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The New American Reality

An Empire Beyond Salvation

by Ramzy Baroud

CounterPunch (April 10 2014)

US Secretary of State John Kerry couldn’t hide his frustration anymore as the US-sponsored peace process continued to falter. After eight months of wrangling to push talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority forward, he admitted while in a visit to Morocco on April 04 that the latest setback had served as a ‘reality check’ for the peace process. But confining that reality check to the peace process is hardly representative of the painful reality through which the United States has been forced to subsist in during the last few years.

The state of US foreign policy in the Middle East, but also around the world, cannot be described with any buoyant language. In some instances, as in Syria, Libya, Egypt, the Ukraine, and most recently in Palestine and Israel, too many calamitous scenarios have exposed the fault lines of US foreign policy. The succession of crises is not allowing the US to cut its losses in the Middle East and stage a calculated ‘pivot’ to Asia following its disastrous Iraq war.

US foreign policy is almost entirely crippled.

For the Obama administration, it has been a continuous firefighting mission since George W Bush left office. In fact, there have been too many ‘reality checks’ to count.

Per the logic of the once powerful pro-Israel Washington-based neoconservatives, the invasion of Iraq was a belated attempt at regaining initiative in the Middle East, and controlling a greater share of the energy supplies worldwide. Sure, the US media had then made much noise about fighting terror, restoring democracies and heralding freedoms, but the neo-cons were hardly secretive about the real objectives. They tirelessly warned about the decline of their country’s fortunes. They labored to redraw the map of the Middle East in a way that they imagined would slow down the rise of China, and the other giants that are slowly, but surely, standing on their feet to face up to the post-Cold War superpower.

But all such efforts were bound to fail. The US escaped Iraq, but only after altering the balance of power and creating new classes of winners and losers. The violence of the invasion and occupation scarred Iraq, but also destabilized neighboring countries by overwhelming their economies, augmenting militancy and creating more pressure cookers in political spaces that were, until then, somewhat ‘stable’.

The war left America fatigued, and set the course for a transition in the Middle East, although not the kind of transition that the likes of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had championed. There was no ‘New Middle East’ per se, but rather an old one that is in much worse shape than ever before. When the last US soldier scheduled to leave Iraq had crossed the border into Kuwait in December 2011, the US was exposed in more ways than one. The limits of US military power was revealed – by not winning, it had lost. Its economy proved fragile – as it continues to teeter between collapse and ‘recovery’. It was left with zero confidence among its friends. As for its enemies, the US was no longer a daunting menace, but a toothless tiger.

There was a short period in US foreign policy strategy in which Washington needed to count its losses, regroup and regain initiative, but not in the Middle East. The Asia pacific region, especially the South China Sea, seemed to be the most rational restarting point, and for a good reason.

Writing in Forbes magazine in Washington, Robert D Kaplan described the convergence underway in the Asia pacific region. He wrote,

 

Russia is increasingly shifting its focus of energy exports to East Asia. China is on track to perhaps become Russia’s biggest export market for oil before the end of the decade.

 

The Middle East is itself changing directions, as the region’s hydrocarbon production is increasingly being exported there; Russia is covering the East Asia realm, according to Kaplan, as “North America will soon be looking more and more to the Indo-Pacific region to export its own energy, especially natural gas”.

But the US is still being pulled into too many different directions. It has attempted to police the world exclusively for its own interests for the last 25 years. It failed. ‘Cut and run’ is essentially an American foreign policy staple, and that too is a botched approach. Even after the piecemeal US withdrawal from Iraq, the US is too deeply entrenched in the Middle East region to achieve a clean break.

The US took part in the Libya war, but attempted to do so while masking its action as part of a larger NATO drive, so that it shoulders only part of the blame when things went awry, as they predictably have. Since the January 25 revolution, its position on Egypt was perhaps the most inconsistent of all Western powers, unmistakably demonstrating its lack of clarity and relevance to a country with a massive size and influence. However, it was in Syria that US weaknesses were truly exposed. Military intervention was not possible – and for reasons none of which were moralistic. Its political influence proved immaterial. And most importantly, its own legions of allies throughout the Middle East are walking away from beneath the American leadership banner. The new destinations are Russia for arms and China for economic alternatives.

President Barack Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia in late March might’ve been a step too little too late to repair its weakening alliances in the region. Even if the US was ready to mend fences, it neither has the political will, the economic potency or the military prowess to be effective. True, the US still possesses massive military capabilities and remains the world’s largest economy. But the commitment that the Middle East would require from the US at this time of multiple wars and revolutions is by no means the kind of commitment the US is ready to impart. In a way, the US has ‘lost’ the Middle East.

Even the ‘pivot’ to Asia is likely to end in shambles. On the one hand, the US opponents, Russia notwithstanding, have grown much more assertive in recent years. They too have their own agendas, which will keep the US and its willing European allies busy for years. The Russian move against Crimea had once more exposed the limits of US and NATO in regions outside the conventional parameters of western influence.

If the US proved resourceful enough to stage a fight in the South China Sea and the East China Sea, the battle – over energy supplies, potential reserves, markets and routes – is likely to be the most grueling yet. China is not Iraq before the US invasion – broken by decades of war, siege and sanctions. Its geography is too vast to besiege, and its military too massive to destroy with a single ‘shock and awe’.

The US has truly lost the initiative, in the Middle East region and beyond it. The neo-cons’ drunkenness with military power led to costly wars that have overwhelmed the empire beyond salvation. And now, the US foreign policy makers are mere diplomatic firefighters, from Palestine, to Syria to the Ukraine. For the Americans, the last few years have been more than a ‘reality check’, but the new reality itself.

_____

Ramzy Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (2009).

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/04/10/the-new-american-reality/print

Categories: Uncategorized

Crimea annexes Russia

by Boris Kagarlitsky, Moscow

translated by Renfrey Clarke

editorial, Rabkor (Worker Correspondent)

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal (March 24 2014)

No, that’s not a mistake. On March 18, Crimea annexed Russia. There were no insidious schemes or imperial ambitions involved. There was, however, a spontaneously developing situation, together with the usual, everyday willingness of the Crimean bosses, who saw a unique chance in the Russian-Ukrainian crisis.

With the Ukrainian state on the brink of collapse after the flight of President Yanukovich from Kiev, the Kremlin authorities were understandably concerned to protect their interests and strengthen their position, but the most they counted on was turning Crimea into a second Trans-Dniestr enclave or Republic of Northern Cyprus – that is, into a de-facto Russian protectorate with formal independence. The presence in Crimea of “polite people” in green camouflage uniforms in no way prevented this scenario from playing out, any more than did the presence of NATO soldiers on the territory of the former Yugoslavia or of Turkish troops in Cyprus.

In Sevastopol and Simferopol, however, the authorities decided differently. Taking advantage of the confusion and disarray in Moscow and Kiev, the Crimean leaders drew up their own agenda. In the course of a few days they took several irreversible steps. The period before the referendum was cut to a minimum, so as to prevent both the Ukrainian and Russian authorities from getting their bearings. The Kremlin was presented with a gift it could not refuse. After having set the propaganda pendulum swinging, and amid a patriotic upsurge within Russia, our rulers were simply unable to say “no” when Crimea officially demanded unification with Russia. And so it happened.

The main difference between informal control over the territory and official unification lay in the fact that Moscow thereafter would bear responsibility for everything that occurred on the peninsula, especially on the material level. The Russian authorities are now obliged to take care of pensions, roads and the wages of state employees, assigning money directly to Crimea from the federal budget.

Not surprisingly, the internet began immediately to feature joking appeals from other Russian provinces, whose residents also wanted to be annexed to Russia on the same conditions as Crimea. The budget deficits of these provinces are constantly increasing, and the federal treasury takes far more money from them than it doles out. The liberal press in turn is predicting general ruin as a result of the costs of fitting out the new territory.

Valuable acquisition

The truth is that Crimea is an extremely valuable acquisition both strategically and economically. For any country, territorial expansion opens up new opportunities – for an expansion of its internal market, of its tax base, skills base and natural resources. It is no accident that so many wars have been fought over this peninsula, and it was not by chance that the ancient Greeks, Byzantines, Genoese and Turks established outposts there. Provided matters are handled competently, there is potential in Crimea for the development of tourism, agriculture, viticulture and many other sectors. But the qualifier is all-important: “provided matters are handled competently”. There are no guarantees that Russian administration, in essence merely a cover for corrupt self-rule by local bureaucrats, will prove more effective than Ukrainian rule. Meanwhile, a key condition for realising Crimea’s potential within the Russian Federation is precisely that relations of solidarity and neighbourly goodwill are maintained with Ukraine.

The Ukrainian state stands to profit from this as well, since it is now able to supply electricity, water and other resources to Crimea at international prices; Ukraine thus has a negotiating lever to compensate for its dependence on Russian raw materials and gas. But for these aces to be employed, there needs to be a stable and flexible government in Kiev – and the wait for this, more than likely, will be very long indeed.

When Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev annexed Crimea to Ukraine, he was motivated not in the least by personal “caprice”, but by completely practical economic considerations. From the point of view of transport logistics, energy supplies and even the sale of its products, Crimea was strongly connected to Ukraine. These economic considerations were in contradiction to historico-cultural and ethnic realities, but this did not make them less telling. Further, it was no accident that with all these problems and contradictions Crimea got on fine within the independent Ukraine for more than two decades. The peninsula fell out with Ukraine not so much because Crimeans found life within the framework of the Ukrainian state particularly bad, as because of the progressive collapse of the Ukrainian state itself.

In perfectly rational fashion, the population of the peninsula reasoned that Russian rule, with all its shortcomings – which Crimean residents knew intimately – was nevertheless better than the chaos and collapse that were afflicting Ukraine.

This was especially true since Moscow was now compelled to make the peninsula a sort of shop window for the national economy. It was because they understood this that the Crimean leaders rejected the “Trans-Dniestrian” variant that Moscow was offering them, and confronting the Kremlin with an accomplished fact, forced the leadership of the Russian Federation to adopt the solution the Crimean chiefs wanted. Aksenov and Chaly should be given full credit for their guile; they scored a brilliant victory over both Kiev and Moscow. Now resources will start flowing into Crimea.

Economic methods

Russia has enough money not only for Crimea, but also for many other provinces that are now short of finances. The problem is not one of money, but lies in the economic model and methods of rule that our country has adopted. The annexation of Crimea should remind us once again that all this needs to change. Meanwhile, the sense of triumph that has seized not only the common people in our society, but to a significant degree those on top as well, is making any changes extremely difficult. The authorities view the present situation as the outcome of their own wisdom and as proof of their effectiveness. Why should they make changes, when everything in our country is going fine?

Russia will not be rescued from its crisis by free-market policies, or by unsystematic attempts at state intervention that end in massively redistributing public funds to the benefit of the same large firms that dominate the market. The answer to the crisis can only lie in national and regional planning that can make it possible to optimise the resources of the state sector and orient them directly toward dealing with social challenges, above all on the local level.

The centre, however, will not permit either a redistribution of funds to the regions, or the creation by the regions of their own independent financial base. As a result, the money allotted to the regions will be insufficient. This will have nothing to do with Crimea (the money was also inadequate before), but will result from the fact the system as a whole is dysfunctional. In such a situation, however, decorating the Crimean “shop window” may turn out to have unpleasant psychological consequences for the rest of the country.

Sanctions?

The liberal press is now setting out to frighten the public with the threat of economic sanctions on the part of the West, but the main danger to our economy stems precisely from the fact that there will be no such sanctions. If the West were in fact to impose serious sanctions, this would open up enormous opportunities, creating the preconditions for a growth of employment, for wage increases and for creating new jobs. Suspending Russia’s membership in the World Trade Organization would be a gift to our industry. Placing a blockade on technology transfers would make it necessary to revive Russian enterprises.

We are in acute need of sanctions, since they would provide a chance for us to restore our industry, to diversify production, to wage a struggle against capital flight and to conquer our own internal market. But the ruling layers in the US and European Union have no intention of aiding Russia, so there will be no serious sanctions, merely symbolic acts aimed at calming public opinion in the USA and Europe and at giving moral support to the “patriotic” pretensions of the Russian elite.

The Central Bank will, of course, press ahead with the policy of lowering the ruble exchange rate that it has already been pursuing since last year. On this level, the Ukrainian crisis and Crimea have proved extremely opportune, since they have allowed the bank to accelerate the process. Whether the bank’s hopes of raising the competitiveness of the Russian economy solely through devaluation will prove justified is, of course, a separate question.

Contrary to the ideas of liberals and conservatives (who suffer, surprisingly enough, from the same hallucinations), the policies of the Russian authorities do not stem from any conscious decision to enter into confrontation with the West, but from an attempt to keep this confrontation – which is objectively inevitable, and does not depend on the will of the Kremlin – to a minimum.

Nevertheless, an intensification of the conflict is predetermined by the overall logic of the economic crisis, which inevitably is sharpening the struggle for markets, destabilising international relations and strengthening the rivalry between the West and the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). Meanwhile it is obvious that Russia, as well as being central to the BRICS chain, is also its weakest link. While lagging in its economic and especially industrial growth rates, and lacking a functional national elite, Russia nevertheless remains the only European country in this potential bloc, and retains a scientific, diplomatic and military potential that other societies will need decades if not centuries to accumulate. As a result, the policies of the Western elites toward our country are marked by a fundamental duality: while taking every opportunity to weaken Russia, the Western powers simultaneously do not allow Russia to take its distance from them, and in the process, to undergo a definitive rapprochement with the non-Western world.

The Russian elites are themselves allies and hostages of these policies; the whole policy course of our ruling circles can in essence be reduced to a mirror image of the same formula.

Russia’s opposition

But while the situation confronting our elites in this respect is more or less straightforward (they cannot enter actively into confrontation with the West without dealing crushing blows to their own interests, to their own capital holdings and to their own networks, methods of rule and way of life), the position of the Russian opposition is truly catastrophic.

When our oppositionists (including a significant number of people on the left) denounce the policies of the government, they speak and act not in the name of Russian society, but effectively in the name of the West, to which they attach all their hopes. Worse still is the fact that in orienting to the West, our oppositionists disdainfully ignore Western society and the peoples who make it up, just as they ignore and treat with contempt the society and people of Russia itself.

The Russian opposition raises on high the same stars-and-blue European Union flag to which, on countless city squares within Europe itself, people are setting fire. By virtue of their consistent, fundamental, ingrained anti-democratism, our oppositionists are just as hostile to the values of the European Enlightenment as are Putin, Yatsenyuk and Merkel.

A hundred years after the First World War, there is no point in alluding to Lenin, to the Zimmerwald conference or to anti-imperialist “defeatism”. First of all, this is for the reason that, unlike the case in 1914, there is no war, will not be and cannot be. Second, the “defeatism” of the early 20th century was anti-systemic and anti-bourgeois, while we are confronted now with an ideology that is bourgeois to the core, and that is oriented toward advancing the same neoliberal politics that every honest socialist is obliged to combat.

However we now assess the positions of Lenin or Martov in 1914, they did not march in demonstrations beneath German and Austrian flags, and did not write pamphlets appealing to these empires to step up their pressure on the Russian army.

The chauvinist hysteria that has taken hold of Russian society within the context of the Ukrainian events will soon pass. Annulling it will be the everyday trials of the crisis and of a disorderly world, the commonplace social problems from which virtual wars cannot distract people. The lustre of the Crimean triumph will fade, and today’s triumphant leaders will again be seen by society for what they really are – small-time political intriguers who have happened to hold a winning hand. But even after all this, society’s attitude to the liberal oppositionists will not have changed and will not have improved. That is because a more rational view of events will simply allow the population to see more clearly: there is no point in expecting help from those who wish ill to their own country and its people.

_____

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal has published a range of views from the left on developments in Ukraine and Crimea: http://links.org.au/taxonomy/term/187

http://links.org.au/node/3790

Categories: Uncategorized

Replacing Russian Gas Deliveries with US Shale Gas?

2014/04/12 1 comment

Washington Lies to the European Union

by F William Engdahl

Global Research (April 10 2014)

The White House and State Department have engaged in brazen lying to EU governments regarding the ability of the US to supply more than enough natural gas to replace Russian gas deliveries. Recent statements by US President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are so patently false that it betrays an incredible desperation in Washington over the situation in Ukraine versus Moscow. Or it suggests that Washington is so out of touch with any factual reality she simply doesn’t care what she says. Either way, it suggests an unreliable diplomatic partner for the EU.

After his recent meeting with EU leaders Obama issued the incredible statement that the secret Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that is being secretly negotiated behind closed doors by the major private multinational companies would make it easier for the United States to export gas to Europe and help it reduce its dependency on Russian energy: “Once we have a trade agreement in place, export licenses for projects for liquefied natural gas destined to Europe would be much easier, something that is obviously relevant in today’s geopolitical environment”, Obama stated {1}.

That bit of political opportunism to try to push the stalled TTIP talks by playing on EU fears of Russian gas loss after the US-orchestrated Ukraine coup of February 22, ignores the fact that the problem in getting US shale gas to the EU does not lie in easier LNG licensing procedures in the USA and EU.

In other recent statements, referring to the recent boom in unconventional US shale gas, Obama and Kerry have both stated the US could more than replace all Russian gas to the EU, an outright lie based on physical realities. At his Brussels meeting Obama told EU leaders they should import shale gas from the US to replace Russian. There is a huge problem with that.

Shale revolution a failure

Number one, the “shale gas revolution” in the USA has failed. The dramatic rise in US natural gas production from “fracking” or forcing gas out of shale rock formations is being abandoned by the largest energy companies like Shell and BP as uneconomical. Shell has just announced a huge reduction of its exposure to US shale gas development. Shell is selling its leases on some 700,000 acres of shale gas lands in the major shale gas areas of Texas, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Kansas and says it may have to get rid of more to stop its shale gas losses. Shell’s CEO, Ben van Beurden stated,

 

Financial performance there is frankly not acceptable … some of our exploration bets have simply not worked out.

 

A useful summary of the shale gas illusion comes from a recent analysis of the actual results of several years of shale gas extraction in the USA by veteran energy analyst David Hughes. He notes,

 

Shale gas production has grown explosively to account for nearly forty percent of US natural gas production. Nevertheless, production has been on a plateau since December 2011; eighty percent of shale gas production comes from five plays, several of which are in decline. The very high decline rates of shale gas wells require continuous inputs of capital – estimated at $42 billion per year to drill more than 7,000 wells – in order to maintain production. In comparison, the value of shale gas produced in 2012 was just $32.5 billion. {2}

 

So Obama is either being lied to by his advisers on the true state of US shale gas supplies, or he is willfully lying. The former is most likely.

The second problem with the US “offer” of gas to the EU to replace Russian gas is the fact that it requires massive, costly infrastructure in the form of construction of new Liquified Natural Gas terminals that can handle the huge LNG supertankers to bring it to similar huge LNG terminal harbors in the EU.

The problem is that owing to various US laws on export of domestic energy and supply factors, there exist no operating LNG liquefaction terminals in the US. The only one now under construction is the Sabine Pass LNG receiving terminal in Cameron Parish, Louisiana, owned by Cheniere Energy, where John Deutch, former CIA head, sits on the board. The problem with the Sabine Pass LNG terminal is that most of the gas has been pre-contracted to Korean, Indian and other Asian LNG customers, not to the EU.

The second problem is that even were a huge port capacity installed to satisfy EU gas needs to replace Russian supplies, that would push domestic natural-gas prices higher and cut short the mini-manufacturing boom fueled by abundant, cheap shale gas. The ultimate cost to EU consumers of US LNG would have to be far more than current Russian gas pipelined over Nord Stream or Ukraine. The next problem is that the specialized LNG supertankers do not exist to supply the EU market. All this takes years, including environmental approvals, construction time, perhaps seven years on average in best conditions.

The EU gets some thirty percent of its gas, the fastest-growing energy source there, from Russia today. In 2007, Russia’s Gazprom supplied fourteen percent for France, 27 percent for Italy, 36 percent for Germany, with Finland and the Baltic states receiving as much as 100 percent of gas imports from Russia. {3}

The EU has no realistic alternative to Russian gas. Germany, the largest economy, has foolishly decided to phase out nuclear power and its “alternative energy” – wind power and solar – is an economic and political disaster with consumer electricity costs exploding even though alternatives are a tiny share of the total market.

In short, the chimera of shutting Russian gas and turning on US gas instead is economic, energy and political nonsense.

Links:

{1} http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/26/us-usa-eu-summit-energy-idUSBREA2P12P20140326

{2} http://www.theoildrum.com/node/8212

{3} http://en.ria.ru/world/20140404/189033493/Europe-Lacks-Realistic-Alternative-to-Russian-Energy-Supplies-.html

_____

F William Engdahl is a strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

Copyright (c) 2014 Global Research

http://www.globalresearch.ca/replacing-russian-gas-deliveries-with-us-shale-gas-washington-lies-to-the-eu/5377358

Categories: Uncategorized

Business as usual

2014/04/12 2 comments

by Dmitry Orlov

Club Orlov (April 08 2014)

Update: After a lot of unthinking “but we Americans have guns!”-type comments, I held my nose and added a paragraph on that vile topic.

Thinking about collapse is very useful because it allows you to prepare for it. And preparing for collapse is very useful too – from the pragmatic perspective of risk management. Consider the possibilities.

* If you prepare for collapse and it doesn’t happen, then you look a tiny bit foolish.

* If you don’t prepare for collapse and collapse does happen, then you look a tiny bit dead.

Now, which would you prefer to be, foolish or dead?

This type of reasoning is very basic, and is used for such things as calculating the amount of insurance to buy or the amount of cash to keep in reserve in order to avoid being bankrupted should the worst-case scenario unfold. In order to do that, you have to have some idea of what the worst case scenario is. People seem comfortable with this kind of reasoning.

There is, however, a problem: most people don’t seem to be able to wrap their minds around the concept of collapse in the sort of unsentimental, dispassionate way that is required for engaging in practical risk management activities. They can think of a nuclear accident, or a tsunami, or a hurricane, or an earthquake, or a pandemic. They might be able to think of all five at the same time, but that’s a stretch for most. But the scenario that few people can react to adequately is the sort of gritty reality that is quite probable. Let’s try a couple of scenarios, and see how you react.

Scenario #1. You live in a major city. Banks are closed and ATM machines are defunct. There is no electricity. Shops are closed and looted. Gas stations are burned out. There is no pumped water and toilets don’t flush. There is no heat or air conditioning. Garbage isn’t being collected and there are piles of it everywhere. Roads are impassable and neighborhoods are barricaded from each other with concertina wire and piles of burning tires and patrolled by armed gangs. Home invasions occur with gruesome regularity, especially in the wealthier neighborhoods where there is more to take. Police are nowhere to be found, but there are army checkpoints on all the major roads leading out of the city where people are turned back.

Scenario #2. You live out in the country. There is no electricity, no heating oil or propane deliveries. Gasoline is no longer available, and you can no longer drive thirty miles to the nearest supermarket or Walmart. In any case, these stores are no longer open for business because merchandise is no longer being delivered to them. You used to be on friendly terms with some of the neighbors, but now everybody is afraid of each other. In any case, it’s too far, and too dangerous, to walk anywhere. Your drinking water used to come from a deep drilled well via an electric pump, which no longer works. There also used to be a sump pump and a dehumidifier in your basement, which is now permanently flooded and filling with black mold. Armed gangs are filtering through the landscape, looking for caches of food and other supplies. They are increasingly expert at what they do, and most people either give up their stockpile voluntarily or die trying to defend it.

Presented with such scenarios, most people react in one of three ways: denial, paralysis or panic.

Denial is where you tell yourself that these scenarios are so incredibly unlikely where you live that thinking about them is a complete waste of time. You may be right about that, but who is to say? Subjective judgments of likelihood are not particularly useful in risk mitigation.

Paralysis is where your gut feeling tells you that this could, in fact, happen, but you can’t think of anything constructive that you could do about it – beyond trying to not think about it, to avoid distressing yourself to no purpose.

Panic is where you decide to act – by stockpiling food and weapons, or by developing plans to flee in some direction. Once you’ve done your shopping and planning, and the panic attack is over, you go back to paralysis (nothing more to be done) and then drift back toward denial (since it is mentally the most comfortable).

There is a fourth reaction worth considering, even though it amounts to an ad hominem attack on me as the messenger of doom. It goes like this: “Dmitry, your collapse scenarios are crap. They are depressing, distressing, and none of us can do anything about them except be depressed and distressed, or panic and go shopping for spam, shotgun shells and machetes. Would you please cut it out and stop bothering people with this collapse nonsense?” Sure, got me there, I’ll stop.

Let’s do something else instead: let’s consider that nothing will particularly change, and that things will stay on the same trajectory. Let’s define some scenarios that seem pretty likely to most of us, because it’s the sort of gradual change we’ve been seeing already: the economy will continue “recovering”, meaning that the rich will continue to get richer, the poor – poorer, unemployment will hold steady (as more and more people drop out of the labor force), debt levels will continue to explode, food and energy prices will continue to creep up and so on.

Security theater. We had the shoe bomber and the underwear bomber, so now the TSA makes us take off our shoes and gropes our genitals (or irradiates us with the naked body scanner). We had the wannabe jihadis who got entrapped into trying to smuggle a two-part liquid explosive on board (which, according to chemistry PhDs, wouldn’t have worked anyway) so we can’t bring liquids through the checkpoint (except for mother’s milk, but even that has to be tested for explosive potential). Next step: somebody tries to smuggle a bomb in their rectum, and the TSA forces everyone to strip naked and subjects them to a body cavity search, prison style. Even if you can still afford to fly somewhere, would you want to?

Note that this security theater insanity only applies to flights originating from or terminating in the US, and that it has nothing to do with stopping terrorists. You stop terrorists by spotting them, and you do that by interviewing just the promising candidates. Testing for exploding breast milk is just plain idiotic.

Debt slavery. In the past year, student loan debt has grown from one trillion to 1.2 trillion. More and more students are realizing that they will never be able to pay back their student loans. Instead, the government, which guaranteed the loans, will garnish their wages, and eventually even their social security payments (should these still exist by the time they reach retirement age) for the rest of their lives.

Borders locked. More and more of these students will realize that their only real option is to leave the country forever. Facing a massive outflow of college graduates, the government introduces exit visas, which require a credit check, and refuses to grant them to entire families, so that a hostage is always left behind. The government also refuses to renew passports for expats who are in arrears on their government-guaranteed debt, creating a refugee crisis. Just as this happens, more and more countries, increasingly fed up with US State Department meddling in their internal affairs, decide that they’ve had enough Americans for now, and close their borders to US nationals.

Retirement cancelled. The already dire demographics, coupled with the flight of educated people mentioned above, mean that there will only be a couple of working-age unskilled workers supporting each retiree. Desperate measures, such as rolling IRAs and 401k’s into the Social Security Trust Fund, postpone the inevitable somewhat. Eventually the government finds that it has no choice but to raise the retirement age to 100. The vast majority of the baby boomer generation, which did not save for retirement in any case, will find itself destitute.

Medical confiscation. Thanks to ObamaCare, people between 55 and 65 are being forced into the Medicare system. At the same time, Medicare covers fewer and fewer services, with higher and higher deductibles. Since most people lack sufficient cash savings to cover them, they are covered by placing liens on property. Adult children living with their parents (an increasingly common situation) are then forced to sell the house as soon as they inherit it (or walk away from it). The other, increasingly popular option, of course, is to forgo medical care.

Demise of the dollar. So far, because of the US dollar’s reserve status, the US has been able to fleece other countries while taking on debt at an artificially low rate of interest. As more and more countries (China and Russia especially) are moving away from using the dollar for international settlements, especially in buying and selling energy, the status of the dollar continues to erode. As this process runs its course, the US government will be forced to resort to fleecing its own people. Raising taxes is politically difficult, and so instead lots of other measures will be put in place. There will be lots of so-called “bail-ins”, where depositor funds are used to bail out insolvent banks. Those who own precious metals will be forced to sell them for a fraction of their market price, as has happened before. There will be a low limit on daily cash withdrawals, as has recently been the case in Argentina, Cyprus and Ukraine.

Corporatization. The trend is to concentrate more and more wealth and power in the hands of fewer and fewer corporate entities. To this end, the government will clamp down on small businesses (which are already suffering because of, among other things, onerous health care insurance regulations). Eventually the government will outlaw self-employment, herding all owner-operators and freelancers into minimum-wage corporate farms. It will be made illegal to buy and sell products or services except through a major corporation (good bye Craigslist). All property transactions will automatically be taxed: sales tax plus capital gains tax. The limit on gift taxes will be dropped to zero: the giver will pay the gift tax on the value; the receiver will have to pay income tax on all gifts received, plus capital gains if they are ever sold. Together with the low limit on cash withdrawals, this will make it virtually impossible for people to directly give each other money without being taxed, or breaking the law.

As the cost of living continues to go up and salaries continue to stagnate, corporations will negotiate special corporate discounts with each other in order to make it possible for their employees to continue functioning. People without a corporate job will find their access to products and services severely restricted. But what really makes it possible for more and more corporate employees to survive is the increasing use of food stamps (EBT cards). Now at fifty million, participation in the food stamps program will grow until it becomes virtually universal, while at the same time the nutritional value of the food it makes available will continue trending down, nurturing the trifecta of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Criminalization. With small businesses and private enterprise made illegal, most people will be forced to resort to illegal activities, under the watchful eye of the NSA. But since putting even more people in jail will be prohibitively expensive, a new, streamlined process of dispensing justice will be put into place: the NSA and the Justice Department will link computer systems, and verdicts of fraud and suspended sentences will be issued by a computer program, in absentia. In keeping with current practice, both the charge and the evidence will be kept secret. The newly minted felons will be dropped from voter rolls, their passports cancelled, their bank accounts confiscated, and their employment (if any) terminated. They will receive form letters informing them of their sentence but most of them will be unable to read it because functional illiteracy rates will go from the current forty percent to eighty to ninety percent.

Paragon of democracy. The effect of dropping much of the population from voter rolls will paradoxically result in much higher voter participation. After a while the only people allowed to vote will be the politicians themselves, their families, government workers and contractors, corporate functionaries and, of course, the ever-richer one percent. Since those barred from voting will not be counted as voters, it will look like voter turn-out is much higher than ever before. Everyone will celebrate the health of American democracy.

Demise of public education. Public schools will become dumping grounds for mental and physical defectives – junior prisons, if you will, where students are endlessly frisked and strip-searched by heavily armed security personnel and train for life under lockdown. The more promising students will be shunted to highly profitable charter schools, many of them virtual, where students get sit in front of computers all day, training to take standardized tests, and a single unaccredited teacher oversees more than a hundred of them. Beyond studying for tests, the students will become increasingly resistant to remembering anything at all – why know things when you can Google for them?

Strafed to hell. The US has spectacular and ever-higher levels of gun ownership, along with the use of antidepressants and antipsychotics. It also has a large, well-armed military, which isn’t very good at achieving policy objectives, but is very good at killing civilians, having killed hundreds of thousands of them in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as those dozens of countries the US has invaded over the decades. This military will have to be brought back home due to lack of resources. If this weren’t enough, the police in the US is already highly militarized. Throw in the narcocartels, which, as I predicted previously, are diversifying away from drugs and into all sorts of other lucrative activities. Add to this already volatile mix a large set of long-standing grievances, over racial discrimination and other injustices. Make the antidepressants and antipsychotics unavailable, throw everyone out of a job, destroy every last vestige of hope in a brighter future and what do you get? That’s right, a hail of bullets. Those who think that they will be able to stand their ground and defend their homestead need to realize that this is not for amateurs. Dispensing violence is a profession, like surgery. But if everybody has a scalpel (whether they know how to use it or not) then what’s a surgeon to do?

What should our risk management strategy be in light of such probable, predictable, and rather un-apocalyptically boring developments?

Do nothing? Well, you might not die, at least not right away, but then will your life be worth living? Even if you can’t think of anything good to do, you might still consider doing something – like drinking a lot.

Prevent them? You’d have to start with some sort of grass roots political campaign to change the entire system. Suppose you are amazingly successful at it, and manage to change the entire system. And it only takes you thirty years. Oops! Too late.

So, what do you do?

I have an idea, and it’s really, really simple. What’s more, it’s quite cheap, and it totally works … for the time being.

Here it is:

Get the hell out of this country!

http://cluborlov.blogspot.jp/2014/04/business-as-usual.html

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A Hole in American History: Part Three of Three

Death and Suffering, in Living Color

by Greg Mitchell

Who What Why (March 31 2014)

For the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the atomic bomb was nothing short of cataclysmic. But Americans were shown a sanitized version of the devastation, and for many years, photographic evidence of the real damage was locked away. This is the final part of our three part series on the Atomic Cover-up.

Japan Chases Its History

In the mid-1970s, Japanese activists discovered that few pictures of the aftermath of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki existed in their country. Many of the images had been seized by the US military and taken out of Japan. The Japanese had as little visual exposure to the true human effects of the bomb as had most Americans. Activists, led by Tsutomu Iwakura, tracked down hundreds of photographs in archives and private collections, published them in a popular book and, in 1979, mounted an exhibit at the United Nations in New York.

There, by chance, Iwakura met Herb Sussan, a former network TV producer, who informed him about the existence of color footage shot by a US military film crew not long after the bombings. Sussan had been with the documentary crew, along with then-Lieutenant Daniel McGovern, a combat photographer and film director with the US Air Force.

After a little digging, Iwakura found the color footage at the National Archives. About one-fifth of it showed the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the atomic bombs went off. According to a shot list, reel #11010 included, for example:

 

School, deaf and dumb, blast effect, damaged Commercial school demolished School, engineering, demolished.  School, Shirayama elementary, demolished, blast effect.  Tenements, demolished.

 

Included were many minutes of stoic survivors sadly, or in anger, displaying their burns and scars.  The rest of the footage was shot in several other cities.

Actually, the film had been quietly declassified a few years earlier, but the outside world seemed unaware of it. An archivist there later told me,

 

If no one knows about the film to ask for it, it’s as closed as when it was classified.

 

In short order, Iwakura raised half a million dollars from more than 200,000 Japanese citizens to buy a copy of the color footage. Then he traveled around Japan filming survivors who had posed for the US military cameramen in 1946. Iwakura completed his compilation film, entitled “Prophecy”, and arranged for the June 1982 New York premiere described in Part One of this series.

A few months later, brief segments of the McGovern/Sussan footage turned up for the first time in an American film, called “Dark Circle”, which was screened at the 1982, New York Film Festival. The film’s co-director, Chris Beaver, told me,

 

No wonder the government didn’t want us to see it. I think they didn’t want Americans to see themselves in that picture. It’s one thing to know about that and another thing to see it.

 

Still, the historic footage drew little attention until the article on Sussan I edited for Nuclear Times was published. It inspired a flood of inquiries at the National Archives.

McGovern told me,

 

The main reason [the footage] was classified was because of the horror, the devastation. The medical effects were pretty gory. The attitude was: do not show any medical effects. Don’t make people sick.

 

It’s clear that certain people in the US government worked hard to keep the true effects of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings from the American public. Who exactly was behind the cover-up?  McGovern told me,

 

I always had the sense that people in the AEC were sorry they had dropped the bomb. The Air Force – it was also sorry. I was told by people in the Pentagon that they didn’t want those images out because they showed effects on man, woman and child. But the AEC, they were the ones that stopped it from coming out. They had power of God over everybody. If it had anything to do with nukes, they had to see it. They were the ones who destroyed a lot of film and pictures of the first US nuclear tests after the war.

 

“Dark Circle” director Chris Beaver added,

 

With the government trying to sell the public on a new civil defense program and Reagan arguing that a nuclear war is survivable, this footage could be awfully bad publicity.

 

Sussan was now ill with a form of lymphoma that doctors had found in soldiers exposed to radiation in atomic tests during the 1950s – and among survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki blasts.

To walk in the footsteps of McGovern and Sussan, and meet some of the people they filmed in 1946, I made my own pilgrimage to the atomic cities in the summer of 1984.  (My Atomic Cover-up book and e-book has a lengthy chapter describing what it was like to interview survivors on-site.) By then, the US footage had turned up in several new documentaries. In September 1985, Herb Sussan passed away.

Researching Hiroshima in America, a book I would write with Robert Jay Lifton in 1995, I discovered the deeper context for suppression of the US Army film: it was part of a broad effort, starting but hardly ending with the Manhattan Project, to suppress a wide range of material related to the atomic bombings, including photographs, reports on radiation effects, information that might have raised questions about the decision to drop the bomb, even that Hollywood movie The Beginning or the End (1947).

“I couldn’t bear to look …”

A documentary film that drew on footage from” the McGovern/Sussan footage premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2004.  It was called “Original Child Bomb” and won the top Silverdocs award. (I was the chief adviser.)  Later, the film aired on the Sundance cable channel. The film was unflinching and powerful, as its creators intended. It included unforgettable stories of surviving witnesses, such as this one:

 

I saw so many corpses drifting in the water … countless bodies came floating … I couldn’t bear to look.  People without heads … people without arms … people with their guts hanging out … without eyes …

 

Americans who view the footage today can now judge why the authorities suppressed it, and what impact these images, if widely seen, might have had on the nuclear arms race – and could still have on the nuclear proliferation that endangers the world today.

Only small parts of the original 90,000 feet of color film have been used, and a relatively small number of Americans have seen any of it. A major documentary on the footage, and its decades-long suppression, has yet to be made.

Without a full understanding of the effects of nuclear warfare, the American public cannot begin to reach judgment on the future of our vast nuclear arsenal.

Nine nations – so far – have the bomb

After building first-strike weapons and detailing scenarios for their use, the temptation for any nuclear power to use them may one day become irresistible. Treaties today bar the use, testing or proliferation of nuclear weapons, but at least nine nations, with the addition of North Korea, now possess The Bomb. And every American president – except Eisenhower – has endorsed their use against Japan to help bring the Second World War to a swift close.

With terrorist organizations around the world itching to get their hands on a nuclear device, it’s hardly comforting to reflect that a line against using nuclear weapons has been drawn – in the sand.

_____

Greg Mitchell is the author of more than a dozen books, including Atomic Cover-up (2011) and Hiroshima in America (1995). He is the former editor of Nuclear Times and of Editor & Publisher and writes a daily column at The Nation.

WhoWhatWhy plans to continue doing this kind of groundbreaking original reporting. You can count on us. Can we count on you? What we do is only possible with your support.

Please click to donate: http://www.whowhatwhy.com/donate. It’s tax deductible. And it packs a punch.

Copyright (c) 2009-2011 WhoWhatWhy. All rights reserved.

http://whowhatwhy.com/2014/03/31/death-suffering-living-color/

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A Hole in American History: Part Two of Three

How They Hid the Worst Horrors of Hiroshima

by Greg Mitchell

Who What Why (March 26 2014)

The second installment of our series on how the worst devastation caused by the Atomic bomb was deliberately concealed from Americans for decades.

On the morning of August 6 1945, a B-29 dropped an atomic bomb over the center of Hiroshima, killing at least 70,000 civilians instantly and perhaps 50,000 more in the days and months to follow, the vast majority women and children. Three days later, the US exploded another atomic bomb over Nagasaki, slightly off target, killing 40,000 immediately and dooming tens of thousands of others. Within days, Japan had surrendered, and the US readied plans for occupying the defeated country – and documenting the first atomic catastrophe.

The American public knew little about conditions there beyond Japanese assertions that a mysterious affliction was attacking many of the survivors, claims that most Americans took to be propaganda. Newspaper photographs of victims were non-existent or censored. Life magazine would later observe that for years “the world … knew only the physical facts of atomic destruction”.  Many were still dying horribly from the new ‘A-Bomb disease’ – that is, the effects of radiation – or burns from the original blast. Tens of thousands of American troops occupied the two cities.  Few were urged to take precautions.

The Japanese newsreel company Nippon Eigasha was already shooting film in the two stricken cities. On October 24 1945, a US military policeman ordered a Japanese cameraman in Nagasaki to stop shooting. The US General Headquarters (GHQ) confiscated his film, and the rest of the 26,000 feet of Nippon Eigasha footage. An order banned all further filming. It was at this point that Lieutenant Daniel McGovern took charge.

McGovern – a director and member of Hollywood’s famed First Motion Picture Unit – was one of the first Americans to arrive in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He was with the US Strategic Bombing Survey, which was studying the effects of the air campaign against Germany and Japan.

When McGovern learned of the Japanese footage, he noted in a letter to his superiors that “the conditions under which it was taken will not be duplicated, until another atomic bomb is released under combat conditions”. He proposed hiring a Japanese crew to edit and “caption” the material, so it would have “scientific value”.

Later, McGovern was ordered by General Douglas MacArthur to document the results of the US air campaign in more than twenty Japanese cities. His crew would shoot exclusively on Kodachrome and Technicolor, rarely used at the time, even in Hollywood.  McGovern assembled a crew of eleven, including two civilians. Third in command was a young lieutenant from New York named Herbert Sussan.

Sussan told me that after their train pulled into Nagasaki, “Nothing and no one had prepared me for the devastation I met there”.  He added, “We were the only people with adequate ability and equipment to make a record of this holocaust”.

McGovern’s crew documented the physical effects of the bomb, including ghostly shadows of vaporized civilians burned into wall. Even more chilling, dozens of hospital patients were asked to display their burns, scars, and other lingering effects for the camera as a warning to the world. A Japanese doctor at the Red Cross Hospital in Hiroshima traced the hideous red scars that covered several of the patients – then took off his shirt and displayed his own cuts and burns.

After sticking a camera on a rail car, the Americans filmed hair-raising tracking shots through the ruins that could have been lifted from a Hollywood horror movie.  The Chief cameraman working for the Americans was Japanese, Harry Mimura who, in 1943, had shot Sanshiro Sugata – the first feature film by a then-unknown director named Akira Kurosawa.

Meanwhile, that May, the Japanese newsreel team was completing the editing ordered by the US.  Several took the courageous step of getting the lab to secretly duplicate footage – and hiding it in a ceiling at the lab.

Deep-Sixing the Film

The following month, in June of 1946, McGovern hauled 90,000 feet of color footage to the Pentagon and submitted it to General Orvil Anderson. Locked away and declared top secret, it did not see the light of day for more than thirty years.

Fearful that his film might get “buried”, McGovern stayed on at the Pentagon as an aide to General Anderson, who was fascinated by the footage and at first had no qualms about showing it to the American people. Once the top brass screened it, however, most high-ranking officers didn’t want it widely shown.

The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was also opposed, according to McGovern. It nixed a Warner Brothers feature film based on the footage, while paying another studio about $80,000 to help make four “training” films to show US soldiers how such weapons might he used on the battlefield, and steps they’d need to take to prevent exposure to deadly radiation.

In a March 3 1947, memo given to me by McGovern, Francis E Rundell, a major in the Air Corps, explained that the film would be classified “secret”. This was determined “after study of subject material, especially concerning footage taken at Hiroshima and Nagasaki”.

The color footage was shipped to the Wright-Patterson base in Ohio. McGovern went along after being told to put an identification number on the film “and not let anyone touch it – and that’s the way it stayed”, as he put it. After cataloging it, he placed it into a vault in the top-secret area.

Herbert Sussan, now a top TV producer, became obsessed with finding this cache of unique documentary footage he helped make, and getting it aired. But his efforts kept running into walls. He wrote a letter to President Truman, suggesting that a film based on the footage

 

…would vividly and clearly reveal the implications and effects of the weapons that confront us at this serious moment in our history.

 

A reply from a Truman aide dashed those hopes, saying such a film would lack “wide public appeal”. The White House also censored the first Hollywood movie, an MGM epic, about the bomb, as I wrote recently:

http://whowhatwhy.com/2014/03/09/bombing-hiroshima-got-hollywood-makeover/

McGovern, meanwhile, continued to “babysit” the film, as he put it, now at Norton Air Force base in California.

The Phantom Film

Starting in the 1950s, the Japanese government repeatedly asked the US for the full release of their own film, known to the Japanese as “maboroshi”, or the “phantom” film.

Nuclear fears soared in the 1960s, driven in part by the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. But few in American media or governmental circles challenged the consensus view that dropping the bomb on two Japanese cities had been necessary.

On September 12 1967, the Air Force quietly transferred the Japanese footage to the National Archives Audio Visual Branch, with the stipulation that it was “not to be released without approval of DOD (Department of Defense)”.

Then, in the summer of 1968, Erik Barnouw, author of landmark histories of film and broadcasting, saw a clip from a Tokyo newspaper indicating that, after high-level governmental negotiations, the US had finally shipped to Japan a copy of black and white newsreel footage shot in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. When Barnouw learned that the original nitrate film stock had been quietly turned over to the National Archives – and was by then available – he went to take a look.

And he turned what he saw into a work of art – a subtle, quiet, even poetic film, created from a carefully selected sixteen of the original 160 minutes. Hiroshima-Nagasaki 1945, was a sketchy but quite moving document of the aftermath of the bombing, captured in grainy but often startling black and white images: shadows of objects or people burned into walls, ruins of schools, miles of razed landscape, with a montage of human effects clustered near the end for impact.

In the weeks ahead, however, none of the TV networks expressed interest in airing it. “Only NBC thought it might use the film”, Barnouw later wrote, “if it could find a ‘news hook’. We dared not speculate what kind of event this might call for.” But then an editorial in the Boston Globe blasted the networks’ reluctance. What was then called National Educational Television (NET) agreed to show the documentary on August 3 1970, to coincide with the twenty-fifth anniversary of the dropping of the bomb.

Panel Buries the Film’s Message

Hundreds of thousands of Americans finally got a chance to see this footage, although one TV station in Tampa aired it only after deleting the human effects segments.  And NET, against Barnouw’s wishes, aired a panel discussion immediately following his film, with most of the panelists backing the use of the bomb against Japan.

_____

Greg Mitchell is the author of more than a dozen books, including Atomic Cover-up (2011). He is the former editor of Nuclear Times and of Editor & Publisher and writes a daily column at The Nation.

WhoWhatWhy plans to continue doing this kind of groundbreaking original reporting. You can count on us. Can we count on you? What we do is only possible with your support.

Please click to donate: http://www.whowhatwhy.com/donate. It’s tax deductible. And it packs a punch.

Copyright (c) 2009-2011 WhoWhatWhy. All rights reserved.

http://whowhatwhy.com/2014/03/28/part-2-how-they-hid-the-worst-horrors-of-hiroshima/

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A Hole in American History: Part One of Three

Atomic Devastation Hidden For Decades

by Greg Mitchell

Who What Why (March 26 2014)

Dozens of hours of film footage shot in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the fall and winter of 1945-1946 by an elite US military unit was hidden for decades and almost no one could see it.  The raw footage, in striking color, languished in obscurity. As the writer Mary McCarthy observed, the atomic bombing of Japan nearly fell into “a hole in human history”.

As our nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union escalated, all that most Americans saw of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the same black-and-white images: a mushroom cloud, a panorama of emptiness, a battered building topped with the skeleton of a dome – mainly devoid of people.

Once top secret, the shocking images now carry an “unrestricted” label. You have, quite possibly, seen a few seconds of clips on television or in film documentaries. If so, those images may be burned into your mind. Yet no one was allowed to view them when the horror they captured might have prevented more horror by slowing down or even halting the nuclear arms race.

Compounding the cover-up, the American military seized all of the black-and-white footage of the cities shot by the Japanese in the immediate aftermath of the bombings. They hid the film away for many years. It was known in Japan as the maboroshi, or “phantom”, film. It, too, rests in the National Archives today.

“Never again”. At least not with outmoded bombs.

To find out how and why all of this historic footage was suppressed for so long, I tracked down the man who oversaw the handling of both the Japanese and American film. His name is Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Daniel A McGovern. He told me that high officials in the Pentagon “didn’t want those images out because,

 

… they showed effects on man, woman and child … They didn’t want the general public to know what their weapons had done – at a time they were planning on more bomb tests.

 

Not incidentally, those planned tests were designed to help the US military build bigger and better nuclear bombs.

McGovern also said,

 

We didn’t want the material out because … we were sorry for our sins.

 

The secret color footage (see some of the footage below) was finally shown to the public, however limited, on June 2 1982. The New York City  screening coincided with the high point of the antinuclear movement.

In response to an escalating arms race stoked by a new president, Ronald Reagan, who said a nuclear war with the Soviets was “winnable” – a “nuclear freeze” campaign had been organized in hundreds of cities and towns. It captured the imagination of the media and a massive anti-nuclear march in Manhattan was set for June 12.

Despite this campaign, few in America challenged the view that dropping the bomb had been necessary. When Hiroshima and Nagasaki were invoked, even within the antinuclear movement, it was usually not to condemn, but merely to declare: never again.

No matter what one thought of Truman’s decision in 1945, this much was clear: endorsing the bombings and saying “never again” did not fit together comfortably. Washington, after all, maintained its “first-use” nuclear option, and still embraces it today.

According to this policy, under certain circumstances the United States can strike first with nuclear weapons – and ask questions later. In other words, there is no real taboo against using the bomb.

Ten days before the June 12 march, a few dozen Americans first saw some of the historic color footage shot by the American military – but not in an American film.

It was the Japanese who put together the film, and only because of a chance meeting in New York between Herbert Sussan – who, as a young soldier, helped shoot some of the 1946 footage – and a Japanese activist.  When the activist learned of the secret film from Sussan, he lead a mass movement in Japan to raise enough money to copy 90,000 feet of it. (They also purchased a copy of the suppressed, black-and-white film shot by the Japanese newsreel team.) The film was shown at the Japan Society in Manhattan.  It was called “Prophecy”.

At the Japan Society, the now elderly Sussan, who had become a pioneering TV director at CBS, told the audience,

 

I have waited so long for this moment. For years, all of my own efforts to obtain this unique footage to show the American people have been frustrated. This film has been locked in vaults, declared classified and held away from the public. I am pleased that the world will finally see a small bit of what the true reality of the nuclear age really is …

I felt that if we did not capture this horror on film, no one would ever really understand the dimensions of what had happened.

 

Then they rolled the film. The footage revealed miles of devastation dotted by rubble and twisted girders, close-ups of artifacts – blackened statues, a collapsed church or school – and victims displaying their inflamed scars. Doctors in shattered hospitals bandaged horrendous-looking wounds.

The distinctive, rubbery keloid scars left by burns on faces and arms looked all the more painful in blazing color.

Patients, most of them women and children, exposed to the camera their scarred faces and seared trunks. They acted stoic, dignified, yet their intense gaze suggested deep wells of bitterness at the US for dropping the bomb – or perhaps at Sussan for subjecting them to this further humiliation. Or was it both?

A Film That Flopped?

Despite a good turnout that day, there was very little, if any, coverage about “Prophecy” or Herbert Sussan in the days that followed, despite its announcement in The New York Times‘ “Going Out Guide” the day it was to be shown, along with other Japanese films on the bombing.

Weeks passed. The nuclear freeze campaign continued to grow, and that October, I was named editor of the leading antinuclear magazine in the country, Nuclear Times. When I took over, the first major story I assigned was a profile of Herbert Sussan.

When I reached Sussan by telephone, he sounded edgy, maybe a little scared. He had recently retired and was ill, he said, with a form of lymphoma “they are finding in soldiers exposed to radiation”.

_____

Greg Mitchell is the author of more than a dozen books, including Atomic Cover-up (2011). He is the former editor of Nuclear Times and of Editor & Publisher and writes a daily column at The Nation.

Copyright (c) 2009-2011 WhoWhatWhy. All rights reserved.

http://whowhatwhy.com/2014/03/26/atomic-devastation-hidden-decades/

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The Deindustrialization of America

2014/04/10 1 comment

Shocking Facts that Everyone Should Know

by Michael Snyder

The Economic Collapse (April 03 2014)

How long can America continue to burn up wealth?  How long can this nation continue to consume far more wealth than it produces?  The trade deficit is one of the biggest reasons for the steady decline of the US economy, but many Americans don’t even understand what it is.  Basically, we are buying far more stuff from the rest of the world than they are buying from us.  That means that far more money is constantly leaving the country than is coming into the country.  In order to keep the game going, we have to go to the people that we bought all of that stuff from and ask them to lend our money back to us.  Or lately, we just have the Federal Reserve create new money out of thin air.  This is called “quantitative easing”.  Our current debt-fueled lifestyle is dependent on this cycle continuing.  In order to live like we do, we must consume far more wealth than we produce.  If someday we are forced to only live on the wealth that we create, it will require a massive adjustment in our standard of living.  We have become great at consuming wealth but not so great at creating it.  But as a result of running gigantic trade deficits year after year, we have lost tens of thousands of businesses, millions upon millions of jobs, and America is being deindustrialized at a staggering pace.

Most Americans won’t even notice, but the latest monthly trade deficit increased to 42.3 billion dollars …

 

The US trade deficit climbed to the highest level in five months in February as demand for American exports fell while imports increased slightly.

The deficit increased to $42.3 billion, which was 7.7% above the January imbalance of $39.3 billion, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

 

When the trade deficit increases, it means that even more wealth, even more jobs and even more businesses have left the United States.

In essence, we have gotten poorer as a nation.

Have you ever wondered how China has gotten so wealthy?

Just a few decades ago, they were basically a joke economically.

So how in the world did they get so powerful?

Well, one of the primary ways that they did it was by selling us far more stuff than we sold to them.  If we had refused to do business with communist China, they never would have become what they have become today.  It was our decisions that allowed China to become an economic powerhouse.

Last year, we sold 122 billion dollars of stuff to China.

That sounds like a lot until you learn that China sold 440 billion dollars of stuff to us.

We fill up our shopping carts with lots of cheap plastic trinkets that are “made in China”, and they pile up gigantic mountains of our money which we beg them to lend back to us so that we can pay our bills.

Who is winning that game and who is losing that game?

Below, I have posted our yearly trade deficits with China since 1990.  Let’s see if you can spot the trend …

1990: 10 billion dollars

1991: 12 billion dollars

1992: 18 billion dollars

1993: 22 billion dollars

1994: 29 billion dollars

1995: 33 billion dollars

1996: 39 billion dollars

1997: 49 billion dollars

1998: 56 billion dollars

1999: 68 billion dollars

2000: 83 billion dollars

2001: 83 billion dollars

2002: 103 billion dollars

2003: 124 billion dollars

2004: 162 billion dollars

2005: 202 billion dollars

2006: 234 billion dollars

2007: 258 billion dollars

2008: 268 billion dollars

2009: 226 billion dollars

2010: 273 billion dollars

2011: 295 billion dollars

2012: 315 billion dollars

2013: 318 billion dollars

Yikes!

It has been estimated that the US economy loses approximately 9,000 jobs for every one billion dollars of goods that are imported from overseas, and according to the Economic Policy Institute, America is losing about half a million jobs to China every single year.

Considering the high level of unemployment that we now have in this country, can we really afford to be doing that?

Overall, the United States has accumulated a total trade deficit with the rest of the world of more than eight trillion dollars since 1975.

As a result, we have lost tens of thousands of businesses, millions of jobs and our economic infrastructure has been absolutely gutted.

Just look at what has happened to manufacturing jobs in America.  Back in the 1980s, more than twenty percent of the jobs in the United States were manufacturing jobs.  Today, only about nine percent of the jobs in the United States are manufacturing jobs.

And we have fewer Americans working in manufacturing today than we did in 1950 even though our population has more than doubled since then …

Many people find this statistic hard to believe, but the United States has lost a total of more than 56,000 manufacturing facilities since 2001.

Millions of good paying jobs have been lost.

As a result, the middle class is shriveling up, and at this point nine out of the top ten occupations in America pay less than $35,000 a year.

For a long time, US consumers attempted to keep up their middle class lifestyles by going into constantly increasing amounts of debt, but now it is becoming increasingly apparent that middle class consumers are tapped out.

In response, major retailers are closing thousands of stores in poor and middle class neighborhoods all over the country.  You can see some amazing photos of America’s abandoned shopping malls right here.

If we could start reducing the size of our trade deficit, that would go a long way toward getting the United States back on the right economic path.

Unfortunately, Barack Obama has been negotiating a treaty in secret which is going to send the deindustrialization of America into overdrive.  The Trans-Pacific Partnership is being called the “Nafta of the Pacific”, and it is going to result in millions more good jobs being sent to the other side of the planet where it is legal to pay slave labor wages.

According to Professor Alan Blinder of Princeton University, forty million more US jobs could be sent offshore over the next two decades if current trends continue.

So what will this country look like when we lose tens of millions more jobs than we already have?

US workers are being merged into a giant global labor pool where they must compete directly for jobs with people making less than a dollar an hour with no benefits.

Obama tells us that globalization is good for us and that Americans need to be ready to adjust to a “level playing field”.

The quality of our jobs has already been declining for decades, and if we continue down this path the quality of our jobs is going to get a whole lot worse and our economic infrastructure will continue to be absolutely gutted.

At one time, the city of Detroit was the greatest manufacturing city on the entire planet and it had the highest per capita income in the United States.  But today, it is a rotting, decaying hellhole that the rest of the world laughs at.

In the end, the rest of the nation is going to suffer the same fate as Detroit unless Americans are willing to stand up and fight for their economy while they still can.

Links:

The original version of this article, at the URL below, contains many links to further information not included here.

http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/archives/shocking-facts-about-the-deindustrialization-of-america-that-everyone-should-know

Categories: Uncategorized

And the Next Big Thing Is … Degrowth?

by Charles Hugh Smith

http://www.washingtonsblog.com (April 07 2014)

This is not doom-and-gloom for society – it is only doom-and-gloom for the current unsustainable arrangement (Plan A).

The Grand Narrative of the past few centuries goes something like this: From religious authority to secular authority, from agriculture to industrial, from rural to urban, from local to global, from periphery to center, from decentralized to centralized, from low-density energy to high-density energy (from wood to coal to oil/natural gas), from industrial to communication technology, from gold to fiat currencies, from linear to non-linear (complex/fractal), from local scarcity and high cost to global abundance, from islands of prosperity to continents of prosperity, from cash to credit, from collateral to leverage, from productive to consumerist and from sustainable to unsustainable.

Many of these linear trends are running out of oxygen or reversing. Rigid hierarchies are being disrupted by self-organizing systems, centralization is being disrupted by decentralization, lower density alternative energy is distributed rather than concentrated, commodity costs are rising globally due to demand outstripping supply and leveraged credit is destabilizing financial systems across the globe.

In the past few decades, the growth narrative has depended on “the Next Big Thing” – the new disruptive technology that drives wealth and job creation.

In the early 20th century, the next big things were plentiful, and they clustered around transport and communication: autos, highways, aircraft, radio, telephony and most recently the Internet.

The progress of technologies tends to track an S-Curve, with a slow gestation (experimentation that drives rapid evolution of innovations), a period of widespread adoption and technological leaps, and then a maturation phase in which advancements are refinements rather than leaps.

Air travel is a good example: The leap from open-cockpit aircraft of the 1910s to the long-distance comfort of the DC-3 in the 1930s was enormous, as was the leap from the prop-driven DC-3 to the greater capacity and speed of the 707 jet airliner.

But since the advent of the Boeing 727 in 1964 and the jumbo-jet 747 in 1969, very little about the passenger experience of flight has changed (or has changed for the worse): the envelope of speed is little changed, and efficiency has improved, but these are mostly invisible to the passengers.

My 1977 Honda Accord was extremely safe, reliable, powerful, efficient, comfortable, et cetera. Improvements in the past 37 years since have been modest in these fundamental technologies. (I actually prefer the smaller, older, less luxurious Accords.)

Once computers reached the Mac OS X/Windows XP level, improvements have been of marginal utility. The lack of blockbuster medications – and the skepticism regarding the efficacy and cost of existing blockbuster meds – raise the same question: maybe the low-hanging fruit of present technologies have all been picked.

http://www.oftwominds.com/blogapr14/low-fruit4-14.html

http://www.oftwominds.com/blogdec12/no-more-growth12-12.html

The costs of our lifestyle continue to rise, due to financialization, cartel/fiefdom skimming, higher energy costs, bureaucratic bloat and related systemic causes. At the same time, more of our collective consumption is being funded with debt, which is another way of saying that present consumption is being paid for with future income.

For the past two centuries, each Next Big Thing magically created more wealth and more jobs. The progression has been straightforward: production moves to lower-labor cost areas or is automated/mechanized, and labor moves to providing higher-value services.

What if we’ve run out of Next Big Things that generate more jobs? What if the next big thing is Degrowth, that is, consuming less and doing more with less? This is a problem, as the Status Quo has optimized only one pathway: higher consumption, costs and debt. Any reduction in any of these three collapses the system.

http://www.oftwominds.com/blogmay13/degrowth5-13.html

http://www.oftwominds.com/blognov13/growth11-13.html

http://www.oftwominds.com/blogfeb14/degrowth-market2-14.html

Labor-saving software/communication technology has chewed through much of production and is now feeding ravenously on the service sector. As costs inexorably rise, enterprise has only one real way to reduce costs: reduce labor. As a result, the current Big Thing – the world-wide web – is the first technology that is not creating more jobs than it eliminates.

Many smart people retain the faith that technology always creates more jobs than it destroys, but if we look at our daily lives, I see little evidence to support this faith. Thanks to technology, sole proprietors in information/design businesses can create the same output that took multiple people just twenty years ago.

http://www.oftwominds.com/blogsept11/human-face-of-jobless-9-11.html

http://www.oftwominds.com/blogaug13/social-recession8-13.html

http://www.oftwominds.com/blogmar13/10-best-employers3-13.html

http://www.oftwominds.com/blogdec13/Python-ate-job12-13.html

In my view, the Status Quo has no Plan B, not just from habit and the desire of those in power to retain power; we collectively have a failure of imagination. We cannot imagine a world that consumes less, generates fewer conventional jobs and reduces debt rather than creates more debt. The only strategy left in a systemic failure of imagination is to http://www.oftwominds.com/blogapr13/fail-spectacularly4-13.html.

http://www.oftwominds.com/blogjun13/SQ-doomed6-13.html

A Degrowth economy is not only entirely feasible in my view, it is the only way forward. The low-hanging fruit of Next Big Things have been picked, and wearable computing (Google glasses, et cetera) is simply not a global growth engine. Robotic vehicles will eradicate millions of jobs without creating any more jobs at all; manufacturing self-driving cars will add very little labor to the manufacturing process.

Wages are no longer an adequate means of distributing the surplus of an economy. But this is not doom-and-gloom for society – it is only doom-and-gloom for the current unsustainable arrangement (Plan A). Plan B is actually a better plan, though few are able to see that yet.

http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2014/04/next-big-thing-degrowth.html

Categories: Uncategorized

Information is Currency

Casting Sunlight on Secret Government and Its Contractors

by Ralph Nader

CounterPunch (March 27 2014)

Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once wrote: “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants”.

Indeed, openness and transparency are essential for a healthy and functioning democracy. Unfortunately, despite lofty initial campaign promises by the Obama administration, widespread government secrecy has only worsened in recent years and access to information by journalists and activists is disturbingly limited.

Last week was “Sunshine Week”  -  an initiative to bring attention and awareness  -  and light  -  to the issue of open government. Started in 2005 by The American Society of News Editors, Sunshine Week is an occasion to educate the public by articulating the many challenges faced by those who work to keep a watchful eye on the mechanisms of government. Sunshine Week coincides with “Freedom of Information Day” which happens every year on or around the birthday of founding father James Madison (March 16), who was a staunch advocate for open government.

Here are five areas where critical improvements in providing citizens access to information must be made:

1. Put the full text of government contracts online

When it comes to government spending and government contracts, the devil is in the details. Unfortunately, these details are often unavailable to the public. Free access to government contracts by taxpayers, the media, scholars, watchdog groups, and even other bidders would be an important step to publicize how our government does its business with taxpayer money. Putting the text of these contracts online would encourage fiscal responsibility, propagate better and fairer practices in contracting, provide taxpayers better savings and value, encourage active citizenship and hinder corruption. Each year hundreds of billions of dollars in federal government contracts, grants, leaseholds and licenses are awarded to corporations. Access to the terms of these deals should be readily available for public inspection.

The Digital Accountability and Transparency (DATA) Act is a bill that aims to improve the quality of publicly accessible government information, set uniform data standards, collect spending data, and examine the information to root out waste, fraud or abuse. It was introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Darrell Issa (Republican, California) and Representative Elijah Cummings (Democrat, Maryland) last year and passed in an overwhelming 388-1 vote. The bill, however, does not yet require the full text of government contracts to be put online. Senator Tom Coburn (Republican, Oklahoma) and Representative Issa both told me that they support giving citizens easy online access to the full text of government contracts, but actions speak louder than words. They should jointly offer an amendment to the DATA Act to make it easier for the American people to see where and how public officials are spending tax dollars. (There is precedent  -  when Barack Obama was in the Senate, he co-sponsored a bill with Tom Coburn to put the full text of government contracts online.)

2. Easy online access to voting records of Members of Congress.

Consider the arduous lengths many citizens must currently go through to simply compile the timely voting records of their members of Congress. In an age where there is a simple app for nearly everything, the lack of easy, searchable voting records on the websites of each member of Congress is unacceptable. How about a Congressional resolution revising the mandate for the Congress.gov website (formerly Thomas.gov) that could provide a database of Congressional voting records, searchable by member and subject, that is free, simple and easy to use? Members of Congress should then be required to provide a clear link to this information on their websites. If citizens can easily donate to electoral campaigns from their cell phone, they should be able to monitor the voting record of their representatives with equal ease. Notably, some members of Congress, such as Representative Frank Wolf (Republican, Virginia) make their voting record easily available on their websites. Unfortunately this is the exception, not the norm.

3. Improved responses to FOIA requests.

When President Obama took office, he declared that his administration would be the “most transparent in history”. Unfortunately, this turned out to be an overstatement. It was widely reported that last year the Obama administration denied a record number of Freedom of Information Act requests. What is their most cited reasoning for this lack of disclosure? “National security concerns”.

According to the Associated Press:

 

The administration cited more legal exceptions it said justified withholding materials and refused a record number of times to turn over files quickly that might be especially newsworthy. Most agencies also took longer to answer records requests, the analysis found. {1}

 

Years ago, the Navy refused to divulge to environmentalists the amount of sewage dumped into bays from naval bases. “National security concerns” was the same excuse then  -  the Navy brass were concerned about the Russians or Chinese using that data to determine how many sailors were stationed at a particular base. The environment suffered as a result of this government secrecy.

Check out Center for Effective Government’s 2014 Freedom of Information Act scorecard which found that out of fifteen federal agencies, none earned exemplary scores and only eight earned what is deemed “passing grades”. The highest graded agency  -  the Social Security Administration  -  received a “B”. The agencies that received a failing grade were: the Department of Labor, the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Archives and Records Administration, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of State. See the full report card {2}.

This lack of access should be considered unacceptable to all citizens who believe in a free democracy.

4. Public Access to Congressional Research Reports.

The Congressional Research Service regularly creates hundreds of reports on policy matters that are available exclusively to members of Congress and their staff. These reports, which are highly regarded for their quality, are generally unavailable to the public. (Occasionally, they are reproduced and sold by third parties or leaked to websites that freely make the reports available, such as Federation of American Scientists and National Council for Science and the Environment.) The CRS receives an annual budget of over $100 million to produce these reports, which the taxpayers cannot regularly use to educate themselves on legislative matters.

In the past, there has been legislation introduced to rectify this problem and to put these reports online for public use, but it has stalled in Congress. It’s time for another push so that this valuable research is available to all.

5. Preserve the people’s printer

In the past few decades, the Government Printing Office has shifted much of the information it provides online. As a result, it has printed less and even outsourced more of its printing work. The documents that are still printed are often unreasonably expensive.

While supporting the digital realm grants many Americans access to government documents, there are millions of people who do not have access to broadband internet. These “unconnected” people are often the most vulnerable and isolated members of our society  -  the poor, the elderly, and the rural. These Americans must not be left in the dark. See our report on this matter, titled The Peoples’ Printer: Time for a Reawakening {3}.

When the public has ready access to information about the inner workings of their government and the actions taken by their elected representatives, they can better voice their opinions and cast more informed votes. However, when this information remains concealed behind bureaucracy, red tape and veiled notions of national security, elected officials can more easily become beholden to corporate interests. An open government allows citizens better resources to exercise their civic powers and responsibilities. Let the people know! For information is currency of democracy.

Links:

{1} http://bigstory.ap.org/article/us-cites-security-more-censor-deny-records

{2} http://www.foreffectivegov.org/access-to-information-scorecard-2014

{3} http://csrl.org/2012/08/29/as-government-information-moves-online-millions-of-americans-disconnected-and-left-behind/
_____

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! (2009). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press, 2012). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/03/27/casting-sunlight-on-secret-government-and-its-contractors

Categories: Uncategorized
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