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Obama DOJ’s War on Free Speech and Activism

7:12 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

A few days ago, rallies were held in cities all over the United States in support of veteran Chicano activist Carlos Montes, who had his home raided by the FBI on May 17. The rallies coincided with Montes’ arraignment hearing for felony charges, which were filed against him by the LA County Sheriffs and FBI after the raid.

The target of an ever-expanding government investigation into antiwar and international solidarity activists, Montes demanded that his charges be dropped. The District Attorney denied his request. Montes asked to see the search warrant and police report on the raid of his home. The District Attorney initially refused the request but then agreed to release heavily edited versions of the documents. Montes was also told he would not be allowed to show the documents to the press.

Tom Burke, a spokesperson for the Committee to Stop FBI Repression and a subpoenaed activist, explains that Montes allegedly was found to be in possession of a weapon that was not properly registered. Burke believes that if Montes hadn’t been a political activist or organizer he would have been contacted about a problem on the gun permit. But, the LA sheriffs chose to make an example of Montes.

Burke also notes, like twenty-three other activists subpoenaed thus far, Montes has a link to the organizing of marches at the 2008 Republican National Convention.

The FBI raided the Antiwar Committee office in the Twin Cities in Minnesota in September 2010. On the warrant for the raid there were seventeen names. Burke says Carlos Montes’ name appears on the warrant.

When Montes’ home was raided by the FBI & SWAT team, they smashed Montes’ front door, rushed in with automatic weapons while Montes was sleeping and proceeded to ransack his home, “taking his computer, cell phones and hundreds of documents, photos, diskettes and mementos of his current political activities in the pro-immigrant rights and Chicano civil rights movement.” They did this at 5 am in the morning.

“For people who have had their homes raided, it’s worse than being robbed because it’s the government coming in and taking the things that are nearest and dearest to you – your own writing, your own diary,” says Burke.

Rallies in eighteen cities were held in support of Montes and against ongoing FBI repression of activists. And because the judge did not drop the felony charges against Montes, another round of rallies will be held July 7 to again call for the charges to be dropped.

Recent articles in news publications like the Washington Post has given the repression against activists greater attention. At the Netroots Nation 2011 conference, a member of the audience asked at a panel session titled, “What the Government Wants to Know About You,” if he could get more information on what he read on the recently published Post article.

Marcy Wheeler of Firedoglake, one of the speakers on the panel, described to the audience how the activists are alleged to be “material supporters of terrorism.” She outlined how the grand jury investigation has been opened and recounted how an informant infiltrated the Antiwar Committee. She noted the activists are alleged to have connections to groups in Palestine and Colombia that perhaps have engaged in terrorist activities but concluded, “Chiquita has far closer ties to terrorism than any peace activists but nobody from Chiquita has gone to jail.”

Essentially, the FBI now has all this data and is able to use it to start investigations. The FBI can turn over any rock that they want to turn over and they can seek out whatever they want to find and piece together a case.

With the FBI moving to expand surveillance powers, it is cases like this investigation into activists that the new powers will effectively make legitimate.

Burke reacts to the news that the FBI is claiming new powers, “The FBI has been violating their own guidelines and their own standard operating procedures and instead of saying we violated what we set out ourselves, they decided to expand what they were allowed to do.

Why does the government want these new powers? Why does the Justice Department under Obama support a growing investigation into activists?

Burke suggests with the economy getting worse the American people are getting more frustrated, with the Congress’ approval rating getting lower and lower, the war in Afghanistan failing, stability in Iraq not being maintained and troops not being sent home, the Colombia war stagnating with no defeat of the insurgency—This “cumulation” is leading to more state repression against those fighting for change in the system.

The war on free speech and activism is apparent here at Netroots Nation as people like Lt. Dan Choi and Tim DeChristopher speak on panels and as individuals like David House are discussed during panel sessions.

Lt. Dan Choi, a soldier and gay rights advocate who engaged in an act of civil disobedience at the White House fence last year to push the Obama Administration to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” is facing federal charges for exercising his right to demonstrate. While most people receive misdemeanors for protesting, for the first time since 1917, the Department of Justice under Obama is taking him to trial this August for speaking out.

Tim DeChristopher, a climate activist who placed fake bids in a public land auction to disrupt drilling by energy companies, has been convicted of a crime. Although the land auction was ultimately declared illegal, the Obama Administration has gone ahead and pursued a case against DeChristopher. The prosecution pushed the jury in his trial to not consider his conscience but rather that he broke a law. They nudged the jury to obfuscate facts and, in fact, many key details on the auction were kept from the jury. And so, DeChristopher now faces up to ten years in prison.

And, David House, co-founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network, has been embroiled in a grand jury investigation that seeks to embroil him in espionage charges for being linked to WikiLeaks. House has been targeted consistently by the government for the past months. His lawful association with the Bradley Manning Support Network, which was created to raise funds for the legal defense of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the alleged whistleblower to WikiLeaks now being held at Ft. Leavenworth, has led the Department of Homeland Security stop him at airports and seize his laptop, camera and USB drive.

What is at stake with the targeting of activists is an American’s right to protest against the government and sometimes take bold action that could be regarded as adversarial. Those who believe in free speech and support a person’s right to protest must not ignore the cases the Department of Justice is pursuing against individuals in this country, who are being made examples to send a message to others that if they draw inspiration and display courage in the face of power they too might face the same punishment or harassment as these people.

*For video of Montes speaking at the rally on June 16, go here.

Obama Administration Does Not Want Lawmakers to Debate National Security

9:10 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Photo by David Dees

Three provisions of the PATRIOT Act set to expire were extended yesterday as Senate leaders effectively shut off debate and worked to block attempts to amend the Patriot Act to include privacy protections. The reauthorized provisions went to the House for approval and, after passing through Congress, the legislation was flown to US President Barack Obama in France so he could sign the reauthorization.

The continued granting of overly broad powers, which directly threaten Americans’ right to privacy without unreasonable search or seizure, was accompanied by passage in the House of a National Defense programs bill that included language granting the Executive Branch the authority to wage worldwide war.

A handful of lawmakers in the House and Senate attempted to make amendments or block the passage of measures that would allow powers granted to the state to greatly expand. A trans-partisan group of House representatives introduced an amendment that would have struck down the worldwide war provision.  Senator Rand Paul, Senator Mark Udall and Senator Ron Wyden each made valiant attempts to have a comprehensive debate on the provisions before granting reauthorization but the Obama Administration discouraged debate.

Marcy Wheeler of Firedoglake and Mike Riggs of Reason.com reported Sen. Harry Reid and others in Congress were using Obama Administration fearmongering and talking points to prevent provisions from expiration. Debate (and in effect democracy) was being obstructed because the White House was asserting, “The FBI would be able to continue using orders it had already obtained, but it would not be able to apply for new ones if further tips and leads came in about a possible terrorist operation…no one could predict what the consequences of a temporary lapse might be.”
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The Zombie Politicians and Vampire Capitalists Are Coming!

8:57 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


Zombie Politician reporting for duty. by Truthout.org


No, I know. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert had this rally a few weeks ago to “restore sanity” and they wanted people to take it down a notch for America and try to use language that would not be a conversation stopper. Colbert tried to keep fear alive, but Stewart just wouldn’t have it. At one point, a big faceoff went down between Yusuf Islam and Ozzy Osbourne over what train to get on board. Thankfully, a consensus developed and it was decided they both would get on board the “Love Train.”

The problem is this isn’t really something that is made up to conjure unfounded fear. I am not claiming Obama is a socialist with no proof of a socialist agenda. I am not claiming the government is taking over healthcare and there will be death panels. Nor am I claiming that some New World Order is plotting the demise of all the people of the world and they have some secret Skull & Bones-like fraternity where they develop and plot their next move. I am serious. The zombie politicians and vampire capitalists are coming!

Vampire capitalists made certain we the people were unable to have the ability or authority to set the terms for the 2010 Midterm Election. Their thirst for accumulating wealth through control of the political process pushed them to manipulate campaign finance regulations. Exploitation of a landmark decision on freedom of speech for corporations, the Citizens United v. FEC decision, meant money flooded the election in record amounts. Karl Rove’s American Crossroads GPS, the Koch Brothers (key financiers of the Tea Party), and the Chamber of Commerce all sought to sway the election with money that was funneled through Super PACs or 501(c)4 organizations that did not have to disclose who or what group was making donations.

With crazed zeal like that of Bela Lugosi, leaders of key industries shifted their dollars away from Democrats and moved them over to Republicans, who could be trusted to do their vampire capitalist masters’ bidding. Health insurance companies shifted dollars as a result of discontent over the actions of Democrats when passing Obamacare. Industries in the vampire safe haven of Wall Street moved their donations to another Party that could be counted on to act in their favor unapologetically and act as an infantry of zombies and further form a diabolical alliance to bring them more opportunities to suck wealth or blood from the bottom 90% in America.

Renfield-esque lobbyists were deployed as servants to these vampire capitalists. Their efforts were focused on the financial “reform” legislation. They aimed to get to politicians and agencies and render impotent the aspects that might bring enforcements, which would limit the vampire capitalists’ abilities to accumulate wealth. They targeted federal agencies like the Securities Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission so they could continue to engage in unregulated credit default swaps (like inter-species vampire capitalist sex) or predatory subprime mortgage lending (a scheme that at first involves the vampire capitalist sacrificing some of his blood or capital but usually ends in the vampire capitalist recapturing that capital from the person given capital to survive and more).

In the aftermath of the election, it is clear a zombie army of political leaders led by the bronze-faced Speaker-elect John Boehner (who tans to hide his pale skin and keep his true zombie nature secret) will waste no time when doing the bidding of vampire capitalists. He and others like him have worked in tandem with vampire capitalist astroturf grassroots organizations like FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity. They have been turning more and more Americans into walking dead. Some of the walking dead have even been elected to join the ranks. People like Rand Paul and Marco Rubio saw a swell of undead go to the polls and vote for them to be their leader and go after Big Government.

The stage is set: Servants to vampire capitalists, Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican Alan K. Simpson, who co-chair a Deficit Commission appointed by President Barack Obama, released a report demonstrating their dedication to vampire capitalism. Their one-track ideology appeared front-and-center showing they would focus on protecting the top 2%’s ability to prosper at the expense of the bottom 90%. Their report gave warning that they wanted to go after programs that benefit the working people of America, like Social Security, even when that was to be off-limits.

Vampire capitalists, defenders of the Deficit Commission say, must be able to trade freely without government getting in the way. The less restrictions and the less they are taxed or have their blood or capital extracted while they are in the midst of trying to accumulate it and dole it out to the slaves dependent on their lines of blood or capital, the better. Hence, servants to vampire capitalists Bowles and Simpson propose a corporate tax break from 35 percent to 26 percent and a decrease for the highest tax bracket from 35 to 23 percent.

Health insurance deductions, ends to home mortgage exemptions, freezes to federal salaries, bonuses and other compensations along with hundreds of thousands of government workers eliminated all ensures there will be more underlings out wandering and searching for hope. Their ability to survive will be tested as walking dead tempt them with ideological notions, which peg President Obama, liberals and government as the reason for their destitution.

Vampire capitalists and walking dead through their own media network, which helps to accumulate capital or blood for zombie politicians and vampire capitalists to use to make the world anew will continue to wield influence. Government workers will be made to seem like the undead. Bureaucrats will continue to be cast as Frankenstein’s monsters engineered by government in violation of the social order of the free market and the Calvinist doctrine, which feed both the vampire capitalists and zombie politicians. Activists or progressives will be made to seem like the undead, coming to take what little people have away by calling for Socialist redistributions of wealth.

These zombie politicians and vampire capitalists also enjoy a new breed of monster: the Mama Grizzly. Middle-aged vixens prance about enticing the walking dead with pleasures of an America that does not apologize for a country that is the most greatest nation on the planet. They stimulate the flesh-eating tendencies of the walking dead into mobilizing to take on anything they cast as threats to society, like government death panels or ACORN organizations or creeping Sharia, which would would drive a stake through freedoms the walking dead enjoy.

President Barack Obama and Democrats have barricaded themselves in rooms to privately discuss the unfolding scenario over the past weeks. Some of them are infected with clinical vampirism and nurse it privately. Others like Democrat Dick Durbin admit vampire capitalists own the place. Jim Webb seeks to inform the public about how the vampire capitalists have turned his Party into an impotent, weak and defenseless force against the march of cold-blooded vampire capitalism. And, many like Sen. Bernie Sanders and soon-to-be former Rep. Alan Grayson talk of Blue Dogs, the zombie wing of the Democratic Party which uses bipartisanship and compromise to justify an agenda that favors vampire capitalists almost exclusively.

The president thinks he must use zombie tactics to move forward. The vampire capitalists, a few of which work in his Administration (like Timothy Geithner), have him on guard and he believes that he must give them what they want. But, these tactics will not neutralize the diabolical forces that are lining up to take on his Administration.

Trips to foreign countries for outside help will not save the Democrats. Appeals to the cast of extras from a never-ending George Romero flick will not bring a halt to the dark forces. Giving a little bit of ground on tax cuts will only give them the life’s blood to thirst for more flesh and more flesh and more flesh. It will embolden them to mount hunting expeditions through oversight investigations into walking dead New Black Panther Party conspiracies. It will motivate them to target those who promote climate change hoax conspiracies, which they despise because they take away their power to eat the future and bring on the apocalypse.

The living are the only ones who can save this society rife with monsters. Zombie politicians will continue to spread viruses to others unless the living can come up with antidotes. These antidotes will not be easy to produce. The living whom I speak of must courageously confront darkness. They must stare these zombie politicians down and beat them back with proverbial clubs, guns and machetes. Go for their heads, which is after all the evil that keeps them parading onward.

A defense as well as an offense must be mounted. Do not ask permission from the top. Those who tried to save us before have been rendered powerless and need to see a force other than them in order to regain strength. The White House is a bunker that has been breached. Zombie politicians and vampire capitalists are inside and gaining power rapidly.

Meanwhile, the living with several liberal organizations that can be counted to be allies are wondering what to do next. Stupefied by the forces lining up, they waffle and putter when there can be no waffling or puttering. There is little analysis to be done. The living know what is happening and just have to find the will to act.

I’ll restate this for those confused and thinking I have just described the plot of a new Hollywood movie: Zombie politicans and vampire capitalists are here and they want what they feel they are entitled to. And, there are enough walking dead willing to help them get what blood or wealth they think government should hand out to them.

This isn’t going to be easy. Forces will not cower in the face of reason or truth, which traditionally has had some impact. the brute force of certitude and passion will have to bring victory as the living either fight or die.

A Roar of Anger Against the Coal Industry That Cannot Be Ignored or Silenced

9:52 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

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The anger and courage of Americans who have been expressing opposition to the coal industry and expending energy to chip away at the power coal companies have to destroy America’s environment is paying off.

A federal judge
recently "ordered Patriot Coal Corp. to spend millions of dollars to clean up selenium pollution at two surface coal mines in West Virginia," an order that environmental groups said was the "first time a court has demanded restrictions on selenium, a trace mineral commonly discharged from Appalachian surface mines, where the tops of mountains are blown away to expose coal."

Activists especially those affiliated with Appalachia Rising are building up support for the abolition of surface coal mining in America. Applachia Rising plans to confront the Obama Administration and other politicians for their failure to halt this devastating mining practice on September 27th just after they have a two-day conference at Georgetown University on September 25th and 26th.

While most activism against the coal industry in America is focused on ending the practice of mountaintop removal in Appalachia, there is a movement of solidarity building in this country against coal. The dirty practices of the coal industry are all around us. If you consider the fact that Patriot Coal has operations in Illinois and other parts of the Midwest, it is not hard to see why citizens in cities like Chicago are taking on the coal industry and demanding the industry cleans up its practices.

Clean Power Chicago
, a grassroots coalition of organizations in Chicago working to clean up two coal-fired power plants and build a clean energy future for Chicago, in the past month achieved a huge victory: Alderman Ricardo Muñoz signed on as a co-sponsor to the Clean Power Ordinance, which organizers in the coalition hope will pass and help reduce emissions from Midwest Generation’s Fisk and Crawford coal plants in Chicago.

Alderman Muñoz is the alderman for the ward where the Crawford plant is located. His sponsorship, which was the product of lobbying by a grassroots organization known as the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) and ward residents, sent a huge signal to other aldermen in the city of Chicago and increases the likelihood that other aldermen will support the ordinance.

I spent some time interviewing three leaders who are playing key roles in the movement toward a clean energy future in Chicago. They spoke to me about how this initiative has earned the support of national environmental organizations like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club and how it could be a model for other cities with residents who want to organize their community to advance clean energy agendas.

Dorian Breuer, a member of the Chicago environmental all-volunteer group in the Pilsen neighborhood called the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (PERRO), explained this is "a case where we are acting locally to affect our local health that will have "global effects." According to Breuer, the coal plants in Chicago are "the largest single source of carbon emissions in the city of Chicago."

Addressing the reality that this is the second time Chicago residents have mounted an effort to clean up the plants (an attempt was made in 2002), Brewer suggested more and more residents "recognize the pollution [from] these coal plants [does] not stay in a small band around this coal plant, which are in the communities we live in.

"The health effects go citywide and they know the statistics of not just these coal plants but all the pollution from coal plants affecting the outside air in Chicago," explained Breuer.

Christine Nannicelli, an associate field organizer with Sierra Club, explained, "Our asthma rates here in the city are staggering and they are some of the highest in the nation."

Clean Power Chicago’s website lists the following facts from the EPA and other experts: on average, 1 out of 7 school-aged children has asthma; in a number of Chicago-area neighbors upwards to 1 out of 3 children suffer from asthma; 13 million school days are missed each year due to asthma; asthma is the third-ranking cause of hospitalization among children under 15 and nearly 2 million emergency department visits each year are asthma related; and it is estimated that the number of people with asthma will grow by more than 100 million by 2025.

Coalition organizers said the public health aspect of this really resonates with Chicagoans and plays a key role in convincing Chicagoans to take action.

In relation to the public health aspect of the issue, Edyta Sitko, an organizer with Greenpeace in Chicago, explained people want to "move away from fossil fuels that are not only contributing to global warming but having dire health effects on our city." And, she contended, "There are a lot of cities looking toward Chicago being a leader and cleaning up the coal plants in Chicago."

On top of that, organizers view this as a "justice issue." Breuer described the communities around these coal plants as having the following characteristics: lower income, lots of minorities, lower education levels, higher rates of unemployment, lower quality schools, and higher number of students per teacher ratios."

Affirming Breuer’s description, Nannicelli said, "The two neighborhoods, Little Village and Pilsen, where these two coal plants are located and the predominantly lower income Hispanic neighborhoods around these plants" are really moved to action because of the social justice aspect of this issue.

The campaign has placed a focus on aldermen as the key to success. Sitko described how the grassroots are convincing aldermen to support the ordinance:

"About a month and a half ago, we launched an organizing effort in Alderwoman Leslie A. Hairston’s ward specifically around asking her to sign on to the Clean Power Ordinance. There was an organizer in Hyde Park that had been working with constituents there–getting sign up letters, getting phone calls into Alderwomen Hairston’s office–letting her know she needed to support the ordinance. Before a press conference on Thursday, [on Wednesday night] we called a community meeting in Hyde Park. A few hours before we found out that Hairston had signed on."

Much of the effort owes a lot of its success to Alderman Joe Moore, who represents the 49th Ward, which includes Rogers Park, West Ridge, and Edgewater, making it one of the most diverse and vibrant communities in Chicago.

Midwest Generation, the owner of the plants, asserted, according to Chicago News Cooperative journalist Kari Lydersen, "the city lack[s] the authority to regulate the coal plants" and "only the state and federal government could do so." The corporation further asserts, "If the Moore proposal passes, the company will challenge Chicago’s regulatory authority in court."

Breuer said of Midwest Generation’s disregard for its pollution of Chicago’s climate, "The reality is thanks to relaxed campaign finance and lobbying laws the company has a lot of power. We found that over the last ten years, when we looked at state of Illinois records, it donated 100,000 dollars just to local aldermen in the city of Chicago and that’s a huge amount."

Breuer contended Midwest Generation has "an interest" in not spending "a lot of money to clean up their plants" and that is "absolutely impacting public space." But, he concluded Midwest Generation always says they are "following the law and the public in theory has created the law" so they can’t be faulted for doing any wrong.

"Most of what they do is fully within the law. And that’s why this campaign is targeting the law," said Breuer. "That law operates in favor of coal plants and against the local residents and all the residents anywhere near coal plants."

Now that Alderman Muñoz has signed on, the coalition hopes to earn the support of Danny Solis, who is the alderman for the ward where the Fisk coal plant is located They hope Muñoz’s leadership and example will compel him to take similar action and sign on in support of the ordinance.

The ordinance has 13 co-sponsors: Alderman Toni Preckwinkle, Alderman Leslie Hairston, Alderman Freddrenna Lyle, Alderman Sandi Jackson, Alderman Toni Foulkes, Alderman Joanne Thompson, Alderman Ricardo Munoz, Alderman Sharon Dixon, Alderman Ed Smith, Alderman Scott Waguespack, Alderman Rey Colon, Alderman Eugene Schulter, Alderman Mary Ann Smith.

The story of this Clean Power Ordinance Coalition is just one example of how Americans can take personal responsibility for the health of their community and the environmental future of America. Thousands are tuned in to the impact of the coal industry and no matter what the coal industry does these Americans are not going to back down in the face of their corporate power and influence over public policy and the wider American population.

As Combat Brigades Leave Iraq, NBC News Corporation Helps Pentagon Manufacture Support for Withdrawal

12:36 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


Soldiers from the 17th Fires Brigade and 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. Taken in August 2009. by The U.S. Army

On the same night that the NBC news corporation had the "inside scoop" on America’s withdrawal of combat brigades from Iraq to Kuwait, Andrew Bacevich, a professor of international relations at Boston University and a retired career officer in the U.S. Army, discussed his new book Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War at the First United Methodist Church in downtown Chicago.

 

During the discussion, Bacevich explained to a room packed with standing room only that the Obama Administration’s movement of troops from Iraq is part of a plan to make Americans (and others in the world) think of this as some end point. But, the fact is that the Iraq War will continue, violence will continue, and the insurgency will still exist.

 

Bacevich added the officers likely believe this outcome is as good as it will get. The troops will now move into an "advise-and-assist" role not much different from a role troops had during part of the Vietnam War. And, this is because much of the military establishment and foreign policymakers no longer believe in "military solutions." The "officer corps" have resigned themselves to the fact that true victory, in the sense that Americans understand it, is impossible; they accept the fact wars from this point on will be protracted, dirty, costly, and will from now on end in an ambiguous way if they end at all.

 

Cue Richard Engel, who, embedded with the combat brigades that were leaving Iraq and claiming "victory," reported live for NBC. Cue Rachel Maddow who had been in hiding the past few days because she didn’t want anyone to know the "withdrawal" was going to begin Thursday night and she’d be reporting from the scene. And, cue MSNBC’s special coverage of the "end" of the Iraq War, which featured the all-star panel that many know from MSNBC’s Election Coverage.

The exit of brigades was heavily orchestrated. NBC had the express permission from the Pentagon to give the "official announcement" that war was "over"(although the Pentagon now claims nobody said the war was over) and troops were coming home (well, some of them; some are going to Afghanistan). The Associated Press reported "NBC Executive Phil Griffin said "Given the access, a decision to devote the entire evening to the story was a "no-brainer," Griffin said. "We’ve got something unique and it’s an important story. We said, ‘Let’s go for it.’"

It was an opportunity to manufacture support for the withdrawal and help the Pentagon sell this as victory. It was an opportunity to convince those watching that soldiers had done a good deed for humanity and that, despite fears, Iraqis will be able to secure the country.

Little time was spent trying to argue this was a complete withdrawal, however, NBC News Chief Correspondent Richard Engel reported "50,000 troops remaining, noncombat troops would stay behind and will have a "mandate" to be "trainers." Here, Engel essentially helped the Pentagon re-brand the war by explaining troops would not to be called into "direct combat operations." If there were incidents and the U.S. wished to respond, he said, they would have to file a "formal request for troops."

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Christopher Hill, said "there’s a worry that Iraqis may continue to fail to gain political traction and put together a government that can properly run Iraq." Hill also made clear "Iraq is important" to "American interests." He called it a "major league country" and expressed the belief that the U.S. must have a presence and mentioned America’s "impressive" embassy.

The all-star panel did not focus on whether it was right or wrong to fight the war. Criticisms were limited to tactical mistakes the military had made in the war.

 

Lawrence O’Donnell contended, initially, there was "no comprehension of the rebuilding required." O’Donnell noted how Coalition Provisional Authority leader Paul Bremer decided to completely disband the Iraqi military, the Iraqi police force and the bureaucracy of the government, "the people who knew how to deliver electricity, water, things like that throughout the country."

 

Chris Matthews argued Iraq was always an "ideological war" and talked of the "neocons and those who drank the Kool-Aid like Rumsfeld" and thought "the government in Iraq would topple the minute we went in there." Matthews suggested the neocons thought, "it wouldn’t take a long, protracted struggle to subdue the country because we would be liberators — we were liberators. They really believed that ideology that we’re going in there to free those people from the scourge of Baathism and then it proceeded to get rid of the Baathist army, get rid of the Baath Party politically throughout the agency."

 

Interestingly, Col. Jacobs stated he couldn’t remember a "single" country that America ever fought an unconventional war or limited war in and left better than when America went in. In contrast, O’Donnell directed attention to the fact that Vietnam is now a "vacation spot for American tourists" as if to suggest things could work out after all a Middle East Disneyland and other resorts could potentially stabilize this country.

 

Engel spoke on the issue of Iran and its influence on Iraq and how the war had helped increase Iran’s influence in Iraq. And, finally, there was attention paid to the Iraqis. Engel said:

 

I’ve been listening not only to what the soldiers say but some of your guests and we’re hearing this mantra building over and over again that the U.S. won the war in Iraq and then the Iraqis lost it or are potentially losing it. And I think that is true to a degree. But you also have to be cautious with that argument.

 

The United States in these last several years made quite a few mistakes in this country. And not to blame the people who are in these trucks, these sergeants and privates and first sergeants, they didn’t. But there were policy errors — there was the dissolving of the Iraqi army, which forced them to rebuild an army. There was the outbreak of civil war in this country which troops were then called in to try and pacify. But for many reasons, that civil war broke up because there were never enough troops here to begin with.

 

This mantra is not new and could be heard years ago when news organizations managed to find time in their newscasts to cover the Iraq War. This narrative implied Iraqis were ungrateful for the liberation (or war and occupation) America had brought to their country.

 

Soldiers interviewed, for the most part, contended Iraqis were better off and they were glad the U.S. was able to do something good for them and were able to come around and close it on a good note. They contended Iraqi army and police would be able to handle their situation as they did in 2007 and could hold their own without American support now.

There is a sober reality that cannot be forgotten in the midst of the patriotic cheering for troops who are homeward bound. Thousands of contractors will remain in the country. How they cooperate with the Iraqi army and police will likely determine the level of stability Iraq manages to achieve in the coming months.

Up to a million Iraqis are dead. At least 100 trillion dollars was spent. More than 4,000 U.S. soldiers died in combat (and a number of contractors died as well). The Independent reports "human rights groups say extra-judicial killings, kidnappings, torture, bribery and corruption are still endemic with little accountability for perpetrators" and "more than 5 million Iraqis have been turned into refugees since the invasion, with 2.7 million of those displaced internally. Some live with relatives, others in public buildings."

Furthermore, The Independent notes that while Iraqis may have some economic prosperity to look forward to as foreign companies flock to the region to take advantage of the country’s natural resources, "unemployment runs at close to 40 per cent and GDP per capita remains a paltry $3,200." More importantly, "The presence of an occupying non-Muslim force in the heart of the Middle East sent Islamist militants flocking to Iraq with devastating consequences for both Iraq and its neighbours. Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon have all seen al-Qa’ida-inspired militant activity increase with varying levels of success."

Robert Fisk, who recently reported on the impact America’s use of chemical weapons had in Fallujah, wrote a damning editorial on America saying "goodbye." An excerpt:

"…the millions of American soldiers who have passed through Iraq have brought the Iraqis a plague. From Afghanistan in which they showed as much interest after 2001 as they will show when they start "leaving" that country next year they brought the infection of al-Qa’ida. They brought the disease of civil war. They injected Iraq with corruption on a grand scale. They stamped the seal of torture on Abu Ghraib a worthy successor to the same prison under Saddam’s vile rule after stamping the seal of torture on Bagram and the black prisons of Afghanistan. They sectarianised a country that, for all its Saddamite brutality and corruption, had hitherto held its Sunnis and Shias together…"

Few politicians will have the courage to say anything like that and interrupt what the Obama Administration will likely demand liberals or progressives celebrate as an end to the war or else. Few politicians except Dennis Kucinich, the politician White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs happens to think the "professional left" would not be satisfied with if he was president. Kucinich put out this press release proclaiming the "war in Iraq has entered a new stage of public relations":

Who is in charge of our operations in Iraq, now? George Orwell? A war based on lies continues to be a war based on lies. Today, we have a war that is not a war, with combat troops who are not combat troops. In 2003, President Bush said ‘Mission Accomplished’. In 2010, the White House says combat operations are over in Iraq, but will leave 50,000 troops, many of whom will inevitably be involved in combat-related activities.

Just seven days ago, General Babaker Shawkat Zebari, the commander of Iraq’s military, said that Iraq’s security forces will not be trained and ready to take over security for another 10 years. One story is being told to the military on the ground in Iraq and another story is being told to their families back home.

You can’t be in and out at the same time.

This is not the end of the war; this is simply a new stage in the campaign to lull the American people into accepting an open-ended presence in Iraq. This is not an honest accounting to the American people and it diminishes the role of the troops who will put their lives on the line. This is not fair to the troops, their families or the American people.

The Administration and the Pentagon would be wise to level with the American people about our long-term commitment to Iraq.

The cost of the wars has been estimated to be around $1 million per soldier per year. Each year the troop levels stay at 50,000 means another $50 billion is wasted. I object to spending billions of dollars to maintain a charade in Iraq while our own economy is failing and over 15 million Americans are out of work. I object to keeping any level troops in Iraq to maintain a war based on lies. It is time that Congress sees through the manipulation and finally acts to truly end the war by stopping its funding."

NBC’s cooperation with the Pentagon to bring Americans "closure" to the Iraq War Thursday night—to bring families with loved ones serving in the Iraq War "closure"—provided more evidence that U.S. media is solely concerned with the American perspective of war and cares little about the impact war has on the people many of the troops think they have liberated.

The Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) reported in 2008, the percentage of news coverage devoted to the Iraq War was 4% down from 24% in January 2007 when President Bush announced the "surge" strategy. And, PEJ reported in 2007 that "although the bloodshed [was] occurring about 6,000 miles from Washington, coverage of the conflict [had] been overwhelmingly U.S.-centric. More than 80% of war news focused on Americans — those shaping policy, fighting or affected at home. Only about one in six stories about the war was about Iraqis, whether about their government, their lives, or their casualties.

U.S. media helped deceive the public into buying the Iraq War. They helped the Pentagon construct a case for war in Iraq just over seven years ago. So, how fitting is it that the endpoint of this travesty in American history would involve the media asking Americans to buy the "victory."

In the end, Brian Stelter, writing for the New York Times‘ Media Decoder Blog, characterizes what happened best (and affirms Rep. Kucinich’s contentions on the withdrawal):

The images from NBC and other outlets are important for the United States as a public relations tool, as they reaffirm with color and sound that the country is winding down a widely unpopular combat mission. But they are in part a media construct. Though the media may yearn for a dramatic finish to the war, there is not likely to be one, at least not yet.


100 Days Since the BP Gulf Oil Disaster Began, NOLA Natives Explain Disaster is Not Over

8:36 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

4654252107_ed080f435d.jpg
Flickr Photo by dsb nola

 

One hundred days after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded creating the worst environmental disaster in the world’s history, those who live down along the Gulf coast in the areas that have been most impacted are standing strong and reminding the world that, while the well gushing oil may have been capped and while BP CEO Tony Hayward may be going to Siberia, the disaster is not over.

 

Elizabeth Cook, a Louisiana native, said she’s “lived in New Orleans most of [her] life” and “when this happened, [her] sense of anger and grief moved her to begin to talk to friends about organizing some sort of people’s response.” She had been organizing post-Katrina on the housing issue because after the hurricane there was a real situation with lack of housing, which produced a huge homeless problem.

 

She connected with a group called the Emergency Committee to Stop the Gulf Oil Disaster and helped organize a People’s Summit that took place on June 19th. She has been organizing protests, press conferences, meetings, gathering data, creating fact sheets, and writing about the disaster in the Gulf ever since.

 

Cook described the current situation:

 “We don’t know how long the dispersant is going to remain in the water with the oil, how long it will take to break down the dispersant and/or the oil. We’re not sure of the full impact on our marine life and our wildlife and also the government and BP are not forthcoming with scientific information about this. Certain areas of the Gulf have been reopened for fishing and their testing the seafood for oil but they aren’t testing it for dispersants…

… We want to remind folks and make people aware this is not over. We’ve got 1.8 billion gallons of toxic dispersant that was dumped in the Gulf and also sprayed pretty close to shore in Barataria Bay and along the shoreline of the Gulf coast. We are continuing to see the effects of this toxic chemical. We need to be vigilant. We need to demand accountability. We need to demand remediation and bio-remediation.“

 

Robert Desmarais, also someone who lives in New Orleans, said he’s been back since the city flooded after Katrina (the federal walls broke along the canals in his neighborhood and he was unable to come back to where he lived for a while). Now that “this volcano in the Gulf” has erupted, Sullivan explains “it just hit me very hard. I’d come back to the city, redid the house, got very involved in politics and I’m [now] facing exile again. I’m angry.”

 

For people like Desmarais, the worst-case scenario is a real possibility. Desmarais said it’s “really sad to think that if something happened in this hurricane season a lot of people including me probably wouldn’t want to come back to a city that had been flooded by oil as well as water. A lot of us see that [if that happened] it would be the end of the city. And, a lot of people are hurt, really hurt.”

 

The plight of fishermen in the Gulf, as a result of the disaster, is especially disconcerting for Desmarais.

“The real crisis is along the Gulf — Mississippi, Alabama, where my family is from. Those people fish for a living. I’ve had students who have left school at the age of 16 because they figured they were going to do what their father and grandfather had done. They were going to be a shrimper. They were going to be a fisherman. And, that’s all they knew. That’s all they wanted. They loved the life. It wasn’t just a way of earning a living. And now not only do they have no means of earning a living any longer but that whole lifestyle – going out in the boat in the morning, being in the water, being with friends and relatives—that’s being poisoned.”

 

Those impacted—for example, the people in the oyster industry who are having to close up shop—are going to be compensated for the economic and emotional trauma being endured. Right? Partially, at least. In full? Highly unlikely.

 

According to Cook, Kenneth Feinberg, the pay czar administering the BP escrow fund, is working for BP (although he claims to be independent) and saying “folks have to make a decision as to what their long term damages are going to be now and accept the payouts now.”

“This is absurd. This is a contradiction because no one knows yet what the long-term damages or impacts of the toxic oil and dispersant are going to be on the livelihoods of people down here. Yet, they’re being asked to make a decision now as to what kind of monetary payout to accept,” said Cook. “And this is outrageous. There should be a national cry. Folks should not be put in these positions. This is unfair, unjust and criminal.”

 

In addition to this apparent corporate scheming to escape accountability and responsibility, another scheme continues on. Those down along the Gulf still are unconvinced that information is flowing properly. They do not think they know what is happening and many are skeptical that the oil has in fact stopped leaking into the Gulf.

 

“Personally, I was lied to twice by coast guards,” explains Desmarais. “A coast guard told me dispersants weren’t harmful,” which was contrary to scientific information Sullivan has been reading.

 

Desmarais added, “Residents haven’t been told how much oil was gushing out. And, the “worst thing was that the Coast Guard ordered under penalty of arrest for a felony and a $40,000 fine that no one” could get within sixty-five feet of a prohibited site. At that point we went to see the ACLU and we complained about this.”

 

Cook spoke with someone with a nonprofit organization in Louisiana monitoring the Gulf’s water and he said he got the “necessary permit to go within 65 feet but they had since laid boom so he could only get within 80 feet.” She added, “I spoke to a Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries person who explained that you don’t want people trampling around Barrier Islands where chicks are yet.” There would be no problem except:

“We have got to be able to somehow assess our damages. We have got to be able to see, to witness, to document. With all of the clampdown on information, the purpose isn’t just to protect the birds, the islands where they are nesting, it’s to clampdown on the flow of information.”

 

Residents are relying on fishermen for information and, because they aren’t being told how polluted their environment is, people have gone ahead and are testing their own rainwater to “circumvent the clampdown” and do what they can to get the data needed to stay healthy and as free of toxic chemicals as possible.

 

There are some residents finding a sliver of hope and optimism in the midst of what some think is a disaster with no end in sight. Sullivan shared his thoughts on people who have come down to the Gulf to organize, take action and give back to people in the Gulf.

 

He explained that he has “learned to appreciate the people who come here” as they are “animated by an amazing generosity for Louisiana.” He said it “touches me to the heart. Sometimes they are not so saddened by the immediate effect that they see, that my own depression might not allow me to see. And they wake up to possibilities that stimulate me quite a bit and get me energized again with hope. For their energy and inspiration I’m very glad to see them here.”

 

People have come here with the intent to reach out to residents and help them confront BP and the government. People like Frederick-Douglass Knowles, an English professor, spoke with a member of the Emergency Committee and within weeks, left his home in Connecticut to travel down to the Gulf and hear stories from people.

 

Knowles didn’t know any of the people he would be meeting, where he would be staying or what plans he would be taking part in until he got to the Gulf, but what he did know was that he would hear stories from people like Desmarais. He said that he now has stories he can take back to Connecticut when he returns home.

 

“What I’ve witnessed is a very strong presence of strong-spirited people in New Orleans. They have been through a lot,” said Knowles. “They went through Hurricane Katrina years ago and they are saying, ‘You know, we’re not going to take this lyin’ down.’”

 

Knowles hasn’t made it to the “frontlines” or the coast but he has talked with a few residents, people like one lady he remembers who lives on the coast and her yard is the ocean. Her backyard has become “an oil swamp.” She is breathing “toxic fumes every single day” and there’s nothing she can do; this is her home.

 

When Knowles arrived, he learned the Emergency Committee would be organizing for “100 Days of Outrage,” which takes place today, July 30th. The event meant to promote the organizing of 100 different actions across the nation in response to the ongoing situation in the Gulf moved Knowles to contribute his energy and spirit to the creation of a “100 Days of Outrage: Collective Piece,” a collective poem one hundred verses long made up of 4-line verses from one hundred different people expressing their poetic reaction to the disaster in the Gulf.

 

He now thinks people all over the country should come down here and spend some time seeing what has happened through their own eyes so they can really get a sense of what has taken place here.

 

Actions all over the country are taking place as a result of "100 Days of Outrage." For example, Burlington, VT will hold a Rally and Speak Out Against BP in Burlington City Hall Park. In Kalamazoo, Michigan, they will be marking the 100th Day with a protest action to call attention to their city’s recent oil disaster that has unleashed millions of gallons of oil into a major Michigan river that runs through their city. And, in Chicago, there will be a demonstration against Nalco, makers of Corexit.

 

Thousands if not millions will be taking snapshots of themselves with a sign or quote on the snapshot. They will be posted on the StopGulfOilDisaster.org website for everyone to see how millions aren’t giving up on the people who are down in the Gulf still suffering from this disaster. (If you would like to have a photo posted  and participate in this effort, send it to stopgulfoildisaster@gmail.com.)

The Danger of the Wikileaks’ Leak: You Might Stop Thinking Like an American

7:51 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


Wikileaks leaks Afghanistan War Logs to press by Kevin Gosztola

 

Days after the release of tens of thousands of documents that were once classified information and are now known as the "Afghanistan War Logs," the focus on the documents has shifted from the contents of the incident reports to what the effect or impact of the leak by Wikileaks will be on the war in Afghanistan.

 

The leak of more than 70,000 incident reports (and the news that 15,000 more incident reports are to be released after undergoing what Wikileaks founder Julian Assange calls "a harm minimization process" to protect Afghani civilians) created two direct challenges to what can be considered as two branches of government in the United States: the White House and Pentagon (Executive Branch) and the press (often regarded as the "Fourth Branch" of government).

 

This is part of the official statement released by the White House on Sunday, July 25th:

"We strongly condemn the disclosure of classified information by individuals and organisations, which puts the lives of the US and partner service members at risk and threatens our national security. Wikileaks made no effort to contact the US government about these documents, which may contain information that endanger the lives of Americans, our partners, and local populations who co-operate with us."

 

In a press conference on Monday, July 26th, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs showed their was a small evolution in the White House response to the leak. Similar to the official statement, he said the White House’s reaction to this "breach of federal law" is that it has the "potential to be very harmful to those that are in our military, those that are cooperating with our military, and those that are working to keep us safe."

 

Gibbs also said, "I don’t think that what is being reported hasn’t in many ways been publicly discussed, either by you all or by representatives of the U.S. government, for quite some time," and went on to discuss how the press was fully aware of how Pakistan may have "safe havens" that were aiding the Taliban and the White House had been making progress in addressing this problem.

 

Those who remember the Obama Administration’s blocking the release of photos allegedly showing troops abusing detainees at prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan have likely heard this argument about risks to troops before. In a video posted by The Guardian, Assange responded to the argument and said, "Militaries keep information secret to prosecute their side of a war but also to hide abuse." He noted there is a military argument for information on "where troops are about to deploy" from, but, since the information is all from 2004-2009, none of the information is particularly sensitive.

 

Gibbs’ remarks that there’s nothing new here with Pakistan shows part of the evolution from the initial response released to the press and public. The Obama Administration appears to have made a calculation that the nature of Wikileaks is too remarkable to wholly dismiss solely with an argument that they have used to argue for the protection of government information.

 

Admiral Mike Mullen’s tweet and other remarks show that the Obama Administration has chosen to attempt to curb enthusiasm for the leak and forewarn those who are interested that if they take interest in them they will likely find no new information. If the public thinks there is nothing to be gained from the leak, then it’s possible to push the public to question Wikileaks and possibly convince them that what was done was a kind of publicity stunt.

 

The initial response also demonstrated the White House believed Wikileaks should have consulted them before leaking the classified information to the press. That’s interesting given the fact that the U.S. government has been hunting Julian Assange and displayed a zealous thirst to halt the operations of Wikileaks. Even more interesting is the fact that there was some back and forth prior to the publishing of the documents thanks to two reporters with the New York Times who consulted the White House and asked the White House for permission and guidance on what to publish and what not to publish. The meeting gave the White House time to prepare for the oncoming document dump by Wikileaks.

 

A file circulated to press, which features many of the president’s and the administration’s leaders’ remarks on the role of Pakistan in the Afghanistan War, indicates there was likely a development of a media or public relations strategy between the White House and the New York Times before the "war logs" went public July 25th. This file provided a way for journalists uncomfortable with the ethics of Wikileaks to cover the contents of the documents leaked. It seems like this .PDF file became the basic talking points for critical conversation among the press on the Monday after the leak.

 

The effect was that possibility of war crimes committed was, for the most part, conveniently omitted or glossed over; illumination of the US-assassination squad Task Force 373 was virtually absent from the publication’s analysis of the logs on Sunday. Examine Der Spiegel and The Guardian and compare what is central to the editorials and reports with what is central to the editorials and reports posted by the New York Times. You will likely find media spin that focuses on Pakistan and the Taliban.

 

The New York Times’ decision to take this to the White House and to not further explore possible war crimes committed or even the alarming number of civilian casualties detailed in the logs could have something to do with what Illinois State University Professor Anthony DiMaggio wrote in his book When Media Goes to War on the media’s role in foreign wars:

 

"American journalists see their role in foreign conflicts as dutifully reflecting the range of opinions expressed in Washington. In the case of Afghanistan, both Democrats and Republicans lent their support to escalating war as of early to mid 2009. "Responsible" criticisms were limited to questions of whether the war is unwinnable or too costly. The Obama administration paternalistically denigrated the Afghan government for complicity in corruption, ballot-tampering, collusion with warlords, narcotics dealing, and a lack of democratic responsiveness. These criticisms were echoed in news stories and editorials."

 

 

DiMaggio notes the New York Times has supported this war even when the American and Afghan publics have demonstrated widespread opposition. Reporters supported Obama’s escalation writing, "extra [U.S.] forces" are "vital in defeating Taliban forces and "securing the region.’"

 

The issue of the Taliban and Pakistan provides opportunity for pragmatic criticisms and creates a range of debate germane to the interests of the White House. Such debate does not threaten the geopolitical interests of America or challenge the basic idea that the war must go on.

 

Media critic Jay Rosen concluded, "In media history up to now, the press is free to report on what the powerful wish to keep secret because the laws of a given nation protect it. But Wikileaks is able to report on what the powerful wish to keep secret because the logic of the Internet permits it. This is new."

 

Rosen’s conclusion illuminates why Wikileaks is such a direct challenge to the White House and the press. Wikileaks does not care to protect the integrity of the security industrial-complex, which works to keep information properly or, in a number of cases, improperly classified. Wikileaks’ "information activism" is in tune with the core philosophies that have been born from the existence of the Internet and, with the Internet, what does it matter if certain reporters find what Wikileaks did to be unethical or not?

 

The press in America is largely uncomfortable with the practice and ideology of Wikileaks, the credo that information organizations have spent economic effort on to keep secret should be public. No doubt, the press think if such a credo was supported by members of the US press media access to the White House and other institutions would be threatened. The socialization process that the press engages in with government officials in order to form ties so that news stories featuring top-ranked officials would also be inhibited.

 

For example, consider the digital journalism project published last week: "Top Secret America." The Washington Post worked closely with the White House and other agencies. Had it attempted to do this under the radar with help from whistleblowers or anonymous sources, the White House would have condemned the Post. The reporters would likely have been fired from the newspaper and would likely be facing prosecution like James Risen, who wrote a story on NSA wiretapping under the Bush Administration and used anonymous sources.

  

Wikileaks’ commitment to transparency is an affront to the press’ role as an estate that manufactures consent and the federal government’s role as an entity that must protect state interests by crafting an official narrative for why the war must go on in Afghanistan, a narrative that Wikileaks pollutes with information from the government that indicates the official narrative is a constructed reality.

 

Historically, the US does not want the American people involved in deciding what the US does in its foreign policy. Julian Assange and Wikileaks display a belief in the value of citizen participation and interest in the business of governments worldwide. As Assange said of the leak, "People who are around the world who are reading this are able to comment on it and put it in context and understand the full situation."

 

The "bewildered herd" is supposed to be "spectators" and support the troops and trust the motives and actions of government. When the public becomes concerned, things happen like public opposition loud enough to dilute support for a war in Vietnam or civil disobedience against the use of nuclear weapons, etc.

 

The real danger to government here is that Americans might listen to Emmanuel Goldstein, a well-known hacker and editor of the magazine 2600: The Hacker Quarterly, and promote values which support "getting to the truth of the matter, uncovering cover-ups." The real danger is that citizens may become too enchanted by Wikileaks and no longer believe in the "power imaginary" (as Sheldon Wolin might characterize it) that we are in an endless war for our lives with terrorists who hate America for its freedom and Afghanistan is an essential conflict in that battle.

 

The real danger is that the population abandons docility and no longer adheres to a civic culture that has been pushed by generations of political classes in America throughout the past century.

 

Consider the following passage from NSC 68: United States Objectives and Programs for National Security, published in April 1950 and possibly a kind-of "bible" for national security. This excerpt explains how "the democratic way" requires citizens to be less naive, more discriminating (ruling elite speak for politically ignorant and apathetic):

 

[In] the search for truth [the individual] knows when he should commit an act of faith; that he distinguish between the necessity for tolerance and the necessity for just suppression. A free society is vulnerable in that it is easy for people to lapse into excesses–the excesses of a permanently open mind wishfully waiting for evidence that evil design may become noble purpose, the excess of faith becoming prejudice, the excess of tolerance degenerating into indulgence of conspiracy and the excess of suppression when moderate measures are not only more appropriate but more effective.

  

The leak of the Afghanistan war logs creates a risk that an American public may lapse into excesses — may start to challenge the idea that the U.S. troops must stay in Afghanistan and do battle with the Taliban, may start to dispute the arguments against withdrawal of US/coalition forces from Afghanistan, may start to doubt the motives and intentions of American superpower in Afghanistan more openly than before the leak. The danger is the leak might erode a sense of shared purpose in the country.

 

The threat this leak poses is not that it may require an immense overhaul of security apparatuses being utilized by members of the U.S. military on the 800-plus bases America has throughout the world. The Obama Administration can easily dole out another contract to some entity in the security industrial-complex to fine tune the system to prevent future leaks. The threat is that more and more will now grow disenchanted with American foreign policy and challenge the agendas of both neoconservatives and neoliberals who write the policies, craft the theories, and design the power imaginaries that Americans are made to understand in terms of "us vs. them."

 

The Afghanistan war logs challenge the world to do what the information activists at Wikileaks believe people should do. They should desire information and not, as people are trained to think in America, espouse concern about the illegality of the leak. They should read over the documents and make their own conclusions and not let media organizations disembowel the totality of the leak and tell them this is insignificant because much of the incidents detailed were already known. And, they should actively respond to the contents and more openly ask why it’s so essential to continue the Afghanistan War.

 

The “Liberal” Netroots: An Army Beholden to Democrats or an Independent Political Force to Be Reckoned With?

2:57 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


Fmr. Pres. Bill Clinton speaks at the 2009 Netroots Nation Convention in Pittsburgh, PA | Flickr Photo by kyleshank

 

 

Each year, for the past five years, members of what has become known as the "netroots" [a term that almost exclusively means progressives, liberals or Democrats that regularly blog and organize on the Internet] have come together for an annual convention known as Netroots Nation to participate in a forum for progressive activists and candidates to strengthen communities online and grow the progressive movement. It has attempted to inspire action and help those in attendance grow new ideas to affect change. 

 

As the "netroots" prepare to meet in Las Vegas to once again discuss what they could be doing (and have been doing) to "amplify" their "progressive voice" by using "technology to influence the public debate," one wonders if this convention will have any potential long-term value at all to movements in this country desiring more change from the Obama Administration.

 

David Lightman of McClatchy Newspapers aptly presents the dilemma the "netroots" currently face, "Activists in the liberal blogosphere face a crossroads: They had tremendous success in 2008 helping to turn voter anger into votes for Democrats, but persuading Congress and the White House to adopt their agenda is much harder."

 

Lightman adds during the convention "members will quiz House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., among others, about why Washington doesn’t move more quickly to end the Afghanistan war or give more help to the millions who are out of work" and the "netroots" will likely be told " (a) Washington works in complex, deliberate ways, and one should be happy to achieve 80 percent of one’s goals, and (b) since Democrats took control of Washington 18 months ago, they’ve won the enactment of historic legislation on health care, economic stimulus and financial regulation — no small achievements."

 

Lightman’s preview of Netroots Nation indicates the convention will be another Democratic exercise in the lowering of progressives’ expectations of what is possible in terms of change in this country. There’s also indication that the focus will not be on Democrats at all. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), who reassures readers in the McClatchy article that the party is in "no danger of being a captive of the left" believes in unifying "this year’s congressional candidates behind an anti-Republican message: that if the GOP were in charge, things would be much worse." The DCCC is a sponsor of Netroots Nation.

 

Rep. Van Hollen appeared on "Meet the Press" on Sunday. Here’s a glimpse at the story the Democratic Party will likely be promoting as it seeks to ensure Americans will vote for them in November:

REP. VAN HOLLEN: Well, what you’re, what you’re hearing is–as, as Bob said, look, we know that we have a long way to go on the economy. People are still hurting, that’s absolutely clear. But we also know what the American people know, which is the day George Bush lost–left office, we were losing 700,000 jobs a month. And during the full eight years of the Bush administration we lost private sector jobs. We are now beginning to climb out. And what we are saying is yes, let’s focus on the policies, because why in the world would we want to go back to the same economic agenda that created that mess, that, that lost jobs for eight years? And I think the challenge that our colleagues have here, Pete and John, is to say to the American people, how do you expect to do the same thing and get a different result? I mean, that, that’s Einstein’s definition of insanity, right? [emphasis added]

 

Such a message hinges upon whether or not the financial reform legislation can be viewed as shifting the country away from the same economic agenda that created this mess. Robert Reich, who was the Secretary of Labor under President Clinton and is a fairly outspoken progressive voice, asserts, "Congress has labored mightily to produce a mountain of legislation that can be called financial reform, but it has produced a molehill relative to the wreckage Wall Street wreaked upon the nation."

 

Also, should we be so certain that the Republican’s are following "Einstein’s definition of insanity"? What they are doing may not be working out for certain sections of the American population, but it is most certainly, politically, paying off. As a tactic, crafting a debate on issues that ranges from what the Tea Party is not willing to accept to what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Wall Street and other private interests fear will infringe on their precious free enterprise system today has effectively defanged every piece of legislation that has come up for debate in Congress.

 

Representatives like Rep. Van Hollen ignore the tactic that the Obama Administration has practiced, the courting of Republican votes for legislation the party will continue to oppose no matter what concessions the Administration grants them.

 

The Administration has decided Republican voices are more important than any liberal or progressive voices in the Senate or House that might be making demands.Instead of seeking to silence the conservative echo chamber that effectively skewers any progressive agenda items that could potentially be put on the table, the Administration has gone out of their way to assure and reassure Republicans that they can move the debate in their direction.

 

Progressives, on the other hand, have learned that they will incur the wrath of those in the Administration like the brawny and rugged Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and other Obama advisers if they dare to oppose the Administration’s attempts to sterilize legislation on behalf of the corporations they are attempting to regulate. 

 

Given the record of scorn displayed toward progressives who organize with their own agenda in mind (e.g. Emanuel calling liberals "fucking stupid" as they ran ads against Democrats opposing the public option), it’s no surprise that progressive voices would be reluctant to tug the conversation in their direction. Instead of incurring the fire of the Obama Administration, many probably would rather focus on the reactionary Tea Party faction growing within the Republican Party and simply tackle that instead of the failures of the Democratic Party during Obama’s first two years in office. Unfortunately, this ignores the reality that Democrats have failed to rebuff the growing rancor of anti-government sentiment in the GOP and offer an alternative message; in fact, that Tea Party message is effectively dragging the Democrats toward supporting a political agenda more conducive to a vastly unregulated free market system that Democrats admit has gotten us into the mess we are in today.

 

Democrats have gradually become more and more the party of "no" to progressives. Their admission of running on a message that is anti-Republican is an indication that their campaign strategy for these elections will also be a strategy of "no." How is this any different than what Republicans have been doing as they claim Democrats are the party of "no"? 

 

What we have in this country is a political establishment discourse that has devolved into discussions from Democrats on why the population should reject Republicans and a discussion from Republicans on why the population should reject Democrats. It does not allow for real talk on the issues any more than a domestic dispute between a husband and wife allows for real discussion on who was responsible for escalating the situation and why there was yelling and screaming in the first place.

 

To some extent, both parties are right: neither offer an agenda for a future that will go to the root of the problems this country faces and take on the private and powerful interests that are further entrenching these problems in the fabric of American society. 

 

This failure produces a "trickle-down" effect that has a detrimental impact on the "netroots." Articles and postings like Eric Alterman’s recent essay are published and proclaim that America cannot have a progressive presidency right now. They debilitate, demoralize and produce comments demonstrating an acquiescence to this meme.

 

The "netroots" will meet and focus on primaries and electing better Democrats, using blogs, Twitter and other social networking technologies to turn "red states" "blue", how to improve online organizing, the current state of progressive media, etc. There is no doubt that many will take home some valuable knowledge and insight they did not have before they attended. And most likely they will network with other people who are part of the "netroots" community and gain the opportunity to be more effective at what they do. However, this is an event receiving sponsorship from the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC), which contribute to the maintenance and polishing of the Democratic Party’s image.

 

There would be nothing wrong with these committees supporting this event if wedding this event to those committees did not automatically limit the scope of debate at a time when the dimensions of discussion in politics need to be expanded.

 

Only in America do political activists (especially ones who call themselves progressives) limit their visions for change to what can be passed legislatively this year or the next. Only in America do those committed to organizing consistently coach themselves to accept terms for organizing that will not alienate the very politicians who have contributed to the situations organizers seek to address.

 

An event that organizes those who are the most vocal section of society has great potential. But, the dominance of politically-safe sessions (in the aftermath of the Citizens United v. FEC decision, no abolish corporate personhood now workshop), the absence of any sessions on reforming the broken electoral system, and the lack of discussions around the very few differences between Republicans and Democrats and what to do about that reality warrants skepticism.

 

If the "netroots" leave ready to do more to defend Obama and Democrats from Republicans, this convention will have massively failed. But, if they leave ready to advance small-d democratic policies and items that often appear on proposed progressive agendas, if they leave committed to creating space in the public sphere for real progressive organizing to take place, there is a chance that this event will not have just been an opportunity for Democrats to revitalize support for their increasingly stale politics in this country.

Nuclear Power Has a Friend in Heads of Obama’s Oil Gusher Commission

3:48 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Flickr Photo by Kevin Gosztola |Former Sen. Bob Graham & former head of the EPA William K. Reilly were appointed by Obama to head a commission and investigate the BP oil disaster.

 

 

In his weekly radio address on Saturday, May 22nd, President Obama selected the two men that will be leading an independent commission that will examine the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, find the "root causes" of the disaster, and produce a report in six months. Those men were former Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL) and former head of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under George H.W. Bush, William K. Reilly, a Republican.

 

President Obama said in his address, "If the laws on our books are inadequate to prevent such an oil spill, or if we didn’t enforce those laws — I want to know it…I want to know what worked and what didn’t work in our response to the disaster, and where oversight of the oil and gas industry broke down."

 

BP has been hiding reports and video on the disaster, low balling estimates on the amount of oil that has leaked into the Gulf, and ignoring orders or requests issued by federal agencies dictating recommendations and guidelines for the cleanup. The government has allowed BP to continue to handle this disaster in this manner, which might lead one to believe this commission might simply be one where oil & gas companies involved in offshore drilling (especially BP) could use the disaster to re-brand their company’s image, regain the confidence of politicians, up their contributions to key political leaders, and continue to obstruct movement toward clean, renewable energy in America. With Graham and Reilly on the commission, it’s far more likely that this commission will advance a much different agenda—a nuclear energy agenda.

  

Both Graham and Reilly have records that show each possesses some level of interest in confronting environmental issues. Graham developed a reputation for being outspoken against offshore drilling in the early 1990s. Reilly was a leader of the World Wildlife Fund and has the distinction of being the first head of the EPA to actually "come from a job in the environmental community."

 

In addition to being involved in policymaking related to oil energy and offshore drilling, both Graham and Reilly have supported the nuclear industry financially and politically.

 

Obama said of the two in his address, "I can’t think of two people who will bring greater experience or better judgment to the task at hand…In the days to come, I’ll appoint 5 other distinguished Americans including scientists, engineers, and environmental advocates to join them on the commission."

 

Those who would like to see individuals without business ties to an industry that could benefit from this commission might be able to think of two better people.

 

Fmr. Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL) Opposed to Offshore Drilling,Very Much for Nuclear Energy

 

Upon becoming the chairman of the Senate Nuclear Regulation Subcommittee in August 1990, Graham began to give speeches suggesting "nuclear energy should play a "significant role" in meeting America’s long-term energy needs." (St. Petersburg Times – Tuesday, February 12, 1991) 

 

In a speech given in February 1991, Graham remarked to the American Nuclear Energy Council, a Washington-based trade group, "There are no black-and-white courses in a national energy policy…Every option has both assets and liabilities." He acknowledged that nuclear energy had cost and environmental drawbacks but also said that it could be a key way to solve the country’s energy problems.

 

Graham recommended plant licensing procedures be streamlined to make it "no more difficult to permit a nuclear plant than it is [to permit] an electric plant."

 

Graham suggested dealing with the question of how to dispose nuclear waste was just as significant as figuring out a way to handle the environmental and health issues that carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide from fossil fuels presented Americans and he cited the war in the Persian Gulf as even more reason to pursue nuclear energy.

 

In November 1990, Graham said on CNBC that America was "too reliant on petroleum as our source of energy" and he noted while 75 percent of all energy in France is nuclear, only 15 percent of U.S. energy is nuclear. He also added that Florida’s energy consumption was 20 percent nuclear, which was above the national average. (The Tampa Tribune – Monday, November 19, 1990)

 

The same month he visited a nuclear power plant owned by Florida Power & Light Co. and argued that rising oil cost and clean air legislation would make nuclear energy more important, practical by 2010. He claimed nuclear power was no longer a source of "environmental anxiety" and had become an "environmental asset" because it does not dirty the air like coal does. (The Palm Beach Post – Friday, November 2, 1990)

 

In the midst of all the posturing in favor of nuclear energy, Graham made it plain that he could not unequivocally support the interests of oil and gas companies. When President Bush was considering requests to drill for oil and gas off the coast of Florida, Graham opposed the requests cited an audit that found the federal government had "done a poor job of enforcing regulations at onshore oil and gas wells." He noted that the environment had been damaged as a result and taxpayers would probably have to pay "millions of dollars to clean up abandoned wells" as a result. (St. Petersburg Times – Wednesday, December 27, 1989)

 

Earlier in June, a study had found that "the Interior Department had not levied a single civil penalty in six years, despite finding 16,000 violations in that period of time." Graham presumably understood what could happen to Florida if oil and gas companies were able to open shop in certain protected areas and he suggested that if offshore drilling moved forward Florida’s coast could be impacted like areas in the western United States.

 

He continued to defend areas of Florida from oil interests by spearheading an effort to "kill a little-noticed amendment" to the National Security Energy Act of 1990 that would "reverse President George H.W. Bush’s moratorium on oil drilling off the Florida Keys." (The Orlando Sentinel Saturday Sept. 29, 1990). He signed on to a statement declaring that he and twenty-six other senators were unable to support "oil and gas leasing in wilderness and other environmentally sensitive areas now protected from intrusion, such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Florida Keys, and the National Marine Sanctuaries." This statement was made as oil prices rose and conflict in the Gulf between Iraq and Kuwait (that the U.S. became heavily involved in) increased.

 

Graham was even one of the senators very much opposed to the Cheney energy bill. He and Sen. Dianne Feinstein wrote an editorial published by the Sun-SentinelonJuly6,2003,saying the "basic philosophy behind this bill is to ignore alternative energy issues and drain the nation first — to make it easier and less expensive to extract oil and gas from publicly owned lands, regardless of environmental costs." The editorial also stated:

 

…It includes a provision that would open the door to offshore oil drilling by requiring a survey of the oil and gas resources under the outer continental shelf. The language in the bill is little more than a thinly veiled attempt to disparage — and even undermine — long-standing, bipartisan moratoriums that protect our coastline from offshore drilling.

It is important to put the drilling issue into historical perspective. On Jan. 29, 1969, a Union Oil Co. platform experienced a blowout off the coast of Santa Barbara. Over 11 days, about 200,000 gallons of crude oil spread into an 800-square-mile slick that coated 35 miles of beachfront. Thousands of oil-soaked birds — along with dolphins and seals and other mammals — washed up dead on the shore.

A total of $17.3 million in damages was paid to local residents and boat owners, as well as the state of California, Santa Barbara County and the cities of Santa Barbara and Carpinteria.

This tragedy convinced Californians that they were not willing to assume the risks associated with offshore drilling.

 

Inarguably, Graham has a record that many environmentalists have found praiseworthy. But, when his opposition to oil drilling is considered in the context of his support for nuclear energy, one must ask if Graham is simply a nuclear energy salesman who knows how to play the game.

 

 In 2003, Broward-Palm Beach New Times looked at who "really had a friend in Bob Graham." They published information on energy and oil markets that Graham had investments in. In 2001, Graham began to shift from investments in Coca-Cola, Microsoft, and health care firms and put $34,000 to $145,000 in seven energy and oil companies, three with nuclear energy interests. (He invested in Vice President Cheney’s former firm, Halliburton, which may present a conflict of interest since the BP oil disaster can be linked to Halliburton).

 

The New Times pointed out "Graham served on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee where he crafted and voted on legislation that directly affected the companies on which he was betting." They cite a front-page report published by the Washington Times on March 18, 2001, "Energy needs spur rebirth of nuclear power," where Graham was quoted as saying, "Nuclear power is not a magic bullet, but it should also not be a poison pill."

 

Graham also added, "The technology exists to make nuclear power–already one of our cleanest energy sources–also one of our safest, most reliable, and least expensive." 

 

The New Times reported that Graham co-sponsored the Nuclear Energy Electricity Assurance Act, "an industry-backed bill designed to encourage expansion of nuclear power after 20 years of stasis." The contents of the measure included "large incentives and subsidies to nuclear companies like Exelon," a Chicago-based company and one of the top nuclear energy producers in the nation which had just developed technology in South Africa that the company was hoping to utilize in the United States.

 

Graham’s PAC contributions from nuclear companies were also detailed:

"The stock buys weren’t the senator’s only financial connection with nuclear power players. From 1998 to 2002, he received $46,287 in PAC contributions from nuclear companies. During his 1998 campaign, when he really needed the money, Graham ranked sixth in the Senate in contributions from nuclear industry PACs, raking in $28,787 during that year’s election cycle, according to the Washington, D.C.-based consumer lobby group Public Citizen.

The single largest nuclear industry contributor to Graham’s campaign was Exelon, which has provided him with $19,000 since 1998. Exelon, in fact, is a particularly generous donor, giving a total of $588,044 to members of Congress in 2002 alone. That makes it the kindest nuclear company to politicians, according to a Public Citizen report issued this past May 20 titled "Hot Waste, Cold Cash." Duke was ranked seventh, with $376,000, and TXU was sixth, with $394,828." click here 

 

Former EPA Administrator William K. Reilly: A Chum for Nuclear Energy

 

In Reilly’s career, he has demonstrated significant support for nuclear energy while also talking tough on environmental issues. Reilly’s experience writing up a report on the Exxon Valdez oil spill certainly makes him seem like the right person to ask questions of BP and offer recommendations on how to move forward and best address the disaster in the Gulf. But, Reilly is currently the co-chair for the National Commission on Energy Policy (NCEP), a project of the Bipartisan Policy Center. 

 

The Commission was, according to Chemical News & Intelligence, "founded in 2002 and financed by five major US charitable funds." It "drew on expertise from a diverse group of energy issue stakeholders, many of whom, Reilly said, ‘otherwise might never have found themselves in the same room.’"

 

One of those energy issue stakeholders that the Commission brought Reilly in contact with is also a chairman of the Commission and CEO of the Exelon Corporation, John W. Rowe. 

 

In 2004, the Commission released a report that called for the expansion of energy technologies to keep up with requirements for "substantially increased quantities" of energy over the next twenty years and address the challenges that "climate change" presented the energy stakeholders and those with the power to create and influence energy policy.

 

One of the technologies the Commission recommended be expanded was nuclear power. It urged the U.S. to fulfill existing federal commitments on nuclear waste management, provide $2 billion over ten years from federal research, development, demonstration, and deployment (RD&D) budgets for the demonstration of one to two new advanced nuclear power plants, and significantly strengthening the international non-proliferation regime.

 

Moreover, the report called for "government intervention" that would address key issues and "improve prospects for an expanded, rather than diminished, role for nuclear energy." It further claimed that this expanded role was warranted by "several policy objectives" including the needs to reduce greenhouse gases, enhance energy security, and alleviate pressure on natural gas supplies in the electric-generation sector.

 

He became the leader of the Sustainable Energy Advisory Board (SEAB) in 2008. The board was formed by Energy Future Holdings (EFH) to represent the environment, customers, Texas economic development and reliability/technology interests.

  

Prior to October 2009, EFH was formerly known as TXU Corporation, an energy company. Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., the Texas Pacific Group (TPG Capital), Goldman Sachs acquired EFH and EFH made a "range of commitments aimed at providing a more affordable, more reliable, more environmentally friendly and more sustainable supply of energy to the citizens of Texas."

 

Energy Future Holdings describes itself as "a Dallas-based energy holding company with a portfolio of competitive and regulated energy subsidiaries, primarily in Texas, including TXU Energy, Luminant and Oncor." Reilly happens to have connections to all of these companies.

 

Additionally, EFH’s PAC, the Power Political Action Committee of Energy Future Holdings Corporation, contributed $10,000 to Blue Dog PAC, $5,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, National Republican Senatorial Committee, National Republican Congressional Committee, and the Nuclear Energy Institute in the 2010 cycle (so far). EFH definitely intends to shape the political agenda so that nuclear power is included.

 

Reilly was at the center of this deal especially because he is a senior advisor to TPG Capital, a leading private investment firm with $48 billion across a family of funds."

 

The deal was used by Reilly to get TXU to, according to the New York Times, "commit to [scaling] back significantly on [plans] to build 11 new coal plants and adhere to a strict code of conduct." The move demonstrated that Reilly was willing to make moves to get industry off carbon. And, it also showed that companies like TXU, a company that operates nuclear power plants, could be convinced to give up carbon if they were pomised the opportunity to expand their nuclear energy assets.

 

Reilly did not have a record of being pro-nuclear energy before becoming EPA Administrator under President George H.W. Bush, but in March 1989, as reported by the Austin American-Statesman, Reilly was involved in the production of an EPA report that said if one wanted to help slow the warming of the atmosphere, one needed to drive a small care that was able to get 40 miles per gallon, pay a higher tax on coal and oil, plant lots of new trees and, finally, give up opposition to new nuclear power plants.

 

The EPA under Reilly specifically called for "the construction of 600 more 1,000-megawatt nuclear power plants around the world."

 

And, since then, Reilly has disappointed many conservationists by championing nuclear energy as a clean energy that can address many problems of the future.

 

Obama Administration’s Ties to Nuclear?

 

The selection of Graham and Reilly would be just another anomaly if it weren’t for all the clear ties the Obama Administration has to the nuclear energy industry.

 

On January 24th, 2010, Judy Pasternak published an investigative news story on nuclear energy’s lobbying push. Pasternak reported, "The Obama administration may soon guarantee as much as $18.5 billion in loans to build new nuclear reactors to generate electricity, and Congress is considering whether to add billions more to support an expansion of nuclear power."

 

Pasternak detailed, specifically, nuclear power’s ties to the Obama Administration and wrote, "The industry is plugged in on its own at the White House through labor groups and Exelon. Exelon CEO John W. Rowe is NEI’s past chairman and a current director." 

 

Pasternak added: 

 

"The company, based in the president’s home state of Illinois, has funded Obama campaigns since his Senate run, when employees contributed more than $48,000, according to CQ Moneyline, and Exelon’s political action committee gave the maximum of $10,000. Exelon employees gave Obama nearly $210,000 for his presidential campaign, according to CQ Moneyline.

Exelon’s management includes two Obama bundlers who are friends of the president. One, director John W. Rogers, helped direct Obama’s Illinois fundraising during his presidential race and helped plan the inauguration. The other, Frank M. Clark, has lobbied on nuclear issues for the company.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is close to Exelon, too. The merger that created the utility was the biggest deal of Emanuel’s brief but lucrative investment-banking career. Another White House connection is strategist David Axelrod, whom Exelon subsidiary ComEd once hired to create a fake grass-roots organization supporting higher electricity rates."

 

Exelon’s Rowe, who co-chairs an energy commission with Reilly, knew that this moment in history would come — the moment when a price on carbon would be instituted to curb global warming; he just didn’t know when. Rowe told Forbes in a report called "Exelon’s Carbon Advantage, "I thought climate legislation would come sooner or later and that I’d rather have my money in the nuke fleet."

 

Rowe is probably right if he has anything to do with it because the same report by Forbes says Rowe has been lobbying for climate legislation that would put a price on carbon. And, according to Public Citizen’s Tyler Slocum, it looks like Rowe’s and other members of the nuclear lobby’s efforts have paid off.

 

Public Citizen reports the current climate legislation is a "nuclear energy-promoting, oil drilling-championing, coal mining-boosting" piece of legislation "with a weak carbon pricing mechanism thrown in." The public interest groups warns against the nuclear power incentives currently in the climate change bill:

At its core, this legislation is all about promoting nuclear power and handing taxpayers the bill. Consider:

- Sections 1101 and 1105 would prioritize the needs of nuclear power corporations over the rights of citizens to have full, public hearings about the risks and dangers of locating nuclear power plants in their communities.

- Section 1102 increases loan guarantees primarily for nuclear power to a jaw-dropping $54 billion. These loans are a terrible deal for the taxpayer, especially considering the high risk of default that even the government acknowledges.

- Section 1103 provides $6 billion in taxpayer-subsidized risk insurance for 12 new nuclear reactors.

- Section 1121 allows nuclear power plant owners to write off their depreciation much faster. Section 1121 provides a 10 percent investment tax credit for new reactors.

- Section 1123 extends the Advanced Energy Project credit to nuclear reactors.

- Section 1124-6 allows municipal power agencies to derive certain tax, bond and grant benefits from investing in nuclear power.

 

If nuclear energy interests have been able to influence the climate change bill in Congress this much, there’s little reason to not believe that nuclear energy lobbyists and others related could influence the commission to investigate the oil leak in the Gulf. In fact, it’s even possible nuclear energy interests played akey role in Obama’s decision to appoint both Graham and Reilly.

  

Conclusion

 

There may exist the potential for former Sen. Bob Graham and former head of the EPA William Reilly to uncover all that BP has been hiding from the public and government and why it has taken BP so long to stop the oil from further gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. There is the potential for it to provide great insight into the impacts of offshore drilling and whether America should have a future where offshore drilling is part of a national energy strategy. Given Reilly’s experience writing a report on the Exxon Valdez spill, his knowledge of what worked and didn’t work then should be an asset when investigating and putting together a report on the recent BP oil disaster in the Gulf.

 

However, as demonstrated in this article, both Graham and Reilly have strong ties to nuclear energy interests. They are spearheading a so-called independent commission that has the capacity to determine the future of not only oil and gas in this country but clean energy in this country.

  

During the weekend, Graham publicly assured BP and Big Oil that they would get a fair hearing.Because of BP’s and Big Oil;s influence on political leaders in Washington, the Commission is unlikely to suggest that America pursue an energy future free of oil and gas; the Commission will probably not ban offshore drilling permanently. However, what the Commission will likely do is suggest recommendations on how the U.S. can become less and less dependable on carbon energy sources, which contribute to climate change. And, if they do that, they will open a big window for the expansion of the nuclear energy industry in America.

Obama’s Oil Spill Panel: Will It Be Better or Worse Than Carter’s Three Mile Island Accident Commission?

9:25 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

In the next few days, President Obama will announce the formation of an independent commission to investigate the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster. The commission will likely be similar to previous commissions convened by presidents to investigate the space shuttle Challenger disaster and the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island.

The commission convened will likely face tremendous pressure from BP, Transocean, Halliburton, and other oil and energy company interests who wish to ensure the commission organized by the Obama Administration does not come to a decision that puts further constraints on offshore drilling or drilling for oil altogether.

McClatchy Newspapers reported May 18, 2010, that BP is withholding facts about the oil leak into the Gulf of Mexico and the Obama Administration is allowing BP to withhold facts. The story said:

"… the results of tests on the extent of workers’ exposure to evaporating oil or from the burning of crude over the gulf, even though researchers say that data is crucial in determining whether the conditions are safe.

Moreover, the company isn’t monitoring the extent of the spill and only reluctantly released videos of the spill site that could give scientists a clue to the amount of the oil in gulf.

BP’s role as the primary source of information has raised questions about whether the government should intervene to gather such data and to publicize it and whether an adequate cleanup can be accomplished without the details of crude oil spreading across the gulf.

Private assurances to not follow all the data and testimony from workers, researchers, and scientists on the disaster may also be made so that information in any published report will have a limited negative impact on oil companies like BP.

Time constraints will likely be placed on the commission that will impact or hurry the work of the commission like time constraints did for the commission that investigated the Three Mile Island accident.

A "Supplemental View by Bruce Babbitt," former governor of Arizona who served on the commission that investigated the Three Mile Island accident stated:

"We had a real problem coming to grips with this issue because of the time constraints on examining the characteristics of other utilities operating nuclear power plants. I can, therefore, understand the difficulties in formulating a specific recommendation at this time.

Yet I must believe that our findings do support more than what we have said here by way of recommendations. We cannot simply urge the utility, industry, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to pay more attention to safety and to establish higher standards.

While this Commission has clearly addressed the institutional shortcomings of the NRC in its recommendations, it has not addressed the institutional problems of the industry."

The likelihood that the commission will not investigate the full extent of the accident and address the systematic or institutional failings of oil companies certainly exists.

The Three Mile Island Commission was a decent selection of individuals that combined a diversity of institutional perspectives. In addition to Babbitt, Patrick E. Haggerty, co-founder of Texas Instruments, Inc., Carolyn Lewis, Assoc. Prof. of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, Paul A. Marks, Vice President for Health Sciences and Frode Jensen Professor at Columbia University, Cora B. Marrett, Prof. of Sociology and Afro-American Studies at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison, Lloyd McBride, President of the United Steelworkers of America, Harry C. McPherson, a partner with Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, and McPherson, Russell W. Peterson, President of the National Audubon Society, Thomas H. Pigford, Prof. and Chairman of the Dept. of Nuclear Engineering at U.C. Berkeley, Theodore B. Taylor, visiting lecturer at the Dept. of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University, and Anne D. Trunk, a resident of Middletown, Pennsylvania, all served on the Commission.

Voices present on that commission that should be present on the one convened by the Obama Administration include a health scientist, a voice who can speak about the impact oil has on wildlife, a union leader who can speak on behalf of the workers, an engineer who can discuss the reality of oil drilling, and, most importantly, a resident from the Gulf coast who can testify on the impact of the oilrig disaster in his or her community.

There is a small likelihood that the Obama Administration convenes a truly diverse panel on the oil rig explosion and leak in the Gulf. As Politicoreports, there are at least two investigations that have been started on the disaster: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is leading a study of the causes of the oil rig explosion; Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar is working on how to split up the Minerals Management Service (MMS) into two agencies so oil drilling can be better regulated and reviewing the rules for drilling. Those investigations may be continued and finished and become the extent of the commission’s investigations; whether new, original investigations are launched for the purposes of a comprehensive public report on the disaster is probably unlikely given the track record of presidential commissions in the past decade.

Finally, it is possible that voices will not be as independent as the administration would like us to believe. Players appointed to investigate will likely be from institutions that sound like good organizations that conduct good research and studies. Upon further investigation, they will probably be revealed to have ties to the very companies or industry being investigated.

The public should hope the Obama Administration surprises those concerned about the future of the Gulf of Mexico, the people in communities on the Gulf coast, the nature and wildlife in the region, the wellbeing of workers who are employed by energy companies, and the impact on oil on planet Earth. But, the reality is that President Obama made an announcement calling for new areas to be open for offshore drilling weeks before the oil rig disaster.

Be weary of the fact that companies could use this disaster to re-brand their companies, regain the confidence of politicians, up their funding of key political leaders in shrewd manners that are not altogether obvious when campaign spending reports are disclosed, and continue to obstruct movement towards dependency on clean, renewable energy in this country.

The oil rig disaster was tragic. The aftermath could be even more tragic if the people are not vigilantly following the work of all those involved in investigating the tragedy.

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