Friday, January 14, 2011

Is Fascism Lurking?

by Danny Schechter
Friday, January 14, 2011 by

Fascism is one of those words that sounds like it belongs in the past, conjuring up, as it does, marching jack boots in the streets, charismatic demagogues like Italy's Mussolini or Spain's Franco and armed crackdowns on dissent and freedom of expression.

It is a term we are used to reading in histories about World War II--not in news stories from present day America.

And yet the word, and the dark reality behind it, is creeping into popular contemporary usage.

Radical activists on the left have never been hesitant to label their opponents with this "F word" whenever governments support laws that limit opposition or overdo national security or abuse human rights. Government paranoia turns critics paranoid.

One example: writer Naomi Wolf forecast fascism creeping into America during the Bush years accelerated by the erosion of democracy, writing:
"It is my argument that, beneath our very noses, George Bush and his administration are using time-tested tactics to close down an open society. It is time for us to be willing to think the unthinkable - as the author and political journalist Joe Conason, has put it, that it can happen here."
Wolf feared Americans couldn't see the warning signs:
"Because Americans like me were born in freedom, we have a hard time even considering that it is possible for us to become as unfree - domestically - as many other nations. Because we no longer learn much about our rights or our system of government - the task of being aware of the constitution has been outsourced from citizens' ownership to being the domain of professionals such as lawyers and professors - we scarcely recognize the checks and balances that the founders put in place, even as they are being systematically dismantled. Because we don't learn much about European history, the setting up of a department of "homeland" security - remember who else was keen on the word "homeland" - didn't raise the alarm bells it might have."
Now, those bells are being rung by John Hall, an outgoing Democratic Congressman from upstate New York. His fear of fascism has less to do with repressive laws and militarism than the influx of corporate money into politics, swamping it with special interests that buy influence for right wing policies and politicians.

"I learned when I was in social studies class in school that corporate ownership or corporate control of government is called Fascism," he told the New York Observer. "So that's really the question-- is that the destination if this court decision goes unchecked?"

Reports New York's Observer:
"The court decision he is referring to is Citizens United, the controversial Supreme Court ruling that led to greater corporate spending in the midterm elections, much of it anonymous. In the wake of the decision, Democrats tried to pass the DISCLOSE Act, which would have mandated that corporate donors identify themselves in their advertising, but the measure failed amid GOP opposition. Ads from groups with anonymous donors were particularly prone to misleading or false claims."
Hall said the influx of corporate money in the wake of Citizens United handed the House of Representatives to Republicans. "Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of State and corporate power."

Many in mainstream politics who understand that big money can dominate elections although not in every case share Hall's fears. In California, two well-known female candidates from the corporate world raised millions but still went down in defeat.

So money alone is not the be all and end all of a shift towards a red white and blue brand of fascism. Other ingredients are needed and some may be on the way-like an economic collapse, defeat in foreign wars, rise in domestic terrorism and the emergence of a right-wing populist movement that puts order before justice and wants to crush its opponents.

Some argue we have just such a movement in the Tea Party although other critics focus on the rise of the Christian right that promotes fundamentalist politics in the name of God.

The Tea Party is not just after Democrats; it has started a campaign against the liberal Methodist Church. It is not internally democratic either with no elected officers or set of by by-laws. It seems to be managed and manipulated by shadowy political operatives and PR firms, financed by a few billionaires who support populism to defang it.

Already militias are forming because of fears of immigration, and there is also concern that if unemployment remains high there is likely to be more violence with police forces understaffed because of government cutbacks. Gun sales went up after the recent violent incidents in Arizona.

The erosion of economic stability with the rise of foreclosures and the shredding of social services is already turning a financial crisis into a social one.

We already have sharp partisan divide and inflation of hateful rhetoric with vicious putdowns of the President and condemnations by members of Congress calling him corrupt, even a traitor.

According to set of the characteristics of fascist nations, there is "a disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights - Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

"In place of human rights enemies are turned into scapegoats as a Unifying Cause - The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists." This process is already far along in the USA.

Among the classical characteristics of fascism is a shutting down of debate and a focus on the state--which in our country is controlled by lobbyists and private interests. Wall Street and the corporate military-industrial complex have far more clout than elected officials.

In the past, during the depression, there was a plot to overthrow Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It was exposed and neutered. Could something like that happen again?

Maybe it doesn't have to, what with hawks already in control of Congress, major media outlets, the military and poised to slash the power of unions and curb progressive social programs including public education.

Several writers believe that if and when fascism comes to America it will be packaged in a friendly form tied to beneficial advertising slogans and public interest messaging. It will be sold, 1984-style as being unavoidable, even cool, and in our best interest.

Louisiana Senator Huey Long, a mesmerizing agitator, once said, "Fascism will come to America in the name of anti-fascism."


(speaking of fascism, why is there such a military presence in a residential/commercial neighborhood? I snapped these photos with my phone. The first is a blackhawk--for crying out loud--circling my friend's neighborhood. The second is one of those dual prop troop carrier helecopters over I-30. WTF!?--jef)

The Search for BP's Oil

by Naomi Klein
Friday, January 14, 2011 by The Nation
"Dolphins off the bow!"

I race to the front of the WeatherBird II, a research vessel owned by the University of South Florida. There they are, doing their sleek silvery thing, weaving between translucent waves, disappearing under the boat, reappearing in perfect formation on the other side.

After taking my fill of phone video (and very pleased not to have dropped the device into the Gulf of Mexico), I bump into Gregory Ellis, one of the junior scientists aboard.

"Did you see them?" I ask excitedly.

"You mean the charismatic megafauna?" he sneers. "I'll pass."

Ouch. Here I was thinking everyone loves dolphins, especially oceanographers. But it turns out that these particular marine scientists have issues with dolphins. And sea turtles. And pelicans. It's not that they don't like them (a few of the grad students took Flipper pictures of their own). It's just that the charismatic megafauna tend to upstage the decidedly less charismatic creatures under their microscopes. Like the bacteria and phytoplankton that live in the water column, for instance, or 500-year-old coral and the tube worms that burrow next to them, or impossibly small squid the size of a child's fingernail.

Normally these academics would be fine without our fascination. They weren't looking for glory when they decided to study organisms most people either can't see or wish they hadn't. But when the Deepwater Horizon exploded in April 2010, our collective bias toward cute big creatures started to matter a great deal. That's because the instant the spill-cam was switched off and it became clear that there would be no immediate mass die-offs among dolphins and pelicans, at least not on the scale of the Exxon Valdez spill deaths, most of us were pretty much on to the next telegenic disaster. (Chilean miners down a hole-and they've got video diaries? Tell us more!)

It didn't help that the government seemed determined to help move us along. Just three weeks after the wellhead was capped, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) came out with its notorious "oil budget," which prompted White House energy czar Carol Browner to erroneously claim that "the vast majority of the oil is gone." The White House corrected the error (the fate of much of that oil is simply unknown), but the budget nonetheless inspired a flood of stories about how "doom-mongers" had exaggerated the spill's danger and, as the British Daily Mail tabloid indignantly put it, unfairly wronged "one of Britain's greatest companies."

More recently, in mid-December, Unified Area Command, the joint government-BP body formed to oversee the spill response, came out with a fat report that seemed expressly designed to close the book on the disaster. Mike Utsler, BP's Unified Area Commander, summed up its findings like this:
"The beaches are safe, the water is safe, and the seafood is safe." 
Never mind that just four days earlier, more than 8,000 pounds of tar balls were collected on Florida's beaches-and that was an average day. Or that gulf residents and cleanup workers continue to report serious health problems that many scientists believe are linked to dispersant and crude oil exposure.

By the end of the year, investors were celebrating BP's stock rebound, and the company was feeling so emboldened that it revealed plans to challenge the official estimates of how much oil gushed out of its broken wellhead, claiming that the figures are as much as 50 percent too high. If BP succeeds, it could save the company as much as $10.5 billion in damages. The Obama administration, meanwhile, has just given the go-ahead for sixteen deepwater projects to resume in the gulf, well before the Oil Spill Commission's safety recommendations have a hope of being implemented.

For the scientists aboard the WeatherBird II, the recasting of the Deepwater Horizon spill as a good-news story about a disaster averted has not been easy to watch. Over the past seven months, they, along with a small group of similarly focused oceanographers from other universities, have logged dozens of weeks at sea in cramped research vessels, carefully measuring and monitoring the spill's impact on the delicate and little-understood ecology of the deep ocean. And these veteran scientists have seen things that they describe as unprecedented. Among their most striking findings are graveyards of recently deceased coral, oiled crab larvae, evidence of bizarre sickness in the phytoplankton and bacterial communities, and a mysterious brown liquid coating large swaths of the ocean floor, snuffing out life underneath. All are worrying signs that the toxins that invaded these waters are not finished wreaking havoc and could, in the months and years to come, lead to consequences as severe as commercial fishery collapses and even species extinction.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the most outspoken scientists doing this research come from Florida and Georgia, coastal states that have so far managed to avoid offshore drilling. Their universities are far less beholden to Big Oil than, say, Louisiana State University, which has received tens of millions from the oil giants. Again and again these scientists have used their independence to correct the official record about how much oil is actually out there, and what it is doing under the waves.

One of the most prominent scientists on the BP beat is David Hollander, a marine geochemist at the University of South Florida. Hollander's team was among the first to discover the underwater plumes in May and the first to trace the oil definitively to BP's well. In August, amid the claims that the oil had magically disappeared, Hollander and his colleagues came back from a cruise with samples proving that oil was still out there and still toxic to many marine organisms, just invisible to the human eye. This research, combined with his willingness to bluntly contradict federal agencies, has made Hollander something of a media darling. When he is not at sea, there is a good chance he is in front of a TV camera. In early December, he agreed to combine the two, allowing me and filmmaker Jacqueline Soohen to tag along on a research expedition in the northern Gulf of Mexico, east of the wellhead.

* * *

"Let's go fishing for oil," Hollander says with a broad smile as we get on the boat. A surfer and competitive bike racer in his youth, he is still something of a scrappy daredevil at 52. On the last cruise Hollander slipped and seriously injured his shoulder, and he has been ordered to take it easy this time. But within seconds of being on deck he is hauling equipment and lashing down gear. This is a particularly important task today because a distinctly un-Floridian cold front has descended and winds are whipping up ten-foot swells in the gulf. Getting to our first research station is supposed to take twenty-four hours, but it takes thirty instead. The entire time, the 115-foot WeatherBird II dips and heaves, and so do a few members of the eleven-person scientific team (and yeah, OK, me too).

Luckily, just as we arrive at our destination, about ninety nautical miles from the wellhead, the clouds part and the sea calms. A frenzy of floating science instantly erupts. First to be lowered overboard is the rosette, a cluster of four-foot-high metal canisters that collect water samples from different depths. When the rosette clangs back on deck, the crew swarms around its nozzles, filling up dozens of sample bottles. It looks like they are milking a metal cow. Carefully labeled bottles in tow, they are off to the makeshift laboratory to run the water through an assembly line of tests. Is it showing signs of hydrocarbons? Does it fluoresce under UV light? Does it carry the chemical signature of petroleum? Is it toxic to bacteria and phytoplankton?

A few hours later it's time for the multi-corer. When the instrument, twelve feet high and hoisted by a powerful winch, hits the ocean floor, eight clear cylinders shoot down into the sediment, filling up with sand and mud. The samples are examined under microscopes and UV lights, or spun with centrifugal force, then tested for signs of oil and dispersant. This routine will be repeated at nine more locations before the cruise is done. Each stop takes an average of ten hours, and the scientists are able to sneak in only a couple of hours of sleep between stations.

The WeatherBird II is returning to the precise coordinates where University of South Florida researchers found toxic water and sediment in May and August. At the second stop, Mary Abercrombie, who is testing the water under UV light in a device called a spectrofluorometer, sees something that looks like hydrocarbons from a sample collected seventy meters down-shallow enough to be worrying. But the other tests don't find much of anything. Hollander speculates that this may be because we are still in relatively shallow water and the recent storms have mixed everything up. "We'll probably see more when we go deeper."

Being out in the open gulf today, I find it is impossible not to be awed by nature's capacity to cleanse and renew itself. At the height of the disaster, I had looked down at these waters from a Coast Guard aircraft. What I saw changed me. I realized that I had always counted on the ocean to be a kind of outer space on earth, too mysterious and vast to be fundamentally altered by human activity, no matter how reckless. Now it was covered to the horizon in gassy puddles like the floor of an auto repair shop. Shouting over the roaring engines, a fresh-faced Coast Guard spokesman assured the journalists on board that within months, all the oil would be gone, broken down by dispersants into bite-size morsels for oil-eating microbes, which would, after their petroleum feast, promptly and efficiently disappear-no negative side effects foreseen.

At the time I couldn't believe he could feed us this line with a straight face. Yet here that body of water is, six months later: velvety smooth and, according to the tests conducted on the WeatherBird II, pretty clean, at least so far. Maybe the ocean really is the world's most powerful washing machine: throw in enough dispersant (the petrochemical industry's version of Tide), churn it around in the waves for long enough, and it can get even the toughest oil spills out.

"I despise that message-it's blindly simplified," says Ian MacDonald, a celebrated oceanographer at Florida State University. "The gulf is not all better now. We don't know what we've done to it."

MacDonald is arguably the scientist most responsible for pressuring the government to dramatically increase its estimates of how much oil was coming out of BP's well. He points to the massive quantity of toxins that gushed into these waters in a span of three months (by current estimates, at least 4.1 million barrels of oil and 1.8 million gallons of dispersants). It takes time for the ocean to break down that amount of poison, and before that could happen, those toxins came into direct contact with all kinds of life-forms. Most of the larger animals-adult fish, dolphins, whales-appear to have survived the encounter relatively unharmed. But there is mounting evidence that many smaller creatures-bacteria, phytoplankton, zooplankton, multiple species of larvae, as well as larger bottom dwellers-were not so lucky. These organisms form the base of the ocean's food chain, providing sustenance for the larger animals, and some grow up to be the commercial fishing stocks of tomorrow. One thing is certain: if there is trouble at the base, it won't stay there for long.

According to experiments performed by scientists at the University of South Florida, there is good reason for alarm. When it was out in the gulf in August, the WeatherBird II collected water samples from multiple locations. Back at the university lab, John Paul, a professor of biological oceanography, introduced healthy bacteria and phytoplankton to those water samples and watched what happened. What he found shocked him. In water from almost half of the locations, the responses of the organisms "were genotoxic or mutagenic"-which means the oil and dispersants were not only toxic to these organisms but caused changes to their genetic makeup. Changes like these could manifest in a number of ways: tumors and cancers, inability to reproduce, a general weakness that would make these organisms more susceptible to prey-or something way weirder.

Before we left on the cruise, I interviewed Paul in his lab; he explained that what was so "scary" about these results is that such genetic damage is "heritable," meaning the mutations can be passed on. "It's something that can stand around for a very long time in the Gulf of Mexico," Paul said. "You may be genetically altering populations of fish, or zooplankton, or shrimp, or commercially important organisms.... Is the turtle population going to have more tumors on them? We really don't know. And it'll take three to five years to actually get a handle on that."

The big fear is a recurrence of what happened in Prince William Sound after the Exxon Valdez spill. Some pink salmon, likely exposed to oil in their larval stage, started showing serious abnormalities, including "rare mutations that caused salmon to grow an extra fin or an enlarged heart sac," according to a report in Nature. And then there were the herring. For three years after the spill, herring stocks were robust. But in the fourth year, populations plummeted by almost two-thirds in Prince William Sound and many were "afflicted by a mysterious sickness, characterised by red lesions and superficial bleeding," as Reuters reported at the time. The next year, there were so few fish, and they were so sick, that the herring fishery in Prince William Sound was closed; stocks have yet to recover fully. Since Alaskan herring live for an average of eight years, many scientists were convinced that the crash of the herring stocks was the result of herring eggs and larvae being exposed to oil and toxins years earlier, with the full effects manifesting themselves only when those generations of herring matured (or failed to mature).

Could a similar time bomb be ticking in the gulf? Ian MacDonald at Florida State is convinced that the disturbances beginning to register at the bottom of the food chain are "almost certain to ripple up through other species."

Here is what we know so far. When researchers from Oregon State University tested the waters off Grand Isle, Louisiana, in June, they found that the presence of carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) had increased fortyfold in just one month. Kim Anderson, the toxicologist leading the study, described the discovery as "the largest PAH change I've seen in over a decade of doing this." June is spawning season in the gulf-the period, beginning in April, when enormous quantities of eggs and larvae drift in nearly invisible clouds in the open waters: shrimp, crabs, grouper, bluefin tuna, snapper, mackerel, swordfish. For western Atlantic bluefin, which finish spawning in June and are fished as far away as Prince Edward Island, these are the primary spawning grounds.

John Lamkin, a fisheries biologist for NOAA, has admitted that "any larvae that came into contact with the oil doesn't have a chance." So, if a cloud of bluefin eggs passed through a cloud of contaminated water, that one silent encounter could well help snuff out a species already on the brink. And tuna is not the only species at risk. In July Harriet Perry, a biologist at the University of Southern Mississippi, found oil droplets in blue crab larvae, saying that "in my forty-two years of studying crabs I've never seen this." Tellingly, this vulnerability of egg and larvae to oil does not appear to have been considered when the Macondo well was approved for drilling. In the initial exploration plan that BP submitted to the government, the company goes on at length about how adult fish and shellfish will be able to survive a spill by swimming away or by "metaboliz[ing] hydrocarbons." The words "eggs" and "larvae" are never mentioned.

* * *

Already there is evidence of at least one significant underwater die-off. In November Penn State biologist Charles Fisher led a NOAA-sponsored expedition that found colonies of ancient sea fans and other coral coated in brown sludge, 1,400 meters down. Nearly all the coral in the area was "dead or in the process of dying," Fisher told me. And he echoed something I heard from many other scientists: in a career of studying these creatures, he has never seen anything like this. There were no underwater pools of oil nearby, but the working theory is that subsea oil and dispersants must have passed through the area like some kind of angel of death.

We may never know what other organisms were trapped in a similarly lethal cloud, and that points to a broader problem: now that we are beyond the oil-covered-birds phase, establishing definitive links between the spill and whatever biogenetic or ecological disturbances are in store is only going to get harder. For instance, we know the coral died because of all the bodies: ghostly coral corpses litter the ocean floor near the wellhead, and Fisher is running tests to see if he can find a definitive chemical link to BP's oil. But that sort of forensics simply won't be possible for the much smaller life forms that are even more vulnerable to BP's toxic cocktail. When larval tuna or squid die, even in huge numbers, they leave virtually no trace. Hollander uses the phrase "cryptic mortality" to describe these phantom die-offs.

All this uncertainty will work in BP's favor if the worst-case scenarios eventually do materialize. Indeed, concerns about a future collapse may go some way toward explaining why BP (with the help of Kenneth Feinberg's Gulf Coast Claims Facility) has been in a mad rush to settle out of court with fishermen, offering much-needed cash now in exchange for giving up the right to sue later. If a significant species of fish like bluefin does crash three or even ten years from now (bluefin live for fifteen to twenty years), the people who took these deals will have no legal recourse. Even if a case did end up in court, beating BP would be tricky. As part of the damage assessment efforts, NOAA scientists are conducting studies that monitor the development of eggs and larvae exposed to contaminated water. But as Exxon's lawyers argued in the Valdez case, wild fish stocks are under a lot of pressure these days-without a direct chemical link to BP's oil, who's to say what dealt the fatal blow?

In a way, the lawyers will have a point, if a disingenuous one. As Ian MacDonald explains, it is precisely the multiple stresses on marine life that continue to make the spill so dangerous. "We don't appreciate the extent to which most populations are right on the edge of survival. It's very easy for populations to go extinct." He points to the sperm whales-there are only about 1,600 of them in the northern Gulf of Mexico, a small enough population that the unnatural death of just a few whales (which breed infrequently and later in life) can endanger the community's survival. Acoustic research has found that some sperm whales responded to the spill by leaving the area, a development that oceanographers find extremely worrying.

One of the things I am learning aboard the WeatherBird II, watching these scientists test for the effects of invisible oil on invisible organisms, is not to trust my eyes. For a few months last year, when BP's oil formed patterns on the surface of these waters that looked eerily like blood, industrial society's impact on the ocean was easy for all to see. But when the oil sank, it didn't disappear; it just joined so much else that the waves are hiding, so many other secrets we count on the ocean to keep. Like the 27,000 abandoned oil and gas wells in the Gulf of Mexico, and the network of unmonitored underwater pipelines that routinely corrode and leak. Like the sewage that cruise ships are entirely free to dump, under federal law, so long as they are more than three miles from shore. Like a dead zone the size of New Jersey. Scientists at Dalhousie University in Halifax predict that if we continue our rates of overfishing, every commercial fish stock in the world could crash by midcentury. And a study published in Nature in July found that global populations of phytoplankton have declined about 40 percent since 1950, linked with "increasing sea surface temperatures"; coral is bleaching and dying for the same reason. And on and on. The ocean's capacity to heal itself from our injuries is not limitless. Yet the primary lesson being extracted from the BP disaster seems to be that "mother nature" can take just about anything we throw at her.

As the WeatherBird II speeds off to the third research station, I find myself thinking about something New Orleans civil rights attorney Tracie Washington told me the last time I was on the Gulf Coast. "Stop calling me resilient," she said. "I'm not resilient. Because every time you say, 'Oh, they're resilient,' you can do something else to me." Washington was talking about the serial disasters that have battered New Orleans. But if the poisoned and perforated gulf could talk, I think it might say the same thing.

On day three of the cruise, things start to get interesting. We are now in the DeSoto Canyon, about thirty nautical miles from the wellhead. The ocean floor is 1,000 meters down, our deepest station yet. Another storm is rolling in, and as the team pulls up the multi-corer, waves swamp the deck. It's clear as soon as we see the mud that something is wrong. Rather than the usual gray with subtle gradations, the cylinders are gray and then, just below the top layer, abruptly turn chocolaty brown. The consistency of the top brown layer is sort of fluffy, what the scientists refer to as "flocculent."

A grad student splits one of the cores lengthwise and lays it out on deck. That's when we see it clearly: separating the gray and brown layers-and looking remarkably like chocolate parfait-is a thick line of black gunk. "That's not normal," Hollander declares. He grabs the mud samples and flags Charles Kovach, a senior scientist with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. They head to the darkest place on the boat-one of the tiny sleeping quarters crammed with bunk beds. In the pitch darkness they hold an ultraviolet light over the sample, and within seconds we are looking at silvery particles twinkling up from the mud. This is a good indication of oil traces. Hollander saw something similar on the August cruise and was able not only to identify hydrocarbons but to trace them to BP's Macondo well.

Sure enough, after the sediment is put through a battery of chemical tests, Hollander has his results. "Without question, it's petroleum hydrocarbons." The thick black layers are, he says, "rich in hydrocarbons," with the remains of plants and bacteria mixed in. The fluffy brown top layer has less oil and more plant particles, but the oil is definitely there. It will be weeks or even months before Hollander can trace the oil to BP's well, but since he has found BP's oil at this location in the DeSoto Canyon before, that confirmation is likely. If we are fishing for oil, as Hollander had joked, this is definitely a big one.

It strikes me that there is a satisfying irony in the fact that Hollander's cruise found oil that BP would have preferred to stay buried, given that the company indirectly financed the expedition. BP has pledged to spend $500 million on research as part of its spill response and made an early payout of $30 million. But in contrast to the company's much publicized attempts to buy off scientists with lucrative consulting contracts, BP agreed to hand this first tranche over to independent institutions in the gulf, like the Florida Institute of Oceanography, which could allocate it through a peer-review process-no strings attached. Hollander was one of the lucky recipients. This is a model for research in the gulf: paid for by the oil giants that profit so much from its oil and gas, but with no way for them to influence outcomes.

At several more research stations near the wellhead, the WeatherBird II finds the ocean floor coated in similar muck. The closer the boat gets to the wellhead, the more black matter there is in the sediment. And Hollander is disturbed. The abnormal layer of sediment is up to five times thicker than it was when he collected samples here in August. The oil's presence on the ocean floor didn't diminish with time; it grew. And, he points out, "the layer is distributed very widely," radiating far out from the wellhead.

But what concerns him even more are the thick black lines. "That black horizon doesn't happen," he says. "It's consistent with a snuff-out." Healthy sea-floor mud is porous and well oxygenated, with little critters constantly burrowing holes from the surface sand to the deeper mud, in the same way that worms are constantly turning over and oxygenating soil in our gardens. But the dark black lines in the sediment seemed to be acting as a sealant, preventing that flow of life. "Something caused an environmental and community change," Hollander explains. It could have been the sheer volume of matter falling to the bottom, triggering a suffocation effect, or perhaps it was "a toxic response" to oil and dispersants.

Whatever it was, Hollander isn't the only one observing the change. While we are at sea, Samantha Joye, an oceanographer at the University of Georgia, is leading a team of scientists on a monthlong cruise. When she gets back she reports seeing a remarkably similar puddinglike layer of sediment. And in trips to the ocean floor in a submersible, she saw dead crustaceans in the sediment and tube worms that had been "decimated." Ian MacDonald was one of the scientists on the trip. "There were miles of dead worms," he told me. "There was a zone of acute impact of at least eighty square miles. I saw dead sea fans, injured sea fans, brittle stars entangled in its branches. A very large area was severely impacted." More warning signs of a bottom-up disaster.

* * *

A week after Hollander returned from the cruise, Unified Area Command came out with its good news report on the state of the spill. Of thousands of water samples taken since August, the report stated, less than 1 percent met EPA definitions of toxicity. It also claimed that the deepwater sediment is largely free from BP's oil, except within about two miles of the wellhead. That certainly came as news to Hollander, who at that time was running tests of oiled sediment collected thirty nautical miles from the wellhead, in an area largely overlooked by the government scientists. Also, the government scientists measured only absolute concentrations of oil and dispersants in the water and sediment before declaring them healthy. The kinds of tests John Paul conducted on the toxicity of that water to microorganisms are simply absent.

Coast Guard Rear Adm. Paul Zukunft, whose name is on the cover of the report, told me of the omission, "That really is a limitation under the Clean Water Act and my authorities as the federal on-scene coordinator." When it comes to oil, "it's my job to remove it"-not to assess its impact on the broader ecosystem. He pointed me to the NOAA-led National Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process, which is gathering much more sensitive scientific data to help it put a dollar amount on the overall impact of the spill and seek damages from BP and other responsible parties.

Unlike the individual and class-action lawsuits BP is rushing to settle, it will be years before a settlement is reached. That means more time to wait and see how fish stocks are affected by egg and larvae exposure. And according to Robert Haddad, who heads the NRDA process for NOAA, any settlement will have "reopener clauses" that allow the government to reopen the case should new impacts manifest themselves.

Still, it's not at all clear that NRDA is capable of addressing the dangers being exposed by Hollander and the other independent scientists. The federal damage assessment process is built on the concept of "ecosystem services," which measures the value of nature according to how it serves us. How many fish were fishermen unable to catch because of the disaster? And how many tourism dollars were lost when the oil hit the beaches? Yet when it comes to the place where most of the spill damage was done-the deep ocean-we are in no position to answer such questions. The deep ocean is so understudied that we simply don't know what "service" those dead tube worms and corals would have provided to us. All we know, says MacDonald, is that "the ecosystem depends on these kinds of organisms, and if you start wiping them out, you don't know what happens." He also points out, as many ecologists do, that the entire service model is flawed. Even if it turns out that those tube worms and brittle stars do nothing for us, "they have their own intrinsic value-it matters that these organisms are healthy or not healthy." The spill "is an opportunity for us to find a new way to look at ecological health."

It is more likely, however, that we will continue to assign value only to those parts of nature from which we directly profit. Anything that slips beyond the reach of those crude calculations, either because it is too mysterious or seemingly too trivial, will be considered of no value, its existence left out of environmental risk assessment reports, its death left out of damage assessment lawsuits. And this is what is most disturbing about the latest rush to declare the gulf healthy: we seem to be once again taking refuge in our ignorance, the same kind of willful blindness that caused the disaster in the first place. First came the fateful decision to drill in parts of the earth we do not understand, taking on risks that are beyond our ability to comprehend. Next, when disaster struck, came the decision to use dispersants to sink the oil rather than let it rise to the surface, saving what we do know (the coasts) by potentially sacrificing what we don't know (the depths). And now here we are, squeezing our eyes shut before the results are in, hoping, once again, that what we don't know can't hurt us.

Only about 5 percent of the deep ocean has been explored. The existence of the deep scattering layer-the huge sector of marine life that dwells in the deep but migrates every night toward the surface-was only confirmed by marine biologists in the 1940s. And the revelations are ongoing. Mysterious and otherworldly new species are being discovered all the time.

On board the WeatherBird II, I was constantly struck by the strange simultaneity of discovery and destruction, watching young scientists experiment on fouled sediment drawn up from places science had barely mapped. It's always distressing to witness a beautiful place destroyed by pollution. But there is something particularly harrowing about the realization that we are contaminating places we have never even seen in their natural state. As drilling pushes farther and farther into deep water, risking more disasters in the name of jobs and growth, marine scientists trained to discover the thrillingly unknown will once again be reduced to coroners of the deep, boldly discovering that which we have just destroyed.

Investigation into BP Spill Reveals Incompetence, Greed, Complacency and Cynicism -- It's Time for a New Energy Policy

Besides telling the American people what happened, the Commission was charged with making recommendations for what we should do about it.
By Michael Brune, AlterNet
Posted on January 13, 2011

"What the hell did we do to deserve this?"

That's what BP CEO Tony Hayward asked his board of directors as the Deepwater Horizon disaster unfolded last spring. This week, an independent commission appointed by President Obama answered his question.

Deep Water: The Gulf Oil Disaster and the Future of Offshore Drilling is a painstakingly thorough examination both of what led to the disaster and of the challenges we face as an oil-dependent nation. But this is no dry recital of facts. For the first couple of hundred pages, at least, it's enough of a page-turner that you almost wonder whether the Commission hired Sebastian Junger (The Perfect Storm) as a ghostwriter.

This, however, is a storm of imperfection -- incompetence, greed, complacency, and cynicism are abundant. Industry leaders and government officials alike are found culpable -- with the latter (notably Minerals Management Service employees) failing time and again to stand up to the corporate corner-cutters at the former. Added up, all of this results in not just putting our coastlines and our coastal economies at risk, but there are more fatalities at U.S. offshore rigs than other countries.

But besides telling the American people what happened, the Commission was charged with making recommendations for what we should do about it:
…no less than an overhauling of both current industry practices and government oversight is now required. The changes necessary will be transformative in their depth and breadth, requiring an unbending commitment to safety by government and industry to displace a culture of complacency.
But that, however, is only what we must do if we hope to avoid another oil-spill disaster. The Commission did not shy away from addressing the bigger picture. This report makes a strong case for adopting a balanced national energy policy that addresses national security, economic, human safety, and environmental issues. But left unsaid is the fact that the only way to succeed on all of those fronts will be to get our nation off of oil as quickly as possible. If the Navy and Marine Corps can cut oil use in half by the end of this decade, why can't the rest of the country?

Both President Obama and Congress need to take the Commission's recommendations seriously -- and act accordingly. But we also have a responsibility as citizens to make it clear to them that we want to see real solutions instead of political posturing like attempts to weaken the EPA (an agency that actually is doing its job).

A good first start would be to implement all of the report's recommendations for properly funding and managing the recovery of Gulf communities and habitats. Tony Hayward now has the answer to his "why us?" question. The fishermen, small business owners, and other Gulf residents whose lives and livelihoods were destroyed are still waiting.

The Class War Launched by America's Wealthiest Is Getting More Savage

Countries with wide income inequality are unstable: they have large underclasses, high rates of crime and little opportunity.
By Larry Beinhart, AlterNet
Posted on January 13, 2011

We’re in a class war.

It’s the corporations and the very wealthiest against all the rest of us. We’re losing.

In 1962 the wealthiest 1 percent of American households had 125 times the wealth of the median household. Now it’s 190 times as much. Is that a case of a rising tide lifting all boats, just a few of them a little bit higher? No.

From 1950 to 1965, median family income rose from $24,000 a year to $38,000 a year. That’s close to 4 percent a year, close to 60 percent over 15 years. That’s a rising tide.

In 1964 there was a big tax cut. That’s when things started to slow down for average people. By the mid-'70s the rise of the middle class stalled. From 1975 to 2010 median family income rose $42,936 to $49,777. That’s not quite 16 percent over 25 years, less than six-tenths of 1 percent per year.

Briefly, when taxes went up under Clinton, median income rose, peaked at $52,587 in 1999, and then, after Bush cut taxes, declined. Keep in mind that this is median family income. In the '50s and '60s, family income was usually earned by a single person. Today, family income normally comes from at least two people.

At the same time, income for the richest soared. In 1979 the richest 1 percent of Americans earned 9 percent of all U.S. income. Now they earn 24 percent of all U.S. income. One percent of Americans earn nearly one-fourth of all the income in the country.

Then came the crashes of 2001 and 2008 and the recessions that followed.

The crash hasn’t changed anything. Things have become worse.

From 1990 to 2005, adjusted for inflation -- the minimum wage is down 9 percent, production workers’ pay is up only over 15 years 4.3 percent.

At the same time, the rich get richer:

Corporate profits are up 106.7 percent. The S&P 500 is still up 141.4 percent since 1990. CEO compensation is up 282 percent. Call it transfer of wealth. Or call it class warfare.

What’s wrong with the rich getting richer?

Slate's Timothy Noah, in "The United States of Inequality," wrote, “Income distribution in the United States [has become] more unequal than in Guyana, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, and roughly on par with Uruguay, Argentina, and Ecuador.”

Take a look at that list.

Countries with wide income inequality don’t lead the world in research, technology, industry, and innovation. They’re unstable. They have large underclasses. They have high rates of crime. They have little opportunity.

In such countries the rich have disproportionate power. They take control of all aspects of society, especially government, the police, and the judiciary. They become self perpetuating.

If current trends continue, “The United States by 2043 will have the same income inequality as Mexico.” (Tula Connell, Mar 12, 2010, AFL-CIO Now.)

Countries with high levels of income inequality are third-world countries.

Here’s how regular people can deal with cultures of high inequality. The primary, and best, weapon is a progressive tax structure. As people move up the income ladder they pay a higher rate at each rung. Unearned income –from dividends and capital gains – is taxed at least as high as earned income (money that people actually work for.) Tax cuts for the wealthy mark, with great precision, the decline in fortunes of ordinary Americans. Tax cuts for the wealthy mark, with equal precision, the increase in inequality. We had a chance to slow the process by letting the last round, the Bush tax cuts, expire. We’ve lost that round.

People can become educated and move on up.

Back in the '60s, when I was growing up, New York City had free universities. The burgeoning SUNY system charged $400 tuition a semester. The minimum Regents scholarship was $400 a semester. If a student didn’t get one, he or she could easily earn enough to pay tuition with a summer job. The same held true for most state university systems across the country.

Today, students have to borrow. The median student debt for an undergraduate degree – forget about a doctorate, law school, and med school – is $20,000. The first, and truest, lesson you learn when you go to college is how to be in service to the banks.

We’ve lost that battle.

What does it mean?
“Children from low-income families have only a 1 percent chance of reaching the top 5 percent of the income distribution, versus children of the rich who have about a 22 percent chance.

“Children born to the middle quintile of parental family income ($42,000 to $54,300) had about the same chance of ending up in a lower quintile than their parents (39.5 percent) as they did of moving to a higher quintile (36.5 percent). Their chances of attaining the top five percentiles of the income distribution were just 1.8 percent.”

(Understanding Mobility in America, April 26, 2006, Tom Hertz, American University.)
Working people can organize and form unions. Unions do more than raise wages. They improve working conditions and safety. They provide protection against abuse, intimidation and wrongful dismissal. Non-union employers have to compete, partly to keep out unions, so the existence of unions helps everyone. Unions also have political power, they spend money and mobilize their members to vote.

Businesses have become very good at beating unions. And they’re getting better at it. According to Business Week, ("How Wal-Mart Keeps Unions at Bay,” 10/28/2002),"over the past two decades, Corporate America has perfected its ability to fend off labor groups."

In the 1940s a third of private sector employees were unionized. Now it’s down to just 7.2 percent. Unions only remain strong in the public sector, where membership is 37 percent.

If you read the papers or watch the news, you will see an anti-public service union story almost everyday. These are the people who teach your kids, pick up the trash, clean the sewers, drive the buses and trains, they’re the police and fireman. The stories will tell you their pension fund liabilities will bankrupt the states; that it’s unionized teachers who have ruined our schools. Charter schools – without unions – are the new favorite charity for billionaires.

When a country is, or becomes, a third-world country, the other thing people can do is run. To some place richer and freer. Like America.

But when America becomes Mexico, where you gonna run to?

Recovery Recedes, Convulsion Looms

(If your life hasn't gotten more difficult, don't worry, it's coming. No one escapes because the recovery is bogus.--jef)


The Triumph of Austerity

The dominant mood in liberal economic circles as 2010 drew to a close, in contrast to the cautiously optimistic forecasts about a sustained recovery at the end of 2009, was gloom, if not doom. Fiscal hawks have gained the upper hand in the policy struggle in the United States and Europe, to the alarm of spending advocates like Nobel laureate Paul Krugman and Financial Times columnist Martin Wolf who see budgetary tightening as a surefire prescription for killing the hesitant recovery in the major economies.

But even as the United States and Europe appear to be headed for deeper crisis in the short term and stagnation in the long term, East Asia and other developing areas show signs of decoupling from the western economies. This trend began in early 2009 on the strength of the massive Chinese stimulus program, which not only restored China to double-digit growth but swung several neighboring economies from Singapore to South Korea from recession to recovery. By 2010, Asia's industrial production had caught up with its historical trend, "almost as if the Great Recession never happened," as the Economist put it.

The United States, Europe, and Asia seem to be going their separate ways. Or are they?

In the major economies, outrage with the excesses of the financial institutions that precipitated the economic crisis has given way to concern about the massive deficits that governments incurred to stabilize the financial system, arrest the collapse of the real economy, and stave off unemployment. In the United States, the deficit stands at over nine percent of gross domestic product. This is hardly a runaway deficit, but the American right bellomanaged the feat of making the fear of the deficit and federal debt a greater force in the mind of the public than the fear of deepening stagnation and rising unemployment. In Britain and the United States, fiscal conservatives gained a clear electoral mandate in 2010 while in continental Europe, a more assertive Germany put the rest of the Eurozone on notice that it would no longer subsidize the deficits of the monetary union's weaker southern-tier economies such as Greece, Ireland, Spain, and Portugal.

In the United States, the logic of reason gave way to the logic of ideology. The Democrats' impeccable rationale that stimulus spending was necessary to save and create jobs was no match for the Republicans' heated message that more stimulus spending added to President Obama's $787 billion 2009 package would be one more step towards "socialism" and the "loss of individual freedom." In Europe, Keynesians argued that fiscal loosening would not only help the troubled economies of southern Europe and Ireland but also the powerful German economic machine itself since these economies absorbed German exports.

As in the United States, solid rationale lost out to provocative image, in this case, the media-disseminated portrayal of thrifty Germans subsidizing hedonistic Mediterraneans and spendthrift Irishmen. Germany has grudgingly approved bailout packages for Greece and Ireland, but only on condition that the Greeks and Irish are subjected to savage austerity programs that have been described by no less than two former high-ranking German ministers Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Peer Steinbrueck, writing in the Financial Times, as having a degree of social pain "unheard of in modern history."

Decoupling Revived

The triumph of austerity in the U.S. and Europe will surely eliminate these two areas as engines of recovery for the global economy. But is Asia indeed on a different track, one that would make it bear, like Atlas, the burden of global growth?

The idea that Asia's economic future had been decoupled from that of the center economies is not new. It was fashionable before the financial crisis dragged down the U.S. economy in 2007-2008. But it was shown to be a mirage as the recession in the United States, on which China and the other East Asian economies were dependent to absorb their exports, triggered a sudden and sharp downturn in Asia from late 2008 to mid-2009. This period produced television images of millions of Chinese migrant workers, laid off in coastal economic zones, heading back to the countryside.

To counter the contraction, a panicked China launched what Charles Dumas , author of Globalization Fractures, characterized as a "violent domestic stimulus" of 4 trillion yuan ($580 blllion). This came to about 13 percent of gross domestic product in 2008 and constituted "probably the largest such program in history, even including wars." The stimulus not only pulled China back to double-digit growth, it also pushed the East Asian economies that had become dependent on it to a steep recovery even as Europe and the United States stagnated. This remarkable reversal led to the renaissance of the decoupling idea.

The ruling Communist Party of China has reinforced this notion by claiming a fundamental policy shift to prioritizing domestic consumption over export-led growth. But this contention is more rhetorical than real. In fact, export-led growth remains the strategic thrust, thus China's continuing refusal to let the yuan appreciate in order to keep its exports competitive. China, as Dumas notes, is "in the process of shifting massively from the beneficial stimulation of domestic demand to something closely resembling business as usual, circa 2005-07: export-led growth with a bit of overheating."

Not only Western analysts like Dumas have pointed to this return to export-led growth. Yu Yongding, an influential technocrat who served on the monetary committee of China's central bank, confirms that it is indeed back to business as usual: "With China's trade-to-GDP ratio and exports-to-GDP ratio already respectively exceeding 60 percent and 30 percent, the economy cannot continue to depend on external demand to sustain growth. Unfortunately, with a large export sector that employs scores of millions of workers, this dependence has become structural. That means reducing China's trade dependency and trade surplus is much more than a matter of adjusting macroeconomic policy."

The retreat back to export-led growth, rather than merely a case of structural dependency, reflects a set of interests from the reform period that, as Yu puts it, "have morphed into vested interests, which are fighting hard to protect what they have." The export lobby, which brings together private entrepreneurs, state enterprise managers, foreign investors, and government technocrats, is the strongest lobby in Beijing. If the justification for stimulus spending has been trumped by ideology in the United States, in China the equally impeccable rationale for domestic-market-centered growth has been trounced by material interests.

Global Deflation

So decoupling is not a likely trend since China's leaders have chosen to stake the future of the Chinese economy on U.S. and, to some extent, European demand. But the context has changed ever since the rupture in the pre-crisis "partnership" between the American consumer and the Chinese producer. Not only are Americans deep in debt but the budgetary crunch pushed by the fiscal hawks will squeeze their incomes even further.

Indeed, what analysts like Dumas refer to as China's "reversion to type" as an export-oriented economy will clash with the efforts of the United States and Europe to speed recovery by adopting China's own formula: pushing exports while raising barriers to the inflow of imports. The likely result of the competitive promotion of this volatile mix of export push and domestic protection by all three leading sectors of the global economy at a time of stagnant world trade will not be global expansion but global deflation.

As Jeffrey Garten, former U.S. undersecretary of commerce under Bill Clinton, has written:
"While so much attention has focused on consumer and industrial demand in the US and China, the deflationary policies enveloping the EU, the world's largest economic unit, could badly undermine global economic growth…The difficulties could cause Europe to redouble its focus on exports at the same time that the US, Asia, and Latin America are also betting their economies on selling more abroad, thereby exacerbating already-high currency tensions. It could lead to a resurgence of state-sponsored industrial policies, already growing around the world. And together, these factors could ignite the virulent protectionism that everyone fears."
What is in store for us in 2011 and beyond, Garten warns, is "exceptional turbulence as the waning days of the global economic order we have known plays [sic] out chaotically, possibly destructively." He projects a pessimism that is increasingly capturing sections of a global elite that once heralded globalization but now sees it disintegrating before its eyes. This resigned fin-de-siècle mood is not a western monopoly. Yu Yongding also claims that China's "growth pattern has now almost exhausted its potential." The economy that most successfully rode the globalization wave, China "has reached a crucial juncture: without painful structural adjustments, the momentum of its economic growth could suddenly be lost. China's rapid growth has been achieved at an extremely high cost. Only future generations will know the true price."

In contrast to the apprehension of establishment figures like Garten and Yu, many progressives see turbulence and conflict as necessary accompaniments of the birth of a new order. Workers have indeed been on the move in China, where strikes in selected foreign companies in 2010 resulted in significant wage gains . Protesters are indeed out in the streets in Ireland, Greece, France, and Britain.

Unlike in China, however, they are marching to preserve what rights they have left. And neither in China nor the West nor elsewhere is this resistance accompanied by an alternative vision to the global capitalist order. A more far-reaching discussion of alternative economic arrangements should be ongoing as the global economic crisis enters its fourth year. But the debate continues to be trapped between the sterile spend-and-stimulate versus cut-the-deficit positions. The shape of things to come is simply not visible in the embers of the old. At least, not yet.

Something's Rotten in the State of a Bank


Fish rots. Bacteria work their way down from the head and produce the stench that provoked Marcellus: “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” He and Horatio had followed Hamlet, beckoned by the ghost of his father, the former King. The ghost verified what Hamlet calls “things rank and gross in nature” among those who rule Denmark, which he also calls an “unweeded garden.” At the play’s end, invaders advance. Hamlet’s assessment proved correct, but he procrastinated.

The modern ghost(s) delivered similar messages to Julian Assange, who used 21st Century theater -- cyberspace -- to reveal the stench emanating from the head of the large rotting fish, located in Washington, D.C.

Wikileaks a trove of evidence governments and big banks had kept secret. Some documents show dubious activity and plotting. US Embassy cables from Tegucigalpa proved Washington knew the 2009 Honduras coup lacked legitimacy as did its new “democratic” government. Nevertheless, Obama provided regime’s thugs with the thin veneer of respectability because they served US interests. Honduran killer squads who “pacified” the country after the military goons had arrested and deported the elected President (Zelaya) continue to assassinate opponents, including journalists, and union leaders.

Secretary of State Clinton not only supports this façade of democracy, but urges Latin American countries, often unsuccessfully, to recognize America’s bloody bastard child. Should Assange’s baring of diplomatic messages receive the blame for such hypocrisy?

Cables from the US Interests Section in Havana provided Congress with information vital to allocating money to “dissidents,” assuming Members evaluate evidence before affirming support for “money grubbing” and “fractious” Cubans who remain unknown in their own country. The cables acknowledge US torture, illegal detention and criminal activities in several countries – secret because the enemy might learn of such actions? ---concerning dumping toxic waste in Africa, mal-treatment of prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay, and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The most recent target of Assange’s ghostly behavior – truth-telling as major media accepts the thin tissue of lies that cover crimes of state – is Bank of America, which last month joined MasterCard and PayPal, and stopped processing payments for WikiLeaks. B of A justified its action by citing Wikileaks’ possible illegal activities. In 2009, Assange told Computer World he had revealing documents from Bank of America. In 2010, these documents might “take the bastards [big banks]down,” he added.

One BofA executive “lost” a hard drive with many gigabytes. The Bank engaged in dubious foreclosure procedures on homes previously financed by Countrywide Financial, bought by B of A in 2008. The Bank’s stock plummeted right after the Wikileaks rumor surfaced. Wall St. “suspected Countrywide, the subprime mortgage King, had engaged in “unscrupulous or fraudulent lending practices.”

If Wikileaks published incriminating documents they “would not only reignite political pressure on Bank of America and other top mortgage servicers, but… also strengthen the case of investors pressuring the big banks to buy back tens of billions in soured mortgages. “ (NYT, Jan 2, 2011)

Mighty bank executives and US government bureaucrats trembled when they thought their deeds and words might become public. Bullies who circumvented law and morality to achieve their ends now righteously demand “legal processes” against Julian Assange. One leaker – Assange has not admitted contact with him --- Private Bradley Manning, is held in solitary confinement at the Marine Corps Brig, Quantico, Virginia, and faces court-martial in 2011.

Although Assange’s case gets much media attention, few journalists have asked the obvious question: since Sweden wants him for questioning regarding accusations of sexual offenses, why doesn’t Sweden send investigators to question him in England rather than issue an INTERPOL alert to 188 nations – and thus generate maximum publicity around the idea that he’s a dangerous criminal? Swedish officials knew the Assange’s British address where a judge’s order confined him. Assange’s possibly unscrupulous sexual relationships with two women hardly merit full-scale extradition. He rightfully suspects, if England extradites him, the Swedish government would send him to Washington where he might face charges under the 1917 Espionage Act or simply be sent to Guantanamo Prison forever.

Some fellow journalists stand in the front line of his firing squad. Judy (once Judith) Miller called Assange “a bad journalist.” She told her FOX public that “he didn't care at all about attempting to verify the information that he was putting out or determine whether or not it would hurt anyone.” Miller’s unverified New York Times stories about Iraqi accumulation of weapons of mass destruction helped rally support for the invasion of Iraq, and the subsequent deaths of countless Iraqis and 4430 American soldiers.

Without fourth estate protection, the US public has few advocates. Ralph Nader argues for praising Assange and others who leaked information to him. “All over the country people are pissed off. They hate Wall Street. They know they are being gouged. They know they are slipping behind. They know their kids will not be as well off as they were, and they were not that well off. But no one is putting it together.”

Unlike Hamlet, Assange didn’t procrastinate. I also applaud him.

Government Spying on Americans

Doesn't Any One Care?

Most Americans seem detached from the U.S. government's military actions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and elsewhere. U.S. forces not only engage in wanton killing and harsh treatment of prisoners, but also surveillance and other intelligence activities that might appall the American people if they were used at home.

Well, guess what: "Technologies and techniques honed for use on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan have migrated into the hands of law enforcement agencies in America7" writes the Washington Post in its continuing series, "Top Secret America."

The Post reports:
"Nine years after the terrorist attacks of 2001, the United States is assembling a vast domestic intelligence apparatus to collect information about Americans, using the FBI, local police, state homeland security offices and military criminal investigators.

"The system, by far the largest and most technologically sophisticated in the nation's history, collects, stores and analyzes information about thousands of U.S. citizens and residents, many of whom have not been accused of any wrongdoing.

"The government's goal is to have every state and local law enforcement agency in the country feed information to Washington to buttress the work of the FBI, which is in charge of terrorism investigations in the United States."
Sad to say, this article has gotten little attention. Is it a matter of so little importance? Governments at all levels are united in a campaign to spy on Americans, gathering, analyzing, and storing data without probable cause and hardly anyone seems to care.

Have Americans become so docile that they roll over for anything rationalized as necessary in the "war on terror"? If so, they have abandoned one of greatest virtues of early generations: suspicion of power. They might as well stop talking about liberty and individualism because it just a lot of empty words now.

The Post reports, "The FBI is building a database with the names and certain personal information, such as employment history, of thousands of U.S. citizens and residents whom a local police officer or a fellow citizen believed to be acting suspiciously. It is accessible to an increasing number of local law enforcement and military criminal investigators, increasing concerns that it could somehow end up in the public domain."

That sounds too much like what goes on under totalitarian regimes, in which the government keeps tabs on the population, encouraging everyone to spy on everyone else and provide tips on suspicious activity. How many people will end up in the database because someone who dislikes them reported them to the authorities? The Homeland Security Department's "See Something, Say Something" campaign is truly frightening. Do we want to be a nation of informants?

Don't think this has anything to do with "terrorism." The high volume of information flowing into the government's computers will actually render law-enforcement agencies less able to detect real threats. Indiscriminate gathering of data makes us less, not more, safe.

We shouldn't be so naive as to think these new data-gathering powers won't be used even when the authorities know there is no threat. The Post says that "state reports have sometimes inappropriately reported on lawful meetings." That should surprise no one. Give government the power to spy on bad guys, and it will spy on anyone it feels like. Betting against that is like betting the sun won't come up tomorrow.

Of course, government officials say only real threats are the target of surveillance. Notice that the war party was wrong when it said that "fighting them over there" would mean we won't have to "fight them over here." In fact, fighting over there is what brought the threat here. But now we're told that home-grown "terrorism" is the new big danger. There is much reason for skepticism: The alleged plots exposed by the FBI seem to have been hatched by the FBI's own informants. If the FBI has to furnish a "suspect" with phony explosives before arresting him, what threat was really involved? Such cases should sicken every American. Government agents should not be giving security tests to individuals and arresting them if they fail.

But apparently in this age of the "war on terror" anything goes. Does anybody care?

Organic and Beyond

Friendship, Solidarity and Patriotism

Those of us who advocate a new, environmentally sound agricultural model know full well that organic farming out-competes industrial conventional farming in all indicators, including yields, consumer benefits, rural economic development, environmental protection and hunger eradication. We know full well that the methodologies of organic agriculture have as much or more scientific validation than conventional agriculture and that these represent the vanguard of the agriculture of the future. By whatever name it goes- agroecology, permaculture, ecological farming, biodynamics- this modality of agricultural production, which combines the best of ancient traditions with modern science, is our best bet in facing pressing global challenges like climate change, peak oil, the food crisis and the worldwide economic debacle.

We know all those things. Among sustainable agriculture advocates, these are facts that are not in controversy. So let me now say some things that might be controversial: Organic is not enough. Organic will be an effective proposal for change only to the extent that it is integrated into the local and global movements that carry on the fight for food sovereignty, climate justice, ecological debt, women's rights and labor organizing; and against enclosures of common goods, as in the case with patents on seeds; for the defense of water and seed as inalienable human rights, for the human right to housing, education, health care and food. In a single word: justice.

This means that the concept "organic" cannot be the only criterion when passing judgement on agricultural production. There are other elements that must be considered. I wholeheartedly agree with the following words of Mario Mejia-Gutierrez, professor at Colombia's National University:
"It is indispensable to remember the existence of values, principles and social proposals of a category higher than the economic and ecological, in particular moral, ethical, historical, philosophical, political, religious and spiritual elements; and of course, without rolling out the whole list, we present some examples: truth, mercy and beauty, the trilogy of Mokiti Okada, founder of messianic agriculture; justice, as pointed out in Nitiren's agricultural proposal; love and forgiveness, as stated by Jesus; compassion, if we follow the Buddha; the virtues of personal enlightenment, in the style of Lao Tse: austerity, laboriousness, humility, loyalty; liberty in relation with peace, democracy, the practice of one's own culture, the right to be... Can a social system of solidarity-based relationships between producer and consumer of healthy foods be constructed solely with economic and ecological arguments?"

Indeed, there is a multiplicity of values and criteria to consider, which go way beyond dollars and cents, even beyond narrow concepts of environmental protection. To those mentioned by Mejia-Gutierrez I would add more: friendship, solidarity and patriotism.

Patriotism, as in the case of Raul Noriega, who has been working his farm continuously for over twenty years, and has been an organic producer since 2000. The farm, located in the Barrio Pasto community in the municipality of Aibonito, where four generations of Noriegas live together in a humble little house, has been in the family's possession for over 150 years. Raul has had a heart attack, a stroke, and more recently an amputation, and nevertheless he is still dedicated to agriculture with the same fire and energy as when he started practicing. He is a founding member of the Madre Tierra Organic Farming Co-op and board member of the Agrocomercial Farm Co-op, Puerto Rico's oldest farm co-op, with over 70 years of existence. He heads the Agrocomercial's Education Committee, whose tasks include the publication of the Agrocooperando newspaper, of which I am senior editor.

I cannot talk about Raul without mentioning his loyal wife Laura Morcilio, who has been at his side in both good and bad times for more than twenty years and who, because of her husband's delicate health condition, does most of the work at the farm. Every time that Raul is given a well-deserved tribute, Laura must be equally honored.

That's patriotism. This is something that every consumer must consider when deciding on food purchases and on the best way to contribute to agriculture's transformation.

Then there's also the fervorously independent Pablo Diaz-Cuadrado from the town of Orocovis. His farm is not strictly organic, since he uses fertilizer in his coffee crop. But it would be unjust and foolish to dismiss him and lump him together with conventional producers who use and abuse agrochemicals. Pablo is an established authority in ecological farming, especially in the control of pests and weeds without using toxic chemicals, as was documented in an extensive interview with author Maria Benedetti, included in her book "Sembrando y Sanando".

Pablo always shows up in community, progressive and environmental activities, with his table on which he displays and sells his goods, coffee, honey, jelly, juice (lemon, orange, passion fruit), eggs, and much more. All of it local, pesticide-free produce straight from his farm, no intermediaries. He does this even when it means an economic loss to him. From a strictly economic viewpoint, selling his products in these activities, which sometimes have poor attendance, makes no sense. But disinterested commitment is precisely the essence of patriotism.

Third and last, the admirable example set by Toño Alvarez, who led the Pollos Picú poultry company to success. Long before people started talking about corporate social responsibility, Alvarez was already putting in practice a social capitalism based on solidarity. During his lifetime he gave us all an unforgettable lesson of business success, patriotism and solidarity bordering of selflessness. It was a real tragedy for all Puerto Ricans to see his company descend to ruin after his death.

I do not mean to say that organic is not important. Have no doubt that we aspire to no less than a total transformation of world agriculture towards ecological practices and the abolition of toxic agrochemicals, GMO's, monocultures and industrial feedlots. Have no doubt that we, as a global society, must move towards small, post-industrial, decentralized, post-patriarchal, farming systems, with a reduced ecological footprint.

Likewise, I do not mean to wax romantic about those forms of agriculture that we seek to turn into a thing of the past. Picú, like its competitors and succesors, was an industrial feedlot operation, in which birds spend their short and miserable lives confined indoors, with over 100,000 under the same roof; an inherently unsustainable system, among other reasons because of the huge amounts of water and fossil fuel that it needs in order to operate; a system whose horrors were detailed in films like Food Inc and The Meatrix.

In the course of doing research for a film project on Puerto Rico's poultry production in 2009, I had the pleasure of meeting Tony Alvarez, Toño's son. He was kind enough to give me and a film maker colleague of mine a whole day of his time, showing us around the farms that once supplied his father's company. Of all the people we interviewed that day, Tony was practically the only one who understood the need to transcend the current poultry production system and take the bold step towards an ecological aviculture, which treats the animals that feed us with dignity and ethical concern.

In short, in our zeal to move towards an agroecological future, we cannot boil everything down to conventional = bad, organic = good. I only wish it were that simple. But when facing complex realities we need complex thinking.

And we need humility, because the practicioners and advocates of sustainable agriculture must acknowledge that even conventional farmers can teach us some very important lessons.

The Violence of the Broken Economy

Having Nothing

As reporters spread out to talk to accused shooter Jared Loughner's friends and neighbors, a picture has begun to emerge of a reality that rarely makes the front page. The Washington Post notes that fallout from the recession is visible on Loughner's own block, where jobs have gone and the construction bubble's burst. The New York Times describes the withdrawal of Loughner's dad, who, they write, was "once more of a presence... as he went off to work as a carpet-layer and pool-deck installer."

The latest jobs report reminds us that one person's recovery is another's hollowed American Dream. Unemployment's only going up for those who lost work recently. The ranks of the long-term unemployed are still rising. Especially for people in their fifties or early sixties, hope of ever finding a job again, let alone one that pays close to what they were making, has disappeared.

This isn't bad for everyone, notes the Wall Street Journal. They quote Rick Hayduk, managing director of a resort, who calls it an "employer's market," noting the toll the recession has taken on people's hopes. "We have been able to reevaluate some of our starting wages," he said.

When the option is working at a reduced wage, working at Starbucks, or giving up, many will accept the cut, it's true. Workers are being squeezed from all angles, with union-busting governors, wage-slashing employers, and a tax-hiking Congress combining to put the pressure on.

And the tax deal squeezed through Congress recently holds another bombshell for lower-wage workers: the Center for Economic & Policy Research notes that 51 million of them will see their taxes rise. Is it any wonder that our political climate is so combustible?

In part thanks to all those interviews with neighbors, Jared Loughner's being described as a nihilist. We're no doubt in for loads of discussion of the destructive effects of believing in nothing. What we really need to start talking about in this country are the destructive effects of having nothing.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ethics of Web Citations

Click the actual image for the link to its origin.

Jobless claims jump, wholesale food costs surge

By Pedro Nicolaci da Costa
WASHINGTON | Thu Jan 13, 2011

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Jobless claims jumped to their highest level since October last week while food and energy costs lifted producer prices in December, pointing to headwinds for an economy that has shown fresh vigor.

However, a surge in exports to their highest level in two years, which included record sales to China, helped narrow the U.S. trade deficit in November, an encouraging sign for fourth-quarter economic growth.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said he was hopeful about the recent improvement in the outlook, saying he now expects the economy to expand between 3 percent and 4 percent this year.

"That's not going to reduce unemployment at the pace we'd like it to, but certainly it would be good to see the economy growing," Bernanke said at a conference on small business sponsored by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Back in November, the Fed's estimates for 2011 were in a range of 3 percent to 3.6 percent.

"I think deflation risk has receded considerably and so we're moving in the right direction," Bernanke added.

Still, the data on Thursday showed just how torturous the economy's path to recovery would be.

The number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits rose unexpectedly to 445,000 from 410,000 in the prior week, a Labor Department report showed. It was the biggest one-week jump in about six months and confounded analyst forecasts for a small drop to 405,000.

The jobs figures weighed on U.S. stocks and boosted government bonds, which were also benefiting from concerns about Europe's debt struggles.

"The jobless number highlights the patchy recovery we've seen in the job market and reinforces that it will be a slow process bringing down the jobless rate," said Omer Esiner, market analyst at Commonwealth Foreign Exchange in Washington.

The rebound in benefit claims came in the wake of the holidays, which may have hindered new applications and created a backlog. Claims, which peaked around 650,000 in April of 2009, had been on a downward trajectory, dipping below 400,000 for the first time in two years during the week of Christmas.

The four-week moving average of new claims, which strips out short-term volatility, rose by 5,500 last week to 416,500.

A separate report from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank showed factory activity in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic region accelerated less in December than originally reported.


Though underlying inflation trends remain tame in the United States, food and energy costs were rising briskly at the wholesale level as 2010 drew to a close.

U.S. producer prices climbed 1.1 percent in December after a 0.8 percent rise in November, according to another Labor Department report. Economists had been looking for a repeat of that 0.8 percent advance in December. For the year as a whole, the PPI index was up 4 percent.

Inflation excluding food and energy, however, rose just 0.2 percent, in line with forecasts. That left the year-on-year gain in core producer prices at 1.3 percent, just below analyst estimates, helping tame inflation fears.

The rising prices producers receive ultimately could put upward pressure on retail prices, acting like a tax on consumers that could slow growth. Up to now, companies have not been able to pass increasing costs onto consumers because of weak demand, but that too has consequences.

"Eventually this means corporate profits could be squeezed," said Robert Dye, senior economist at PNC Financial Services in Pittsburgh.

A recent spike in global food costs has raised fears of a crisis in the poorer corners of the developing world.

World food prices hit a record high last month, outstripping the levels that sparked riots in several countries in 2008, and key grains could rise further, the United Nations' food agency said recently.


On a more positive note, the U.S. trade gap narrowed to $38.3 billion in November from $38.4 billion in October, the Commerce Department reported. Analysts had expected it to widen to $40.5 billion.

November's deficit was the slimmest since January 2010. Exports totaled $159.6 billion, the highest since August 2008 -- just weeks before the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers touched off a trade-crushing global panic.

Exports to China in November totaled a record $9.5 billion. Still, they were swamped by rising imports that pushed the politically touchy U.S. shortfall with China to $25.63 billion.

Chinese President Hu Jintao meets with President Barack Obama in Washington next week, and trade issues -- and what the United States calls China's "substantially undervalued" exchange rate -- will be high on the agenda.

The split between weak underlying inflation and high food and energy prices makes it harder for Federal Reserve officials to argue publicly that inflation is not a threat. A fear of inflation being too low has underpinned the Fed's efforts to support the economy by purchasing government bonds.

Another key factor is the bleak jobs picture, not helped by the Labor Department data.

The number of Americans who continued to claim benefits after an initial week of aid did retreat sharply to 3.88 million from 4.13 million, offering some reason for hope.

Still, the total number of Americans on benefit rolls, including those receiving extended benefits under emergency government programs, jumped to 9.19 million from 8.77 million.

The Market and Inequality

Progressives Lose When They Accept the Right's Framing

Paul Krugman joined a debate on the morality of markets, arguing that the United States has not met the fundamental condition of equality of opportunity that libertarian conservatives agree is necessary for fairness. While this is true (only in looney tune land does a kid growing up in Anacostia have the same opportunity as a kid growing up in Chevy Chase), this argument wrongly cedes the main point to the right.

It is ridiculous to argue that the inequality in the U.S. is simply the result of free markets. Markets are structured by governments, and the rich have used their control of the government to structure the market in ways to make themselves richer.

The mechanisms for upward redistribution can be seen everywhere. Most recently the government bailouts of too big to fail banks meant that the top executives of Citigroup, Goldman, and the rest could continue to draw paychecks in the tens of millions of dollars. The implicit government guarantee enjoyed by these institutions amounts to a subsidy of tens of billions each year that is divided among their higher paid employees and their shareholders.

Patent and copyright monopolies are another way in which the government redistributes income upward. The income from these government granted monopolies flows overwhelmingly to people in the top 10 percent of the income distribution. These interventions in the market serve a purpose, but there are other ways to support research and creative activity that are more efficient and lead to less inequality.

The pattern of trade pursued by the United States over the last three decades, in which less educated workers are placed in competition with low-paid workers in the developing world, while the most highly educated workers are largely protected, also increases inequality. This effect is increased as a result of the over-valued dollar.

Federal Reserve Board policy that explicitly sacrifices employment in order to insure against inflation also has the effect of redistributing income upward. When the Fed raises interest rates to keep the unemployment rate from falling too low it is factory workers and store clerks who lose their jobs, not doctors and lawyers. Of course, the main beneficiaries of lower inflation are bondholders who would see their wealth eroded by higher inflation.

Governments also write the rules of corporate governance. In the United States these rules allow top executives to pilfer their companies. The top executives of Toyota, Hyundai, KLM and other huge foreign corporations all get well paid. But their compensation is likely to be measured in the low millions, not the tens or even hundreds of millions pocketed by CEOs in the United States. The difference is that the laws of corporate governance apply more of a check on the behavior of top management in other countries.

The role of government in determining market outcomes is easy to see for those who bother to look. It is understandable that conservatives, who want to like to see more income flowing to the top, would argue that inequality was just the result of the natural workings of the market. It far more difficult to see why progressives would ever accept such nonsense.

Hidden Dangers In HPV Vaccines

By Dr. Ilya Sandra Perlingieri
December 2, 2010
Hidden Dangers In HPV Vaccines (Dec. 2, 2010)
"The fantasy that there are shortcuts that come in syringes or bottles remains, for now just that: a fantasy." --Peter B. Bach, MD(1)
On June 8, 2006, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new cervical cancer vaccine, called Gardasil, manufactured by Merck [the company that also made the pain-killer Vioxx that was removed from the market due to the potential doubling of heart attacks and strokes]. Girls 11-26 were targeted for a three-shot regimen, given over six months. The cost is about $400. This vaccine is also approved for girls as young as nine years old. By February of 2007, "at least 20 states [were] considering making its use mandatory for schoolgirls."(2)

Serious side effects from Gardasil were already being reported within the first year. "Between June 8, 2006, and Dec. 31, 2008, 11,916 adverse reactions to the vaccine and the death[s] of 32 young women and girls" were reported.(3) By the Summer of 2009, vaccine-related injuries had climbed to 15,000. On March 30 of this year, the reported unexplained deaths following Gardasil injections had increased to 49.(4) More information is available at the National Vaccine Information Center:

In February 2009, Spain recalled "76,000 doses of Gardasil Following Seizures in Two Young Girls."(5) At the time, Erin Brockovich noted that in the US: "We've had more than two girls [became] sick, and to my knowledge NO doses of the vaccine were ever recalled here. The issue is that two girls got sick and Spain responded immediately. Think of the human cost of rushing to market."(6)

In that regard, Dr. Mercola has written:
"Merck has convinced millions of girls [and their parents] to get vaccinated with Gardasil by instilling in them a fear of the sexually transmitted disease HPV [and] this fear mongering is only revealing a select assortment of facts. Merck would like you to hear that 6 million women contract HPV annually ­but they do not tell you that most of these cases are harmless. Your body can clear up HPV on its own, and does so more than 90 percent of the time."(7)
There has been no long-term research done for this vaccine. An article in the New England Journal of Medicine has urged "caution."(8) The author of this article, Dr. Haug, has written:
"there has been [financial?] pressure on policy makers worldwide to introduce the HPV vaccine in national or statewide vaccination programs. How can policy makers make rational choices about the introduction of medical interventions that might do good in the future, but for which evidence is insufficient, especially since we will not know for many years whether the intervention will work ­or in the worst case­ do harm?"(9)
This HPV vaccine is supposed to target two strains of an oncogenic [cancer producing], sexually transmitted virus known as Human Papillomavirus (HPV). The vaccine does not provide any protection for anyone who already has HPV. The speed with which this vaccine was rushed to market, without adequate independent research, is similar to last year's incredible fast-tracking of the poorly tested (and some of it untested) and dangerous H1N1 flu vaccines. After the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a spurious Level 6 "pandemic" on June 11, 2009, the US government was already mandating that all Americans over the age of six months be vaccinated.

There were no long-term, independent safety trial studies done for any of the 2009 H1N1 flu vaccines. Several hospital researchers involved in the Summer 2009 trials commented on the big "rush" to get these vaccines out. Some of that short-term testing did not even use the same vaccines that were going to be mandated later in the Fall. How then could accurate results be compared with different vaccine ingredients? WHO wasn't even tracking the actual number of confirmed laboratory H1N1 cases.(10) Precaution was not part of vaccine manufacture or governmental plans.

In an article written by Michel Chossudovsky last year, he noted: "There was no uniform system for collecting data on suspected swine flu [H1N1] victims in the US, which led to confusion in the absence of accurate statistics. The CDC [Centers for Disease Control] acknowledge that the figures being collected on 'confirmed and probable cases' in the US contained not separation between 'confirmed' and 'probable.'

In fact, only a small percentage of the reported cases were 'confirmed' by laboratory tests. This faulty data and much more like it from around the globe was given to the WHO, who in turn used the numbers to justify a pandemic. Sadly, the CDC is not protecting humanity because it is too busy expanding the bottom line of the pharmaceutical industry."(11)

This article, subsequently, was hailed by Project Censored as one of its top stories for 2009.

In the event of injuries and/or deaths resulting from these H1N1 vaccines, the US government indemnified the pharmaceutical companies: GlaxoSmithKline, Baxter, and Novartis. Deaths and injuries did occur. In one instance of which I know personally: the one-year-old grandson of a friend was taken by his mother for his "one-year-old check-up" to his pediatrician. Without the mother's permission, a staff nurse took the child out his mother's arms, and was given a H1N1 vaccine shot. The nurse told the mother: "Oh, it's no big deal." The child died three days later. The family remains devastated. To this date, the mother has not had any legal recourse.

It appears that the priority was corporate greed. Following the money trail, who profited? Billions of dollars were involved: GSK received $250-million to supply the US with "pandemic products"; Novartis received $346-million for antigen and $348-million for adjuvant (plus orders from 30 other countries). The total for US vaccine orders amounted to $7 billion. From where did this money come, given that the US is actually bankrupt? Further, in a post-script to the 2009 H1N1 scare, the millions of doses of unused vaccines will now be added to this year's flu vaccines.

Independent and long-term research MUST be part of any planned and truly safe vaccine program. Thirty years ago, most Americans only had three or four vaccinations. Today, the average teen-ager already has had more than 40 vaccinations. With poorly tested vaccines (often with dangerous ingredients), how has this compromised the immune systems of a generation of children? Since the Salk polio vaccine was developed 55 years ago (and even before then), there were serious concerns about the safety of vaccinating an entire country's population. Precaution would have eliminated possibly hundreds of thousands of cases of cancer that were later linked to the Salk polio vaccine. Long-term research has confirmed the link between the use of African green monkey virus, used in the Salk polio vaccine, and increased cancers. This virus is transmitted from one species to another: monkey to human. Unconscionably, this same African green monkey virus was used again last year in some of the H1N1 vaccines.(12)

The following is a list of some of the vaccine ingredients in Gardasil:
  • Polysorbate 80 (also known as Tween-80): It is also used in some brands of ibuprofen concentrated oral suspensions and as an emulsifier in cosmetics. It is known to cause infertility/sterility, grand mal convulsions, spontaneous abortions, and life-threatening anaphylactic shock.
  • Amorphous aluminum hydroxiphosphate sulfate: This is an adjuvant. These are included in all vaccines to make dispersal faster and easier in the body (but not more safely). It affects the "action of the drug's active ingredient." It also then requires less adjuvant, so the product can then be expanded to cover many more vaccinations with less vaccine. This also means a faster production of vaccines, and more money for the drug companies with less production output of vaccine. Dr. Mercola calls this a "turbo charge" to the body's immune system. It can "induce both behavioral and motor deficits and the loss of motor neurons [and can cause] neuronal apoptosis [cell death] in the primary motor cortex."(13) Adjuvants are linked to Gulf War Syndrome.  Aluminum (part of the composition of this adjuvant) is also known to cause cognitive dysfunction and brain damage. It is found in many products we use daily [from deodorants to baking soda]; and it is linked [along with mercury] to the staggering increases of dementia.(14)
  • Sodium borate: Insecticide. Poison. This is the main ingredient in boric acid, used as a roach killer. Repeated use causes poisoning. Side effects of sodium borate toxicity include: blue-green vomiting, diarrhea, skin rashes, blisters, drowsiness, fever, low blood pressure, decreased urine output, coma, convulsions, and twitching of muscles in face, arms, legs, and feet.
According to the public interest group Judicial Watch, between May 2009 and September 2010, there were "records of 3,589 adverse reactions to Gardasil," including "213 cases resulting in permanent disability, and 16 new deaths (including four suicides)." This report also includes permanent disability from Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS).(15) GBS is an inflammatory brain disorder that is already known to be associated with last year's hyped H1N1 flu vaccines ­put on the market worldwide without adequate clinical trial tests. However, on July 26, 2009, the UK's Health Protection Agency sent a secret letter to 600 senior neurologists to be alert for an increase in [the] brain disorder, Guillain Barre Syndrome."(16) GBS also was linked to the dangerous side effects of the 1976 swine flu outbreak; and more than 80,000 people were [then] affected by this condition, that, in essence, could be called 'flu vaccine syndrome.'"(17)

Tom Finton, president of Judicial Watch, is on record as saying:
"To say Gardasil has a suspect safety record is a big understatement. These reports are troubling and show that the FDA and other public health authorities may be asleep at the switch. In the meantime, the public relations push for Gardasil by Merck and politicians on Capitol Hill continues. No one should require this vaccine for young children."(18)
A second HPV vaccine, Cervarix, is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline. It has been licensed in the UK, Australia, and the European Union. In the US, it was approved by the FDA on October 16, 2009. According to London's The Guardian, "Britain is the only country to have opted to use Cervarix, rather than a rival brand Gardasil." The Guardian reported one death, in this same article, of a 14 year-old girl who died shortly after receiving this vaccine injection.(19)

Cervarix is given in three doses over a six-month period. The adjuvant, ASO4 is one of the ingredients. This is the company's propriety squalene adjuvant. Squalene is a natural oil found in sharks [mostly in their livers] and humans. The American Journal of Pathology (2000) reported that rats injected with squalene triggered "chronic, immune mediated joint-specific inflammation." i.e., rheumatoid arthritis. How will this vaccine affect people who already have any immune inflammation; or, will it cause untold new cases (lupus or chronic fatigue)? Squalene adjuvant is linked to the thousands of military who have contracted Gulf War Syndrome and have suffered irreparable auto-immune damage, including lupis, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and ADD.(20)

Cervarix side effects include: headache, pain and swelling at injection site; fever; diarrhea; itching and skin rashes; joint pain; nausea and vomiting; dizziness; respiratory tract infection.(21)

As practiced today, Western medicine is based on pharmaceutical solutions, due to its enormous corporate ties. These ties also include organizations (public and private) and agencies (such as World Health Organization, Food and Drug Administration, and Environmental Protection Agency) that once were supposed to protect public health; but now, behind closed doors and secret meetings, they do the bidding of the corporations. There is very little independent research being conducted, while most research is funded by the drug companies. They have a vested interest in not reporting adverse reactions. Citizens do not fit into any of this, except as consumers.

Cures, though very important, are only one part of the answers we urgently need. We also need doctors who are well informed, better educated about environmental links to illness and disease, and actually read and research drug ingredients before prescribing pharmaceuticals to uniformed patients ­who rely on and trust their doctors. We no longer can take for granted that doctors are either well informed about the enormous environmental links to illnesses, or that they have the sorely needed medical and environmental training with which they can make correct diagnoses. This is especially true now, with illnesses being manufactured in bioweapons labs or geo-engineered toxic chemicals being sprayed from planes and let lose on unsuspecting citizens.

The major issues rarely addressed, but essential to our well being and safety, are PREVENTION and PRECAUTION.(22) We also need to hold the polluters accountable. Over the last 10 years, more than 30 years of US environmental laws have been gutted, while corporations are getting huge tax breaks. This has made it increasingly easy for corporations to poison our air, soil, and water. The staggering rates of cancers (even for small children), auto-immune, cardiac and pulmonary diseases, and now often multiple illnesses affect millions of people.

With more than 100,000 chemicals on the market, mostly untested for human safety, and a horrific legacy of invisible but highly dangerous environmental hazards surrounding our every move, corporate accountability is way overdue. This no longer is an issue to be resolved by Congress or any other governmental agency [often with no legal or Constitutional authority, where officials have been appointed to their positions, not voted into office.

With a constant revolving door between industry and government jobs, plus corporate legal "personhood," there is no longer protection for citizens. The criminality of the Gulf of Mexico oil catastrophe is just the latest heart-breaking crisis showing the power corporations have to destroy an entire ecosystem (human and all other living creatures) without any accountability.

We need massive and peaceful grassroots movements to make our planet ­our only home­ habitable and safe for all living creatures. The seminal works of Rachel Carson (written almost 50 years ago) and Dr. Theo Colburn et al.'s book, on hormone disruption, Our Stolen Future, are ignored. Not by us; but by the corporate, multi-national juggernaut.

Without really safe and precautionary corporate practices, our collective health will keep deteriorating, while out-of-control corporate greed and profits continue unabated. Our well being and safety are not part of any corporate ethos. We are all expendable for the corporate bottom line: profit. For the third quarter of 2010, Forbes magazine reported that Merck, one of the world's largest drug companies, "posted a net income of $342 million."(23) There was no mention in this article of any possible deaths and/or injuries from their Gardasil vaccine.

A recent online article suggested that this HPV Gardasil vaccine might prevent 13,000 American women from getting cervical cancer. (In the UK, the figure is about 1,000.) The article made no mention of any dangerous side effects or deaths.(24)

In my own 15 years of independent research for my book, The Uterine Crisis, there are numerous references cited regarding the extreme dangers (including a long history of our being used as uninformed, experimental lab subjects) posed by the relationships among the pharmaceutical corporations, governmental agencies, and medicine.

Parental rights are very important. The Precautionary Principle, rarely mentioned in any US media or put into corporate practice, is vital with untested and/or poorly tested vaccines with toxic ingredients. The Pap Smear and other tests are available to screen for cervical cancer. In a 2009 article, epidemiologist and physician, Dr. Peter B. Bach, wrote:
"[t]he Pap Smear, which has been around for more than 70 years, is a better prevention approach than Gardasil will ever be. Because of it, cervical caner death rates in the US fell by 74% between 1955 and 1992, and continue to fall by about 4% each year."(25) 
But the larger issues are never addressed. This would put the pharmaceutical corporations and many university research programs out of business.

It is, therefore, of the utmost importance that patients (i.e., today's medical consumers) become well educated and informed before they proceed with any vaccinations, injections, surgery, or other medical procedures. We can no longer continue on automatic pilot with crucial medical decisions left to doctors and other medical professionals who are uninformed. Caveat emptor.

Dr. Ilya Sandra Perlingieri

1. Peter B. Bach, MD. "A Shot in the Arm for the Pap Smear." Forbes Magazine. Oct. 20, 2009:

2. Andrew Pollack and Stephanie Saul. "Merck to Halt Lobbying for Vaccine for Girls." New York Times. Feb. 21, 2007:

3. Ken Adachi. "Florida State Study Promotes Gardasil 'Benefits' Despite 32 US Deaths to Date." June 3, 2009:

4. These deaths were reported to the CDC. Barbara Hollingsworth.
"Toyota 52 Deaths, Gardasil 49." Washington Examiner. March 30, 2010:

5. See Note 3 above.

6.See Note 3 above.

7. "Dr. Mercola on Gardasil."

8. Charlotte J. Haug, MD, Ph.D. "Human Papillomavirus Vaccination ­ Reasons for Caution." New Eng. J. Med. Aug. 21, 2008: vol. 359: 861-862.

9. See Note 8 above.

10. Dr. Ilya Sandra Perlingieri. "Danger in the Shots ­ Components of H1N1 Vaccines. They are considered biodefense agents." Part 1. Aug. 8, 2009:

11. Michel Chossudovsky. "The H1N1 Swine Flu Pandemic: Manipulating the Data to Justify a Worldwide Public Health Emergency." Global Research. Aug. 25, 2009:

12. Dr. Ilya Sandra Perlingieri. "Danger in the Shots." Part 2. August 19, 2009:

13. Roman Bystrianck. "Study clearly demonstrates that aluminum found in vaccines can cause neurologic damage." Health Sentinal. Sept. 21, 2009:

14. Dr. Ilya Sandra Perlingieri. "Chemtrails: The Consequences of Toxic Metals and Chemical Aerosols on Human Health." Part 1. May 12, 2010:

15. Judicial Watch. Sept. 28, 2010:

16. See Note 12 above.

17. See Note 12 above.

18. Judicial Watch. Nov. 23, 2010:

19. Jo Adetunji. "School girl dies after cervical cancer vaccination." The Guardian. Sept. 29, 2009:

20. See Robert F. Kennedy's 2005 article, "Deadly Immunity"

21. See: (all)

22. Dr. Ilya Sandra Perlingieri. "The Worldwide Environmental Crisis. Gone Missing: The Precautionary Principle." Feb. 11, 2009:

23. Augostino Fontevecchia. "Merck's Earnings Slump on Cost of Digesting Schering." Forbes. Oct. 29, 2010:

24. Sherwood Ross. "Cervical Cancer can be Prevented. Yet 13,000 women in the US get it." Global Research. Nov. 19, 2010:

25. See Note 1 above.