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The Cold War Redux?

Are Washington, Moscow, and Beijing Using the Global Arms Trade to Create a New Cold War?

by Michael T Klare

TomDispatch (May 30 2013)

Did Washington just give Israel the green light for a future attack on Iran via an arms deal?  Did Russia just signal its further support for Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime via an arms deal?  Are the Russians, the Chinese, and the Americans all heightening regional tensions in Asia via arms deals?  Is it possible that we’re witnessing the beginnings of a new Cold War in two key regions of the planet – and that the harbingers of this unnerving development are arms deals?

International weapons sales have proved to be a thriving global business in economically tough times.  According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), such sales reached an impressive $85 billion in 2011, nearly double the figure for 2010.  This surge in military spending reflected efforts by major Middle Eastern powers to bolster their armories with modern jets, tanks, and missiles – a process constantly encouraged by the leading arms manufacturing countries (especially the US and Russia) as it helps keep domestic production lines humming.  However, this familiar if always troubling pattern may soon be overshadowed by a more ominous development in the global arms trade: the revival of far more targeted Cold War-style weapons sales aimed at undermining rivals and destabilizing regional power balances.  The result, inevitably, will be a more precarious world.

Arms sales have always served multiple functions.  Valuable trade commodities, weapons can prove immensely lucrative for companies that specialize in making such products.  Between 2008 and 2011, for example, US firms sold $146 billion worth of military hardware to foreign countries, according to the latest CRS figures.  Crucially, such sales help ensure that domestic production lines remain profitable even when government acquisitions slow down at home.  But arms sales have also served as valuable tools of foreign policy – as enticements for the formation of alliances, expressions of ongoing support, and a way to lure new allies over to one’s side.  Powerful nations, seeking additional allies, use such sales to win the allegiance of weaker states; weaker states, seeking to bolster their defenses, look to arms deals as a way to build ties with stronger countries, or even to play one suitor off another in pursuit of the most sophisticated arms available.

Throughout the Cold War, both superpowers employed weapons transfers as a form of competition, offering advanced arms to entice regional powers to defect from each other’s alliance systems or to counter offers made by the other side.  Egypt, for example, was convinced to join the Soviet sphere in 1955 when provided with arms the West had refused to deliver.  In the late 1970s, it moved back into the American camp after Washington anted up far better weapons systems.

In those years, the Americans and the Soviets also used arms transfers to bolster key allies in areas of strategic confrontation like the Middle East.  Washington armed Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Iran when it was still ruled by the Shah; Russia armed Iraq and Syria. These transfers played a critical role in Cold War diplomacy and sometimes helped tilt the scales in favor of decisions to go to war.  In the Yom Kippur War of 1973, for example, Egypt, emboldened by an expanded arsenal of Soviet antitank missiles, attacked Israeli forces in the Negev desert.

In the wake of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, however, the commercial aspect of arms sales came to the fore.  Both Washington and Moscow were, by then, far more interested in keeping their military production lines running than in jousting for advantage abroad, so emphasis was placed on scoring contracts from those with the means to pay – mainly the major oil producers of the Middle East and Latin America and the economically expansive “tigers” of Asia.  Between 2008 and 2011, the CRS ranked the leading purchasers of conventional arms in the developing world this way: Saudi Arabia, India, the United Arab Emirates, Brazil, Egypt, and Venezuela.  Together, these six countries ordered $117 billion in new weaponry.

Arms Sales Take a New Path

Only recently has some version of great power dueling and competition started up again, and in the early months of 2013 it seems to be gaining momentum.  Several recent developments highlight this trend:

* In early May, Western intelligence sources revealed that Russia had supplied several batteries of advanced anti-ship cruise missiles to the embattled Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad.  Moscow had previously provided the Syrians with a version of the missile known as the Yakhont, but those delivered recently are said to be equipped with a more advanced radar that increases their effectiveness.  With those missiles, the Syrians should be in a better position to deter or counter any effort by international forces, including the United States, to aid anti-Assad rebels by sea or mount a naval blockade of Syria.  They are also said to be negotiating with the Russians for the purchase of advanced S-300 ground-to-air missiles, a weapons system that would greatly complicate air attacks on the country or the imposition of a no-fly zone.

Aside from its military significance, the Yakhont transfer suggests a new inclination on Moscow’s part to engage in provocative arms sales to advance its strategic goals – in this case, the survival of the Assad regime, Russia’s sole remaining ally in the region – even in the face of concerted Western opposition.  Employing tough language, Secretary of State John F Kerry warned the Russians against such action.  “We’ve made it crystal clear that we prefer that Russia would not supply them assistance”, he declared.  “That is on record”.  Despite such admonitions, Russian officials insist that they have no intention of halting arms deliveries to Assad.  “Russia enjoys good and strong military technical cooperation with Syria, and we see no reason today to reconsider it”, Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov told reporters.

* In April, during a visit to Jerusalem, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced a multibillion-dollar arms package for Israel.  Although its final details are still being worked out, it is expected to include V-22 “Osprey” tilt-rotor transport planes, KC-135 aerial refueling aircraft, and advanced radars and anti-radiation missiles for Israel’s strike aircraft.  “We are committed to providing Israel with whatever support is necessary for Israel to maintain military superiority over any state or coalition of states and non-state actors [in the region]”, Hagel told reporters when announcing the package.

The US has, of course, long been committed to Israel’s military superiority, so there was something ritualistic about much of Hagel’s performance in Jerusalem.  No less predictable were the complaints from Israeli military and intelligence sources that the package didn’t include enough new arms to satisfy Israel’s needs, or were of the wrong kind.  The V-22 Osprey, for example, was proclaimed by some to be of marginal military value.  Far more surprising was that no red flags went up in the media over what was included.  At least two of the items – the KC-135 refueling planes and the anti-radiation missiles (crucial weaponry for disabling an enemy’s air-defense radar system) – could only be intended for one purpose: bolstering Israel’s capacity to conduct a sustained air campaign against Iranian nuclear facilities, should it decide to do so.

At present, the biggest military obstacles to such an attack are that country’s inability to completely cripple Iranian anti-aircraft defense systems and mount sustained long-range air strikes.  The missiles and the mid-air refueling capability will go a long way toward eliminating such impediments.  Although it may take up to a year for all this new hardware to be delivered and come online, the package can only be read as a green light from Washington for Israel to undertake preparations for an attack on Iran, which has long been shielded from tougher UN sanctions by China and Russia.

* In March, Russia agreed to sell 24 Sukhoi Su-35 multi-role combat jets and four Lada-class diesel submarines to China on the eve of newly installed President Xi Jinping’s first official visit to Moscow.  Although details of the sale have yet to be worked out, observers say that it will represent the most significant transfer of Russian weaponry to China in a decade.  The Su-35, a fourth-generation stealth fighter, is superior to any plane now in China’s arsenal, while the Lada is a more advanced, quieter version of the Kilo-class sub it already possesses.  Together, the two systems will provide the Chinese with a substantial boost in combat quality.

For anyone who has followed Asian security affairs over the past few years, it is hard to view this deal as anything but a reaction to the Obama administration’s new Asian strategy, its “pivot” to the Pacific.  As announced by President Obama in a speech before the Australian Parliament in November 2011, it involves beefing-up the already strong US air and naval presence in the western Pacific – in, that is, waters off of China – along with increased US arms aid to American allies like Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, and South Korea.

Not surprisingly, China has responded by bolstering its own naval capabilities, announcing plans for the acquisition of a second aircraft carrier (its first began operational testing in late 2012) and the procurement of advanced arms from Russia to fill gaps in its defense structure.  This, in turn, is bound to increase the pressure on Washington from Japan, Taiwan, and other allies to provide yet more weaponry, triggering a classic Cold-War-style arms race in the region.

* On the eve of Secretary of State John Kerry’s June 24th visit to India, that country’s press was full of reports and rumors about upcoming US military sales.  Andrew Shapiro, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, was widely quoted as saying that, in addition to sales already in the pipeline, “we think there’s going to be billions of dollars more in the next couple of years”.  In his comments, Shapiro referred to Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, who, he said, was heading up an arms sales initiative, “which we think is making some good progress and will, hopefully, lead to an even greater pace of additional defense trade with India”.

To some degree, of course, this can be viewed as a continuation of weapons sales as a domestic economic motor, since US weapons companies have long sought access to India’s vast arms market.  But such sales now clearly play another role as well: to lubricate the US drive to incorporate India into the arc of powers encircling China as part of the Obama administration’s new Asia-Pacific strategy.

Toward this end, as Deputy Secretary of State William Burns explained back in 2011, “Our two countries launched a strategic dialogue on the Asia-Pacific to ensure that the world’s two largest democracies pursue strategies that reinforce one another”.  Arms transfers are seen by the leaders of both countries as a vital tool in the “containment” of China (though all parties are careful to avoid that old Cold War term).  So watch for Kerry to pursue new arms agreements while in New Delhi.

Repeating History

These are just some examples of recent arms deals (or ones under discussion) that suggest a fresh willingness on the part of the major powers to use weapons transfers as instruments of geopolitical intrusion and competition.  The reappearance of such behavior suggests a troubling resurgence of Cold War-like rivalries.  Even if senior leaders in Washington, Moscow, and Beijing are not talking about resurrecting some twenty-first-century version of the Cold War, anyone with a sense of history can see that they are headed down a grim, well-trodden path toward crisis and confrontation.

What gives this an added touch of irony is that leading arms suppliers and recipients, including the United States, recently voted in the UN General Assembly to approve the Arms Trade Treaty that was meant to impose significant constraints on the global trade in conventional weapons.  Although the treaty has many loopholes, lacks an enforcement mechanism, and will require years to achieve full implementation, it represents the first genuine attempt by the international community to place real restraints on weapons sales.  “This treaty won’t solve the problems of Syria overnight, no treaty could do that, but it will help to prevent future Syrias”, said Anna MacDonald, the head of arms control for Oxfam International and an ardent treaty supporter.  “It will help to reduce armed violence.  It will help to reduce conflict.”

This may be the hope, but such expectations will quickly be crushed if the major weapons suppliers, led by the US and Russia, once again come to see arms sales as the tool of choice to gain geopolitical advantage in areas of strategic importance.  Far from bringing peace and stability – as the proponents of such transactions invariably claim – each new arms deal now holds the possibility of taking us another step closer to a new Cold War with all the heightened risks of regional friction and conflict that entails.  Are we, in fact, seeing a mindless new example of the old saw: that those who don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it?

_____

Michael Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College, a TomDispatch regular, and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left (2012), now published in paperback by Picador. A documentary movie based on his book Blood and Oil (2005) can be previewed and ordered at http://www.bloodandoilmovie.com. You can follow Klare on Facebook by clicking http://www.facebook.com/pages/Michael-Klare/316344375093469

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Copyright 2013 Michael T Klare

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http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175705/

Categories: Uncategorized

American Soldiers Raped Their Way Across France

2013/05/31 1 comment

American World War Two GIs were dangerous sex-crazed rapists who the French feared as much as the Germans, explosive book claims

by Mail Foreign Service

Daily Mail (May 29 2013)

*  Book ‘debunks myth that the GI were manly and always behaved well’

*  By 1944 women in Normandy ‘filed complaints about rapes by US soldiers’

*  Debauchery, lawlessness and institutional racism are chronicled in book

*  Penned by Mary Roberts, a history professor at the University of Wisconsin

*  Veterans Affairs representative says there is ‘no way’ to reprimand the US soldiers

* Comes just after Sexual Assault Prevention Month in the US, where the military is under fire for string of high-profile assault cases

*  Japanese politician also just claimed that American soldiers used their women as ‘sex slaves’ during World War Two

Swapping stockings for kisses and teaching girls how to jive, American GIs were meant to be a welcome ray of sunshine in war-torn Europe.

But a new book has revealed the dark side of Europe’s liberation after the Second World War.

Professor Mary Louise Roberts, from the University of Wisconsin, said within months of D-Day ordinary French women came to fear their American ‘liberators’.

She tells how, by the summer of 1944, large numbers of women in Normandy filed complaints about rapes by US soldiers.

And their arrival prompted a wave of crime all over France, with American soldiers caught committing robberies and petty thefts.

Professor Roberts said:

 

My book seeks to debunk an old myth about the GI, thought of as a manly creature that always behaved well. The GIs were having sex anywhere and everywhere.

In the cities of Le Havre and Cherbourg, bad behaviour was common.

Women, including those who were married, were openly solicited for sex. Parks, bombed-out buildings, cemeteries and railway tracks were carnal venues.

People could not go out for a walk without seeing somebody having sex.

But the sex was not always consensual, with hundreds of cases of rape being reported.

 

The locals of Le Havre were shocked by the soldiers’ behaviour and wrote letters of protest to their mayor.

One complaint, from October 1945, said:

 

We are attacked, robbed, run over both on the street and in our houses.

This is a regime of terror, imposed by bandits in uniform.

 

Le Havre’s mayor, Pierre Voisin, complained to Colonel Thomas Weed – the commander of US troops in the region.

‘Scenes contrary to decency are unfolding in this city day and night’, Voisin wrote, adding it was ‘not only scandalous but intolerable’ that ‘youthful eyes are exposed to such public spectacles’.

The mayor suggested the Americans set up a brothel outside the city to avoid public outrage and contain the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. However although US officers publicly denounced the behaviour they did little to curtail it.

The book also claims the US army ‘demonstrated a deep and abiding racism’, suggesting they pinned a disproportionate number of rapes on black GIs.

Documents show that of 152 troops disciplined by the army for rape, 130 were black.

Professor Roberts said: ‘American propaganda did not sell the war to soldiers as a struggle for freedom but as a sexual adventure’.

She points out that The Stars and Stripes, the official newspaper of the US armed forces, taught soldiers German phrases like ‘waffen niederlegen’ meaning ‘throw down your arms’.

However the French phrases it recommended to soldiers included ‘you have charming eyes’, ‘I am not married’ and ‘are your parents at home?’ US magazine Life even fantasised that France was ‘a tremendous brothel’ inhabited by ‘40,000,000 hedonists, who spend all their time eating, drinking and making love’.

A cafe owner from Le Havre said at the time:

 

We expected friends who would not make us ashamed of our defeat. Instead, there came only incomprehension, arrogance, incredibly bad manners and the swagger of conquerors.

 

ONGOING PROBLEM: SEXUAL ASSAULTS IN THE MILITARY

The book, which was released in June, focuses specifically on the soldiers of World War Two and their interaction with the French people, but problems of sexual assault in the military persist to today, though now the victims are those in uniform as well.

The Pentagon is reeling from a series of sex-related scandals in recent weeks, including cases in which military advocates for victims of sexual assault were themselves accused of sex crimes.

Figures from the Department of Defense show a 37 per cent increase in reports of unwanted sexual contact, from groping to rape, last year. About 26,000 cases were reported in 2012.

‘Sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military are a profound betrayal – a profound betrayal – of sacred oaths and sacred trusts’, Mr Hagel said. ‘This scourge must be stamped out’.

His comments came a day after President Barack Obama delivered a similar message to graduates at the US Naval Academy in Maryland, saying sexual assault threatened to erode trust and discipline in America’s armed forces.

WIDESPREAD PROBLEM: JAPANESE MAYOR CLAIMS AMERICAN SOLDIERS USED WOMEN IN JAPAN AS ‘SEX SLAVES’ DURING WORLD WAR TWO

The book comes just one day after a Japanese politician sparked an international row after claiming the use of sex slaves during World War Two was justified has tried to shift the blame by accusing other country’s of using the same practice.

Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, co-leader of an emerging nationalist party, argued Japan’s wartime practice of forcing Asian women into prostitution was necessary to maintain military discipline and provide relaxation for soldiers.

But following the public outcry over his comments, the mayor has attempted to deflect criticism by accusing America and Britain of using sex slaves for its own soldiers.

He said: ‘It is a hard truth that even these nations used local women for sexual reasons. This is a historical fact and there is hard evidence that proves it was true.’

Historians say up to 200,000 women, mainly from the Korean Peninsula and China, were forced to provide sex for Japanese soldiers in military brothels. While some other World War Two armies had military brothels, Japan is the only country accused of such widespread, organized sexual slavery.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2332670/American-WWII-GIs-dangerous-sex-crazed-rapists-French-feared-Germans-explosive-book-claims.html

Categories: Uncategorized

The Japanese Financial System …

Is Beginning To Spin Wildly Out Of Control

by Michael Snyder

Economic Collapse (May 28 2013)

The financial system of the third largest economy on the planet is starting to come apart at the seams, and the ripple effects are going to be felt all over the globe. Nobody knew exactly when the Japanese financial system was going to begin to implode, but pretty much everyone knew that a day of reckoning for Japan was coming eventually. After all, the Japanese economy has been in a slump for over a decade, Japan has a debt to GDP ratio of well over 200 percent and they are spending about fifty percent of all tax revenue on debt service. In a desperate attempt to revitalize the economy and reduce the debt burden, the Bank of Japan decided a few months ago to start pumping massive amounts of money into the economy. At first, it seemed to be working. Economic activity perked up and the Japanese stock market went on a tremendous run. Unfortunately, there is also a very significant downside to pumping your economy full of money. Investors start demanding higher returns on their money and interest rates go up. But the Japanese government cannot afford higher interest rates. Without super low interest rates, Japanese government finances would totally collapse. In addition, higher interest rates in the private sector would make it much more difficult for the Japanese economy to expand. In essence, pretty much the last thing that Japan needs right now is significantly higher interest rates, but that is exactly what the policies of the Bank of Japan are going to produce.

There is a lot of fear in Japan right now. On Thursday, the Nikkei plunged 7.3 percent. That was the largest single day decline in more than two years. Then on Monday the index fell by another 3.2 percent.

And according to Business Insider {1}, things are not looking good for Tuesday at this point…

In post-close futures trading, the Nikkei has dropped by another couple hundred points {2}, and has dropped below 14,000.

Are we witnessing the beginning of a colossal financial meltdown by the third largest economy on the planet? The Bank of Japan is starting to lose control, and if Japan goes down hard the crisis could spread to Europe and North America very rapidly. The following is from a recent article by Graham Summers… {3}

As Japan has indicated, when bonds start to plunge, it’s not good for stocks. Today the Japanese Bond market fell and the Nikkei plunged seven percent. The entire market down seven percent … despite the Bank of Japan funneling $19 billion into it to hold things together.

This is what it looks like when a Central Bank begins to lose control. And what’s happening in Japan today will be coming to the US in the not so distant future.

If you think the Fed is not terrified of this, think again. The Fed has pumped over $1 trillion into foreign banks, hoping to stop the mess from getting to the US. As Japan is showing us, the Fed will fail.

Investors, take note … the financial system is sending us major warnings …

If you are not already preparing for a potential market collapse, now is the time to be doing so.

And all of this money printing is absolutely crushing the Japanese yen. Since the start of 2013, the yen has declined sixteen percent {4} against the US dollar, even though the US dollar is also being rapidly debased. Just check out this chart of the yen vs the US dollar. It is absolutely stunning …


http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Japanese-Yen-425×255.png

The term “currency war” is something that you are going to hear a lot more over the next few years, and what you can see in the chart above is only the beginning.

What the Bank of Japan is doing right now is absolutely unprecedented. It has announced that it plans to inject the equivalent of approximately $1.4 trillion {4} into the Japanese economy in less than two years.

As Kyle Bass {5} recently discussed, that dwarfs the quantitative easing {6} that the Federal Reserve has been doing…

What they’re doing represents seventy percent of what the Fed is doing here with an economy one third the size of ours.

The big problem for Japan will come when government bond yields really start to rise. The yield on ten-year government bonds has been creeping up over the past few months, and if they hit the 1.0% mark that will set off some major red flags.

Because Japan has a debt to GDP ratio of more than 200 percent, the only way that it can avoid a total meltdown of government finances is to have super low interest rates. The video posted below {7} does a great job of elaborating on this point …

 

 

It really is very simple. If interest rates rise substantially, Japan will be done.

Investor Kyle Bass {5} is one of those that have been warning about this for a long time …

There’s a fatalism, he says, in everyone he talks to in Japan. Their thinking is changing, and the way they talk to him about debt is changing. They already spend fifty percent of tax revenue on debt service.

If rates go up, it’s game over.

The financial problems in Cyprus and Greece are just tiny blips compared to what a major financial crisis in Japan would potentially be like. The Japanese economy is larger than the economies of Germany and Italy combined. If the house of cards in Japan comes tumbling down, trillions of dollars of investments all over the globe are going to be affected.

And what is happening right now in Japan should serve as a sober warning to the United States. Like Japan, the money printing that the Federal Reserve {8} has been doing has caused economic activity to perk up a bit and it has sent the stock market on an unprecedented run.

Unfortunately, no bubble that the Federal Reserve has ever created has been able to last forever. At some point, we will pay a very great price for all of the debt that the US government has been accumulating and all of the reckless money printing that the Fed has been engaged in.

So enjoy the calm before the storm while you still can.

It won’t last for long.

Notes:

{1} http://www.businessinsider.com/nikkei-futures-2013-5

{2} http://www.cmegroup.com/trading/equity-index/international-index/nikkei-225-dollar_quotes_globex.html

{3} http://gainspainscapital.com/2013/05/23/could-japan-trigger-a-global-financial-meltdown/

{4} http://money.cnn.com/2013/05/27/investing/japan-stocks/

{5} http://www.businessinsider.com/kyle-bass-you-have-to-be-sh-ing-me-2013-5

{6} http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/archives/tag/quantitative-easing

{7} http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=kpF7mkV4-EA

{8} http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/archives/category/federal-reserve

http://www.infowars.com/the-japanese-financial-system-is-beginning-to-spin-wildly-out-of-control/

Categories: Uncategorized

Japan: No Nuclear Workers?

Stricken Japan nuke plant struggles to keep staff

by Yuri Kageyama

Associated Press (May 23 2013)

Keeping the meltdown-stricken Fukushima nuclear plant in northeastern Japan in stable condition requires a cast of thousands. Increasingly the plant’s operator is struggling to find enough workers, a trend that many expect to worsen and hamper progress in the decades-long effort to safely decommission it.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (“Tepco”), the utility that runs the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant that melted down in March 2011 after being hit by a tsunami, is finding that it can barely meet the headcount of workers required to keep the three broken reactors cool while fighting power outages and leaks of tons of radiated water, said current and former nuclear plant workers and others familiar with the situation at Fukushima.

Construction jobs are already plentiful in the area due to rebuilding of tsunami ravaged towns and cities. Other public works spending planned by the government, under the “Abenomics” stimulus programs of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is likely to make well-paying construction jobs more abundant. And less risky, better paid decontamination projects in the region irradiated by the Fukushima meltdown are another draw.

Some Fukushima veterans are quitting as their cumulative radiation exposure approaches levels risky to health, said two long-time Fukushima nuclear workers who spoke to The Associated Press. They requested anonymity because their speaking to the media is a breach of their employers’ policy and they say being publicly identified will get them fired.

Tepco spokesman Ryo Shimizu denied any shortage of workers, and said the decommissioning is progressing fine.

“We have been able to acquire workers, and there is no shortage. We plan to add workers as needed”, he said.

The discrepancy may stem from the system of contracting prevalent in Japan’s nuclear industry. Plant operators farm out the running of their facilities to contractors, who in turn find the workers, and also rely on lower-level contractors to do some of their work, resulting in as many as five layers of contractors. Utilities such as Tepco know the final headcount – 3,000 people now at Fukushima Dai-ichi – but not the difficulties in meeting it.

Tepco does not release a pay scale at Fukushima Dai-ichi or give numbers of workers forced to leave because of radiation exposure. It does not keep close tabs on contracting arrangements for its workers. A December 2012 survey of workers that the company released found 48 percent were from companies not signed as contractors with the utility and the workers were falsely registered under companies that weren’t employing them. It is not clear if any laws were broken, but the government and Tepco issued warnings to contractors to correct the situation.

Hiroyuki Watanabe, a city assemblyman for Iwaki in Fukushima, who talks often to Fukushima Dai-ichi workers, believes the labor shortage is only likely to worsen.

“They are scrounging around, barely able to clear the numbers”, he said. “Why would anyone want to work at a nuclear plant, of all places, when other work is available?”

According to Watanabe, a nuclear worker generally earns about 10,000 yen ($100) a day. In contrast, decontamination work outside the plant, generally involving less exposure to radiation, is paid for by the environment ministry, and with bonuses for working a job officially categorized as dangerous, totals about 16,000 yen ($160) a day, he said.

Experts, including even the most optimistic government officials, say decommissioning Fukushima Dai-ichi will take nearly a half-century. Tepco acknowledges that the exact path to decommissioning remains unclear because an assessment of the state of the melted reactor cores has not yet been carried out.

Since being brought under control following the disaster, the plant has suffered one setback after another. A dead rat caused a power blackout, including temporarily shutting down reactor-cooling systems, and leaks required tons of water to be piped into hundreds of tanks and underground storage areas. The process of permanently shutting down the plant hasn’t gotten started yet and the work up to now has been one makeshift measure after another to keep the reactors from deteriorating.

Thousands of spent nuclear fuel rods that are outside the reactors also have to be removed and safely stored. Taking them out is complex because the explosions at the plant have destroyed parts of the structure used to move the rods under normal conditions. The process of taking out the rods, one by one, hasn’t even begun yet. The spent rods have been used as fuel for the reactors but remain highly radioactive.

One Fukushima Dai-ichi worker, who has gained a big following on Twitter because of his updates about the state of the plant since the meltdowns, said veteran workers are quitting or forced to cut back on working in highly radiated areas of the plant as their cumulative exposure rises.

“I feel a sense of responsibility to stick with this job”, he told Associated Press. “But so many people have quit. Their families wanted them to quit. Or they were worried about their children. Or their parents told him to go find another job.”

Known as “Happy-san” to his 71,500 Twitter followers, he has worked in the nuclear industry for twenty years, about half of that at Fukushima. He has worked at bigger contractors before, but is now at a mid-level contractor with about twenty employees, and has an executive level position.

“If things continue the way they are going, I fear decommissioning in forty years is impossible. If nuclear plants are built abroad, then Japanese engineers and workers will go abroad. If plants in Japan are restarted, engineers and workers will go to those plants”, he said in a tweet. Most of Japan’s nuclear plants were shut for inspections after the Fukushima disaster.

His cumulative radiation exposure is at more than 300 millisieverts. Medical experts say a rise in cancer and other illnesses is statistically detected at exposure of more than 100 millisieverts, but health damage varies by individuals. He was exposed to sixty millisieverts of radiation the first year after the disaster and gets a health checkup every six months.

Nuclear workers generally are limited to 100 millisieverts exposure over five years, and fifty millisieverts a year, except for the first year after the disaster when the threshold was raised to an emergency 100 millisieverts.

The workers handle the day-to-day work of lugging around hoses, checking valves and temperatures, fixing leaks, moving away debris and working on the construction for the equipment to remove the spent fuel rods.

Other jobs are already so plentiful that securing enough workers for even the more lucrative work decontaminating the towns around the plant is impossible, according to Fukushima Labor Bureau data.

During the first quarter of this year, only 321 jobs got filled from 2,124 openings in decontamination, which involves scraping soil, gathering foliage and scrubbing walls to bring down radiation levels.

“There are lots of jobs because of the reconstruction here”, said bureau official Kosei Kanno.

A former Fukushima Dai-ichi worker, who switched to a decontamination job in December, said he became fed up with the pay, treatment and radiation risks at the plant. He has ten years of experience as a nuclear worker, and grew up in Fukushima.

He warned it would be harder to find experienced people like him, raising the risk of accidents caused by human error.

He accused Tepco of being more preoccupied with cost cuts than with worker safety or fair treatment. The utility went bankrupt after the disaster and was nationalized by a government bailout. Even if Tepco somehow obtains workers in quantity in coming months, their quality would deteriorate, he said.

“We’re headed toward a real crisis”, said Ryuichi Kino, a free-lance writer and photographer who has authored books about the nuclear disaster and has reported on Tepco intensively since March 2011.

Under the worst scenario, experienced workers capable of supervising the work will be gone as they reach their radiation-exposure limits, said Kino.

He believes an independent company separate from Tepco needs to be set up to deal with the decommissioning, to make sure safety is not being compromised and taxpayer money is spent wisely.

Watanabe, the assemblyman, said the bigger nuclear contractors may go out of business because they are being under-bid by lower-tier companies with less experienced, cheaper workers. That is likely to worsen the worker shortages at the skilled level, he said.

Happy-san has the same fear. Some of the recent workers, rounded up by the lesser contractors, appear uneducated and can’t read well, he said.

Although life at the plant has calmed compared to right after the disaster, Happy-san still remembers the huge blast that went off when one of the reactors exploded, and rubble was showering from the sky for what felt like an eternity.

“We had opened the Pandora’s box. After all the evil comes out, then hope might be sitting there, at the bottom of the box, and someday we can be happy, even though that may not come during my lifetime”, he said.

___

Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/yurikageyama

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/stricken-japan-nuke-plant-struggles-keep-staff

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Economics and Armchair Psychology

by John Kozy

Global Research (May 16 2013)

 

Economics is haunted by more fallacies than any other study known to man.

— Henry Hazlitt

 

Over millennia, numerous enterprises have sought the status of science. Few have succeeded because they have failed to discover anything that stood up to scrutiny as knowledge. No body of beliefs, no matter how widely accepted or how extensive in scope, can ever be scientific.

In the Ptolemaic system of astronomy, the epicycle is a geometric model of the solar system and planetary motion. It was first proposed by Apollonius of Perga at the end of the third century BCE and its development continued until Kepler came up with a better model in the seventeenth century, and the geocentric model of the solar system was replaced by Copernican heliocentrism. In spite of some very good approximations to the problems of planetary motion, the system of epicycles could never get anything right.

Phrenology was originated by Franz Joseph Gall in the late 1700s. After examining the heads of a number of young pickpockets, Gall found that many of them had bumps on their skulls just above their ears and suggested that the bumps, indentations, and shape of the skull could be linked to different aspects of a person’s personality, character, and abilities. Gall measured the skulls of people in prisons, hospitals, and asylums and developed a system of 27 different “faculties” that he believed could be directly diagnosed by assessing specific parts of the head, and he chose to ignore any contradictory evidence. After Gall’s death in 1828, several of his followers continued to develop phrenology. Despite some brief popularity, it was eventually viewed as a pseudoscience much like astrology, numerology, and palmistry. All of these, too, could never get anything right.

Sigmund Freud was an Austrian neurologist who is known as the father of psychoanalysis which is a clinical method for treating psychopathology by having a patient talk to a psychoanalyst. Results on the mental health of patients were scanty at best. Some contend that Freud set back the study of psychology and psychiatry “by something like fifty years or more”, and that “Freud’s method is not capable of yielding objective data about mental processes”. Others consider psychoanalysis to be perhaps the most complex and successful pseudoscience in history. Karl Popper, who argued that all proper scientific theories must be potentially falsifiable, claimed that no experiment could ever disprove Freud’s psychoanalytic theories and thus were totally unscientific. Now Freud’s work has little relevance in psychiatry. It could never cure anyone. But it was not Freud who created a pseudoscience, it was the people who uncritically adopted his views.

Today the great fraudulent science is economics, but I don’t intend to beat that carcass. It has been shown not to be a science by numerous astute people. Even some renowned economists have been convinced of it. Paul Samuelson has said, “Economics has never been a science – and it is even less now than a few years ago”. Even Nassau William Senior knew it: “The confounding Political Economy with the Sciences and Arts to which it is subservient, has been one of the principal obstacles to its improvement”.

Yet many working economists continue to claim that it is or at least that it is more of a science than its siblings in the social enterprises of study. Perhaps these people feel that their work lacks dignity if it is not scientific, being unable to say exactly what it is if it is not science. So let’s look at some things that economists regularly do to see if what they are doing can be defined.

Jared Bernstein, with a PhD in Social Welfare from Columbia University, is not technically an economist but he has held many positions that an economist would usually hold. He was chief economist and economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden and a member of President Obama’s economic team. Prior to joining the Obama administration, he was a senior economist and the director of the Living Standards Program at the Economic Policy Institute. Between 1995 and 1996, he held the post of deputy chief economist at the US Department of Labor. His pieces are frequently posted on Economist’s View where I found a piece containing the following section:

 

… the deeper, and more interesting, reason one worries about too-low inflation right now comes out of the work of Ackerlof et al back in the mid-1990s. It has to do with sticky wages, something Keynes recognized as contributing to intractably high UK unemployment back in the early 1920s. Back in the mid-1990s, we also faced a period when price growth was slowing, and inflation hawks called for the Fed to set zero as their inflation target. Alan Greenspan apparently took it seriously, and internally debated the idea.

That inspired Ackerlof et al to think about what might happen in a zero inflation economy, and what they found was that it would engender significant costs in terms of unemployment and growth.

The reason that zero inflation creates such large costs to the economy is that firms are reluctant to cut wages. In both good times and bad, some firms and industries do better than others. Wages need to adjust to accommodate these differences in economic fortunes. In times of moderate inflation and productivity growth, relative wages can easily adjust. The unlucky firms can raise the [nominal] wages they pay by less than the average, while the lucky firms can give above-average increases. However, if productivity growth is low (as it has been since the early 1970s in the United States) and there is no inflation, firms that need to cut their relative wages can do so only by cutting the money [that is, nominal] wages of their employees. Because they do not want to do this, they keep relative wages too high and employment too low.

As long as there’s a little inflation in the system, “less fortunate” firms can give nominal wage increases below the rate of inflation, allowing them to adjust to harder times. With very low inflation, they don’t have the room to pull that off.

 

 

When I read this, I recognized that the fuzzy writing, which is always a symptom of bad thinking, lead to entirely the wrong conclusions. First we see that “firms are reluctant to cut wages”. Then we see that firms cut wages by giving “nominal wage increases below the rate of inflation” which, apparently, firms are not at all “reluctant” to do. The conclusion that aches to be drawn is that inflation allows firms to covertly reduce the wages of their employees, and it does that regardless of the firms’ financial conditions, since nothing prohibits any firm from giving raises below the rate of inflation. Bernstein wants the rate of inflation to be higher so employers can engage in this sneaky way of reducing the wages of their employees. Inflation is good for employers but bad for employees.

Bernstein is involved in equation adjusting, a prevalent practice among economists. An equation exists; economists call it a model. The equation, they believe, describes reality albeit in a simplistic way. When economic data is plugged into the equation, if both sides are unequal, one side, or sometimes both sides, must be adjusted to make both sides equal. I don’t know what specific equation Bernstein has in mind, but I know that one side describes, in mathematical terms, the economic conditions firms face, and the other side describes the costs of production. So when the side that describes the economic conditions the firms face declines, something on the other side must be reduced.

For Bernstein, it’s wages. But what has the equation to do with reality? Economists believe that their equations describe reality accurately, but no model ever comes accompanied by a proof that it does. As Keynes pointed out, “Too large a proportion of recent ‘mathematical’ economics are mere concoctions, as imprecise as the initial assumptions they rest on, which allow the author to lose sight of the complexities and interdependencies of the real world in a maze of pretentious and unhelpful symbols”. As others have pointed out, the map is not the territory.
When the model that Bernstein has in mind is combined with what economists call the Paradox of Thrift (the claim that saving benefits consumers but damages the economy and spending, which benefits the economy, damages consumers), it follows that Capitalism can never be made to function in a way that benefits all people.

Economic models are based on mere beliefs, many of which can never be known to be true. Consider the following claims for instance:

 

Nobody ever saw a dog make a fair and deliberate exchange of one bone for another with another dog. Nobody ever saw one animal by its gestures and natural cries signify to another, this is mine, that yours; I am willing to give this for that.

— Adam Smith

 

Every individual is continually exerting himself to find out the most advantageous employment for whatever capital he can command.

— Adam Smith

 

That every person is desirous to obtain, with as little sacrifice as possible, as much as possible of the articles of wealth.

— Nassau William Senior

 

Everyone wants to live at the expense of the state.

— Frederic Bastiat

 

 

People spend more when they feel wealthier, even if they’re not. Economists call this the “wealth effect”.

 

 

 

The consumption of the rich is no more than a scaled-up version of the consumption of the poor.

 

And then there’s this from Dani Rodrik:

 

Mainstream economists are often seen as ideologues of the market economy. I would concede that most of my economist colleagues tend to view markets as inherently desirable and government intervention as inherently unwelcome. But in reality what we teach our students in the classroom – the advanced students if not the undergraduates – and what we talk about in the seminar room are typically much more about the myriad ways in which markets fail.

 

How could anyone know any of these things? Did Adam Smith spend a lot of time observing the behavior of dogs? And even if he did, what would that have taught him about trade? In what sense do public school teachers or nurses continually exert themselves to find out the most advantageous employment for whatever capital s/he can command? How many readers of this piece want to live at the expense of the state? And how many economics teachers have had their teaching observed by Professor Rodrik? No evidence exists for the truth of any of these examples.

So why do economists make claims like these? Is it because these claims describe how they themselves would behave if given the opportunity? Was Bastiat spectacularly lazy? Was Smith really a greedy man? If those who make such claims wouldn’t have acted in the ways they described, wouldn’t they then know that the claims were false?

These all are unprovable claims about human (or canine) nature. Economics as we know it is nothing but claims about how human beings will act in given circumstances. As such, it is nothing but armchair psychology, and the psychology is based on the psychological attributes of the economists making the claims. Greedy people believe that all people are. Dishonest people believe that all people are. Corrupt people believe that all people are. Evil people believe that all people are. But, you know, they’re wrong! Paul Bloom, a professor of psychology at Yale, says:

 

When it comes to accepting or changing the status quo … [people] tended to “defer to experts or the community”. Economists assume that “everything is subject to market pricing unless proven otherwise …  The problem is not that economists are unreasonable people, it’s that they’re evil people …  They work in a different moral universe.

 

Martin Feldstein tells us how its all supposed to work:

 

When the Fed buys long-term government bonds and mortgage-backed securities, private investors are no longer able to buy those long-term assets. Investors who want long-term securities therefore have to buy equities [stocks]. That drives up the price of equities, leading to more consumer spending [wealth effect].

 

But it doesn’t work, does it?

Economists have been carrying coal to Newcastle since Adam Smith provided English merchants with a rationalization of what they had always wanted to do – treat their fellow human beings as beasts of burden. Economists continue to perform the same function.

 

Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.

— John Maynard Keynes

 

Economics is not about economy; it is a way or organizing society. Our economists have resuscitated an old social order. We live in a neofeudal world where the elite rentier group lives in manor mansions and everyone else is a serf.

_____

John Kozy is a retired professor of philosophy and logic who writes on social, political, and economic issues. After serving in the US Army during the Korean War, he spent twenty years as a university professor and another twenty years working as a writer. He has published a textbook in formal logic commercially, in academic journals and a small number of commercial magazines, and has written a number of guest editorials for newspapers. His on-line pieces can be found on http://www.jkozy.com/ and he can be emailed from that site’s homepage.

Copyright (c) 2013 Global Research

Global Research | Post Office Box 55019 | 11 Notre-Dame Ouest | Montreal | Quebec | H2Y 4A7 | Canada

http://www.globalresearch.ca/economics-and-armchair-psychology/5335230

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Let’s All Go Medieval

2013/05/29 1 comment

Comment on Current Events by the Author of The Long Emergency (2005)

by James Howard Kunstler

Clusterfuck Nation (May 27 2013)

That voice! All a’quiver with the dread of self-knowledge that it is confabulating a story, much like the “money” that his Open Market Committee spins out of the increasingly carbonized air. His words fill the vacuum of the collectively blank American mind, where hopes and dreams spin like debris in an Oklahoma twister, only to fall incoherently on a landscape of man-made ruins. If Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke were hooked up to a polygraph machine when he made a public statement – such as last Wednesday’s testimony before congress – I bet the output graph would look something like a seismic record of the 9.0 Fukushima megathrust, all fretful spikes and dips.

When historians of the future ponder our fate around their campfires, they will marvel that this society invited such a temporizing little nerd to act as its Oracle-in-Chief … that he made periodic visits to sit before the poobahs of the land, and issued prophesies that nobody could really understand – and that the fate of the people in this land hung on his muttered ambiguities. Let’s face it: people need oracles when they don’t know what the fuck is going on.

What’s going on is as follows: America’s central bank is trying to compensate for a floundering economy that will never return to its prior state. The economy is floundering because its scale and mode of operation are no longer consistent with what reality offers in the way of available resources at the right price, especially oil. So, rather than change the scale and mode of operations in this economy – that is, do things differently – we try to keep doing things the same by flushing more “money” into the system, as though it were a captive beast receiving nutriment.

One problem with that is that the “money” is no longer money. That is, it’s not really an effective store of value, or pricing reference. It remains for the moment a medium of exchange, but the persons exchanging it grow suspicious of what this “money” purports to represent. Does it stand for promises of future repayment? Hmmmm. Those promises are looking sketchy lately, especially since this is an economy that does not generate enough new real wealth to make the interest payments, let alone manage to pay back the principal. Is it a claim on future work? Some are afraid that the future work deliverable will be less than they expect. Whatever else it is, does it find respect in other societies where different money is used?

These questions are making a lot of people nervous these days. Of course, a time will come when all matters concerning this particular incarnation of money will be seen as strictly ceremonial. Ben Bernanke, we will understand, was not stating facts before congress but rather singing a song, or rather chanting in a low, repetitive, tedious way in the primal manner of a frightened person trying to comfort himself with reassuring sound – that is, prayer. You’d be surprised how well that goes over in a place like congress, which is stuffed with prayerful characters, people who exist in a religious delirium. These are not the people who are nervous, by the way. The nervous tend to be more secular, and inhabit the margins of life where unconventional thinking thrives weedlike at a remove from all the mental toxicity at the center.

These nervous ones are looking ever more closely these days at the distant nation of Japan, where an interesting scenario is playing out: the last days of a giant industrial-technocratic economy. The story there is actually pretty simple if you peel away the quasi-metaphysical bullshit it comes wrapped in these days from astrologasters like John Mauldin and Paul Krugman, viz Japan has no fossil fuel resources. Zip. You can’t run their kind of economy without the stuff. And they can’t. Japan is crapping out, as they say in Las Vegas. Tilt! Game over. As this happens, Japan issues a lot of distracting financial noise that involves evermore “creation” of their own “money”, and the knock-on effects of that, but it’s all just noise. Japan’s only good choice is to go medieval, that is, to give up on the rather hopeless 150-year-long project of being an industrial-technocratic modern super-state, and go back to being an island of a beautiful artistic hand-made culture. I call that “going medieval”, though you could quibble as to whether that’s the best word for it, since I’m not talking about cathedrals or crusades.

One of Japan’s other choices is to “go mad-dog”, something they actually tried back in the mid-twentieth century. It didn’t work out too well then. The Japanese leadership is making noises about “re-arming”, and a nice state of conflict is already simmering between them and their age old rivals-victims next door in China, a country that has lately enjoyed the upper hand in the industrial-techno racket (though it will be faced with the same choices as Japan not too many years hence). Do the Japanese start another world war on their side of the planet? Let’s hope not. Let’s hope they lay down their robotics and their nuclear reactors gently and go back to making netsuke. Just give it up and do things differently – after all, that’s what all the human beings on the planet have to do now.

For what it’s worth, Japan’s stock market has tanked a hearty fourteen percent in the past five days, if that means anything, and I’m not sure it does considering the aforesaid “noise”, but there you have it. Our own stock markets are mercifully closed this holiday, having given American worriers an extra day of anxious reflection on the state of things out there. My own opinion is that we’re all going medieval sooner rather than later and the big remaining question is how much of a mess we’ll make on the journey to it.

Also, personally, I don’t like these manufactured holidays when the landscape is cluttered with morons enjoying motorsports. I’ll be working today, and grateful when it blows over.

_____

 

Note: This blog (and JHK website as a whole)  will be getting a design upgrade in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, for technical reasons the comments department is temporarily suspended.

For a complete list of books by James Howard Kunstler and purchase links, click http://www.kunstler.com/books.php

http://kunstler.com/blog/2013/05/lets-all-go-medieval.html

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Media Disinformation and the Conspiracy Panic Phenomenon

by James F Tracy

Global Research (May 24 2013)

To posit that one’s government may be partially composed of unaccountable criminal elements is cause for serious censure in polite circles. Labeled “conspiracy theories” by a corporate media that prompt and channel emotionally-laden mass consent, such perspectives are quickly dispatched to the memory hole lest they prompt meaningful discussion of the political prerogatives and designs held by a global power elite coordinating governments and broader geopolitical configurations.

Cultural historian Jack Bratich terms such phenomena “conspiracy panics”. Potentially fostered by the coordinated actions of government officials or agencies and major news organs to generate public suspicion and uncertainty, a conspiracy panic is a demonstrable immediate or long-term reactive thrust against rational queries toward unusual and poorly understood events. To be sure, they are also intertwined with how the given society acknowledges and preserves its own identity – through “the management and expulsion of deviance”. {1}

In the American mass mind, government intelligence and military operations are largely seen as being directed almost solely toward manipulation or coercion of unfortunate souls in foreign lands. To suggest otherwise, as independent researchers and commentators have done with the assassination of President John F Kennedy, the CIA-Contra-crack cocaine connection, and 9/11, has been cause for sustained conspiracy panics that act to suppress inquiry into such events by professional and credentialed opinion leaders, particularly journalists and academics.

At the same time a conspiracy panic serves a subtle yet important doctrinal function of manifesting and reproducing the apt ideational status quo of the post-Cold War, “War on Terror” era. “The scapegoating of conspiracy theories provides the conditions for social integration and political rationality”, Bratich observes.

 

Conspiracy panics help to define the normal modes of dissent. Politically it is predicated on a consensus of ‘us’ over against a subversive and threatening ‘them’. {2}

 

These days especially the suggestion that an official narrative may be amiss almost invariably puts one in the enemy camp.

Popular Credence in Government Conspiracy Narratives

The time for a conspiracy panic to develop has decreased commensurately with the heightened spread and availability of information and communication technology that allows for the dissemination of news and research formerly suppressed by the perpetual data overload of corporate media. Before the wide access to information technology and the internet, independent investigations into events including the JFK assassination took place over the course of many years, materializing in book-length treatments that could be dismissed by intelligence assets in news media and academe as the collective activity of “conspiracy buffs” – amateurish researchers who lack a government or privately-funded sinecure to overlook or obscure inquiry into deep events.

Not until Oliver Stone’s 1991 blockbuster film JFK, essentially an adoption of works by author Jim Marrs, Colonel L Fletcher Prouty, and New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, did a substantial conspiracy panic take shape as a response to such analysis thrust upon the public in popular narrative form. This panic arose from and centered around Hollywood’s apt challenge to traditional journalism’s turf alongside commercial news outlets’ typically deceptive interpretation of the event and almost wholly uncritical treatment of the Warren Commission Report.

Shortly thereafter investigative journalist Gary Webb’s “Dark Alliance” series for the San Jose Mercury News demonstrated the internet’s capacity to explain and document a government conspiracy. With Webb’s painstaking examination of the CIA’s role in the illicit drug trade hyperlinked to a bevy of documentation and freely distributed online, the professional journalistic community and its intelligence penumbra fell silent for months.

In the interim the story picked up steam in the non-traditional outlets of talk radio and tabloid television, with African Americans especially intrigued by the potential government role in the crack cocaine epidemic. Then suddenly major news outlets spewed forth a vitriolic attack on Webb and the Mercury News that amazingly resulted in the Mercury’s retraction of the story and Webb’s eventual departure from the paper and probable murder by the US government. {3}

Criticism of Webb’s work predictably focused on petty misgivings toward his alleged poor judgment – specifically his intimation that the CIA intentionally caused the crack epidemic in African American communities, an observation that many blacks found logical and compelling. So not only did Webb find himself at the center of a conspiracy panic because of his assessment of the CIA’s role in the drug trade; he was also causing mass “paranoia” within African American communities allegedly predisposed toward such thinking.

Since the mid-1990s conspiracy panics have increasingly revolved around an effort by mainstream news media to link unorthodox political ideas and inquiry with violent acts. This dynamic was crystallized in Timothy McVeigh, the principal suspect in the April 19, 1995 Oklahoma City Murrah Federal Building bombing, who through the propaganda-like efforts of government and major news media was constructed to symbolize the dangers of “extremist” conspiratorial thought (his purported fascination with white supremacism and The Turner Diaries) and violent terrorist action (the bombing itself). Conveniently overlooked is the fact that McVeigh was trained as a black ops technician and still in US Army employ at the time of his 2001 execution. {4}

Through a broad array of media coverage and subsequent book-length treatments by the left intelligentsia on the “radical right”, the alleged lone wolf McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing became forever coupled in the national memory. The image and event seemingly attested to how certain modes of thought can bring about violence – even though McVeigh’s role in what took place on April 19 was without question one part of an intricate web painstakingly examined by the Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee {5} and in the 2011 documentary A Noble Lie: Oklahoma City 1995.

The Quickening Pace of Conspiracy Panics

Independent researchers and alternative media utilizing the internet have necessitated the rapid deployment of conspiracy panic-like reactions that appear far less natural and spontaneous to neutralize inquiry and bolster the official narratives of momentous and unusual events. For example, wide-scale skepticism surrounding the May 1 2011 assault on Osama bin Laden’s alleged lair in Pakistan was met with efforts to cultivate a conspiracy panic evident in editorials appearing across mainstream print, broadcast, and online news platforms. The untenable event supported only by President Obama’s pronouncement of the operation was unquestioningly accepted by corporate media that shouted down calls for further evidence and alternative explanations of bin Laden’s demise as “conspiracy theories”.

Indeed, a LexisNexis search for “bin Laden” and “conspiracy theories” yields over five hundred such stories and opinion pieces appearing across Western print and broadcast media outlets for the week of May 2 2011. {6}

“While much of America celebrated the dramatic killing of Osama bin Laden”, the Washington Post opined, “the September 11 conspiracy theorists still had questions. For them and a growing number of skeptics, the plot only thickened.” {7}

Along these lines retired General Mark Kimmitt remarked on CNN, “Well, I’m sure the conspiracy theorists will have a field day with this, about why it was done? Was it done? Is he still alive?” {8}

“The conspiracy theorists are not going to be satisfied”, Glenn Beck asserted. “Next thing you know, Trump is going to ask for the death certificate, and is it the real death certificate? And then all hell breaks loose.” {9}

Like 9/11 or the Gulf of Tonkin, the narrative has since become a part of official history, disingenuously repeated in subsequent news accounts and elementary school history books – a history handed down from on high and accepted by compromised, unintelligent, or simply lazy journalists perpetuating nightmare fictions to a poorly informed and intellectually idle public.

This psycho-symbolic template is simultaneously evident in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and Boston Marathon bombing events and their aftermaths. Indeed, the brief yet intense Sandy Hook conspiracy panic, and to a lesser degree that of the Boston Marathon bombing, revolved at least partially around the “conspiracy theory professor”, who, as a credentialed member of the intellectual class, overstepped his bounds by suggesting how there are many unanswered questions related to the tragedies that might lead one to conclude – as social theorist Jean Baudrillard observed concerning the 1991 Gulf War – that the events did not take place, at least in the way official pronouncements and major media have represented them. It is perhaps telling that critical assessments of domestic events and their relatedness to a corrupt media and governing apparatus are so vigorously assailed.

Yet to suggest that the news and information Americans accept as sound and factual on a routine basis is in fact a central means for manipulating their worldviews is not a matter for debate. Rather, it is an empirically verifiable assertion substantiated in a century of public relations and psychological warfare research and practice. Such propaganda efforts once reserved for foreign locales are now freely practiced in the US to keep the population increasingly on edge.

Still, a significant portion of the population cannot believe their government would lie to or mislead them, especially about a traumatic and emotional event involving young children or running enthusiasts. To suggest this to be the case is not unlike informing a devoted sports fan that her team lost a decisive game after she’s been convinced of an overwhelming win. Such an allegation goes against not only what they often unconsciously accept to be true, but also challenges their substantial emotional investment in the given mediated event.

In a revealing yet characteristic move the reaction by corporate media outlets such as the New York Times, FoxNews, CNN, and in the case of the Boston Marathon bombing the New York Times-owned Boston Globe, has been not to revisit and critique their own slipshod coverage of the Newtown massacre or Boston Marathon bombing that often bordered on blatant disinformation, but rather to divert attention from any responsible self-evaluation by vilifying the messenger in what have been acute conspiracy panics of unusual proportion.

As a disciplinary mechanism against unsettling observations and questions directed toward political leaders and the status quo, conspiracy panics serve to reinforce ideas and thought processes sustained by the fleeting yet pervasive stimuli of infotainment, government pronouncements, and, yes, the staged events that have been part and parcel of US news media and government collaboration dating at least to the Spanish-American war. Despite (or perhaps because of) the immense technological sophistication at the dawn of the twenty-first century a majority of the population remains bound and shackled in the bowels of the cave, forever doomed to watch the shadows projected before them.

Notes:

{1} Jack Z Bratich, Conspiracy Panics: Political Rationality and Popular Culture, Albany New York: State University of New York Press, 2008.

{2} Bratich, Conspiracy Panics, 11.

{3} Alex Jones and Paul Joseph Watson, “Evidence Begins to Indicate Gary Webb Was Murdered”, prisonplanet.com, December 15 2004 – http://www.prisonplanet.com/articles/december2004/141204webbmurdered.htm

Charlene Fassa, “Gary Webb: More Pieces in the Suicided Puzzle, Part 1”, Rense.com, December 11 2005 – http://rense.com/general69/webb1.htm

{4} Death Certificate of Timothy James McVeigh, June 11 2001, http://www.autopsyfiles.org/reports/deathcert/mcveigh,%20timothy.pdf

{5} Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee, Final Report on the Bombing of the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building, April 19 1995, 2001. See also Oklahoma City: What Really Happened? Chuck Allen, director, 1995 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmBrMpcd_2k

{6} See James F Tracy, “State Propaganda, Historical Revisionism, and Perpetuation of the 911 Myth”, memoryholeblog.com and GlobalResearch.ca, May 6 2012 – http://memoryholeblog.com/2012/05/06/state-propaganda-historical-revisionism-and-perpetuation-of-the-911-myth/

{7} Emily Wax, “Report of bin Laden’s Death Spurs Questions From Conspiracy Theorists”, Washington Post, May 2 2011 – http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/report-of-bin-ladens-death-spurs-questions-from-conspiracy-theorists/2011/05/02/AF90ZjbF_story.html

{8} General Mark Kimmitt on CNN Breaking News, “Osama bin Laden is Dead”, CNN, May 2 2011.

{9} Glenn Beck, “Beck for May 2 2011”, Fox News Network, May 2 2011.

_____

James Tracy’s work on media history, politics and culture has appeared in a wide variety of academic journals, edited volumes, and alternative news and opinion outlets. Tracy is editor of Union for Democratic Communication’s journal Democratic Communique and a contributor to Project Censored’s latest book, Censored 2013: The Top Censored Stories and Media Analysis of 2011-2012. Additional writings and information are accessible at memoryholeblog.com.

Copyright (c) 2013 Global Research

Global Research | Post Office Box 55019 | 11 Notre-Dame Ouest | Montreal | Quebec | H2Y 4A7 | Canada

http://www.globalresearch.ca/media-disinformation-and-the-conspiracy-panic-phenomenon/5336221

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