Saturday, December 31, 2011

Obama, GOP set stage for 2012 war in Iran

(Map of US Bases surrounding Iran)

[NEW: See Short Video reviewing the last 60 years of History between Iran and the USA at the end of this post]

From his home in Hawaii, President Barack Obama signed the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act into law today, imposing the strongest economic sanctions to date on Iran, and increasing the probabilities of oil disruptions, rising gasoline prices, and military conflict.

The current sanctions are in response to Iran’s efforts to develop a nuclear program, which Iran claims is for energy production, but which is suspected of developing weapons. Sanctions on Iran by the United States, however, go back long before the nuclear program. Sanctions started in 1980, when US Embassy workers were taken hostage for 444 days in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution that toppled the US-backed Shah. These sanctions prohibited almost all trade with Iran, except for activity "intended to benefit the Iranian people", including the export of medical and agricultural equipment to Iran, humanitarian assistance, and "informational" materials such as films and publications. Under the bill signed today, entities doing business with Iran’s central bank (Bank Markazi) will be prohibited from access to the US banking system, thus potentially crippling Iran’s ability to receive revenue from its oil exports.

According to BBC, “The bill specifically targets anyone doing business with Iran's central bank [and is] an attempt to force other countries to choose between buying oil from Iran or being blocked from any dealings with the U.S. economy.” The sanctions apply to foreign governments as well as to private companies.

Speaking anonymously, some U.S. officials believe that Tehran will view the bill signing itself as an act of war. The move could push Iran to take drastic measures, including an attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz, the world's busiest shipping lane for crude oil, with its ample supply of marine mines. 20% of the worlds crude oil passes through the Straight of Hormuz; a blockade of the Straight would send oil prices skyrocketing. Even if Iran chooses not to take this action, fear on world markets of the mere possibility of oil disruptions will likely lead to speculation at the New York Mercantile Exchange, where traders will be placing purchase and sale orders for millions of gallons of future deliveries of crude oil, creating lucrative profits for commodity traders and oil companies.

Iranian officials view the sanctions as an intolerable assault on the country's economy and have vowed to retaliate. Israel’s Ha’aretz News Service quoted Iran's Revolutionary Guard Deputy Chief Hossein Salami as saying, "If they impose sanctions on Iran's oil exports, then even one drop of oil cannot flow from the Strait of Hormuz." Pentagon officials said they would meet the closing of the Hormuz straight with force.

Meanwhile, in a game of one-upsmanship, Republican Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, speaking in a campaign appearance in Iowa today, renewed his call for a proactive overthrow of the Iranian regime by the US through covert operations. All of the GOP candidates (with the stark and notable exception of Ron Paul) have called for tougher provisions against Iran.

For Iran’s part, it notes that the United States currently occupies 43 different military bases in the immediate vicinity of Iran; Pakistan, Russia, the US, and, it is widely suspected, Israel, all have nuclear weapon capability in the area.

It would appear that US soldiers are leaving Iraq just in time to return to Iran.

The bill also includes a highly controversial (and Unconstitutional) provision permitting terrorism suspects – including American citizens - to be held in detention indefinitely without a trial. While President Obama downplayed this clause by promising that his administration "will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens," he was contradicted by a senior administration official who explained that the President "is not saying that a U.S. citizen can never be held in military custody."


Friday, December 30, 2011

Progressive-Libertarian Coalition: Ron Paul, Ralph Nader, Dennis Kucinich & Noam Chomsky

Will the American People throw off the false Left-Right Paradigm and the Republican-Democratic Duopoly?

(Let's hope so...)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Year in Review: The Top 10 News Stories of 2011

From this Blogger's perspective, here are the top 10 news stories of 2011. Each was chosen based on their potential on-going long-term effects on humanity. In no particular order, they are:

1) The Arab Spring: Erupting in Tunisia and spreading across the Arab world, the entire year was characterized by protests and political changes in Northern Africa and the Middle East. Regime changes in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, as well as on-going protests in a dozen nations (currently (most serious in Syria and Yemen) represent serious winds of change throughout the geo-political sphere. A timeline of protests throughout the Arab world can be found at The Guardian

2) Weather Extremes and Global Warming: Once a matter of debate, the vast majority of the world’s climatologists agree that global warming is happening at an even faster rate than expected, with significant changes in the ocean temperatures and subsequent weather patterns. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there were an all-time record of twelve weather disasters costing more than $1 billion each in 2011 (for a total of 45 billion dollars in damage). The previous record was nine such disasters in 2008. Weather events included a blizzard across much of North America on February 2, record wilfires in the US west, a tornado outbreak that levelled Joplin, Missouri, Hurricane Irene (which uncharacteristically inundated and devastated inland communities in Vermont and Upstate New York), and a foot-and-half snowfall at Halloween in the northeast US. Elsewhere, record high temperatures were recorded in Iraq and Kuwait, an all-time record low volume of Arctic sea was recorded, record floods inundated Australia and Asia, and the worst droughts in three decades affected Africa.

3) Osama bin Laden Killed: A decade after he masterminded the 9/11 attacks on New York City’s World Trade Center, Osama bin Laden was killed in a surgical strike on his hideout in Pakistan. This represented the most visible and significant victory in the global fight against terrorism and the al Qaeda organization.

4) New York State Enacts Marriage Equality: Four days after its scheduled adjournment for the season, the New York State Senate gave its approval to Marriage Equality by a larger-than expected margin of 33-29 when four Republicans broke rank and joined the majority of Democrats, making New York the seventh and largest jurisdiction in the US to permit same-sex marriage. Full story at Tully's Page

5) Occupy Wall Street and Police Brutality: Beginning on September 17 in New York City, the “Occupy Wall Street” movement in many ways inaugurated an American version of the Arab Spring. Spreading to other cities across the nation, thousands of Americans from all walks of life took to the streets to protest persistent unemployment, indebtedness, foreclosures and economic injustice in raw juxtaposition to the trillions of bailouts received by Wall Street financial houses and executives. The movement elicited a brutal response by police forces, and the use of pepper spray against peaceful protesters, young women, and veterans became a national outrage. The movement propelled Time magazine to name “The Protester” as it’s Person of the Year.

6) Federal Reserve Bailouts Revealed: For almost 100 years, the Federal Reserve System, which serves as the nations Central Bank, operated without an audit or significant political oversight. In the aftermath of the bank bailouts commencing in 2008, Congress began looking into the Fed’s activities using taxpayer dollars. In all, it was revealed that over 16 trillion in secret unpaid loans were made to both American and foreign banks. Sen. Bernie Sanders

7) Earthquake, Tsunami, and Nuclear Meltdown in Japan: On March 11, an 8.9 Magnitude earthquake rocked Japan, the worst earthquake in modern history. Over 16,000 people died from the quake and the tsunami that followed. When the Fukushima Daiichi power plant site in Fukushima was inundated by a 49-foot high tsunami wave, the nuclear reactors could not be cooled, began to overheat, and meltdowns began at three of the reactors. What followed was a release of radioactive cesium, evacuation of the surrounding area, and subsequent government and industry cover-ups of the extent of radiation. Fukushima Radiation

8) John Wheeler Murdered: On New Year’s Eve, after the death of 100,000 fish and 5,000 blackbirds in Arkansas, John P. Wheeler, a decades-long government expert in toxic chemicals, was found murdered in a dump as he was en route to Washington DC. The kills and murder came in the wake of the US Government’s Pine Bluffs Arsenal "disposal” of mustard and nerve gas in the area, as well as active “fracking” by energy companies. The incidences awakened a national concern for the environmental effects of these activities, and was the single most visited and cited webpage on this site: John Wheeler

9) Milton Hershey Rejects HIV Positive Student: In an almost incomprehensible burst of ignorance, prejudice, and chutzpah, the highly-vaunted Milton Hershey School (a private, tuition-free boarding school), issued a statement coinciding with World AIDs Day explaining their refusal to admit a student due to his HIV positive status, in direct violation of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Outrage was swift, and brought additional publicity to continuing ignorance about HIV transmission. Milton Hershey

10) European Debt Crisis: Beginning in Greece, the ability of some Eurozone member nations to repay their government debts created continental – and global – concern. Ireland, once seen as the “Celtic Tiger” for its explosive, high-tech-driven growth found itself enacting austerity measures and slashing government spending; Italy, Portugal, and Spain found themselves in a similar condition. The downgrading of these nations bonds began a record weakening of the Euro against the US Dollar that continued throughout the year. A weakened Euro makes it more difficult for the Eurozone members to purchase American goods, endangering the US recovery.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Thoughts....

Uzzah was a really good guy, but God blasted him. At least that’s how the story goes in the sixth chapter of 2 Samuel.

According to the story, the Israelites were transporting the Ark of the Covenant, the divinely-ordained chest that contained the tablets of the 10 Commandments (a replica of which was the central feature in the original Indiana Jones movie). By command, no mere human was allowed to touch the Ark. But in the sectarian wars that characterized (and continue to characterize) the Middle East, the Ark was captured by The Philistines, and then recaptured by David and the Israelites. Uzzah and his brother had the Ark placed on a cart driven by oxen to transport it back home.

This past summer I took the kids apple-picking at a large local orchard. We rode in the back of a cart pulled by horses out to the fruit trees. It was not smooth. Each hole and bump and uneven patch of ground was magnified by the cart as we bounced around up top. I have no doubt that an oxen-drawn cart through the Palestinian wilderness saw its share of bumps. And in fact, one such bump so jolted the cart that Uzzah, walking and watching behind, reached out his hand to steady the Ark from falling or being damaged.

And instantly, we are told, God struck him dead.

The books of the Torah give us ample examples of the mind of ancient peoples concerning the chasm-like division between God and Humankind, between Clean and Unclean, between Holy and Profane. The Levitical purity laws carefully divide much of life: Sheep, Deer, Locusts, and Fish are clean; rabbits, dogs, oysters and ostriches are not. All dead animals and all diseased people, and everything they touch, are unclean. Women are unclean during their period and after childbirth; men and everything they touch is unclean for any day in which they emit semen.

The extension of the these purity laws is two-fold:

First, anytime something “unclean” touched someone or something “clean,” that which was clean became defiled and unclean.

Second, God was so pure that when the impure came into contact with His purity – they were destroyed (as in Uzzah’s case).

It is for these reasons that, unlike many Christians, I see Christmas – not Easter – as the theological touchstone of faith.

At the Incarnation, as the Nicene Creed states, “He [Jesus] was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and Virgin Mary…”

Uzzah touched the Holiness of God and was killed for it; Mary came into direct contact with the Spirit of God, and henceforth, “all generations will call me Blessed!”

The Gospels tell the story of Jesus’ earthly ministry, in which he touched leprous body parts, prostitutes, half-breed Samaritans, women with “issues of blood,” dead children, the epileptic, the deranged, and unclean men and women of all varieties.

At no point does the touch of God strike any of these people down.

At no point does Jesus send anyone away as “unclean,” nor does he fear becoming unclean by their presence or touch.

If anything, the unclean are made clean. The fear that those who are “different” will infect and affect the “pure” is reversed: now, the different and the ‘unclean’ are brought into wholeness and community with the rest of society.

For me, the message of Christmas is not found in the familiar, heart-warming oohs and aahhs of a poor little newborn baby… but in the world-shaking change in attitude towards divisions in society, especially attitudes towards those who are ‘different.’

Many who claim to follow Christ – both politicians and harsh religious leaders – continue to operate in a world of clean vs. unclean, and under the fear that what is ‘different’ will infect everyone else. From telling the poor to “take a bath and get a job,” to dismissing immigrants as illegal law-breakers, to denying the poor who are seeking society’s crumbs to have food on the table and oil in their heater, to the irrational fear that some people’s love will ‘destroy traditional marriage and the foundations of society,’ to the fear-based refusal to permit an HIV-positive student to attend school, to blaming those who have lost their homes for their own foolishness, to refusing an interracial couple the right to marry….there is a blindness to the true Christmas message.

The Old Testament prophets that ‘set the stage’ for this theological change were strident in their condemnation of a divided society:

Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.'
– Zechariah 7:10

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?"

- Isaiah 58:6-7

Woe to those who plan iniquity, to those who plot evil on their beds! At morning's light they carry it out because it is in their power to do it. They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them. They defraud a man of his home, a fellowman of his inheritance. – Micah 2:1-2

Christmas and the Gospels show us that the artificial division between ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ is to come to an end: that holiness and godliness extends to all of humanity. And so, on this Christmas, my hope and prayer is that our tendency to see ‘an enemy, ‘ or ‘a danger,’ or ‘an evil’ in others based on any of the innumerable differences we have, will be swallowed by an intentional effort to recognize our common humanity instead.

Merry Christmas! I'm now going to enjoy some good, unclean shrimp...


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Newt Gingrich: wrong on Palestine, Pandering for Fundamentalist votes

Growing up in a political family on the south shore of Long Island, I became aware of New York’s ethnic voting patterns at a very early age. Like all of the New York City metro area, Long Island was carved into small “election districts,” (the equivalent of a city “ward”) in order to be able to handle the large number of voters on election day. And like many New York neighborhoods, these districts had distinct ethnic ‘flavors.’

Our district was “the Fifteenth,” a neighborhood of working class, blue-collar Germans, Irish, and more recent Italians. I could stand on our street corner and see six houses where the fathers volunteered in the local fire department. Most of the houses were small, many of them one-story “bungalows.” And the “Fifteenth” was famous for bringing in the largest Republican margin of any district in town – often over 80%.

We were balanced by the “Seventeenth,” a district of relatively new split ranches and colonials, where Jewish professional families dominated. As a rule, the 17th could be counted on to turn out a Democratic margin as large as the Fifteenth’s Republican margin. In fact, one could easily determine the predominant ethnic makeup of Long Island neighborhoods simply by looking at election returns. Jewish and black districts consistently returned lopsided Democratic margins; older blue-collar, german-irish 'clamdigger' neighborhoods were staunch Republican.

But in the last few decades, an interesting phenomenon has occurred: as the Republican Party has been captured by the fringe Religious-Right, it has seen an opportunity to mobilize and capture parts of the “Jewish” vote, especially among the more conservative Orthodox Jewish communities.

One of the theological hallmarks of fundamentalist, “Literal-Bible” Protestantism is the belief that the Second Coming of Christ will be heralded by the re-establishment of the State of Israel, the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, and Christ’s last-ditch effort to convince Jews to accept him. This belief is precisely what launched the series of end-time Prophecy books and campaigns launched by Hal Lindsay, who profited nicely from his book (and subsequent movie), “The Late Great Planet Earth” in 1970. Initially popular in Pentecostal circles, the idea that “true” Bible-believing Christians had to provide unwavering support of Israel became a common premise throughout conservative Christianity. As this demographic votes heavily in Republican primary elections and caucuses, the opportunity for an alliance between Fundamentalist Protestantism and Orthodox Jews - based on support for Israel and social conservatism - became more evident.

In spite of the fact that New York City is 5:1 Democratic, Borough Park Brooklyn – a largely Hassidic Jewish community – votes Republican. Kiryas Joel, NY - the only community in America where Yiddish is the primary language – has often supported Republicans because of an alliance with the GOP over local school control. This pattern has emerged all over New York’s Hassidic communities, prompting national GOP conservative operatives like Eric Cantor to make personal visits to these communities encouraging their support for GOP candidates.

The Christian Right's embrace of unquestioned support for Israel (on theological grounds) and hatred of Muslim peoples (on racist grounds) is now complete. And in Iowa, the first caucus of the Presidential marathon, the Christian right is powerful: In 1988, goofy Televangelist Pat Robertson came in second place, defeating George H W Bush, and in 2008, Evangelical darling Mike Huckabee took first place.

So it is no accident, and should come as no surprise, that GOP Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich recently dismissed Palestinians as “an invented people.”

Let me say before going any further, that I am a supporter of Israel. Having been raised in a heavily Jewish community, and hearing my friends and classmates relate the stories of the holocaust they learned from their own grandparents and parents – I find it hard not to share in the human necessity that is the land of Israel. Having said that, that does not imply blind support of its government. One can be a patriotic American without blindly supporting everything America does; similarly, one can be a supporter of Israel without blindly supporting everything her government does.

Unless, of course, you’re a Theocrat who believes that God is directing the Israeli Government's actions. Or a Pandering Politician seeking to establish as extreme a position as possible in order to win the fundamentalist voting block.

And so, in an interview with The Jewish Channel, Gingrich said:

"Remember there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire. And I think that we've had an invented Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs, and were historically part of the Arab community. And they had a chance to go many places."

For someone claiming to be the highest-paid “Historian” in history while working for Freddie Mac, Newt has a very poor grasp of history. His statements above are simply nonsense, for the following reasons:

1) One doesn’t need to have a legal ‘country’ with boundaries in order to be a ‘nation’ or a ‘people.’ The Kurds are scattered throughout Iraq, Iran, and Turkey, and never had a country of their own; they are still a recognized ‘people.’ The Lakota have not had a land of their own since they were contained on reservations in the Great Plains in the 1880s, but they are still a recognizable people. And the Romani (“Gypsies”) never had a land of their own, but they are certainly a recognized people group.

2) Calling Palestinians “Arabs” is like calling all white caucasians “Europeans.” Yes, in a very broad human-family sense, we may say that Italians, Swedes, and Bosnians are “Europeans,” but their sense of nationhood are vastly different. Palestinians may share Arab genetics, but if Gingrich wishes to be a world leader, he better understand that Egyptians, Syrians, Saudis, Lebanese, and yes, Palestinians, all see themselves primarily as members of their specific ethnic, national group...not of some pan-continental “Arab” nation. The use of the term "Palestinians" to refer to the areas people is mentioned in Egyptian texts in 5 BC, in 250 Biblical references, among ancient Greeks, and in writings from the Byzantine empire. It is not 'an invention.'

3) Suggesting that Palestinians should “go elsewhere” is a cruel and brutal comment that borders on ethnic cleansing (and reminiscent of comments uttered in the 1800s about Native American nations). With unemployment exceeding 30%, 50% of Palestinians living in the West Bank live below the poverty level. The hardships resulting from living under refugee-lifestyles, military checkpoints, blockades on Gaza and “The Wall” on the West Point have exacerbated tensions between Israelis and Palestinians and increased the wealth disparity between the peoples.

At the 2007 Annapolis Conference, the Fatah government of the Palestinian West Bank, the Israelis and the Americans agreed on a two-state solution (Israel and Palestine) to the conflict. More than two-thirds of the nations in the world – including most in the western hemisphere – have already acknowledged Palestine as an existing independent state with uncertain borders (not a unique situation, since the borders between India and China, and between Saudi Arabia and Oman, remain undefined).

It is hard to believe that Gingrich’s comments are based on ignorance. If the Israelis have accepted the eventual reality of a Palestinian State, why can't Newt?

Because his disdainful and dismissive comments about Palestine have everything to do with pandering for knee-jerk Theocratic votes in the Iowa caucus, at the expense of a true Stateman's role: that of peace-making and supporting the yearnings of humanity.


Thursday, December 08, 2011

The Problem with an "Anti-Corporate Personhood" Amendment

Across the country, one of the rallying cries of the “Occupy” Movement has been the demand to eliminate “Corporate Personhood,” a concept that was cemented into law by a US Supreme Court decision commonly called the “Citizens United” decision [Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 08-205 (2010), 558 U.S. ––––, 130 S.Ct. 876 (2010)) The decision in essence, permitted corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money in political campaigns as an expression of First Amendment Speech rights. Since that decision, various groups and initiatives have arisen in an effort to overturn it and remove this Constitutional right from applying to Corporations. Unfortunately, in their passion to end corporate domination of US politics, it appears that some of these proposals may end up causing even greater potential harm to our society. A sober reflection on the issue suggests that a blanket “anti-Corporate-Personhood” amendment may not be the wisest route...and that better alternatives exist.

The effort to limit corporate control of the electoral process began in earnest with the McCain-Feingold Act, otherwise known as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, which was adopted on March 27 of that year. The Act limited corporate contributions to campaigns, and prohibited the airing of corporate-sponsored political advertising in the weeks immediately preceding an election.

In an early test of that Act, Citizens United – a conservative advocacy group – challenged the right of the media to show the documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11,” which was highly critical of the Bush Administration, during the 2004 campaign. When the Federal Elections Commission held that showing this film was not prohibited by the Act, Citizens United then geared up for its own documentary. In the 2008 campaign, it promoted it's film titled, "Hillary: The Movie," which was critical of then-Senator Hillary Clinton, to DirecTV Satellite subscribers. With some troublesome reasoning, the Federal Election Commission and subsequent courts ruled against this movie, and the case reached the U S Supreme Court.

In 2010, a highly fractured U S Supreme Court ruled in a landmark decision in favor of Citizens United, striking several sections of the McCain-Feingold Act as Unconstitutional. It was a decision that was (and remains) highly controversial.

The Court held that the First Amendment Freedom of Speech prohibits government from censoring political broadcasts in elections when those broadcasts are funded by corporations or unions.

The Court decided by a slim 5-4 majority, but even the five Justices in the majority wrote three separate opinions. Justices largely seen as conservative (Alito, Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas) were joined by moderate/swing vote Justice Kennedy in the decision. The Courts liberal block (Breyer, Ginsberg, Sotomayor, and Stevens) opposed the decision.

The dissenting opinion was stinging in its criticism of the majority. In it, Justice Stevens argued that the Court's ruling

"…threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the Nation. The path it has taken to reach its outcome will, I fear, do damage to this institution…”

and argued that by addressing issues not raised not even raised in the court pleadings by Citizens United, the majority

"changed the case to give themselves an opportunity to change the law…The Court's opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt.”

The case raised eyebrows in many circles: The American Civil Liberties Union, normally identified with “liberals,” actually filed a brief with the Court in support of Citizens United because of the over-riding free speech issue. After the decision, it was discovered that Justice Thomas’ wife was the founder and president of Liberty Central, a conservative political advocacy group whose operations were directly affected by the decision, bringing into question both his ethical and legal right to participate in the decision.

In the wake of the decision, a number of proposals have been suggested to overturn it, or to find alternative mechanisms to limit corporate contributions in elections. Some groups have arisen - with growing public support – promoting a Constitutional Amendment that would declare that Corporations are not “persons,” and therefore not entitled to Constitutional Protections. One such group, “Move to Amend,” has proposed an Amendment, that reads in part:

“The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only.

Artificial entities, such as corporations, limited liability companies, and other entities, established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law.”

While well-intentioned, I think this is a classic case of attempting to kill a gnat with a sledgehammer."

There are many rights guaranteed in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights in addition to Speech. The above amendment – which is growing in popularity and being promoted in towns and cities across the country – strips corporate entities of all Constitutional protections. Consider the following Constitutional Rights that could be affected:

Amendment I: Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of …the press.

Amendment III: No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Article IV: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

These are all Constitutional rights currently enjoyed by all residents of our nation, including non-citizens and corporations. Amendments similar to the one proposed would eliminate these Constitutional rights for corporations.

Do we really want to live in a country where the corporate media – our magazines, television stations, radio reports, and internet providers – are NOT protected from Government censorship?

Do we really want a country where the military – which has already vastly expanded its domestic jurisdiction through the Patriot Act – can be stationed in your workplace against the will of that company?

Do we really want warrantless searches of our office desks, file cabinets, computer servers and systems, and office spaces by the local police, the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms?

What about rights to Due Process? Equal Protection of the Laws? How about the Constitutional clause that prohibits Eminent Domain without proper compensation? Do wwe really want to say that businesses dont have these protections?

For over 200 years, a broad array of Constitutional Rights have protected the American people from intrusive government actions at home and at work. It is understandable that citizens want to reverse Citizens United; but the complete removal of all rights enjoyed by companies is a ‘cure” worse than the disease itself.

Reasonable limits (or prohibitions) on corporate contributions can be achieved through amendments that are far more ‘precise’ and less draconian than this. Professors Lucian Bebchuk at Harvard Law School and Richard Squire at Columbia Law School have proposed that legislation could be adopted, consistent with the Citizens United decision, giving shareholders (rather than Corporate Executives) the right to determine if or how corporate money could be spent in political activities. Since this could be done through simple legislation, it would be far easier than a Constitutional Amendment. Others have called for an simple Amendment that would declare that money is not speech, thereby empowering states and the federal government to re-implement McCain-Feingold or similar statutes.

These would both be easier and more effective restraints on the Citizens United decision, and avoid the danger of an greater erosion of American citizen’s Constitutional Rights.


Monday, December 05, 2011

Mitt Romney: Bind US Spending to Foreign Corporate Investment

Mitt Romney, who prides himself on being the candidate with ‘business’ experience, has proposed some fiscal measures which evidence a decided lack of serious economic analysis.

In advertisements that have been running non-stop here in New Hampshire, Romney presents his three-point plan to reign in federal spending. In the ads, he proposes,

“…capping federal spending as a percentage of GDP at 20% or less…”

There are any number of issues Mitt is going to have to explain with this “plan.” He can start with any of these:

1) GDP, or Gross Domestic Product, is the value of all the goods and services produced within a society. In the United States, current annual GDP is approximately $14 Trillion dollars annually. With federal spending capped at 20% of this number, that would result in an annual federal budget of 2.8 Trillion dollars. The Fiscal Year 2010 budget is 3.45 Trillion, so Romney’s plan would require cutting spending by 650 Billion dollars.

To provide a sense of this proposal, the entire amount of Social Security payments made to retirees annually is 701 Billion. The total amount of “Discretionary Spending” (spending that excludes social security, medicare, interest, defense, and other ‘mandatory’ payments) is 660 Billion. If Mitt is not proposing cutting off social security or eliminating the military, it would appear that he is proposing an elimination of all discretionary spending whatsoever: Bridge Rehabilitation on Interstates, Superfund Cleanups of Toxic Waste sites, Food & Drug Administration approvals of cutting-edge pharmaceuticals, Coast Guard operations, Community Block Grants for Economic Development, Jobs Trainings Initiatives, and hundreds of other federally-designated programs. EVERYTHING.

2) By basing spending on GDP, his proposal means that the budget will always be out-of-synch with reality. The Budget for the future fiscal year is voted on during the current year, and it will be based on figures from the past year's GDP (which would still be in revision), resulting a two year ‘mis-match’ of GDP and spending authorizations.

3) By capping spending to a percent of GDP, Romney opens up the country to sudden, unexpected budget shocks since GDP is calculated after each quarter, but then revised in subsequent quarters.

For instance, on November 22 of this year, economists in Washington revised the third-quarter (July-August-September) GDP downward to a growth of 2% from their previous report of 2.5%. While a change in .5% may not sound like much, a .5% change in a 14 Trillion dollar GDP is a difference of 70 Billion Dollars in GDP. Under Romney’s plan, such a revision would result in the sudden elimination of 14 Billion in spending from the Federal Budget. For comparison purposes, that is greater than the entire annual budgets of the Departments of the Treasury, Commerce, Interior, and Environmental Protection.

4) Lastly, and perhaps most important, is the fact that Romney’s plan would make American Government expenditures dependent on the activities of foreign companies operating in the United States.

The GDP figure is obtained by adding up the value of all goods and services created in the US. It does not matter whether the goods produced are made by American or foreign companies, as long as they create the products on US soil. Currently, 3.2 Trillion dollars of our 14 Trillion GDP is derived from foreign companies doing business on US soil.

In other words, 22% of our total GDP comes from these firms. It also means, that under Romney’s plan, 22% of the American Government’s spending would depend on continuing product development by companies from foreign nations located in the US. That amounts to 760 Billion dollars of American spending being dependent on the level of foreign investment.

Again, for comparison purposes, that amount is the equivalent of our entire Defense Budget.

A curious proposal, coming from the candidate who has so willingly rattled sabers with Iran.


Friday, December 02, 2011

Milton Hershey rejects HIV-positive Student: Official Statement & Reaction

In an almost incomprehensible burst of ignorance, prejudice, and chutzpah, the highly-vaunted Milton Hershey School (a private, tuition-free boarding school), issued a statement coinciding with World AIDs Day explaining their refusal to admit a student due to his HIV positive status.

What follows is the official statement by the school (in italics), with my commentary following in boldface type.

HERSHEY, Pa., Dec. 1, 2011 -- /PRNewswire/ -- The following statement was issued today by Connie McNamara, Vice President, Communications at Milton Hershey School:

Milton Hershey School had planned to file a request in federal court asking the court to review our decision to deny enrollment to a child who is HIV positive because of concerns for the health and safety of our current students.

Nonsense. There ARE NO significant health or safety concerns. HIV is not transmitted by saliva, sneezing, sweat or tears; it is not transmitted by sharing toilets or bathrooms, drinking glasses, laundry facilities, towels, beds, dorm rooms, or eating utensils. In addition, the student in question is on antiretroviral medications, reducing the ability to transmit the virus, even in the most conducive of circumstances through specific kinds of sexual acts or blood interaction, to a fraction of 1%. It is not surprising that a Hershey spokeswoman, appearing on Anderson Cooper 360 tonight, was unable to name the doctor or medical personnel that advised the school of any such “concern.”

We had been in discussions with the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania, which is representing this 13-year-old boy. Recognizing the complex legal issues, the School was preparing to ask the court to weigh in on this matter…

There are no “complex legal issues.” Persons with HIV are covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act. Under the ADA, all people, including those with disabilities, are given equal opportunity to use or enjoy a public accommodation’s goods, services, and facilities. Public accommodations include restaurants, hotels, theaters, doctors’ offices, dentists’ offices, hospitals, retail stores, health clubs, museums, libraries, private schools, and day care centers.

… Unfortunately, attorneys for the young man took the adversarial action of filing a lawsuit against the School.

The first resort of bullies when victims push back is to call the victims names; they attempt to characterize those who insist on their rights as crybabies, divisive or ‘adversarial.’ The young man’s legal suit is not out of place or adversarial; the fact is, Milton Hershey has no basis in medicine or law for denying the student admission, and the students suit against the School is an entirely appropriate avenue for redress. Hershey’s statement is the standard “blame-the victim” defense.

The decision to deny enrollment was a challenging one for us to make. Like all our enrollment decisions, we need to balance our desire to serve the needs of an individual child seeking admission with our obligation to protect the health and safety of all 1,850 children already in our care…

Again, the school takes the odd position that their school is somehow ‘unique,’ a phrase used later in this press release and used multiple times in media interviews. The ADA covers private schools; there is nothing about Hershey that would exempt them. There are hundreds of boarding schools in the United States, a number of which house over 1,000 students. There are schools designated as Military Academies, Therapeutic Schools, schools for Students in Recovery, Experiential, Learning Disabled, Religious, Fine-Arts based, Math & Science-based, and Performing Arts based. In spite of Hershey’s assertions, their duty to care for their residential students is no different than any other of these schools…and all are covered by the ADA.

Attorneys for this young man and his mother have suggested that this case is comparable to the Ryan White case. But this case is actually nothing like the Ryan White case.

Actually, it is precisely like the Ryan White case, which, ironically, we referenced in a blogpost yesterday [see below]. This is a decision to exclude a student based on ignorance of medicine and in violation of federal statute. It is based on the unreasonable fear & loathing of HIV, and nothing more.

Milton Hershey School is not a day school, where students go home to their family at the end of the day. Instead, this is a unique home-like environment, a pre-K -12 residential school where children live in homes with 10-12 other students on our campus 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Again, Hershey is by no means unique in this, as hundreds of boarding schools do likewise. Hershey is making the entirely illogical arguement that students with HIV should not live at their school because it is "home-like," "residential," and where "children live," (their words)...but should instead live at home - which is the ultimate 'residential setting.'

In order to protect our children in this unique environment, we cannot accommodate the needs of students …

Yes, Milton Hershey, you can, and you must. You must accommodate the daily medical needs of students with insulin-dependent Diabetes. Epilepsy. Asthmatics. It is part of running a boarding school. If you can not ensure that a resident takes a pill, you need to reconsider your ability to operate a boarding school.

…with chronic communicable diseases that pose a direct threat to the health and safety of others.

This is not an argument against admitting a student; this is evidence of your own medical ignorance. No health or safety threat is present.

The reason is simple. We are serving children, and no child can be assumed to always make responsible decisions that protect the well being of others.

This is a well-crafted innuendo concerning the prospective students sexual activities, implying that the student might attempt sexual activity with another student. Well guess what, Milton Hershey…if that is your concern, you have a much bigger problem than this one student: EVERY one of your hormone-exploding students might be tempted to engage in sexual relations with other students, and pass along not only HIV, but syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes, genital warts, scabies, hepatitis, and HPV. Your reasoning suggests that you should reject ALL students who might be tempted to engage in sexual activity; In that case, you might want to consider closing down entirely, because all teenage students present that risk.

That is why, after careful review and analysis, we determined we could not put our children at risk.

No, this was not after “careful review and analysis.” There is no analysis of the medical or legal issues; there is only an unwise, illegal, and cruel response based on hysteria that tarnishes the reputation of a once-respected institution.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

World AIDs Day: From Ryan White to the Repeal HIV Discrimination Act

Today, December 1, is recognized as World AIDs Day, which has been commemorated since 1988 as the world's first global Health Day. It is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate people who have died. An estimated 33.2 million people worldwide live with HIV today, making it one of the most pervasive epidemics in recorded history. Despite improved access to antiretroviral treatment and care in many regions of the world, the AIDS epidemic still claims an estimated 2 million lives each year, about 13% of whom are children.

The HIV epidemic looks very different than when it was first identified in the early 1980s, when it was known variously as “Gay Related Immune Deficiency” and “Gay Bowel Syndrome” (Immunologists have since determined that deaths from AIDs were actually occurring in the 1950s, but were not yet accurately identified). During the 1980s, entire neighborhoods were decimated as the virus spread, with little understanding as to how it was transmitted or how to control it. At the height of the crisis, 50% of Americans believed that patients with HIV should be quarantined. In 1992, while running for the US Senate from Arkansas, Mike Huckabee echoed this sentiment when he declared,

If the federal government is truly serious about doing something with the AIDS virus, we need to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague…. It is difficult to understand the public policy towards AIDS. It is the first time in the history of civilization in which the carriers of a genuine plague have not been isolated from the general population, and in which this deadly disease for which there is no cure is being treated as a civil rights issue instead of the true health crisis it represents.

But perhaps no chapter in American history displays the degree of fear and widespread ignorance of HIV transmission than the storm surrounding Ryan White.

Ryan Wayne White (December 6, 1971 – April 8, 1990) was a teenager from Kokomo, Indiana who contracted HIV from tainted blood received in a transfusion (Ryan had hemophilia). After his initial diagnosis, Ryan’s health improved and his mother asked if he could return to school. 117 parents (from a school of 360 total students) and 50 teachers signed a petition asking school leaders to ban Ryan from school, and the school prohibited him from attending. The Indiana State Department of Education insisted that school permit Ryan to attend.

When Ryan tried to return to school, many parents and teachers continued to oppose his attendance, even though medical authorities at the Center for Disease Control assured them that there was no danger. The New England Journal of Medicine published a study on HIV transmission that concluded,
“…the risk of infection was minimal to nonexistent, even when contact included sharing toothbrushes, razors, clothing, combs and drinking glasses; sleeping in the same bed; and hugging and kissing…”

Nonetheless, the school required him to eat with disposable utensils, use separate bathrooms, and waived his requirement to enroll in a gym class. When a bullet was fired through the Whites' living room window, the family decided to leave Kokomo, and Ryan enrolled in a new school in Cicero, Indiana. Ryan would win his court battles, but died in April 1990 – just one month before his graduation.

In his honor, Congress passed the Ryan White Care Act, which remains the largest program providing care for those with HIV in the United States.

Unfortunately, the fear and marginalization of people with HIV continues.

On August 2, 2011, we reported in this blog on the draconian – even medieval – law passed in Iowa in 1998 that criminalized potential HIV transmission as a Class B felony. The sentence designated the ‘carrier’ as a felon, imposed a sentence of up to 25 years in prison, and assigned him or her lifelong sex-offender status, even if the contact was consensual. Under this law, a person aware of his or her positive HIV status does not actually have to transmit the HIV virus, they only have to engage in intimate contact with another person, whether or not that contact is consensual, to be found guilty. The penalty exceeds that for manslaughter. Since the law was enacted, 26 people have been convicted under the law and nine people currently sit behind bars. [Iowa is not alone. 34 states have prosecuted individuals for criminal transmission (or potential transmission) of HIV.]

Seven weeks after we reported on the Iowa convictions, on September 23, 2011, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-California) introduced H.R. 3053, the Repeal HIV Discrimination Act. This bill would require a review of all federal and state laws, policies, and regulations regarding the criminal prosecution of individuals for HIV-related offenses. It is the first bill to take on the issue of HIV criminalization, and provides incentives for states to explore repeal or reform of laws and practices that unfairly target people with HIV for consensual sex. Forty different medical and care-giving organizations have signed on to support the bill. This bill recognizes that the earlier criminalization statutes are based, wholly or partially, on prejudice, ignorance, and poor science.

The following sound reasons have been offered for ending this criminalization of HIV positive people:

1) Criminalizing HIV increases the stigma associated with the illness. Increasing the stigma means that people will be less likely to reveal their status and obtain treatment.

2) HIV is no longer the death sentence it was in the 1980s, nor does it necessarily lead to AIDs. Modern antiretroviral drugs have turned HIV into a lifelong medical condition, not unlike diabetes and high blood pressure. Most state criminal statutes have wrongly assumed that transmitting HIV is akin to murder, and the penalties are excessive.

3) The more cases that come to court, the more people will believe that the responsibility for having safe sex should lie solely with HIV positive people. Safe sex should always be a shared concern.

4) The law has little effect on people's sexual behavior; it does, however enable lovers to use the law as a way of exacting revenge.

5) Prosecuting positive people for reckless transmission provides a disincentive for getting tested: those who know of their positive HIV status are liable under the law, but those who remain ignorant - even purposefully – are not.

6) Most laws do not understand the ways in which HIV is transmitted. Some apply to actions such as spitting (HIV can not be transmitted through saliva), and most apply to anyone who is HIV positive, even though scientific studies have shown that many of those on regular mediation are unable to transmit the virus.

7) Imprisonment does nothing to help people accept their HIV and take a safer attitude towards sex. In addition to imprisonment costs, taxpayers would be forced to cover HIV medical costs of approximately $35,000 per inmate per year. While in prison, the sharing of needles for injecting drugs and the high incidence of male rape and sex between men in prisons makes it likely that an increase in HIV transmission will actually take place behind bars.

8) Criminal cases require the police to investigate the background of anyone they suspect of having transmitted HIV. Accused persons could suggest any number of other possible partners as sources for HIV transmission; this represents a serious invasion of privacy for all actual or potentially named sexual partners – including those who claim to be supportive of such laws.

9) No other illnesses are treated with the same hysteria as HIV, and few people are ever criminalized for transmitting them. No state has ever prosecuted an employee of a nursing home for coming into work with a contagious flu and giving it to the residents, even if several of those residents subsequently died. HIV is only singled out in criminal cases because the stigma associated with it.

10) Statistics show that women often know their status through attending health clinics more frequently than men. As a result, an HIV positive man may accuse his female partner of infecting him, because she was diagnosed first, even if he infected her and was not diagnosed until much later.

Sign the Petition to Pass the Repeal HIV Discrimination Act


Hallelujah Corporations...A Musical Satire

If any music video deserves to go viral, it's this one: a fantastic parody performed at the Grover Cleveland Dinner, held by the Carroll County (NH) Democrats (Funny, Great singing, and subtitles for ease of understanding)


Sunday, November 27, 2011

33rd Anniversary: Assassinations of Harvey Milk and George Moscone

Statement, November 27, 2011 by Stuart Milk, nephew of Harvey Milk, co founder of the Harvey B. Milk Foundation

My uncle Harvey Milk gave us his life 33 years ago, knowing that the first of any civil rights movement, who so clearly and loudly proclaim their right to equality, most often meets a violent and sudden end. George Moscone was a steadfast ally and friend of both my uncle and to the core principles of equality that Harvey represented.

Today the memory of both men stand as beacons of light not just in San Francisco, not just in California and not just in the US, but across the globe to all who are diminished for simply being authentic. I am frequently asked if I am deeply saddened that my uncle Harvey did not get to see all those who eventually would proclaim a right to live openly and thereby come to stand on his shoulders or that he also did not see all the places where the light of equality would burn brighter than the darkness of antiquated prejudice-and I have long replied, he did see all those open and proud people living an authentic life and he did see those cities and states and nations that would etch equality into both their laws and their societal values, for he could not have given his life without his seeing and visualizing the dream of that day and he has left us, all of us, with a compass based on hope, hope born of bullets, not smashing into his brain, but smashing our masks and our fear of authenticity.

We also offer timely reflection today on my uncle’s ground breaking collaborative work and his understanding and explanation that we are not weakened by our differences, in fact that our potential is only reached when the full diversity of all those that make up our communities are celebrated. Today his legacy is not of a people or community or a nation being better then another, but communication and teaching of the knowledge that we are so much less when we do not embrace, without qualification, all members of our unique and varied humanity.

My uncle’s legacy has many monuments, not the least of which are the openly LGBT public officials who, through their willingness to serve and live a publicly visible life, continue to offer Harvey Milk style leadership to a world yearning for these examples. And all our strong allies, like President Obama and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi here in the US, and our many new allies across the continents who fight everyday to keep us all embraced. And monuments to Harveys legacy are given light each day with every new young gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered person who comes out and lives an authentic life – these are real tangible living monuments to Harvey’s legacy that have the clear impact to effect change, a real enduring societal change. For as my uncle said, when they know us, when we are visible to all in our lives, hate diminishes.

Today we both mourn our loss and celebrate the legacy we were left with. The memory of Harvey and George burns bright and they have inspired equality minded communities across the country and out onto the global stage to keep alive both Harvey’s dream of a truly inclusive society, without qualification and to follow the example of enduring and selfless collaboration that marked the life of both Harvey Milk and George Moscone.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

UC Davis Police Lie re: Pepper-Spray outrage; Facts and Law suggest Officer Pike is Liable

The video (in post below) of the unprovoked pepper-spray attack on peaceful protesters at UC Davis by Lt. Pike has now gone viral, being picked up even by the major news outlets that have so far offered cavalier and tepid coverage to the Occupy movement. Accordingly, the official police “spin” of the unprovoked pepper-spraying has begun.

Charles J. Kelly, a former Baltimore Police Department lieutenant who wrote the department's use of force guidelines, said pepper spray is a "compliance tool" that can be used on subjects who do not resist, and is preferable to simply lifting protesters.

"When you start picking up human bodies, you risk hurting them," Kelly said. "Bodies don't have handles on them." (How considerate of him to prefer chemical warfare as against traditional police work.)

After reviewing the video, Kelly said he observed at least two cases of "active resistance" from protesters. In one instance, a woman pulls her arm back from an officer. In the second instance, a protester curls into a ball. Each of those actions could have warranted more force, including baton strikes and pressure-point techniques.

"What I'm looking at is fairly standard police procedure,"
Kelly said.

UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza said the decision to use pepper spray was made at the scene.

"The students had encircled the officers," she said Saturday. "They needed to exit. They were looking to leave but were unable to get out." A similar statement suggested that the Officers were "cut off" from their "support."

The above statements are the Lies of a Gestapo Police State attempting to cover its collective ass.

Watch the Video.

1) The students had not ‘encircled the officers.’ At least 8 officers are clearly visible to the left of all pictures and videos. Clad in riot gear with guns, batons, and chemical agents, they had a clear path of exit behind them. They were not looking to exit.

2) Even if they needed to exit, the officer sprayed students sitting on the ground, not students standing in their way.

3) When they left, the exited in the opposite direction of where the students were seated.

4) They DID hurt people…two students ended up hospitalized for chemical burns; one was still coughing up blood 45 minutes after the attack.

5) Bodies may not “have handles,” but the Police found a way to force open the mouth of one protester and spray down his throat, in spite of manufacturers warning that pepper spray should not be used – even by law authority – less than three feet from the victim.

What IS true, as Kelly said, is that this has become “fairly standard police procedure.” Unfortunately, we don’t often pay attention, because the police are brutalizing suspected criminals, drug users, prostitutes, and individuals that “nice people” don't care too much about (unfortunately).

But now they’ve gone public. In the few weeks of the Occupy Movement, we’ve seen:

Four young women “kettled” behind orange fencing and sprayed in the face in NYC;

An 84-year old in Seattle sprayed for not moving fast enough;

A young man’s head profusely bleeding from baton brutalization (The ridiculously slanted NY Daily News had a headline blaming the victim for creating a “Bloody Nuisance.”)

Seated, peaceful students at UC Davis sprayed in the face.

Scott Olson, an Iraqi war veteran shot in the head in Oakland, with resultant fractured skull and speech difficulties, whose injuries were ignored by the police who caused them.

Kayvan Sabeghi, another Iraqi War Veteran, chased and pursued by an Oakland officer who beat him with a billyclub.

Press beaten, detained, and having their press passes confiscated by NYPD officers refusing to give names or badges.

A suspect in a parking garage brutally kicked 13 times, and now hospitalized in critical condition.

A NYC Police trial where undercover investigators admitted to routinely planting drugs on innocent suspects in order to meet an arrest quota.

This is Your Police State, Amerika….

This, in spite of clear 9th Circuit Federal Court Guidelines against such brutality:


No. 98-17250. January 11, 2002
Before:  BRIGHT,PREGERSON, and W. FLETCHER, Circuit Judges.
"During three nonviolent protests against the logging of ancient redwood trees in the Headwaters Forest, plaintiffs-appellants (“protestors”) linked themselves together with self-releasing lock-down devices known as “black bears…

… Beginning in the fall of 1997, defendants began using olesoresin capsicum aerosol (“OC” or “pepper spray”) to cause the protestors to release themselves from the “black bears.” The use of pepper spray under these circumstances was entirely unprecedented:  in California, its use was “limited to controlling hostile or violent subjects” and it had never been used in Humboldt County, the State of California, or anywhere in the country against nonviolent protestors.

At issue in this case are three protests that occurred in the fall of 1997, in which defendants used pepper spray on the protestors, and then refused to give them water to wash out their eyes, in order to force the protestors to release themselves from the “black bears.”

...We...conclude that it would be clear to a reasonable officer that using pepper spray against the protestors was excessive under the circumstances. The Fourth Amendment permits law enforcement officers to use only such force to effect an arrest as is “objectively reasonable” under the circumstances.  Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 397, 109 S.Ct. 1865, 104 L.Ed.2d 443 (1989) (citations omitted).   “[T]he essence of the Graham objective reasonableness analysis” is that “ ‘[t]he force which was applied must be balanced against the need for that force:  it is the need for force which is at the heart of the Graham factors.’ ”  Liston v. County of Riverside, 120 F.3d 965, 976 (9th Cir.1997) (quoting Alexander v. City and County of San Francisco, 29 F.3d 1355, 1367 (9th Cir.1994)) The facts reflect that:  (1) the pepper spray was unnecessary to subdue, remove, or arrest the protestors;  (2) the officers could safely and quickly remove the protestors, while in “black bears,” from protest sites;  and (3) the officers could remove the “black bears” with electric grinders in a matter of minutes and without causing pain or injury to the protestors.

Defendants asserted at trial that the protestors' use of “black bears” constituted “ ‘active’ resistance to arrest,' ” meriting the use of force.   The Eureka Police Department defines “active resistance” as occurring when the “subject is attempting to interfere with the officer's actions by inflicting pain or physical injury to the officer without the use of a weapon or object.” 240 F.3d at 1202-3.   Characterizing the protestors' activities as “active resistance” is contrary to the facts of the case, viewing them, as we must, in the light most favorable to the protestors:  the protestors were sitting peacefully, were easily moved by the police, and did not threaten or harm the officers. In sum, it would be clear to a reasonable officer that it was excessive to use pepper spray against the nonviolent protestors under these circumstances.

Defendants' repeated use of pepper spray was also clearly unreasonable.   As we recently concluded, the use of pepper spray “may be reasonable as a general policy to bring an arrestee under control, but in a situation in which an arrestee surrenders and is rendered helpless, any reasonable officer would know that a continued use of the weapon or a refusal without cause to alleviate its harmful effects constitutes excessive force.”  LaLonde v. County of Riverside, 204 F.3d 947, 961 (9th Cir.2000)… Finally, it would have been clear to any reasonable officer that defendants' refusal to wash out the protestors' eyes with water constituted excessive force under the circumstances."
The Court concluded by reaffirming its decision that in spite of Police generally being immune from lawsuits, they were, in fact, liable for such an unnecessary and egregious use of force:

"...we conclude that Philip and Lewis are not entitled to qualified immunity because the use of pepper spray on the protestors' eyes and faces was plainly in excess of the force necessary under the circumstances, and no reasonable officer could have concluded otherwise."

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Peaceful UC Davis Students sitting on ground Pepper-Sprayed by Police; Call for Chacellor's Resignation

In yet one more incident of police state terrorism, students peacefully sitting on the ground were pepper-sprayed by police. The unbelievable footage of this raw abuse of authority was captured clearly on the below video:

The Assaulting Officer:

Lieutenant John Pike

Police around the nation have been arrogant and brutal in their efforts to squash growing protests. Officers, "Following Orders" is no longer an excuse. Take heed: Americans are not going to simply turn tail and run.

The U S. Declaration of Independence:

when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government

NH Constitution, Article 10 - Right of Revolution:

Government being instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security, of the whole community, and not for the private interest or emolument of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, whenever the ends of government are perverted, and public liberty manifestly endangered, and all other means of redress are ineffectual, the people may, and of right ought to reform the old, or establish a new government. The doctrine of nonresistance against arbitrary power, and oppression, is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind. The Tennessee and North Carolina Constitutions say the same.

Police: Do you hear this? Those of us who were raised as patriotic Americans will NOT slink away into silent obedience in the face of tyranny.

18 November 2011

Linda P.B. Katehi,

I am a junior faculty member at UC Davis. I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of English, and I teach in the Program in Critical Theory and in Science & Technology Studies. I have a strong record of research, teaching, and service. I am currently a Board Member of the Davis Faculty Association. I have also taken an active role in supporting the student movement to defend public education on our campus and throughout the UC system. In a word: I am the sort of young faculty member, like many of my colleagues, this campus needs. I am an asset to the University of California at Davis.

You are not.

I write to you and to my colleagues for three reasons:

1) to express my outrage at the police brutality which occurred against students engaged in peaceful protest on the UC Davis campus today

2) to hold you accountable for this police brutality

3) to demand your immediate resignation

Today you ordered police onto our campus to clear student protesters from the quad. These were protesters who participated in a rally speaking out against tuition increases and police brutality on UC campuses on Tuesday—a rally that I organized, and which was endorsed by the Davis Faculty Association. These students attended that rally in response to a call for solidarity from students and faculty who were bludgeoned with batons, hospitalized, and arrested at UC Berkeley last week. In the highest tradition of non-violent civil disobedience, those protesters had linked arms and held their ground in defense of tents they set up beside Sproul Hall. In a gesture of solidarity with those students and faculty, and in solidarity with the national Occupy movement, students at UC Davis set up tents on the main quad. When you ordered police outfitted with riot helmets, brandishing batons and teargas guns to remove their tents today, those students sat down on the ground in a circle and linked arms to protect them.

What happened next?

Without any provocation whatsoever, other than the bodies of these students sitting where they were on the ground, with their arms linked, police pepper-sprayed students. Students remained on the ground, now writhing in pain, with their arms linked.

What happened next?

Police used batons to try to push the students apart. Those they could separate, they arrested, kneeling on their bodies and pushing their heads into the ground. Those they could not separate, they pepper-sprayed directly in the face, holding these students as they did so. When students covered their eyes with their clothing, police forced open their mouths and pepper-sprayed down their throats. Several of these students were hospitalized. Others are seriously injured. One of them, forty-five minutes after being pepper-sprayed down his throat, was still coughing up blood.

This is what happened. You are responsible for it.

You are responsible for it because this is what happens when UC Chancellors order police onto our campuses to disperse peaceful protesters through the use of force: students get hurt. Faculty get hurt. One of the most inspiring things (inspiring for those of us who care about students who assert their rights to free speech and peaceful assembly) about the demonstration in Berkeley on November 9 is that UC Berkeley faculty stood together with students, their arms linked together. Associate Professor of English Celeste Langan was grabbed by her hair, thrown on the ground, and arrested. Associate Professor Geoffrey O’Brien was injured by baton blows. Professor Robert Hass, former Poet Laureate of the United States, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize winner, was also struck with a baton. These faculty stood together with students in solidarity, and they too were beaten and arrested by the police. In writing this letter, I stand together with those faculty and with the students they supported.

One week after this happened at UC Berkeley, you ordered police to clear tents from the quad at UC Davis. When students responded in the same way—linking arms and holding their ground—police also responded in the same way: with violent force. The fact is: the administration of UC campuses systematically uses police brutality to terrorize students and faculty, to crush political dissent on our campuses, and to suppress free speech and peaceful assembly. Many people know this. Many more people are learning it very quickly.

You are responsible for the police violence directed against students on the UC Davis quad on November 18, 2011. As I said, I am writing to hold you responsible and to demand your immediate resignation on these grounds.

On Wednesday November 16, you issued a letter by email to the campus community. In this letter, you discussed a hate crime which occurred at UC Davis on Sunday November 13. In this letter, you express concern about the safety of our students. You write, “it is particularly disturbing that such an act of intolerance should occur at a time when the campus community is working to create a safe and inviting space for all our students.” You write, “while these are turbulent economic times, as a campus community, we must all be committed to a safe, welcoming environment that advances our efforts to diversity and excellence at UC Davis.”

I will leave it to my colleagues and every reader of this letter to decide what poses a greater threat to “a safe and inviting space for all our students” or “a safe, welcoming environment” at UC Davis: 1) Setting up tents on the quad in solidarity with faculty and students brutalized by police at UC Berkeley? or 2) Sending in riot police to disperse students with batons, pepper-spray, and tear-gas guns, while those students sit peacefully on the ground with their arms linked? Is this what you have in mind when you refer to creating “a safe and inviting space?” Is this what you have in mind when you express commitment to “a safe, welcoming environment?”

I am writing to tell you in no uncertain terms that there must be space for protest on our campus. There must be space for political dissent on our campus. There must be space for civil disobedience on our campus. There must be space for students to assert their right to decide on the form of their protest, their dissent, and their civil disobedience—including the simple act of setting up tents in solidarity with other students who have done so. There must be space for protest and dissent, especially, when the object of protest and dissent is police brutality itself. You may not order police to forcefully disperse student protesters peacefully protesting police brutality. You may not do so. It is not an option available to you as the Chancellor of a UC campus. That is why I am calling for your immediate resignation.

Your words express concern for the safety of our students. Your actions express no concern whatsoever for the safety of our students. I deduce from this discrepancy that you are not, in fact, concerned about the safety of our students. Your actions directly threaten the safety of our students. And I want you to know that this is clear. It is clear to anyone who reads your campus emails concerning our “Principles of Community” and who also takes the time to inform themselves about your actions. You should bear in mind that when you send emails to the UC Davis community, you address a body of faculty and students who are well trained to see through rhetoric that evinces care for students while implicitly threatening them. I see through your rhetoric very clearly. You also write to a campus community that knows how to speak truth to power. That is what I am doing.

I call for your resignation because you are unfit to do your job. You are unfit to ensure the safety of students at UC Davis. In fact: you are the primary threat to the safety of students at UC Davis. As such, I call upon you to resign immediately.


Nathan Brown
Assistant Professor
Department of English
Program in Critical Theory
University of California at Davis


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Prop 8 Ruling: Conservatives have standing to sue, case proceeds to 9th Circuit Court

The California Supreme Court has ruled that “Protect Marriage,” a conservative citizens group, has the legal right to defend California’s Proposition 8 in court. This means that the controversial ballot question, which banned same-sex marriage in California, will now be heard by the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The State of California had recognized same-sex marriage, but conservative citizens petitioned to have the issue put before voters. The ballot question, called “Prop 8,” was approved, which then ended same-sex marriage in California. Gay rights groups appealed the ballot initiative, and a Federal Court Judge declared that Prop 8 was Unconstitutional. In that suit, the “defendant” was the State of California, since it was the State that was defending its own laws in federal court. When the State lost, it chose not to appeal the decision, which would have normally meant the end of Prop 8 and a re-recognition of same-sex marriage.

However, conservative citizen groups were outraged that the State was not defending its law on appeal, and stepped in and filed an appeal at the 9th Circuit Court. The Circuit Court was unclear as to whether the group had “standing to sue,’ ie, if they had the right to appeal the law.

The issue of standing is a very narrow question of deciding “who” has the right to sue in court. If Jack and Jill have a contract concerning carrying a bucket of water, and Jack refuses to carry out his part of the deal, then all courts agree that Jill has the right to sue Jack. The question in this case, however, is whether someone who is not a party to the original case can also: can Jill’s best friend Sally sue Jack because of the injury suffered by Jill, if Jill chooses not to sue…especially if Sally believes it will affect her? In essence, that is the question the court needed to decide. The Federal Court then asked the California State for guidance on this issue.

In the end, the California Supreme Court (a state court) ruled that the conservative citizens group does in fact have standing to sue, which means that the appeal will now continue at the 9th Circuit (the federal court).

It also means that the issue as to whether or not same-sex marriage is a federal Constitutional Right – or not – will probably reach U S Supreme Court level in the not-too-distant future.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Federal Reserve Bank Secretly Lent 16 Trillion to US & Foreign Banks

The first top-to-bottom audit of the Federal Reserve uncovered eye-popping new details about how the U.S. provided a whopping $16 trillion in secret loans to bail out foreign, as well as American banks since 2008. The audit of the Federal Reserve was carried out in the past few months largely due to the bipartisan efforts of libertarian Texas Republican Congressman Ron Paul and socialist Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

"As a result of this audit, we now know that the Federal Reserve provided more than $16 trillion in total financial assistance to some of the largest financial institutions and corporations in the United States and throughout the world," said Sanders. "This is a clear case of socialism for the rich and rugged, you're-on-your-own individualism for everyone else."

Among the investigation's key findings is that the Fed unilaterally provided $16,000,000,000,000 dollars in financial assistance to foreign banks and corporations from South Korea to France and Scotland, according to the GAO report. From the period between December 2007 and June 2010, the Federal Reserve secretly bailed out these institutions, referring to them as loans, but virtually none of the money has been returned - it was loaned out at 0% interest.

Why the Federal Reserve had never been public about this or even informed the United States Congress about the $16 trillion dollar bailout is obvious - the American public would have been outraged to find out that the Federal Reserve bailed out foreign banks while Americans were struggling to find jobs.

Make no mistake: The Federal Reserve System is the most powerful financial and economic institution in the world, with virtually no accountability to democratic processes.

As proof, the value of all good and service produced in the United States in the course of a year ("Real GDP") is 14 Trillion. The Fed gave away 16 trillion in Bailouts.

The non-partisan, investigative arm of Congress also determined that the Fed lacks a comprehensive system to deal with conflicts of interest, despite the serious potential for abuse. In fact, according to the report, the Fed provided conflict of interest waivers to employees and private contractors so they could keep investments in the same financial institutions and corporations that were given emergency loans.

For example, the CEO of JP Morgan Chase served on the New York Fed's board of directors at the same time that his bank received more than $390 billion in financial assistance from the Fed. Moreover, JP Morgan Chase served as one of the clearing banks for the Fed's emergency lending programs.

In another disturbing finding, the GAO said that on Sept. 19, 2008, William Dudley, who is now the New York Fed president, was granted a waiver to let him keep investments in AIG and General Electric at the same time AIG and GE were given bailout funds. In other words, the Fed chose to use taxpayer money to grant funds to institutions in which the NY Fed President had personal investments and a vested interest.

The Fed outsourced virtually all of the operations of their emergency lending programs to private contractors like JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Wells Fargo. The same firms also received trillions of dollars in Fed loans at near-zero interest rates. Altogether some two-thirds of the contracts that the Fed awarded to manage its emergency lending programs were no-bid contracts - they were just "appointed" by Fed bamkers to receive and process the bailouts funds. Morgan Stanley was given the largest no-bid contract worth $108.4 million to help manage the Fed bailout of AIG.

The list of institutions that received the most money from the Federal Reserve can be found on page 131 of the GAO Audit and are as follows..

Citigroup: $2.5 trillion ($2,500,000,000,000)
Morgan Stanley: $2.04 trillion ($2,040,000,000,000)
Merrill Lynch: $1.949 trillion ($1,949,000,000,000)
Bank of America: $1.344 trillion ($1,344,000,000,000)
Barclays PLC (United Kingdom): $868 billion ($868,000,000,000)
Bear Sterns: $853 billion ($853,000,000,000)
Goldman Sachs: $814 billion ($814,000,000,000)
Royal Bank of Scotland (UK): $541 billion ($541,000,000,000)
JP Morgan Chase: $391 billion ($391,000,000,000)
Deutsche Bank (Germany): $354 billion ($354,000,000,000)
UBS (Switzerland): $287 billion ($287,000,000,000)
Credit Suisse (Switzerland): $262 billion ($262,000,000,000)
Lehman Brothers: $183 billion ($183,000,000,000)
Bank of Scotland (United Kingdom): $181 billion ($181,000,000,000)
BNP Paribas (France): $175 billion ($175,000,000,000)

Green Party candidate Jill Stein defends First Amendment

In spite of efforts by police across the nation to silence the media during their coordinated assault on protesters, videos made by ordinary citizens and posted on YouTube have gone viral and provided all the evidence that is needed to show the excessive brutality exercised by The Police State against American citizens last night: Pepper spray used on an octagenarian who was moving too slowly, thousands of books destroyed, protesters roused and rounded up at night, press passes confiscated, individuals with official court restraining orders punched in the face by uniformed officers, a NY city Councilor beaten...and the list goes on.

The Republicans continue to dismiss the people with total disdain, while Obama's Department of Homeland Security coordinates with City Police forces to storm the protests.

In the midst of this, the Green Party alone has had the courage to stand up and oppose these gestapo-like tactics. I reprint, in its entirety, the official statement released by Jill Stein, Green Party candidate for President:

"The aggressive, needless police actions across the country against Occupy Wall Street (OWS) are an assault on civil liberties and an effort to suppress a much needed movement for economic justice and democracy. The courageous protesters who have stood up to intimidation by lethal force are standing up for us all.

The use of police in full riot gear with helicopters buzzing overhead to arrest peaceful and largely sleeping protesters is frightening commentary on the militarization of state and municipal security. Unprovoked police violence against citizens practicing peaceful civil disobedience - clearly documented on videos gone viral on the internet - is deeply alarming: young women being corralled and pepper sprayed on Wall Street, students at University of California Berkeley being attacked with nightsticks, Iraq veteran Scott Olsen who served two tours of duty supposedly defending freedom, yet whose own freedom was assaulted in a police attack at Occupy Oakland that fractured his skull and rendered him unable to speak.

In conducting these raids, public officials are suppressing rights of free speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of the press. Routinely, reporters were physically prevented from observing the raids. Many of those who managed to get in to the sites were reportedly intimidated or arrested. If access to public ways and public health and safety concerns were significant, other non-military solutions were available to deal with them. The lack of such efforts belies the excuse that these concerns justified police raids.

As the OWS protesters have said, the defenders of the 1% can evict the protesters, but they can't evict an idea. The protest is here to stay. I call upon the mayors of the occupied cities to follow the example of Green Party Mayor Gayle McLaughlin of Richmond, California, who welcomed the local occupation, and to allow the Occupy gatherings to continue.

Throughout American history public assemblies by the people have been essential to the advance of our civil liberties and to the defense of our freedoms.

Coxey's Army in 1894 marched from Ohio to DC, demanding public jobs for the unemployed in the midst of a recession. In 1932, the Bonus Army of 17,000 World War I veterans and their families, in the third year of the Great Depression camped in DC demanding the immediate cash-payment redemption of their World War I bonuses that were scheduled to be paid in 1945. In 1968, the Poor People's Campaign, a legacy of recently assassinated Dr. Martin Luther King, set up a shantytown in DC known as "Resurrection City" in support of an Economic Bill of Rights, seeking full employment, a guaranteed annual income, and affordable low-income housing. In 1985-86, students erected and camped in anti-apartheid shantytowns on college campuses to protest investments in corporations in apartheid South Africa.

Some of the OWS protesters are homeless. Many more are young and jobless, often carrying unconscionable college-loan debt burdens. They are the tip of the iceberg of insecurity that is increasingly intolerable for growing numbers of the American public, with the upper 1 percent of Americans now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year and controlling 40 percent of the nation's wealth. Income disparity in the US now exceeds that before the Great Depression. Thus, the anguish that compels protesters to sleep on the cold hard ground is not going away.

The political parties of the 1% are showing signs of neither understanding the protest, nor acting to address the root economic causes. I challenge President Obama to forbid all Federal involvement in these disturbing violations of civil liberties, and to urge all elected officials to respect the right of citizens to peacefully assemble to petition their government for redress of the economic grievances caused by rule by the 1%."

Jill Stein for President Campaign


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

NYPD clears Occupy Wall Street

This is how a Fascist Police State Operates:

Shortly after midnight, the Mayor has a secret meeting, calling NYPD, NYFD, and Public Works Departments to City Hall.

NYPD shut down all subways, subway stations, and the Brooklyn Bridge at 1:20 am. All New Yorkers held hostage by the NYPD.

NYPD amass in riot gear at Broadway and Canal, 1:43 am. Snipers take position on rooftops.

In spite of Constitutional provisions guaranteeing Freedom of the Press, Press are barred from entering Zuccotti Park to record the imminent raid at 2:07 am, and Press helilcopters are evicted from airspace. Defiant reporters rounded up by NYPD: one pepper sprayed at 2:03 am, at least one New York Times Reporter demanding to exercise his 1st Amendment rights is arrested and removed at 2:22 am. Press several blocks have press badges confiscated; police refuse to give badge numbers or names.

The NYPD assault on Zuccotti Park, which is private property, begins.

5,000 Books discarded in a dumpster at 2:42 am. Bulldozers move into Zuccotti Park. NYC Council Member Ydanis Rodríguez arrested and bleeding from head, 2:44 a.m

Remaining Occupiers chain themselves to tree, which had been protected by Occupiers throughout. The tree is cut down by NYPD at 2:55 am. Fire Hoses are brought in at 3:08 am.

Doormen at area residential apartments ordered by police to prevent residents from leaving (confirmed by NBC news at 3:37 am)

130 police in Riot Gear surround Zuccotti Park. Deputy Mayor and Legal Counsel in Oakland, California, resign in protest of Oakland raids on Occupiers...raising the question of a nationally orchestrated 'cleansing' campaign.

Combined action by government entities, in the dead of night. Silencing of the Press. Cutting off of transportation routes. Destruction of books. Sweeping of private property by government thugs. Pepper spray, arrests, assaults.

Call (212) NEW-YORK. Sheldon Silver 212-312-1420. Christine C. Quinn - City Council (212) 564-7757 Brookfield Properties(212) 483-0771


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Japan Gov't Forcing Radiated Food on School Children

One would think that the government of a nation that experienced firsthand the biological horrors of nuclear radiation from atomic blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki would be vigilant in protecting their people from this past year’s nuclear power plant meltdowns.

Instead, in the Fukushima region, they are forcing schoolchildren to consume radiated milk and rice as an act of “patriotism,” and publicly shaming those who, in obedience to their parents, refuse.

As reported by Ruthie Iida, an American teacher in Japan,

“Many mothers, mistrustful of food safety standards (food is simply labeled “safe”, and the exact level of radiation does not appear on produce ) would prefer their children to eat box lunches from home, made from foods carefully chosen ( preferably from faraway prefectures ) and carefully prepared….Teachers in Fukushima, however, insist that their students eat the school lunches (made with locally-grown produce) to show their loyalty to the prefecture. Children are torn between their mothers’ wishes and their fear of humiliation and punishment. This sounds hard to believe, but it’s been reported in various blog sites…and was unanimously confirmed by the Fukushima mothers that I met on Sunday. Worse yet, one mother reported that students who refuse to eat school lunches are now bullied by their peers as well as berated by their teachers.”
Kanagawa Notebook

A video of Japanese Parliamentary budget hearings from Sept 29 with English subtitles confirms this report:

Meltdown history

The Japanese Government’s response to the meltdowns at Fukushima following the horrific earthquakes and tsunami in March of this year has been permeated by missteps, conflicting reports, and the white-washing of safety issues, going back to the early days of the disaster.

After the March 11, 2011 earthquake, the Fukushima Daiichi power plant site was inundated by a 49-foot high tsunami wave. The connection to the electrical grid was broken, as the Tsunami destroyed the connecting power lines. With the loss of power, the nuclear reactors could not be cooled, and began to overheat.

The disaster was not unforeseeable.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex had been at the center of a 2002 falsified-records scandal, including serious unreported safety issues and inspections that were overdue by more than a decade. The scandal led to the resignations of number of senior executives of the plant’s parent company, TEPCO. In a document released by Wikileaks, it was revealed that in the wake of the scandal, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) conveyed grave concerns about the ability of Japan's nuclear plants to withstand seismic activity. At the same time, the Japanese government was opposing a Japanese Court order to close a nuclear plant in the west part of the country over doubts about its ability to withstand an earthquake.

Just five weeks ago, the Japanese Government released an internal TEPCO report admitting that TEPCO knew that the plant could not withstand a tsunami as low as 18 feet, and, that based on previous seismic activity, they knew such a tsunami was highly possible.

Radioactive measurements throughout Fukushima, and a Government in Denial

Following the March 2011 tsunami, reactors 1, 2 and 3 experienced full meltdown and multiple fires broke out at Reactor 4. Fuel rods stored in pools in each reactor building began to overheat as water levels in the pools dropped, and radioactivity releases led to the evacuation of people in a 12 mile radius around the plant. The government would later admit that dangerous levels of radioactive Cesium were actually being measured up to 30 miles away from the plant. Measurements taken by the Japanese science ministry and education ministry showed Cesium levels high enough to force the issue: food grown in the area was banned from sale, and tap water was deemed unsafe for children.

It was estimated by New Scientist that the initial daily release of Cesium from Fukushima was of the same magnitude as those from Chernobyl in 1986. And yet, Japanese government officials initially assessed the accident as only a “Level 4” on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES), which runs from 1-7. Other international agencies challenged Japan, and the government grudgingly raised the level to a 5. Finally, pressured by scientists from around the world who determined it will take decades to clean up the radiation in the Fukushima region, the government finally admitted that its emergency was at the maximum level of 7. Article, UK Daily Mail

Government changes children’s exposure standards

As explained by physician Carolyn Roy-Bornstein,

“Children are at greater risk of the dangers of radiation for many reasons. Their minute volumes, or the amount of air they breathe in one minute, are greater than adults, causing them greater exposure to radioactive gases. They also live and breathe closer to the ground and therefore closer to nuclear fallout as it settles to earth. Radioactive Iodine is readily transmitted to human breast milk. (Cesium has been detected in the breast milk of seven women in the Fukushima area.) Cow’s milk also becomes quickly contaminated when radioactive materials settle onto grazing fields.”
(Carolyn Roy-Bornstein)

[Blogger's note: In July, over 100 cows raised 60 miles from the Fukushima site were fed Cesium-laced hay, and were sold at market for consumption. While the “safe limit” of Cesium is pegged at 500 bcq/kg, the hay registered at 97,000 bcq/km. The pollen from Cedar trees some 27 miles from the site measured at 175,000 bcq/km]

Prior to the Fukushima accident, the acceptable limit of exposure for children to Cesium was 1 millisievert (mSv) per year. As the accident unfolded, the Fukushima prefecture was directed to change that standard to 20 mSv per year, the same dose allowable for adult workers at nuclear power plants. Physicians for Social Responsibility issued a statement calling the move "unconscionable." Professor Tatsuhiko Kodama, head of the Radioisotope Center at the University of Tokyo, testified on July 27th before the Japanese Committee on Welfare and Labor that the uranium leak from the Fukushima Daiichi plant amounted to the equivalent of 20 Hiroshima atomic bombs. He further testified that he was frustrated in his work, as his team was told that the government could only provide him with a single Geiger counter. Further investigation showed that the US Army donated 20 such Geiger counters, which were withheld from him and kept in storage.

First, irradiated Milk forced on children; Now, Rice

Normally, radioactive Cesium washes out of the body relatively quickly in sweat and urine. But rather than being comforting, this becomes disturbing when one realizes that 8 months after the disaster, Japanese women continue to evidence Cesium in their breastmilk - suggesting that they are ingesting Cesium at a greater rate than their bodies can excrete it.

Cesium does, in fact, readily accumulate in food: in particular, it remains in concentrated form in plant and mushroom tissues, and an accumulation of cesium in water bodies has been a high concern since it was noted after the Chernobyl disaster. (Smith, Jim T.; Beresford, Nicholas A.. Chernobyl: Catastrophe and Consequences. Berlin: Springer. ISBN 3-540-23866-2.) Experiments with dogs showed that a single dose of 140 MBq/kg of caesium is lethal within three weeks, while smaller amounts cause infertility and cancer. (Redman, H. C.; McClellan, R. O.; Jones, R. K.; Boecker, B. B.; Chiffelle, T. L.; Pickrell, J. A.; Rypka, E. W. (1972). "Toxicity of 137-CsCl in the Beagle. Early Biological Effects")

It is all the more outrageous, then, that in order to compensate Fukushima rice farmers, government officials are buying rice from this toxic area and foisting it upon school children – in spite of the fact that USA Today reports elevated levels of Cesium in rice as far as 30 miles from the Fukushima site. Starting this Tuesday, Koriyama City schools will start using this year’s locally-grown rice in the city in all school lunches. This is a region where 500,000 bcq/kg of radioactive cesium was found in the rice hay. (Reminder: the ‘safe’ level of consumption is 500 bcq/kg)

Response by the Japanese People

As teacher Ruthie Iida so poignantly writes,

“…Fukushima families that managed to survive the quake and tsunami intact have been torn apart by circumstance and necessity; children have spent nearly eight months already living apart from their fathers. Women that I talked to said that even families who have stayed together in Fukushima are often divided in their thinking, with mothers hoping to evacuate and fathers wanting to stick it out. I watched an NHK special last week on a small company in Fukushima run by a group of men who have been friends since childhood; they have evacuated their wives and children and are staying on in Fukushima to keep their company going. This seems to be a common pattern, with men choosing financial stability and loyalty to the workplace rather than taking the risk of starting fresh with their families. Either choice is a hard one, and residents of Fukushima City are on their own, with no financial assistance from the central government (they are outside of the evacuation zone), and the situation complicated by community ties to the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

As Saeko told me, “I wish I had more friends working with me to halt the spread of the nuclear industry, but so many in Fukushima work for the company itself, or have connections.”

There is tension between husbands and wives, tension among friends, tension between teachers and students, and tension among students. It’s obvious by now that the central government is unable and unwilling to take responsibility for the chaos that has ensued since the meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi. They are busy making plans to build and sell new, improved nuclear reactors in third-world, energy-starved countries. One mother that I spoke with recalled her own incredulity when she realized that families in her city had literally been abandoned by the government.

”Is there anyone at all that you trust in the Prime Minister’s cabinet?” I asked.

Saeko and her friends looked at each other and agreed, “No, no-one. “

Following the pattern established at Occupy Wall Street, growing numbers of Japanese women are coming together and demanding a more honest, effective, and empathetic response from the Japanese Government. Their demands are simple and clear:

- Provide government assistance for the evacuation of children from Fukushima. The ‘official’ evacuation zone is only 12 miles, while serious radiation is being found three times that distance from the plants. Thousands of families, bearing mortgages and having no relatives in other regions, feel trapped and forgotten.

- Keep the TEPCO nuclear power plants off-line.

And if the Japanese government’s treatment of its own children has not been poor enough, they are about to go global with irresponsibility: to bail out Japan's fisheries, there is now a government effort to export canned fish with excessive levels of Cesium to third-world countries. The unbelievable video footage, via a French news service with English subtitles, is embedded below:

And it doesnt stop at fish; it includes crops from Fukushima:

What Can You Do?

Pressure the Japanese Government to swallow its stiff-necked pride, admit the extent of the catastrophe taking place, and cease forcing toxic food on its own and the world’s children in the name of national pride. Contact these men and express your outrage:

Ambassador of Japan to the United States 
2520 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20008
Phone: 202-238-6700

Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations

H.E. Mr. Tsuneo NISHIDA
Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary
Permanent Representative of Japan
to the United Nations


H.E. Mr. Kazuo Kodama
Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary
Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan
to the United Nations


H.E. Mr. Jun Yamazaki

866 U.N. Plaza, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10017
Tel: (212) 223-4300