Many supporters of Hillary Clinton say that since she committed no criminal offense, the whole thing about her private email server containing classified material is just partisan sniping.
So as a public service, let’s see if we can sort that out.
18 USC 1924, which is a law, is titled “Unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents or material.”
The text of the law says, inter alia, “Whoever, being an officer… of the United States, and, by virtue of his office, employment, position, or contract, becomes possessed of documents or materials containing classified information of the United States, knowingly removes such documents or materials without authority and with the intent to retain such documents or materials at an unauthorized location shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both.”
The law does not require the possessing person to “know” the information is classified.
This is the statute under which David Petraeus was prosecuted for keeping classified information at home.
Two Inspectors General stated Clinton’s email server, located part of the time at her home in New York, and part of the time at a commercial server farm in Colorado, held classified data. Neither site was an authorized location. We’ve long-since established that classified is classified whether it is marked or not. It does not matter who sent the emails; they were on Hillary’s server and thumb drives, making her the “possessor.”
Clinton’s possession of classified information on a personal server appears to be a violation of 18 USC 1924. So is transferring that information to the thumb drives held by her lawyer (himself unauthorized to possess high-level classified information.)
There it is. No partisan remarks. No right-wing attacks. Just facts. As a non-lawyer, what am I missing?
Global outrage was sparked when the Zimbabwean lion, Cecil was killed as a trophy; but to this day, Britain and America continue to display in museums human remains that are human trophies of their massacres and subjugation of indigenous populations.
Britain has recently revealed that it is currently negotiating with Zimbabwe over the repatriation of human remains, belonging to fighters from Zimbabwe’s struggle against British colonisers, currently displayed in the Natural History Museum of London.
On Tuesday, Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe, said in a speech that the Zimbabwean liberation war fighters, “whose heads were decapitated by the colonial occupying force, were then dispatched to England, to signify British victory over, and subjugation of, the local population.”
That Thursday night, the British Foreign Office confirmed that “remains of Zimbabwean origin” were on display in a museum in London.
President Mugabe also remarked that, “surely, keeping decapitated heads as war trophies, in this day and age, in a national history museum, must rank among the highest forms of racist moral decadence, sadism and human insensitivity.”
Prior to European and American colonialism, the first museums were founded in Africa and played an essential role in many African civilisations. In fact, museums have been a part of human history for more than 2,000 years.
The tradition of collecting and displaying intriguing items began in Black Ancient Egypt. Most rising Western cultures from the Roman Empire onwards then displayed exotic animals and flora in their museums. The word “museum” comes from the Greek mouseion, meaning “temple built for the muses and museums”, which were originally designed to promote art, science and ingenuity. After the European Dark Ages, the next step in the evolution of museums occurred as a result of the ingenuity of the Black African Moors who conquered and civilized parts of Europe. The study of the natural world was once again encouraged by the Black Moors establishing “curiosity cabinets” across Europe after a millennium of Western ignorance.
Prior to the 19th century, museums tended to be small and private, open only to the aristocracy of a given nation. During the 19th century, the modern museum as we know it began to take shape. With plunder streaming in from all corners of the British Empire, the modern museum was born.
The British Museum, London.
The British Museum was created largely as a repository for artifacts looted from Africa between the 17th and 19th centuries. Such plunder includes many artifacts from Ancient Egypt which prove that the Ancient Egyptians, who established the first museum, were themselves dark-skinned Afroancestrals.
Across the world, one of the consequences of British colonialism was the violent appropriation of cultural artifacts, sacred and precious objects; and one of the legacies is their ongoing display in British museums. For centuries, the museums of Great Britain have served to bolster national white pride and glorify British imperial culture, by displaying a wide array of artifacts looted and plundered during European slavery and colonialism.
One example of the rather grim history of colonial racial terrorism is the long European history of human zoos, which featured Africans and conquered indigenous peoples, displayed in the same way as animals. Men, women and children would be kidnapped, locked up in cages and exhibited in front of European large audiences. Many people died after short stints in captivity and they lived in tortuous conditions. Visitors to the human zoos would often poke the African children with sticks, throw food at them and audiences were permitted to subject the captives to various degrading acts for a fee.
The primitive practice of putting indigenous people on display began during the modern period when explorers like Columbus and Vespucci lured natives back to Europe to be flaunted and paraded like trophies.
In the late 1800’s, Europe had been filled with human zoos in cities like Paris, Hamburg, Antwerp, Barcelona, Warsaw, Milan, and London. Thirty-four million people visited the 1931 World Fair for human zoos in Paris. New York was not morally exempt from such racist and degrading practices. New York City saw these popular exhibits continue into the twentieth century, even after the ends of both World Wars. Millions of Americans attended these spectacles.
Prior to the Second World War, human Zoos in America were at their height and the New York Times reported at the time, “few expressed audible objection to the sight of a human being in a cage. The crowd loved it… It is absurd to make moan over the imagined humiliation and degradation that they suffer.” At a time when America and Britain accepted human zoos as perfectly normal, Adolf Hitler was the one to ban them.
By creating the first mass contact between Whites and Blacks, and by promoting the spectacularization of “The Other”, human zoos were a key factor in the progressive shift in the West from scientific to popular racism.
The primitive European and American practice of exhibiting Africans in zoos continued well into the 1950s. During the 1960s, the baton of state-sanctioned racism towards Africans was passed from Europe’s human zoos into its museums. In fact, historically, museums in Britain have held some of the most reprehensible images of Blacks as barbarians and savages, and the most degrading images of Black women.
A 20 year-old South African woman known as Sarah Baartman would be emblematic of the dark era that gave rise to the popularity of human zoos. She was taken by an exotic animal-dealer to London in 1810. Sarah had a genetic characteristic known as steatopygia; large buttocks and elongated labia. Thousands of British men, women and children would come to human zoos to gawk at her naked body. Sarah’s days were punctuated by rape and scientific examinations. In 1815, Sarah died in abject poverty and her skeleton, sexual organs and brain were put on display at the Museum of Mankind in Paris where they remained for almost a century until 1974. In 2002, President Nelson Mandela formally requested the repatriation of her remains.
If you add up the attendance for every English Premier league football, rugby, basketball and cricket game in Britain this year, the combined total will come to about 30 million people. That’s a big number, but 49 million people will visit British museums this year. Museums are important sites for contestation over grand narratives of history, especially nationalist and imperial history. For more people to see the British state openly flaunting stolen loot in a museum this year than those who will watch sport, shows that cultural imperialism and true primitive racial attitudes are deeply entrenched in British statehood.
During the “Great Scramble” for control over the continent in the late 19th century, art counted among the highest prizes of imperialist plunder. Britain still unashamedly displays thousands of stolen African artifacts worth hundreds of billions of pounds in the British Museum, Liverpool Museum and elsewhere. Many other invaluable stolen artifacts from Africa, Asia and South America are in private British hands. Notably the Benin bronzes, ivories and other ancient works looted by British colonialists, especially during the reprisal attacks launched by the Queen’s soldiers against natives trying to resist imperialism in 1897.
The British Museum has long presented an array of African objects throughout its rooms, and its new African Galleries are second to none. Its ancient Egyptian collection is stunning. And they should be: while African collections in Germany, France and Belgium hold several important pieces, no other nation could match the British when it came to plundering so many art objects of a conquered people over so long a time period.
The British Museum, controls a quarter of a million artifacts from Africa alone, and maintains that looting those artifacts “was legal at the time.” As ever when the West perpetrates a crime against other people, they have a perversely fantastic way of asserting that their actions are completely bona fide, entitled and legal. Arthur Torrington OBE of the British Museums and Libraries Archives Council candidly admits that museums do not “want to accept the objects were stolen because if they do it for one, they’ll have to do it for all.”
The modern British museum may literally have been built on the backs of oppressed indigenous populations and its rooms filled with plundered goods from Europe’s colonial conquests; but in this day and age, the ongoing display of stolen loot and human trophies is unjustifiable in a modern, civilized society.
Garikai Chengu is a scholar at Harvard University. Contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org.
A recurrent buzz phrase of the Washington mandarinate in the last two decades has been “soft power.” The term was coined by Joseph Nye, a Harvard academic, in his 1990 book, Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power. What he meant by the term is that “when one country gets other countries to want what it wants [it] might be called co-optive or soft power in contrast with the hard or command power of ordering others to do what it wants.”
Soft power he defined as the putatively attractive political, social and cultural traits of a country that induce admiration in a target people, and, presumably, a desire both to emulate those traits and to willingly comply with the wishes of the country projecting the soft power.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testifies before Congress about the fatal attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya. (Photo from C-SPAN coverage)
The term has gotten a workout by American politicians and national security bureaucrats, particularly since the manifest failure of military power to make Iraqis love us. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has used the term, saying he would like to augment U.S. soft power by “a dramatic increase in spending on the civilian instruments of national security – diplomacy, strategic communications, foreign assistance, civic action and economic reconstruction and development.”
As might be expected, the idea is most loved by State Department officials, principally because they believe it could give them a leg up in the Washington budget battles with their colossal rival, DOD, the repository of “hard” power. A Google search of “Hillary Clinton smart power” gets about 3.7 million hits. Smart power is the former Secretary of State’s pet term for a fusion of hard and soft power. John Kerry is also fond of the concept.
It is easy to see why the national security establishment, casting about for some alternative to the usual bluster leading to military action, would be drawn to the magical notion that our presumed cultural attractiveness, combined with a really cool Twitter feed, could advance American interests (as the Beltway elite defines them) throughout the world.
Democrats, in particular, looking for some substitute to the brain-dead neoconservative policies that some of them were briefly enamored of when President George W. Bush was Stockholm Syndroming them, are magnetically pulled to a concept that sounds like the first cousin to the dorm room philosophizing that so many of their kind indulged in during their formative years in the Ivy League.
“If we just explain our policies to them in the right way in a Facebook post, and maybe open an Apple Store in downtown Chișinău, ordinary Moldovans will be clamoring to join NATO!”
It is surely preferable to think in this manner than to act like a warmongering troglodyte, even if some soft power ploys, like John Kerry bringing James “You’ve Got a Friend” Taylor to Paris to console them after a terrorist attack, seem frivolous if not embarrassing – one can hardly picture Charles Francis Adams or George Kennan doing likewise.
Yet soft power, while less pernicious, still springs from the same roots as neoconservative militarism. It arises from the near-universal belief among the Beltway illuminati in American Exceptionalism, the fairy tale that the United States dwells outside the normal processes of history and has a duty as a global redeemer. It is what H.L. Mencken would have classified as “the bilge of American idealism,” and it ranks right up there with intelligent design and a conviction that real estate will always go up among the foolish things Americans have believed in.
Was the invasion of Iraq and the whole Bush-era nightmare really the polar opposite of what the soft power advocates wanted? With the fall of Baghdad, a military campaign that took only a month, the whole soft power apparatus swung into action: passing out soccer balls to children, rebuilding the municipal sewer system, and opening a Baghdad stock market on the assumption that the benighted Iraqi masses were pining for the fruits of American-style capitalism.
In 2015, vastly more Iraqis speak English than in 2003. The Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development spent $50 billion in the country. Yet has all that money and all the cultural export of Americana accomplished anything? And could we not draw the identical conclusion about Afghanistan?
The whole soft power hallucination was born of the end of the Cold War in a particularly hubristic moment of American triumphalism. It was at that time that Francis Fukuyama wrote his extraordinarily silly discourse prophesying the end of history and the ushering in of a capitalist-consumerist utopia – a kind of upside-down Marxist dialectic.
That is the fallacy at the heart of soft power: the belief that consumer goods, or some latent yearning for a Disney-fied lifestyle, or some technological gimmick like Snapchat, will liberate the foreign masses yearning to breathe free.
In the 1990s, one could see the apotheosis of this mentality in the pontifications of The New York Times’ Thomas Friedman, who claimed that no two countries that had McDonald’s franchises would go to war with each other – a thesis that has proven false several times. But one can see why Corporate America might love the idea of soft power as a way of selling Philadelphia cheese steaks in Burundi. They might even get an Export-Import Bank loan to facilitate peddling their wares because of the alleged diplomatic value.
We have seen the fruits of this delusion in the Middle East. Saddam’s Iraq, a secular if tyrannical government, at least allowed unveiled women to attend university and beer to be served in outdoor cafes. Tariq Aziz, Saddam’s longtime foreign minister, was a Chaldean Catholic. Iraq is now a far more dogmatically Muslim country than it was 15 years ago.
The same could apply to most of the Middle East: blue jeans, smartphones, and contact with Westerners did not make most Middle Eastern peoples more Western psychologically, it did just the opposite. The botched Washington reaction to the so-called Arab spring was a case in point: mesmerized by the fact that the Tahrir Square demonstrators used social media, Foggy Bottom could not quite grasp that the popular democracy demanded by the Cairo throng may have had little in common with the vision of democracy of Kennedy School of Government professors.
The fact that Saudi princes drive Bugatti Veyrons, own flats in Mayfair, and get their cholesterol checked at the Cleveland Clinic, does not stay them from lopping off the heads of those they deem miscreants or sorcerers at a record rate.
It is precisely the money grubbing, pop-culture aspect of American soft power that has made it such a hard sell in the Middle East. Sayyid Qutb, a leading figure in the Muslim Brotherhood in early post-World War II Egypt, attended university in Colorado, where he was repelled by what he saw as the rampant materialism and superficiality of American life. He went back to Egypt determined to reverse the growing Westernization of his country. So much for the Kumbaya effect of cultural exchange.
It is common for educated, progressive Americans to be appalled by the increasing intolerance of Muslim societies and their treatment of women, and to declare that these are broken, dysfunctional societies. There may be some validity in that judgment. But they ought to reflect that the antics of the Kardashians, Duck Dynasty, and the World Wrestling Federation, not even to mention the candidacy of Donald Trump, do not exactly broadcast to the world the image of America as the Last, Best Hope of Mankind.
We should have known that dressing up the outer man in Gap clothing does not change the inner man. One of the most profoundly exotic societies in the Nineteenth Century, from a Western point of view, was Japan.
Yet in an amazingly short time, the Japanese adopted the outward, physical trappings of a Western society. Their naval personnel donned U.S. Navy-style uniforms and their officers grew addicted to playing bridge as if they were barnacle-encrusted old English seadogs at the Admiralty. Their diplomats strutted around in wing collars, frock coats, and top hats like any respectable gentleman at the Court of Saint James. They adopted the superficial accoutrements of parliamentary rule. The Japanese industrialized rapidly. Babe Ruth turned them into baseball fans.
Yet Japan simultaneously became a violently aggressive country whose militarism astonished the world. Parallel with its outward “Westernization,” Japan’s elites confected a jingoistic Shinto emperor worship that was at once reactionary and yet new: an arresting analogue to the increasingly violent brands of Islam that have arisen in recent decades along with rising contact with the West. And these same Islamic fanatics, namely in ISIS, are now experts in social media, a talent that is giving the FBI director fits.
Soft power, the hula hoop craze of a segment of the national security establishment, is one more peculiar aspect of American parochialism and ethnocentrism, such as hewing to the English system of weights and measures, or the archaic use of a.m. and p.m. on airline schedules rather than the more rational 24-hour clock.
It is no substitute for traditional diplomacy that emphasizes horse-trading, reciprocity, and the fact that other countries just might, after all, have legitimate interests. A bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken is no suitable door prize for peoples whose sense of cultural pride could very well be as strong as our own.
Mike Lofgren is a former congressional staff member who served on both the House and Senate budget committees. His book about Congress, The Party is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted, appeared in paperback on August 27, 2013. His new book, The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government, will be published in January 2016.
In Britain, the welfare system is under sustained attack and rights are being stripped away. At the same time in ‘austerity Britain’, however, there’s always enough taxpayers’ money to pour into the black hole of imperialist wars and the pockets of the profiteers that live off them, courtesy of David Cameron’s government of millionaire ministers. Capitalism is moribund. It has reached its inevitable increasingly totalitarian dead end. In the 1980s, Britain outsourced much of its manufacturing to cheap labour economies in order to boost profits. To provide a further edge, trade unions and welfare were attacked. As wages stagnated or decreased in absolute terms and unemployment increased, the market for goods was under threat. The answer lay in lending people money and creating a debt ridden consumer society.
Of course, this resulted in new opportunities for investors in finance and all kinds of dubious financial products were created, sold to the public and packaged and shifted around the banking system. Toxic debt bubbles were created then burst and public money bailouts for billionaire bankers and austerity for the masses followed. It’s been the same story across much of the western world, managing capitalism’s crises for the last few decades in the manner of ever-decreasing circles.
The top 1,000 wealthiest people in Britain had an aggregate wealth of £333 billion ($500 billion) in 2009. The national debt was half that. In 2009, they increased their wealth by a third. It doesn’t take a genius to see how the debt could be addressed. But the government says there is no point in pretending that there is some magic wand that could be waved to make the whole country feel richer than it actually is.
And so massive cuts to welfare will continue and the wholly corrupt system instituted by the rich will continue under the lie of ‘democracy’. Rising food poverty will continue, while the five richest families in Britain are worth more than the poorest 20% and one third of the population lives in poverty. Almost 18 million people cannot afford adequate housing conditions, 12 million are too poor to engage in common social activities, one in three cannot afford to heat their homes adequately in winter and four million children and adults are not properly fed (see this). Welfare cuts have pushed hundreds of thousands below the poverty line since 2012, including more than 300,000 children.
If there ever was a time for revolution, surely it is now. While a heavily weakened labour and trade union movement is seeking to resist the austerity agenda and with many other groups in Britain protesting, the distinct impression is that an effective widespread revolt against capitalism itself remains a distant hope.
For a large section of the population, the ‘Wills and Kate’ royal reality show, retail therapy, bogus terror threats and blood-drenched imperialism under the lie of ‘our soldier heroes’ killing to ‘save life’ in far-away lands continue to distract and divert attention from the failing system itself.
Thanks to this, the revolution is on hold. Take a Sunday morning stroll through England’s green and pleasant land to appreciate this. Stale pools of last night’s beer-vomit clog the gutters. Sunday morning booze-soaked hangovers fuzz memories of the previous night’s deeds done and actions best forgotten. Every Saturday night is a full-fledged grim reality show on the streets of downtown Britain.
A million wannabe young women wishing they were not themselves, wishing they were Jenny Lopez or Victoria Beckham. From minimum wage beautician to footballer’s wife in an X-Factor instant. Vodka fuelled dreams in this, England’s not so green and pleasant land.
Save me from my life of low pay and even lower aspiration, Vicky. I wanna be like you, I wanna be you. Sex sells, but who’s buying? Some coked-up drug dealer might do but preferably David Beckham. I could be the next ‘Posh’, if I give you what you want, what you really, really want.
Glammed up, spiced up and sexed up, believing they have ‘x’ factor or whatever it takes to be free, free from the mundane, free from being ordinary in a fake fantasy culture of ‘girl power’, fame and celebrity.
But this is aspirant Britain. While tens of thousands recently took to the streets of London to participate in an ‘anti-austrity’ rally, at the same time comatose Britain sleeps to the sounds and visions of media-produced plastic role models and celebrity product endorsement and believes the media spoon-fed lie that austerity is necessary. For these people, it’s not about overthrowing the system, it’s about being made blind to it. It’s not about rejecting it, it’s about accepting it as normal. Who reads Karl Marx when Cosmo says empowerment lies in lipstick? Who needs Lenin when you can watch English Premier League multi-millionaire footballers whose only revolting duty is to endorse the very products that bind the fan to the lies and logos of a narcissistic, self-incarcerating consumerism?
Who wants revolution when you can turn on and tune in to self-styled messiah Simon Cowell, as he rules over his empire of franchised TV shows, celebrities and wannabes. Acquire immediate salvation from the mundane with Cowell – the giver, the creator, the destroyer – the ultimate godhead for those seeking to enter the promised land of fame and riches and acquire their unique place in the pantheon of celebritydom. For those not already doped out on spymaster-sanctioned heroin on Britain’s housing estates, this form of opiate will do just as fine.
It is a damning indictment of society, where people accept the faith that this is how life should be lived, as they pray before the never ending conveyor belt of disposable commodities and heroes to be fetishised, consumed then spat out when they pass their very short sell by dates. It’s the secular theology of the age, built on flotsam and jetsam products, celebrities and fads that ebb and flow with the vagaries of mass titillation and the machinations of corporate greed.
And do not expect Britain’s Labour Party to galvanise or organise the masses any time soon. As with the current Conservative regime, the Labour Party by and large promotes the corporate-backed lie that all of this is liberating. Yes, people are actually free! Free to be monitored and surveyed by the state like no other country in Western Europe, free to be cynically targeted by the market, free to pick up the tab for the failings of financial capital and free to build up the greatest amount of personal debt and misery in Europe.
‘Freedom’ within the confines of what increasingly resembles an open prison isn’t much to celebrate. The actual reality in Britain is economic meltdown and social crisis.
Harold Macmillan, the Tory Prime Minister in the 1950s, once told the Brits that they’d never had it so good due to rising post-war affluence. Maybe now it’s a case of they have never had it so bad as people drown in their Saturday night vomit with eyes wide shut.
Sometimes when I’m reading about renewable technologies, I just break out laughing at the madness that the war on carbon has wrought. Consider the Ivanpah solar tower electric power plant. It covers five square miles in Southern California with mirrors which are all focusing the sun on a central tower. The concentrated sunlight boils water that is used to run a steam turbine to generate electricity.
Sounds like at a minimum it would be ecologically neutral … but unfortunately, the Law of Unintended Consequences never sleeps, and the Ivanpah tower has turned out to be a death trap for birds, killing hundreds and hundreds every year:
“After several studies, the conclusion for why birds are drawn to the searing beams of the solar field goes like this: Insects are attracted to the bright light of the reflecting mirrors, much as moths are lured to a porch light. Small birds — insect eaters such as finches, swallows and warblers — go after the bugs. In turn, predators such as hawks and falcons pursue the smaller birds.
But once the birds enter the focal field of the mirrors, called the “solar flux,” injury or death can occur in a few seconds. The reflected light from the mirrors is 800 to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Either the birds are incinerated in flight; their feathers are singed, causing them to fall to their deaths; or they are too injured to fly and are killed on the ground by predators, according to a report by the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory.”
– David Danelski, Solar: Ivanpah Solar Described as Deadly Trap for Wildlife,” Riverside-Press Enterprise, April 8, 2014.
But of course, that’s not what made me laugh. That’s a tragedy which unfortunately will be mostly ignored by those good-hearted environmentally conscious folks suffering from chronic carbophobia.
The next oddity about Ivanpah is that despite being powered by light, it is light-years away from being economically viable. Like the old sailors say, “The wind is free … but everything else costs money”.
But being totally uneconomical doesn’t matter, because despite costing $2.2 billion to build, Google is a major shareholder, so at least they could afford to foot the bills for their high-priced bird-burner …
… get real. Google would much rather use taxpayer dollars to burn birds alive than foot the costs themselves. Being good businessmen and women they sought and got a $1.6 billion dollar taxpayer funded loan, presumably because no bank on the planet would touch the project. And if the banks wouldn’t touch it, why should you and I?
But that’s not enough for these greedy green pluted bloatocrats. Now, they are applying for a $539 million dollar GIFT of your and my taxpayer money in order to repay the money that you and I already lent them … we should give them the money to repay ourselves? Give an unimaginably wealthy company money to repay us what we have loaned them? Have I wandered into a parallel universe? This is GOOGLE, folks, and they’re trying to poor-mouth us?
And of course, that’s not what made me laugh either. That is another tragedy which unfortunately will be ignored by those who wish to see electricity prices rise … you know, folks like President Obama, who famously said:
Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket …
Of course, such an electricity price rise would mean nothing to him, like every recent President he’ll leave office a multi-millionaire. And such an energy price rise means nothing to the Google execs who are burning birds alive … but for those of us here on the ground, causing the electricity rates to skyrocket is not the moral high ground, it is a crime against the poor.
So that is no laughing matter at all.
No, the part that I didn’t know about Ivanpah (and other solar steam plants), the part that got me smiling, was that there is a problem with a solar tower that is generating steam. This is that steam turbines don’t do well at all with half a head of steam. For full efficiency a turbine needs full pressure steam in order to operate. And it has to have full pressure, not when the valves are closed to let the pressure build up, but when the turbine is actually using the steam.
And since you can’t store steam, that in turn means that Google can’t start up their you-beaut solar tower until fairly late in the morning.
Well, the solution that the good engineers hired by Google came up with was simple.
Start the sucker up using natural gas. That way, first you can heat the cool boiler water before the sun comes up. Then, as more and more solar energy comes online during the morning, you can taper off on the natural gas.
But having a solar plant that runs on natural gas, although funny, wasn’t the best part … it gets better:
One big miscalculation was that the power plant requires far more steam to run smoothly and efficiently than originally thought, according to a document filed with the California Energy Commission. Instead of ramping up the plant each day before sunrise by burning one hour’s worth of natural gas to generate steam, Ivanpah needs more than four times that much help from fossil fuels to get plant humming every morning. MARKETWATCH
These good folks have underestimated the amount of fossil fuels that the plant would need by a factor of four, and they want us to follow their lead in reorganizing the world’s energy supply? And of course, in the familiar refrain, the taxpayer is expected to foot the bill for their ignorance and their inept calculations.
So now, I find out that the Ivanpah plant runs on natural gas four hours a day, and I gotta say, I did find that funny. But in the most ironic twist of all, the above link goes on to say:
Another unexpected problem: not enough sun. Weather predictions for the area underestimated the amount of cloud cover that has blanketed Ivanpah since it went into service in 2013.
And that brought the joke all the way around. I found that hilariously ironic. Because of alarmism based on computer model predictions of rising temperatures in 100 years, we’ve built a fossil-fuel fired solar plant which is already in trouble because of failed computer model predictions of the clouds over the next few years … don’t know about you, but that cracked me up.
Now, even the best solar energy conversion devices don’t operate 24 hours a day, or even 12 hours a day. Generally, eight hours a day or even less is the norm. And that has been cut down by clouds … so at present, dreaded fossil fuels are likely providing a third of the energy to fuel the plant.
Gotta say, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry about things like the natural-gas powered Ivanpah solar power plant fiasco. On the whole I have to favor laughter … but dear heavens, the damage that environmentalists are doing in the name of the environment is appalling. Burning birds alive in the name of making energy prices skyrocket? Have we sunk this low? Really?
In any case, my best guess is that this is a self-limiting problem, or it would be without subsidies. The “levelized cost” of solar thermal is horrendous. It is the only technology which is more expensive than offshore wind, and it is the most expensive of the commonly analyzed grid-scale renewable choices. It won’t work without the kind of multi-million dollar taxpayer subsidies that the Google folks think that they deserve … me, I would never have given them the loan of taxpayer money in the first place, that’s the bank’s job, not the government’s job. More to the point, I think they deserve to pay the damn loan back themselves.
Let me close on a more optimistic note. The referenced article says:
Bird carnage combined with opposition by Native American tribes to industrial projects on undeveloped land has made California regulators wary of approving more. Last September, Abengoa and BrightSource abandoned their quest to build a solar-thermal project near Joshua Tree National Park when the state regulator told them the plant’s footprint would have to be cut in half.
In March the Board of Supervisors of Inyo County, a sparsely populated part of California that is home to Death Valley National Park, voted to ban solar-thermal power plants altogether. “Ivanpah had a significant effect on the decision making,” said Joshua Hart, the county’s planning director.
If the final end of Ivanpah is the end of any further Ivanpahs ever, I suppose that I’d say that Ivanpah was worth whatever it cost … although I’m sure the birds would have preferred a different path to that outcome. As long as Ivanpah is in operation birds will continue to be burned alive in the name of driving up electricity prices … and these monomoniacal carbophobes still think that they have the high moral ground regarding fossil fuels?
Because I rather suspect that neither the birds nor the poor would agree …
Bankers, politicians and leaders of huge global businesses are set to meet in the annual Bilderberg conference in Austria this week, during which the rich and the powerful discuss global issues in secretive talks that influence global politics.
Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger is set to rub shoulders with ex-CIA Director David H. Petraeus, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, former French Prime Minister Alan Juppé and Thomas Ahrenkiel, Director of the Danish Intelligence Service (DDIS) at the 63 Bilderberg conference, set to take place from 11-14 June in Telfs-Buchen, Austria.
The conference — surrounded by tight security — is notoriously secretive in its discussions and regularly attracts demonstrations against what critics describe as a global meeting of western capitalists, politicians and academics who wield great power behind the scenes. It is billed as “an annual meeting designed to foster dialogue between Europe and North America.”
Bilderberg conferences are described as “private” and no minutes are taken, no report is written, no resolutions are proposed, no votes are made, and no policy statements are issued.
Daniel Estulin, author of ‘The True Story of the Bilderberg Group’ describes the meetings as “a shadow world government…threaten(ing) to take away our right to direct our own destinies (by creating) a disturbing reality.
“Imagine a private club where presidents, prime ministers, international bankers and generals rub shoulders, where gracious royal chaperones ensure everyone gets along, and where the people running the wars, markets, and Europe (and America) say what they never dare say in public.”
Guests this year also include Google chairman Eric Schmidt; Paul M. Achleitner, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Deutsche Bank; the Tyrolean property investor Rene Benko; Shell CEO Ben van Beurden; Thomas Enders, CEO, Airbus Group; Henri de Castries, the Chairman of the Euro Group; Austrian President Heinz Fischer; Siemens Austria CEO Wolfgang Hesoun; the CEO of Austrian oil and gas giant OMV, Gerhard Roiss; and Ryanair chairman Michael O’Leary.
Under discussion in Austria will be artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, chemical weapons threats, Greece, NATO and terrorism. Nobody representing Russia is on the guest list.
An elite anti-terrorism squad will be deployed under the command of Austria’s Interior Ministry and around 2,100 police officers will be on duty throughout the conference. The main road from Telfs to the Interalpen Hotel will be closed and the area around the hotel will be a no-fly zone.
A large protest march is expected on the afternoon of June 13, starting in Telfs square and making its way through the town.
This is no doubt great news. The 21st century’s greatest war criminal is called to lead the campaign against ‘extremism’ which he himself instigated. Truth be told, it only makes sense to appoint a mass murderer to such a delicate job because only a genocidal character could be intimately familiar with the nitty gritty of institutional hatred and intolerance.
The British former prime minister who launched an immoral interventionist war has been appointed as chairman of the European Council on Tolerance following his spectacular success as a Peace Envoy to the Middle East introducing reconciliation and new harmony to the entire region.
In a joint article (paywall) with Moshe Kantor, the president of the council of the European Jewish Congress, Blair recently expressed his devotion to the Jews and the primacy of their suffering. “Antisemitism is not a Jewish problem, but one infecting the whole of society and needs to be tackled for the sake of us all.”
The penny dropped. Blair, seemingly understands his contribution to Jew hatred. Next time when he launches a global criminal war with no end he must make sure that rather than using Lord Cash Point Levy as his chief fund raiser he should consider using someone else, preferably a ‘gentile’ (If he finds one). Even Blair must have grasped by now that the clear association between his Ziocon war and a Jewish financier is ‘not just a Jewish problem.’ With 5 million people dead in the region it infects the whole universe.
It is encouraging to learn that the council chaired by Blair doesn’t really believe in elementary freedom, quite the opposite, it believes it should promote legislation to confront ‘holocaust denial’, and this makes a lot of sense to me. As a person who perpetrated a holocaust himself, Blair is interested in laws that would stop any attempt to narrating and revising the past. I totally agree. I believe that all history except the Jewish one, must be abolished all together and immediately. We are moving forward, we progress, we should invest in the future rather than attempt to find out what really happened let alone why.
Calls for massive reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions ignore the impacts on the poor
People who believe in the theory of catastrophic human-induced global warming claim that they want to “save the planet” and that this is the moral thing to do. They insist, however, that saving the planet requires stringent reductions in people’s use of fossil fuel energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They never talk about what that means to the poor. I think that, before people decide on the ethics of the debate, they need to consider what the impact would be of sharply reducing energy consumption on the wellbeing of world’s population, and especially on the poor.
In 2014, the International Energy Agency (IEA) issued a Special Report entitled “Modern Energy for All”. In it, the IEA stated that modern energy services are:
…crucial to human wellbeing” and to a country’s economic development.
Access to modern energy is essential for the provision of clean water, sanitation and healthcare and for the provision of reliable and efficient lighting heating, cooking, mechanical power, transport and telecommunications services.”
Today billions of people lack access to the most basic energy services. Nearly 1.3 billion people are without access to electricity and 2.7 billion people rely on traditional use of biomass (wood, charcoal and animal dung) for cooking, which causes harmful indoor air pollution.
Pause to think about that for a few minutes. Hundreds of millions of people are without the modern energy services that were available to our ancestors who lived in the nineteenth century. They get up with the dawn and go to bed close to nightfall because they have no electrical lighting. They have to go a river or well (if they are lucky) for water to drink or wash in. They have no way to power an appliance, including a refrigerator, so all food has to be eaten quickly or it may go bad. They have to walk long distances everyday to search for firewood or dried animal dung. There is no light to extend the day to provide time for reading or entertainment. They have no telephones. They have no way to pump water for irrigating crops. They have no motorized transportation, so they cannot go very far. Almost all their time is spent simply doing the simple tasks that in Canada and other advanced countries are done by machines. Worse, every day they breathe in the fumes from the dirty cooking fires, developing lung disorders. In fact, according to the IEA, every year 4.3 million premature deaths can be attributed to household air pollution resulting from the use of traditional biomass fuels for cooking.
The international community has long been aware of the close correlation between income levels and access to modern energy; not surprisingly, countries with a large proportion of the population living on an income of $2 per day tend to have low electrification rates and few motorized vehicles. The problem is spread throughout the developing world, but it is particularly severe in sub-Saharan Africa and developing Asia, which together account for 95% of people in abject energy poverty.
The latent demand for electricity is immense. An estimated 400 million people in India still lack access to electricity. A recent study looked at the expansion of electricity that would be needed on an economy-wide basis in sub-Saharan Africa to comprehensively address energy access. To reach moderate access, where electricity generation capacity is around 200-400 megawatts (MW) per million people, the region would need a total of 374 MW of installed capacity. That’s about twelve times the level of capacity in the region today. All energy sources would be needed to help provide that much capacity.
This is where aspiration runs into reality. In desperately poor countries, they do not have the luxury to spend millions of dollars on energy. Renewable energy sources like wind and solar energy can sometimes be useful where there is no electricity transmission system to take centrally-generated power to rural areas, but it is expensive and often requires technology to install and operate. Further, wind and solar are “intermittent” sources, meaning that they only produce energy when the wind blows or the sun shines respectively. Electrical energy is expensive to store and this can only be done in small amounts.
For reliable electrical energy supply for any possibility of industrial development and for transportation, developing countries need large scale power generation based on low cost, generally available fuels. In India, and in many parts of Africa, this means coal.
Coal reserves are available in almost every country worldwide, with recoverable reserves in around 70 countries. In fact, coal is the backbone of modern electricity in most parts of the world. It now provides about 30% of the primary energy and 41% of global electricity generation. It is plentiful and relatively cheap. Over the decade from 2000 to 2010, China showed the world how massive expansion of coal-fired electricity generation could modernize its economy and bring electrification to almost all parts of the country. As a result, hundreds of millions of Chinese have lifted themselves out of energy and economic poverty and dramatically improved both their income and quality of life.
Yet, coal is the most carbon-intensive of fossil fuels. It is the fuel source most despised by those who want to drastically reduce emissions. The Obama Administration in the United States has, as part of its climate change agenda, pressured the World Bank to stop lending to coal-fired electricity projects and the World Bank has complied. The U.S. Administration has also withdrawn funding from the Export-Import Bank for such projects. Fortunately for the developing countries, a new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank has been established with major funding from China, which will include funding of new coal projects.
Those pursuing the climate change political agenda are prepared to condemn the world’s poor living without modern energy to remain in their backward situation. For them, billions of blighted lives are preferable to increasing greenhouse gas emissions.
Even in the developed countries, the policies advanced for climate reasons fall heavily on the poor.
Electricity prices continue to surge in Europe where costs are often triple those in the U.S. EU governments have various schemes, taxes, subsidies, and mandates, such as Cap and Trade, feed-in tariffs, and surcharges that make Europeans pay more for power. Perhaps the best (worst?) example is Germany, where nearly 20% of families now live in “fuel poverty,” spending more than 10% of household income on energy. Germany’s energy transition (“Energiewende”) is expected to cost an astounding $735 billion, and many are demanding changes. Overall in Europe, 1.4 million more households are expected to be in fuel poverty by 2020.
In the name of climate change, governments are forcing utilities to sign long-term contracts paying as much as four times the going wholesale electricity rate for renewables. Power markets have become so distorted that wind farms in the UK and in Ontario, for instance, have been paid millions to NOT produce electricity.
Supporters of “green” energy policies keep saying that poverty will be reduced if only efficiency would improve, but that position doesn’t hold up. Energy efficiency in the EU has improved around 20% since 2005. In the UK, for instance, energy efficiency has increased nearly 30% since 2003, yet electricity prices have almost doubled and homes in fuel poverty have nearly quadrupled. Europe’s main fuel poverty problem isn’t a lack of efficiency, it’s soaring prices.
Apart from the higher prices, another meaningful measure of energy poverty in Germany is the number of supply stoppages (“power cuts”) ordered by utility companies. Basic suppliers are entitled to interrupt their electricity or gas deliveries in the event of arrears in payment of more than 100 euros after a warning notice followed by a repeated threat to terminate service. According to a survey of the German Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur), in 2013 warnings of electricity supply termination were issued to 5.7 million private households in Germany. The supply of electricity was actually interrupted to roughly 320,000 households.
There are many different moral standards to which one might refer in defining what is the most “ethical” way for people to act when considering their use of energy and other goods to improve their lives. Those environmentalists who claim that “nature” is more important than humans and that any measure, regardless of how costly, should be taken to reduce the effects of humans on the planet will never be satisfied. In my view, human wellbeing, and especially the plight of the world’s poor, deserves a prominent place in judgments about what is ethical behavior. Sharply reducing fossil fuel use means reducing economic development, condemning poor societies to remain poor, and requiring the poor people of today to sacrifice for the sake of addressing an unproven problem in a distant future — this is truly immoral.
The Sinister Ideology of the Rich
If physical violence is to be used only as a final resort, a dominant class must seek to gain people’s consent if it is to govern and control a population. It must attempt to legitimize its position in the eyes of the ruled over by achieving a kind of ‘consented coercion’ that disguises the true fist of power. This can be achieved by many means and over the years commentators from Gramsci to Althusser and Chomsky have described how it may be done.
However, one of the most basic and arguably effective forms of control is eugenics/ depopulation, a philosophy that includes reducing the reproductive capacity of the ‘less desirable’ sections of a population.
There is a growing fear that eugenics is being used to get rid of sections of the world population that are ‘surplus to requirements’. And it is a legitimate fear, not least because there is a sordid history of forced/covert sterilizations carried out on those deemed ‘undesirable’ or ‘surplus to requirements’, which reflects the concerns of eugenicists who have operated at the highest levels of policy making. From early 20th century ‘philanthropists’ and the Nazis to the nascent genetics movement and rich elites, by one means or another ridding the planet of the great unwanted masses has always been fairly high on the ‘to do’ list (see this informative piece)
Millionaire US media baron Ted Turner believes a global population of two billion would be ideal, and billionaire Bill Gates has pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to improve access to contraception in the Global South. Gates has also purchased shares in Monsanto valued at more than $23 million at the time of purchase. His agenda is to help Monsanto get their genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into Africa on a grand scale. In 2001, Monsanto and Du Pont bought a small biotech company called Epicyte that had created a gene that basically makes the male sperm sterile and the female egg unreceptive.
Bill Gates’ father has long been involved with Planned Parenthood:
“When I was growing up, my parents were always involved in various volunteer things. My dad was head of Planned Parenthood. And it was very controversial to be involved with that.”
The above quotation comes from a 2003 interview with Bill Gates.
Planned Parenthood was founded on the concept that most human beings are reckless breeders. Gates senior is co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a guiding light behind the vision and direction of the Gates Foundation, which is heavily focused on promoting GMOs in Africa via its financing of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
The Gates Foundation has given at least $264.5 million to AGRA. According to a report published by La Via Campesina in 2010, 70 percent of AGRA’s grantees in Kenya work directly with Monsanto and nearly 80 percent of the Gates Foundation funding is devoted to biotechnology. The report also explains that the Gates Foundation has pledged $880 million to create the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), which is a heavy promoter of GMOs.
The issue of genetic engineering cannot be fully understood without looking at the global spread of US power. The oil-rich Rockefeller dynasty helped promote the ‘green revolution’, which allowed the US to colonise indigenous agriculture across large parts of the planet. By projecting power through the WTO, IMF and World Bank, Washington has been able to make food and agriculture central to its geopolitical strategy of securing global dominance.
As with the control of food and agriculture, the US also regards depopulation as a potential geo-strategic tool (see this) in the quest for control of global resources. What better way to achieve this via a (GM) tampered-with food system that US agribusiness has increasingly come to dominate?
What better way to achieve this than with ‘spermicidal corn’ for example? In Mexico, there is concern about biopharmaceutical corn. Some years ago, Silvia Ribeiro, of the ETC organization, stated:
“The potential of spermicidal corn as a biological weapon is outrageous, since it easily interbreeds with other varieties, is capable of going undetected and could lodge itself at the very core of indigenous and farming cultures. We have witnessed the execution of repeated sterilization campaigns performed against indigenous communities. This method is certainly much more difficult to trace.”
While most of the literature on GMOs is concerned with the impacts of crops that have been genetically modified to deal with pests or herbicide spraying, there are very worrying trends regarding plants being genetically modified to contain industrial pharmaceuticals or possess possible contraceptive traits.
The world’s problems are not being caused by overpopulation, as Turner states, but by greed and a system of ownership and global power relations that ensures wealth flows from bottom to top. The issue at hand should not be about stopping population growth in its tracks but about changing a socially divisive global economic system and the unsustainable depletion of natural resources.
Millionaires like Ted Turner believe it should be a case of carry on consuming regardless, as long as the population is cut. This is the ideology of the rich who regard the rest of humanity as a problem to be ‘dealt with.’ He says there are “too many people using too much stuff.” He couldn’t be more wrong. For instance, developing nations account for more than 80 percent of world population, but consume only about one third of the world’s energy. US citizens constitute 5 percent of the world’s population but consume 24 percent of the world’s energy.
We should be wary of a politically and militarily well-connected biotech sector which has ownership of technology that allows for the genetic engineering of food and a gene that could be used (or already is) for involuntary sterilization. From covert vaccination campaigns to germ warfare and geo-engineering, sections of the population around the world have too often been sprayed on, injected or exposed to harmful processes to induce sterility, infertility or to merely see the outcome of exposures to radiation, bacteria or some virus. It is for good reason some conflate GMOs and bio-terror.
Herbert Marcuse once summed up the problem facing us by saying that the capabilities — both intellectual and technological — of contemporary society are immeasurably greater than before. As a result, the scope of society’s domination over the individual is also immeasurably greater than ever before. That domination comes in increasingly sinister forms.
Inequality in the developed world is the sharpest in 30 years, a recent OECD research reveals. Yet even in this context, two countries stand out in the disparity between rich and poor: the USA and Israel.
“In most countries, the gap between rich and poor is at its highest level since 30 years. Today, in OECD countries, the richest 10 percent of the population earn 9.6 times the income of the poorest 10 percent,” said the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in a report released Thursday. “In the 1980s this ratio stood at 7:1 rising to 8:1 in the 1990s and 9:1 in the 2000s.”
Compare the average 9.6 index with the US, where the richest 10 percent of the population earn 16.5 times as much as the poorest 10 percent. The poorest citizens of Israel scrape by on one-fifteenth of the earnings of the richest 10 percent.
The US also has the widest gap between the income of the richest and the average households. The top 5 percent of US households own practically 91 times the wealth of the average.
The OECD report, covering the situation in 18 member nations, says half of total wealth resides in the hands of just 10 percent of population, while the next 50 percent hold almost all of the second half, leaving the remaining 40 percent with the scraps – just over 3 percent of the wealth.
The record level of inequality is explained partly by a wider gap in education between the richest and poorest social groups, leading to lower quality and productivity in the workforce.
Another factor that OECD considers responsible for growing inequality is the growth in what it calls non-standard work, which includes temporary contracts and self-employment.
Since the mid-’90s more than half of all new jobs created in OECD countries fell into this category, according to the report. Families that rely on this type of employment are much more likely to be poor, exacerbating overall inequality.
OECD experts warn that the rising level of inequality is hampering world economic growth.
“High and often growing inequality raises major economic concerns, not just for the low earners themselves, but for the wider health and sustainability of our economies,” the report says. “Put simply: rising inequality is bad for long-term growth.”
The report also cites increasingly less progressive tax systems and social benefits losing ground to inflation as reasons why income redistribution schemes have become less effective as of late. Instead, the study advocates a more direct system of taxation and transfer.
“Redistribution via taxes and transfers is a powerful instrument to contribute to more equality and more growth,” the report says.
It also mentions the increasing number of working women as one of the factors contributing to the growth in inequality. Women earn 15 per cent less than men, according to the report, which says ensuring equal pay for men and women could be one way to reduce the wealth gap.
Latin America is one of the few regions where inequality hasn’t been growing in the last 30 years, despite the social gap there being initially higher, the OECD said.
By John Chuckman | Aletho News | May 8, 2015
When I think of America’s place in the world today, the image that comes to mind is of a very large animal, perhaps a huge bull elephant or even prehistoric mammoth, which long roamed as the unchallenged king of its domain but has become trapped by its own missteps, as caught in a tar pit or some quicksand, and it is violently flailing about, making terrifying noises in its effort to free itself and re-establish its authority. Any observer immediately knows the animal ultimately cannot succeed but certainly is frightened by the noise and crashing that it can sustain for a considerable time.
I think that is a pretty accurate metaphor for the situation of the United States today, still a terribly large and powerful society but one finding itself trapped after a long series of its own blunders and errors, a society certain ultimately to become diminished in its prestige and relative power with all the difficulties which will entail for an arrogant people having a blind faith in their own rightness. America simply cannot accept its mistakes or that it was ever wrong, for Americanism much resembles a fundamentalist religion whose members are incapable of recognizing or admitting they ever followed anything but the divine plan.
America has made a costly series of errors over the last half century, demonstrating to others that the America they may have been in awe of in, say, 1950, and may have considered almost godlike and incapable of mistakes, has now proved itself indisputably, in field after field, as often not even capable of governing itself. The irony of a people who are seen as often unable to govern themselves advising others how to govern themselves brings a distinct note of absurdity to American foreign policy.
America’s establishment, feeling their old easy superiority in the world beginning to slip away in a hundred different ways, seems determined to show everyone it still has what it takes, determined to make others feel its strength, determined to weaken others abroad who do not accept its natural superiority, determined to seize by brute force and dirty tricks advantages which no longer come to it by simply superior performance.
Rather than learn from its errors and adjust its delusional assumptions, America is determined to push and bend people all over the world to its will and acceptance of its leadership. But you cannot reclaim genuine leadership once you have been exposed enough times in your bad judgment, and it is clear you are on the decline, just as you cannot once others realize that they can do many things as well or better than you.
In the end, policies which do not recognize scientific facts are doomed. Policies based on wishes and ideology do not succeed over the long run, unless, of course, you are willing to suppress everyone who disagrees with you and demand their compliance under threat. The requirement for an imperial state in such a situation is international behavior which resembles the internal behavior of an autocratic leader such as Stalin, and right now that is precisely where the United States is headed. Stalin’s personality had a fair degree of paranoia and no patience for the views of others. He felt constantly threatened by potential competitors and he used systematic terror to keep everyone intimidated and unified under him.
Stalin’s sincere belief in a faulty economic system that was doomed from its birth put him in a position similar to that of America’s oligarchs today. They have a world imperial system that is coming under increasing strain and challenge because others are growing and have their own needs and America simply does not have the flexibility to accommodate them. America’s oligarchs are not used to listening to the views of others. Stalin’s belief in a system that was more an ideology than a coherent economic system is paralleled by the quasi-religious tenets of Americanism, a set of beliefs which holds that America is especially blessed by the Creator and all things good and great are simply its due. Americanism blurrily assumes that God’s promise in the Old Testament that man should have dominion over the earth’s creatures applies now uniquely to them. Such thinking arose during many years of easy superiority, a superiority that was less owing to intrinsic merits of American society than to a set of fortuitous circumstances, many of which are now gone.
In Vietnam, America squandered countless resources chasing after a chimera its ideologues insisted was deadly important, never once acknowledging the fatal weaknesses built right into communism from its birth. Communism was certain eventually to fail because of economic falsehoods which were part of its conception, much as a child born with certain genetic flaws is destined for eventual death. America’s mad rush to fight communism on all fronts was in keeping with the zealotry of America’s Civic Religion, but it was a huge and foolish practical judgment which wasted colossal resources. In Vietnam, America ended in something close to total shame – literally defeated on the battlefield by what seemed an inconsequential opponent, having also cast aside traditional ethical values in murdering great masses of people who never threatened the United States, murder on a scale (3 million) comparable to the Holocaust. It used weapons and techniques of a savage character: napalm, cluster bombs, and secret mass terror programs. The savagery ripped into the fabric of America’s own society, dividing the nation almost as badly as its Civil War once had. America ended reduced and depleted in many respects and paid its huge bills with devalued currency.
Following Vietnam, it has just been one calamity after another revealing the same destructive inability to govern, the same thought governed by zealotry, right down to the 2008 financial collapse which was caused by ignoring sound financial management and basically instituting a system of unlimited greed. The entire world was jolted and hurt by this stupidity whose full consequences are not nearly played out.
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were completely unnecessary, cost vast sums, caused immense misery, and achieved nothing worth achieving. We now know what was kept hidden that more than million Iraqis died in an invasion based entirely on lies. These wars also set in motion changes whose long term effects have yet to be felt. Iraq, for example, has just about had its Kurdish, oil-producing region hived off as a separate state.
America’s primitive approach to the Soviet Union’s collapse, its sheer triumphalism and failure to regard Russia as important enough to help or with which to cooperate, ignored America’s own long-term interests. After all, the Russians are a great people with many gifts, and it was inevitable that they would come back from a post-collapse depression to claim their place in the world.
So how do the people running the United States now deal with a prosperous and growing Russia, a Russia which reaches out in the soundest traditional economic fashion for cooperation and partnership in trade and projects? Russia has embraced free trade, a concept Americans trumpeted for years whenever it was to their advantage, but now for Russia is treated as dark and sinister. Here America fights the inevitable power of economic forces, something akin to fighting the tide or the wind, and only for the sake of its continued dominance of another continent. Americans desperately try to stop what can only be called natural economic arrangements between Russia and Europe, natural because both sides have many services, goods, and commodities to trade for the benefit of all. America’s establishment wants to cut off healthy new growth and permanently to establish its primacy in Europe even though it has nothing new to offer.
America’s deliberately dishonest interpretation of Russia’s measured response to an induced coup in Ukraine is used to generate an artificial sense of crisis, but despite the pressures America is capable of exerting on Europe, we sense Europe only goes along to avoid a public squabble and only for so long as the costs are not too high. The most intelligent leaders in Europe recognize what the United States is doing but do not want to clash openly, although the creation of the Minsk Agreement came pretty close to a polite rejection of America’s demand for hardline tactics.
The coup in Ukraine was intended to put a hostile government in control of a long stretch of Russian border, a government which might cooperate in American military matters and which would serve as an irritant to Russia. But you don’t get good results with malicious policy. So far the coup has served only to hurt Ukraine’s economy, security, and long-term interests. It has a government which is seen widely as incompetent, a government which fomented unnecessary civil war, a government which shot down a civilian airliner, and a government in which no one, including in the West, has much faith. Its finances are in turmoil, many important former economic connections are severed, and there is no great willingness by Europe, especially an economically-troubled Europe, to assist it. It is not an advanced or stable enough place to join the EU because that would just mean gigantic subsidies being directed to it from an already troubled Europe. And the idea of its joining NATO is absolutely a non-starter both because it can’t carry its own weight in such an organization and because that act would cross a dangerous red line for Russia.
Kiev is having immense problems even holding the country together as it fights autonomous right-wing outfits like the Azov Battalion in the southeast who threaten the Minsk Agreement, as it tries to implement military recruiting in Western Ukraine with more people running away than joining up, as it finds it must protect its own President with a Praetorian Guard of Americans from some serious threats by right-wing militias unhappy with Kiev’s failures, as it must reckon with the de facto secession of Donetsk and the permanent loss of Crimea – all this as it struggles with huge debts and an economy in a nosedive.
America is in no position to give serious assistance to Ukraine, just plenty of shop-worn slogans about freedom and democracy. These events provide a perfect example of the damage America inflicts on a people with malicious policy intended only to use them to hurt others. There is such a record of this kind of thing by America that I am always surprised when there are any takers out there for the newest scheme. One remembers Kissinger encouraging the Iraqi Kurds to revolt against Saddam Hussein and then leaving them in the lurch when the dictator launched a merciless suppression. I also think of the scenes at the end of the Vietnam War as American helicopters took off in cowardly fashion from the roof of the embassy leaving their Vietnamese co-workers, tears streaming down their faces, vainly grasping for the undercarriages of helicopters, a fitting and shameful end to a truly brainless crusade.
I don’t know but I very much doubt that the present government of Ukraine can endure, and it is always possible that it will slip into an even more serious civil war with factions fighting on all sides, something resembling the murderous mess America created in Libya. Of course, such a war on Russia’s borders would come with tremendous risks. The American aristocracy doesn’t become concerned about disasters into which they themselves are not thrust, but a war in Ukraine could easily do just that. In ironic fashion, heightened conflict could mark the beginning of the end of the era of European subservience to America. Chaos in Ukraine could provide exactly the shock Europe needs to stop supporting American schemes before the entire continent or even the world is threatened.
I remind readers that while Russia’s economy is not as large as America’s, it is a country with a strong history in engineering and science, and no one on the planet shares its terrifying experiences with foreign invasion. So it has developed and maintains a number of weapons systems that are second to none. Each one of its new class of ballistic missile submarines, and Russia is building a number of them, is capable of hitting 96 separate targets with thermo-nuclear warheads, and that capability is apart from rail-mounted ICBMs, hard-site ICBMs, truck-mounted missiles, air-launched cruise missiles, sea-launched cruise missiles, and a variety of other fearsome weapons. Modern Russia does not make threats with this awesome power, and you might say Putin follows the advice of Theodore Roosevelt as he walks softly but carries a big stick, but I do think it wise for all of us to keep these things in mind as America taunts Russia and literally plays a game of chicken with Armageddon. I don’t believe America has a legitimate mandate from anyone to behave in this dangerous way. Europe’s smartest leaders, having lived at the very center of the Cold War and survived two world wars, do understand this and are trying very carefully not to allow things to go too far, but America has some highly irresponsible and dangerous people working hard on the Ukraine file, and accidents do happen when you push things too hard.
In another sphere of now constant engagement, instead of sponsoring and promoting fair arrangements in the Middle East, America has carried on a bizarre relationship with Israel, a relationship which is certainly against the America’s own long term interests, although individual American politicians benefit with streams of special interests payments – America’s self-imposed, utterly corrupt campaign financing system being ultimately responsible – in exchange for blindly insisting Israel is always right, which it most certainly is not. An important segment of Israel’s population is American, and they just carried over to Israel the same short-sightedness, arrogance, and belligerence which characterize America, so much so, Israel may legitimately be viewed as an American colony in the Middle East rather than a genuinely independent state. Its lack of genuine independence is reflected also in its constant dependence on huge subsidies, on its need for heavily-biased American diplomacy to protect it in many forums including the UN, and on its dependence upon American arm-twisting and bribes in any number of places, Egypt’s generous annual American pension requiring certain behaviors being one of the largest examples.
Here, too, inevitability has been foolishly ignored. The Palestinians are not going anywhere, and they have demonstrated the most remarkable endurance, yet almost every act of Israel since its inception, each supported by America, has been an effort to make them go away through extreme hardship and abuse and violence, looking towards the creation of Greater Israel, a dangerous fantasy idea which cannot succeed but it will fail only after it has taken an immense toll. Despite America’s constant diplomatic and financial pressure on other states to support its one-sided policy here, there are finally a number of signs that views are turning away from the preposterous notion that Israel is always right and that it can continue indefinitely with its savage behavior.
Recently, we have had a great last effort by America and covert partners to secure Israel’s absolute pre-eminence in the Middle East through a whole series of destructive intrusions in the region – the “Arab Spring,” the reverse-revolution in Egypt, the smashing and now dismemberment of Iraq, the smashing and effective dismemberment of Libya, and the horrible, artificially-induced civil war in Syria which employs some of the most violent and lunatic people on earth from outside and gives them weapons, money, and refuge in an effort to destroy a stable and relatively peaceful state.
I could go on, but I think the picture is clear: in almost every sphere of American governance, internally and abroad, America’s poor political institutions have yielded the poorest decisions. America has over-extended itself on every front, has served myths rather than facts, has let greed run its governing of almost everything, and has squandered resources on achieving nothing of worth.
I view America’s present posture in the world – supporting dirty wars and coups in many places at the same time and treating others as game pieces to be moved rather than partners – as a desperate attempt to shake the world to gain advantages it couldn’t secure through accepted means of governance and policy. America is that great beast, bellowing and shaking the ground, and for that reason, it is extremely dangerous.
May 8, 2015 Posted by aletho | Corruption, Economics, Militarism, Supremacism, Social Darwinism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | Afghanistan, Iraq, Middle East, Russia, Ukraine, United States, Zionism | 2 Comments
The Economic Destruction of Baltimore
“We need more police, we need more and tougher prison sentences for repeat offenders. The ‘three-strikes-and-you’re-out’ for violent offenders has to be part of the plan. We need more prisons to keep violent offenders for as long as it takes to keep them off the streets.” – Hillary Clinton 1994
The Economic Backdrop
American politics is the realm of Immaculate Conception where actual policies and accumulated history disappear behind a veil of personal characteristics and unrelated acts. The (mis)leadership class pretends that ruling class machinations— trade agreements, financial deregulation, imperial wars, surveillance and policing have no bearing on social outcomes. American cities bear the imprint of these policies plus the residuals of slavery, genocide and the particulars of Western capitalism that have embedded history into current social relations. This is to argue that the individualist explanation of Western history may be interesting for those so-inclined, but it fails as description in every conceivable dimension.
Political explanations of public policies like trade agreements and financial deregulation put a political face on fundamentally economic arrangements. When Bill and Hillary Clinton instituted the ‘tough-on-crime’ policies that so exacerbated mass incarceration there was a political explanation— pandering to White suburban voters’ manufactured fears of a Black urban underclass to garner votes, but the policies tied closely to American economic history as well. From slavery to convict leasing to urban dispossession, racial repression has produced economic value that has been expropriated. The Clinton’s neoliberal trade policies exacerbated the urban industrial exodus while deregulation of finance ‘monetized’ Black wealth for the taking. Seemingly unrelated ‘political’ policies often have economic explanations.
Freddie Gray. Original image source: cnn.com
Economic history ties America’s cities to political and economic hierarchy through the dimensions of this hierarchy. Washington to Baltimore to Philadelphia to New York was the land route North for Southern Blacks fleeing slavery. This was also one of the routes to industrial jobs following WWII. Sequential (engineered) oil crises in the 1970s roiled industrial America. In the late 1970s and early 1980s Federal Reserve policies decimated the industrial economy by increasing the value of the U.S. dollar. Bill Clinton passed NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and his deregulation of Wall Street provided the money needed to finance the relocation of a large portion of the U.S. industrial base overseas. None of these policies were crafted by the inner-city residents.
Modern day Baltimore, Philadelphia, Detroit and Chicago have neighborhoods left behind by policy decisions that decimated the economic bases that once supported them. When there were jobs people worked. When the jobs left people either stopped working or found other, less remunerative work in the service sector. The housing boom and bust monetized inner-city houses until the bubble burst. Rather than forcing Wall Street to clean up the mess inner city residents were left with their former wealth in the hands of bankers and an economy that imploded in the Great Recession. While this story is full of malefactors, Bill Clinton has major policy responsibility for mass incarceration, for neoliberal trade deals and for bank deregulation.
The bankers who destroyed Baltimore discuss their bonuses with Congress. Image source: google images.
The Murder of Freddie Gray
The wholly implausible storyline that Freddie Gray severed his own spine being put out by the Baltimore police is a Rorschach test for social accountability. The political strategy of officialdom is to peel away those who will accept any explanation in favor of police actions, no matter how implausible, to marginalize protestors. That a significant portion of the population, both Black and White, wants to believe that the police always act in good faith illustrates a preconception that will only be effectively challenged through political estrangement. The fabrication adds insult to Freddie Gray’s murder and as such, to the conduct that the Baltimore police department needs to be held to account for. Freddie Gray was murdered in police custody. Technocratic explanations of the particulars only serve to obscure this basic truth.
When videotape revealed the brutal beating the Los Angeles police inflicted on Rodney King the defense was able to convince a jury and a substantial portion of America that Mr. King had assaulted the police ‘batons’ with his head. One might wonder how graphic footage of a group of cops beating Rodney King within an inch of his life in plain public view could be construed otherwise. The tactic used was similar to the comments from officialdom, including the Black (mis)leadership class, toward protestors in Baltimore. Mr. King was alleged to have been in an angel dust rage that made him impervious to pain and to rational thought— he was an ‘out-of-control’ Black man. Likewise the protestors in Baltimore were deemed irrational ‘thugs,’ criminals with no legitimate right to political action.
Graph (1) above: the official storyline has unknown forces producing intractable poverty in American cities when many of the forces are quite visible. Mass incarceration is racially targeted and causes wholesale immiseration by precluding meaningful employment. Wall Street’s subprime lending fiasco racially targeted neighborhoods and emptied them of residents as local wealth was transferred to the bank accounts of the already wealthy. It is paradoxical that public discussion of ‘looting’ in Baltimore has focused on angry citizens without deep discussion of what they are angry about. Home foreclosures in Baltimore (Graph (1) above) have followed the national housing boom – bust because Wall Street made predatory mortgage loans targeting neighborhoods of color. Rather than charging bankers with making fraudulent, predatory loans the citizens of Baltimore were forced to bear the consequences of banker malfeasance. Source: Baltimore Homeownership Preservation Coalition.
In telling form, officialdom’s concern for property overshadowed care for the life of Freddie Gray and the many other Black, Brown and poor White youth and men murdered by the police. These misplaced priorities are thinly veiled socio-cide, concern with what can be replaced in place of what can’t be. The rapid vilification of protestors was accompanied by Immaculate Conception politics, denial of responsibility for the circumstances being protested. However, made apparent by events in Baltimore is that police murders only enter the American consciousness when buildings and police cars burn. Assertions that peaceful protests are the only legitimate form face the burden of history and official hypocrisy. Moral suasion through peaceful protest assumes a capacity that divergent class interests render improbable.
Democracy Now! illustrated one such experiential divide when a Baltimore mother refused to join local youth who had volunteered to clean a burned CVS store because, as she put it, the police need to be made to understand that they can’t murder Black youth with impunity. Left unexplored, and apparently unconsidered by the youth who saw the local CVS outlet as ‘their’ store, is that through direct purchase and their Caremark consulting business CVS has put hundreds of locally owned pharmacies in inner city neighborhoods out of business and replaced them with minimum wage jobs and extractive economic practices. Likewise, the Ace Cash Express that was burned is a payday lender whose business model is to make usurious loans in poorly banked communities under terms that lead to permanent debt servitude.
State police or police state? Original image source: spaulforrest.com.
National Mis-Leadership Meets Local Mis-Leadership
When President Obama called protesters in Baltimore ‘criminals and thugs’ he neglected to mention the class divisions that have as his major campaign contributors the Wall Street bankers who engineered the housing boom – bust still devastating Baltimore and whose subsidiaries are the payday lenders who destroy lives and neighborhoods there. Some fair portion of these campaign contributors would have been ‘criminals’ if Mr. Obama’s Justice Department had not shielded them from prosecution for their crimes. The term ‘thugs’ is widely used as racist code for Black and Brown youth and could be more appropriately applied to American drone operators so regularly slaughtering wedding parties across the Middle East. And the term most certainly applies to the police who murder Black and Brown youth with alarming regularity and officially sanctioned impunity.
Much of the reaction to events in Baltimore harkens to the late FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s quip that “justice is incidental to law and order.” Implied is that justice may be set to the side if order can be maintained through systematic injustice. The conceptual problem is that, as with President Obama’s and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s slander of protestors as ‘thugs,’ class interests lie behind class-based policing. Heavily armed, militarized police could storm Wall Street (as metaphor for geographically dispersed finance) and corporate executive suites kicking in doors, handcuffing everyone they meet and opening fire on those who aren’t immediately compliant under the same theorized justification they have for doing so in Baltimore, Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia or Los Angeles. That they don’t is evidence that neither law nor justice is behind police actions in poor communities.
If peaceful change is possible, why have the police been militarized to prevent it? The Department of Homeland Security calls protestors ‘terrorists’ and the Ferguson, MO police department calls them ‘the enemy.’ Original image source: google images.
The economic crises affecting communities of color in Baltimore and elsewhere tie directly to government policies like trade agreements that benefit financiers, upper class ‘professionals,’ industrialists and the owners of capital. Official indifference to the social consequences of industrial relocation has produced economic dead zones in major cities since the 1960s. Wall Street’s predatory mortgages decimated black wealth in cities like Baltimore and with it the capacity for economic investment. Elite chides that citizens are destroying their future prospects through rebellion provide cover for the economic forces they control for their own benefit. In the last decade Wall Street has destroyed more of urban America than citizen rebellions ever could.
The problem of the economic capture of the mis-leadership class suggests that political resolution is unlikely to come through the ballot box. Blacks have joined this mis-leadership class with co-optation being the singular result. American political economy is set up to perpetuate existing class relations with the racial residual of history as a component. Martin King began addressing economic justice with the understanding that it is a prerequisite to social justice. He was murdered shortly thereafter. The interest in ‘property’ in the face of the loss of life at police hands is clear indication of what drives official concerns. Therein lies the political paradox— economics is the more dangerous dimension of social injustice to address but it is also the most necessary. The U.S. has subverted democratic movements and invaded countries to prevent implementation of a minimum wage. But how is life possible without a living wage?
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From the Archives
By Joshua Blakeney | Press TV | August 31, 2013
In a recent tweet Stephen Walt, professor of International Relations at Harvard and co-author of the seminal text The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy wrote, “Note to advocates of military action in Syria: please tell us ur endgame: where does using force lead and who’s in charge if Assad goes?”
I would answer, that from the perspective of the Israeli-guided Western imperialists the answer would be: nobody. Israel and its de facto puppet regimes in Ottawa, London, Paris and Washington want Syria to be a dysfunctional, ungovernable failed state, rather than a sovereign Arab state led by an intelligent, anti-Zionist strongman.
It ought to be kept in mind that the post-WWII US military doctrine for the Middle East was the Eisenhower Doctrine which promoted the fomentation of stability in the region to facilitate the flow of oil to Americans. This was fine if you were safely ensconced in Houston or Dallas with your oil companies raking in profits from Middle East oil fields but for Israel this policy was disastrous. The funneling of petro-dollars to Israel’s adversaries like Saddam Hussein, who fired scud missiles at Israel in 1991, and to the likes of President Assad was intolerable. Therefore a schism in the Empire soon emerged and two distinct US-Zionist visions for the Middle East crystallized. … continue
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This article will examine some of the connections between the US and UK National Security apparatus and the appearance of the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) theory beginning after the accident at Three Mile Island. … continue
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