Sunday, August 31, 2014

America’s Corrupt Institutions

Paul Craig Roberts

Every public institution in the United States and most private ones are corrupt.

To tell this story would be a multi-book task. Lawrence Stratton and I have written one small volume of the story. Our book, The Tyranny of Good Intentions, now with two editions and multiple printings, documents the corruption of law in the United States and has been cited in rulings by Federal District and Appeal Court judges.
Law is just one public institution, but it is a corner stone of society. When law goes, everything goes.

Only about 4 percent of federal felony cases go to trial. Almost all, 96 percent, are settled by negotiated plea bargains. Law & Order Conservatives condemn plea bargains for the wrong reason. They think plea bargains let criminals off easy.

In fact, plea bargains are used by prosecutors to convict the innocent along with the guilty. Plea bargains eliminate juries and time-consuming trials, that is, plea bargains eliminate all work on the part of prosecutors and police and lead to high conviction rates for prosecutors, the main indicator of their career success. Once upon a time, prosecutors pursued justice. They carefully examined police investigations and only indicted suspects whose conviction they thought could be obtained by a jury. Sloppy police work was discarded.

No more. Once indicted and provided with a lawyer, the defendant learns that his lawyer has no intention of defending him before a jury. The lawyer knows that the chances of getting even a totally innocent defendant found not guilty is slim to non-existent. Prosecutors, with the consent of judges, suborn perjury for which they are permitted to pay with money and dropped charges against real criminals, and prosecutors routinely withhold evidence favorable to the defendant. If a prosecutor detects that a defendant intends to fight, the prosecutor piles on charges until the defendant’s lawyer convinces the defendant that no jury will dismiss all of so many charges and that the one or two that the jury convicts on will bring a much longer sentence than the lawyer can negotiate. The lawyer tells the defendant that if you go to trail, you will be using up the time of prosecutors and judges, and the inconvenience that you cause them will send you away for many a year.

In some state and local courts it is still possible on occasion to get an almost fair trial if you can afford an attorney well enough connected to provide it. But even in non-federal courts the system is stacked against the defendant. Many prisons have been privatized, and privatized prisons require high incarceration rates in order to be profitable. The same holds for juvenile detention prisons. Not long ago two Pennsylvania judges were convicted for accepting payments from private detention prisons for each kid they sentenced.

Judges prefer plea bargains despite the fact that plea bargains amount to self-incrimination, because plea bargains dispense with time-consuming trials that cause backed-up and crowded court dockets. Trials also demand far more work on the part of a judge than accepting a plea bargain.

The fact of the matter is that in America today you are expected to convict yourself. Even your lawyer expects it. The torture is not physical; it is psychological. The system is severely biased against the defendant. Conviction by a jury brings a much heavier sentence than conviction by a deal that the defendant’s attorney negotiates with the prosecutor’s office. All the prosecutor wants is a conviction. Give him his conviction for his record as an effective prosecutor, and you get off lighter.

The injustice lies in the fact that the rule applies to the innocent as well as to the guilty.
The prosecutor and often the judge do not care whether you are innocent or guilty, and your lawyer knows that it does not matter to the outcome.

The police have learned that such a small number of cases go to trial that their evidence is seldom tested in court. Consequently, often police simply look for someone who might have committed the crime based on past criminal records, select someone with a record, and offer him or her up as the perpetrator of the crime. This police practice is one explanation for high recidivism rates.

In the totally corrupt American criminal justice (sic) system, anyone indicted, no matter how innocent, is almost certain to be convicted.

Let’s take the case of Alabama Democratic Governor Don Siegelman. Judging by the reported evidence in the media and testimony by those familiar with the case, Don Siegelman, a popular Democratic governor of Alabama was a victim of a Karl Rove operation to instruct Democrats that their political party would not be permitted a comeback in executive authority in the Republican South.

There is no doubt but that the Alabama Republican newspapers and TV stations are political tools. And there is little doubt that former Republican US Attorneys Alice Martin and Leura Canary and Republican US federal district court judge Mark Fuller were willing participants in Karl Rove’s political campaign to purge the South of popular democrats.

Republican US district court judge Mark Fuller was arrested in Atlanta this month for beating his wife in an Atlanta hotel. The judge, in whose honor courts must rise, was charged with battery and taken to the Fulton County jail at 2:30AM Sunday morning August 10. If you look at the mug shot of Mark Fuller, he doesn’t inspire confidence. Fuller was a bitter enemy of Siegelman and should have recused himself from Siegelman’s trial, but ethical behavior required more integrity than Fuller has.

Among many, Scott Horton, a professor of law at Columbia University has provided much information in Harper’s magazine involving the corruption of Fuller and the Republican prosecuting attorneys, Alice Martin and Leura Canary. See: and and and and and and and and see OpEdNews February 6, 2012, “Why did Karl Rove and his GOP Thugs target Don Siegelman in Alabama?” and

Google the case and you will see everything but justice.

The Republican frame-up of Siegelman is so obvious that various courts have overturned some of the bogus convictions. But the way “justice” works in America makes courts fearful of discrediting the criminal justice (sic) system by coming down hard on an obvious frame-up. To make the fact obvious that federal courts are used for political reasons is detrimental to the myth of justice in which gullible Americans believe.

Siegelman’s innocence is so obvious that 113 former state attorneys general have come out in his support. These attorneys general together with federal judges and members of Congress have written to Obama and to US attorney general Eric Holder urging Siegelman’s release from prison. Instead of releasing the innocent Siegelman, Obama and Holder have protected the Republican frameup of a Democratic governor.

Remember, what did President George W. Bush do when his vice president’s chief aid was convicted for the felony of revealing the name of a secret CIA operative? Bush wiped out the sentence of Cheney’s convicted operative. He remained convicted, but served no sentence.

Remember, President George H. W. Bush’s administration pardoned the neoconservative criminals in the Reagan administration who were convicted by the Reagan administration for crimes related to Iran-Contra.

So why hasn’t the Obama regime pardoned former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman who unlike other pardoned parties is actually innocent? Siegleman was bringing the Democratic Party back in the corrupt Republican state of Alabama. He was a successful governor who would have been US senator, and Karl Rove apparently exterminated him politically in order to protect the Republican hold on the South.

It is extremely ironic that the formerly solid Democratic South, plundered, looted, and raped by Republican armies, votes Republican. If anything shows the insouciance of a people, the South’s Republican vote is the best demonstration. The South votes for a party that destroyed the South and its culture. There is no greater evidence of a people totally ignorant of, or indifferent to, their history than the Southern people who vote Republican.

Obama can’t pardon Siegelman, which Justice requires, because Obama cannot confront the self-protective mechanism in the Justice (sic) Department. Obama is too weak of a person to stand up for Justice. Obama has acquiesced to the Republican and DOJ frame-up of a popular Democratic Governor.

Justice in America? It is not worth 5 cents on the New York stock exchange.

If you want to stand up for justice, click here:

Police are as remote from concerns of justice as are prosecutors. Generally speaking, while there might be a few exceptions, the ranks of the police seem to be filled with violent psychopaths. The police seldom show any self-control and their violent nature makes police a great threat to society. Invariably, police bring violence to the scene:

Killing unarmed black men seems to be a police specialty.

Assaults and killings by police seldom make it beyond the local news. The lack of national coverage of crimes committed by police against the public leaves Americans with the incorrect impression that the use of excessive force by police is an occasional and unfortunate result but not a real problem. Police apologists say that an occasional mistake is the price of being safe. But police violence is an expression of police culture, not an unfortunate mistake, and what we hear is only the tip of the iceberg.

The large number of violent acts that police commit against members of the public are not entirely the fault of the police. It is well known that bullies and psychopaths are attracted to the power over others conveyed by a police badge. Considering this known fact, police should receive training in anger management. Instead, they are trained to regard the public as an enemy against whom the police should take no chances. Police are trained to subdue a suspect with violence and question the suspect later when the suspect is under control in jail. This procedure means that even those who are totally innocent bear all the risks of being confronted by police.

Governments, media, and citizens are also responsible. They have allowed police to be militarized and to be inappropriately trained. Indeed, city, county, state, and federal governments have removed all barriers to the use of excessive force by police. Handed such power, the police use it.

In response to my column about Ferguson, former police officers wrote to me to report that they left the police force because they could not accept the culture of violence that is now ingrained in police departments. What these former police officers could not accept causes no problem for the Fox “News” talking heads.

Can police departments be cleansed of their violent culture? Can prosecutors serve justice instead of career? Can Fox “News” talking heads cease being racists? Don’t hold your breath.

The Daily Show - Race/Off

The Gulf of Mexico Is Still Dying

Posted on July 29, 2014 by Radiant Life Foundation

Pathogenic Micro-organisms Proliferate Due
To Polluted And Poisoned GOM ‘Bioterrain’

by Gulf Oil Spill Remediation Cyber-Conference

There have been several significant developments over the past few decades in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) which now require special and immediate attention.  The multitude of oil spills — both large and small — require extraordinary remediation measures, as well as the application of safe and proven technologies which will not make the existing hydrocarbon pollution worse. There are other major sources of water pollution in the GOM which have also became apparent, particularly since the eye-opening 2010 BP oil spill.

The Gulf of Mexico is Dying: A Special Report On The BP Gulf Oil Spill
The BP Gulf Oil Spill drew the world’s attention to the GOM for a variety of reasons. The sheer volume of oil spilt was unprecedented, as were its profound and lasting effects on a large geographic area.  Because it occurred in such a large body of water, many population centers were adversely impacted as they continue to be up to this very day.  However, it was the incompetent and negligent oil spill response from BP that received the justified scrutiny of the entire world.

Some have since advanced the notion that global oil spill response has been forever changed for the better, because of how profoundly BP mismanaged the spill for all to see. In this regard, they speak of a literal sea change regarding the methodologies and modalities, process and procedure, science and technology that are now accepted by many of the nations of the world.

The entire world watched in horror as millions of gallons of the dispersant Corexit were used to ‘disappear’ the gushing oil in the Macondo Prospect throughout 2010 and beyond.  Disappearing the oil actually meant sinking it, after micronizing it, so that both BP and  the US Federal Government could be ‘applauded’ for a successful response.  However, the known health risks/dangers and environmental damage caused by Corexit became so well publicized that it has now been banned in those countries which have learned from the BP fiasco.  The following article provides more details in this regard.

Dispersant Use Like Corexit Sees Precipitous Decline Worldwide
The single revelation about the ramped up toxicity of Corexit-treated oil served to awaken many stakeholders about the safety of dispersant use in our coastal waters. More importantly, this issue also triggered a variety of concerns about the overall condition of the Gulf of Mexico.  Residents along the GOM coast, business owners, annual vacationers, property owners and the like began to research and discover the true state of the Gulf.

It was through a confluence of many disparate circumstances during the gushing, “ginormous”  oil volcano which brought to light the following critical observations about the overall status of the Gulf of Mexico. These various perceptions and insights, when considered in the aggregate and within a much larger context, have allowed to surface an assessment of the GOM which can no longer be denied or ignored.


What are the major factors contributing to the unrelenting degradation of the Gulf of Mexico?
We need to look no further than the mouth of mighty Mississippi River to assess some of the most obvious causes of the relentless destruction of the GOM. If one just considers what the Mississippi River dumps into the GOM on a daily basis, it is easier to grasp the enormity of the problems confronting every stakeholder. The most obvious types of pollution entering the GOM are conveyed in vast amounts from various sources throughout the American heartland. Countless kinds of harmful contaminants and toxic chemicals find their way into the Gulf via the Mississippi which comes from many different sources.

This mighty river and it’s many tributaries carry a tremendous chemical burden in the form of industrial waste, as well as rain runoff laden with every chemical imaginable from suburbia and cityscapes alike.  Agribusiness has seen to it that enormous amounts of chemical fertilizers and soil fortifiers, pesticides and insecticides, mosquitocides and larvicides, fungicides and herbicides, weedkillers and defoliants, bovine growth hormone and animal antibiotics end up in the Mississippi. Likewise, a whole assortment of pharmaceutical drugs, over-the-counter medications, nutraceutical products, as well as all the chemical compounds utilized in the typical American household eventually find their way into the sewers of the nation’s midsection.

When you add the untold volumes of leaked oil and gas into the mix in the undersea Mississippi Canyon by way of manmade oil spills, natural leaks and seeps, drilling mud and other highly toxic chemicals used by the Oil & Gas Industry, methane burps, undersea mud volcanoes, and the increasing vaporization of methane hydrates, an alarming picture starts to take shape.

Oil & Gas Industry Produces Humongous Amounts Of Pollution In The GOM 
Just as each human body possesses its own very unique environmental profile, so, too, does the Gulf of Mexico.  From the preceding description of what the Gulf of Mexico is routinely exposed to, it is now incontestable that, as a body of water, the GOM cannot avoid being extremely polluted and only getting worse by the year.  In addition to what the Mississippi incessantly dumps into the GOM, Oil & Gas Industry operations are responsible for enormous amounts of pollution.

If the BP Gulf Oil Spill taught us nothing else, it is that oil and gas drilling operations conducted in the GOM 24/7 produce an extraordinary number of predicaments in which severe pollution is produced, and then dispersed to the four corners of the Gulf.  Not only is the actual process of drilling a very dirty one, the subsequent transport, refinement and utilization of the oil and gas creates myriad opportunities for pollutants, toxins, contaminants, poisons and chemicals to further pollute the GOM.

Environmental and Health Impacts of the BP Gulf Oil Spill
However, this is just one component of the ever-worsening condition of the GOM.  The incessant utilization of drilling mud (also known as drilling fluids) has greatly contributed to the current state of degradation of the entire Gulf Of Mexico.  The traditional drilling locations off the coast of Louisiana and Texas are by far the most polluted and perhaps irremediable.  However, even the coastlines of Florida are vulnerable to the migration of hydrocarbon affluent and drilling fluids.

The components of drilling mud are much less about mud, and more about other highly corrosive and toxic chemicals which are necessary to do a very difficult job.  During any drilling operation in the GOM where copious amounts of drilling mud are utilized, there is effectively no way of containing it or disposing it once it is released.  Hence, the GOM seafloor and sub-seafloor geological formations have been exposed to constant injections of drilling mud since use first began decades ago.

The following link entitled “Drilling fluids and health risk management” contains a 9 page list of components found in drilling fluids in Appendix 8 under the title:

“Detailed health hazard information on drilling fluid components”
A close reading of this material reveals an extraordinary number of highly toxic pollutants which can eventually find there way into the water columns, the wetlands, the estuaries, and onto the beaches, etc.


Decades of  High Intensity Oil Drilling Operations Have Created A Toxic GOM Environment
The sheer number of oil wells drilled throughout the GOM since the early 1930s is quite staggering.  Each of those wells is either active or inactive.  With each well that is drilled, there are opportunities for hydrocarbon effluent to escape into the GOM.  After wells are capped there are also many situations that can, and do, develop whereby a bad well can allow for a steady leak of hydrocarbon effluent into the GOM.


The BP Gulf Oil Spill demonstrated how a blown well can present a predicament that simply cannot be fixed (See preceding diagram).  Depending on just how large an oil reserve has been drilled into, hydrocarbon effluent can leak into the Gulf of Mexico into perpetuity.  There is also the ever-present risk associated with all capped wells leaking.  These are also subjected to undersea earthquakes and other seismic activity, undersea volcanoes and mud volcanoes, as well as hydrothermal vents and other fissures which can open up anywhere at any time.

The preceding discussion provides only a glimpse into some of the various co-factors which are responsible for contributing considerable amounts of pollution to the total toxic load borne by the Gulf of Mexico every day … of every week … of every year … over many decades.  Because of the inordinate political pressures operating at the federal level to make the USA completely energy independent, the push to “drill, drill and drill more” has only increased.

U.S. Agrees to Allow BP Back Into Gulf Waters to Seek Oil –
Event the Atlantic Seaboard is being opened to oil and gas exploration so powerful is the Oil & Gas Industry lobby in DC.

Obama opens Eastern Seaboard to oil exploration – US News

What’s it all mean?
It means many things to those who live, work and play along the GOM coastline.  Because of the speed of deterioration of the environmental profile of the Gulf, fishing in the waters, swimming in the bayous, sunning on the beaches is no longer what it used to be.  The proliferation of pollution via so many vectors of dissemination has increased the concentration of dangerous chemicals and other toxins so much that the GOM must be looked at through different lens, henceforth.

The State Of The Bioterrain Always Dictates The Most Likely Outcomes
In virtually every article that has been published in the mainstream media over the past decade about the many deaths and serious illnesses that have been directly linked to the GOM, there is often a qualification about the individual who died or who became seriously ill or diseased. Deliberate reference is made to the strength (or lack thereof) of the immune systems of those who passed or took ill.  This leaves the reader with the false impression that only those with weakened immune systems are vulnerable to pathogenic micro-organisms like Vibrio vulnificus.

While it’s true that a fisherman who is immuno-compromised is more susceptible to serious infection should he enter the waters with open wounds, it is also true that any individual with open wounds or sores can be easily infected by Vibrio.  Because the concentrations of various chemicals and contaminants in various regions of the GOM is at an all time high, the human body is only so equipped to efficiently process them.  Therefore, the bioterrain of any person will be affected, no matter how strong their constitution is.  Or, how clean their bioterrain is.  Or, how efficiently their immune system is functioning.

What is being proposed here is that the more resonance that occurs between the human body and the GOM body of water during swimming, fishing, snorkeling, and boating activities, the greater the likelihood of adverse health consequences.  For those oyster fisherman, who also eat raw oysters, the risks increase exponentially.  Especially those whose bioterrains have been degraded through an unhealthy lifestyle, there will be more and more serious medical repercussions from imprudent and/or ill-advised activity in the GOM.

Mississippi fisherman loses arm to Vibrio flesh-eating bacteria in the Gulf of Mexico
Mississippi fisherman loses arm to Vibrio flesh-eating bacteria in the Gulf of Mexico

Soaring Vibrio Vulnificus Infections Reveal The Degree Of Resonance Between The GOM Body Of Water And The Human Body

The spate of articles over the past few years regarding the flesh-eating bacteria incidents coming out of the GOM clearly indicate an evolving predicament which no one in government — federal, state, or local — or from industry, want to address in any meaningful way.  When people are regularly getting sick — VERY SICK — to the point of dying from Vibrio vulnificus infections, it does not reflect well on the various branches of government which are responsible for ensuring public safety and addressing serious public health concerns.

Flesh-eating Vibrio bacteria at seasonal peak in South Mississippi waters
Likewise, the many businesses and industries which rely on the GOM are no longer inclined to trumpet serious health alerts, such as the rising incidence of Vibrio infections. Simply put, it’s bad for business.  Whether you’re a fisherman or boat manufacturer,  hotel owner or tour boat operator, a sick Gulf of Mexico does not look good on the front pages of the newspapers.  This is especially true in the middle of the intractable recession that the Southeast economy has been stuck in since 2008.

The same is true for the homeowners and commercial property developers, particularly the wealthy, whose mansions dot the coastline from the Florida Keys to the southeastern coastline of Texas.  They simply don’t want to hear that there are tar balls washing up on their secluded beaches, especially when those tar balls contain high numbers of Vibrio vulnificus.  Or, that red tide is showing up off their coasts.  Schools of dead fish, or dead dolphins, or dead whales washing up on their sandy shores are also an extremely undesirable image.  Especially when property values can plummet were the true condition of the waters to be publicized.

Not Only Pathogenic Bacteria Like Vibrio, Red Tide Also Proliferates In Polluted GOM

Vibrio is only one of numerous pathogenic micro-organisms which will proliferate in such a conducive environment as the GOM.  There are many others, such as Alexandrium fundyense (the algae that causes Red tide), which also seek out an imbalanced aquatic environment in which to thrive.  Over time there is expected to be a steady rise in the incidence of these and other water borne pathogens and ailments which originate in a degraded GOM.

Red tide has been visiting the Gulf Coast for many years now, except that the outbreaks have become increasingly more severe and affecting larger areas.  Emergency room visits have seen a marked increase during full blown Red tide blooms.  So have schools of fish and manatees and other marine life seen a considerable uptick in their mass killings by Red tide.  The released toxins during a Red tide event are especially deadly to many kinds of fish.

Red Tide blamed for large fish kill in northeast Gulf of Mexico

Florida sees record 803 manatee deaths; red tide blamed

Here’s what the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) has to say about Red tide, also known as harmful algal blooms, or HABs.

Screen Shot 2014-07-26 at 12.38.03 PM

The Gulf of Mexico has a bioterrain, too!  
What NOAA will not tell you about Red tide is that there are circumstances beyond certain environmental conditions which encourage this highly toxic algae to bloom.  Just like the human bioterrain, when the intestinal flora becomes imbalanced, the opportunistic candida albicans fungus will colonize within the GI tract and overtake the eugenic bacteria required for proper digestion and absorption of nutrients.  If allowed to persist without proper intervention, systemic candidiasis can result, which can ultimately give rise to a pre-cancerous condition in the various target organs and tissues weakened by the pathogenic, mutated candida.

Likewise, when the GOM’s normal balance of both eugenic and pathogenic micro-organisms is thrown off, a similar set of circumstances can result.  Dangerous invasions of flesh-eating bacteria, toxic algae blooms and other health-compromising, microscopic inhabitants will likewise proliferate.  The more polluted the waters, the higher the frequency of their appearance, especially closer to shore because of the warmer waters which prevail there; where it’s shallow, the sun reflects off the sea bottom and warms the waters.

Of course, this is exactly where much of the swimming, water sports, fishing and other GOM activities take place.  The bayous and lagoons, bays and estuaries, wetlands and swamps often function as traps for much of the pollution which is systematically produced within and/or dumped into the GOM.  Because the normal circulation of these areas can be significantly limited at times (such as when the Loop Current stalls), they create an opportunity for the many toxic chemicals, hydrocarbon contaminants, industrial pollutants, and poisonous dispersants to both aggregate and densify.  In so doing, they eventually create an hospitable environment for pathogenic micro-organisms to propagate and flourish.

Nothing demonstrates this concept better than the existence of multiple dead zones throughout the GOM.  The following map delineates only those dead zone areas south of the Mississippi River, which have been the site of intensive oil and gas drilling since the early 1930s.  Were the entire Gulf of Mexico to be similarly mapped out, the resulting dead zones would be shown to be growing in both numbers and size, particularly over the past many years that deep sea oil drilling has been intensifying.

Dead zone pollutant grows despite decades of work

Dead Zones in the Gulf of Mexico south of Louisiana coastline

Radioactive Component Of Hydrocarbon Effluent and Refinement Process

The following excerpt provides a cursory explanation of the radioactive components associated with both the oil and gas extraction process in deep wells, as well as the oil and gas refinement process.  This is the real untold story of the Hydrocarbon Fuel Paradigm, and why it is so fatally flawed.  If the community of nations properly responded to this weighty matter alone, they would have begun the process of systematically transitioning the world away from the Hydrocarbon Fuel Paradigm.

If the reader pays attention to nothing else in this essay, be advised that pervasive ionizing radiation disseminated by oil and gas extraction operations worldwide is the most critical issue that must be addressed.  The very sustainability of life on Planet Earth depends upon it, especially the deeper the oil wells are drilled in desperation of finding the next motherlode of hydrocarbon reserves.  As follows:
“The deeper the geological source of the hydrocarbons, the more radioactive isotopes present in the oil and gas.
That hydrocarbons pulled from the bowels of the earth have a scientifically verified radioactive component(s) is the dirty little secret of the Oil & Gas Industry. So secret in fact that, if it were to get out, this single scientific fact would seal the fate of the entire industry. It also undergirds the correct understanding that oil and gas are both abiotic in nature and abiogenic in origin – facts which cast a refreshing light on the notion of Peak Oil.
Yes, we have reached Peak Oil, but not because of the untenable Fossil Fuel Theory which has been known to be false by the Oil and Gas Industry since its inception. It has been asserted that the Macondo Prospect sits on a reservoir of abiotic oil the size of Mount Everest, one of the two largest batholiths with proven oil and gas mega-reserves in the GOM. However, that doesn’t make it economically feasible or technologically prudent to extract; nor is it smart to engage in such utter folly, as the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon dramatically demonstrated.
Mantle-generated hydrocarbons come from very young geological formations deep in the earth, and are the product of extremely powerful geo-thermal forces. The presence of radioactive isotopes such as uranium, thorium, radium show up in much greater concentrations the deeper the well bore is drilled into the earth’s crust, and are ubiquitous throughout the mantle.
Therefore, the hydrocarbon constituents, which are actually found in the interstitial spaces, porous rock formations and quaternary sediments and are scattered everywhere because of their liquid and gaseous states, exist within and around this highly radioactive environment.
How radioactive is the hydrocarbon effluent upsurging from the wells in the GOM that are drilled at 12, 15, 18, 20, 25 or 30,000 feet through the crust and into the mantle? Here’s a link to the American Petroleum Institute website that will partially answer this question:
Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORMin North American Oilfields
Here’s another link to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website page entitled Radiation Protection that shows just how serious this matter has become from an environmental health standpoint.
Oil and Gas Production Wastes (Naturally-Occurring Radioactive Materials identified by the EPA)
Whenever there is a higher concentration of methane gas in the mix of oil/gas that comes out of any given well, it means that:
“The more methane that is present reflects the amount of Uranium and Thorium in the oil reserve. The deeper the oil, the younger the radiological decay is that produces helium.”
“Helium is a naturally occurring gas formed in oil reserves. So common that helium detectors have been used to discover oil reserves. Helium is an inert gas known to be a by-product from the radiological decay of uranium and thorium. Uranium and Thorium are known to be in great quantities at greater depths. Yes, radioactive elements occur naturally and can be found and detected in smaller amounts in shallow oil reserves. Oil reserves that do not produce large amounts of methane also lack uranium and thorium. The presence of methane is proportional to the presence of uranium and thorium, both radioactive elements.”
“The energy coming from uranium and thorium decay is thought to be the most significant energy source inside the earth,” Tolich said. “So this is the driving engine for things such as tectonic plate movements, volcanoes and earthquake. We are looking for neutrinos, particularly electron antineutrinos … coming from uranium and thorium decay inside the earth. The uranium and thorium is distributed all through the earth in the mantle.” (Per “URGENT: Radioactive Oil From BP Blowout“)
Uranium, thorium neutrino research could determine Earth’s age, energy production
From our many discussions with those knowledgeable at the OSATF (Oil Spill Academic Task Force) in Tallahassee, FL, it became evident early on in the spill that the percentage of methane of the total hydrocarbon composition was quite high. Some observed that it appeared to very slowly decrease, yet remained high right up until the capping of the gusher. Hence, we know that this oil spill in the GOM has a very definite radioactive component which must be addressed.”[1]
Oil rig fires like the Macondo explosion can disseminate airborne radioactive particles depending on the source of the hydrocarbons.

Oil rig fires like the Macondo explosion can disseminate airborne radioactive particles depending on the source of the hydrocarbons.

The basic story is that the Gulf of Mexico is slowly dying.  How and why it is dying is not a narrative the EPA, CDC, US Coast Guard or NIH is ever likely to publish.  Taken to the next level of understanding, it becomes quite obvious that the predominant environmental profile of the geographic location in which we live will always be reflected by our own individual bioterrain (environmental profile).  If an individual lives near Fukushima for any length of time, then radiation will show up in their body.  If they work and play downwind from a biomass incinerator, those airborne contaminants will in time accumulate in his or her body.

Likewise, the GOM has its own environmental profile which affects all who live near it, work in or on it, as well as eat the catch from its waters.  Even those who live at a distance can be affected by the GOM’s chemical profile to the extent that the regional hydrological cycle brings moisture and chemicals (remember Acid Rain) from the GOM over their homes and businesses.  The massive spraying of Corexit throughout the Gulf has only exacerbated this situation to the extent that such dispersants are still permitted to ‘disappear’ both new and old oil spills.

Although the first responsibility of government is to safeguard and protect the citizenry, this rarely happens in contemporary society.  Because of the overwhelming power and influence that Corporate America now exerts at very level of government, corporate profits and income lines almost always trump human health concerns and environmental protection[2].  Similarly, the shareholders’ interests, even when in a distant land, often take precedence over the welfare of the local communities which are deeply affected by environmentally-destructive corporate behavior.

In closing, it is indisputable that the Gulf of Mexico will continue to absorb a toxic burden well beyond its capacity to effectively process.  As the dead zones enlarge and start to merge with each other, perhaps the people who depend on this great body of water will reach a breaking point.  Only when there is a sufficient level of collective intolerance will the forces, and resources, become available to start taking back our Gulf.

Submitted by:
Gulf Oil Spill Remediation Cyber-Conference
International Citizens’ Initiative
July 27, 2014

Author’s Note:

Of all the major co-factors contributing to the slow motion demise of the Gulf of Mexico, none is so easily removed from this progressively worsening scenario as the wanton and indiscriminate spraying of the dangerous dispersant Corexit.  The continuing use of this noxious chemical has only made a bad situation much worse.  In addition to sinking the oil that it is designed to disperse, Corexit converts the oil into a much more toxic form.

The oil dispersal process also micronizes the Corext-laden byproduct so that it is impossible to see and very difficult detect, making it resistant to the traditional methods of gathering the oil for other types of disposal.  This “out of sight, out of mind” approach is an essential part of the BP Advertising Campaign[3] that appears on virtually every website on the internet, which is even remotely connected to the Gulf oil spill or the GOM.  In this regard BP’s actual response to their 2010 oil spill has been all form and very little substance, except the oily kind.


As a glaring testimony to this hapless reality, both BP and the EPA have been repeatedly made aware of a non-toxic, environmentally safe, cost-effective bioremediation agent known as OSEII.  This hydrocarbon remediation agent has been proven effective on a broad range of oil spills throughout the world and is fast replacing the dispersant class of treatments.  Nations near and far have been outlawing the application of dispersants since the BP Gulf Oil Spill and now eagerly replacing it with bioremediation agents such as OSEII.

That the EPA, NOAA, US Coast Guard, and the Department of Interior would permit the reflexive use of such a harmful dispersant like Corexit when far superior alternatives exist — which have been NCP-listed —  defies common sense.  It also violates the EPA’s charter, most basic regulations and stated policies.  Clearly, it is well past the time that EPA administrators ought to be held personally responsible for breaking the laws which govern the environmental protection of US territorial waters.

Lastly, the Gulf Oil Spill Remediation Cyber-Conference would ask each and every reader to watch the following video. This very impressive presentation provides an actual demonstration of OSEII being used to clean up some shoreline oil. The broad dissemination of such an effective use of a bioremediation agent, being successfully utilized by nations around the globe, might just compel the US Federal Government to reconsider their misguided and environmentally unsound oil spill response plan.

[1] The Gulf of Mexico is Dying: A Special Report On The BP Gulf Oil Spill
[2] Environmental and Health Impacts of the BP Gulf Oil Spill
[3] The BP Gulf Oil Spill Info Blackout And Data Lockdown


Drilling Fluids and Heath Risk Management — a guide for drilling personnel, managers and health professionals in the oil and gas industry
(See “Appendix 11: Potential health effects that may result from exposure to certain components of drilling fluids”)
Change Oil Spill Response Now!

The BP Gulf Oil Spill Continues To Sicken People Along The GOM
In-Depth: The Gulf Is Still Sick
BP oil spill dispersants still in environment
Warm Water Sparks Flesh-Eating Disease Warning in Florida
VIBRIO VULNIFICUS: Flesh-eating ocean bacteria hospitalizes 32, kills 10 in Florida
Flesh-eating Bacteria: Coastal Scourge (Vibrio vulnificus) is Lurking in the Estuaries
FWC News Release: Red tide causes large fish kill in northeast Gulf of Mexico
As Summer Officially Begins, A 1,250-Pound Tar Mat Discovered Off Florida Beach
Will Bacterial Plague Follow Crude Oil Spill Along Gulf Coast?
Deadly Bacteria Lurk in Deepwater Horizon Tar Balls
Woman loses leg after Gulf swim
Two Baldwin Co. Cases of Flesh Eating Bacteria
St. Johns River tests positive for flesh-eating bacteria
A bacteria that causes illnesses found in Indian River Lagoon
7 cases of flesh-eating bacteria reported so far this year in Miss.
Ocean Springs man dies from flesh eating bacteria

Friday, August 22, 2014

Ferguson: No Justice in the American Police State

Paul Craig Roberts

There are reports that American police kill 500 or more Americans every year. Few of these murdered Americans posed a threat to police. Police murder Americans for totally implausible reasons. For example, a few days before Michael Brown was gunned down in Ferguson, John Crawford picked up a toy gun from a WalMart shelf in the toy department and was shot and killed on the spot by police goons.

It appears that the murder of Michael Brown did not satisfy the blood lust of the goon thug cop murderers. Less than four miles from Ferguson, goon thugs murdered another black man on August 19. The police claims of “threat” are disproved by the video of the murder.

You can see the entire scene much better here. This is a clear case of outright murder of a man by our Nazi Gestapo police. The police then handcuff their dead victim.

Clearly, the American police are an enormous danger to the public. It will be interesting to see what excuses the police shills will come up with to justify this murder. It is not American civilians with carry permits who murder 500 people a year. It is the goon thug police. Gun control should be applied to the police who lack sufficient intelligence and judgment to go around armed.

Five hundred is more than one killing by police per day. Yet the reports of the shootings seldom get beyond the local news. Why then has the Ferguson, Missouri, police killing of Michael Brown gone international?

Probably the answer is the large multi-day protests of the black community in Ferguson that led to the state police being sent to Ferguson and now the National Guard. Also, domestic police in full military combat gear with armored personnel carriers and tanks pointing numerous rifles in the faces of unarmed civilians and arresting and threatening journalists make good video copy. The “land of the free” looks like a Gestapo Nazi state. To much of the world, which has grown to hate American bullying, the bullying of Americans by their own police is poetic justice.

For those who have long protested racial profiling and police brutality toward racial minorities, the police murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson is just another in a history of racists murders.

Rob Urie is correct that blacks receive disproportionate punishment from the white criminal justice (sic) system. See, for example.

Myself, former US Representative Dennis Kucinich, and others see Michael Brown’s murder as reflective of the militarization of the police and police training that creates a hostile police attitude toward the public. The police are taught to view the public as threats against whom the use of violence is the safest course for the police officers.

This doesn’t mean that racism is not also involved. Polls show that a majority of white Americans are content with the police justification for the killing. Police apologists are flooding the Internet with arguments against those of the opposite persuasion. Only those who regard the police excuse as unconvincing are accused of jumping to conclusions before the jury’s verdict is in. Those who jump to conclusions favorable to the police are regarded as proper Americans.

What I address in this article is non-evidential considerations that determine a jury’s verdict and the incompetence of Ferguson’s government that caused the riots and looting.

Unless the US Department of Justice makes Michael Brown’s killing a federal case, the black community in Ferguson is powerless to prevent a cover-up.

What usually happens in these cases is that the police concoct a story protective of the police officer(s) and the prosecutor does not bring an indictment. As Obama and his Attorney General, Eric Holder, are partially black (in skin color alone), the black majority community in Ferguson, Missouri, might have hopes from Holder’s visit. However, nothing could be more clear than the fact that Obama and Holder, along with the rest of “black leadership,” have been co-opted by the white power structure. How else would Obama and Holder be in office? Do you think that the white power structure puts in office people who want justice for minorities or for anyone other than the mega-rich?

If the cop who killed Brown is indicted and he is tried in Ferguson, the jury will contain whites who live in Ferguson. Unless there is a huge change in white sentiment about the killing, no white juror can vote to convict the white cop and continue to live in Ferguson. The hostility of the white community toward white jurors who took the side of a “black hoodlum who stole cigars” against the white police officer would make life for the jurors impossible in Ferguson.

The trouble with purely racial explanations of police using excessive force is that cops don’t limit their excesses to racial minorities. White people suffer them also. Remember the recent case of Cecily McMillan, an Occupy protester who was brutalized by a white goon thug with a record of using excessive force. McMillan is a young white woman. Her breasts were seized from behind, and when she swung around her elbow reflexively and instinctively came up and hit the goon thug. She was arrested for assaulting a police officer and sentenced by a jury to a term in jail. The prosecutor and judge made certain that no evidence could be presented in her defense. Medical evidence of the bruises on her breast and the police officer’s record of police brutality were not allowed as evidence in her show trial, the purpose of which was to intimidate Occupy protesters.

In America white jurors are usually sheep who do whatever the prosecutor wants. As Cecily McMillan, a white woman, could not get justice, it is even less likely that the black family of Michael Brown will. Those who are awaiting a jury’s verdict to decide Michael Brown’s case are awaiting a cover-up and the complicity of the US criminal justice (sic) system in murder.

If there is a federal indictment of the police officer, and the trial is held in a distant jurisdiction, there is a better chance that a jury would consider the facts. But even these precautions would not eliminate the racist element in white jurors’ decisions.

The situation in Ferguson was so badly handled it almost seems like the police state, in responding to the shooting, intended to provoke violence so that the American public could become accustomed to military force being applied to unarmed civilian protests.

Ferguson brings to mind the Boston Marathon Bombing. Two brothers of foreign extraction allegedly set off a “pressure cooker bomb” left in a backback that killed and injured race participants or observers. The two brothers were deemed, without any evidence, to be so dangerous that the entirety of Boston and its suburbs were “locked down” while 10,000 heavily armed police and military patrolled the streets in military vehicles conducting door-to-door searches forcing residents from their homes at gun point, while the police ransacked homes where it was totally obvious the brothers were not hiding. Not a single family evicted from their residences at gunpoint said: “Thank God you are here. The bombers are hiding in our home.”

The excessive display of force and warrantless police home intrusions is the reason that aware and thoughtful Americans do not believe one word of the official account of the Boston Marathon Bombing. Thoughtful people wonder why every American does not see the bombing as an orchestrated state act of terror in order to accustom Americans to the lock-down of a city and police intrusion into their homes. Logistically, it is impossible to assemble 10,000 armed troops so quickly. The obvious indication is that the readiness of the troops indicates pre-planning.

In Ferguson all that was needed to prevent mass protests and looting was for the police chief, mayor or governor to immediately announce that there would be a full investigation by a civic committee independent of the police and that the black community should select the members it wished to serve on the investigative committee.

Instead, the name of the cop who killed Michael Brown was withheld for days, a video allegedly of Michael Brown taking cigars from a store was released as a justification for his murder by police. These responses and a variety of other stupid police and government responses convinced the black community, which already knew in its bones, that there would be a coverup.

It is entirely possible that the police chief, mayor, and governor lacked the intelligence and judgment to deal with the occasion. In other words, perhaps they are too stupid to be in public office. The incapacity of the American public to elect qualified representatives is world-renown. But it is also possible that Michael Brown’s killing provided another opportunity to accustom Americans to the need for military violence to be deployed against the civilian population in order to protect us from threats.

Occupy Wall Street was white, and these whites were overwhelmed by police violence.
This is why I conclude that more is involved in Ferguson than white racist attitudes toward blacks.

The founding fathers warned against allowing US military forces to be deployed against the American people, and the Posse Comitatus Act prevents the use of military forces against civilians. These restrictions designed to protect liberty have been subverted by the George W. Bush and Obama regimes.

Today Americans have no more protection against state violence than Germans had under National Socialism.

Far from being a “light unto the world,” America is descending into cold hard tyranny.

Who will liberate us?

This from BloombergBusinessweek.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Fracking’s untold health threat: How toxic contamination is destroying lives

America's natural gas boom has real consequences for children and animals,
researchers tell Salon

Lindsay Abrams

If we’re going to talk about fracking, we can’t just talk about energy independence, or the economy, or the potential for natural gas to act as a “bridge fuel” to help solve the global warming crisis. We also need to talk about the effect that hydraulic fracturing is having on the communities where it’s taking place, and to ask whether that cost — to people’s health and property — is too high.

The main barrier to that conversation, of course, is that it’s one the industry definitely doesn’t want to be having, aside from insisting that fracking is safe. Michelle Bamberger, a veterinarian, and Robert Oswald, a professor of molecular medicine at Cornell, believe differently, and they have the research to back up their claims. The two have documented cases of contaminated water and air, of sick pets and dying livestock and of similar symptoms experienced by the animals’ owners, all with few apparent explanations. And that, the researchers, argue, is the real scandal: It’s up to the people being affected, and not the industry causing the damage, to prove that something’s wrong.

In The Real Cost of Fracking: How America’s Shale Boom is Threatening Our Families, Pets and Food,” Bamberger and Oswald share the stories of people whose lives have been affected — and in some cases, destroyed — by fracking, in a way that aims to open up the conversation to what’s at stake. “Simply put,” they write, “we are not certain of the public health implications of large-scale industrial oil and gas drilling.” The effects we are seeing, they add, are being seen most prominently in animals, children and oil and gas workers: the ones who, because they are so sensitive to hazards from gas operations, end up serving as the canaries in the coal mine.

Bamberger and Oswald spoke with Salon about the challenges of studying the health risks of fracking, and about why they believe the evidence they’ve found is enough to make us seriously question whether they’re risks worth taking. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

What got you started investigating this aspect of fracking?
MB: We heard about this issue about five years ago when we read in our local paper about a community group that was going through all the leases and just plotting out where surface and mineral rights were leased in the county. It made it really easy to know where you were and who your neighbors were that were leased — the land that was leased around you. We’re out in the country, about 15 minutes from Ithaca, and we saw that we were surrounded by farmers who owned 100 acres or more of land and had leased. The way compulsory integration works in New York is that if you are in a land unit, which is usually one square mile, that is 60 percent or more leased, then your land could be drilled under.

So that got us really interested in the issue, because we’re not leased, but we would be drilled under. So we thought, we’d better start paying attention to this. So we started attending meetings and learning more about it. And in the process, I started hearing about cases in Pennsylvania where animals were becoming ill, and no one was trying to figure out why, or owners didn’t know why, or their vets didn’t know why. That’s what pulled me into it; and for Robert’s part, I think I can speak for him, he started getting involved with it from looking at the documentation I was starting to collect.

Was it hard to find people who were willing to speak about the experiences they’re having?
MB: I started to get emails from people who knew I was a veterinarian who were local farmer-type people up here in New York who had connections with people in other states through the farming groups. So they started putting me in contact with people, and I started to become known as a vet who was interested in looking into these cases and starting to document them, and that’s how I got pulled into this.
What are some of the more shocking things you turned up?
MB: I can think of one particular occasion — this was in Louisiana in April 2009 — and that was the one where the cattle were exposed to hydraulic fracturing fluid and they died within an hour. What was shocking about that was that these are animals, which are over 1,000 pounds, and it takes something pretty powerful to knock them out, that they’re exposed to it and then dead in just an hour. That really grabbed me by the neck, because what I’ve been reading about was usually cattle exposures, where even if it’s pretty toxic, it’s one to three days. One to three days is pretty fast, actually, but within an hour is pretty amazing. So I think that was the most amazing thing that I heard of with these cases. Robert is shaking his head in agreement.

RO: I think that was the most dramatic case we had. We had a lot of cases that were interesting but that was a dramatic one.

MB: Robert, the other answer you give for this is the case where we were sitting at the kitchen…

RO: That wasn’t dramatic but it had a big effect on me, let’s put it that way. We went to visit some people and they had actually had some documented contamination on their land and their cows were quarantined. And we’re just sitting in their dining room, which is off their kitchen, and you can look through their kitchen window and all you can see out their kitchen window is a well pad. We look outside the dining room window and about 10 feet away from it is a driveway, and that’s the access road to the pad. So I realized for these people, all this drilling and fracking and everything, it was right on top of their house. These people had several hundred acres and they didn’t want them to put the pad there, but the company insisted on putting the pad right by their house. That was a thing that was really early on and it really struck me as something that I just didn’t understand — how people could live with that, and how the companies could actually do that.

Would you say that all adds up to these people’s lives being dominated, or ruined, by drilling operations? Or is it just that we’re not hearing enough about any of these things that are happening?
MB: I think their lives are in many cases being dominated, and I think that’s true especially in the cases when people lose their water — we all know what it’s like when our electricity goes out or our power goes out and we can’t run our spigot. To have that be all the time, how do you compensate for that? What do you with water that’s not good, and you can’t drink it and maybe you can’t even bathe in it? You’re getting rashes, you’re getting ill — it really does turn your life upside down and it does dominate it. We have one woman we described in our book who said, “I go to sleep thinking of water. I wake up thinking of water. Every minute is thinking of water.” It just made me realize that we take so much for granted. But this is huge: When you have to think of every drop, counting exactly how much water you’re going to need and how much you’re going to use and think of your community and think of your neighbors, it’s really overwhelming. It’s hard to really understand. We got a little bit of a taste of it when we went and visited these people and spent some time with them, but I think no one could ever understand it unless you go through it.

RO: You know, Tony Hayward, the CEO of BP, during the BP oil spill, he said he wanted his life back. That had such a hollow ring to it. These are people who really need their lives back, and they’re not going to get it back.

There’s one point in the book where you compare some of these people to victims of rape, which seems like a pretty extreme comparison.
MB: The thing I was trying to get at there as an analogy was lack of control. They’re powerless. And again, you can get that feeling through all the chapters that we’ve written in describing the cases. Especially in that last chapter, on environmental justice, where they’re at the complete mercy of these companies that are working around them and then at the companies’ mercy as to whether they’re provided with a water buffalo [a large container of replacement water], to whether it’s decided that the results of their testing show they need it. What do they have to prove in order to be able to have good water again? I think that’s the sort of thing I was trying to build and get there with that analogy: powerlessness and lack of control.

Going back to your research, how many of these case studies that you feature are backed up by conclusive evidence that says “Yes, fracking is definitely causing these problems?”
MB: So on those cases, a few are, most are not. We feel strongly that it’s because of the current testing methods that are used and the fact that for a lot of these chemicals, we don’t know what they are actually using — especially the proprietary mixes, we don’t know what all the components are. But also we don’t know what the maximum contaminate levels (MCLs) are. So, in other words, what is the level below which there are no health effects and above which definitely there are? And what are the effective screening levels for air? If we don’t really know them, then we believe these people have no recourse because there’s no MCL. And that came out really strongly for me. We have several cases in the book that are part of the EPA study, where I was shocked when I saw the water results that a large majority of those chemicals the EPA was testing didn’t have MCLs. And if you don’t have an MCL, you can’t go into litigation, you can’t go to court and say “we have conclusive evidence.” It doesn’t matter how sick they are and that they can’t use their water or that when they stop using their water they get better and when they use it again they get worse. None of that counts as conclusive evidence. Having said that, we do have several cases you can read about in the book where it is conclusive evidence. But it’s the rarity really because of the many reasons we discussed in the book.

RO: You should also sort of realize that it took about 30 years to determine conclusively that cigarettes caused cancer, and part of the reason is that there’s always some sort of plausible deniability. It really depends on what we accept as a level of truth and what’s more important. Is it more important to absolutely prove there’s contamination here, or is it more important to prove that there’s not contamination here? And where do we find the balance? The balance, unfortunately, is very much in favor of companies and not in favor of the people who are living with this.

So you mentioned more testing. Are there simple things that could be put in place to help make the link more clear, or to help protect people?
MB: That’s a really good question. We are now, getting back to the testing thing, thinking of looking at it in a different light, to make it simpler for people to know right away: “Is this water I shouldn’t be drinking? And if it needs much further testing that maybe I can’t afford, at least I shouldn’t be drinking it.”

As far as simple things that could be done that might lessen the effects right now, I think the best discussion of that is in our first paper, where we talk about what could be done: just getting further away from these operations, for the drilling companies to operate further away, there’s also been a lot, lately, about cement casing failures. I think the big thing is that we were shocked about the number of inspectors. There are so few inspectors that they cannot get out and really make sure things are running correctly, even as they stand now. So there’s something that’s really simple and really basic, and the state regulators would probably say we don’t have the money for that, we can’t afford it. But then it comes down to this question that we’re hearing all over the country now: “What’s more important, to get the energy out of the ground or people’s health?” That’s a real basic question; that’s what it comes down to now and we strongly believe people’s health and children and animals and food and all of that should come way before going after an energy source that’s not really viable, especially in light of the climate change we have — but that’s another issue.

I can’t imagine that the industry has had a positive response to your work.
MB: Energy In Depth is one of the energy industry sites and they pretty much attack anybody who doesn’t say that this is great stuff they’re doing. So we are not the only ones who have been attacked. But we look at it like we don’t really care what they have to say. We’re just going to do the best science in the most objective way possible and that’s what we’re still trying to do. The reason to write the book, in addition to the articles, is to reach an audience that might not read an article, even though our article was pretty easy to read. A lot of people hearing it from a scientific journal just would not read it. So the book is an effort to reach those people who would read a book. So we’re hoping to get more people aware of the situation, and if more people are aware maybe things will change eventually.

Would you say nondisclosure agreements are making it harder to get those stories out there?  
MB: That is true and I think that’s happening more and more. And it’s been hard; we’ve had a few cases shut down and people say “I can’t provide you with any more information,” or right up front we were not able to follow up on a really good case because they’d already signed. So for us as researchers that really cuts out a lot of information where we’re trying to find out what’s happening, especially as health researchers for the public health — it’s hard to protect the public health if you can’t ask what’s happening.

Leaving aside the climate change aspect, and just so far as the direct effects on people who live near fracking operations, do you see the point where the industry could make significant enough improvements that fracking will be safe — or at least safe enough — to be justifiable, from an energy standpoint?
RO: Well I think they can do better, that’s true. And maybe they are doing better. I don’t know. I don’t think there will ever be a case where it will always be safe. There will always be problems; mistakes happen. And when they wipe out a community’s water by making a mistake, that’s the major issue. When you get right down to it, what’s more important: Do we find alternative ways of getting energy? I think there are alternatives, but I think what we’re doing is sending all our money to subsidize the oil and gas industry and sending very little money subsidizing alternative energy. It’s that balance for change for alternative energy, which has become much more affordable for people. I think it would not be worth taking the risk of contaminating water and air and ruining some people’s lives.

How the middle class got screwed: College costs, globalization and our new Insecurity Economy

The social safety net is in tatters. No jobs are safe. Who is to blame — and what has the anxiety done to us all?
Marianne Cooper

Excerpted from "Cut Adrift: Families in Insecure Times"

It is clear that American families have been struggling in recent decades. Less obvious are the forces that are responsible for this reversal of fortune. However, a significant body of research now points to a confluence of economic and social trends that many scholars agree have played a crucial role in the rise of financial insecurity.

The Rise of the Service Economy

Since the 1970s, work in the United States has undergone a dramatic transformation—a regression from the New Deal quest for stability and from shared prosperity to insecurity security to a state in which work is precarious. In the words of sociologist Arne L. Kalleberg, work has become more “uncertain, unpredictable, and risky from the point of view of the worker.”

One reason for the rise of precarious work is the wholesale restructuring of the American economy from one based on manufacturing to one based on services. After World War II the manufacturing sector comprised 40 percent of the labor force; by 2005, that share had fallen to only 12 percent. The service sector now makes up about 80 percent of the jobs in the United States. Durable manufacturing jobs (autoworker, machinist, chemical engineer) offering higher wages and good benefits have been replaced by service sector jobs (store clerk, cashier, home health-care aide) that pay less, offer few or no benefits, and are more insecure.

Moreover, while the manufacturing sector tends to create good jobs at every employment level, the service sector tends to create a relatively small number of high-skill, high-paying jobs (in fields like finance, consulting, and medicine) along with a large number of low-skill, low-paid jobs (in retailing, child care, and hospitality). The result is that secure, semiskilled middle-income jobs like those that once fueled the rapid expansion of the American middle class are increasingly hard to find.

The Impact of Globalization

Beginning in the mid-to-late 1970s, U.S. firms began to face dramatically increased competition from around the world. To compete, American companies sought to lower labor costs, in part by outsourcing work to lower-wage countries. Technological advances aided this outsourcing process, as the growth in electronic tools for communication and information management meant that goods, services, and people could be coordinated and controlled from anywhere around the globe, enabling businesses to more easily move their operations to exploit cheap labor sources abroad.

Perhaps the most far-reaching effect of globalization has been a renegotiation of the unwritten social contract between American employers and employees. Managers now demand greater flexibility to quickly adapt and survive in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. In this context, the traditional employment relationship, in which work is steady and full-time, workers are rarely fired except for incompetence, working conditions are generally predictable and fair (often defined by union-negotiated contracts), and good employees can expect to climb a lifetime career ladder in the service of one employer, has come to seem unrealistic and onerous to business leaders. Today that traditional arrangement has largely disappeared, replaced by nonstandard, part-time, contract, and contingent work, generally offering reduced wages and scanty benefits. Mass layoffs are no longer an option of last resort but rather a key restructuring strategy used to increase short-term profits by reducing labor costs in both good times and bad.

The Decline of Unions

In this new environment, unions are struggling. Although manufacturing workers have a long history of labor organizing, service sector workers such as restaurant and retail employees do not, making it harder for service employee unions to grow. Moreover, globalization, technological changes, and the spread of flexible work arrangements have combined to enable employers to make an end run around unions by moving jobs to countries or parts of the United States where anti-union attitudes and laws predominate. As a consequence of these developments, union membership has steadily declined. In 1954, at the peak of union membership, 28 percent of employed workers were in unions. By 1983, only 20 percent of workers were union members. In 2012, union membership reached a historical low, with membership comprising only 11 percent of American workers. Among full-time workers, the median weekly earnings for union members is $943, while among nonunion workers the median weekly earnings is $742. The decline of unions has severely curtailed and diminished workers’ ability to collectively bargain to maintain high wages and good benefits, indirectly fueling a steady decline in the value of the minimum wage. Moreover, the decline of unions has eroded a broader moral commitment to fair pay, which even nonunion workers previously benefited from.

Together, the rise of the service economy, globalization, the decline of unions, and the erosion of the old work contract between employers and employees have created a precarious work environment for more and more Americans. Between the 1980s and 2004, more than 30 million full-time workers lost their jobs involuntarily. And during the Great Recession of 2008–2009, another 8.9 million jobs were lost. In the past few years, long-term unemployment has reached levels not seen since the government began monitoring rates of joblessness after World War II.

Risk Shifts to the Individual

Over the last several decades, both government policy and private sector labor relations have evolved to reduce the sharing of the economic risks involved in managing lives, caring for families, and safeguarding futures. Instead, individual Americans are increasingly being asked to plan for and guarantee their own educations, health care, and retirements. If today’s families want a safety net to catch them when they fall, they need to weave their own.

Underlying this shift in risk is neoliberal political ideology, often identified with leaders like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, which holds that people will work harder and make better decisions if they must defend themselves against the vicissitudes of life. Neoliberal doctrine views dependence in a negative light (arguing that “coddling” by government undermines individual initiative) and actually celebrates risk and uncertainty as sources of self-reliance. In this new paradigm, the individual is encouraged to gain greater control over his or her life by making personal risk-management choices within the free market (and living with the consequences of any misjudgments). In this “ownership society,” individuals must learn to be secure with insecurity; the goal is to amass security on our own rather than look to government help or collective action as sources of support.

With the rise of neoliberalism, the ethic of sharing risk among workers, employers, and the federal government that emerged after the New Deal was replaced by an aggressively free-market approach that pushed deregulation and privatization in order to minimize the role of government in economic life. At the same time, responsibility for social welfare has steadily devolved from the federal government to states, localities, and even the private sector. The push toward privatizing social services reached a new level when President George W. Bush, through his establishment of the office of faith-based organizations, sought to formally create public-private partnerships in which welfare provision would increasingly be supplied not by the government but by religious organizations. The result of this devolution of social services has been the replacement of a relatively stable, consistent system of safety-net programs with a patchwork of state, local, and private programs, all of which scramble to find funding.

Though many Americans may be unfamiliar with the risk shift story, the results are widely known. From 1980 to 2004, the number of workers covered by a traditional defined-benefit retirement pension decreased from 60 percent to 11 percent. In contrast, the number of workers covered by a defined-contribution retirement benefit like a 401(k) plan, in which the worker is fully responsible for saving and managing his or her savings, grew from 17 percent in 1980 to 61 percent in 2004.

Traditional employer-provided health-care coverage began to erode as well. From 1979 to 2004, coverage dropped from 69 percent to 55.9 percent. In 2010, 49 million Americans were uninsured, an increase of close to 13 million people since 2000. For workers who continue to receive coverage, their share of the costs has increased drastically. A survey conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute found that to cover medical costs, 45 percent have decreased their contributions to other savings, 35 percent have had difficulty paying other bills, and 24 percent have had difficulty paying for basic necessities.

The Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010 and upheld by the Supreme Court in 2012, will greatly expand affordable health care. As a result of the legislation, it is estimated that by 2019, 29 million Americans will gain health insurance coverage. However, an equal number will still be uninsured. And the number of uninsured may rise depending on how many states opt out of expanding Medicaid eligibility. Currently twenty states will not participate in the Medicaid expansion. Analysis of states that won’t expand Medicaid has found that, as a result, about 5.3 million people will earn too much under their state’s Medicaid eligibility level to qualify but will earn too little to be eligible for tax credits that help offset the cost of insurance. Of the top ten least-insured metropolitan areas in the United States, seven are in states that will not expand Medicaid eligibility.

When it comes to aid for higher education, federal funding has grown, but that aid has mostly come in the form of loans rather than grants. Over the last decade, grants have made up between 22 and 28 percent of federal aid for education, while loans have made up between 61 and 70 percent. Moreover, even though there has been a 15 percent increase in the number of low-income students who receive a Pell Grant, the maximum award these students can receive now covers only about a third of the costs of a college education, as compared to around three-quarters in the 1970s.

The high price of a college degree is linked with a significant decline in the number of low- and moderate-income students who enroll in and graduate from college. Between 1992 and 2004, the percentage of low-income students enrolled in a four-year college decreased from 54 to 40 percent and the percentage of middle-income students decreased from 59 to 53 percent. For low-income children, the college completion rate has increased by only 4 percentage points between the generation born in the early 1960s and the generation born in the early 1980s. In contrast, among high-income children the college graduation rate increased 18 percentage points between generations. If education is the ladder by which less-advantaged Americans can hope to rise to the middle class and beyond, the rungs of that ladder are increasingly out of reach—yet another way in which the traditional system of shared social responsibility has been gradually dismantled over the past forty years.

Feeling insecure

With instability and uncertainty figuring prominently in people’s lives, it is important to ask if these social and economic trends are reflected in the way Americans feel. Do Americans feel more insecure? Have they become more worried? This question turns out to be a difficult one to answer.

The first obstacle to figuring out the answer is that we lack rich, long-term survey data that would enable us to tease out an in-depth answer. As a recent Rockefeller Foundation report noted, efforts to assess and measure people’s sense of security are rare. And the surveys we do have focus almost exclusively on job loss, which is just one risk among many that needs to be explored.

A second obstacle to measuring perceptions of security and insecurity across the decades is whether or not, over time, people continue to judge and evaluate their situations by the same criteria. In other words, can we assume that year in and year out people use the same yardstick to measure whether or not they are having a good or bad year? If assessments and meanings change over time and surveys don’t capture these subjective changes, then it’s not clear what our assessments are really measuring.

Analysis by Richard Curtin, the director of the Survey of Consumers at the University of Michigan, addresses the subjective nature of evaluation in his analysis of changes in the standards by which consumers have judged the economy over the last fifty years. For example, during the 1960s people had high expectations and were very confident about the government’s ability to control the economy and keep things on track. Such optimism about rising affluence ran into a brick wall during the economic shocks of the 1970s and early 1980s. Initially, dissatisfaction ensued as people continued to hold on to the economic aspirations from the past. By the mid-1980s, however, after repeated economic setbacks, consumers lowered their expectations about achievable growth rates and became more tolerant of high inflation and high unemployment. By the early 1990s, fears about job security grew as Americans became skeptical about the government’s ability to use economic policy to prevent downturns.

At this point expectations were so diminished that it took one of the longest economic expansions in U.S. history to reset high levels of optimism. Fueled by the dot-com boom, aspirations soared. In 2000, consumer confidence hit a new peak. With expectations high, consumers in the early 2000s cited high unemployment as an issue even though it was only around 6 percent, half as much as it had been in the early 1980s. The optimism of the late 1990s soon gave way to pessimism because of the successive recessions of 2001 and late 2007. In fact, between January 2007 and mid-2008, the Index of Consumer Sentiment fell by 42 percent, the greatest percentage decline compared to any other recession.

By mapping out historical shifts in consumers’ assessments of the economy, Curtin illustrates how “the same level of economic performance, say in terms of the inflation or unemployment rate, can be evaluated quite differently depending on what was thought to be the expected standard.” Moreover, changes in standards of evaluation usually occur very slowly and therefore can be difficult to detect. And since different groups of Americans have fared differently as a result of macroeconomic changes, it stands to reason that some Americans may have altered their standards and expectations sooner than others, and some may have altered their aspirations more significantly, and perhaps more permanently. In all likelihood, for example, those employed in the waning manufacturing sector, like autoworkers, had to let go of their expectations for a secure economic life long before and to a much larger degree than have college-educated Americans employed in the expanding service sector.

With this in mind, when sociologists Katherine Newman and Elisabeth Jacobs looked at survey data from the late 1970s to just before the Great Recession that examined people’s economic perceptions, they found something interesting. Their analysis revealed that, despite a few peaks and valleys, overall trends during this period suggest that Americans came to see themselves as more secure and in better financial shape, with about the same likelihood of losing their job. As we might expect, their analysis found that those with the lowest incomes and least education expressed the most vulnerability to employment insecurity and financial hardship, while those with higher incomes and more education expressed lower levels of concern.

Yet, despite their lower levels of concern overall, Americans with higher earnings, bachelor’s degrees, and managerial jobs have nonetheless exhibited the biggest increase in worry. Over the last thirty years, the proportions of college graduates and managers who said that they are likely to lose their jobs next year and the proportions who said they did worse financially this year than last year have gone up. The rise in concern about job security and financial stability among this group reflects new realities. During this period, the rate of job loss for the most educated went up faster than the rate of job loss for less-educated Americans. And when these workers lost their jobs and found new ones, the new jobs often didn’t pay as much. By 2001, workers with a bachelor’s degree experienced about a 23 percent drop in their earnings after losing a job. Such trends stand at odds with a long-standing belief among Americans with college degrees that their skills and credentials will translate into a solid footing. If discontent emerges when there is a gap between expectations and outcomes, then it would make sense for concern to increase more among the group that still thought it was well positioned to maintain a good, secure life. When this kind of an expectation smacks into job loss and downward mobility, people will start to worry.

For Americans with less education and lower earnings, it is very possible that worry as measured by feelings about job insecurity and financial hardship did not increase as much over a sustained period because they altered their expectations sooner and more permanently than did better-off Americans. As Newman and Jacobs point out, when those at the bottom lose a job, there is not as far to fall. For such families, their economic situation doesn’t change much from year to year; it’s always bad. Alternatively, other families may have taken on debt in order to hold on to their standards for security. The lack of a consistent and steep increase in worry among less well-off Americans thus does not necessarily signal that they feel more secure than they used to feel. To be sure, it could actually mean that they have gotten used to having less or gotten used to the high levels of debt required for them to hold on to traditional conceptions of security amid declining fortunes. What is also likely going on is that people’s frame of reference for what security even means has undergone a transformation. Finally, it could also be the case that our standard measures for these issues (concern about job security and whether or not we are worse off this year than last) don’t allow us to accurately assess people’s feelings.

We do not have the kind of comprehensive longitudinal survey data that would enable us to detect subjective changes in Americans’ views about what constitutes security and insecurity and whether such definitions shape trends in worry and concern over time. But other measures point to increases in insecure feelings among Americans. For example, even before the Great Recession started, about half of those surveyed worried somewhat about their economic security, with one-quarter “very” or “fairly” worried. By 2009, just over half of those surveyed were now “very” or “fairly” worried. A Pew Research survey done in 2011 found that only 56 percent of those polled felt that they were better off financially than their own parents were when they were the same age, which is the lowest percentage since the question was first asked in 1981, when 69 percent said they felt better off. In 2012, the General Social Survey (GSS) found that less than 55 percent of Americans agreed that “people like me and my family have a good chance of improving our standard of living,” the lowest reported level since 1987. That same year, the GSS also found that a record number of Americans (8.4 percent) identified themselves as “lower class,” which is the highest percentage reported in the forty years that the GSS has asked this question.

And we may be seeing changes in the definition of the American dream. The American dream has long been equated with moving up the class ladder and owning a home, but recent surveys have noted shifts away from such notions. When Joel Benenson, chief pollster for President Obama, examined voters’ thoughts about economic security and the American dream in 2011, he found something new. His polling discovered that middle-class Americans were more concerned about keeping what they have than they were with getting more. Another 2011 survey found the same thing. When asked which is more important to them, 85 percent of those surveyed said “financial stability” and only 13 percent said “moving up the income ladder.” In 2007, a survey found that owning a home defined the American dream for 35 percent of those surveyed. By 2013, the top two definitions of the American dream were “retiring with financial security” (28 percent) and “being debt free” (23 percent). Only 18 percent of those surveyed defined the American dream as owning a home.

As the economy experienced wide-reaching transformations, meanings and feelings have likely changed along with it. A National Journal article noted how even the definition of being middle class has undergone adjustment, especially in light of the rise of contract workers or “permatemps,” those who may make a good wage but receive no benefits and can expect no job security. Capturing this adjustment, the article asks, “If they make a decent income, are permatemps middle class? Not by the standards of the past. But by the diminished redefinition, maybe they are: earning a middle-class living—for the moment.”

Amid these shifting economic tides and morphing definitions, many have lost their way. While old beliefs such as that hard work will lead to security and prosperity have fallen by the wayside, it’s unclear to many Americans what new truths lay in their stead. As President Obama’s pollster Joel Benenson discovered, this lack of direction causes a great deal of unease. “One of the big sources of concern for the people we talked with,” Benenson said, “was that they didn’t recognize any new rules in this environment. All of the rules they had learned about how you succeed, how you get ahead—those rules no longer apply, and they didn’t feel there was a set of new rules.” These kinds of examinations suggest that in the age of insecurity, Americans are not just trying to weather an economic storm, but they are also feeling their way through the dark.

In the throes of the Great Depression, Americans decided that there had to be a better way to organize government and society, one that would allow individuals and families to enjoy greater stability and security. This philosophical shift from “rugged individualism” to “united we stand, divided we fall” paved the way for the New Deal, the Great Society, and the forging of an unwritten but pervasive social contract between employers and employees that rested on mutual loyalties and protections. The government invested in its citizens, employers invested in their employees, and individuals worked hard to make the most of those investments. As a result, in the decades immediately following World War II, prosperity reigned, inequality decreased, and a large and thriving middle class was born.

Beginning in the 1970s, this system began to unravel. Large-scale changes from globalization and the rise of the service economy to a philosophical shift toward free-market ideology and a celebration of risk changed the landscape of security in America. Against this backdrop, the government curtailed its investments in and protections of its citizens, and employers rewrote the social contract to increase their own flexibility and demand greater risk bearing by workers. Individuals continued to work hard, but instead of getting ahead, more Americans struggled harder and harder just to get by.

Insecurity now defines our world. The secure society has become the “risk society.” The belief that we are all in this together has been replaced with the assumption that we are each on our own. Cut adrift, Americans are struggling to forge security in an insecure age.