June 29, 2011

Fukushima Is Killing Americans

By: Aaron Datesman

In 2009, the New York Academy of Sciences published "Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment", an English translation of a Russian-language report surveying approximately 5000 scientific and medical studies. Since everyone ought to read this report, I guess it's no surprise that it's out of print and that it's difficult to get a copy. It's an astonishing document.

I lifted the graph below from its second chapter, dealing with public health. It shows the increase of perinatal mortality in one heavily-contaminated province in Belarus (Gomel) after the Chernobyl disaster in April, 1986. "Perinatal" mortality includes stillbirths and infants who perish in the first six days of life. The bars on the graph essentially are estimates of dose.


This is not very different from the information about infant death rates due to the Three Mile Island disaster which I wrote about here. It is also not at all different from the following observation, published by Janette Sherman and Joseph Mangano in Counterpunch earlier this month.

The recent CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report indicates that eight cities in the northwest U.S. (Boise ID, Seattle WA, Portland OR, plus the northern California cities of Santa Cruz, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, and Berkeley) reported the following data on deaths among those younger than one year of age:

4 weeks ending March 19, 2011 - 37 deaths (avg. 9.25 per week)
10 weeks ending May 28, 2011 - 125 deaths (avg.12.50 per week)

This amounts to an increase of 35% (the total for the entire U.S. rose about 2.3%), and is statistically significant. Of further significance is that those dates include the four weeks before and the ten weeks after the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster. In 2001 the infant mortality was 6.834 per 1000 live births, increasing to 6.845 in 2007. All years from 2002 to 2007 were higher than the 2001 rate.

I dislike these sorts of calculations, but that's an excess of 3 deaths per week for 10 weeks, or 30 dead babies. Perhaps a representative from the nuclear power industry would like to argue that those lost lives are just the burden we bear in the face of other alternatives which are even worse, and that in any event Fukushima was a horrible accident that nobody could have foreseen. Perhaps I would ask that person why he hates America, after which I might impale him on a wind turbine.

— Aaron Datesman

Posted at 11:31 PM | Comments (30)

Scratch One Item Off the To-Do List

By: Aaron Datesman



(To be fair, it's reasonable to question the conclusion that radioactive cesium found in whales harvested 650 kilometers from Fukushima must be due to that disaster. If this discovery represents instead the legacy of atmospheric bomb tests which ended forty years ago, however, it's hard to understand why contamination was found in only two of the seventeen whales examined.)

— Aaron Datesman

Posted at 10:00 PM | Comments (4)

June 28, 2011

Dead Americans could really help Obama with the Jewish vote!

By: John Caruso

As I mentioned a few days ago, former CIA analyst and presidential briefer Ray McGovern reported that his administration sources have told him that "White House officials" were "perfectly willing to have the cold corpses of [Gaza flotilla] activists shown on American TV."  On hearing this same report, former UK ambassador Craig Murray decided to look into it himself:

...I set my own diplomatic sources to work in Washington, without giving them any indication of Ray’s information. They came back with an independent report from a different source – close to Clinton rather than the White House – with exactly the same result of which Ray was warned. I was told that Obama will welcome an Israeli attack on the US ship, as giving him a chance to confirm his pro-Israeli credentials and improve his standing with AIPAC ahead of the Presidential election race. Fatalities would be "not a problem".

There was no information that the Obama regime has quietly given Netanyahu a green light to attack the ship. But I strongly expect they will; by deniable means, of course.

So there you have it: not only would Barack Obama be more than happy to let Israel kill a few US citizens, he's actually thinking it could "improve his standing with AIPAC" and help shore up his vulnerability with Jewish voters.  Illustrating once again that no level of skepticism or cynicism is sufficient when it comes to this bloated bag of amoral ambition and self-regard.

Regarding that last bit of speculation about a green light for Israel, by the way, Murray may have missed this quote from Hillary Clinton:

There will be construction materials entering Gaza and we think that it’s not helpful for there to be flotillas that try to provoke actions by entering into Israeli waters and creating a situation in which the Israelis have the right to defend themselves.

Got that?  This is Obama's Secretary of State announcing, before anything has actually happened, that if Israel kills flotilla activists it will have done so in self-defense—preemptively rationalizing a foreign country's killing of American citizens.  Short of a leaked memo saying "To: Israel, Re: Flotilla, Kill as many as you want. Love and kisses, Hillary", the lights don't get much greener than that.

The lesser of two evils, ladies and gentlemen.

ADDING: Jonathan Schwarz points out that since around 25% of the passengers on the U.S. boat will be Jewish, the title could also be "Dead Americans Jews could really help Obama with the Jewish vote!"  And given that one of those Jews is Hedy Epstein I suppose it could also be "Dead Holocaust survivors could really help Obama with the Jewish vote!"though at that point I fear we may be exceeding internationally recognized irony safety limits.

— John Caruso

Posted at 02:36 PM | Comments (22)

June 27, 2011

Israel is at war with the people of Gaza

By: John Caruso

My site has recently enjoyed a visit from Wilbur the Hasbara Donkey, whose personal mission appears to be to seek out Internet mentions of the siege of Gaza and then spam-troll the comments sections with talking points straight from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  In the course of the discussion I discovered that Wilbur (going by his hilariously unlikely pseudonym "Bob") has declared elsewhere that "The people of Gaza are at war with Israel".  Yes, I suppose—in the same sense that the people of the Warsaw Ghetto were "at war" with Germany, that is.

But I have to say I appreciate his candor.  I think it's helpful to know that the position of creatures like Wilbur is that the people of Gaza are at war with Israel, and that the people of Gaza—from infants to grandmothers, apparently—are therefore all valid targets for Israel's collective punishment.  This puts them right in line with official Israeli policy, as outlined in Dov Weissglas's description of the purpose of the siege of Gaza:

"It's like a meeting with a dietician. We have to make them much thinner, but not enough to die," said the prime minister's adviser Dov Weissglas.

Israel is sensitive to the PR needs of our modern world, you see, and the Israelis realize that they can't just "kill and kill and kill" the "animals" in Gaza "all day, every day," no matter how much they might like to.  No, it's necessary to carefully meter their collective punishment.  That goes both for their diet and their economy generally, as described in this U.S. embassy cable (thank you, Bradley Manning):

As part of their overall embargo plan against Gaza, Israeli officials have confirmed to econoffs on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge (see reftel &D8).

(Wait, did we say "Gazan economy"?  On multiple occasions?  We actually meant "Gazan pipeline for heavy weapons from Iran"!  Could you please update all your archived embassy cables with the preferred hasbara phrase?)

In fact, the Israeli NGO Gisha managed to obtain the Israeli government document describing how to "keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse" and "make [the Palestinians] much thinner, but not enough to die"—including the explicit acknowledgment that even these minimal guidelines for punishment could be ignored in the case of "a policy of deliberate restriction."  I'm sure the Germans maintained similar documents regarding their procedures for the inhabitants of the Warsaw Ghetto.  As an Israeli officer in the Occupied Territories once infamously said (or reasonably said, in Wilbur's fetid little value system):

In order to prepare properly for the next campaign, one of the Israeli officers in the territories said not long ago, it's justified and in fact essential to learn from every possible source. If the mission will be to seize a densely populated refugee camp, or take over the casbah in Nablus, and if the commander's obligation is to try to execute the mission without casualties on either side, then he must first analyze and internalize the lessons of earlier battles - even, however shocking it may sound, even how the German army fought in the Warsaw ghetto.

Yes, it's clear that the Israelis—and their faithful servants like Wilbur—have been "analyzing and internalizing", not to mention actively applying, the valuable "lessons" of the Warsaw Ghetto.  And what could possibly be wrong with that?  After all, the people of Gaza are at war with Israel.

I have some personal experience with this.  I was in the West Bank in 2002, just a week after the Israelis pulled out of the Jenin refugee camp, and I saw exactly how the Israelis "internalized the lessons" taught by the Germans: as they swept through the camp, they had spray-painted the Star of David on the walls of many of the houses on one street, and elsewhere throughout the camp.  In the mosque in the center of Jenin—which the Israelis had taken over and used as a sniper tower—we found an empty can of spray paint they'd left behind, and a Star of David drawn on the chalkboard of the kindergarten in the basement.  There was smashed glass everywhere I went, in Jenin, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Rafah and Hebron.  As I listened to it crunching beneath my shoes and surveyed the destroyed homes, shops, and offices, and the cars crushed like tin cans by Israeli Merkavas and bulldozers, I couldn't help but think of it as a Palestinian Kristallnacht.

But that's of no concern, because the people of Gaza are at war with Israel.  Or to translate it from hasbara back into reality: Israel is at war with the people of Gaza.

— John Caruso

Posted at 09:52 PM | Comments (34)

June 23, 2011

The Inverted World of Clarence Thomas

By: Aaron Datesman

Earl Warren.jpg

It's boring to enumerate all of the ways that the Democratic Party reminds me of the Washington Wizards, but at the very top of my personal list is the decades-long failure to impeach Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. I was reminded of this by-now rather pedestrian situation by a recent story on Democracy Now! It's perfectly unsurprising, except for a detail at the end (italicized by me) which absolutely twists my mind into a pretzel.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is coming under increased scrutiny after the New York Times revealed new details about his close ties to Dallas real estate magnate Harlan Crow, a prominent Republican millionaire. A company controlled by Crow is bankrolling Thomas’s pet project—a nonprofit museum in Thomas’s hometown of Pin Point, Georgia. In addition, Crow provided $500,000 to allow Thomas’s wife to start a Tea Party group, and he once gave Thomas a $19,000 Bible that belonged to Frederick Douglass.

It causes me physical pain in the space between my eyes to place Clarence Thomas and Frederick Douglass in adjacent mental cells. I think this might be why:

Douglass: Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and it never will.
Thomas: Good manners will open doors that the best education will not.

I'm sure that Thomas self-identifies with the fiery orator, abolitionist, and former slave. In the actual world, the situation is exactly inverted: I think it's no exaggeration to say that Thomas exploited his skin color to willingly become a slave.

Perhaps he reads the Bible in the mirror.

— Aaron Datesman

Posted at 11:24 PM | Comments (10)

June 03, 2011

My Trip Inside Area 51

Crossposted from MikeGerber.com:

Okay, so right off the bat know: they didn't talk about aliens. Which was a shame, because the crowd at the Santa Monica Public Library was Ready for Contact. They were, in fact, aching for it, them and their kids, and got kinda belligerent when it didn't happen. (After all, 64 years is a long time to wait.) The jittery guy next to me—who smelled of stale weed and had something in his breast pocket that clinked every time he shifted in his seat—actually left in a huff when it was clear the Grays were not going to be invited to this lecture.

But you could tell that by glancing at the stage. These people weren't ufologists, they were octogenarians, secret soldiers in the Cold War: Bob Murphy, a mechanic at the base beginning in 1952; Ken Collins, a CIA pilot who flew the A-12 Oxcart (a variant of the SR-71 Blackbird); Edward Lovick, a CIA physicist who "invented stealth technology" (somehow I think that might've been a team effort); and Wayne Pendleton, who was in charge of Area 51's radar range. Plus, of course, the author of the book Area 51, LA Times reporter Annie Jacobsen.

Area 51 has gotten a lot of press, mainly off of one seven-page section which reports the claim that Stalin sent over a saucer-shaped aircraft piloted by genetically engineered children, as the World's Most Convoluted and Useless Psy-Op. When this was brought up, the author was rather curt, saying that it was essentially external to the book—one source, which she believes to be valid, but could not verify. Putting on my publishing x-ray specs, I suspect Jacobsen turned in a sober, mildly interesting manuscript that did not discuss Roswell, and her publisher rightly insisted that the UFO crash was the sizzle to this steak. So Jacobsen added this outrageous, completely unverifiable account—which, as usual, has no possible ramifications for the contemporary American reader. When Jon mentioned this "Stalin did Roswell" theory to me, I immediately thought, "limited hangout"—an intelligence term for a partial disclosure of information that satisfies external curiosity without addressing the larger questions. And indeed these larger questions were not even raised last night, when Dr. Lovick, the panel's expert, said he "didn't know why anybody would even attempt a circular airframe."

All this leads us back to an old problem: for the better part of 60 years, the government has claimed what crashed at Roswell was a weather balloon. Now we have this "reliable source" giving us another theory. If this source is right, then the government has been lying. If the source is wrong, then Jacobsen's own credibility is cast in serious doubt. Whatever the outcome—the government has an incredibly strong commitment to misleading its citizens, or our media is being played like a fiddle—we're the ones getting screwed.

I don't mean to be too hard on Jacobsen—it's basically one woman against the entire military-industrial complex—but with that asymmetry, forgive me if I don't think she was in charge. Last night, Jacobsen was nothing if not professional, gliding the conversation effortlessly through the U2 program, the development of its much faster and cooler replacement, and the scads of A-bomb tests that were held next door, with a few splashes of Cold War color along the way. I particularly liked Collins' story about downed U2 pilot Francis Gary Powers. After Powers was exchanged for a Red spy and returned to the US, he had dinner at Collins' house. Powers talked about being thrown in the Lubyanka, the USSR's most famous prison; while there he met a Lithuanian prisoner.

"How long have you been in?" the airman asked.
"Seven years," the Lithuanian answered.
"What crime did you commit?"
"They haven't told me yet."

Boy am I glad we don't live in a country where people are detained indefinitely without charge! Thank GOD we won the Cold War, huh? All that secrecy and defense money was totally worth it.

Jacobsen did address the other Area 51 conspiracies, namely that the moon landings were faked there, and that there's a system of tunnels linking the base to other bases in the area. Her explanation for the moon landing theory I found totally plausible: the craters created by underground nuke tests were structurally similar to the ones found on the Moon, so astronauts went there to practice. And indeed there are tunnels linking the bases—which of course you'd expect. As usual, however, "conspiracy theories" were treated as something worth ridicule, instead of what they really are: a completely rational, predictable response to a world where people in authority are always lying to you. If Roswell was a bad idea of Stalin's, why not release that file? If not in 1947, how about in 1977, when detente was in full swing? Both sides of the Cold War could have a good giggle at a monstrous leader neither approved of anymore. It's not deviant psychology that spurs conspiracy theories like the ones that have sprung up around Area 51—its the cult and culture of government secrecy for its own sake. Making fun of conspiracy theorists is blaming the victim, and that's ugly, especially when it's cloaked in a supposed respect for "the truth."

Though it was an enjoyable hour and fifteen minutes and everybody seemed genuinely nice, nothing I heard made me want to read Jacobsen's book, the gist of which seems to be, "Area 51 is a secret government base where the CIA and Air Force ran reconnaissence missions, developed new aircraft, and reverse-engineered MiGs." In other words, what every 12-year-old who's read about the Skunkworks already knows. Only to the mainstream press is this information worth a book. It changes the story of the Cold War not one little bit. It's actually more interesting as a way to judge just how ineffective the press has been—here in the land of the free, it's taken us 60 years for the MSM to recognize the existence of something that…obviously exists.

But this isn't just the press' fault—everybody onstage took the necessity of massive government secrecy as a given, and nobody in the audience was ready to challenge them on this. Except for one guy—when we were breaking up, a male voice shouted, "What about Roswell?"

Nobody answered.

—Mike Gerber

Posted at 03:55 PM | Comments (34)

Vigintillion Dollar Friday

Things have been busy and I've fallen out of the habit of giving out money for five dollar Fridays. This is problem because I made a vow to double the amount donated for every day I was late. This means I now owe over $1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 to Antiwar.com, a number slightly smaller than the number of atoms in the observable universe. Right now we're engaged in negotiations to see if I can cover some of this with coupons to wash their car.

In the meantime, I'm getting started again with a $20 donation for the past month's worth of five dollar Fridays to The Real News. I encourage you to send them some money too, because they have until June 8th to max out a $200,000 matching grant, and currently they're only at $60,000.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 12:32 PM | Comments (5)

June 02, 2011

We're All Going to Die

Living in the United States is like being over Iowa on a cross country plane trip heading west when the captain gets on the intercom and explains that there's a tunnel through the Rocky Mountains and they're going to use it to fly through to the other side. You just have to PRAY TO JESUS CHRIST that they know they're lying to you.

For instance, here's an article about Robert Lutz, who used to be vice chairman of GM:

"We are no longer the richest, most all-powerful nation in the world, where we can afford to pay each other high salaries and high wages and high benefits and import $19 DVD players from China," Lutz said in an interview.

"That is not going to work. We pay for it in IOUs called Treasury bills..."

The scary reality is that Lutz almost certainly believes this, and doesn't understand the difference between the U.S. trade deficit and the U.S. federal budget deficit. That would be a drag but wouldn't matter too much if he were a normal person, but it's dangerous considering that he's at the pinnacle of American power.

The trade deficit is the difference between the value of things we sell to the world and the value of things we buy. We have to make up the difference by selling U.S. assets, but there's no reason they have to be treasury bills—they can be real estate in New York, movie studios in Los Angeles, or even stock in GM. The trade deficit was gigantic toward the end of the Clinton administration even as the federal government was running a surplus.

That's not to say the trade deficit, which is huge, isn't a real problem. It is. But the textbook way to solve it is by letting the value of the dollar fall. However, most U.S. elites hate that idea because, while that would increase the long-term well-being of most Americans, it would make U.S. elites relatively less powerful compared to foreign elites in the short run.

But people like Bob Lutz somehow have gotten it into their head that budget deficits are bad and trade deficits are bad and they're the same thing and he was just at a fundraiser with Mitch McConnell and they had a great discussion about how the only way to restore manufacturing in America is to finally by god cut that damn Medicare.

Anyway, the point is that we're all going to die when Bob Lutz and friends confidently plow this plane straight into the side of the Rockies.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 04:16 PM | Comments (25)

June 01, 2011

I Steal Pets

Of course I do, but this isn't about me, it's about Rachel Bloom:

Man, that's great work. I heard about it by following Tami Sagher, who wrote and performed one of the funniest segments ever on This American Life.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at 08:04 PM | Comments (10)