficiency, the utility plans to continue and develop new solar programs, including smart grid and solar feed-in tariff demonstration programs.

One final exciting development for LADWP energy efficiency this week: the Board met David Jacot, the new head of energy efficiency (formerly a Southern California Edison). He starts in June and has a big job ahead in putting this new budget to good use for all Angelinos.


Fracking:


Nuclear Fallout: Ongoing Tragedy/Disaster In Japan:


EnergyNews:


Head of Japan Gov’t Committee: “It’s a race against time” at Spent Fuel Pool No. 4


WSJ: Tepco “hasn’t analyzed the chances of an accident destroying or cracking the pool


Tepco: As a last resort, we are prepared to spray a concrete-like mixture over fuel rods


Gov’t TMI Investigator: Fukushima Daiichi requires a Manhattan Project approach — “Accident involving nuclear fuel rods is virtually inevitable” — Virtually 100% probability of large quake in 10+ years required to defuel plant


Continuous and Ongoing Gulf Gulf Oil Disaster:


Oil Spill Attorney Stuart Smiths Blog:


Black Liberation/Civil Rights:


Institutionalized Racism and the War on Drugs

By

Joshua Shulman

Is our Criminal Justice system really just a way to keep large numbers of African-Americans out of mainstream society, like we did under Jim Crow?

This debate has been raging for decades, but is only recently reaching the ears of White America, thanks in part to Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

Professor Alexander’s numbers are impressive, convincing, and depressing: In many states, blacks make up 80 percent or even more of the prison population of drug offenders. Is that because blacks do more drugs than whites? If that’s the theory, how do you explain white kids being hospitalized for drugs at three times the rate of black kids? Prison rates are five times higher than they were 30 years ago. Is this because crime has gone up? Numbers have fluctuated, but within a range that is relatively narrow. It certainly hasn’t quintupled. And right now crime rates are at all-time lows. About a quarter of black people are below the poverty rate today, which is about the same as it was in 1968.

The effect of imprisonment doesn’t end when a person gets out of jail. A felon can be legally discriminated against when looking for work, housing, public benefits, and even education. Did you know that the 1998 amendments to the Higher Education Act disallow financial aid, loans, and even work-study to drug convicts? A person can reverse it by completing rehab and having random drug tests, but there is no parallel for people convicted of robbery or rape. And of course, felons can’t vote.

Now hold all of this in your mind while you consider some statistics from the Department of Education. Black students, who made up 18 percent of students in the study, accounted for 35 percent of those suspended once, 46 percent of those suspended more than once, and 39 percent of expulsions. Teachers in high-minority schools are paid $2,251 less on average. In New York high schools, the difference is over $8,000. It’s over $14,000 in Philadelphia.

So we start punishing African-American kids when they’re in school. We continue it throughout adulthood. And we wonder why there are still race issues in this country.

One of many racial dividing lines in the U.S. is over the question of how intentional all of this is. It’s pretty clear to anyone who looks that one of the effects of our out-of-control penal system is that African-Americans, men in particular, are locked up disproportionately, and then discriminated against legally for the rest of their lives -- not because they are black, but because they are felons. But many African-Americans hold the idea that this is at least in part not an accident. While most liberal whites think it’s oh so unfortunate, but certainly could not have been designed this way intentionally.

I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I’m really not. But I can’t seem to get around the fact that the War on Drugs was started by Nixon. He whipped up support with fearsome speeches, he called drugs “public enemy No. 1,” he created the DEA from scratch. It all started with Nixon, whose Chief of Staff later told us in his diary that the president “emphasized that you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this without appearing to.”

I’m not saying that a cabal of racists gathered in a smoke-filled back room to devise our prison system. I’m just saying that if they had, it wouldn’t look all that different.


Labor:


Economy:


Drug Trade Helps The 1%’s Profits

“U.S. and European banks launder between $500 billion and $1 trillion of dirty money annually, half of which is laundered by U.S. banks alone.” That figure was 11 years ago, when Afghanistan. For a 2011 update read: How a big US bank laundered billions from Mexico’s murderous drug gangs.


“Dirty Money” Foundation of U.S. Growth and Empire

From La Jornada, May 19, 2001

By

James Petras

Size and Scope of Dirty Money Laundering by Big U.S. Banks

There is a consensus among U.S. Congressional Investigators, former bankers and international banking experts that U.S. and European banks launder between $500 billion and $1 trillion of dirty money annually, half of which is laundered by U.S. banks alone.

As Senator Levin summarizes the record: “Estimates are that $500 billion to $1 trillion of international criminal proceeds are moved internationally and deposited into bank accounts annually. It is estimated half of that money comes to the United States”.

Over the decade between $2.5 and $5 trillion criminal proceeds are laundered by U.S.banks and circulate in the U.S. financial circuits. Senator Levin’s statement however, only covers criminal proceeds, according to U.S. laws. It does not include illegal transfers and capital flowsfrom corrupt political leaders, and tax evasion by overseas businesses. A leading U.S. scholar who is an expert on international finance associated with the prestigious Brookings Institute estimates that “the flow of corrupt money out of developing (Third World) and transitional (ex-Communist) economies into Western coffers at $20 to $40 billion a year and the flow stemming from mis-priced trade at $80 billion a year or more. My lowest estimate is a $100 billion per year by these two means which we facilitated a trillion dollars in the decade, at least half to the United States. Including other elements of illegal flight capital would produce much higher figures.” The Brookings expert did not include illegal shifts of real estate and securities titles, wire fraud, etc.

In other words an incomplete figure of dirty money (laundered criminal and corrupt money) flowing into U.S. coffers during the 1990s amounted to $3-$5.5 trillion. This is not the complete picture but it gives us a basis to estimate the significance of the “dirty money factor” in evaluating the U.S. economy. In the first place, it is clear the combined laundered and dirty money flows cover part of the U.S. deficit in its balance of merchandise trade which ranges in the hundreds of billions annually. As it stands, the U.S. trade deficit is close to $300 billion. Without the “dirty money” the U.S. economy external accounts would be totally unsustainable, living standards would plummet, the dollar would weaken, the available investment and loan capital would shrink and Washington would not be able to sustain its global empire. The importance of laundered money is forecast to increase. Former private banker Antonio Geraldi, in testimony before the Senate Subcommittee projects significant growth in U.S. bank laundering. “The forecasters also predict the amounts laundered in the trillions of dollars and growing disproportionately to legitimate funds.” The $500 billion of criminal and dirty money flowing into and through the major U.S. banks far exceeds the net revenues of all the IT companies in the U.S., not to speak of their profits. These yearly inflows surpass all the net transfers by the major U.S. oil producers, military industries and airplane manufacturers. The biggest U.S. banks, Bank of America, J. P. Morgan, Chase Manhattan and particularly Citibank derive a high percentage of their banking profits from serving these criminal and dirty money accounts. The big U.S. banks and key institutions sustain U.S. global power via their money laundering and managing ofillegally obtained overseas funds.

U.S. Banks and The Dirty Money Empire

Washington and the mass media have portrayed the U.S. in the forefront of the struggle against narco trafficking, drug laundering and political corruption: the image is of clean whitehands fighting dirty money from the Third world (or the ex-Communist countries). The truth is exactly the opposite. U.S. banks have developed a highly elaborate set of policies for transferring illicit funds to the U.S., investing those funds in legitimate businesses or U.S. government bonds and legitimating them. The U.S. Congress has held numerous hearings, provided detailed exposés of the illicit practices of the banks, passed several laws and called for stiffer enforcement by any number of public regulators and private bankers. Yet the biggest banks continue their practices, the sums of dirty money grows exponentially, because both the State and the banks have neither the will nor the interest to put an end to the practices that provide high profits and buttress an otherwise fragile empire.

First thing to note about the money laundering business, whether criminal or corrupt, is that it is carried out by the most important banks in the USA. Secondly, the practices of bank officials involved in money laundering have the backing and encouragement of the highest levels of the banking institutions - these are not isolated cases by loose cannons. This is clear in the case of Citibank’s laundering of Raul Salinas (brother of Mexico’s ex-President) $200 million account. When Salinas was arrested and his large scale theft of government funds was exposed, his private bank manager at Citibank, Amy Elliott told her colleagues that “this goes in the very, very top of the corporation, this was known...on the very top. We are little pawns in this whole thing” (p.35).

Citibank, the biggest money launderer, is the biggest bank in the U.S., with 180,000 employees world-wide operating in 100 countries, with $700 billion in known assets and over $100 billion in client assets in private bank (secret accounts) operating private banking offices in 30 countries, which is the largest global presence of any U.S. private bank. It is important to clarify what is meant by “private bank.”

Private Banking is a sector of a bank which caters to extremely wealthy clients ($1 million deposits and up). The big banks charge customers a fee for managing their assets and for providing the specialized services of the private banks. Private Bank services go beyond the routine banking services and include investment guidance, estate planning, tax assistance, off-shore accounts, and complicated schemes designed to secure the confidentiality of financial transactions. The attractiveness of the “Private Banks” (PB) for money laundering is that they sell secrecy to the dirty money clients. There are two methods that big Banks use to launder money: via private banks and via corresponding banking. PB routinely use code names for accounts, concentration accounts (concentration accounts co-mingles bank funds with client funds which cut off paper trails for billions of dollars of wire transfers) that disguise the movement of client funds, and offshore private investment corporations (PIC) located in countries with strict secrecy laws (Cayman Island, Bahamas, etc.)

For example in the case of Raul Salinas, PB personnel at Citibank helped Salinas transfer $90 to $100 million out of Mexico in a manner that effectively disguised the funds’ sources and destination thus breaking the funds’ paper trail. In routine fashion, Citibank set up a dummy offshore corporation, provided Salinas with a secret code name, provided an alias for a third party intermediary who deposited the money in a Citibank account in Mexico and transferred the money in a concentration account to New York where it was then moved to Switzerland and London.

The PICs are designed by the big banks for the purpose of holding and hiding a person’s assets. The nominal officers, trustees and shareholder of these shell corporations are themselves shell corporations controlled by the PB. The PIC then becomes the holder of the various bank and investment accounts and the ownership of the private bank clients is buried in the records of so-called jurisdiction such as the Cayman Islands. Private bankers of the big banks like Citibank keep pre-packaged PICs on the shelf awaiting activation when a private bank client wants one.The system works like Russian Matryoshka dolls, shells within shells within shells, which in the end can be impenetrable to a legal process.

The complicity of the state in big bank money laundering is evident when one reviews the historic record. Big bank money laundering has been investigated, audited, criticized and subject to legislation; the banks have written procedures to comply. Yet banks like Citibank and theother big ten banks ignore the procedures and laws and the government ignores the non-compliance. Over the last 20 years, big bank laundering of criminal funds and looted funds has increased geometrically, dwarfing in size and rates of profit the activities in the formal economy. Estimates by experts place the rate of return in the PB market between 20-25% annually. Congressional investigations revealed that Citibank provided “services” for 4 political swindlers moving $380 million: Raul Salinas - $80-$100 million, Asif Ali Zardari (husband of former Prime Minister of Pakistan) in excess of $40 million, El Hadj Omar Bongo (dictator of Gabon since 1967) in excess of $130 million, Abacha sons of General Abacha ex-dictator of Nigeria - in excess of $110 million. In all cases Citibank violated all of its own procedures and government guidelines: there was no client profile (review of client background), determination of the source of the funds, nor of any violations of country laws from which the money accrued. On the contrary, the bank facilitated the outflow in its prepackaged format: shell corporations were established, code names were provided, funds were moved through concentration accounts, the funds were invested in legitimate businesses or in U.S. bonds, etc. In none of these cases - or thousands of others - was due diligence practiced by the banks (under due diligence a private bankis obligated by law to take steps to ensure that it does not facilitate money laundering). In none of these cases were the top banking officials brought to court and tried. Even after arrest of their clients, Citibank continued to provide services, including the movement of funds to secret accounts and the provision of loans.

Correspondent Banks: The Second Track

The second and related route which the big banks use to launder hundreds of billions of dirty money is through “correspondent banking” (CB). CB is the provision of banking services by one bank to another bank. It is a highly profitable and significant sector of big banking. It enables overseas banks to conduct business and provide services for their customers - including drug dealers and others engaged in criminal activity - in jurisdictions like the U.S. where the banks have no physical presence. A bank that is licensed in a foreign country and has no office in the United States for its customers attracts and retains wealthy criminal clients interested in laundering money in the U.S. Instead of exposing itself to U.S. controls and incurring the high costs of locating in the U.S., the bank will open a correspondent account with an existing U.S. bank. By establishing such a relationship, the foreign bank (called a respondent) and through it, its criminal customers, receive many or all of the services offered by the U.S. big banks called the correspondent. Today, all the big U.S. banks have established multiple correspondent relationships throughout the world so they may engage in international financial transactions for themselves and their clients in places where they do have a physical presence. Many of the largest U.S. and European banks located in the financial centers of the world serve as correspondents for thousands of other banks. Most of the offshore banks laundering billions for criminal clients have accounts in the U.S. All the big banks specializing in international fund transfer are called money center banks, some of the biggest process up to $1 trillion in wire transfers a day. Through June 1999, the top five correspondent bank holding companies in the United States held correspondent account balances exceeding $17 billion; the total correspondent balances of the 75 largest U.S. correspondent banks was $34.9 billion. For the billionaire criminals an important feature of correspondent relationships is that they provide access to international transfer systems - that facilitate the rapid transfer of funds across international boundaries and within countries. The most recent estimates (1998) are that 60 offshore jurisdictions around the world licensed about 4,000 offshore banks which control approximately $5 trillion in assets.

One of the major sources of impoverishment and crises in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Russia and the other countries of the ex-U.S.S.R. and Eastern Europe, is the pillage of the economy and the hundreds of billions of dollars which are transferred out of the country via the corresponding banking system and the Private Banking system linked to the biggest banks in the U.S. and Europe. Russia alone has seen over $200 billion illegally transferred in the course of the 1990s. The massive shifts of capital from these countries to the U.S. and European banks has generated mass impoverishment and economic instability and crises. This in turn has created increased vulnerability to pressure from the IMF and World Bank to liberalize their banking and financial systems leading to further flight and deregulation which spawns greater corruption and overseas transfers via private banks as the Senate reports demonstrate.

The increasing polarization of the world is embedded in this organized system of criminal and corrupt financial transactions. While speculation and foreign debt payments play a role in undermining living standards in the crises regions, the multi-trillion dollar money laundering and bank servicing of corrupt officials is a much more significant factor, sustaining Western prosperity, U.S. empire building and financial stability. The scale, scope and time frame of transfers and money laundering, the centrality of the biggest banking enterprises and the complicity of the governments, strongly suggests that the dynamics of growth and stagnation, empire and re-colonization are intimately related to a new form of capitalism built around pillage, criminality, corruption and complicity.


World:


When the Respectable Become Extremists The Extremists

Become Respectable: Colombia and the Mainstream Media

By

James Petras

Introduction:

By any historical measure, whether it involves international law, human rights conventions, United Nations protocols, socio economic indicators, the policies and practices of the United States and European Union regimes can be characterized as extremist.

By that we mean that their policies and practices result in large scale long-term systematic destruction of human lives, habitat and likelihood affecting millions of people through the direct application of force and violence. The extremist regimes abhor moderation which implies rejection of total wars in favor of peaceful negotiations. Moderation pursues conflict resolution through diplomacy and compromise and the rejection of state and paramilitary terror, mass dispossession and displacement of civilian populations and the systematic assault on popular sectors of civil society.

The first decade of the 21st century has witnessed the West’s embrace of extremism in all of its manifestation both in domestic and foreign policy. Extremism is a common practice by self-styled conservatives, liberals and social-democrats. In the past, conservative implies preserving the status quo and at most tinkering with change at the margins. Today’s ‘conservatives’ demand the wholesale dismantling of entire social welfare systems, the elimination of traditional legal restraints on labor and environmental abuses. Liberals and social democrats who in the past, occasionally, questioned colonial systems have been in the forefront of prolonged multiple colonial wars which have killed and displaced millions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria.

Extremism both in terms of methods, means and goals has obliterated the distinctions between center left, center and rightwing politicians. Moderate opponents to policies subsidizing a dozen major banks and impoverishing tens of millions of workers are called the “hard left”, “extremists” or “radicals”.

In the wake of the extremist policies of public officials, the respectable, prestigious print media have engaged in their own versions of extremism[1]. Colonial wars that devastate civil society and materially and culturally impoverish millions in the colonized country are justified, embellished and made to appear as lawful, humane and furthering secular democratic values. Domestic wars on behalf of oligarchies and against wage and salaried workers, which concentrate wealth and deepen despair of the dispossessed are described as rational, virtuous and necessary. The distinctions between the prudent, balanced, prestigious and serious media and the sensationalist, yellow press have disappeared. The fabrication of facts, blatant omissions and distortions of context are found in one as well as the other.

To illustrate the reign of extremism in officialdom and among the prestigious press, we will examine two case studies: US policies toward and the Financial Times and New York Times reportage on Colombia and Honduras.

Colombia: The “Oldest Democracy in Latin America versus “the Death squad Capital of the World”

Following on the heels of euphoric eulogies of Colombia’s emergence as a poster boy in an April issue of Time,and in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, the Financial Times ran a series of articles including a special insert on Colombia’s political and economic “miracle”, “Investing in Colombia”[2]. According to the FTs leading Latin American journalist, one John Paul Rathbone, Colombia is the “oldest democracy in the hemisphere”[3]. Rathbone’s rapture for Colombia’s President Santos extends from his role as an “emerging power broker” for the South American continent, to making Colombia safe for foreign investors and “exciting the envy” of other less successful regimes in the region. Rathbone gives prominence to one Colombia business leader who claims that Colombia’s second biggest city “Medellín is living through its best of times”[4]. In line with the opinion of the foreign and business elite, the respectable print media describe Colombia as prosperous, peaceful, business friendly-charging the lowest mining royalty payments in the hemisphere – a model of a stable democracy to be emulated by all forward-looking leaders. Colombia under President Santos, has signed a free trade agreement with President Obama, his closes ally in the hemisphere[5]. Under Bush the trade unions, human rights and church groups and the majority of Congressional Democrats were successful in blocking the agreement on the bases of the basis of Colombia’s sustained human rights violations. When Obama embraced the free trade agreement, the AFL-CIO and Democratic opposition evaporated, as President Obama claimed a vast improvement in human rights and the commitment of Santos to ending the murder of trade union leaders and activists[6].

The peace, security and prosperity eulogized by the oil, mining, banking, and agro-business elite are based on the worst human rights record in Latin America. With regard to the murder of trade unionists Colombia exceeds the entire rest of the world.Between 1986-2011 over 60% of the trade unionists assassinated in the world took place in Colombia, by the combined military-police-paramilitary forces, largely at the behest of foreign and domestic corporate leaders[7]. The “peace” that Rathbone and his cohort at the Financial Times praise is at the cost of over 12,000 assassinations and arrests, injuries, disappearances of trade unionists between January 1, 1986 and October 1, 2010[8]. In that time span nearly 3,000 trade union leaders and activists were murdered, hundreds were kidnapped or disappeared. President Santos was the Defense Minister under previous President Alvaro Uribe(2002-2010). In those eight years,762 trade union leaders and activists were murdered, over 95% by the state or allied paramilitary forces[9].

Under Presidents Uribe Santos 2002 – 2012 over 4 million peasants and rural householders were displaced and dispossessed of their homes and their lands were confiscated and taken over by landlords and narco- traffickers[10]. The terror tactics employed by the regimes counter-insurgency strategy served a dual purpose of repressing dissent and accumulating wealth. The Financial Times journalists ignore this chapter in Colombia’s “resurgent growth”. They are especially enthused by the “security” that ensued because large scale foreign investment, over $6 billion dollars, in 2012 flowed into mining and oil regions that were formerly “troubled” by unrest[11].

Leading drug lords, who were closely linked to the Uribe-Santos regime, and were subsequently jailed and extradited to the US have testified that they financed and elected one-third of the Congress people affiliated with Uribe-Santos party in what Rathbone refers to as Latin America’s “oldest democracy”. According to Salvatore Mancuso, ex-chief of the former 30,000 member United Self-Defense of Colombia paramilitary death squad, he met with then, President Uribe, in different regions of the country and gave him money and logistical support in his re-election campaign of 2006. He also affirmed that many national and multi-national corporations (MNC) financed the growth and expansion of the paramilitary death squads. What Rathbone and his fellow journalists at the FT celebrate as Colombia’s emergence as an investor’s paradise is writ large with the blood and gore of thousands of Colombian peasants, trade unionists and human rights activists. The gory history of the Uribe/Santos reign of terror has been completely omitted from the current account of Colombia’s “success story”. Detailed records of the brutality of the killings and torture by Uribe/Santos sponsored death squads, which describe the use of chain saws to cut limbs from peasants suspected of leftist sympathies, are available to any journalist willing to consult Colombia’s leading human rights organizations[12].

The death squads and military act in concert.The military is trained by by over one thousand US Special Forces advisers.They arrive in a village in a wave of US supplied helicopters, secure the region from guerillas and then allow the AUC terrorists to savage the villages, killing, raping and dissemboweling men, women and children suspected of being guerilla sympathizers.The terror tactics have driven millions of peasants out of the countryside

Allowing the generals and drug lords to seize their land

Human rights advocates (HRA) are frequently targeted by the military and death squads. President Uribe and Santos first accuse them of being active collaborators of the guerillas for exposing the regime’s crimes against humanity. Once they are labeled, the HRA became “legitimate targets” for armed assaults by the death squads and the military who act with complete impunity. Between 2002-2011, 1,470 acts of violence were perpetrated against HRA, with a record number of 239 in 2011, including 49 assassinations during the Presidency of Santos.[13] Over half of the murdered HRA are Indians and Afro-Colombians. Read  More


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