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Syria is an Epic Victory for the SuperPower of Peace, by Harvey Wasserman

5:42 pm in Uncategorized by solartopia

Harvey Wasserman

Syria is an epic victory for the SuperPower of Peace
September 15, 2013
www.freepress.org
The United States is not now bombing Syria.

Let’s savor that again: for the moment at least, the United States is not now bombing Syria.

That alone qualifies as an epic, unprecedented victory for the SuperPower of Peace, the global movement to end war, win social justice and somehow salvage our ecological survival.

Will it mark a permanent turning point?

That a treaty has been signed to rid the Assad regime of its chemical weapons is icing on the cake, however thin it proves to be. We don’t know if it will work. We don’t know if the restraint from bombing will hold.

But in a world that bristles with atomic weapons, where the rich get ever richer at the expense of the rest of us, and where stricken Japanese reactors along with 400 more worldwide threaten the survival of our global ecology, we must count any victory for peace—even if potentially fleeting—as a huge one. Let’s do some history.

Ten years ago, George W. Bush took the United States into senseless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Millions of citizens marched in the United States and worldwide to prevent the coming debacle. But Bush and his cronies made a point of ignoring us all, as if the public demand for peace was somehow a sign of weakness.

Since then, utterly pointless slaughter has claimed countless thousands of lives, including those of at least 7,000 Americans. That number does not include the thousands more who have returned poisoned physically and mentally, with ailments that have driven so many to suicide, hopelessness and debilitating disabilities.

The war was sold as a campaign to rid Saddam Hussein of his alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction. Vice President Dick Cheney assured the American public that as our troops attacked, the Iraqi people would spread rose petals of gratitude at their feet.

But Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction. And the Iraqi people had run out of rose petals. Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) remain in abundant supply.

None of which deterred Team Bush-Cheney-Rove or the corporatist military machine that continues to reap millions in profits from a decade of disaster.

They did rid the world of Saddam Hussein. But in his wake came…what? A lesson learned in Iraq—for those paying attention–is the “you break it, you’ve bought it” syndrome. If you remove a dictator, however nasty, you still must have something better to put in his place.

That was clearly beyond the caring or grasp of the Bush Administration. Lethal discord has defined Iraq since the demise of Saddam, with no end in sight.

There’s been more of the same in Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt and much of the rest of the middle east. What once seemed an “Arab Spring” of popular liberation may be tragically degenerating to a regional slaughterhouse of counter-revolution and chaos.

The stakes could not be higher. As Fukushima boils at the brink of catastrophe, the global environmental movement—the SuperPower of Solartopia—strives to convert humankind’s energy supply from fossil fuels and nuclear power to renewables and efficiency. Green energy—primarily wind and solar—is by far the fastest-growing new source of supply. Increased efficiency has saved billions of dollars and oceans of oil and gas that will not feed the demon of climate chaos.

But the corporate addiction to middle eastern oil remains a defining force. And the presence of a reactor near Damascus and of nuclear weapons in the hands of the US, Russia, Israel and god-knows-what random terror groups, make our every move in Syria a matter of life-and-death on a global scale.

With that backdrop, the Obama Administration’s decision to back off air strikes takes on an epic dimension. There are all sorts of modifiers that can and should be used.

But contrasted with what George W. Bush told the world ten years ago, Obama’s speech to the nation last week was a pillar of sanity.

He referenced our ten years of disaster in Iraq and Afghanistan. He acknowledged that while Assad is a terrible dictator, there’s no guarantee what follows would be any better. And he conceded that the attempt to use force could lead to costs we cannot predict.

He also made it clear that he was facing down the firewall of an overwhelming public and Congressional demand for peace that would not be denied.

A decade ago, George W. Bush deceived just enough of the American public to go to war.

This time, no deal. Whatever it proves to be worth, a treaty has been signed. We have a precious moment where bombs aren’t flying. We’re a few steps back from the nuclear brink. And our economy is not spiraling down into another senseless military firestorm.

It may prove a small respite…but it’s a victory by any reckoning.

Now the SuperPower of Peace—all of us—-must make it stick.

—————

Harvey Wasserman is senior editor of the Columbus Free Press and , where this was first published. He edits www.nukefree.org and is co-author, with Bob Fitrakis, of THE SUPERPOWER OF PEACE. His Solartopia Green Power & Wellness Show is at . Special thanks to David Swanson.

Obama, Mandela and Leonard Peltier

7:29 pm in Uncategorized by solartopia

Barack Obama has taken his two daughters on a dramatic visit to the Robben Island cell once occupied by Nelson Mandela.

4 Images of Leonard Peltier

While Obama educates his daughters on Mandela, what about political prisoners closer to home?

Let’s hope he takes them next to the one now occupied by Leonard Peltier.

Mandela was famously held by the apartheid South African government for 27 years.  He became a global symbol, then president of his nation.

Mandela was charged, among other things, with attempting to overthrow a government, which he admitted.

For 37 years, Peltier has consistently denied the charges against him, which arose from a native American resistance action at Wounded Knee, South Dakota.

His bitterly contested 1977 conviction in the killing of two FBI agents came in Fargo.  Peltier has since been held under extremely harsh circumstances in a variety of US prisons.  He has been denied a wide range of basic rights, been severely beaten, and can’t get much-needed medical care.  Now in his late sixties, Leonard’s health has dangerously deteriorated.

As an indigenous activist, Peltier has been deemed a political prisoner by Amnesty International and numerous other human rights organizations.

Over the decades, a mountain of evidence has surfaced to back his case.  His “trial” was a travesty of injustice.  At least one of the judges who once denied his appeals for freedom has reversed his stance.

As president, Bill Clinton was thoroughly briefed on Leonard’s case.  To his everlasting shame, he pardoned the financier Marc Rich (who has just died) but failed even to insure Leonard a fair trial.  The government admits that for “national security” reasons it continues to hide large volumes of evidence from public scrutiny.

Leonard’s continued incarceration is a slap at the native community, and all those who believe in due process of law.  His presence over the decades has been distinguished by a legendary dignity and grace.  Among the many writings and films he’s inspired, Peter Matthiessen’s IN THE SPIRIT OF CRAZY HORSE remains the mainstay tribute to a remarkably steadfast spirit.

President Obama’s silence on Leonard’s case casts a long shadow over his visit to Robben Island.  Amidst his many tributes to Nelson Mandela, Obama seems to have overlooked—we hope temporarily—that Mandela himself has asked that Peltier be given justice.

So have the Dalai Lama, Bishop Desmond Tutu, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Parliaments of Europe, Italy and Belgium, the Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights and many more.  Before he passed away three years ago, Judge Gerald W. Heaney of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed his previous opinion and joined those asking that Peltier be freed.

Most who support Peltier want his immediate release.  Some ask that at very least he finally be granted a fair trial, with all the evidence made public.  If the government insists on continuing to hold him in the interim, they ask he at least be moved near his Anishnabe and Dakota/Lakota people.

Leonard Peltier has been in jail so long he has grandchildren and great-grandchildren he has never seen.

Obama has said “the world is grateful for the heroes of Robben Island, who remind us that no shackles or cells can match the strength of the human spirit.”  He was, he said, “humbled to stand where men of such courage faced down injustice and refused to yield.”

It’s time for the President to show similar courage in the case of Leonard Peltier.

Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and many others have already demanded no less.

 

You can write Leonard Peltier directly at

#89637-132,

USP Coleman 1,

US Penitentiary,

PO Box 1033,

Coleman, FL  33521.

Read the rest of this entry →

An Election Protection Agenda for 2016

8:59 pm in Uncategorized by solartopia

An Election Protection Agenda for 2016
by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
November 9, 2012

A mass grassroots election protection movement has been born. It’s finally forced the issues of mass disenfranchisement and hackable electronic voting machines into the mainstream.

And it’s emerged from this election with a must-do list of things that need to be accomplished—soon—if we are to retain any shreds of American democracy.

Meanwhile the flaws in our system allowed the theft of the presidential elections of 2000 and 2004, and threatened to do it again this year. They’ve allowed the theft of countless other races for Congress, governorships, state offices, judgeships, referenda and more.

This cuts to the core of our democracy process. But as we’ve seen so many times before, we can change all this.  Here’s a partial list:

• Money out of politics: Corporations are not people, money is not speech. We cannot afford a system of “one dollar, one vote.” Citizens United must be overturned and workable limits placed on campaign spending. This will require a Constitutional amendment. Move to Amend (www.movetoamend.org) is working on it, and needs our support.

• The Electoral College: This useless anachronism was meant to empower slaveowners through the 3/5 bonus granted for their slaves. It has allowed the theft of elections in 1800, 1824, 1876, 1888 and 2000. It’s time the candidate who gets the most votes actually wins. It will require a Constitutional amendment. But the Electoral College has repeatedly flunked the test of time, and must be abolished.

• A guaranteed right to vote: Nowhere in the Constitution does it say all American citizens are guaranteed the right to vote. It must.

• Universal automatic voter registration: All US citizens should be automatically registered at the age of 18. Forms should be sent in the mail and made readily available at schools, motor vehicle bureaus and elsewhere. Only a signature should be necessary to then get a ballot and vote. This will have to be won on a state-by-state basis.

• Universal hand-counted paper ballots: Germany, Japan, Canada, Switzerland and Sweden stage their elections entirely on hand-counted paper ballots. Electronic voting machines are perfectly designed to steal elections. Ireland has just thrown out its voting machines and moved to paper ballots. We must do the same. This will also have to be won on a state-by-state basis.

• A four-day weekend for voting: The first Saturday-Sunday-Monday-Tuesday in November should constitute a national holiday for voting. High school and college students should be given credit for working the polls and counting the ballots. Early voting in general should be expanded, as long as it’s done in person and not over the internet or by smartphone.

• Washington DC wants to become a state. It’s long overdue. DC has more people than Wyoming and Vermont. It deserves full representation in Congress and the rest of our government. This will have to be done over the vehement opposition of the Republican Party. The option should also be available to Puerto Rico if it wants.

Winning all this will require the usual blood, sweat and tears of a long, hard national grassroots campaign. Since Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004, we have made great strides in exposing the corrupt nature of an all-too-vulnerable electoral system.

But the hard work has just begun. If we are to live in a democracy, we have no choice but to win.

So let’s do it!

—————————————————

Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman has co-authored five books on election protection. To sign on to the election protection movement, see us atfreepress.org

Why We Fight to Prevent Stolen Elections in 2012…and Beyond

10:42 pm in Uncategorized by solartopia

Why we fight to prevent stolen elections in 2012 and beyond
by Joan Brunwasser, Sally Castleman, Victoria Collier, Bob Fitrakis, Lori Grace, Emily Levy, Mark Crispin Miller, Greg Palast, Jonathan Simon and Harvey Wasserman

With election day less than a week away, the spectre of another stolen election is upon us. The airwaves and internet are at last filling with discussion of this possibility.

When the first stories were broken by a handful of us after the fiascos of Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004, there was a stunning silence, followed by a wide range of attacks. Today the warnings about the possibility of another election theft are taken with increasing gravity.

The question is deep and profound, with a huge body of research and writing surrounding it.

But among the many concerns, two are key: massive disenfranchisement, and manipulation of the electronic vote count.

DISENFRANCHISEMENT:

There is no doubt the Republican party has done much to prevent likely Democrats from voting. This “Jim/Juan Crow” strategy has included legislation aimed at requiring photo ID as a means of restricting the vote. This involves financial and other burdens that would prevent as many as ten million citizens from voting according to the Brennan Center at New York University, the vast bulk of them likely Democrats.

  • Though these photo ID and other restrictive laws are being overturned in some courts, it’s a virtual certainty Republican poll workers and challengers will use them—overturned or otherwise—as pretext for intimidating people away from the voting booths.
  • There has been massive stripping of voter rolls, often by electronic means, as was done in Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004. Much of the disenfranchisement has focused on the inner cities which, again, lean heavily Democratic. In Ohio, more than a million citizens—some 20% of the electorate—have lost their right to vote this way since 2009. The phenomenon is clearly nationwide.
  • Misinformation is being spread by Republican-controlled election boards about voting place locations and times and dates when the polls will be open, a tactic widely used in Ohio 2004 and elsewhere.
  • Threatening billboards, fliers, phone calls and more have been deployed to intimidate potential voters.
  • Right wing organizations such as the Tea Party, True the Vote and others have organized to work as poll workers or challengers at the polls, with the mission of discouraging potential Democrats from voting through intimidation and delay.

All these tactics are being choreographed as part of a larger strategy aimed at slashing the vote count among minorities and other target groups not only in the presidential race, but for control of Congress and statewide offices, and in key referenda over such issues as labeling GMO food, legalizing marijuana and more.

ELECTRONIC VOTE THEFT

  • Virtually the entire national vote count is now being conducted on electronic voting machines, which include optical scanning computers. There is one overriding reality that defines their use: the courts have ruled that their software is proprietary, and therefore in essence immune from public scrutiny. In practical terms, this means the vote counts for tens of millions of American citizens is opaque and beyond investigative or legal monitoring or recall.
  • As we saw in Volusia County, Florida, in 2000, and in Ohio 2004, as well as in numerous Congressional and other races, control of the electronic vote count can decide an election, and there is nothing the public can do to prove it, or to challenge the outcome through the legal system.
  • That a firm with deep ties to the Romney family and campaign has a major interest in a company that owns, programs, manages and tallies votes in at least four swing states that could decide the election must be a matter of concern.
  • Beyond Hart Intercivic, nearly all the nation’s electronic voting machines are also owned, programmed, managed and tallied by firms with deep Republican ties. Among them are ES&S, Sequoia, Dominion, Triad and more. They are spread throughout the United States, and will surely control the decisive votes in many if not all key swing states.
  • The essential insecurity of the electronic vote count is an affront to democracy. That a theft can be done so easily—and with the overwhelming body of evidence indicating it HAS been done—means that the individual vote of any American citizen is not sacred…that it’s up for grabs. No matter what margin of victory may present itself in any election, this is not acceptable. Each and every vote cast by each and every American citizen, swing state or otherwise, decisive or not, has been won with the blood of our ancestors and, in many cases, of those of us still living. Each vote cast by an American citizen has meaning, and must be protected—at all costs—by the structure of the voting process.
  • The “solution” to electronic election theft can never lie in building up a margin of victory sufficient to overcome stolen numbers. Massive turnouts of voters are always a great thing. But electronic votes are the ultimate fungible blind article. The process desecrates everything democracy is supposed to stand for, and is never acceptable under any circumstances.
  • The fact that Republicans might steal elections from Democrats and vice versa means further that the two of them together can always shut out a third or fourth party trying to mount a serious challenge to corporate power. This has in fact been done throughout American history to protect the power of the corporate structure. We now have an African-American in the White House. But the last president who was not a Democrat or Republican was the Whig Millard Fillmore, whose term ended in 1853. As long as the vote count can be manipulated by those in power, electronically or otherwise, there is no hope for meaningful change through the ballot box.
  • As this year’s massive electoral drama unfolds, more and more disturbing stories surface about the ease with which it could be stolen. They are to be taken with profound gravity, no matter who one favors for the presidency or other office.
  • The gargantuan sums of cash flowing into the process due to Citizens United and other loopholes in the system mean, simply enough, that our government is wholly owned and operated by large corporations. Systematic disenfranchisement and electronic vote theft are the cornerstones of that power.

Until we have money out of politics, abolition of the Electoral College, universal automatic voter registration and universal hand-counted paper ballots, there is no hope for real democracy in this country. As election protection advocates, activists and investigators, we urge everyone to pay very close attention to what happens in this election, to work to prevent the terrible abuses we see forthcoming, and to follow in the coming years with a powerful social movement that will deliver real democracy to this country.

Which candidate gets your vote is not our concern here. As Americans, we agree on one thing: all citizens must have their right to a ballot and to have it counted. In the long run, our one best hope for a sustainable future is the power of an fully enfranchised people.


Joan Brunwasser is election integrity editor at www.opednews.com; Sally Castleman is National Chairperson, Election Defense Alliance; Victoria Collier edits www.VoteScam.org, and wrote “How to Rig an Election,” Harper’s Magazine, October 2012; Bob Fitrakis publishes www.freepress.org and co-wrote WILL THE GOP STEAL AMERICA’S 2012 ELECTION?; Lori Grace is founder and CEO of the Institute for American Democracy and Election Integrity which supports hand counted elections and the use of the Trachtenberg Election Verification System; Emily Levy has worked for secure, transparent, verifiable and accessible elections since 2004, and has investigated suspicious elections in Ohio, California, and Wisconsin; Mark Crispin Miller wrote LOSER TAKE ALL and FOOLED AGAIN; Greg Palast wrote BILLIONAIRES AND BALLOT BANDITS and VULTURE’S PICNIC; Jonathan Simon is Executive Director of Election Defense Alliance, a nonprofit organization working to bring transparent elections and observable vote counting back to America, and has been involved in election forensics analysis since 2002; Harvey Wasserman co-wrote HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA’S 2004 ELECTION and WILL THE GOP STEAL AMERICA’S 2012 ELECTION?

Will the GOP Steal America’s 2012 Election?

10:13 pm in Uncategorized by solartopia

Will the GOP steal America’s 2012 election?
by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
September 6, 2012

The Republican Party could steal the 2012 US Presidential election with relative ease.

Six basic factors make this year’s theft a possibility:

    1. The power of corporate money, now vastly enhanced by the US Supreme Court’s

Citizens’ United 

    decisions;

    2. The Electoral College, which narrows the number of votes needed to be moved to swing a presidential election;

      3. The systematic disenfranchisement of—according to the Brennan Center—ten million or more citizens, most of whom would otherwise be likely to vote Democratic.  More than a million voters have also been purged from the rolls in Ohio, almost 20% of the total vote count in 2008;
      4. The accelerated use of electronic voting machines, which make election theft a relatively simple task for those who control them, including their owners and operators, who are predominantly Republican;
      5. The GOP control of nine of the governorships in the dozen swing states that will decide the outcome of the 2012 campaign; and,
      6. The likelihood that the core of the activist “election protection” community that turned out in droves to monitor the vote for Barack Obama in 2008 has not been energized by his presidency and is thus unlikely to work for him again in 2012.

    Winning a fair and reliable electoral system can be achieved only with a massive grassroots upheaval.

    The power of money is now enshrined by the infamous Citizens United decision.  In at least 90% of our Congressional races and at least 80% of our US Senate races, the candidate who spends the most money wins.

    From the presidency to the local level, our elections—and thus control of our government—are dominated by cash.

    For more than a century, the ability of corporations and the super-rich to buy in directly has been legally constrained.  But the concentration of media ownership in the hands of ever-fewer corporations has vastly enhanced their power.

    Already in 2012, the tsunami of dollars pouring in from corporations and super-rich individuals has soared to entirely new levels.  Even the floodgates opened by Citizens United can’t handle the flow.  With its June decision denying Montana’s attempt to keep some spending restrictions in tact, the John Roberts US Supreme Court has inaugurated an era in which virtually unrestrained “pay-to-play” money will re-define the electoral process.  Republicans in the US Senate have also blocked attempts to require that these campaign “donations” be made public.

    It’s not hard to guess where this leads.  The June, 2012, recall election in Wisconsin saw at least 8 times as much money being spent on protecting Republican governor Scott Walker as was spent to oust him.

    Barack Obama has spent much of his presidency courting corporate interests.  But he will be out-raised by the corporate/super-rich 1% backing Mitt Romney.  A handful of high-profile billionaires will spend “whatever it takes” to put the GOP back into the White House.  Just a dozen of them have already provided more than 70% of Romney’s early campaign budget.

    Most of this corporate money is being used to persuade voters to oust Obama, which they may well decide to do.  But US history shows that some of it can also restrict the ability of Americans to vote.  It can then “bend” the vote count in ways the public may not want.

    Our nation’s history shows that given the same chance, the Democrats would gladly do the same to the Republicans.  And it’s happened many times, especially in the Jim Crow south.

    But in 2012, it will be primarily Republicans using gargantuan sums of corporate money to take control of the government from Democrats, and democracy be damned.

    We are not writing this in support of Barack Obama or the Democratic Party.  We are mystified by their unwillingness to fight for meaningful electoral reform.  Both Al Gore and John Kerry were legitimately elected president, but neither was willing to fight for significant change, or even to discuss the issue.  When we broke many of the major stories on the theft of Ohio 2004, it was the Democrats who most fiercely attacked us.

    We’re continually asked why the Democrats have been willing since 2000 to sit back and let the GOP get away with this.  Frankly, we have no answer.

    But for us, the more important reality is that this electoral corruption dooms the ballot as an instrument of real democracy.  A system this badly broken means a bi-partisan oligarchy can always deny third and other grassroots parties the use of elections to challenge the status quo, in this case one increasingly defined by war, bigotry, injustice, moneyed privilege and ecological suicide.

    Thus it’s been a century since the last significant electoral challenges to the Democrat-Republican corporate domination of the political system.

    That challenge was staged by the People’s (Populist) and then Socialist Parties.  In rapid succession they rallied huge grassroots followings demanding core changes to the corporate domination of American politics.  The 30-year upheaval they represented laid the groundwork for major changes.  But it failed to crack the corporate domination of our political system.

    The Populists were shattered in 1896 with a combination of co-option by William Jennings Bryan’s Democratic Party and election theft engineered by Mark Hanna’s Republicans.  (Republican strategist Karl Rove, a serious student of the 1896 election, considers Mark Hanna to be one of his great heroes).

    The Socialists were co-opted and divided in 1916 by the Democrat Woodrow Wilson, who then crushed them in the most violent wave of physical repression ever imposed by a US President on a mass movement that derived from the heart of America’s working public.

    No third party has since risen up with enough real political clout to threaten corporate power through the electoral system.  As long as our ballot box is corrupted and unaccountable, none will.

    That one party could steal an election from the other means our democracy, if it could still be called that, is essentially in shambles.

    Would the Koch Brothers, Sheldon Adelson, the Chamber of Commerce and their related billionaires spend tens of millions of dollars to win the White House but stop short of spending the relatively small amount it would take to flip the vote?

    Thankfully, we are citizens of a nation born with the bottom-up overthrow of the planet’s then-most powerful king.  As believers in grassroots democracy, we know that the survival instinct is ultimately more powerful than the profit motive.  When it comes to the basics, we have no doubt the power of the people will ultimately prevail.

    For those working on the 2012 election, and for democracy in general, that will mean an extraordinary commitment to protecting the registered status of millions of Americans, getting them to the polls, guaranteeing their right to vote once there, and making sure there is an accurate vote count—electronic and otherwise—once those votes are cast.


    Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman are authors of WILL THE GOP STEAL AMERICA’S 2012 ELECTION, their fifth book on election protection. It is available as an e-book at www.harveywasserman.ning.com andfreepress.org/store.php#a2012.

    Our Future Depends on Stopping an Attack on Iran

    10:57 pm in Uncategorized by solartopia

    No War Please (Photo: Chris Suderman, flickr)

    No War Please (Photo: Chris Suderman, flickr)

    The global Occupy Movement has come to life just in time.

    War is the health of the corporate state. The 1% needs its endless cash flow to stay in power.

    As the slaughters in Iraq and Afghanistan transform into something less visible, the 1% war machine must have a new profit center. The pretext for this latest war is the spectre of a nuclear-armed Iran. It’s a tawdry re-run of the lies George W. Bush used to sell the 2003 attack on Iraq. It’s no surprise those “Weapons of Mass Destruction” were never found—or that Bush could later joke about it.

    The hypocrisy of the 1% railing against bombs allegedly flowing from Iran’s “Peaceful Atom” program comes in unholy tandem with the corporate push for a “nuclear renaissance” peddling these same reactors all over the world. (It helps to remember that the nuclear industry once tried to sell 36 “peaceful” reactors to the Shah).

    STOPPING THE ATTACK ON IRAN IS ABSOLUTELY VITAL TO OUR HOPES FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE AND DEMOCRACY. THE OCCUPY MOVEMENT HOLDS THE KEY.

    The slaughter in Iraq and Afghanistan has been horrific, but pales beside the bloodshed that could come next. Iran is a far more advanced country, with 76 million people. It’s powerful, diverse and sophisticated, with significant ties to Russia, China, India and throughout the mideast. In the 1980s it fought a land war with Iraq that killed a million people. Does the 1% expect us to embrace a re-run?

    It’s up to our newly energized grassroots movement to stop this madness before it happens.

    Remember that peace movements have been critical in shaping the course of history. For example, Richard Nixon’s “secret plan” to beat Southeast Asia into submission included the use of nuclear weapons. But he refrained, in part because of his well-justified fear of a national upheaval. Read the rest of this entry →

    Let’s Join Japan and Junk New Nukes

    10:07 pm in Uncategorized by solartopia

    Japan will build no new nuclear reactors. It’s a huge body blow to the global industry, and could mark a major turning point in the future of energy. 

    Says Prime Minister Naoto Kan: “We need to start from scratch… and do more to promote renewables.”

    Wind power alone could—and now probably will—replace 40 nukes in Japan.

    The United States must join them. Axing the $36 billion currently stuck in the 2012 federal budget for loan guarantees to build new reactors could do the trick.

    Wind potential alone between the Mississippi and the Rockies could produce 300% of the nation’s electricity. That doesn’t include solar, geothermal, ocean thermal, sustainable bio-fuels and the many more renewable sources poised to re-shape the Amercian energy future once the prospect of new nukes is discarded.

    Japan was set to build 14 new nukes before Fukushima. Six of Japan’s total of 55 reactors were shut by the earthquake and tsunami. Three at Kashiwazaki remain shut from the seven that were hit by an earthquake less than five years ago. Kan wants three more closed at Hamaoka, also in an earthquake/tsunami zone.

    Japan’s reactor fleet remains the world’s third-largest, behind the US and France. The General Electric and Westinghouse nuclear divisions, builders of nearly all the commercial reactors in the US, are at least partly controlled by Japanese companies. Reactor Pressure Vessels and other major components are built there.

    Four California reactors also sit in earthquake zones vulnerable to tsunamis. San Onofre, between Los Angeles and San Diego, has 7.5 million people living within a 50-mile radius. Its two operating and one dead reactor sit less than a mile from the high tide line.

    Diablo Canyon, near San Luis Obispo, sits near a series of earthquake faults, including one newly discovered less than two miles from the two reactor cores there.

    Numerous other US reactors are perilously close to earthquake faults, including two operating at Indian Point, 35 miles north of Manhattan. The Perry reactor, on Lake Erie east of Cleveland, was damaged by an earthquake in January, 1986.

    Massive quantities of heat have poured into the global eco-system from the multiple explosions, partial melt-downs and spent fuel fires at Fukushima, contributing significantly to global warming.

    Highly radioactive fallout has been found miles from the site. Millions of gallons of extremely contaminated water have poured into the ocean.

    Radioactive fallout has also been detected in rainwater, milk and on vegetables throughout the United States, threatening the health of millions of Americans, especially small children and embryos in utero.

    Now Fukushima Unit Four appears to be on the brink of physical collapse. Fission may be continuing in at least one spent fuel pool, and possibly in one or more cores. Radiation levels are high enough at the site to guarantee certain near-term death to workers, many of whom have come to consider work at Fukushima to be a virtual suicide mission. A definitive end to the disaster could be years away.

    Kan’s decision to shut Hamaoka and then to cancel future nukes came as a shock. Widely criticized for weakness in the wake of Fukushima, he has now redefined Japan’s energy future.

    Though dependent on imported fossil fuels, major Japanese corporations have substantial investments in wind, solar and other Solartopian technologies. This will push them to the forefront of Japan’s energy future.

    Likewise Germany. In the wake of huge public demonstrations and a major electoral defeat, Prime Minister Angela Merkel has shut seven old reactors and says ten more will go down by 2020, making Germany nuke-free. For decades Germany has been pushing wind, solar and other green technologies harder than any other industrial nation, with enormously profitable results.

    In the US, renewables are also booming, while the reactor industry has been taking hard hits. Just this week a major French-operated component factory proposed for Virginia has been pushed back two years—which means likely cancellation. A $5 billion taxpayer-funded facility in South Carolina to produce plutonium-based Mixed Oxide reactor fuel faces a lack of customers, and growing doubts about the project’s viability or real purpose.

    Overall, Fukushima has complicated an already dark financial picture. A Texas project meant for Japanese financing is now all but dead. So is one proposed for Maryland by the French.

    While the Obama Administration continues to push for those $36 billion in loan guarantees, it’s unclear what reactor projects are in credible shape to accept them.

    Meanwhile ferocious battles to shut old reactors in Vermont, New York, New Jersey and elsewhere are heating up. With roughly two dozen of similar design to Fukushima Unit One now operating in the US, the public demand for more shut-downs continues to escalate.

    We need to finish the job and get to a green-powered Earth.

    Nuclear power makes global warming worse, and spells economic as well as ecological doom.

    The industry can’t get private financing, can’t get meaningful liability insurance, can’t deal with its wastes, can’t compete in the marketplace, can’t guarantee us we won’t suffer a Fukushima of our own, can’t provide a reliable energy supply into the future.

    What lies before us once we kill these loan guarantees is a Solartopian reality powered by the sun, wind, tides, waves, earth’s heat and more.

    Those countries like Germany, Denmark and now Japan that head definitively toward a nuke-free future are in the process of turning toward survivability and prosperity.

    Let’s kill that loan guarantee package, shut the dying nukes like Vermont Yankee and Indian Point, and join them in truly green-powered future.


    Harvey Wasserman’s SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH is at www.harveywasserman.com.

    Vermont’s Radioactive Nightmare

    10:08 pm in Uncategorized by solartopia

    Like a decayed flotilla of rickety steamers, at least 27 of America’s 104 aging atomic reactors are known to be leaking radioactive tritium, which is linked to cancer if inhaled or ingested through the throat or skin.

    The fallout has been fiercest at Vermont Yankee, where a flood of cover-ups has infuriated and terrified near neighbors who say the reactor was never meant to operate more than 30 years, and must now shut.

    In 2007 one of Yankee’s 22 cooling towers simply collapsed due to rot.

    Now the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has confirmed tritium levels in a monitoring well at Vernon to be 3.5 times the federal safety standard. The leaks apparently came from underground pipes whose very existence was recently denied by VY officials in under-oath testimony at a public hearing. Vermont’s pro-nuclear Republican Governor Jim Douglas has termed the event "a breach of trust that cannot be tolerated."

    Yankee is owned by Entergy, a Mississippi-based consortium that also owns New York’s Indian Point reactor, which suffered an internal gusher of radioactive water in May, 2009. Another leak has just been found at Oconee in South Carolina. Illinois’ Braidwood leaked so many millions of gallons of tritium-laced water that its owner, Exelon, was forced to buy a new municipal water system for a nearby town.

    Entergy says none of Yankee’s tritium has been found in local drinking water or in the Connecticut River, which supplies the plant’s cooling water. Vernon sits near Vermont’s southeast border with Massachusetts, across the river from New Hampshire. "The existence of tritium in such low levels does not present a risk to public health or safety whatsoever," says the company’s Robert Williams.

    But VY is just the latest of more than two dozen U.S. nuclear plants—many built in the 1960s and ’70s—to be found with leaking tritium.

    Last year at New Jersey’s Oyster Creek, tritium was reported leaking a second time shortly after Exelon got it a 20-year license extension. Entergy’s Pilgrim reactor, at Plymouth, Massachusetts, has recently leaked tritium into the ground.

    The NRC’s Neil Sheehan has confirmed leaks involving 27 of 104 licensed US reactors, and says that probably doesn’t account for all of them. At Yankee, Oyster Creek and elsewhere, rotting pipes are the likeliest culprit, but no one is 100% certain.

    The epidemic has escalated public dismay. Vermont state Representative Tony Klein, chair of House Natural Resources and Energy Committee, says that "when you have public officials that the public depends on for their health and welfare making casual statements that a radioactive substance is not harmful to you, I think that’s ludicrous."

    For decades the Encylopedia Britannica, National Academy of Sciences and other primary scientific bodies have confirmed that no dose of radiation, no matter how small, can ever be deemed perfectly safe. "There is no threshold of exposure below which low levels of ionizing radiation can be demonstrated to be harmless or beneficial," says Richard R. Monson, associate dean for professional education and professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.

    Thus far the NRC has granted a series of license renewals to aging reactors. But by virtue of a long-standing agreement with Entergy, the Vermont Legislature can deny Yankee’s request for a 20-year extension. In the 1990s local groups like the Citizen’s Awareness Network (http://www.vtcitizen.org/) helped force down the Yankee Rowe plant on the Deerfield River in Massachusetts, about 25 miles southwest of Vernon. The root cause was concern over embrittlement of the elderly reactor’s core, a key to the future of all other aging nukes.

    In Vermont, angry debate has also arisen over Entergy’s dwindling decommissioning fund, which has been slashed by a declining stock market. Entergy has proposed spinning off plant ownership to a shell corporation whose assets may be even more dubious. But area residents also fear Entergy may be pushing Yankee operations in an attempt to find the source of its leaks.

    With VY operating under duress, Katz and others report an increasing wave of concern among local citizens starting to think seriously about how they might evacuate if Entergy keeps pushing. "This plant appears to be leaking from its reactor piping, but they don’t really know where," she says. "They don’t want to shut down because they’re afraid they’ll never get back up. Entergy is choosing to protect its bottom line rather than the health and safety of our community."

    Indeed, a desperate national industry now pushing for massive federal subsidies to build new reactors may not survive a flood of elderly clunkers being forced to close by the weight of their own contamination. "This is an industry trying to build a new fleet of Titanics while the old ones are sinking," says Katz.

    Amidst the gusher of tritium leaks, Governor Douglas wants to postpone the legislature’s vote on VY’s license extension. But his term expires in November, and all five Democratic gubernatorial candidates are pledged to a Yankee shutdown.

    What happens next will be defined by fierce grassroots activism crashing into a flood of corporate money in support of a rickety old reactor being operated with increasing recklessness.

    The highly hyped "reactor renaissance"—and much more—may hang in the balance. Stay tuned.

    _________

    Harvey Wasserman is Senior Advisor to Greenpeace USA and the Nuclear Information & Resource Service, and Senior Editor of www.freepress.org, where this article first appeared. His SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH is at www.harveywasserman.com.

    Harvey Wasserman is Senior Advisor to Greenpeace USA and the Nuclear Information & Resource Service. His SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH is at www.solartopia.org.