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Billionaires Flourish, Inequalities Deepen as Economies “Recover”

By James Petras | 03.23.2011

The bailouts of banks, speculators and manufacturers served their real purposes: the multi-millionaires became billionaires and the later became multi-billionaires.

Introduction

According to the annual report of the business magazine Forbes there are 1,210 individuals – and in many cases family clans – with a net value of $1 billion dollars (or more). Their total net worth is $4 trillion, 500 billion dollars, greater than the combined worth of 4 billion people in the world. The current concentration of wealth exceeds any previous period in history; from King Midas, the Maharajahs, and the Robber Barons to the recent Silicon Valley – Wall Street moguls of the present decade.

An analysis of the source of wealth of the super-rich, the distribution in the world economy and the methods of accumulation highlights several important differences with major political consequences. We will proceed to identify these specific features of the super-rich, starting with the United States and follow with an analysis of the rest of the world.

The Super-Rich in the US: Greatest Living Parasites

The US has the most billionaires in the world (413), better than one third of the total, the greatest proportion among the “big countries in the world. A closer look also reveals that among the top 200 billionaires (those with $5.2 billion and more) there are 57 from the US (29%). Over one third made their fortune through speculative activity, predators on the productive economy and exploiters of the property and stock market. This is the highest percentage of any major country in Europe or Asia (with the exception of England). The enormous concentration of wealth in the hands of this tiny parasitical ruling class is one reason why the US has the worst inequalities of any advanced economy and among the worst in the entire world. Speculators do not employ workers, they secure tax loopholes and bailouts and then press for cuts in the social budget, since they do not require a healthy, educated workforce (except for a tiny elite). In 1976 the top 1% held 20% of the wealth; in 2007 they commanded 35% of total wealth. Eighty percent of Americans own only 15% of the wealth. The recent economic crises, which initially reduced the total wealth of the country, did so in an uneven fashion – hitting the majority of workers and employees worse. The Bush-Obama bailout led to the economic recovery, not of the “economy in general”, but was confined to further enhancing the wealth of the billionaires – which explains why the unemployment/under employment rate has hardly moved, why the fiscal debt and trade deficit grows and the state lowers corporate taxes and slashes federal, state and municipal budgets. The “dynamic” sector composed of parasitical capitalists employ few workers, exports no products, pays lower taxes and imposes greater cuts in social spending for productive workers. In the case of the US billionaires, their wealth is largely accrued via the pillage of the state treasury and productive economy and via speculation in the information technology sector which houses one-fifth of the top billionaires.

BRIC’s: The New billionaires: Exploiting Labor of Nature

The leading emerging capitalist countries, Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) hailed by the mass media for their rapid growth over the past decade are producing billionaires at a faster rate than any bloc of countries in the world. According to the latest data in Forbes (March 2011), the number of billionaires in the BRICs increased over 56% from 193 in 2010 to 301 in 2011, exceeding that of Europe.

The high growth of the BRICs – has led to the concentration and centralization of capital, in every case promoted by state policies which provides low interest loans, subsidies, tax incentives, unrestricted exploitation of natural resources and labor, the dispossession of small property owners and the give-away of publically owned enterprises.

The dynamic growth of billionaires in the BRICs has led to the most egregious inequalities in the world. Among the BRICs, China leads the way with the greatest number of billionaires (115) and the worst inequalities in all of Asia, in sharp contrast to its Communist past when it was the most egalitarian country in the world. An examination of the source of wealth of China’s super rich reveals that it has resulted from the exploitation of labor in the manufacturing sector, speculation in real-estate and construction and trade. China has surpassed the US as the world’s biggest manufacturer in 2011, as a result of the super-exploitation of labor in China and the growth of parasitical financial capital in the US.

In contrast to the US, China’s working class is making significant inroads into the profiteering of its manufacturing and real estate elite. As a result of working class struggle, wages have been growing between 10% and 20% over the past 5 years; protests by farmers and urban households against state sanctioned evictions by real estate speculators have exceeded 100,000 per year.

The wealth of Russian billionaires on the other hand resulted from the violent theft of public resources (oil, gas, aluminum, iron, steel, etc.), developed by the previous Communist regime. The great majority of Russian billionaires depend on the export of commodities, pillaging and devastating the natural environment under a corrupt and deregulated regime. The contrast in living and working conditions between the western oriented billionaires and the Russian working class is largely the result of the siphoning off of wealth to overseas accounts, offshore investments and extraordinary personal luxuries including multi-million dollar real estate. In contrast to China’s industrial elite, Russia’s billionaires resemble the parasitical ‘rentiers’ found among Wall Street speculators and Persian Gulf sheiks.

India’s billionaires are a combination of old and new rich drawing their wealth by exploiting low wage industrial workers, dispossessing slum and tribal peoples, as well as from diversified holdings in real estate, IT and software. India’s billionaires accumulated their wealth through their class-kin linkages to the very corrupt higher echelons of the political class, securing monopolies via state contracts. India’s high growth over the past decade (averaging 7%) and the upsurge in billionaires upward to 55 by 2011, are both linked the neo-liberal policies of deregulation, privatization and globalization, which have concentrated wealth at the top, undermined small scale producers and dispossessed tens of millions.

Brazil’s billionaire class has expanded rapidly, especially under the leadership of the Workers Party, to 29, up from single digits a decade earlier. Today over two-thirds of Latin America’s billionaires are Brazilians. The centerpiece of Brazil’s super rich wealth is the financial-banking sector which has benefited enormously from the monetary, fiscal and neo-liberal policies of the Lula Da Silva regime. Billionaire bankers have been the principle beneficiaries of the agro-mineral export economy which has flourished over the past decade, at the expense of the manufacturing sector. Despite claims by Workers Party leaders, the class inequalities between the mass of minimum wage workers ($380 per month as of March 2011) and the super-rich continues to be worst in Latin America. An analysis of the source of wealth among Brazilian billionaires reveals that 60% accrued their wealth in the finance, real estate and insurance (FIRE) sector and only one (3%) in the capital or intermediary maufacturing sector. Brazil’s boom in economic growth and billionaires fits the profile of a ‘colonial economy’: heavy in conspicuous consumption, commodity exports and presided over by a dominant financial sector which promotes neo-liberal policies. Over the course of the past decade despite the populist political theatrics and paternalistic poverty-programs sponsored by the “center-left” Workers Party, the major socio-economic outcome has been the growth of a class of “super-rich” billionaires concentrated in banking with powerful links to the agro-mineral sectors. The free-market high growth financial-agro-mineral class has degraded the manufacturing sector, especially textiles and shoes, as well as capital and intermediary goods producers.

The BRICs are producing more,and growing faster than the established imperial powers in Europe and the US but they are also producing monstrous inequalities and concentrations of wealth. The socio-economic consequences have already manifested themselves in increasing class conflict especially in China and India, as intensive exploitation and dispossession have provoked mass action. The Chinese political elite seems to be the most conscious of the political threat posed by the growing concentration of wealth and is in the midst of promoting substantial wage increases and greater local consumption which seems to be lowering profit margins among some sectors of the manufacturing elite. Perhaps the ‘historical memory’ of the “cultural revolution’ and the Maoist legacy plays a role in alerting the political elite to the political dangers resulting from “capitalist excesses” associated with the high levels of exploitation and the rapid growth of a class of politically connected kinship based billionaires.

Middle East:

Over the past decade the most dynamic country in the Middle East has been Turkey. Led by a liberal democratic regime of Islamic inspiration, Turkey has led the region in GDP growth and in the production of billionaires. The Turkish economic performance has been presented by the World Bank and the IMF as a model for the post dictatorial regimes in the Arab world – ‘high growth’, a diversified economy based on the growing concentration of wealth. Turkey has 35% more billionaires (37) than the Gulf and North African states combined (24). The ‘secret’ of Turkish growth is the high rates of investments in diverse industries and the intensive exploitation of labor. Many Turkish billionaires (14) derive their wealth via ‘conglomerates’, investments in diverse manufacturing, finance and construction sectors. Apart from the ‘conglomerate’ billionaires, there are ‘specialist billionaires’ who have accumulated wealth from banking, construction and food manufacturing.

One of the reasons Turkey has rebuked and challenged Israeli power in the Middle East is because its capitalists are eager to project investments and penetrate markets in the Arab world. Apart from the highly Zionized US political system, the ruling elites and publics in Europe and Asia have looked favorably on Turkey’s opposition to Israel’s massacres in Gaza and violation of international law on the high seas. If a modern liberal Islamic regime can grow rapidly through the rapid expansion of a diversified class of the super-rich, so does Israel, a modern neo- liberal-Judaic state based on the rapid growth of a highly diverse class of billionaires. Israel with 16 billionaires is a country with the fastest growing class inequalities in the region-with the highest per-capita billionaires in the world… Israel’s “growth sectors”, software, military industries, finance, insurance, diamonds and overseas investments in metals and mining are led by billionaires and multi-millionaires who have benefited from Zionist induced financial handouts from the US pillage of resources from the ex USSR and transfer of funds by Russian-Israeli oligarchs and though joint ventures with Jewish-American billionaires in software corporations, especially in the “security” sector. Israel’s high percentage of billionaires at a time of sharp cuts in social spending puts the lie to its claim to be a ‘social democracy’ in the midst of Arab ‘sheikdoms.’ As a matter of record, Israel has twice as many billionaires (16) as Saudi Arabia (8) and more super-rich than the entire Gulf countries combined (13). The fact that Israel has more billionaires per capita than any other country has not prevented its Zionist supporters in the US from pressing for an additional $20 billion in aid over the next decade. Unlike the past, today Israel’s wealth concentration has less to do with its being the biggest recipient of foreign aid … Israel’s handouts are a political issue: Zionist power over the Congressional purse. Given the total wealth of Israel’s billionaires a five percent tax would more than compensate for any cut off of US foreign aid. But that is not about to happen simply because Zionist power in America dictates that the US taxpayers subsidize Israel’s plutocrats by paying for their offensive weaponry.

Conclusion

The “economic crises” of 2008-2009 inflicted only temporary losses to some (US-EU) billionaires and not others (Asian). Thanks to trillion dollar/Euro/yen bailouts, the billionaire class has recovered and expanded, even as wages in the US and Europe stagnate and ‘living standards’ are slashed by massive cutbacks in health, education, employment and public services.

What is striking about the recovery, growth, and expansion of the world’s billionaires is how dependent their accumulation of wealth is based on pillage of state resources; how much of their fortunes were based on neo-liberal policies which led to the takeover at bargain prices of privatized public enterprises; how state de-regulation allows for plunder of the environment to extract resources at the highest rate of return; how the state promoted the expansion of speculative activity in real estate, finance and hedge funds, while encouraging the growth of monopolies, oligopolies and conglomerates which captured “super profits” – rates above the ‘historical level’. Billionaires in the BRICs and in the older imperial centers (Europe, US and Japan) have been the primary tax beneficiaries of reductions and elimination of social programs and labor rights.

What is absolutely clear is that the state not the market plays a essential role in facilitating the greatest concentration and centralization of wealth in world history, whether in facilitating the plundering of the treasury and the environment or in heightening the direct and indirect exploitation of labor .

The variations in the paths to ‘billionaire’ status are striking: in the US and UK, the parasitical – speculative sector predominates over the productive; among the BRICs – with the exception of Russia diverse sectors incorporating manufacturers, software, finance and agro-mineral billionaires predominate. In China the abysmal economic gap between the billionaires and the working class, between real estate speculators and dispossessed households is leading to increasing class conflict and challenges, forcing significant increases in wages (over 20% the past 3 years) and demands for increased public spending on education, health and housing. Nothing comparable is occurring in the US , EU or in the other BRICs.

The sources of billionaire wealth are, at best, only partially due to ‘entrepreneurial innovations’. Their wealth may have begun, at an earlier phase, from producing useful goods and services; but as the capitalist economies ‘mature’ and shift toward finance, overseas markets and the search for higher profits by imposing neo-liberal policies, the economic profile of the billionaire class shifts toward the parasitical model of the established imperial centers.

The billionaires in the BRICs, Turkey and Israel contrast sharply from the Middle East oil billionaires who are ‘rentiers’ living off ‘rents’ from exploiting oil and gas and overseas investments especially in the FIRE sector. Among the BRICs only the Russian billionaire oligarchs resemble the rentiers of the Gulf. The rest, especially Chinese, Indian, Brazilian and Turkish billionaires have taken advantage of state promoted industrial policies to concentrate wealth under the rhetoric of ‘national champions’, promoting their own ‘interests’ in the name of a “successful emerging economy”. But the basic class questions remains: “growth for whom and who benefits?” So far the historical record shows that growth of billionaires has been based on a highly polarized economy in which the state serves the new class of billionaires, whether parasitical speculators as in the US, rentier pillagers of the state and environment such as Russia and the Gulf states or exploiters of labor such as in the BRICs.

Post Script

The Arab revolt can be seen in part as an effort to overthrow ‘rentier capitalist clans’. Western intervention in the revolts and support of the “opposition” military and political elites is an effort to substitute a ‘neo-liberal’ capitalist ruling class. This “new class” would be based on the exploitation of labor and dispossession of current crony-clan-kin owners of resources Major enterprises would be transferred to multi-nationals and local capitalists. Much more promising are the internal working struggles in China and to lesser degree in Brazil and the rural based Maoist peasant and tribal movements in India which oppose rentier and capitalist exploitation and dispossession.

March 23, 2011 Posted by | Economics, Environmentalism, Timeless or most popular | Leave a comment

Five years ago today, Walt and Mearsheimer gave Americans the vocabulary to discuss a central issue

By Scott McConnell | Mondoweiss | March 23, 2011

What stood out from the first page was the tone—measured but firm, uncompromising but not strident. Every assertion seemed precisely weighed, put forth without exaggeration, flamboyance, or polemical excess. Also striking was the absence of gratuitous deference towards the opponent. There was no pulling of punches, no telltale signs of anxiety about the consequences of an argument taken too far, or indeed made at all. Such was my first reaction to reading John Mearsheimer’s and Steve Walt’s Israel Lobby paper, posted five years ago today on the website of Harvard’s Kennedy School, and published in shorter form in the London Review of Books. It had arrived at the opening of business one morning in an email from Michael Desch, then a professor at Texas A&M’s George H. W. Bush School of Government. I sent it across the hall to my colleague Kara Hopkins, a woman a generation my junior, somewhat less engaged than I by the Middle East, and certainly less persuaded that a coterie of neocons had gotten George W. Bush on a leash and were leading him this way and that. Three minutes later I walked into her office, where she had the paper up on her screen. “This is exactly what I believe,” said Kara, words that I had never heard from her before on any subject, much less this one.

American Christians who are neither ignorant nor bigots have a difficult time finding the right words to discuss Israel and its special relationship to the United States. Anyone with knowledge of European history knows of the connection between discourses about Jewish power and anti-Semitism. Inevitably this history has intruded on American discussions of Israel and its lobby. Save a handful of exceptions, mainstream dissent from the special relationship with Israel has taken the form of the dry aside or the understated sentence or two published amidst a lot of other stuff, almost as if the author hoped it would not be noticed. Occasionally public figures at the end of their careers made remarks that more resembled outbursts, the parting shot of the seventy- five year old senator or aging general. But more often than not, ever sensitive to the perils of anti-semitism, Americans let their fears of contributing to injustice shut off necessary debates. People rolled their eyes or took refuge in wry remarks: “What’s the matter with the rest of them?” said a friend upon seeing a Washington Post story about the 360 members of Congress who had showed up to pay homage at one of AIPAC’s annual gatherings.

The reasons differed for every individual, and were composite. There was the worry about offending close Jewish friends or colleagues, concerns over possible adverse professional consequences, or the general inhibitions associated with the Jewish power/leading to anti-Semitism/leading to the Holocaust nexus.* The result was that critical analysis of the special relationship was shoved to the margins of American political discourse. The discussions may have been richer and more involved on the Marxist and anti-imperialist Left than on the quasi-isolationist Old Right, but in neither case did they much influence the political mainstream. Even in the wake of the Iraq disaster, with the looming prospect of more American wars in the Middle East, Israel’s role was alluded at most in passing, but seldom really pursued.

The evasions could be almost comical.

In the second issue of The American Conservative, in the fall of 2002, we published an outstanding 8000 word essay by Paul Schroeder, a distinguished diplomatic historian, who argued that Americans had a great stake in preserving an international system which inhibited preventive wars of the sort Washington was preparing to wage against Iraq. After being granted 8000 words, Schroeder added some footnotes, the fourth of which stated, inter alia, “It is common for great powers to try to fight wars by proxy, getting smaller powers to fight for their interests. This would be the first instance I know where a great power (in fact, a superpower) would do the fighting as the proxy of a small client state.”

To Schroeder’s consternation, this footnote was the only item from his argument mentioned a few months later in a Washington Post oped, where it was cited amongst other examples of the supposed anti-semitism of Iraq war critics who had deigned to notice that the push for war was connected to Israel.

Five years ago, John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard stepped directly into these bogs of understatement, circumlocution and the relegation of major points to footnotes. Here are some of the points the two made in the first pages of their paper:

For the past several decades, however, and especially since the Six Day War in 1967, the centerpiece of U.S. Middle East policy has been its relationship with Israel. The combination of unwavering U.S. support for Israel and the related effort to spread democracy throughout the region has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardized U.S. security…

More importantly, saying that Israel and the United States are united by a shared terrorist threat has the causal relationship backwards: rather, the United States has a terrorism problem in good part because it is so closely allied with Israel, not the other way around…

This situation has no equal in American political history. Why has the United States been willing to set aside its own security in order to advance the interests of another state?

In the essay that followed, the two backed up these and other equally forceful assertions with tightly-argued, factually-based paragraphs and extensive footnotes. They were not, of course, the first pioneers in pursuing this subject from an establishment vantage point: on at least two occasions, the Israel subject had been addressed by Americans of comparable eminence. George W. Ball, probably the wisest figure to hold high positions in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, had late in life co-authored with his son an important book on America’s “entangling alliance” with Israel —a book whose antecedent was in an article written for Foreign Affairs in the late 1970’s, proposing that America “save Israel from itself” by stopping its incipient campaign to colonize the West Bank. A few years earlier, Senator William Fulbright, probably the leading foreign policy intellectual among Americans who held elective office in the postwar era, bemoaned the Israel lobby’s influence, and pushed for an American security guarantee for Israel within the 1967 borders.

Both Fulbright and Ball came to the subject at the close of long careers. In contrast Mearsheimer and Walt published their paper during their professional primes. Their argument had none of that “Now I can finally say it” quality; instead the authors arrived with every intent of carrying their argument forward. They had tenure at two of the country’s top universities. They had reached the top of a profession which rewards clear writing and thinking, and possessed the argumentative eloquence that comes from years of lecturing before the nation’s brightest students. They were political moderates—whose careers had placed them squarely in the “vital center” of American academic foreign policy discourse. They were fully prepared to go larger, and in eighteen months turned the paper into a best-selling book.

Of course it mattered somewhat that the Israel lobby used every tool at its disposal to smear the authors and bury their argument. Every journal and newspaper that had ever felt the need to stress its “pro-Israel” credentials published a negative review of the book. (The Israel Lobby received generally far more favorable reviews in Europe and, in fact, in Israel.) But the sheer volume and intensity of the attacks on the paper may have been self-defeating. By April 2006, it seemed that everyone with an interest in foreign policy had read the article and was eager to talk about it. (I would note that in that month I went on a trip with a church group to Syria, Israel, and the occupied West Bank, on a schedule that included five or six meetings a day for ten days. Excepting the purely religious figures, it is no exaggeration to say that every single Arab intellectual, government or NGO official we met with mentioned the Mearsheimer and Walt paper. It was also the very first topic raised by Owen Harries, the very wise retired editor of The National Interest, at a private dinner I gave in his honor when he was visiting from Australia that May. )

Like the original essay, the book itself was a blend of precise analysis and exact documentation. As a resource it is unparalleled. If someone confidently asserts that Israel and its backers had nothing whatever to do with encouraging the United States to invade Iraq ( a “canard” is the usual dismissal phrase), one can find in The Israel Lobby five or six pages of quotes from television appearances and op-eds by leading Israeli political and military figures, who utilized their untrammeled media access to convey their war-mongering points to the American public. The same holds true for dozens of other subtopics of their broader subject: precise generalizations, supported by facts, authoritatively and contextually presented in a rhetoric that neither overheats nor backs down.

There are several different frames of reference in which to discuss Israel, the Palestinians, and the United States. One potentially critical new front is now being opened by some Jewish liberals, who charge that Israel’s longstanding occupation policies contravene Jewish values. But important as this argument is, it initiates a debate in which the vast majority of Americans have no standing to participate.

This underscores the achievement, and the yet unrealized potential, of Mearsheimer and Walt’s essay and book. As international relations scholars and centrist “realists,” the two examined the American relationship with Israel through the prism of American national interests and values—or at least the non-racist and democratic values America has aspired to for most of the past century. They found the Israel relationship deficient on both counts. In doing so they not only wrote a milestone paper and book— what political work in the past decade comes close to The Israel Lobby in importance? They provided the tens of millions in the vast American political center with a vocabulary and a conceptual frame to discuss a subject of critical importance to them. Non-Jews especially, for the reasons discussed above, desperately needed such a vocabulary, for without it they were all but mute. No matter that this potential remains, as yet, relatively underutilized: it is still there, ready to be deployed. In the long run, this may prove the greatest contribution of the two scholars, one which far surpass what the book has achieved thus far.

*These inhibitions included the fear of offending other non-Jews. My wife, whose father was a UN official with extensive responsibilities for Middle East peacekeeping, grew up with a far more critical attitude towards Israel than I had. It was not until my own (previously neoconservative) views began to change in the mid 90’s, fifteen years into our marriage, that she acknowledged to me some of her pro-Palestinian sympathies.

March 23, 2011 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | 2 Comments

JAPAN: RADIATION ‘SAFE’, PRESS EVACUATES, INVESTORS SCARED

NO RADIATION THREAT SAYS MEDIA: REPORTERS PULLED OUT OF JAPAN

Meanwhile, Frightened Investors in the USA and Europe Seek Protection

by keith harmon snow | 20 March 2011

Reporting about the nuclear crises in Japan and around the world is getting curiouser and curiouser. Western media are heavily downplaying the threat of radiation in what amounts to an Alice in Wonderland fable of disinformation straight out of the rabbit hole.

Worried about profits and the the destabilization of the YEN and NIKKEI Index, the media is doing damage control to help keep people from flooding out of Japan and further destabilizing the Japanese economy. Given the evidence, the history of disasters and epidemics of disease, reporting that downplays Japan’s radiation threat is criminal.

Meanwhile, back in the U.S.A., frightened investors are seeking protections and insurances from industry and government. Wall Street is worried. This is getting curiouser and curiouser.

The irony: “art project” photographed in Tokyo depicts humans in states of decay, resembling images of children with deformed limbs born near Chernobyl. © Keith Harmon Snow, 1992

For example, on 20 March 2011, CNN ran a video story, “Facts whisper, fears scream during crises,” where their experts proclaim that fears of radiation are unfounded and misinformation abounds. CNN’s latest nuclear expert — Dan Polansky — calls this radiophobia: an irrational fear of radiation with no basis in fact. Even for the Japanese nuclear workers who are closest to the Fukushima hot zone, says CNN reporter Stan Grant, “radiation might make people sick, but it won’t kill them.”

Meanwhile, CNN describes Dan Polansky as a “nuclear expert”, who “specializes in weapons of mass destruction and knows about radiation.” What they don’t tell us is that Polansky works for the Georgia (USA) Department of Community Health, he studied at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory (INEL), and is a recent graduate of Radiological Emergency Planning at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Pretty good credentials, no doubt. Must be telling the truth. [Quack.]

However, LLNL and INEL are two of the Department of Energy and Department of Defense top classified weapons laboratories, both also SUPERFUND sites of massive toxic nuclear waste. Work at national laboratories like INEL and LLNL requires high-level national security clearances: it looks like Daniel Polansky is another spook.

The Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) has produced some studies that show some incidence of disease around the Yankee Rowe reactor (Rowe, MA, U.S.A.), which is now decommissioned; but they have also helped to whitewash nuclear (and other) risks of modern day society.

This is indeed very curious.

The Harvard Center for Risk Analysis (HCRA) was founded by John D. Graham and specializes in advocating forms of risk-assessment widely criticized by community groups and legitimate health professionals. The Center gained funds from both industry and government agencies, including nuclear interests like: General Electric, the Edison Electric Institute, Electric Power Research Institute, New England Electric System (at least five nukes on the New England power grid) and Westinghouse Electric. GE and Westinghouse are two of the U.S.A.’s biggest nuke companies, and EPRI is a pro-nuke think tank that has produced propaganda about nukes for more than four decades.

Harvard School of Public Health and the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis are not the same thing. Harvard School of Public Health supports the nuclear industry and helps to downplay radiation threats at many levels. However, Harvard Center for Risk Analysis is an industry front producing junk science — spurious information posited as science — and debunking truth everywhere in the corporate media.

Looking a little deeper down the rabbit hole we find, for one curious example, that David Ropeik is an Instructor in the Harvard University School of Continuing Education, Environmental Management program. Ropeik is also a former affiliate at the Harvard Center for Risk Assessment (which he says he left in 2004).

According to his own public relations biography advertised on the BAYER CropScience web page [Bayer is the big German multinational pharmaceutical corporation], Ropeik has also worked closely with the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and he “has been interviewed on risk perception by ABC Nightline, National Public Radio, NBC Dateline, ABC 20/20, Fox News, CNN, CNN International, BBC, CBC, CNBC, Voice of America, and dozens of regional radio stations nationwide.”

He has also “taught courses on media coverage of risk issues at the Harvard School of Public Health, the Kennedy School of Government, the Neiman Fellowship Program at Harvard, the Knight Science Journalism Fellowship program at MIT, Boston University’s Program in Science Journalism, the Emerson College program in Health Communication, and to the National Association of Science Writers, the Council for the Advancement of Science Writers, and the Society of Environmental Journalists.”

A long-time member of the Society of Environmental Journalists, David Ropeik is now a private consultant in Risk Perception, Risk Communication, and Risk Management with Ropeik & Associates, whose nuclear clients include Entergy Power Corporation (owns the dangerously unsafe Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station), Edison Electric Institute, the Electric Power Research Institute, the American Nuclear Society, the Egyptian Nuclear Authority, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Nuclear Institute, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (who did a study on the incidence of disease on the radiation ‘pathways’ from the Yankee Rowe Nuclear Power Station), The Veterans Board for Dose Reconstruction, Department of Defense, and etc., and etc., and etc.

“Risk is a subjective affair,” reads the home page of Ropeik & Associates. “It’s not just a matter of the facts, but also how those facts feel. Understanding why some risks feel more frightening, and some less, is essential for communicating about risk effectively, and for tackling the human behavioral aspects of overall risk management.”

As far as the Society of Environmental Journalists, this is just another trade industry group, like any ‘Society of Professional This-or-That’, which maintains deep ties to industry and the media corporations that have censored and distorted the truth about radiation, nuclear weapons and nuclear power. For example, a look at their sponsors and foundation donors quickly leads to a large list of corporate interests, including nuclear corporations.

What a curious world we live in.

Given that there is “so little threat from radiation” in Japan, it is very curious that NBC pulled their entire news team out of Japan. Curiously, it seems that CNN’s Anderson Cooper also pulled out of Japan — and who could blame him! — and is now reporting on Libya from somewhere else (Hong Kong?).

On March 20, 2011, Japanese Officials confirmed radiation food poisoning. “Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said checks of milk from Fukushima prefecture, where the plant is located, and of spinach grown in Ibaraki, a neighbouring prefecture, surpassed limits set by the government… It was the government’s first report of food being contaminated by radiation since the March 11 quake and tsunami unleashed the nuclear crisis.”

Thousands of U.S. military families have also been evacuated from Japan under the U.S. Department of Defense ‘voluntary evacuation’ program initiated because of radiation concerns.

Meanwhile, on March 19, 2011 financial media began reporting that U.S. investors seeing the nuclear industry in Japan crash, burn and melt are frightened of Financial Losses due to Boring Utility Debt.

Curiouser and curiouser.

“Investors are seeking protection from a public backlash against nuclear power producers as the threat from earthquake-damaged reactors in Japan stokes calls by U.S. lawmakers to limit plants in this nation,” reported Bloomberg News.

Utility companies, typically considered a haven among credit investors because of their resilience in economic downturns, are being punished as Tokyo Electric Power Co. struggles to cool damaged reactors. Environmental groups want limits on U.S. nuclear plants, and Representative Edward Markey is seeking a moratorium on facilities in seismically active areas. Nuclear-power executives say the nation’s reactors can withstand such disasters.”

Behind the scenes, corporations and money markets managers and futures investors are swapping debt portfolios and jockeying to maximize profits and minimize losses.

While the people of Japan suffer the fate of massive radiation emissions — ‘leaks’ is another term invested by the industry and used by media to downplay the invisible radiation dispersed near any reactor — the utility companies are portrayed as the victims. Utility companies are “being punished” and “investors seeking protection” are now the victims.

Curiouser, and curiouser, and curiouser.

~

March 23, 2011

Guns and Butter KPFA radio program interviews Kieth Harmon Snow

See also:

Uranium tumbles on Japan crisis

March 23, 2011 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Nuclear Power | 2 Comments

   

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