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Archive for August, 2011

Rebranding NATO

Could we be entering the Age of Umperialism? 

With the success of its mission in Libya, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is considering changing its name, according to enterprising reporter Adam Baum.

“In the 21st century, branding is everything,” Baum said, “and ‘North Atlantic’ just doesn’t have the zing needed for a military alliance with operations all over the world.”

“Its original members were in North America and Western Europe,” he said, “but really, how can you say an alliance that includes Bulgaria and Turkey is in the North Atlantic?”

Baum, who called from Brussels where he’s been talking off the record with Alliance officials, says the 63-year old organization is looking for a public relations firm, to help it choose a new moniker.

“The leading candidate seems to be ‘UMPIRE,’ the United Military Powers for International Reform,” he said. “The name has a judicial ring to it, which makes it sound dignified and impartial. And it lends itself to a catchy term for the next global governance system, ‘umperialism.”

“Another option is the World Alliance for Reform, or WAR,” he said.

“That seems pretty straightforward,” I said. “But what’s with the word ‘reform?”

“Everybody likes reform,” Adam said. “And when you think about it, since the collapse of the Soviet Union 20 years ago, NATO isn’t really about defense any more, it’s about re-forming the world order to suit its leading members.”

“NATO does have almost 130,000 troops in Afghanistan,” I said. “Any more choices?”

“They’re looking into ‘Oceania,’ but it’s a long shot.”

I agreed. “It might be wise to pick a name with literary cachet to win support among intellectuals,” I said, “but I’m not sure Orwell’s 1984 is the right place to look.  How are they going to choose?”

“Based on the Request for Proposals I saw, it looks like they’re going to organize focus groups in all 28 member countries, from Albania to the USA, and take suggestions on their Facebook page,” he said.

“I think I’ll suggest the North American North Atlantic North African Navy and Airforce, or NANANANA,” Adam added.

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seabrook 8-21-11 better actve Speaking of Vermont Yankee and Seabrook, where disaster is always a few unforeseen events away, the Japanese government is about to declare a permanent evacuation of the area near the melted Fukushima reactors.

Today’s New York Times reports,

“Broad areas around the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant could soon be declared uninhabitable, perhaps for decades, after a government survey found radioactive contamination that far exceeded safe levels, several major media outlets said Monday.”

As the sign says, better active today than radioactive tomorrow.

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seabrook 8-21-11 027 

Rally/Picnic Marks 35th Anniversary of Historic Protest

More than thirty people of diverse ages rallied outside the Seabrook nuclear power plant today to commemorate a historic demonstration 35 years ago and to support efforts to block the plant owners’ bid for a 20-year license extension. 

With twenty years still to go before its operating permit runs out, NextEra (sounds like “Next Terror”) already seeks to extend the reactor’s operation an additional seabrook 8-21-11 042 two decades. Doug Bogen, Executive Director of the Seacoast Anti-Pollution League, says, “These guys don’t know what they’re doing.”  SAPL, Beyond Nuclear, and other groups maintain the NRC has no business considering a license extension 20 years before the old one expires, especially in the wake of revelations that the plant’s concrete foundations may be crumbling.

Bogen urged those concerned about Seabrook’s operation to attend a public hearing, September 15,  where the plant’s environmental impact will be discussed.  Bogen says that all Environmental Impact Statements are required to examine alternatives, a topic given insufficient attention by the operators of Seabrook Station. 

In fact, he says an offshore wind generating plan with four times the outseabrook 8-21-11 028put of the  Seabrook reactor is slated to go online in 20 years, right when the Seabrook license should expire.  SAPL is prepared to argue that the availability of wind energy provides reason enough to deny Seabrook a license extension.   The hearing will take place at 1 Liberty Lane in Hampton, with sessions running from 1:30 to 4:30 PM and again from 7 to 10 PM. 

The timing of today’s rally, billed a “Picnic at the Plant,” or “Lunch at the Dump,” was meant to coincided with the 35th anniversary of a Clamshell Alliance demonstration on Aug. 22, 1976, when 180 people were arrested while planting trees on the nuclear plant’s construction site.  That event brought nonviolent training and the “affinity group” concept into the growing No Nukes movement.  Eight months later the construction site was occupied by a couple thousand people, 1415 of whom (myself included) were arrested. 

seabrook 8-21-11 033 The spread of No Nukes demonstrations, coupled with extensive grassroots education, paved the way for a change of consciousness that put the nuclear power industry into a coma.  But the pro-nuclear bias that has afflicted the federal regulatory apparatus from the beginning is still there, hence the NRC’s record of re-licensing every reactor that has asked for it.   And the profits the nuclear industry stands to gain if it can persuade the government to grant it massive taxpayer subsidies create incentives that could waken the industry from its deep sleep – if we let them.

Willow Mauck, one of the organizers of today’s rally and a similar picnic three seabrook 8-21-11 039 weeks earlier, was a child when she was arrested after climbing over the fence at Seabrook in the final phase of demonstrations before the plant went into operation.  With her mom, a No Nukes veteran, and a handful of young activists from the Northwood area, Willow spread the word that brought 33 people to the plant gate today.  Today’s crowd included people who were not yet born when the plant opened, some like Willow who are children of Clamshell activists, and some who were already experienced activists when the No Nukes movement was born. 

After she applied for and received a permit, Willow says she was twice visited by FBI agents who wanted to know what she was planning.   Although it was “a bit intimidating,” she said she told them what the plans were.  “It’s not a secret,” she said.

FBI interest may indicate an enhanced concern about nuclear plants as targets of terrorism, or it might just represent the agency’s historic suspicion of protest movements, even those explicitly dedicated to peaceful methods.  

Nevertheless, Willow and the See Life Affinity Group deserve credit for re-awakening Seabrook protests.  The re-awakening is just in time to add energy to plans to step up protests at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant next spring.  The  VT Yankee 3-20-11 025Vernon, Vermont plant received its license extension right after the Fukushima reactors started melting down.  But in this case, the State of Vermont insists it gets a say in the matter.  And so far, Vermont’s governor and legislature are committed to the plant’s shut down when its 40 year license expires next March. 

Organizers in Vermont are making plans to launch nonviolent protests to prevent the reactor from operating if its owners insist on keeping it going beyond the license expiration date.

seabrook 8-21-11 023

Seabrook Station is not as unpopular as its Vermont cousin.  But its location across the harbor from a busy beach community and the impossibility that the area could be seabrook 8-21-11 003 evacuated in the event of an accident make its operation controversial.  Today’s rally received many friendly waves and honks from motorists on busy Route 1. 

Beach-goers facing the ocean may have been unaware of the potential danger lurking across Hampton Haseabrook 8-21-11 002rbor.  But they might have seen an unobtrusive sign on the bath-house. “If you hear a steady siren, 3 to 5 minutes” it warns, tune into the Emergency Broadcast System for instructions.   Then, hop in your car and join the traffic headed back toward the reactor in order to reach the major roads.  

 

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Fresh from Ames, Iowa, my friend Adam Baum dropped in on his way to check out New Hampshire’s presidential campaign trail. The buzz in Iowa, he said, was all about Mitt Romney’s comment that “corporations are people.”

“One way you can tell Romney’s the front-runner,” Adam said, “is that within minutes all his Republican rival had released statements on the humanity of corporations.”

“I know that Justice Scalia has affirmed that corporations have the right to free speech,” I said, “but how far do their rights go? Should they have the right to vote?”

“Romney used to believe that corporations should only be able to vote after they turn 18, consistent with the 26th Amendment,” Adam responded. “But now that he’s competing for the conservative vote, he says they should be able to vote as soon as their corporate charters are adopted.”

“Maybe Delaware will get a new seat in Congress,” I offered.

“I suppose so,” Adam said. “And Rick Santorum believes they should have the right to vote from the moment of conception.”

“Not wanting to be left out,” he continued, “John Huntsman says the corporate vote should be based on the revenues reported on their most recent audited financial statements. He suggests one vote for every billion dollars in income.

“But Ron Paul says that’s unfair to small business owners, who should get one vote each,” Adam said. “Rick Perry, whose ties are more to oil interests than retail firms, says voting power should be based on assets, not income. “

“But does the constitution allow for this?” I protested.

“The Fourteenth Amendment says no person can have their rights denied, and since corporations are persons, that must include the right to vote,” Adam said, “or at least that’s what they say in Republican circles.

“What about Gingrich?” I asked.

“As usual, he’s the big idea man,” Adam said. “He says corporations shouldn’t just be able to vote, they should have their own house of Congress. It would be called the Chamber of Commerce, and it would have the same powers as the House and Senate.”

“So instead of making campaign contributions and hiring high paid lobbyists, the corporations would have their own representatives,” I said.

“Oh, it’s not one or the other” Adam replied. “But the Newtster says corporate persons should have a direct say in federal policy, not just an indirect one.”

“Have the Democrats spoken up?” I wondered.

“They say they are not opposed to a separate Chamber of Commerce in the Congress, but suggest it should be balanced by the House of Labor, which would have an advisory role,” Adam said.

“Sounds like the treatment Washington DC gets,” I said.

“Right,” said Adam, “or like Clinton’s NAFTA side agreements.”

“Where’s Michelle Bachman?”

“She says corporations are divinely inspired, made in God’s image.”

“Has Sara Palin weighed in?”

“She said she agrees with Romney, and pointed out that George Washington was the richest man in America at the time he became Father of Our Country.”

“That Sara has a head for history,” I said. “How about the President?”

“Reporters caught up to him in New York, where he was holding a fundraiser at Goldman Sachs,” Adam told me. “He says the status quo is just fine.”

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no jobs fair 8-10-11 041 The state budget adopted in June eliminated more than 1100 full time state jobs, and that doesn’t even count jobs being shed by local and county governments, hospital layoffs due to cuts in funds for “uncompensated care,” or the positions the will end at service agencies whose state contracts were cut or ended when the new fiscal year began on July 1.  When you add in the elimination of services like testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, the cuts in welfare payments to poor families, and cuts in other programs that poor and disabled people rely upon, the budget is an economic and social disaster.no jobs fair 8-10-11 018

If budgets are in fact “moral documents,” as the Rev. Gail Kinney sugge sted at today’s No Jobs Fair in Concord, then the budget is a moral failure as well.   

“Imagine what would have happened if candidates for office had said they were going to eliminate jobs and services,” Rev. Kinney said.  “Would we have those people in leadership positions now?”  The lunchtime crowd of about 80 people shouted “no.”

no jobs fair 8-10-11 032 Mark MacKenzie, president of the NH AFL-CIO, said it’s time to “draw a line in the sand” against further job and benefit cuts, like the Verizon workers are doing through their recently called strike.   Corporate America is sitting on piles of money with historically low tax rates, he said, and the jobs aren’t any more likely to trickle down now than they were during the Regan years, he said.

“The people of New Hampshire elected their representatives last November with the mandate to strengthen our economy,” MacKenzie said. Instead, he said, they’ve done the bidding of corporate leaders who are willing to sacrifice other people’s middle class jobs to maintain their own privilege.

Speaker of the House William O’Brien came in for the most criticism fno jobs fair 8-10-11 024 rom the speakers, who also included Diana Lacey of the State Employees Association and Doug Linder of the Young Democrats.

“O’Brien resorted to political games, bullying tactics and attacks on the workers of this state,” MacKenzie charged, “leaving behind a shoddy record of job creation that has done nothing to address the real needs of Granite Staters. New Hampshire businesses, workers, and families cannot afford to see the same thing happen again.”

“With ten hospitals laying off hundreds of workers, over thousands of jobs already lost from the state thanks to Speaker O’Brien’s irresponsible budget cuts, and the bleeding of construction jobs from our state at a rate higher than any other state in the Northeast, the focno jobs fair 8-10-11 020 us of the State House should be squarely on giving our residents what they need to recover from the recession. Since Speaker O’Brien isn’t willing to help out our neediest, we’ve had to step up to the plate,” MacKenzie explained.

After the short rally at State House Plaza, dozens of activists troopeno jobs fair 8-10-11 044 d to O’Brien’s office on the State House’s third floor to deliver petitions calling on  state legislators to focus on job creation instead of budget cuts in the upcoming special sessions of the New Hampshire Legislature.

Rev. Kinney reminded those at the rally that Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple, and Moses challenged Pharaoh over working conditions.   “Be the voice of truth,” she said.  

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“America in Decline,” says Noam Chomsky

In the 1980s and 90s, a set of policy prescriptions enforced initially by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, and later by“free trade” agreements, forced poor countries to adopt fiscal austerity, “labor market liberalization,” privatization of public sector enterprises, and dismantling of social safety nets.   The policy framework became known as “the Washington Consensus,” stemming as it did from the US Treasury Department, the US-led clamshell reunion 2011 101international financial institutions, and economists trained at US universities.   [The term was coined by John Williamson, a DC-based think tanker, in 1989.]  The policy prescription was designed to meet the needs of international investors. 

Washington, which was never under IMF and World Bank discipline, retained some degree of autonomy from policies imposed on debtor economies, though it must be said that US adoption of “Free Trade” agreements, welfare deform, and Fed Reserve obsession with restraining inflation suggest that the Washington Consensus was at home in the nation’s capital.  

In any case, those days appear to be over.  The Standard and Poors downgrade of US treasury bonds is proof that even the US of A can be forced to live by rules it has imposed on weaker economies.  Austerity budget here we come.

Noam Chomsky links the weaker position the US finds itself in to “financialization   (the shift of investor preference from industrial production to so-called FIRE: finance, insurance, real estate) and the offshoring of production.”

In an article published last week, Chomsky says“the ideological triumph of ‘free market doctrines,’ highly selective as always, administered further blows, as they were translated into deregulation, rules of corporate governance linking huge CEO rewards to short-term profit, and other such policy decisions.”

The article covers ground Chomsky addressed in a talk at World Fellowship, July 27.  Speaking to the largest group the leftist retreat center hclamshell reunion 2011 105ad seen in decades, Chomsky said U.S. power was at its peak immediately after World War Two, and that it has been on the decline ever since.   At that time, policy intellectuals laid plans for “a global system dominated by the U.S.” 

“Those principles are still operative but the capacity to implement them is reduced,” he said. 

The decline in U.S. ability to dominate the world is not a bad thing.  The question is what will replace it.  

 

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